Sailboats Coming Out The Ears!

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Project by GnarlyErik posted 11-27-2015 11:00 PM 2001 views 4 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Back in July I did a blog about my motivation for this project, and finally now four months later I am approaching my (several-times-extended) goal: This project is the building of a number of small sailboats for kids for Christmas. I first thought to make about a dozen, but like other projects the count invariably grew. At first the count went to eighteen, and then twenty-four and at last count I am at 31 and still a-building. Some boats are finished and delivered, and about a dozen are nearly done but still being finished – mostly making the sails. The count might even still grow!

The first dozen or so built were for working out my design and methods, and they all vary in some respect or the other. I have by now mostly zeroed in on the design and rigging, and made some jigs to facilitate the repetitive parts, Oddly, though I have never really liked to build repeat models of anything, these have been very satisfying to make, even numbering now in the dozens as they do.

A big hang up was in making the sails for these. My wife first agreed to do them, but an extended illness prevented that. The Catch-22 is that she permits no one to use her fancy sewing machine but herself! I never argue about things like that so, I found an ancient but serviceable machine at a pawn shop, tuned it up, and am learning how to sew the sails myself. My efforts so far may be a little awkward and klutzy, but getting better all the time along with my confidence.

Most of the boats are about 12” long and hollow inside in order to carry the weight of the ballast keel which is about 50-60% of the total weight. There is no rudder, but the single ballast keel is forward enough so the boats sail in my tests on a beam reach or better to windward. The boats are completely self-righting, even from a completely upside-down position. There is a sealable medicine bottle fastened to the deck with an adjustable hose clamp to carry a note and other papers inside.

For readers who are sailors, here are a few words about my rigging theories. There is a single mast with stainless (safety tie wire) forestay and shrouds – no backstay since the mast rakes aft a lot. The ‘chain-plates’ are simple screw-eyes. There is a single genoa-like trysail which can be changed to the other tack by un-clipping the sheet which ends in a snap swivel for fishing line, and bringing the sail around forward of the mast. The sail is entirely outside the standing rigging for that purpose. The idea is a model which may be sailed ‘to windward’ to get it off the beach in almost anything but a dead onshore breeze. I send a little blurb with the boats explaining how to make a successful launch.

I also made a number of similar but larger 16” boats for kids who have swimming pools at their homes: This is lots of fun and I am awaiting feedback from all my little sailor friends!

Here are a pair of these little boats all ready for shipping in their custom made shipping box – cushioning to be added prior to lidding the box:

Here are eight more in their custom shipping crate headed out to Ohio:

12/05/2015 – Here is a video posted on Vimeo to demonstrate how these litle boats sail:

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

10 comments so far

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 3120 days

#1 posted 11-28-2015 12:15 AM

Good on you! Those are cool little boats!

I was wondering what the gold cylinder was on the deck of the red boat, I thought it might be a small battery powered motor at first.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View shipwright's profile


8726 posts in 3911 days

#2 posted 11-28-2015 12:30 AM

This is a great idea Erik and some wonderful little boats.
I hope they make the world a little smaller for the kids who send them out in search of new lands and new friends.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View hunter71's profile


3557 posts in 4300 days

#3 posted 11-28-2015 02:35 AM

Woha, what a great project.
Nothing is more satisfying than handing a child one of our handmade toys.

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View Dave G's profile

Dave G

337 posts in 3161 days

#4 posted 11-28-2015 11:38 AM

The lines look familiar to me. I used to own a Rhodes 19 and these look similar – easily a coincidence.

-- Dave, New England - “We are made to persist. that's how we find out who we are.” ― Tobias Wolff

View GnarlyErik's profile


357 posts in 3247 days

#5 posted 11-28-2015 01:25 PM

Joinga – the gold colored cylinder you ask about it s a small plastic medicine bottle painted with metallic gold for UV protection.. The bottle is for the ‘note-in-a-bottle’ idea.

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 3120 days

#6 posted 11-28-2015 01:42 PM

Joinga – the gold colored cylinder you ask about it s a small plastic medicine bottle painted with metallic gold for UV protection.. The bottle is for the note-in-a-bottle idea.

- GnarlyErik

Thanks. When I went back and read your description I saw that. Cool idea. Kids will LOVE THAT !

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3980 days

#7 posted 11-28-2015 02:12 PM

These are great and the kids will love them. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View CFrye's profile


11268 posts in 2953 days

#8 posted 11-28-2015 02:37 PM

Great fleet of ships, Erik! Hope your wife recovers soon. Good for you teaching yourself to sew. The carry toggles are an inspired addition. Thanks for sharing.

-- God bless, Candy

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 3405 days

#9 posted 11-28-2015 02:43 PM

Great project for sharing your special knowledge of ship design and building with the incomparable joy of lighting up a child’s eyes. Thanks for sharing.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Ivan's profile


16837 posts in 3981 days

#10 posted 11-28-2015 04:26 PM

Quite impressive collection. I’m glad to see kids playing with wooden toys instead staying in front of Game console.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

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