Having studied a few of Phil Bolger’s boats I moved on to designs by Jim Michalak, attracted at first by the title of his book; Boat Building for Beginners and Beyond—It sounded like exactly what I needed.
Jim Michalak is an aerospace engineer turned marine architect whose focus is on small functional craft, which are easy to build. Michalak knows his stuff and the synthesis of his depth of knowledge can be found in his straightforward designs. The trade-off is a stark functionality that doesn’t pander to the traditional nautical tenets of beauty, but his attitude is appealing; building should be simple, easy and fun, that important goal of being on the water should be within reach of everyone. His boats feature exterior chine logs, leeboards, walkthrough ‘birdwatcher’ cabins and politarp sails.
The first of his boats that interested me was Mayfly 14 . Inside the length that I was looking for and with construction detailed in the book she looked like an excellent first boat. With her balanced lugsail she makes for satisfying pottering on sheltered waters.
The next design that caught my eye was his AF3, a 16ft by 5ft cuddy sharpie, it was boxy but looked seaworthy and the cuddy would be a boon. There are several AF3 builds documented on the Internet and Michalak’s plans are detailed so construction seemed simple. The boat that I would build in the parallel universe where I only build boats would be his Frolic 2 . Long and lean at 20ft by 5ft and designed for rough water, it also rows well in calm conditions.
I find his birdwatcher cabined boats fascinating, the entire crew ride inside sitting on the floor and looking out of Plexiglas windows. This gives a low centre of gravity, which combined with high straight sides makes the boats almost uncapsizable. Good examples are Harmonica and Jewelbox.
Though I’m not building one of his designs I’ve taken the book Boatbuilding for Beginners and Beyond as my construction bible, and bear much of his sound advice in mind. Sound advice is a rare commodity around here. His MARK CENTRELINES BOLDLY has become a bit of a mantra about the garden, though I prefer a split infinitive version à la Jim Kirk and say ‘to boldly mark centrelines’. It’s become a little nonsense that makes me smile. Such are the fatuous ways of the workshop. And when it comes to sighting the hull for overall symmetry those boldly marked lines are a godsend.
Apart from the copper bottomed boating know-how the book has also given me the plans for my oars, the design for hanging the rudder and the low down on how to make a balanced lug sail from politarp.
Jim Michalak publishes a fortnightly newsletter on the internet. In this issue Jim’s been running Mayfly 12 through the Hullform software to determine the fastest trim. The program has delivered some interesting results.