Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Avocet, DIY Sailboat

To build Avocet I used yellow pine for chines, gunwales, stem, frames, etc. and ¼” exterior pine plywood for the sides, transom, and bottom. You need an 18’ by 8’ dry space, rudimentary woodworking skills, and a few tools. That said, the more tools and knowledge the better. Bronze/brass fittings, factory made sail, and liberal use of epoxy bumped my build to around $500.00. I will be glad to answer any questions in the comments section.

The plans are now available for $30.00 from Tom Vetromile. Here is his email address spelled out to fool the email crawling robots: tomvetromileatyahoodotcom

I bought the plans from Dave Carnell, who has since passed away. He wrote the sketch below:

The $200 Sailboat

This sailing skiff is 15'-6" x 4'-4" and weighs 100 pounds. It is based on the hull of Phil Bolger's Featherwind. Presenting the design in his book Small Boats in 1973, he described it as the best flat-bottomed, straight-sided sailboat he could draw and continued, "I don't see how a real sailboat, with as good performance and as few vices as most, could be put together, one-off, much quicker than this one, or out of cheaper materials." I liked the hull, but not the fussy sloop rig, so I changed that to a Sunfish-type lateen rig because the performance of a Sunfish I had owned was so impressive. I built the hull, found a surplus lateen sail, and made a mast from a 2" by 4" and spars from 1-1/2" square sticks. I had only sailed it once when I took it to Mystic Seaport's Small Craft Weekend in 1979. Many people tried the boat with universally complimentary comments about its performance. Right off I converted Bolger's fixed leeboard and rudder to kickup versions, so I could sail off the beach.

At Lewes, DE, on Delaware Bay I sailed alongside Sunfish in fairly brisk conditions and stayed right with them. They were really wet while I was fat, dumb, happy, and dry. I borrowed a friend's Sunfish rig and dropped it right into the boat; it performed beautifully. My wife and I took another couple sailing on a reservoir in PA. There was plenty of room to be comfortable and the boat sailed well.

Fifteen years later I set out to design a high-performance, minimum cost sailboat. I took the Bolger hull and eliminated all unnecessary framing and features and built a prototype. It sailed beautifully, and I promoted it as the $200 SAILBOAT in Messing About in Boats. The hull is built "instant boat" style. You make three frames, a transom and stem and fasten the sides to them. Put on the external chine and the bottom planking, turn it over to receive the mast partners and step. Then make a simple leeboard and a kickup rudder of 1/2" plywood and you have the hull. The bare hull weight of my prototype built of B-C pine was 107 lb.; built of fir or mahogany plywood it might weigh 15-20 lb less. A Sunfish weighs 139 lb. After building his, Jimmy Piver wrote me to say that I should be promoting it as a high-performance boat, not a cheap one. He described his boat going to windward in the crowded anchorage of Taylor's Creek, Beaufort, NC, against the tide with a crew weight of 640 pounds as truly outstanding sailing.

Boatbuilding Tips 

A few tips: I decided on an interior chine because it makes taping easier, and I think it looks a lot better. I used 1½”×3” framing on the transom so that the fasteners for the gudgeons, gunwales, sides, and handles are long enough to really hold. I highly recommend installing handles. They make the boat much easier to carry and turn over. Duckworks (http://www.duckworksmagazine.com/) has good ones (SD-222356 - Brass). Duckworks supplied the fiberglass tape, epoxy, oarlocks, pulleys, tiller extension fittings, and lines.

Mast Step

The mast step allows water to drain and eases the mast heel weight on the ¼” ply bottom. Looks like I missed a spot . . .

Leeboard, Rudder, and Tiller

I ordered the rudder, tiller, and leeboard silicon bronze 3/8” bolts from CCFasteners (http://ccfast.com/index.html), which offers screws and bolts of all types, and you can buy just one. Notice the knob nuts on the rudder and leeboard for easy adjustment. I bought a Sunfish sail from The Sail Store (http://www.thesailstore.com/white-sunfish-sail-window-p-542.html?osCsid=a867d2b3086fd9a0a939a6e07da0b4ff) and built spars to match it. I used lap joints on the gunwales and shoe which made gluing easier. The plans say the shoe and stringers are optional, but I am glad I put them on to protect the bottom and add stiffness. I did not glue them in case they needed replacing. The boat has no seats, quarterknees, or breasthook. When sailing, I cover the bottom with boat cushions to sit on. These web sites helped me greatly:

What's an avocet anyway?