by Richard Frye

Searching for the right sailboat is fun in it’s own perspective, but can be extremely frustrating. This occurs frequently simply because of the endless selection from which to choose. For several months I wanted a boat that would meet a certain criteria. Number one, it would be a family boat. Therefore I wanted a boat that was capable of carrying at least 3 people with some gear. Stability was also an important factor. I didn’t want grandchildren to be frightened as the boat heeled over their first time out. Next, it had to be easy and quick to build. Last but not least, I wanted the cost as low as I could possibly get it. What seemed to be an endless search came to an end as I accidentally ran across a simple but attractive boat advertised as The $200.00 Sailboat.

200_1.jpg (14864 bytes)After a lot of thinking, I decided I would find out more about this boat, so I called Dave Carnell. He redesigned an older Phil Bolger design, by eliminating extra framework, and also changed the original sloop rig to a simple lateen rig. In fact he just dropped in an old Sunfish rig, and away he went! This made it so you had fewer lines to fool with, which is less work! The concept sounded good. I ordered the plans, and called Dave a few times during the construction. He is a delightful person that is loaded with information of just about anything! The plans were 20 bucks postpaid! Even that is a good deal in today’s world! I was to find out shortly that it was the best thing I’ve spent 20 bucks on in a very long time.

Since I am always tinkering with something I did deviate from the plans and used the tack and tape method for putting the hull together. The side and bottom panels were cut and butt jointed with Systems Three Epoxy. Next both were lofted according to the drawings which were very good and easy to read! His booklet of instructions was also clear and easy to understand. I used A/C Fir plywood throughout, but B/C or 1/4” pine would have been just as good in my opinion, and a few dollars cheaper. bbkatrest3.jpg (17611 bytes)The rudder, rudderblade and leeboard were 1/2” plywood. For the tiller, I used a scrap piece of oak that I happened to have around the shop. The bowstem and transom were made, and I arched the transom to give it a dory like appearance, mostly for looks. The stern of the Featherwind sits so high out of the water, the shape really doesn’t affect the performance in any way. I had trouble locating material for the mast and spars in the lengths I wanted, so the spars, gaff and boom were simply ripped from a 16 foot 2 x 4 which was builders grade spruce. It had very small knots here and there but otherwise good and clear. For the mast, I just simply glued two 12 foot 2 x 4’s of the same grade material together, and ran screws down the middle every 8 inches or so to act as clamps while the Titebond 2 was drying. In all this part, the mast, boom and gaff came to around 15.00 at Lowes. All other material was purchased at Home Depot.

captureD0.jpg (9746 bytes)The mast 2 x 4’s were ripped to 3 inches before gluing, so I would have a full 3” x 3” stick for the mast. This was actually a lot heavier than I needed, so I tapered it to 2” square, starting from about 30 inches above the mast step. The lower 30 inches of the mast was rounded to as close 3 inches as possible. The remainder was a tapered square, rounded on the edges with a 3/4 inch rounding bit. Rather than to go for the polytarp sail which is very good, I called Douglas Fowler, a great sailmaker from Ithaca, NY.

He suggested a colorful clone of a Sunfish sail. The price was right at $186.00 ppd! Another great deal. The colors were no extra charge.

I got a little crazy with the paint scheme, but she did turn out very attractive. Everywhere we go with this boat, we get compliments whether the boat is in or out of the water! As I slowly slid her into the water on the 4th of July, she came to life! Barely drawing any water at all! The stability amazed me as I settled down admidship! The wind was light, and I hoisted the sail, pushed down the leeboard then caught the wind and away we went! The boat was difficult to steer! During the excitement I had forgotten to push the rudder was mostly out of the water. Once the rudder was where it should be the boat handled like a dream. Everyone got a big laugh out of me forgetting the rudder! The sea trials were underway! I got a lot more boat than what I had asked for. My Featherwind is a very high performance boat, rows like a dream, and can carry at least 4 people, 2 dogs and large cooler...along with other junk! The bare boat weighs in at 105 pounds. The oars were made from 1-1/4 inch Fir closet rod with 1/4-inch plywood blades. They work great!

Nutmeg.jpg (14972 bytes)I would highly recommend this boat for the first-time builder since no special tools are needed other than basic shop tools. She can be rowed, motored (electric recommended), or sailed. You can go fishing too, or just putt around if the wind is calm. The average person should be able to build this boat in less than 50 hours. And while everyone else is talking about can be having a lot of summer fun with your family. This boat is extremely versatile and a winner all the way. All I can say is thanks to Dave Carnell! Happy sailing!

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