Plans & Dreams Vol. II: 20 Ready-to-Build Boat Designs

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Plans & Dreams VOL. II 20 READY-TO-BUILD BOAT DESIGNS by Paul Gartside


Copyright © 2018 Paul Gartside. All rights reserved. Except for use in review, no part of this book may be reproduced or used in any form, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, without written permission from the publisher. Permission requests should be addressed to the publisher at the address below: Paul Gartside 29 Malone Street, East Hampton NY 11937 USA Book design and layout by Rami Schandall / Visual Creative. Edited by Stuart Ross. Printed in Canada by Friesens Corporation. Cataloguing in Publication Gartside, Paul. Plans & dreams. Vol. 2, 20 ready-to-build boat designs / by Paul Gartside ; with essays and advice from Water Craft. -- 1st edition. 200 pages 9 in. x 11.875 in. Includes index. ISBN 978-0-692-15504-2 1. Boats and boating--Design and construction. 2. Boatbuilding-Amateurs’ manuals. I. Title. II. Title: Plans and dreams. Vol. 2, 20 ready-to-build boat designs. III. Title: 20 ready-to-build boat designs. IV. Title: Twenty ready-to-build boat designs. V. Title: Water craft. All chapters have appeared in Water Craft Magazine. First edition: October 2018.

Table of Contents Introduction


Chapter 12.

16 ft. Double-Ended Skiff #208


Chapter 1.

8 ft. Rowing and Sailing Pram ‘Porgy’ #195


Chapter 13.

26 ft. Motor Cruiser ‘Turmoil’ #210


Chapter 2.

34 ft. Motor Cruiser #196


Chapter 14.

8 ft. Child’s Rowboat #211


Chapter 3.

24 ft. Shelburne Church Skiff #198


Chapter 15.

20 ft. Motor Sloop #213A


Chapter 4.

24 ft. Double-Ended Cutter ‘Hannah II’ #199


Chapter 16.

Postcard from Saskatchewan


Chapter 5.

14 ft. Outboard Skiff #189


Chapter 17.

20 ft. Sailing Pram #215


Chapter 6.

43 ft. Steel Motor Sailer #200


Chapter 18.

24 ft. Trailerable Houseboat #216


Chapter 7.

11 ft. and 12 ft. Flat-Bottomed Dinghies #201, #202


Chapter 19.

16 ft. Gaff Sloop #218


Chapter 8.

What’s the Point of Traditional Rigs?


Chapter 20.

30 ft. Schooner ‘Scooter’ #219


Chapter 9.

6.1 m Daysailer ‘Terror’ #203


Chapter 21.

17 ft. Outboard Runabout #221


Chapter 10.

16 ft. Outboard Skiff #204


Chapter 22.

14 ft. Plywood Pram #222


Chapter 11.

2.5 m and 3 m Clinker Prams #206, #206A






Plans & Dreams, Volume II, continues the series of small-boat plans and essays begun in Volume I. These pieces were written for and first published in the magazine Water Craft in the UK from 2013 to 2016. During those years I was living in the town of Shelburne on the South Shore of Nova Scotia in Canada’s Atlantic provinces, an area with a deep maritime history and a tradition of wooden shipbuilding. The influence of that lovely place, its characters, and the materials available to us there will be felt throughout the book.

But of course boats are about much more than the pleasure of building. They offer a door of escape from the world like no other open to us today. To cast off the mooring and watch the buoy fall away is to sense freedom and adventure in its purest form—even if it’s just for the weekend. Out there beyond the harbour mouth lies the real world, the one we have spent 50,000 years insulating ourselves from. To immerse ourselves in its unpredictability, even for short periods, is to return richer in memories than from time spent in almost any other endeavour.

While the prime objective of the essays remains the conveyance of the technique and know-how of boatbuilding, beyond those intricacies lies the broader magic of our obsession with boats, which is explored in the musings accompanying each set of drawings and in a couple of essays written for Water Craft during the same period. On occasion these pieces wander far and wide, I admit, but their themes remain the same as those explored in Volume I.

I have always been struck by the contrast between these two aspects of the boat world: the quiet, fragrant atmosphere of the boat shop and the wild disorder of the sea, its discomfort and indifference. I have a vivid memory from my boyhood of returning to the warmth of the boat-shop stove with sodden feet, the salt water stinging in the bramble scratches on my legs, thinking that maybe building boats is more fun than using them, after all. Hopefully I am a little more skilled at managing crew comfort these days, but I have known many good builders who find little to interest them beyond the tide line, and I do have some empathy for that point of view.

First, they celebrate the simple pleasure of working with hand tools and natural materials, and the connection this gives us to the places we live. Every piece of wood we pick up grew somewhere, and its inclusion in our project connects us to that place, whether or not we choose to think about it. The use of local species allows those connections to be felt most strongly, and links us directly to builders of the past. In a world of diminishing forest resources, it is also the most ethical approach—that’s a constant refrain throughout these chapters. Then there is the enjoyment that comes from building with our own hands, watching something come into being that has never existed before. Why we are in such a rush to deprive ourselves of these simple pleasures with our CNC machines and our 3-D printers, I am at a loss to understand. Outside of the commercial world, it seems a terrible impoverishment. John Ruskin’s statement, in response to the first Industrial Revolution, that the worth of an object or building is derived from the pleasure taken in making it, seems ever more apt.

But equally I understand those for whom thoughts of the next boat and the next voyage are the very elixir of life, for there is a profound magic in building one’s own boat, then setting out in it on a voyage of discovery. For my part, while I know the vagrant gypsy life will never do for me, creative work having always been the deeper need, some of my most treasured memories are of small-boat wanderings of one kind or another, and I fully intend to bank more of them before I am done. I believe there is little in human experience to rival it. Wherever the reader lands on the spectrum of delights that boats afford us, wherever that balance is struck, I hope this collection will prove both enjoyable and useful. Paul Gartside May 2018


Plans & Dreams




2.5 m and 3 m Clinker Prams #




Length Overall

2.45 m (8 ft. 0 in.)

Length Overall

3.05 m (10 ft. 0 in.)


1.18 m (3 ft. 10 in.)


1.32 m (4 ft. 4 in.)

Depth Amidships

0.38 m (1 ft. 3 in.)

Depth Amidships

0.44 m (1 ft. 5 in.)


45 kg (100 lb.)


54 kg (120 lb.)

Pram dinghies of the round-bottom type are fun to draw and even more fun to build—perfect projects for the home builder with limited space, but with time and interest to settle into an absorbing construction project. We’ve looked at a couple of sailing models in this series already, but we’ve somehow skipped over the simple rowing model— the traditional clinker pram—and that’s an omission we’ll correct now. Time was, every boatbuilder had one of these in his repertoire and they could be found in all manner of size and proportion. When I was growing up on the Fal estuary, our next-door neighbour had a pretty eight-footer of the low freeboard variety, a little like a scaled-down Norwegian pram, built for him by Benny of St Just in Roseland and used as tender to his much-loved sloop Dulcie. I can still see him rowing out to the mooring, with his little dog standing in the bow, sniffing the breeze. He used that pram for several decades, and when he retired from his job as a bank inspector, his colleagues had a new one made for him by the same builder—off the same moulds. It is one of my regrets that I never took the time to measure that boat; it was a good one, and had clearly stood the test of time. I do have a battered photo of the first pram I ever built. I was taking classes in colour photography at the time and apparently hadn’t yet

mastered the fixing process, but it’s a nice shot and the patina is a reminder of the time that’s slipped by since the afternoon it was taken somewhere on the upper reaches of the Tresillian River. I like the composition too; it places the pram in its proper context—a tidy grace note towing along in the wake of our daydreams. For use as tenders, prams work best with some body to them—a minimum of 380 mm (11") depth in the smaller sizes and a flat section for stability. The bow transom should be kept as small as possible, commensurate with finding room for the hood ends of 18 strakes. I like the proportion that gives and the cockle-shell texture of narrow planking with a trace of tumblehome in the aft sections—very appealing. Even when they’re upside down in winter storage, I’ve felt an agreeable buzz just walking by these miniature vessels. Surely a sign there’s something here worth contemplating. The attached drawings contain lines and offsets for two prams—one 2.4 m overall, the other 3.0 m. I’m using metric units here in response to requests from readers, but note the fastening list is based on British nail sizes. Metric equivalents may exist, but I am not aware of them. The construction drawings are based on the lines of the smaller boat, but scantlings and detail are interchangeable.



An early version of Design #206 towing along on a sunny afternoon on the Tresillian River, c. 1978. Photo credit: Robert Gartside.

Both sets of lines are drawn to the inside of planking, so there are no deductions to make for plank thickness. Along with the simple shape and lack of plank rabbet to plot, that makes for a fast getaway. If we start lofting in the morning, we should be into the moulds and patterns before quitting time. It is a good idea to make a solid job of the jig. It’s a nice thing to have and, hung in the rafters with a bundle of patterns, takes up very little room. Then we’ll be ready when the orders start to pour in. The temporary work consists of the moulds, with a sawn centreline piece to hold the shape of the keel plank, and supports fore and aft for the transoms. These can be pine or any convenient softwood, and will be set up on a simple ladder frame. Avoid plywood or particle board for moulds—it is just so much easier to work with sweet-smelling pine. The edges of the moulds should be bevelled to avoid creasing the planking, but this can be done once they are all set up by springing a batten over them and working the edges down with a plane and spokeshave. Be sure to locate them relative to the station lines, as shown on sheet 3. The transom edges should be handled similarly. Cut them to the shape of the inboard face, then bevel in place. For materials, use whatever is close to hand. In the UK and Europe, red pine planking on oak frames will do nicely. For the transoms and keel plank, oak is the obvious choice too, though as we have observed before, it is not the best for holding paint or varnish. In fact, most varieties of oak seem to delight in throwing off any finish applied to them. In Europe, elm would be a better choice if it can be found. Here in Nova Scotia, we have small stands of black locust, which is both durable and hard enough to hold nails well. It’s traditional to make the sheer strakes in hardwood too, picked out with a light bead on the lower edge, finished bright with paint below. But, as always, the rule is: use what’s available locally—there are few places where we can’t scare up sufficient wood for a boat as small as this.


2.5 m and 3 m Clinker Prams



Building jig detail from sheet 3.

With the jig completed, the first job is to flat off the moulds and transoms for the keel plank. This can be a little thicker than the rest of the planking (say 9 mm) and should be glued and nailed to the transom at either end for a solid foundation. Note that the bow transom is thicker than the stern transom to handle the trickier nailing angles. Approximate widths for the keel plank are given on the plans. Next, line out for the nine remaining planks as shown on sheet 3. Be sure to make the sheer strake a little deeper than the one below it to allow for the masking effect of the rub rail. Planking starts by knocking off the bevel on both edges of the keel plank to the width of the plank land, in this case 18 mm, and then planing down the rebates at either end to a feather edge. From here on, the shape of each plank is lifted by spiling, using the edge of the last plank and mould marks obtained by lining out as reference

points. When spiling for clinker planks, the key thing is to avoid any edge set. We’ve mentioned this before, but it can’t be overstated. While carvel planking can be driven up into place—with wedges if necessary—any edge set of clinker planking leads to distortion of the hull. If the plank ends are lifted, the plank is pinched onto the moulds; if they are pulled down, the planking grows away from the moulds. Either is undesirable and leads to problems later on. The trick to getting a good spiling is to tack the batten together from two or three pieces to mimic as closely as possible the plank shape to be lifted—and have it bear on the lap of the last plank so it wraps at the proper angle. Then, when the marks are transferred to the board, add wiggle room by cutting a little oversize. Wood being the living material it is, a plank will often spring as it’s cut, so even with a good spiling, discrepancies can appear when it’s clamped into place. A little room for adjustment is helpful.



A small boat a long way from home. A 7 ft. pram very similar to Design #206. Photo credit: Paul Gartside.

There are no frames to fasten to at this stage, so the planking is secured with the lap nails only, and if we are building upside down, as shown, they will be driven but not clenched. Frame locations are marked on the keel plank and transferred to each plank as they are fastened on. This gets a little tricky forward, where the frames are canted and don’t lie in a vertical plane. I would tack some thin battens to the inside of the keel in this area and bring them down to a batten tacked around the sheer to simulate the line of these frames. Adjust them until they look right and use that as a guide for nail placement—one per frame bay.


Fastenings into the transoms will be copper nails driven into pilot holes of just the right size. A drill made from a short length of bicycle spoke, flattened to a spear point, is the best tool for the job—it can be adjusted easily to suit the density of the wood and the length of the nail. Bed the plank ends in a little paint or varnish, but otherwise leave the laps dry. When the planking is complete, the shell can come off the jig. With the tumblehome aft, this might take some gentle jiggling. Emphasis on gentle. But without frames, and with none of the nails riveted up, it’s a pretty loose bundle and should release without a struggle.

2.5 m and 3 m Clinker Prams



A pair of prams in the varnishing shop. Oak transoms and sheer strakes on these boats will call for careful and regular maintenance. Photo credit: Paul Gartside.

Lifting the bow first and sliding the hull aft should help. From here on, it’s all ground we’ve covered—clench up the lap nails, then bend in the frames. It’s a good idea to keep a pair of spreaders clamped to the sheer strake while framing to preserve the beam measurement. When the gunwales and knees go in, it will suddenly stiffen up and feel like a real boat. Note that the gunwales and sheer strakes are usually planed off horizontal in small open boats, using a straightedge across the vessel as a guide. This has to be done very carefully where we have an open gunwale with frame heads exposed. It is easy to chip the corners of the frames—or worse, split them.

To reduce that risk, use a very sharp plane and scoop the sides of the frames with a round file first. Floorboards are of the sprung variety in two panels, port and starboard, buttoned down to fixed margins. There is a detailed description of how to make them in chapter 1. I have 150 hours noted in the records for one of these prams, but to be honest, I can’t recall now if that was starting from scratch or working from an existing jig and patterns. No matter, time spent in creative pursuits is never begrudged and probably best not counted too closely either.



general arrangement


2.5 m and 3 m Clinker Prams






building set-up


2.5 m and 3 m Clinker Prams



lines & offsets 206



lines & offsets 206a


2.5 m and 3 m Clinker Prams



I came across this small pram in the summer of 2017 on the north fork of Long Island, NY. As this photo collage shows, it is very much on its last legs, neglected and quite beyond repair, just one step away from the dumpster. But in its day it was a first-class example of its type and of English boatbuilding. The finish was varnish inside and out—there is no sign of it ever having been painted, which suggests it was once a smart yacht tender. According to the builder’s plate, it is the work of the Elkins Boat Yard in Christchurch, Hampshire, and I would guess it dates from the 1950s. It’s about 8 ft. long, deep and full-bodied. Construction is spruce planking on oak frames. Transoms and sheer strakes appear to be African mahogany, though they are so weathered it’s hard to be sure. There are nine planks per side plus the keel plank, all copper-fastened. Some interesting details can be seen in the collage: • The boat was clearly built to fit upside down on a cabin top—likely it crossed the Atlantic that way. The transom is cut down in a shallow V to fit the cabin-top camber, and the external rub rails (shod in brass) double as grab rails for the crew working on deck. • Note the sprung floorboards as described in chapter 1 of this volume. Here the centre plank is removable, secured with pegs through a couple of eye plates screwed to the keel plank. • Oak cleats are fitted below the oarlock blocks to take the leverage of the oarlock shanks. • There is some nice beading detail on the lower edge of the sheer strake, gunwale, and quarter knees. This type of decorative scratchwork is a feature of English boatbuilding but is much less common on this side of the Atlantic. The common form is done with the sharpened head of a countersunk screw, as described in chapter 2 of Plans & Dreams, Volume 1. Its builder will be long gone now, but I am sure he would be pleased to know his work was admired even in its last days.





30 ft. Schooner Scooter Length on Deck

30 ft. 0 in. (9.14 m)


8,600 lb. (3,900 kg)

Length Waterline

24 ft. 7 in. (7.50 m)

Outside Ballast

2,800 lb. (1,273 kg)


8 ft. 2 in. (8.17 m)

Working Sail Area

410 sq. ft. (38.11 sq m)


4 ft. 3 in. (1.30 m)

In any ranking of the most beautiful sailboat rigs, it is a good bet the schooner will come out on top. Quite why that is I can’t say, but the fact that it is as evocative on paper as in real life suggests it has something to do with the impact of proportion. A similar effect perhaps to that of the golden rule or the Fibonacci series, a firing of neurons in the aesthetic realm of the unconscious. One thing is for sure—it is not an appeal to the logical side of our brains, for in terms of performance, the schooner rig is not always the best choice, especially in smaller sizes. I hesitate to say that in a part of the world where the image of the working schooner is iconic and deeply embedded in the culture. One of the many charming things that happens when you move to Nova Scotia is they give you a licence plate with a picture of the Bluenose on it—it’s the nearest thing to a tribal insignia round here. My interest in schooners goes back a long way, and I am the first to admit to the irrational nature of the attraction. When I was 16 I fell hard for a small schooner, John Atkin’s Florence Oakland design. It was a true infatuation, one I credit with helping me through some difficult school years. The margins of my class notes from those days were filled with doodles of her bowling along, running wing and wing


or hove to in a blow—it was the perfect escape hatch. In those years I lived for 4:00 p.m. and the chance to get home and pick up the tools again. Between the building hours, the money-raising schemes, and school prep, weekends flew by in the blink of an eye. But somehow I managed to have her sailing by my first year in college and lived aboard in Scotland one memorable summer. I loved that little boat and to this day carry images of events that occurred in our wanderings as vivid as if they happened last week. It was hard to let her go, but I came away with an understanding of the cost of a divided rig in small boats, the loss of performance to windward, increased rig weight and complexity compared to the single stickers. Her charm was undeniable, though, and judging by the response she provoked wherever we went, I was not entirely misguided in my choice. In the end, it comes down to a matter of balance. It is a mistake to think that boat design is a search for performance alone; that’s always important, of course, however we might choose to define it, but it is rarely the most valuable and never the most elusive quality. Clyde Davis of Anacortes, Washington, has been a regular correspondent for many years now, mostly on the subject of small schooners and their allure. As a result of his patient urging, the plans in this issue

30 ft. Schooner ‘Scooter’



The 22 ft. schooner Marie Sophie built to John Atkin’s Florence Oakland design by the author in 1969. Photo credit: Robert Gartside.

finally see light of day—and I find myself pondering the mysteries of our obsessions this sunny afternoon. It’s reassuring to know I am not alone in this one. Our new design is 30 ft. (9.14 m) on deck, but overhangs fore and aft make it a small 30 ft. Displacement is a moderate 8,500 lb. (3,900 kg). The hull lines show a slippery double-ender with nice symmetry fore and aft and the ballast slung low where it will do us the most good. Along with firm bilges, there should be lots for her to lean on. When considering the rig for a small schooner, the two most important things are to keep weight aloft to a minimum and to get the balance just right. I’ve gone with a Bermudan main to save top weight here, which will also simplify handling. Both spars are round and should be hollow all the way. A wall thickness of about 20% of the outside diameter knocks a third off the spar weight for very little reduction in stiffness and is well worth the extra labour. For balance, I have placed the rig centroid a distance equal to 11% of the waterline length ahead of the centroid of the underwater profile. (See chapter 17 for an explanation of balance by the empirical method.) My little Atkin schooner was as well-balanced as any boat I’ve ever owned, and I went back to her for reference in choosing that number. Fingers crossed we get an easy helm and a smart tacker. I was tempted to put the jib on a boom to make the whole rig selftacking, but went with the furling gear as the simpler arrangement. When coming up to a mooring or preparing to drop anchor, it clears the foredeck of obstruction quickly and can be hauled out again just as easily if we miss and need to go round again. We’ll require a pair of small cotton reel winches to nip it in smartly aft. If we use the favourite Wykeham Martin gear, we have furling only, no reefing, so we need some means of setting a small headsail for a serious wind.

That’s shown dotted on the plan set-up from the stem head and will be used with the foresail or reefed main. Clyde requested a glued construction, so that’s drawn. In a small, shapely hull like this, we can get away without transverse framing for a nice clean interior, provided we start with a good thick laminate, then bond in all the joinery as part of the structure. Large laminated floor timbers with tapered arms extending well up into the bottom panel port and starboard are responsible for distributing the ballast



loads into the hull laminate. This makes for simple construction, but one that is heavy on hours. The laminate shown consists of one thick fore and aft layer of strip planking, parallel or tapered, followed by a diagonal for stability and then an outer fore and aft layer to finish. After fairing, the whole thing gets a layer of glass cloth and epoxy for a stable paint surface. That’s a chunk of time and effort, and rather more than I would recommend for a 16-year-old, however pumped with lust and youthful energy. Better in that situation to go with single-skin carvel on bent frames. Even the experienced builder would be smart to get help with the layup of a laminated hull like this, just to maintain momentum and keep the things moving along. Anacortes is one of the old lumber towns of the Pacific northwest. It is staggering to think of the amount of first-growth timber, Douglas fir, spruce, and western red cedar that must have moved through the wharfs and rail yards of that town over the years. There is still good wood to be found there, so I doubt Clyde will have to look far for his supply. How much longer that will be true is hard to say. Sooner or later, one would think a 200-year growing cycle must impose a restriction on supply, but for now at least the price of western red cedar suggests we don’t value it nearly enough. That’s too bad, for in my view it is about as perfect a material for boat construction as it is possible to imagine—particularly laminated construction. It is light, glues well, and is highly resistant to decay. Spruce may have the better engineering numbers (stiffness for weight), which explains its use in airplane construction, but it has virtually no natural decay resistance and so it’s entirely unsuitable for building a boat. We get away with it (just) for spars and small boats stored out of the weather. But western red cedar is a marvel of evolutionary botany and deserves to be recognized as such. One day we may wonder that we used it so freely for greenhouses and roof shingles—much as the Australians now view their beloved kauri. But I digress. With the anchor down and holding, we can go below for a mug up in the cabin. We don’t get full headroom on this displacement, but


30 ft. Schooner ‘Scooter’



there is sufficient to be comfortable, and the galley can be used with the hatch open to simulate headroom. The small head compartment opposite does the same for privacy. Forward are two good berths and cozy sitting space with backrests against the hull. It is strictly eating out of the lap, but on a chilly night with the wood stove ticking away and the chain growling as she swings to the hook, it will be as pleasant a spot as we can hope to find in this world. Scooter is christened for my son Teddy, in recognition of the grounding he and his sister have brought me in their short lives. There was a period of a year or so when weekday mornings would see me marching the two of them up the hill to Shelburne’s Little People’s Place Child Care Centre—a blessed oasis of support for working families. On the way, we’d pass the law office of Don Harding, QC, whose swinging sign features a relief carving of a fishing schooner—an acknowledgement of his grandfather James Harding, who is still remembered in this town as a king among shipbuilders. As we hiked by, we would sing out, “Morning, Schooner!” and I would congratulate myself on planting a $5 word and, who knows, maybe even the seed of aesthetic appreciation. I’d get the same charge in the evening when we wished Mona Lisa good night before climbing the stairs to bed. One morning, as we were passing Don’s office, it dawned on me that we were actually yelling, “Morning, Scooter”—or at least some of us were—and not long after came the discovery that we had been saying good night to “Moaning Lisa.” Chalk it up to parental hubris and an acknowledgement of how little direct control we have in these matters. The best we can do, it seems, is to strew our children’s paths with interesting pebbles and hope that somewhere down the line they will come upon them again with an echo of recognition and, if we are lucky, of ownership. I can’t help thinking, though, that if we were to build the good ship Scooter and spend a summer or two aboard, the chances of setting the hook would improve dramatically.

‘Morning, Scooter.’ Photo credit: Paul Gartside.



sail plan


30 ft. Schooner ‘Scooter’



deck plan & layout





30 ft. Schooner ‘Scooter’






lines plan


30 ft. Schooner ‘Scooter’



table of offsets


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