I have owned several sailboats and loved the romance of sailing, but as I’ve aged it was requiring more work and scampering about than I enjoyed. When my friend George took my wife Donna and me on a short motor cruise of the western end of New York State’s Erie Canal, I found it to be a relaxing and beautiful experience, quite different from sailing on the turbulent waters of Lake Erie. I decided to build a boat for cruising the canal.

Donna Harris

The L'Ark is built upside down with the posts on the transom and bulkhead sides extended to a common baseline. The extra length gets cut off after the hull is rolled over.

We wanted a relatively small trailerable boat that was suitable for overnight travel. It had to have a galley, a head, and berths for at least two. I also wanted a boat that had a traditional appearance and used readily available materials, not exotic and costly tropical hardwood. And, it had to be possible to build it in my double garage with the tools that I had on hand and with my limited boatbuilding skills. When I came across Philip Thiel’s Escargot, it seemed to fit the bill except for its lack of standing headroom. I noticed that the Escargot plans include four pages of supplemental drawings for a modified version, L’Ark, with the same 18′ 6″ length. This four-berth plywood canal cruiser has 6’ standing headroom, a 6″ greater beam than the Escargot’s 6′, and steeply sloped cabintop sides. It looked perfect. I ordered the plans and built a scale model to give me a clear understanding of how the hull was constructed (it is a lot less expensive to make a mistake in balsa than in marine plywood).

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