Duckworks - Projects
The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

Bufflehead - Part 1
design by Gary Lepak

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

For the past year or more I have been planning on building a 24' proa when I finished the home renovation I was working on. I spent many hours working on my model and thinking out all the details. When the opportunity finally arose to build it, I still wasn't sure. So in November I mocked up the boat full size in the yard with a main section of the main hull made of sticks, and a few sawhorses and garbage cans and windsurfer masts to represent the two hulls and the center deck. It just didn't get me. It seemed too large and complex for a boat that would only sleep one down below in a 3' wide cabin. After a week or so of contemplation I decided against building it. Not only might it not be the boat I wanted in the end, I also decided it was more of a project than I felt like taking on right now and might not be done by next summer, 2005. I was gripped by an urge toward simplicity and minimalism.

I did some hard thinking to reassess what I want this next boat to do for me. The basic requirement was that I be able to sleep aboard in a dry cabin. I live in the Pacific Northwest and would like to cruise off season when the weather is often wet. It would be nice to be able to sleep two. It had to be able to be muscle powered as we have a lot of very calm weather, and I would rather be rowing or pedalling than sitting waiting for wind or motoring. I like to get along without a motor if I can. I would like to be able to power it at 3 knots without too much effort.

I had been looking at Phil Bolger's Boats With an Open Mind and really liked the 21' cruising rowboat, but it was not suitable for sailing. I thought I could make do with it's crawling room cabin, about 36" high, sole to deck. But I also would like a cockpit. I skimmed through all my boat books looking for a suitable hull that could be made into the 50/50 row/sail boat I envisioned, and came to the conclusion that his Dovekie was the closest to what I had in mind. It was designed as a sailboat with rowing auxilliary, though I am thinking of Bufflehead more as a rowboat that can be sailed. After reading his take on the design, which he says can be rowed easily at 3 knots, and sails very well, I decided this was very close to what I want.

Of course the easy thing to do might be to find one of the 160 that were built for sale , but then I wouldn't get to play with the design and build my own. The main things I am changing are the hull flare, the rig, the cabin, and the cockpit.

I put the basic idea into the HULLS program.

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Click image for larger view

I liked the looks of the plumb sides, and think 5' is adequate beam and it makes the construction a bit simpler. I also like the looks of the plumb ends. I do like the rounded chines of Dovekie to hopefully make the hull slip through the water a bit easier when I am rowing, so will go to the extra trouble of building them out of cedar strips and glass, with the rest of the hull being plywood. I like the dead flat bottom for sleeping on and getting the most headroom. I have some balsa contourcore left over from another project so the bottom and the deck will be balsa core sandwich for stiffnes without framing. I built a model out of doorskin, 2'' to a foot, the doll model being to scale.

My first impression of the hull was it was too tall, and kind of ugly, and I wouldn't build it, but it sat around for a few days and grew on me to the point that I don't care what it looks like and have decided it could be quite handsome in a simple way, especially with the right paint job. (I think I will copy the Bufflhead and paint it white with a wide black sheer stripe). This model was to scale of a 4'6" beam, which I later changed to 5'. Oars will go through oar ports for normal rowing on a sliding seat, and with the oars on the gunwale it should also be possible to row standing up and facing forward for close quarters or just a change of position.

I don't care for the stayed rig on Dovekie. I would like the rig to come down and stow more easily in keeping with the idea that this is a rowboat, so I plan to try the dipping lug rig that Bolger is so fond of on motorsailers. I think the first try will be a tarp sail to work out the details. I'm thinking of about 125 sf, a little smaller than Dovekie's. The mast is in the cockpit, so the sail should be able to be dipped without going on deck, the tack perhaps being switched with a line. The 16' mast and 12' yard should be easy to manhandle down and stow when rowing any distance. For simplicity I plan to use a daggerboard rather than leeboards. The case will be right behind the mast. If there is a balance problem the rig can be shifted fore and aft some by moving the tack and even tilting the mast. I may also build in a water ballast tank for up to 400 lbs to make it easier to singlehand and come back from a knockdown unaided.

Ken and Woody out for a sail:

The main bulkhead is about 9' aft of the bow, allowing a 6'8" by 5' wide cabin that is 2' wide at the foot of the berth. There will be about 35" of headroom. The hull is about 19' long, the sides being about 20' long.

To have a dry cabin, and also for safety in the event of a knockdown, the cabin is bulkheaded off from the cockpit, unlike Dovekie, which is completely open. The cockpit will be 6'8" long also, for sleeping in. It will be self bailing and have fore and aft bench seats with the sliding rowing seat in between. I expect most of the living to be done in the cockpit which can be protected by an awning stretched over the mast and yard when they are stowed in crutches holding them a couple feet above the deck. Three feet of the aft end will be sealed off storage for safety also, probably mainly stowage for an inflatable tender. The bow section will be bulkheaded off for 2'6" and used for anchor stowage.

Bufflehead is being built on mold frames so that I can have the hull right side up and empty for glassing the inside of the cedar chines full length, and also so I can crawl, sit and lay in it to decide exactly where I want the bulkheads and frames to go. As of today, 1/26/05 I have 5 of the 6 ply planks glued to the stringers and will finish that and start ripping cedar strips tomorrow.

Go on to Part-2