Wild Washingtonian Storms Maine Boatbuilders Show

Sam Devlin spent the weekend in Portland. I’m sure that many positive things happened while he was there. After all, the photo above shows us a picture of a peaceful boat builder in front of the beautiful Adeline, the first build of the Pelicano 20. However, evidence suports a theory that not all is quiet back East. Turns out, there is a political controversy over the venue, and Sam found himself on the news, right in middle of the fight. The phrase, “Can’t take this guy anywhere,” comes to mind.


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Maine Boatbuilders Show

Adeline at the dock

Sam is heading east for the Main Boatbuilders show in less than two weeks. He’ll be out there with ‘Adeline’, Henry Clews’ fabulous Devlin built Pelicano 20. He probably has some other trouble in mind for the show as well, like possibly eating some delicious lobsta or some tag team wrestling with other boatbuilders. The only way to find out is to visit him at the show. In all seriousness, boat shows are a great time to meet Sam, to see some of his work, and to ask questions of a leading veteran boat designer. See the show site for the details.

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Egret Design Notes

Scene 1            Its 1978 location Eugene, Oregon at a small shop that my Dad and I shared.  It’s a fine Saturday with no clouds in the sky but a pall of smoke in the air (a by-product of the grass seed industry in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and the burning of the grass-seed fields just after harvest)  and with a bit of a bite to the air with all the smoke.  Dad and I are working on the cutout pieces of my first boat, one of my Egret designs, and we still have a few kinks to work out in the system that I had cooked up in my head over the past winter while working on a Commercial Construction job in Sacramento California.  Quite of few of you might not know that the first design that I did in my boatbuilding/designing career was the Egret.  And what started out fairly simple (read somewhat crude) but efficient has now grown up and matured.  My Dad penned the name of the first boat and what became hull number one of the Egret class the first boat that I built to my own design and to the hull shape of the Egret “Zero”.  His rational was that you didn’t start the name and numbering of the first boat of what would become a long career, number “One” but started at “Zero” and worked your way up.  Now why I never questioned Dad’s sense of humor and his foresight into my 30 plus year career in designing and building wooden boats was accurate that Zero boat always slightly haunted me.  Dad only kept her for a couple of years before he sold her to another of my customers who promptly did massive modifications to her with a pilothouse, small outboard motor in a well and other changes that made her almost un-recognizable.   She had a long career with Tom Paddock and then finally ended her days at a daycare establishment with little crumb crushers climbing in and out of her hull.  Imagine all the sea-going careers that were started with “Zero” putting in her imagination contribution with full gusto.

Scene Two      My good friend and co-worker Lee Sandifur was building a boat and chose the “Egret” design as making the most sense for his lifestyle.  But with some artistic flair he modified the design by adding some decking on her, a bow and stern stowage area, and a small but efficient centerboard coupled to a Sprit rig with about 75 square feet of sail area.  His boat was a fine expression of the boatbuilding art and has been his companion for a good many years.  Now time was ripe for me to take a look at this old design of mine and modify it and I am pleased to present this new version for you.  She has all those features that Lee did to his boat and with a new set of faired up hull lines we offer her for $65 dollars.  Don’t forget to buy a “Devlin’s Boatbuilding book and DVD to help you along the building process but this is a fine little boat and won’t let you down no matter where you go in your own life.. As for me, the memory of that little “Zero” boat never fades and I can just imagine being a kid in that daycare in Eugene and playing on her myself…

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Eider Design Notes

I was a much younger man back in 1978 and my fledgling design and Boatbuilding Company was also very young and we needed a small cabin sailboat design to build as a stock boat, one that could bring on a bit of regularity to our rather spotty and erratic cash flow.  I wanted her to be trailerable and accommodate a couple in cruising mode with some shelter from the elements, but it was also important that she have a really large cockpit that could handle a couple of extra bodies for day sailing purposes.  The result was a design called the Eider (after the duck) and we managed to build about a dozen of these little boats before moving onto other designs and builds.  She was a great little boat with all the look and panache of larger boats but in a very compact and trailerable package.  Unfortunately I never drew up the design for home builder construction and while all the original boats are still floating about and much beloved by their owners we just didn’t have anything in our quiver of home builder plans that captured the particular niche that the little “Eider” did.

Now in my middle age I will still see some of those little boats sailing about and it always bring on memories of a far simpler day when a personal little boat made so much sense, easy to care for, easy to trailer, and most importantly easy and rewarding to sail.  So I decided to go back to the drawing board and apply myself to the concept but with some of the experience of the years kicked in and the result is this new little design once again called the “Eider”.

I wanted to give her a centerboard for sailing about in some of the shallower waters that we might find, and for the fact that with the board up she will load to a low powerboat type trailer and not need a deep and steep ramp to launch or retrieve.  Her rig is one of my favorites being a gaff sloop with a jib that if needed can have a bit of a boom attached and could be set self-tacking. But for my purposes I still don’t mind tacking a jib, and the extra efficiency of a properly sheeted jib is not to be discounted.  A small bowsprit fit the look and style of the new design and it gives the boat a much more shippy feel.  All is not just about efficiency these days as sailing a boat that looks a bit whimsical is part of the appeal of an afternoon spent scooting about paying attention to the zephyrs.  Her small cabin has good room to sleep two with a bit of extra space for gear to be stowed and not have to be moved out of the cabin when the sleeping bags are unrolled.  In years past we had great times on the “Eiders” with a simple wooden galley box that held a small butane stove, a couple of Pyrex pie dishes for a combo bowl/plate and if stocked with a couple of cans of beef stew along with a good loaf of bread and a little cheese, a great dinner can be had in about 10 minutes.  Back that up with a proper bottle of red wine and a banquet suitable for royalty can be set.  I love the idea of the cabin if for nothing more than the sense of security that it gives if the evening wind dies and I really don’t feel like lighting up the little outboard and bearing a long motor back to home.  I can just toss the hook out, tidy up the lines of the boat; have a drink and a good cigar, contemplating the day’s adventures and later a spot of dinner, a bit of time with a good book in the evening light to read, and early to bed.

The Mast is set in a tabernacle and folds down without much fuss; a simple Cross arm support on the cockpit seats makes for an easy lash up for trailering.

I put a self bailing cockpit on her to allow me to not have to keep her bailed out when on a mooring or at the dock.  You could build her without the self bailing cockpit and end up with a far more comfortable seating geometry but it’s just too tempting to be able to leave her without worrying about rowing out and bailing her on a daily basis in our rainy Northwest Spring and Fall.  On the other hand maybe it would be a good discipline to go for a short row daily to check on her and give my arms some workout to boot!

Amateur plans are $175 and consist of 13 drawings printed on 24X36 inch paper and a simple building booklet.  We are planning to produce simple hull and bulkhead panel kits for her and look forward to seeing many of these little sloops on the water.

– Sam Devlin

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Candlefish 16 Design Notes

I am guessing that most designers spend a great deal of time musing about the use of these little boats that we design, and as we mature and our lives change, there seems to be a never-ending string of little boats to dream after, create (first on paper), and then, if we are lucky enough, to build and have the enjoyment of using them in real life and see how our ideas worked.  But they always start out as a simple daydream, done most effectively during some armchair time spent with a beverage and perhaps an aromatic pipe or cigar adding a bit of spice to the scene. The little Candlefish 16 was the by-product of one of those daydreams, the seed no doubt planted on some cold, winter day with a vision of some beach cruising in some warm place, perhaps Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, with the sky an azure blue, the water crystalline clear and clean, and a warm beach waiting to be explored – remote, uninhabited and with treasures galore to be discovered.

Enter the Candlefish 16, an almost perfect size for such explorations with a good, light dry weight, easy to launch by hand off the beach and with performance enough to satisfy the tyro in me.  This is really just a pointed bow open skiff with an outboard on the stern but with some very interesting twists to it.  For power, I picked an outboard motor, tiller steered from 10 to 30 hp., depending on how fast one wants to run and how much load is expected to be carried.  The parallel to the Candlefish 16 in the automotive world is a Toyota Tacoma Pickup and this is really just a marine version of a small truck of a boat with the capability of carrying a good load, some lockable stowage, foam flotation in the ends and deep enough to be seaworthy in just about any sea condition.

Let’s start on this inspection of the boat with a profile (sideways for you landlubbers) look at her – a strong sheered multi-chined hull that looks just about right to my eye.  She is plenty deep, in fact, perhaps just a little bit too deep but that will pay dividends the first time I linger a bit too long beachcombing when the afternoon trades kick in.  That’s the time when I will be happy to have the extra freeboard and it should help greatly to get me off the beach and to keep me dry and safe in all sorts of sea-conditions.  Looking from the plan view (that is the overhead, or top view) at the boat, adjacent to the stern there are two longitudinal seats on each side of the rear of the boat.   I always intended to tiller steer the Candlefish and so with those seats, I can steer left handed or right depending on my daily preference.  There is plenty of leg room in front of the seats for those stiff arthritic knees of mine and forward of the seats is an interesting mid-deck area, a sort of cargo hold.  This is lockable and holds a lot of gear, including a battery box if the electric start outboard I was drooling over was sprung for.  The mid-deck keeps passengers forward and out of my way and is a handy height for re-baiting crab or shrimp traps or to remove our catch if successful. Passengers can sit on the forward edge of the mid-deck and if they have bad backs, I can reach into the cargo hatch and pull out simple, but very efficient, folding padded seats for them to lean back on.  They will have their own leg space forward and a small forward deck (bulwarked by the hull sides and bulkhead #1) to allow the anchor to be chocked down on top of and with the rode stowed in the stowage and flotation space below.  This forward work deck really functions well with my dog occasionally perched on the bowdeck in figurehead position, ears all a-flappin in the wind.

The Candlefish’s hull is planked up from good 5ply,  9mm mahogany marine plywood.   She is built Stitch and Glue style over 4 full bulkheads and is strong and stiff.   With a hull sheathing of Dynel cloth set in epoxy and with her purpleheart keel and bilge keels, she keeps her hull off the bottom when beaching and is strong and easy to maintain.  For my own boat, I am going to shoot a tinted colored truck bed liner on the inside of her in a soft grey and paint the outside topsides of the hull a creamy white with green bottom paint on her to set off her nice lines.  On the gunwales, I will screw on Dacron Gunwale guard all around the perimeter to help keep me off all the lovely boats at anchor that I might visit and it saves carrying around a boatload of fenders to fend me off docks and pilings.

If you are so inclined, with about $1,500 dollars in materials and 200 hours labor, you can dream up your own adventures.  The shop must be warmed up by now with a charge of the scrap wood of yesterday’s efforts already burned down low in the stove and I am off to whittle away on her…

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Lit’l Coot Design Notes

Recently I was working on the plans for a small under 20ft. Pocket Sailor design but found during the process I couldn’t help but think about another design, one roughly the same size and in many respects similar in use, but the type I zeroed in on was a small Motorsailer.  This “Litl Coot” design is the result of my musings and dreams.  Now in this case, despite being my own design customer, I still needed to stay focused and set up a list of design parameters that the new design would accommodate.  First of all she needed to be very trailerable with the capability of sitting on a powerboat type trailer low and compact enough to be able to be backed into a garage or storage shed without any special needs.  So right away that got rid of any notion that I would need to design a deep keel for her.  I flirted with the idea of leeboards but quickly realized that a couple of hardwood Bilge Keels,  along with a centerline small shoe keel and aft skeg, would be just the ticket. The bilge keels also had the additional benefit that they would allow her to beach out level and upright if I got caught by a quickly receding tide in some of the shallow and very tidal bays that I was dreaming of using her on.  If you are a fan of classic literature, there is an excellent novel written just before World War One titled “Riddle of the Sands”.  The story is based near the Friesian Islands located off the N.W. shore of Holland and Germany.  These waters are a very tidal area and the descriptions of the main character straying off the dredged and poorly marked channels and getting caught on the sands in his shoal draft boat with all the extra adventures that one would have with that scenario, has always been appealing to me.  Anyway, it’s a great read. As I recollect, this is either one of the first or the very first Mystery Adventure novels written by Erskine Childers and it has had a prominent position in my library for many years.

But back to the “Litl Coot” design – once I had made the decision to give her bilge keels, that meant all her ballast needed to be in the bilge and my plan is to use recycled lead shot (I buy mine from one of the local trap and skeet shooting ranges) which is very nice to work with, all cleaned, in small canvas bags weighing 30 lbs. each and ready to be mixed with epoxy and set into her bilge.  I usually plan on casting about 75-85% of the anticipated ballast (in this case 600 lbs) before launching and then finish off the final ballasting after checking her trim in the water and re-assuring myself that the weight is located where it is most needed to keep her floating level and on her lines.  That reminds me of a story, several years ago my long-term landlord at my main shop (which I have rented for 28 years now) told me one day just after we had launched a new boat, that one of the things that amazed him most of all about my designing and building boats was how accurately I could predict the floating of the boat level and on her lines.  Well that was quite a compliment and I think that if I remember properly that I tried to pass it off as not being that hard to do! Within just a couple of weeks we had occasion to launch another new build (different design, one that we hadn’t built before) and the new vessel floated down on her lines by the stern. We had to add some (actually read quite a lot of) extra chain in her anchor locker to get her settled down on her lines (as designed). I often wondered if my landlord had somehow jinxed me by saying that they all floated on their lines so nicely, and having missed the mark on the very next boat project, the whole experience sobered me considerably.   It should go without saying that on the next design I spent almost twice as much time as I usually did on the weight study trying to not make the same mistake twice.

But back to our musings about the “Litl Coot” – now that we’ve got the keels on her and the ballast settled, it’s time to think about that engine package.  This is a pure 50/50 Motorsailer and on this size boat, I think the little 9.9 horsepower Yamaha 4 cycle engine in hi-thrust configuration is just about ideal.  It’s a great little engine, barely sips fuel, is almost soundless at idle and will work on this design very well.  But here I was confronted with a problem. With many small sailboats, if we make a centerline rudder and hang the outboard on some sort of scissoring bracket to one side of the stern, when sailing on the tack where the outboard is to the lee side, you will find the end of the lower unit of the outboard dragging in the water.  There might be a couple of solutions to this problem, we could move the outboard closer to the centerline, but if we are not really careful then there is a really good chance that sooner or later you will hit the prop with the rudder while doing some short maneuvering in a docking or mooring situation.  If you place the engine further away from the rudder you’ve exaggerated the problem of the drag of the lower unit and prop of the outboard (and I hate dragging something like that when trying to sail).  So my solution for the “Litl Coot” was to place the motor on the centerline of the transom, and by using a long shaft outboard we will be able to keep the lower unit from dragging on the lee side tack (as there is no lee side to a centerline mounted engine) and both the motoring and the sailing will be without compromise.  Now with the engine on the centerline that meant in order to be able to steer her under sail, I needed to find a way to either mount a rudder off the centerline or an even better solution was to use twin rudders that have tillers that tie together into a common link arm. The additional benefit of the twin rudders allowed them to not extend into the water quite as deeply as if I had used just a single rudder and conforms rather nicely with our requirement of being able to sit level and upright in grounding situations without any necessity to lift the rudders up or have some sort of swing blades on them.  Once we joined the two tillers together into a single link arm then my next problem of how to allow an inside steering station to be rigged was easily assisted by having one common link with simple shackles made up to fixed lines (when desiring the inside steering station) and led through turning blocks to a fore and aft pivoting vertical tiller that will be fixed in the pilothouse on the starboard side. If I desire to steer from this inside station, I can sit in a comfortable seat on the starboard side facing forward and steer her by either pushing or pulling on the tiller. There is enough drag in this type of steering system to keep the helm steady for short periods of time if I needed to have her self steering while fixing a spot of tea or perhaps making a snack.

One of the main ideas with this design is that all functions could be done while sailing, or motoring, solo. There is room to take a buddy along but you don’t necessarily have to, in fact there might be a lot of days when just my dog “Bella” might be the perfect crew for an adventure on the “Litl Coot”.  So all the halyards, topping lifts, etc. are lead aft to the sides of the pilothouse. With her little mizzen sail set up and left rigged most of the time either under sail or under power, she will have the wonderful capability to have a balanced helm under different wind and tacking conditions, and the mizzen would help to keep her steady on a mooring, or at anchor when holed up for a rest.

For easy and quick set up when launching from trailer I designed a tabernacle hinged Mainmast setting a rig that I would call a Cat Yawl (although under some definitions this might also be described as a Cat Ketch, the mizzen being stepped ahead of the rudders) configuration.  This style of rig keeps the sail area where it is needed for balance under sail and is a very simple to use, with literally no re-sheeting necessary as one tacks from board to board.  With the process of rigging the Mainmast simply being a matter of rotating up the mast in its tabernacle, set up the forestay on the bail above the Stainless Steel anchor roller up on the bow, and insert a pin into the bottom of the tabernacle and you are ready to launch.  Keeping the mast up in the eyes of the boat also allowed me to have a top hinged window on the front of the pilothouse for sailing or motoring on warm days.  This allows lots of wind in the face but reduces the chance of getting too much sun on my already overly exposed face, if I choose to be inside in the shade of the pilothouse.

So we now have a boat that can sit on a trailer, fit in a normal sized garage for berthage when we aren’t using her, an inside and outside steering arrangement, a couple of berths for doing some simple cruise/camping, and one that will sail or motor at a fairly efficient level whether the wind is blowing or not.  And did I add that she is towable behind most of the small-to-mid sized SUVss or Pickups? She also is a boat that will allow me to explore the really shallow and fringe cruising areas that more conventional sailboats with their deep keels can’t even think about sailing in.  I can sail her either on my own or with crew, but again all systems and setup can be done on my own if that is the way I choose to use her.  In final expression I have found the “Litl Coot” to be absolutely beguiling during her design stages and my armchair cruises have been wonderful, built around her platform.  My best guess is that her real life adventures might be just as good or better, and that adds a lot of spice to my life, just the ticket for a modern, busy world!

Amateur plans are $195 and consist of 16 drawings printed on 24X36 inch paper and a simple building booklet. You can either buy printed sets of plans directly from us or buy a download version and print on your own. We are now producing basic hull kits for her or we could build you the whole boat if you would like, and very soon I look forward to seeing many of these little Cat Yawls on the water.

Sam Devlin

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