Simplicity extends to life aboard the Autumn Leaves. When it’s time to settle down for the evening, John made sure the solo cruiser would have ample comfort. In the center of the cabin is a cushy easy chair, just right for reading. It’s folded and hidden under the end of the berth when not in use. Countertops are right at hand near the companionway, with camp stove to one side and navigation gear to the other. Everything is within arm’s reach. The cabin overhead is low, but the average person can sit on the forward end of the berth flat without butting up against the roof, and there is space enough to stow and use a portable toilet or bucket, as one prefers.
The three pages of plans were clear, but required extra study for me as this was my first plans-built boat. (I had previously built an Adirondack guideboat from a partial kit.) The plans were well drawn, and the full-sized patterns for the frames were accurate and required no fairing during assembly. The 16 pages of accompanying printed directions were thorough and easy to follow. The plans provide details for the installation of an inboard motor—specified to be no more than 10 hp with a weight of about 240 lbs—and the option to configure the stern to take a 5- to 10-hp outboard. I built the outboard version to use the space in the pilothouse that would be used by the inboard-motor housing.
While the boats are designed for four rowers and a coxswain, we take the Team Dories out with only two rowers and a coxswain. We balance the boat with one rower at the bow and the other at the third seat. They have oars of different lengths—the boat has a narrower beam at the first seat—and produce an imbalance in thrust, by the coxswain can easily maintain a straight course with a slight angle on the rudder. Rowing with a crew of three has little effect on the speed of the boat, but can often be faster than a full crew of five.
A cruising sailboat in the 20′ to 22′ range resides at the high end of the spectrum that most amateur boatbuilders can realistically aspire to. Go bigger and you need time, money, space and skills that few of us have. But there’s a delectable spread of choices at the level just below the impossible dream—plans by at least a half dozen highly regarded designers. Of these, Sam Devlin’s Song Wren 21, was, in the end, the most compelling. I had already built two smaller stitch-and-glue designs from Devlin Designing Boat Builders, so I felt comfortable with the process.
The original faerings were built by hand and eye, and had slowly evolved during hundreds of years to meet the local conditions and particular purposes. Iain carefully studied every design and photo he could find, realizing no two faerings were alike. He had a commission for a boat smaller than the original ones, and after absorbing all he could find on the subject, he began drafting his own interpretation of the faering, adapting the structure for glued-lapstrake plywood.
The Apple 16, a five-strake stitch-and-glue balanced lug yawl designed by Thomas Dunderdale of Campion Sail and Design, came closest to being everything I wanted. The classic lines and balanced lug yawl were just what I was looking for and the somewhat flat aft section of the hull allows the boat to get up on a plane. I’m a sucker for a plumb bow, so as soon as I saw pictures of the Apple 16, I knew it was for me.
Despite the author’s budding workmanship and a few errors, he finished the project with a beautiful, shapely hull sitting in his garage. He says the building process was very satisfying because the design was simple, yet elegant, and the instructions were thorough but not overly complicated.
In 1946, Alex Bryan and Cortlandt Heyniger had combined bits of their first names to create Alcort, Inc., and the first sailboat that they designed, in 1947, was the 11’7” Sailfish, built in Waterbury, Connecticut. The Sailfish had a beam of 31-½”, a crew capacity of 300 pounds, and weighed 82 pounds. The volume of air enclosed by the hull and deck made the boat virtually unsinkable. A 65-square-foot lateen sail provided ample power. The boat gained immediate popularity after the LIFE article and within a few years the original design was lengthened to 13’7” and widened a bit to 35-½”. The larger Sailfish flew a 75-square-foot sail, weighed 102 pounds and had a crew capacity of 400 pounds