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By John Welsford - Hamilton - New Zealand


A New Walkabout in Australia

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Wayne Jorgensen was brave enough to buy one of the first sets of Walkabout plans. The big Aussie lives not far from Brisbane in sunny Queensland and was rowing the Seagull that he had not long before finished on the river near home and really enjoying it. But he wanted to carry more gear so he could take the crew camping, he wanted to sail, and still wanted to enjoy the rowing that had become part of his keep fit and destressing routine.

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All rigged and ready to go, graceful, easily set up and easily handled.

(click images for larger views)

I offered Walkabout and in spite of there not being any boats in the water at the time he accepted my description of the designs likely performance characteristics and started building.

Boatbuilding can be a family affair, and there are many Dads who have benefited from the supervision accorded the project by the younger members of the crew. Here is the project manager all ready with an interesting piece of plywood ready for something or other.

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Walkabout was designed as a camp cruiser with space to sleep one on board, perhaps one plus a small person. She is intended to be very seaworthy, capable of short coastal passages with some assurance of being able to cope if caught out, and to be able to be rowed as well as sailed in any conditions that one might expect to encounter

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With the frames set up and two stringers to go the shape of the boat is well defined, and the layout inside well on the way to complete.

I’ve included some of his pics here, and for you northern hemisphere people who are just emerging from winter, you can see from where he built “Plonk” how mild the climate is in Waynes part of the world. Perfect small boat weather, all year around!

click to enlargeA view of the interior, cardboard box sides being used to template the seat tops. You can see here how the offcentreboard leaves the centreline of the boat clear so the skipper can stretch out on the airbed and sleeping bag . It means too that there is space for a whole lot of people when out for a daysail. You can see also that there is a huge amount of built in buoyancy, much of it accessible through hatches so it can be used as dry storage.

The build went well, a few questions here and there but it all went together nicely, and the boats graceful lines soon emerged. The builder, being a tall and strongly built man needed a lot of space in the boat, and as Walkabout was coincidentally designed for someone of similar size the lie down space fitted him well, the legroom was adequate and the rowing position although different to Seagull was close to right.

click to enlargeThis view of the stern before the deck is fitted shows the lockers on each quarter, the big locker under them and the tunnel for the tiller lines back to the rudder. Note that Wayne has the mizzen mast step ( the alloy tube ) with the tiller fitting and yoke all fitted. That brings the tiller forward so a skipper sitting in the right place to balance the boat has the hand on the tiller without stretching and with the right “swing”.

In good time Wayne was ready launch and go Walkabout (an Aussie word indicating that the person concerned has gone off on a journey of no fixed duration or destination, often of spiritual intent. A perfect description of an ideal small boat cruise). He launched the new boat without the rig, and rowed her for quite a few months. She is set up with foot rests, a seat that can be moved to suit the rowers build and which can be removed to clear the boat down the centreline, and with the rowlock height set to emulate the whaleboats that had to cope with open ocean rowing so feels a little different to the more conventional Seagull Wayne was used to. But in very short time he was commenting that he was getting up to his usual turnaround mark and back noticeably quicker than he was used to, and found that the new seating position was very comfortable.

click to enlargeIn the water, graceful and slippery she rows quickly and easily, the flat wake showing that the shape is an efficient one. The skipper tells me that the boats stability is impressive, something that not only helps when out in rough weather but it makes carrying a group of people much easier.

As the budget recovered he rigged her, note that the intention was to produce a boat that would be rowed in very light weather so the sail area could be modest, but on launching he found that she was surprisingly fast in very light winds, and in general was fast and Weatherly enough to hold the likes of beach catamarans and to embarrass Lasers on the lake where the Jorgensen family holiday. Its been a while since he sailed much, but Wayne is finding her easy to handle, capable in bad weather well beyond his expectations and inspiring confidence enough to be considering going Walkabout sometime.

John Welsford