Rowboat Update - 2020

Documenting the updates to our Adventure Rowboat - 2021/2022

Rowboat with sail raised

Sailing Rig:
Although this boat rows great I just couldn't resist the temptation to see how it could perform under sail. The real inspiration for this idea came from some videos of West Mersea Duck Punts, small, flat-bottomed, center-board-less and rudderless boats that have a waterline hull shape very similar to my rowboat and appear to sail very well.

Sail Modification
- Sail and sail modifications:
I bought a nice Neil Pryde 45 sq. ft. tanbark sail from Duckworks. It was the closest in size and shape to what I wanted. Actually, it was a little too large for my intended use on this boat. The boat is pretty stable but because of the cockpit design and depth it might not be easy or comfortable to try to hike out in gusty conditions.

The sail had one set of reef points and I cut and hemmed the sail there, between those points, keeping the original foot shape . It now has an area of about 38 sq. ft.  The shaded area of the image is the sail's current size and shape. (Click image to see a larger view)

Since this sail was intended to be set as a sprit sail and my preference is for a balanced lug I needed to add 5 grommets along the top of the sail so it could be laced to the yard.

I haven't added another set of reef points but probably will, depending on how the boat reacts to stronger winds and gusts. This is a pretty small sail and may not need to be reefed at all. Experience on the water will tell the tale.

- Folding mast:Sail, Mast & Hinge
A major consideration was that the entire sail rig should fit inside the cabin. There really isn't anyplace on deck to store a sail and spars while rowing. The boom and yard with the sail wrapped around them do just fit in there but the mast needed to be 10' tall. I considered a couple of options; a folding or telescoping mast. Since my preference was to make a wooden mast that seemed to narrow it down to one that could fold in half.

After a little research I came up with this bit of hardware:  (Click image for larger view)

Mast hinge details
When folded the mast is 5'-2" long and stores nicely along the side of the cabin sole.

And here is a short video of the mast being setup and another of raising the sail.

In the videos the boat is sitting securely on the trailer and steady as a rock. Raising the mast & sail on the water is a different thing. These pointy ended boats are quite stable when the crew is in the central area but as one moves toward the bow things get a little more tippy. With some experience I'm sure it will work OK to raise and really more importantly, lower the sail while afloat. My experience so far is that it is difficult to keep the sail and spars out of the drink and once they are wet to keep that water out of the cabin when raising the sail and later bringing it all aboard.

swivel deck block on mastI mounted a 5/16" swivel base deck block to each side of the base of the mast. The starboard block routes the halyard to the side of the boat where a cheek block turns the line aft to a clamcleat on the cockpit gunwale. The port deck block workshalyard & downhaul routing with a single becket block to create a 2:1 downhaul. That line is routed along the port gunwale to the cockpit.
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- Spars - Boom & Yard:
The spars were made up by laminating two lengths of 5/4" Radiata pine then shaping them both to reduce weight and to provide the right amount of flexibility. The mast was tapered a little at the mast end then a long taper to the other end. The yard was more drastically shaped with its thickest area about a third of the way from the lower end. Both are 6' long and fit in the cabin nicely bundled together with the sail loosely wrapped around them.

- Mast step and partner:
The step, where the base of the mast rests in the bottom of the boat, is made up of several layers of marine plywood shaped to fit snuggly between the port chine and the keel. It is firmly epoxied to both of those pieces and to the bottom of the boat. It is in there for good! Below are couple of photos of the step - first, straight down through the partner opening and then as viewed from the cabin (with the mast kind of projected in place).
Mast step from above    Mast step from cabin 

 Mast Partner viewed from above.
The partner is made from a couple of layers of plywood fitting tightly between the inside of the gunwale and the center deck stringer and butting up against the adjacent frame. It is fitted up under the deck fabric and the opening is reinforced with a Baltic birch trim ring. That other thing on the deck is a watertight plug fitted with a cam/toggle on the bottom, that seals off the partner opening keeping the compartment below dry.

Mast location:
It became obvious when laying out the mast position that if I was to retain the ability to lie down in the cabin the mast needed to be positioned as far as possible to one side or the other. As you can see in the photos above, the step is positioned as close to the port chine as I could and that determined the partner location. Although most sailboats have their masts centered many Phil Bolger boats nearly all of Jim Michalak's designs have off-center masts and they reportedly sail just fine.

Having the mast positioned as it is there is still enough space to extend my feet past it and be comfortable. Thinking ahead to overnighting aboard I'm not sure if I would leave the mast up or not. I did notice that when rigging the boat the bare mast seemed to help stabilize the boat which was nice. I still, at this point have not figured out what the best way to handle the sail/spar bundle at night - or any time when not sailing. A few in-the-shop tests will help determine if there is a way to easily secure that 6 foot long bundle along the edge of the cockpit and down the aft deck. It will need to be far enough aft to not interfere with rowing.

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- Sailing report:
I waited for the local waters to warm up a bit before heading out with this totally untested experimental sailing rig. The day finally came and we launched the boat at nearby Indian Lake. I stepped the mast while on the trailer but left the spars  & sail bundle on the floor of the cabin. Sue held the boat to the launching dock while I got aboard to finish the rigging. I had anticipated that standing at the forward end of the cabin might be a bit tippy and indeed it was. I managed to get the spars in place and halyard clipped to the yard OK but managing that slippery sailcloth didn't go too well. The sail simply slithered out of my control into the water. Not much to do but raise the sail and other than a little shower form the gently flapping sail, all went well.

I moved back to the cockpit, adjusted the halyard, snugged up the downhaul and sorted out the sheet and I was ready to go sailing. Sue let the boat free and I was off on a port beam reach across the bay. I spent the next hour or so experimenting with how much I needed to tip the leeward chine to get the boat to windward. We had light gusty winds that made tacking a bit of a challenge but eventually I did get out of the bay into a steadier breeze and things kind of came together. Sue was paddling her kayak nearby this whole time but I had the camera with me so no sailing photos yet.

My overall impression was that the boat was more stable than I had anticipated. To the point that because the cockpit is so narrow it took quite a bit of effort to get the chine to dig in - the boat just wants to sit flat on top of the water. Normal draft by the way is less than 4". The sailing was fun and I'm sure that setup will become smoother with a  little more experience with the rig.

The one change I made after that first trip was to add a 4" diam. x 1" PVC ring at the halyard/spar attachment to keep the sail from kiting wildly while raising the sail. It seems to work great on my shore tests. More reports will follow after a few more sailing adventures.

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- Late Fall Follow-up -  November, 2022:
As I mentioned at the top of this page, my intent when designing and building this boat was that it would be a great rowboat. I also intended to row it every chance I got and that's pretty much the way the summer of 2022 went. It is so easy to just hook up the trailer, drive a few miles to nearby inland lakes or to  Lake Michigan, launch and go rowing that the sail rig stayed home. The boat is in the shop for the winter now for some minor maintenance but just writing this makes me want to go sailing.

I'm almost tempted to build a nice little 'real' sailboat but don't feel as though I've given this one much of a chance, so I'm semi-committed to sticking with this one for at least another summer. Besides, I have run out of places to store boats... It's hard because Sue is so supportive. If I said "I think I'd like to build another boat", she'd say "Go for it if it will make you happy". Life here on the homestead is good!

Steve Schmeck

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