Free Boat Design Resources
from around the Web Updated 13th March 2000

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.What's new

40s designs
Polytarp sail exponent Dave Gray has added some more designs to his great collection of plans  from the 40s, including Crawfish, a fabulous streamlined iceboat; Wheelie Willie, an 8ft pram which  can double as a wheelbarrow; Conga, a 12ft V-bottom skiff, Frosty, a 10ft plywood sailing dingy; and Super Sunray, a 15ft Sam Rabl-designed racing sloop. He'll be posting Flight, a 20' mahogany plywood outboard cruiser with overnight accomodations, when he finds some more free time. The list also includes a 14ft cat-rigged knockabout, a 20ft sailing toothpick with a raisable weighted bulb keel, a blisteringly fast 20ft scow and various other sailing craft. For some, though, the gem of the collection so far is a shanty boat with a sternwheel decorated to look a bit like a Mississippi Showboat. It's just big enough to sleep two and is pedal powered - you sit on the cannibalized bike frame and pedal with your head in an observation tower. I think I know someone who won't be able to rest until he has one... Wouldn't if be nice if someone converted some of these to CAD? In the meantime, go and look - you'll love it!

Proa link
Check out the pictures and design material for this proa! Some new goodies are available from 

Carlson Design
Gregg Carlson's page now includes a pair of free mast design programs for round wooden masts. The first develops strakes for round masts, while the second calculates mast size and strength for stayed and unstayed rigs based on sail area and wood types. 

Johnboat plans
If you need plans for a johnboat, you might just win some for free from Gator Boats. Send them an email including just the word 'register', and at the end of the month yours might be the lucky name they pull out of the hat. 

Scarfing advice no 1 and Scarfing advice no 2
For advice on scarfing, check out these links. Neither mention Dynamite Payson's method of  butting two sheets of ply together and taping and epoxying each side - but take great care in handling the material while only one side has been taped! 

Doily for people who have got it bad
You've got it bad. You haven't got time to build a boat and can't afford to buy one. If it's making you feel really unwell, why not run yourself up a doily in the meantime? Yes, I know it's silly. . 

The Dynawing - a great sounding idea, and it needn't be expensive to make one for yourself.

Black Jack David designs
Cruising enthusiast Andy Morley's boat was designed and built by its previous owner. Andy has put up the design as a backdrop; save the image, and you have the design. But don't tell anyone I told you so. He says the boat works pretty well in most conditions, but doesn't give of its best in waves and a light wind. 

Home Boat Builders
I should have added this link to ages ago. 

Fancy a real challenge? Why not build a sampan - or at least a model for your mantlepiece. These pages are from Craig O'D, a man who always keeps a surprise up his sleeve. 

New design software! The highly regarded Plyboats boat design software is now available in the form of a usable demo. 

Dixon Kemp punts
Facsimile instructions for making two punts, from the glossary section of Dixon Kemp's famous book of just over a century ago. It's a rough old hand scan, I'm afraid, but you'll get the idea. Just start off by ignoring the first sentence of the second set of instructions. It baffled me, anyway. 

Short boats
Some more minimalist designs from the admirable Craig O'Donnell, including a little punt, a 12ft scow (similar-ish, you might say, but it sails), a 10ft skiff, a 13ft 'seaside bateau', two sneakboxes, the paper canoe, and a small catamaran.. 

Wood knowledge
Everything boatbuilders and woodworkers in general could possible need to know about wood, provided by the US Government.

Tiny dory
Ira Einsteen's done it again - this time he has drawn up a tiny 'dory' using a single sheet of 10ft by 4ft ply. Does that qualify as a single-sheeter? I suppose I would have to say so, as 10 by 4 is available where I live. These drawings are hosted by Scotty, and come in a handy variety of formats.. Take a look around Scotty's pages, while you are there. 

Here's some fascinating material about the design and build of currachs. These boats are still used commercially and for pleasure on the West coast of Ireland, and I'm hoping someday soon to be able to put up some more material about how they are made. 

And here's how to make a close relative of the currach, the coracle. I've paddled one of these things, and I can tell you that there's nothing like the suicidal balance of these little boats. It was fun, in its way though. It's interesting that although thought of a primarily Welsh and Irish in origin, these craft were - maybe still are - launched from both the English and Welsh sides of the lovely river Wye, and I understand there's an English professional soccer team that uses one as a mascot. Don't come to Britain if you don't like things a bit weird, I say. 

Stability essay
How stable does a motorised fishing vessel need to be for safety? Here's a useful-looking that explains a lot about the subject. If you've read The Perfect Storm, you'll definitely want to read this. 

Making oars
More stuff on how to make oars, this time from an old friend of these pages, Frank Ellinghaus.

Craig's foils essay
Have you seen this? It's an essay by Craig O'Donnell about foils. 

Folding canoe
A design for a folding canoe from an old copy of the US magazine Popular Mechanics. 

Shopbot canoe
Here's an article including ShopBot cutting files and full instructions for making one of Bill Young's beautiful epoxy lapstrake canoes. If you aren't one of the lucky people who have their own ShopBot, my hunch is that the ShopBot's suppliers may be able to put you in touch with someone who has one and is willing to cut out you sheet material for a reasonable fee. For more on Bill Young's work, follow the link to Seaside Small Craft

Paper canoe
Canoes are remarkably slim, wobbly things. But if that isn't enough, you can also make them out of paper. Click here for a design deriving from the heyday of paper canoes. 

Simple open canoe
I'm not sure if this exactly counts as a design, but you could just about make a boat from it - but if you decide not to, there's some inspiration to gain. 

More stuff about foils
Here's still more stuff about foils, if you like that kind of thing. 

Simple scow
Andrew Gibbens designed and built his own 12-foot sailing scow, and has taken the trouble to share it with us. As a Brit, I'm delighted to be able to publish something that originated in my own country for once! PVC's time has clearly arrived. 

David Goodchild's cheap oars
Here's an extremely neat way of making very cheap and light oars from David Goodchild. 

PVC tubing cleats
And here is how to make David Beede's cheap and clever cleats, also made from PVC tubing. 

Polytarp kayak
Well done chaps - you've both done a brilliant job.  How to make a kayak with some willow, and some polytarp. If you haven't got any, I suppose a few animal skins will do. Live in a cave, do you? 

Polytarp sails (i)
Still more on polytarp sails, this time from Frank Ellinghaus. 

Polytarp sails (ii)
If you are thinking of having a go at making polytarpauline sails, here's a link that will help you along the way. If you're interested in this, don't miss out on the link to Craig O'Donnel's pages on the same subject below. 

The Rules
Every design book (and many books that are not meant to be) include boat design 'rules'. Often they conflict, and I know that many good boats exist that break one rule or other. Still, the members of the boat design mailing list did think that a page of 'The Rules' might be fun, and useful. Please submit any rules you have found and think might be useful to others to me at We're looking for principles likely to be useful in boat design rather than humour here, though I may well enjoy a laugh in private.

Have you found anything I should add to this page?
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This page has been visited  times since the 18th January 1999. If you would like to sign my guestbook please click here. If you do, you may be sent occasional emails informing you that the pages have been updated or expanded. To visit the guestbook click here.

This page was assembled by Gavin Atkin using SiteAid and Netscape composer. I have a policy of concentrating mainly on material likely to be of interest to the low-budget sailor. The links on this page DO NOT imply approval or endorsement of the products or services offered.

I would be grateful for constructive, do-able comments, links to free and low-cost designs you may have found or have put up on the Web or via FTP, or wish to put up, and also for any other information about free and low-cost designs and resources I can include on this page of links. In terms of designs, I'm looking for original work based on a new concept or on traditional ideas. Anything recognised as being too close to the work of a recognised current designer must be refused - and this has happened. This page is meant to be interesting, useful and fun, not a rip-off of those we admire. Email me at Do please let me know if you find these pages interesting or useful, and if you have anything to add.

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