View Full Version : How good a dinghy is the shellback?
03-20-2005, 06:19 AM
I've had it with our inflatable dinghy. The problem is the *%&^#! 15-hp outboard, which hates Brazilian gasoline (don't they all... :( ). Always giving trouble, and when it doesn't work, rowing an 11' inflatable is like rowing a packing crate. Plus it is a drag to tow and a bitch to put on deck.
We need a fairly large dinghy to be able to ferry supplies, charter guests, etc., so can't go for a tiny inflatable - which are even worse to row anyway.
I'm thinking about building obe of the famous Shellback Dinghies. I hear they row very well, and look nice. How good are they as tenders? Stable enough? Durable? Light? Can you put a 3.3 hp outboard or an alectric trolling motor on one?
I did a search, but all threads about it deal with construction issues...
03-20-2005, 06:42 AM
They're reputed to do all of that well, with the possible exception of durability. I don't have any personal experience.
T'were me I'd build or have built a Herrsheoff(sp? I can never spell that man's name) Norwegian Pram out of solid plank. I've never seen a sail rig on one, but it could be done if desired. Painted white, poly at the lap on the outside as per Walt Simmons, it should live quite nicely on deck.
With the bangs a dink gets, ply planking with epoxy seems a mediocre choice, to me.
03-20-2005, 07:15 AM
I've gotten close looks at NUTSHELL PRAMS on two different occasions. The NUTSHELL is pretty much identical to the SHELLBACK except for the pointed bow.
They certainly seemed "stout" to me. The first had been used by a cruiser for some while to ferry his big dog ashore, among other things. The dog would just as soon swim, and often did, but the guy didn't want to have to contend with a wet dog ALL the time.
The second was at the WoodenBoat School at Brookline. A fellow there ferried my wife and I ashore (we now have out own dinghy). We all three are tall, yet had plenty of room.
I wouldn't worry about the scantlings, if a plywood dinghy will work for you.
03-20-2005, 09:35 AM
The Shellback is a great dinghy --tows and rows very well. But it has its limits. It's light. That's plus in some ways. I have cartopped mine.
It is also tippy. Stand one the thwart near the rail, and you're in the water in a flash. By contrast, with the heavier Peapods, you can haul lobster pots over the rail. The Shellback would carry three people plus groceries. As for a motor, I would be skeptical. There is essentially no transom in the water when the boat is empty. The load waterline comes to a point back aft. So a motor with any weight would make her squat. If you were driving alone, I think you would have to sit way forward to keep her nose down, and use a tiller extension on the outboard. Maybe a very light outboard would work out. Borrow one and try before you buy. But the offset is that the boat rows so easily that even a half-mile commute should be no problem except in really rough conditions.
03-20-2005, 01:10 PM
My Pooduck skiff (shellback's big sis) would be a magnificent tender for a boat of your size. Joel White designed it with battleship scantlings in mind, and I lightened them up a good bit. Mine's been battered in a hurricane, bounced around the yard off the trailer in very high winds, and shows no signs of damage at all. I can easily climb over the rail without swamping (175#) or shipping any water besides what I bring with me. It rows like it's on rails, in any wind, and sails grandly in all winds but the very lightest.
I don't understand why lapstrake ply gets a bad rap for durability. A traditionally built boat would not have survived as well as my pooduck has in the storms its been through.
The shellback and pooduck were deliberately designed to be difficult to hang a motor on. If I were to ammend mine to accomodate one, I'd put a well in my rear locker a la Iain Oughtred with a flush plug for when it's not needed.
Hope this helps.
03-20-2005, 01:13 PM
Having built a 9'6" Nutshell with my sons about 10 years ago, I can attest to their durability. Ours has remained intact despite some rough handling, and certainly seems tough enough to withstand dink duties. It rows and sails fairly well, but I don't have any experience towing it.
The Shellback has a narrower bottom than the Nutsell, and is therefore less stable.
I like Doug Hylan's Beach Pea for a tender. It is longer and heavier than the pram or Shellback, so it may be harder to get on deck. But if it tows as well as its reputation, that may not be an issue. No transom for an outboard, but you could clamp a trolling motor to the gunwale if necessary.
Anyone have first hand experience with the Beach Pea?
03-20-2005, 01:28 PM
Billy: How's about some pics of your skiff. The background would do all of us "up here" a service at this (brown) time of year. Help us out!!
03-20-2005, 03:25 PM
George, I am just completing a Shellback Dinghy. I’m a small wooden boat builder but in respect of this forums’ policy I won’t mention my site. However since your profile doesn’t have a return email address I can’t contact you directly so if you go to my profile you will find my site where you will see my almost completed version (sail and 2 piece sculling oar yet to go) of the Shellback Dinghy and my email address. I hope this doesn’t break any self promoting rules. Email me directly if you decide to build the Shellback Dinghy. I have lots of advice and cautions to offer.
Purchase the book “How to build the Shellback Dinghy” by Eric Dow, a Woodenboat Publication. That’s a must, along with the plans. Be careful with the plans. They may be distorted. For instance when I took the transom plan and fold it in half the starboard and port lines were off by about ¼ inch. There’s a few other problems with the plans as well.
In an old issue of wooden boat magazine there is an article on Joel White and the Shellback Dinghy. I have forgotten which issue. I suspect that the article may have been a bit bias, nevertheless they spoke highly of it’s capabilities as a rowing and sailing dinghy.
If you decide to go ahead and build one I would be glad to help you along the way through any hair pulling episodes.
03-20-2005, 03:38 PM
How big can you go George? Dalia is a big boat,most of us have ( or a building ) much smaller vessels.Seems you are not limited to the usual range of 10 foot and less dinghys with all their attendant disadvantages.My ideal would be 13 or 14 ' so it could safely carry 4 people in bad conditions and even ,heaven forbid,double as an effective sailing lifeboat.
03-20-2005, 04:38 PM
The durability issue depends, of course, on many factors including materials, care, and stowage. There are many horror stories about ply and epoxy dinks rotting too early. Get a gouge in the planking, or have a break in a lap, water gets in and stays, occume or sapele ply rots. And when was the last time a dink didn't get a gouge at pier or bringing aboard?
Again, 't'were me I'd find the local equivilent of cedar and oak, and build something easily planked.
The pram I mentioned is elegant looking, is easily planked by someone who knows traditional clinker, is burdensome for its length(9.5 ft? Someone may have stretched it too), will take a small motor, will take a sail and rows well. I believe LFH(I still can't spell his name ;) ) had it in mind for George's lovely schooner smile.gif .
[ 03-20-2005, 05:40 PM: Message edited by: Jack Heinlen ]
03-20-2005, 04:39 PM
I could go for a dink as long as 15-foot, but I would want it to be light enough for two people to pull up on deck with no hernias. I wonder, what if I scale-up the 11-foot shellback to 14 foot or so? Or is the stability problem inherent to the design?
Stability is important - I myself enjoy small boats (we have a tiny, 10-foot by 40cm traditional dugout canoe, which takes some good balance to sit in and row, but is a delight to paddle around once you get the hang of it) - but when it comes to charter guests, Sil's 89-year-old grandmother (a frequent guest on Dalia), the dogs, friends who have had one too many, etc, stability is nice.
Edited to add: Jack, where can one get the plans for the dinghy you mention?
[ 03-23-2005, 06:51 AM: Message edited by: George. ]
03-20-2005, 05:02 PM
Ya know George, I don't know. :D Start a new thread and someone will come up with it.
Simon Watts uses it as a teaching tool sometimes, and I seem to recall a build series of two or three articles in Fine Woodworking. So that search would be worth a shot if no one else steps forward with a source.
They look like a traditional twelve foot clinker dinghy with the first two feet cut off.
Not to denigrate White's designs, but LFH was no man's fool.
03-20-2005, 05:23 PM
The Shellback's tenderness is related to its narrower bottom. Joel White's Pooduck skiff is similar, but is 12'10" long and has a wider bottom, so it should be more stable.
03-20-2005, 05:26 PM
I know of 2 articles describing prams by LF Herreshoff.
One is is Gardner's book, "Building Classic Small Craft".
The other was in a collection of designs originally published in Rudder.
Unfortunately, I can't lay my fingers on it,
but I recall the article was by LFH and was called
something like "The Nereia Pram".
Ah, google says the book was called "20 boats you can build", published by Fawcett,
and that I've got the 1958 edition.
In any case, this was apparently the tender designed
to go along with the yacht "Nereia".
Of course, the Gardner book has a number of other
designs for tenders that you might consider.
[ 03-20-2005, 06:27 PM: Message edited by: preston ]
03-20-2005, 05:35 PM
I can't find what happened to my post linking to my Pooduck website, so here it is again...
POODUCK SKIFF ABUILDING (http://www.boats.rkstarr.com/skiff/pooduck.html)
My parents are in their mid seventies and they have no problem sailing with me in the pooduck, even in a chop.
The skiff is very dry. I jibed in a squall once under full sail without pulling up the board and rounded up suddenly and buried the rail once, shipping a few gallons of water. Other than that the only water in the boat is what I bring aboard.
and here is an old pic...
[ 03-20-2005, 06:38 PM: Message edited by: Billy Bones ]
LFH's Sensible Crusing Designs has enough data to build several different prams, including the 11'6" Marco Polo pram which has a big flat bottom and a rear transom angled for a small outboard as well as the ultra-adjustable rowing positions and the leeboard lug rig.
03-20-2005, 07:31 PM
And another shot, from a while back, but I don't think I've posted it before...
03-20-2005, 08:27 PM
CUT THAT OUT!!
03-20-2005, 08:30 PM
As for a utility boat, look at the various cross-planked skiffs, like the Susan Skiff.
Tows, and will carry a motor
03-20-2005, 10:11 PM
I recently saw what I think is a Shellback, built of sheet aluminum! Welding was not the best but good for a first try.
03-21-2005, 11:06 AM
I built a Shellback nine years ago for use with my ketch Andrea Lynn. She looks great, rows extremely well, and has taken her share of abuse without complaint. I built her out of doug fir marine grade plywood and west epoxy and she has held up extremely well except for the characteristic checking. At 11' and about 80 lbs she worked out great for my long cruise from Maryland to Alabama. The design lends itself to easy towing behind the ketch without dragging the speed down much. However, she is too heavy to casually slep down to the marina for a day or overnight cruise unless I specifically plan to use her.
Surely, you're gonna store your tender up on deck, raising and lowering with dory hooks...
In one of Gardner's books, he's got the plans and description for a 12 foot rowing boat called Asa. According to him, it's a very husky, burdensome, well considered rowing boat for doing actual work - much bigger than most 12 footers.
In my daydreams, were I to have a yacht like Dalia, I'd match it with a ship's boat like Asa. No idea how she'd tow ...
03-22-2005, 09:01 AM
Originally posted by TomF:
Surely, you're gonna store your tender up on deck, raising and lowering with dory hooks...What are those? I've been using the fore boom, and it takes a while to rig it for the job...
03-22-2005, 09:39 AM
George, I don't like inflatables either.
So I designed and built a 10 ft hard-chine pram I call the 10-Spot. It's 10ft x 4ft, fairly deep in the sides for capacity (and to allow heel while sailing), and it has the towing features I wanted -- deadrise at the front and flat bottomed aft. This means it's quiet while being towed or at anchor, yet when you draw the towline up short (and high), the boat water-skis along on is after section with little drag. At 5 knots I can pull the tow-line slack with finger-and-thumb.
It also tows dry. In 3 years of towing in up to 6ft waves (Lake Huron) I've simply never had to bail it.
It's capacity is about 730 lbs with 6" freeboard remaining. (High sides -- I wanted it to double as a lifeboat.)
I made it from cheap plywood and encapsulated it in epoxy resin -- also glassed the bottom. It's stitch-and-glue. I gave it a centerline, fore-and-aft seat, for ease of trimming the boat. It rows quite well, easily enough that I row it for pleasure in the evenings at anchor. It weighs 85lbs. I made a 70 sq ft leg-o-mutton sprit sail for it and, with a hook-on leeboard it does fine.
Here's a photo. Unfortunately the boat is in the background and the image is from Imagestation, so it may not show up. I can look for some more photos if you're interested, and if you can stand the idea of a plywood stitch-and-glue tender.
03-22-2005, 10:21 AM
Look at Iain Oughtreds "dinghies" and "sailing dinghies" on DuckFlat. All can be strip, cold moulded, clinker ply or traditional built.
Whats your poison?
From 8 to 16ft and everything in between gives you a pretty good choice.
Originally posted by George.:
</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by TomF:
Surely, you're gonna store your tender up on deck, raising and lowering with dory hooks...What are those? I've been using the fore boom, and it takes a while to rig it for the job...</font>[/QUOTE]What I've seen in pictures amounts to an additional halyard on both fore and main, with a hook attached at the business end. These were made fast to the fife rail when not in use.
When raising/lowering dories, the hooks were run through lifting eyes typically fitted to the interior of the boat's stem and sternpost/transom. The arrangement would be quick to attach/detach, but would require crew on each line to raise/lower the boat. One would think that the lifting eyes should be located high enough above the boat's centre of gravity that it isn't tempted to capsize when swinging around in the air.
Presumably dory hooks would also be useful for loading/unloading cargo ... maybe some other forumites can speak from seeing these rigged on fishing schooners firsthand ...
edited to add ... plans and discussion about the workboat Asa are in the chapter on wherries in John Gardner's "Building Classic Small Craft."
[ 03-22-2005, 12:15 PM: Message edited by: TomF ]
03-22-2005, 11:43 AM
George , You can get the plans for the Norwegian Pram here;
03-22-2005, 12:42 PM
We once fitted (temporarily) a 2 hp outboard to our Shellback and went putting up a very narrow tidal river in Mexico. Could not open the throttle more than about a third of the way without the poor dear squatting and vibrating to beat the band. We ran out of gas on the way back downcurrent (don't ask!) and sculled her home to MAGIC.
Being schooner-rigged, MAGIC hoists SLIPPER aboard using dory hooks...gasp! - and it works rather well. One person can do it - by going fore and aft between the two tackles - but it is really much quicker to do with two folk. We hook into a largish eye spliced into the shellback's bow painter (which just clears the height of the breasthook when hoisting)and to an eye into an added bridle aft. Our technique involves raising the dinghy to near the top of the lifelines, then, while she hangs there, we reach across to the outer gunwale and flip her up and over. Still hanging - now inverted- we jockey SLIPPER into position atop the cabin mounts and settle her home. Very nearly takes more time to describe it than to do it.
I wonder if I have a picture somewhere....Ahh..Imagestation is down again, so it will have to wait.
03-22-2005, 04:28 PM
I, too have built a Pooduck Skiff as a dinghy/tender, and I just love it. I built to the designed scantlings (for instance, bottom is 3/4"), and consider the boat bulletproof for anything approaching normal use. Relatively easy to build.
Length is 12'10", weight as built about 135#. I've had up to 5 adults aboard, or alternatively me, my wife, and all the gear and supplies for a 10 day cruise, comfortably.
Rows exceptionally well, either one or two pairs of oars.
Stable enough to give me bad habits; I've become accustomed to being able to stand up in the boat whenever I like, and have nearly given myself a serious seawater bath by unthinkingly doing the same in a friend's smaller dinghy.
George, edit your post that has your address so it says something like george at deletethis whatever ; the spammers have robots that are looking for addresses.
03-23-2005, 05:53 AM
Thanks for the advice.
Just remembered William Gardner's three nesting prams, towards the back of Yacht Designs, in a discussion of some big trawler. That's three 12'x5' prams that nest, one inside the other, making a stack of handy row/sail toys. I've never seen or heard of anyone ever building any of them, and mention this more for the idea of maybe nesting a Shellback inside a Pooduck or like that.
03-24-2005, 05:30 AM
Let me see if I have this straight: The Shellback is unstable because it has a narrow bottom. The Pooduck is more stable because it is larger, although it is basically the same hull shape. So if I build one as large as will fit on deck I should have a workable dinghy. Right?
The comment about not being able to step on the thwart without going into the drink is of concern. You kind of have to step on the thwart to climb aboard a schooner...
03-24-2005, 06:22 AM
Originally posted by George.:
The comment about not being able to step on the thwart without going into the drink is of concern. You kind of have to step on the thwart to climb aboard a schooner...I would take some of those poor stability comments with a grain of salt, although coming from a deflatable, you might have similar thoughts at first.
I stand up in my pooduck often. I climb aboard docks from thwarts without undue concern.
Joel White was many things to many people. I don't think anyone could disagree that during the stage in his career from which Pooduck and Shelback emerged, he was very conservative. The boats were designed specifically as tenders and perform very well as such. In fact, they are the only tenders I know of which row well AND which people also actually enjoy sailing. (anyone with a dyer will know what I mean.)
03-24-2005, 10:46 AM
I step on my thwarts all the time. In fact, both the twarts and the bottom are non-skidded. I don't think the Pooduck is stable enough to stand on the gunwale amidships, though I might make the experiment on a warm day just to see.
I once tripped and feel backwards athwartships while getting in, and the dinghy is large and stable enough that I didn't end up in the water. Not that I recommend falling clumsily backwards as a test..
03-24-2005, 10:49 PM
Boat Design Quarterly #18 contains an article featuring both the Shellback and Pooduck. Here are excerpts from what Mike O’Brien had to say in that article:
Joel White drew the 11’2” Shellback in 1989 and offered the glued-lapstrake design to WoodenBoat as plans-for-sale. Everyone liked the new dinghy, but the stem profile did seem somewhat weak-chinned. And the hull lacked the broad flat bottom that had given the designer’s 9’6” Nutshell pram its brutal initial stability. Surely the Shellback would be just a wee bit more tender. The offer of plans was politely declined …
Through a classified ad in WoodenBoat magazine, White proceeded to sell the plans on his own. Local professional boatbuilders were quick to see the merits of the design, and several made the dinghies for their own use. The class prospered …
In 1990, WoodenBoat asked White if he would, please, design a stretched version of the Shellback, and give it a more noble stem … The 12’10” Pooduck resulted from that commission …
The effect, if any, of the proud new stem on performance is unknown. Its effect on builders is more certain. The stronger chin profile requires greater twist in the bilge panels up forward. … builders who have tackled both hulls tell us that the Shellback goes together more easily. As may be, neither boat is difficult to build.
03-25-2005, 08:24 PM
I've got a 7'7" nutshell I built about 10 years ago with douglas fir plywood. It is holding up well. I think that it is a great little boat. It rows great and tows well although I normally just stow it on the foredeck of our CheoyLee. It's becoming a little small for us due growing kids but the design is good. I must admit to a slight heresy(what the heck, the CL is 'glass,I'm already doomed). I lash 3 small fenders along each side of the dingy to provide extra stability and floatation.It detracts from the looks but I can stand on the gunnels.
I'm considering a larger nesting dingy as our next tender due foredeck size constraints otherwise I'd want the larger nutshell.
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