About a year ago I bought plans for Jim Michalak's Oracle rowboat, as
well as some hardware, fasteners, and tools. I wanted a fast rowing
boat that I could use with my two young kids.
|Three boys in a boat
The boat went together well enough - the delays came from working
outside, then from moving house, then from work pressures. I first
splashed the unpainted hull in late July, and finished the boat in
late August. I named it Asphodel, because I just like the word. I
painted it pale yellow for visibility.
One interesting note. Neither my wife nor I trusts me around power
tools. So the only power tools I used were the cordless drill and a
hand-held jigsaw to cut the holes for the hatches. All the rest was
done with a cheap pull saw from the big box store, chisels, and a
Stanley block plane.
Compared to the original plan, I decked over the bow and stern for
flotation - very important with kids aboard. I also added locations
for the bow and stern tie-downs. The big brass handle from Duckworks now
works to: hold the boat onto the car, dolly the boat around, and
attach the bow painter.
|Asphodel tied to the top of the car
The original plan was for a boat that I could dolly up and down a 200
yard steep muddy hill to launch. We then moved away from that hill
and lake, but I find it easy to load, unload, and launch solo just
using the dolly. I could lift the boat over my head solo until I
added the final paint and brasswork. That took the weight just out of
my comfort zone, but it is still an easy 2-man lift.
|A model was built first
The boat is made out of 5mm occume plywood, with the seams and
bottoms taped as listed in the plans. I had a terrible time getting
the seams to feather, and ended up applying the rule of "two coats
then move on". I have pine backing braces behind the four cleats you
see. The rubrail on the transom contains a slot for the rear
I ended up making the wales out of poplar, after which I
discovered that poplar rots almost as easily as occume! I gave the
wales a couple of coats of painted on epoxy before varnishing them. I
suspect that they will last as long as I keep the varnish up and the
boat mostly dry.
|Boys in the boat
So far I have used it on the Jersey shore (see photo below),
in the Cooper River, and on the lake that I originally designed it
for. I am very happy with the way the boat handles wakes and chop. I
am using some 6-foot oars I bought at auction, and am completing a
set of 7 1/2 foot oars to Jim's plans.
|An evening row along the Jersey shore.
I am thinking about adding a low sailing rig - probably a sprit yawl
of 40 to 50 square feet. It won't sail as well as a dedicated
sailboat, but it will mean that I won't have to agonize over which
boat to bring on vacation.