|I built a Jim Michalak-designed
AF4 power skiff during the winter of 2000/ 2001, and used it quite a
bit during the summer of 2001. So, I decided I would build a sailboat the
next winter, and set about finding a design. Having had a good experience
Michalak's plans, I decided to chose another; the
AF3. At 16 feet it was a little smaller than I thought would be ideal
for day sailing and overnighting, but as I had little experience with
sail, I did not want to start out with a big project that maybe would not
fit my needs.
I bought a set of plans and began construction in November of 2001 and the
boat was more-or-less complete in May of 2002 As with my AF4, the AF3 was
built quickly and cheaply, but solidly, out of BC pine exterior plywood.
Paint is Behr latex primer and latex house paint, with only the chines
covered with fiberglass tape and epoxy. My AF4 used the same "coatings
schedule" and after a year still looks good. I used about 25 tubes of P L
Premium construction adhesive, and mechanical fastenings consisted of
bronze ringed nails, brass screws, and stainless-steel screws; basically
what I had laying around.
(click to enalrge)
I made the sail utilizing a
Dave Gray Poly-tarp sail kit, following Dave's instructions as to the
"edge-cut" method of adding draft to the sail. Rather than adding a layer
of vinyl tape to finish-off the sail, however, I elected to stitch it
using my $50.00 flea market "Deluxe Dressmaker" sewing machine. Prior to
making the "slot-cover" and the sail, I had never sewn anything in my
life. I have now run over 1400 feet of thread through the "dressmaker"
(having "over-sewn" the sail by a wide margin) and am no longer in awe of
the sewing machine. I now use it like my circular saw, table saw, electric
drill, etc., which is not to say that I posess any great skill with any of
the above, but I do not look for ways to avoid using any of the above.
Other than a one-hour test-sail in calm conditions with a borrowed sail,
the boat's first real test was the 2002 Midwest Messabout at Rend Lake in
Illinois, where I spent two nights aboard, evaluating my choice of boat
design and how I had outfitted it. Here is my conclusions;
I have set-up my boat for solo day-sailing and over-nighting, and am
satisfied that it can fulfill those missions. The "cabin" is small but
adequate for one person (I really don't see how two could sleep in there.)
The cabin would certainly store enough gear for 2 or 3 people to camp
ashore, although that gear, plus the two or three people, might overload
the boat. Lots of variables here.
The only "dry' storage provided is the lazarette compartment; I
added self-adhesive foam weatherstripping as a hatch gasket, and installed
window sash latches to "dog-down" the hatch cover on the gasket. I am sure
it is not "water-tight," but it should be "weather-tight." I store (2)
life preservers, (2) "boat cushions", 100 feet of 3/8" nylon anchor line,
the sheet, mooring lines, (2) plastic buckets, a small tool kit, and a few
other odds and ends in there, such as an assortment of 3/8" bolts, nuts
and washers. I tried to standardize all of the bolted connections (mast
partner, leeboards, rudder hardware, etc.) on 3/8" so that if something
came lose and was lost, I would have replacements on board without
carrying a whole hardware store.
I bought (2) rectangular plastic containers with snap-on lids at a
discount store. I forget what size there are, but a rolled sleeping bag
will just barely fit in one. These containers are definitely not
watertight, but I added foam weather-stripping gaskets to the lids, and
mounted them (with ratchet-straps) just forward of the companionway
bulkhead and to each side of the boat. The ratchet straps attach to
"steamer trunk" handles (which fold down almost flush when not in use.)
which are screwed into the butt-strap on the bottom. I keep clothes and a
towel in the port one, and a sleeping bag and small pillow in the
starboard one. All is wrapped in (2) layers of plastic "trash compactor"
bags. When it is "beddy-by" time, I place the starboard box, emptied of
it's sleeping bag, on top of the port box, leaving the starboard-side of
the boat clear for sleeping (the mast step pertty-much ruins the port side
for sleeping). When strapped down, the plastic boxes are about 3 inches
inboard from the sides of the hull, so that if a little water gets into
the cabin during a capsize, the boxes should be above it.
For storing food and cooking utensils, I added a little bulkhead less than
a foot behind the stem, and which is fitted with two small shelves; the
two shelves, along with the boat's bottom, provide (3) levels of storage
for food and such. I found that I can squeeze about (3) days worth of
canned goods in there. The openings through the bulkhead, to provide
access to the shelves, were made small so that stuff would tend to stay
inside during a capsize.
For "cold storage," I bought a 16 quart plastic cooler and arranged
a hold-down-strap at the rear of the cockpit for it (the long tiller
renders the rear of the cockpit mostly useless anyway.) The little cooler
is tall enough to hold 2-liter soda bottles, which I fill with water and
freeze to provide ice and fresh water.
I could not find an air mattress that would handle the extremely narrow
bow area, so I used (3) layers of 1/2" thick foam "hiker's" pads from
Walmart. It is not thick enough, and I will need to add more foam. If
necessary, the foam can be cut to fit the area at the bow- an air mattress
can not. When not in use, the foam pads are held, upright, against the
Port side of the cabin by a bungee cord and screw eyes. Also bungeed to
the Port side is a first-aid kit. I also have holsters mounted at each end
of the cabin for holding small "AA"-battery-size flashlights, and have a
small compass, line knife, and am-fm radio mounted inside the companionway
bulkhead. Something I always carry in my boats is a "head lamp," a
flashlight that straps to one's head, also called a "miner's light" or
sometimes called and "illegal dear-hunter's light." Very useful when you
need your hands free. The headlight, flashlights, and radio all use the
same size battery.
I slept with my head forward, which put my ears about even with the
forward frame, with about 3 inches clearance between ear and frame. Jim
suggested sleeping head-aft, which would put one's feet in the narrow
area, but with the boat's rocker, that would also probably put one's head
lower than ones feet, especially if the boat is drawn up on the bank.
I suppose a short person could sleep in the cockpit.
I wired the boat with running lights, (2) cabin lights, and a triple
cigarette-lighter-outlet. The only item I carry which uses the outlets is
a cheap hand-held spot light, which we used late Sat. night when seeking
an anchorage after the "bull session." Everything is powered by a
15-dollar lawn tractor battery, mounted in a box located at the
bottom-center of the companionway bulkhead, inside the cabin. The battery
is inside the cabin to avoid drowning in the event of a capsize. The box
is fastened down and the lid bolts-on with wing nuts.
I made a poly-tarp "slot cover" which is attached by snaps and supported
by (3) wood bows with fit into slotted brackets- the bows are curved-up
about 1 inch, but the cover still has "flat" areas. We had a fairly heavy
15 minute rain shower Sat. night and the cover handled that with no
problems. the cover has (2) vertical "flaps" for covering the opening in
the bulkhead- the outer one is polytarp, while the inner one is bug
screening, to provide ventilation when the outer flap is rolled up. Or
both flaps can be rolled up.
The mast must be unstepped for the cover. I have permanent crutches
to hold it and the sprit. I did not see where it would be real practical
to cover the slot while sailing, so I arranged all the stowage/ equipment
to handle rain or spray that comes into the cabin area while the slot is
open: for example, the previously-mentioned am/fm radio is of the type
intended for use in a home shower; so it's supposed to be waterproof.
If I sit-up while seated on the cabin floor, my head is pushing up the
slot cover; there is not full sitting headroom under the cabin 'roofs,"
unless one is reclining.
I have a 15 lb anchor that bolts to the fore-deck, and a second 15 lb
anchor bolted in the cockpit; neither will move in the event of a capsize.
For the weekend, I carried a second anchor line hung on a utility hook in
the cockpit- it would have been lost in a turn-over.
Fuel for the 1945 2 hp Neptune outboard consisted of a 1 1/2 gallon tank
laying in the cockpit. I used less than a gallon over the whole weekend,
despite quite a bit of motor'n.
Winds were light and "flukey" over the weekend, but the AF3 exhibited no
bad habits under those conditions. In my search for cheap hardware to
attach the sail to the mast, I ran across some dog collars that consisted
of plastic webbing with a quick connect snap, a buckle for adjusting the
length, and a sewn-in "D" ring. I bought a bunch of these, lashed the "D"
rings to the sail's grommets, and have found that I can hoist or lower
sail very fast, as I can quickly connect or disconnect the buckles.
Prior to launching the boat, I had not considered the oars to be a
serious propulsion method for this boat, but after rowing it with my
8-foot oars, I have somewhat changed my mind as I was able to quickly get
the boat up to hull speed, but am too "out-of-shape" to keep it there very
All in all, I have been able to "set-up" the boat to store those items I
thought would be useful to carry along, and to store them out-of-the-way,
in a manner that would prevent their loss during a capsize. All the while
keeping the boat's trim within acceptable limits.
I can see a few problem areas; for example, it is fairly easy to unpack
and set up the foam pads and sleeping bag with the slot open, but to try
to do it under the slot cover in the rain will entail much crawling
around. I suppose it would be no worse than setting up a tent in the rain.
And although I brought along an extra plastic bucket for "emergencies,"
the AF3 cabin does not provide much privacy for that type of activity when
surrounded by other boats.
I should add, however, that all last summer I carried a "porta-potty'
AF4, which just barely has the room to use such a thing, but I have
never used it, going ashore for heavy-duty business, and using the gunnel
for lighter duty, after dark or in secluded areas. The porta-potty still
Lastly, if i were going to do it again; i.e. build a 16 ft boat for
day-sailing and overnighting, I might consider building the
MayFly 16, instead, and sewing a poly-tarp boom tent for the cockpit.
The Mayfly has covered storage fore and aft, and a centrally-located
cockpit that makes it easy to keep the boat trimmed, and that cockpit,
covered with a tent providing sitting headroom, would be plenty spacious
for sleeping two, as long as it is not cluttered-up with
Or maybe I would try a "birdwatcher" type, such as an
IMB or a
I do need a project for next winter....
But for a solo overnighter, which is what I usually do, The AF3 does about
as good of a job of utilizing space as is possible in a boat that is only
15 1/2 feet long and 4 1/2 feet wide.
Every boat is a compromise, and it is a matter of finding the correct
compromise for one's needs.
After one extended weekend, I feel that I probably chose the correct
compromise for me.