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Thread: Questions regarding first sailboat build

  1. #1
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    Post Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Greetings, I'm planning on building myself my first sailboat, but I just can't settle on a design to work on. I had almost made a final decision on going with "Zephyr" by William D. Jackson, but then as I was looking at the instructions a little more in depth, it hit me that it might've been designed with two people in mind. So, here are my questions:

    1. If it is actually designed for more than one person, will it even be possible for me to sail it alone?

    2. Can it be considered a "good design" in the first place?

    3. I know most here will probably just recommend that I buy a popular design like "goat island skiff", but I feel really weird spending 100 euros just for the plans, so do these "modern" expensive plans make that much of a difference or can an older design be considered just as good?

    (link to zephyr plans: https://www.diy-wood-boat.com/support-files/zephyr.pdf)

    Thanks in advance,

    Jason

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    I would advise against building the Zephyr.It says it conforms to the International 14 rules and maybe in 1950-something it did.Those boats were a real handful for two experienced racing sailors with that much sail area and I seriously doubt that any ever raced in the class.In fact,in those days they wouldn't have been eligible as the minimum weight of an International 14 was in excess of 200 lbs and needed to be as the rig loads were quite high.Wooden masts with metal sail tracks have been obsolete in small boats for seventy years or so-even though some have been built in that time as outdated designs still surface.

    There are much better designs out there and the cost becomes immaterial as a proportion of the total project cost.Have a browse through our host's online offerings.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    if you think a 14er might suit your needs i would suggest you buy Jim Michalak's book

    https://duckworks.com/boatbuilding-f...rs-and-beyond/

    the book is only $17 and plans for Jim's MayFly 14 are used as the boat in the "how to" instructions

    there are also plans for several other boats included in the book

    the MayFly comes in 12' 14' and 16' versions w/ the 14er being by far the most popular and versatile IMHO

    designed for bare bones simple sailing pleasure and will handle up to 2 adults or one adult n 2 kids while being able to be sailed/campaigned solo quite handily

    the simple free standing rig can easily be managed solo or by a couple kids

    easy solo w/ stuff for a week

    19366521_1685839711429550_3560774017395032773_n.jpg

    and when reefed will handle stronger breezes

    15590994_10207802776258532_7013465506710116920_o.jpg

    while being good for 2 adults for a week

    36114317_10216801833424885_2957609948558655488_n.jpg

    not many boats out there for the home builder that offer this much bang for the buck

    just an old man's 2 worth today

    sw
    "we are the people, our parents warned us about" (jb)

    steve

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Before making any kind of recommendation I'd have to ask you to consider how you plan on using it. Are you a casual day sailor, a beach cruiser/raid participant, a club racer, or some combination of those? What are the winds like where you sail (I've never been to the Med/Aegean)? Will you be trailering it, cartopping or leaving it in the water? Lots to consider!

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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    As a guy that used free plans for his first build I'd like to weigh in. Plans are the last place you want to be cheap, don't screw yourself like I did.
    Save €100 to end up with a more expensive, hard to build, hard to sail craft that doesn't take advantage of modern materials and construction? Hmmm...

    The Mayfly looks great and the goat Island Skiff is popular for a good reason. By the way, balanced lug rigs are great, I love mine.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Have a look at the GP 14, very similar in style can be sailed by one. Plans should be readily available.
    Just an amateur bodging away..

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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Curved 6mm tortured ply bottom. My instinct is that's going to be a ballache as you head towards the bow, though I understand miracles do happen.

    The sail area is a bit big solo though the planing bottom adds stability and actually there's alot of area in the overlapping genoa: a small jib would be better solo but that will affect balance a bit or just sail it on the main and adjust the mast position.

    If you're going to put the time, effort and money into something I'd build something that's resaleable to at least get your materials cost back. If you want a solo 14ft'er first build project build a Vivier Ilur (non planing) from a kit or a Welsford Navigator (planing potential) and live happily ever after.
    Last edited by Edward Pearson; 06-10-2021 at 05:07 AM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Thank you everyone for the quick responses. I think I'll go with the MayFly, but there's only one problem... is there any source that sells the book (boatbuilding for beginners (and beyond)) as an ebook/pdf? I can't find it anywhere in my country and don't really wanna wait over a week for it to come from elsewhere...

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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    The Mayfly really is a good, simple, inexpensive first build. Quite capable when handled sensibly. Keep in mind, there are no seats--you'll be sitting down in the hull on the sole. It's a fairly minimalist esthetic. I like it a lot, having watched them sail tough events like the Texas 200.

    There are pdf plans here: https://duckworks.com/mayfly-14-plans/

    There appears to be at least one pdf version of Jim Michalak's boatbuilding book available online, but such third-party downloads are almost certainly pirated. I suppose that, if you also buy a real copy from another authorized source (where the author gets paid for his work), that might not pose quite as much of an ethical dilemma.

    Jim is a good guy. He deserves income from his work.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 06-10-2021 at 11:36 AM.
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Thanks a lot! Now, I apologize if my questions are getting annoyingly specific, but do you by any chance know about the "structure" of the pdf plans? Are they just a bunch of dimensions and sketches or do they include detailed instructions like the book does? Though to be honest it wouldn't really make sense for anyone to be charging 35$ for a bunch of sketches...

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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Quote Originally Posted by jasonikakis View Post
    Thank you everyone for the quick responses. I think I'll go with the MayFly, but there's only one problem... is there any source that sells the book (boatbuilding for beginners (and beyond)) as an ebook/pdf? I can't find it anywhere in my country and don't really wanna wait over a week for it to come from elsewhere...
    since this is your 1st adventure in boatbuilding THE BOOK will be your friend and answer virtually every question even you may conjure up

    if you end up building another it will still be one of your standard resources

    sw
    "we are the people, our parents warned us about" (jb)

    steve

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Quote Originally Posted by jasonikakis View Post
    Thanks a lot! Now, I apologize if my questions are getting annoyingly specific, but do you by any chance know about the "structure" of the pdf plans? Are they just a bunch of dimensions and sketches or do they include detailed instructions like the book does? Though to be honest it wouldn't really make sense for anyone to be charging 35$ for a bunch of sketches...
    I have plans for Jim Michalak's "Mixer" design (very similar to the Mayfly). These are very simple plans, with minimal to no instructions. I assume the Mayfly plans would be similar but I'm only guessing. You can't learn boatbuilding from plans like these--what you get are the dimensions of the pieces, and measurements for what goes where. That's not meant to be a criticism, though. It's just that boat plans traditionally are NOT "how to build" instructions. They are construction drawings, and little more.

    Also, $35 is RIDICULOUSLY cheap for a set of boat plans. You're not buying "a bunch of sketches"--you are paying for the knowledge and experience that will ensure that, if you build to the plans, you'll end up with a decent boat.

    My dad was an electrician. He has plenty of stories about going out on service calls, and the customer not wanting to pay because it was so easy for my dad to fix the problem. His standard response:

    "You aren't paying me to fix the problem. You are paying me to know how to fix the problem."

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    jason, you need to think a bit about how much thought goes into 'a bunch of sketches' that produce a popular boat. Designers often have to have other jobs to support them in the boat interests, since plans sales rarely provide a decent income.
    The amount of work in designing a sailing boat is quite extensive. I know this, because my father designed a few popular ones way back. First as a hobby. It worked for him as he had a partner who was in a business with sporting goods and built an extension to produce the boats. This was back in the 50s in the plywood home build revolution. I actually, as child labour, used to make the rigging for the kits and print the plans with the dyeliner process.
    As above, the plans are a very small part of the cost. Take your time to choose the right one (for you) because building the boat is quite an exercise. My Oughtred 15 ft occupied me for about 6 months of evenings and week/ends to do it all, inc the sails and trailer. Not an affair to take on lightly. I think I was reasonably quick from reading others builds.

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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    And, as Edward said, the Zephyr was of it's time. A quite complicated build to (possibly) conform to a racing class rule. Doesn't sound like that is the type of boat you want. Racing rules have produced some rather distorted designs to take advantage. Some pretty, with long overhangs, others less so, with handling problems.
    About the Goat Island Skiff. A very quick build for an agile rewarding boat. The construction is simple flat bottomed style. Plenty of sail, so maybe not for one without much experience?
    Having a little experience sailing in the Sporades, I would chose a conservative sail plan, or one with quick reefing.

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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew2 View Post
    And, as Edward said, the Zephyr was of it's time. A quite complicated build to (possibly) conform to a racing class rule. Doesn't sound like that is the type of boat you want. Racing rules have produced some rather distorted designs to take advantage. Some pretty, with long overhangs, others less so, with handling problems.

    About the Goat Island Skiff. A very quick build for an agile rewarding boat. The construction is simple flat bottomed style. Plenty of sail, so maybe not for one without much experience?
    Having a little experience sailing in the Sporades, I would chose a conservative sail plan, or one with quick reefing.
    I'm a longtime boat guy. Was on the family cabin cruiser the day after birth. Got my first 'own' boat (8' plywood pram) at age 10. But didn't become a sailor until late in life... by building a GIS.

    As a beginning sailor, I found it fine. Overcanvassed, to be sure. And lightweight. So tiddly, if you run full canvas. But if you include a line or two of reef points in your sail order... you can sail with reduced canvas until you get used to the boat. My first (learning) summer... I didn't bother. But I did add 100#+ of removable ballast. Since then, no issues. My sons, 10 & 15, were learning at the same time, and they picked it up even quicker. You can learn to sail it like a rocket ship, if you're so inclined. But it works equally well as a 'don't make me set my beer down' sailor.

    Yes, it's an easy build. And light is nice. It's also quite versatile. Perfectly fine as a beginning 'rowing for exercise' boat. You can put a small outboard on and use it for fishing. Overall, we were quite pleased with our choice. Enough so, that I added Michael Storer to the list of designers I am an approved builder for.
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Yeah I apologize about that comment on the plans... guess I was just really tired so that's the way it came out of my mind... I will probably make the final decision on Mayfly or GIS tomorrow, but am currently leaning towards getting the book (it might still be in a Greek online store or something I haven't checked yet).

  17. #17

    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Hi Jason
    Storers build manual is a boat building course in itself.
    Very active facebook site with lots of support.
    GIS is a high performance boat with more speed potential than the Mayfly.
    Probably not as "forgiving" as Mayfly i guess.
    Dont forget the reef points.
    Wayne
    Fremantle West Australia
    Goat sailor

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Good evening,

    Never try and save money by using free or cheap plans. A good set of plans is not cheap. Full stop. Cheap plans are the worst boatbuilding decision you can make.

    Building a boat is going to take quite a bit of time, so get a decent design. That Zephyr is a pile of junk and it will only sail one way, that is sideways. Close the book on that one.

    There is nothing worse than sailing a dinghy with a poor sailing performance.

    Go and check what classes of sailing dinghy the people in your area are sailing. Ask the owners about the boat's sailing abilities. There will definitely be some nice wooden boats amongst them which will be suitable for amateur construction. Build one of those.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Quote Originally Posted by Frans Loots View Post
    Good evening,

    Never try and save money by using free or cheap plans. A good set of plans is not cheap. Full stop. Cheap plans are the worst boatbuilding decision you can make.

    Building a boat is going to take quite a bit of time, so get a decent design. That Zephyr is a pile of junk and it will only sail one way, that is sideways. Close the book on that one.

    There is nothing worse than sailing a dinghy with a poor sailing performance.

    Go and check what classes of sailing dinghy the people in your area are sailing. Ask the owners about the boat's sailing abilities. There will definitely be some nice wooden boats amongst them which will be suitable for amateur construction. Build one of those.
    I'd disagree with that. Zephyr will scream to windward. High aspect foils. Centreboard goes vertical. High Aspect fractional rig with a big powerful Genoa. It just needs two people on the rail to power it up properly. It'll point high. It's not a bad design, just that curved bottom with the rocker and the twist to the panel towards the stem...maybe plywood will do that (has it been built?), but for a first build it might be tricky to execute (you could always just split the panel into smaller planks or strip plank to the chine.

    Looking at it again (there are no lines) the bottom panel doesn't rise up much towards the bow...maybe it planks up? You have compound curve on this bottom. A plank is one thing a 6mm bottom panel with some rocker, significant cross curvature and a bit of twist is another.

    Lots of bottom rocker it'll turn quick. Alot of constructional efficiency, hollow spars etc, it's a two man club boat of its time. It's not excessively beamy (just 5 foot) and the bottoms arc will reduce weather helm as it heals. It would be more balanced and drier with a spoon bow but that's not how design goes when it's designed to an artificial length restriction. A skinny jib will reduce the sail area then it'll be more manageable solo.

    If your tight for cash...Paul Gartside's plans in each Watercraft are reduced temporarily when they are published (look on his website and he gives a big discount off any if you buy his book) or just build from the magazine pages. With any design you've got to build the sails and trailer though if you want save cash otherwise alot of money is going there regardless. Fundamentally the end equation is what did it cost and what do you sell it for. It'll be a hard sell as its not a currently known design or designer. That's just how it is. If it's really cheap and gives you lots of fun it can be written off, but a typical dinghy will have some investment of time and money, enough to matter.
    Last edited by Edward Pearson; 06-11-2021 at 05:46 PM.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Jasonikakis, there are some YouTube videos of Goat Island Skiffs in Greece. I believe they were sailing near Piraeus. It might be a good idea to get with them and get first-hand information about building and sailing a GIS. Many are sailed single handed. I have another set of plans by Storer (downloaded PDFs) and they are clear and have a lot of information in them. If you decide that something less lively would suit you better, then that Michalak book is very good, includes the plans for the Mayfly 14, and will build very quickly. The Mayfly 14s and 16s (such as pictured above) have done very well in an annual endurance event on the Texas coast.

    Hope this helps!

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Thanks again for your replies, I’ve decided that I should go with the mayfly for now since it seems more beginner friendly and easier to build.
    In the book (which I actually managed to find nearby), there seems to be quite a lot of optimism regarding polytarp sails, which is quite the opposite of what I’ve seen around on the internet. Is polytarp not even worth bothering with? Dacron sails seem a bit too to hard to DIY for me right now, so what would be the best course of action regarding the sail?

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    You'll get lots of opinions on polytarp sails.

    I sailed my first boat, a cheap Bolger design not too unlike the Mayfly 14, with a polytarp sail assembled with 2-sided carpet tape. It was very cheap and fast to make. I managed some somewhat ambitious cruising in that boat, some multi-week trips on the U.S. Great Lakes. I was able to sail to windward, and the sail had a set of reef points. You can see in the photo below that it was a pretty crude and ugly sail, though:

    Jagular.jpg

    So, it's possible to get by for a while that way. But I doubt polytarp will offer the performance of real sail-cloth because it can't be easily shaped. And it will stretch and degrade rapidly. I think I had my polytarp sail for only 3 years, and it was noticeably worse in year 3.

    "Best course of action" thus depends on your goals. Get sailing cheaply and quickly while you learn? Polytarp is one way to do that. Have a high quality sail that will last? Polytarp is not the way to do that. But, so what? Maybe you just need a temporary sail to get you started. It won't be a great (or likely even a good) sail, but your boat will move with it.

    My personal decision would lean toward buying a Mayfly 14 "expedition sail" from Really Simple Sails (a nice friendly operation started and operated by Goat Island Skiff designer Michael Storer). It's a standard sail they make and sell, and their pricing is very good. And it's a good operation to support.

    Tom
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    Last edited by WI-Tom; 06-12-2021 at 10:03 AM.
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Well... I wouldn't really say I'm picky about sail quality, right now I pretty much just want to quickly find something to get me through the summer and will probably upgrade later next year. Though I'm not a total beginner, I haven't sailed since I was small enough to fit inside an optimist, so you could say that tarp is a nice way to get me back into things and ease the re-learning curve a bit.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    I made my first-ever sail from a chunk of a big 'ol tarp I pulled from a dumpster.
    I used double sided carpet tape to put it together, and it worked far better than it had any right to!

    It lasted two years, and was little more than a rag when I was done with it. But it did work well, even to windward.

    Hey, the boat cost me only 235 bucks to build, so I wasn't gonna spend much on the sail! By the by, she is a Summer Breeze by David Beede (free plans here https://www.simplicityboats.com/ ).

    image009(1).jpg

    The next sail I made was a lanteen for a bigger boat, and it was a total flop. It was made from the same tarp, and taped together.
    Once I spent an hour zipping back and forth across a lake, trying to get to windward. At the end of the hour, I could still see the boat ramp I'd launched from...

    SAM_7056.jpg

    The next sail I made was for the same boat. It was a 100 sq. ft. balanced lug, still made from poly tarp material but I did buy a new tarp for this one, and it was sewn together. Plans and excellent directions for making this sail used to be on-line at Toledocommunityboathouse.com but I can't find it anymore.

    This is an awesome sail, that worked very well! It is sewn with many layers of reinforcements in all the right places and it has outlasted the boat! I still have it. This is one powerful sail!

    image084.jpg

    Then I sewed a new polytarp sail for the Summer Breeze. Sadly, this sail is also something of a flop, despite the extra care and attention to detail I put into it. It's certainly well made and will last many years, it just doesn't go to windward very well. I did use it on a 100 mile journey though, and it still gets regular use. I just didn't shape this one very well it seems.


    66788072_10156713576035000_2362781897462906880_n.jpg


    If you do make a sail from a tarp (and I encourage you to do so for your first sail) just be sure to follow Jim Michalaks instructions as well as you can, take your time, and sew the thing together!

    While you are at it, sew a sail bag to go over the sail and the spars when you store it. Don't leave it out in the sun or flopping around on the roof rack of a car, and it will last a good many years. My next boat will have professionally made poly sails from https://www.polysail1.com/
    I should get them next month.

    SAM_7214.jpg

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Greetings once again, I came here to thank everyone who helped me with my (possibly dumb) beginner questions. The project with finally begin in the next days and I can’t wait!
    I’m thinking of starting another thread to keep track of my daily progress with the boat, as something to look at in the future, whether or not i “succeed” in it (tough I’m pretty optimistic about it). Let’s hope this is the beginning of an amazing hobby/part of my life!

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Good luck with that! Sure you can do this ans we`ll see your beautiful boat!

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Questions regarding first sailboat build

    Thank you! I actually started last Friday, and already have the hull and bulkhead glued and ready for the bottom. Just two more days till I can get back to working on it.... It's a lot less stressful than I anticipated to be honest. (Didn't have time to start the other thread I mentioned but I might get to it this week)

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