Sow's Ear by the board
by David Arnold

Well, things do change in unexpected ways. For over a year now I have been acquiring tools and plans and, truth be told, fighting first-cut fear syndrome. The plot vacillated between Sow’s Ear and the AF4 series of Jim Michalak, both boats that I really like. But always whispering in my ear was a little voice that said “They don’t have a sail…” I had been studiously ignoring this voice for a number of reasons including complexity, the kind of water I have around here, and curiosity to try something new.

This was the Sow’s Ear sketch discussed in an earlier article

Well, as luck would have it, I happened to meet a fellow in the area who goes by the handle of Barnacle Bill. He makes wonderful custom leather motorcycle gear (you can find him on the web under Barnacle Bill’s Leathers), but that’s not where the handle comes from. He’s a serious small boat sailor. As we were talking, it turned out that he owns a Sam Rabl Titmouse which he made several years ago. The combination of his having a Titmouse and my knowing what a Titmouse was created a certain instant rapport. He also had, at that time, a couple of Victoria 18’s and a Nordica and other odds and ends. Perhaps suspecting that I was considering the heresy of building a power boat, he just happened to mention that he knew where there was an uncompleted boat for sale. A sail boat.

I hemmed and hawed. I wanted to build from scratch. I really wasn’t sure I wanted a smallish sail boat. I had this sort of cozy cabin, pot of coffee, autumn cruising on the river image from Sow’s Ear or AF4. The boat was a design I wasn’t all that fond of, but…well…okay, if my wife doesn’t mind I’ll go look at it. Just look. Right? I should have known. The last two cars and four dogs I have acquired were a result of “just going to look.”

This is Cobber. He was acquired through a process of
“I’m just looking…look at this one!”

And this is Charlie Girl II. She was acquired through a similar process of “We’re just going to look.” - That’s my son looking dubious about his Dad’s latest idea.

So, to my surprise, I find myself in possession of an unfinished sailboat; a Weekender. Not the boat I had planned, but the workmanship put into her already is excellent, and the cost was less than what I had projected for materials for Sow’s Ear. And she is all marine ply, even a teak and holly sole, which were not what I was planning for. She just didn’t deserve to be abandoned.

I suspect that there will be considerable modifications as I go along. If you are familiar with the design, you will know that there are some controversial aspects. She will also need to be set up to do double duty as both a small sailing cruiser and a motorized picnic launch since I want to be able to drop her into the local rivers and putter about. I’ve already acquired a pop-up motor mount on ebay. Her load capacity is less than I had sought, and I don’t have sitting head room. But maybe a nice awning/tent and dodger design will help even in cool misty weather, and I think I can wedge in a small portapot using head room at the hatch and cabin washboards to create an illusion of privacy. I may even do some fairly radical messing around with the rig as designed. That last thought may come from spending too much time with Jim Michalak’s website and catalog. But I’m just looking, you know.

So. Here we go!