Glen-L’s Bo-Jest is an 18′ pocket power cruiser designed in 1986 by Ken Hankinson. I loved its tugboat style and its just-right size for our cruising needs—big enough to stay in for a few days and small enough to avoid high moorage costs.
The three pages of plans I ordered from Glen-L were clear, but required extra study for me as this was my first plans-built boat. (I had previously built an Adirondack guide boat 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 so I could use the space in the pilothouse that would be otherwise occupied by the inboard-motor housing.
The Bo-Jest uses traditional plywood-on-frame assembly, and the plans call for mahogany, oak, and Douglas-fir for the timbers; I chose Douglas-fir for its strength, easy availability in Oregon, and long-established use as a boatbuilding material in the Northwest. Some steam-bending is required for the stringers, plywood at the bow, trunk cabin, and main-cabin brow.
I was 77 years of age at the beginning of the build, so I eased the physical burdens by hiring a 14-year-old boy from the neighborhood to apprentice with me. A friend helped off and on throughout the build, and many others assisted in the heavy work of flipping and moving when needed.
The stem, five frames, and the transom are connected by a plank keel, the chines, and inwales. Three battens on either side of the centerline are let into the bottoms of the transom and the frames and their forward ends stop shy of the stem. The aft two-thirds of the hull goes from a slight V forward to a nearly flat stern. There’s similarly very little shape in the sides aft, so the 3/8″ plywood goes on easily. I eased the bending of the 3/8″ plywood sides at the bow with rags soaked with boiling water, muscle power, clamps, and a come-along. The 1/2″ bottom is made up of two laminates of 1/4″ plywood; bending the thinner plywood to shape is much easier.
After the hull was finished and while it was still upside down on the jig, I made two gantry cranes equipped with ratcheted truck tie-down straps to turn the hull. (I’d use the gantry cranes later, to lift the completed boat onto the trailer.) I also devised and built a cradle to rest the hull on after it was right-side up and finished construction with the hull upright. I used the cradle as a pattern to build adjustable contour bunks on the trailer.
As I scanned the plans for Bo-Jest, I realized the original floor plan for the pilothouse and trunk cabin would be rather crowded for our use. The Bo-Jest was designed for self-contained cruising with sink, stove, refrigerator, potable water tank, and closets. I too wanted this kind of cruising ability, but I was willing to sacrifice the built-in galley for a more open space. I raised the pilothouse roof 3″, which adds a spacious feeling. Having lived now with the modifications I made for three years, I’m happy with them.
Gas cans, battery, and stern anchor are all located in the aft cockpit. The gas cans are partially hidden by hinged seats, the battery is located in the starboard stern locker, and life jackets for six are located in the port stern locker. Three to four people can sit in the open, self-draining cockpit.
An ice chest, a small butane stove, a few pots and utensils, and a dishpan are all we need for cooking. We keep a bucket-style portable toilet stored under the pilothouse settee and a small carbon-monoxide-sensing propane heater stows in a locker under the trunk-cabin V-berth. All other gear is stored in lockers in the same area.
Our pilothouse has a settee portside with storage drawers instead of the compact galley in the plans, the helm to starboard, and a center entry door. (An inboard-powered Bo-Jest will have the door to starboard of the engine box.) Down below there is a very roomy 7′6″ V-berth in the trunk cabin. I compensated for the weight of the plans’ potable water tank, which I chose not to install, by using round barbell weights secured in the same forward location under the V-berth. This helps maintain correct trim.
The Bo-Jest was designed to be powered by as little as a 4-hp outboard, but I chose a 9.9-hp, the maximum recommended, and I’m happy with that choice. I gladly would have installed electric propulsion if it weren’t so expensive and offered greater range from a lithium-ion battery pack.
Our Bo-Jest has a top speed of 7 knots, cruises nicely between 4 and 6 knots, likes 5-1/2, and will gunk along at a snail’s pace. I wanted more positive low-speed control at the helm and achieved it by mounting an Uncle Norm’s Marine Products double-finned rudder to the cavitation plate of the outboard. This provides great low-speed steering control, which aids in docking, even while coasting with the engine in neutral. The boat has some windage issues because of its tall profile, and the steering accessory works well to minimize them. Another nicety of this hull design is its turning ability; flip the wheel riotously fast, and the boat will come about in nearly its own length! It is stingy on gas: less than ½ gallon per hour at 5-1/2 knots, and at 7 knots consumes about 6/10 gallon of precious non-ethanol gas.
I haul the boat with a 3.5-liter V6 Ford Flex. The loaded trailer pulls easily with no sway, and with the electric brakes I installed on the trailer, there’s no trouble slowing or stopping.
I would not rate this a project for a beginning boatbuilder unless the builder has previous more intricate wood project experience. However, motivation can be powerful and provide success to a dedicated novice builder like me. I spent two years and ten months working three to four hours per day, five days a week, to complete this project. Phone calls to Glen-L cleared up any questions I had along the way.
The Bo-Jest is very comfortable and roomy for a boat with a length of only 17′10″. The trunk cabin is cozy—many who come aboard enjoy napping below; two people can be very comfortable overnight. The pilothouse is quite comfortable with the settee on the port side, and a well-equipped pilot station makes navigating the boat easy.
I am now 81 and have piloted our Bo-Jest many miles. I have navigated the Yaquina River near Newport, Oregon, and have made other excursions in Washington’s Puget Sound, including participating in the first Salish 100, a 100-mile pocket-yacht cruise. More voyages lie ahead, and I look forward to them.
I would happily recommend this design to anyone who appreciates its jaunty, salty looks, and quite-good handling. Unlike many small craft, this boat provides extended use at both ends of the boating season.
Earl Boissonou, 81, lives in Corvallis, Oregon, and is a retired elementary-school teacher. He is a passionate artist who draws, paints, and sculpts. He began sailing in 1968 and built his first boat, an Adirondack guideboat, in 2009 to keep busy while recovering from a major operation. He christened it CHERRILL B in honor of his wife. While building his Bo-Jest he had the help of two neighbors: young Caleb Washburn and Dr. Bruce Thomson. The boat was christened DR. PETRA, a nod to Dr. Pepper soda and tribute to his doctor friend, Bruce, and Petra, a family dog that had passed away.
Displacement/2,660 lbs with inboard; 2,350 lbs, as-built, with outboard
Cruising speed/4 to 5.5 knots
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