When I sail WINKLE, my William Garden–designed Eel, people almost always take out their cameras. The 18′6″ canoe yawl was designed as a slightly shorter and much lighter version of the original Eel designed by George Holmes in 1895. Holmes was one of the pioneers of the canoe yawls that became popular in England at the end of the 1800s. Recreational boating was then in its early stages, and canoe yawls, derived from canoes and other small boats meant for work and pleasure, appealed to sailors drawn to longer cruises in more open waters. They were perhaps the first “pocket cruisers,” a category of small boats that have recently become popular once again.Those 19th-century canoe yawls were often sailed on the rivers and estuaries of England and so were typically of shallow draft. The Garden-designed Eel draws only about 11″ with the board up. It can be nosed up to a beach, but its 330-lb external lead keel, about 4″ square and about 4′ long, makes it impossible to drag the boat up on a beach. You can omit the lead keel and use bags of lead shot as internal ballast instead if your sailing regularly brings you ashore.Plans for the Eel consist of five sheets of drawings and a table of offsets that detail how to build the boat using carvel, strip, and cold-molded construction methods. I chose strip-building, as I had previously built a Wee Lassie cedar-strip canoe. My hope that the Eel would just be a bigger version of that project was not off the mark. Its hull is like that of a canoe, the lack of reverse curves simplifies the planking, and it’s built upside down, with the strips glued together over lofted station molds.

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