A microcruiser for adventures near
I've been corresponding with Joshua Colvin and Craig Wagner,
editors of Small Craft Advisor, for a few years now,
and have written articles and design features for quite a few
issues. Even though we've not met face to face we've gotten to
know each other some. The 8000 miles between us being only a fraction
of a second away by e-mail. Knowing their bias to the small and
simple I was not at all surprised to hear from them asking if
a very small cruiser might be a practical proposition.
That's an area of boating that is very close to my heart. Being
affordable is very important, as is being achievable, safe, and
comfortable. Cruising yachts seem too often to be big, expensive,
complex creatures that own their skippers rather than the other
way around; what they were proposing was very much at the other
end of the scale.
"Ten feet long," they e-mailed. "Sleep on board
for a weekend. Something that would daysail an adult and a couple
of children. Really easy to build in a garage, and small enough
to not need an expensive trailer or a big car to tow it."
There were other considerations, but the above pretty much set
I have a very successful design called "Sherpa."
It's a nine-foot long big little boat that will carry a heavy
load in mountainous seas. Several of them are called Tenzing
which while not very original is appropriate and at least indicates
that the owner-builders know a little of the history of Mt. Everest.
Sherpa's a very good hullform for stability and load carrying.
It sails well enough for a group of owners to have begun sailing
as an informal class with a local yacht club, and is stylish enough
to attract compliments. People love it, and I figure that it's
one of my better designs.
With that as a starting point I drew a little sketch, photographed
it, and e-mailed it to Small Craft Advisor in Port Townsend.
The answer did not take long to come back to me-the response
being very enthusiastic and encouraging. We had several exchanges
of thoughts and ideas and I've since worked over the drawing,
done all the arithmetic and adjusted a few things. S. C. A. M.
P. (That's Small Craft Advisor Magazine Project) is a tad over
10 feet long and a whisker under five wide-she is short and fat.
With her water ballast she will be exceptionally stable allowing
the skipper to move around the little ship without worrying about
falling out. SCAMP has plenty of freeboard, lots of dry stowage,
a self draining cockpit-and for safety's sake a huge amount of
That little "cabin" is really a secure locker and buoyancy
air tank. There is room in there for a sleeping bag, dry clothes,
food, matches and such. There is also space for a lot more stores
and equipment under the side seats, and if the skipper is intending
to get away for a really big adventure, there is more space under
the cockpit floor.
That self draining floor is the bunk, wide enough for shoulders,
long enough for all but the tallest NBA player, sheltered and
secure with their head up under the after end of the "cabin."
I'd expect there to be about an even break between those who will
tent the cockpit with a cover over the boom and those who will
use a "bivysack" type outdoor sleeping bag. Either way
it'll be easy to be comfortable in there.
Josh told me that a dedicated place for the bucket is very important,
so there is a little well at the after end of the cockpit floor,
the dinghy venturi bailers are positioned in there and it provides
not only a secure place for the bucket in under the tiller, but
also a place for any rainwater or spray to drain into.
The centerboard is hidden in the starboard side seat front, and
does not get in the way at all. The asymmetry making such a tiny
difference that few will ever notice from one tack to the other.
With twin skegs under her flat bottom, and a kickup rudder, she
can sneak into very shallow water, and will sit upright when the
tide goes out, often an ideal way of spending a night out in a
small boat that would otherwise be bounced around by the waves
and powerboat wakes in a big boat anchorage.
The rig is a simple balanced lugsail. I'd expect the boat to
be ready to launch within 15 minutes of arrival at the boat ramp,
the mast being unstayed and light enough to just pick up and plug
in, the yard and boom with the sail being easy to fit, leaving
only the rudder to put on.
I can imagine sailing around the point and into the glossy waters
of a tiny sheltered cove, drifting along on the last of the evening
breeze. It won't take long to get the tent up. The stove will
have the water boiled for coffee by the time that's up and secure,
and there are several choices of meals that can be heated and
ready for supper by the time the coffee is down. While the little
boat is indeed very small, it's comfortable, so why go home tomorrow,
or even the next day? It's a big lake, and there are lots of anchorages
like this to enjoy.
SCA (Small Craft Advisor) Editors
"What does a man need-really need? A few pounds of food
each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in-and some form
of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment.
That's all-in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed
by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid
of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings
that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.
The years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they
lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it,
the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which
shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?"
Our own youthful dreams often featured small boats in supporting
roles. Stalwart little vessels aboard which we'd venture across
nebulous bodies of water in search of uncharted shores and uninhabited
islands. Sometimes we'd land and go ashore to explore or make
camp, often retreating to our boats to wait out a summer storm
beneath a boom tent. We'd read sea stories by oil lantern and,
on clear nights, sleep under a blanket of stars.
Curiously, these fanciful voyages never involved wrestling with
a heavy mast, fussing with a smelly outboard, or being held off
shore by our boat's draft. And even when we pictured whitecaps
kicked up by a stout afternoon breeze, never was there a chilly
It was a longing for those simple pleasures that inspired thoughts
of SCAMP. That and a persistent desire to go over "there"-that
place we often see but can never quite reach. It seems to happen
on every cruise. Never mind that we're usually sailing the smallest
boat around for miles. We always come upon some ultra-shallow
bay or intriguing tidal stream that disappears into the reeds,
trees and rushes. To get in there-all the way in there-a boat
needs to be light, shallow and easily propelled-and preferably
flat-bottomed should we decide to stay though the ebb.
Trying our best to distill small-boat cruising to its essence,
we sorted out our ideas and took the best of them to one of our
favorite designers-John Welsford. It shouldn't have surprised
us that, being of a like mind, he responded enthusiastically.
What we commissioned was the most micro of cruisers. We wanted
a cabin, not for a claustrophobic casket-like berth-but for dry
stowage, buoyancy and a bulwark against wind and seas. We tried
to be honest about the compromises. In describing the boat to
John we said SCAMP would be so small that, "the designer
himself might cringe a little when he puts the pencil down."
Remarkably, where we expected John would need eleven or even
twelve feet to meet our goals, he was able to do so in slightly
over ten. And where we'd resigned ourselves to the possibility
she might be at least slightly less capable than larger microcruisers,
John drew SCAMP with a selfdraining cockpit, abundant flotation,
and 145-pounds of water ballast. Unlike many larger designs, SCAMP
should be recoverable from a complete capsize.
We've long been fans of pram bows and how they maximize volume
at a given hull length, and before we could ask, John's initial
reply suggested one for SCAMP
Thanks to an offset centerboard the cockpit sole/ single berth
measures 25 x 77 inches, making accommodations almost luxurious
for the solo sailor. Designed to be sailed, rowed and perhaps
sculled, SCAMP can also be fitted with an outboard in place of
her rudder-or with an optional mount for a trolling motor.
We believe every boat needs a bucket, so we asked John if he
could design in a designated spot for one. He did. Every SCAMP
sailor will have at hand a storage container, fire extinguisher,
drogue or emergency steering aid, rudimentary head, bailing device,
and a tool for filling the ballast tanks.
We wanted the simplicity of a single sail (single halyard, single
sheet, etc.) and John wisely recommended the balanced lug. Although
we're fans of this rig and unanimously saw it as the best choice,
we wondered if some potential builders might prefer the more familiar
gaff sail. At our urging, and with some reluctance, John drew
SCAMP with a gaff. The resultant drawing with the much higher
aspect rig looked less purposeful, unwieldy-almost fragile. Seeing
SCAMP dressed like this so convinced us of the balanced lug's
better suitability that we scrapped the gaff option altogether.
John appreciated our coming to our senses and wrote, "The
lugsail gets the right amount of area in the space available without
getting outside the ends of the boat or going up too high. Remember
that this is a very stable boat, and can carry a lot of sail without
risk, and that's one of the strengths of the lugsail."
John suggests a practiced amateur could have the construction
done and ready for paint in about 110 hours. It's our hope that
new sailors and first-time builders will appreciate the small
size and simplicity of the design, and that more experienced builders
and sailors will appreciate SCAMP's surprising level of sophistication.
Although SCAMP wasn't designed specifically with kids in mind,
we think she would make an ideal exploration boat for young sailors-safe,
capable and easily handled. We intend to donate a set of plans
to any formal organization or school looking to build a SCAMP
for this purpose.
Now on to the next step-finding a builder for the prototype and
getting SCAMP in the water! SCA
SCAMP Plans are available at Duckworks