Beer Beach Boat

The cruising speed with the 14-hp diesel is around 5.5 knots.

ryn Morgan has spent all his working life at sea, but until now he had never had a boat of his own. For many years he had his eye on an 18′ Plymouth Pilot, a fiberglass production boat with lines based on a 1930s pilot vessel that operated out of Teignmouth in Devon, on the . . .

Spring Run

The Spring Run's good secondary stability supports edging maneuvers.

graduated from college with a degree in art, so when I took up boatbuilding a few years later the transition came naturally. There is something quite sculptural about hulls and oars, spars and sails. Joe Greenley of Redfish Kayaks has doubtless made the same connection. While he is well known for his artistry with strip-building, . . .

Runabout 14

With a 25-hp outboard providing power, the RB 14 can reach a speed of 30 mph.

There is something magical about the classic styling of decked runabouts that ushers us back to an earlier, more elegant era. Obtaining a genuine classic isn’t going to be in the cards for everyone, but there is an alternative that blends their style with modern affordable construction and just the right amount of whimsy. The Runabout 14 (RB14) designed by Jacques Mertens-Goossens of is one such craft.

First Mate

The cockpit's removable side benches can be moved to the center to serve as a sleeping platform; an extra pair would make a broader surface. The main sheet has taken up residence in the motor well.

The search for a boat to build, which ultimately led me to the First Mate, started with a list of requirements. The boat had to have straightforward construction that is quick and economical. At the launch ramp it had to be quick and easy to rig, launch, and retrieve singlehandedly. Afloat, it had to be, above all, a rewarding boat to sail, but also a pleasant and capable rowing boat serving as a comfortable cruiser able to look after itself and the crew. And I required, of course, elegant good looks. In the First Mate, Ross achieved all of this in spades.


It takes very little effort to get keep Ebb moving in excess of 4 knots.

The Ebb is easily moved under oars, though its light weight made measuring its speed difficult. Weighing well under half my weight, the Ebb followed Newton’s Third Law of Motion and had and equal and opposite reaction to the swing of my torso back and forth. The boat sped up during the recovery and slowed down during the drive. Rowing solo I could at a lazy pace and make 4 ½ knots, an average of several runs in opposite directions in a currentless cove. Ramping up to a sustainable aerobic pace, I held 4 ¾ knots, and at a sprint, with the GPS fluctuating through several decimal points, I made an average top speed of 5 knots.

Tiki 21

The plans are highly detailed and provide illustrations for almost every step of the process. The plans include a materials list, down to the last fitting, and an epoxy technique manual depicting everything from laminating to fairing. The plans call for 18 sheets of 1/4″ marine plywood and one sheet of 3/4″. My Tiki 21, BETO, took around 10 or 12 gallons of epoxy and a good helping of mahogany and Douglas-fir.

Nova Scotian

Naturally, when I decided to get a boat, I started looking for a dory. It didn’t take much searching on the web to realize that there weren’t many available, and with my limited boat funds I couldn’t afford to hire someone to build one for me, so I started looking at plans. Jeff Spira and his business, Spira International, were among the top hits on Google for “dory boat plans.” Jeff’s site is mesmerizing. There are pictures of boats, videos of builds, a blog with builder contributions, and over 100 plans to choose from. I knew I wanted a Grand Banks–style dory about 16’ long, and Jeff’s Nova Scotian fit the bill perfectly.

Drascombe Lugger

He based his Lugger design on fishing vessels that worked the choppy water of the English Channel. The sheer leading to a high freeboard forward keeps the crew dry and a broad beam makes it seakindly. The first Luggers carried a lug rig but switched early in production to a high-peaked sliding-gunter yawl rig. The boomless main allows the sail to be stowed out of the way and creates working space for in the middle of the boat.


One of the perks of my admittedly cushy job as a freelance writer is that I get to try out a lot of different boats—everything from small rowing dinghies to large sailing yachts. Inevitably, some are more appealing than others, and I have to admit François Vivier’s 15′ 3-1/2″ Minahouët wasn’t one I was particularly excited about sailing. It looked nice enough in the pictures, but my heart wasn’t exactly pounding to get out on it. All that was to change during a two-hour sail on a gusty day off St-Malo on the north coast of Brittany.

Penobscot 14

There's a notch in the transom for those who have a knack for sculling, and, if motoring appeals, the plans included instructions for equipping the boat with a small outboard of 2 to 3 hp.

Davis was influenced a bit by the Whitehall-type boats, but most have a narrow beam in proportion to their length and rarely a sailing rig, so he gave the hull more bearing to enable it carry sail and drew three sail plans—gunter sloop, lug cat, and sprit cat—to meet a variety of needs. Arch built the first Penobscot 14 in 1992, and the result was a seakindly hull with striking lines. Hull No. 1 sits in his garage, not taking up much space, and he still takes it out to row. He published plans in 1993 and since then has sold over 1,500 sets of them.

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