Design Contest #6 - Entry 6 click here to read or make an observation about this  article
By Gregg Onewein - Seattle, Washington - USA


Drawings - Statistics - Description - Budget - Bio


click image to enlarge
fig 2
(click images for larger views)


13 feet
12 feet
11 feet
Beam max.
50 inches
Beam W.L.
41 inches
6 inches
max 2 feet 7 inches @ bow
minimum 14 inches
W.L. beam/length ratio
Weight empty w/o rig
approx 100 lbs.
Weight loaded
approx 600 lbs



Having lived in the Puget Sound area for more than 50 years and having noodled around with small boats for more than half that long, I figured it would be a good exercise for me to respond to your latest contest. Since winds here in the northwest are often fluky, particularly on the long narrow inlets of the south sound, and currents can easily reach 3 or 4 knots, I decided that a small sturdy motorsailor would be just the thing for camping, clamming, fishing and slacking my way around Puget Sound for a couple of weeks.

What we have here is a skinny little flat-bottomed, round-sided, strip-built 12 foot skiff. He has a little borrowed DNA from such widely dispersed sources as a Grumman 15 foot sport boat, the old style Mexican pangas, a couple of dory skiffs, a dash of Maine peapod, as well as the obvious inspiration of the northwest coast Nootka-style dugout. The latter I have admired for years, and believe six thousand years of NW research and development just can’t be ignored (see figure 1 for photos of a 30 foot near-replica that I built in the mid- nineties for less than $1000!). Since even a small outboard with a couple of gallons of gas weighs 50 pounds, and a sleep-aboard hull with a sufficiently thick bottom to bang around on our NW cobble beaches will weigh at least 90 to 100 lbs., I pretty much decided to forego the extra points, though a determined man (using the anchor rode, two or three 6 inch diameter fenders, and with most of the gear removed) could get this boat above high tide without much trouble, depending on the beach. For most situations where one wants to sleep ashore a loopline anchoring system will serve (please see figure 4).

Lets take a quick tour. To begin with, I suppose that the dog or deer head prow (depending on who you ask) will look like an unnecessary affectation to many. I have sketched them for so long that it doesn’t even look weird to me anymore. If nothing else it provides a stout cutwater, quick bow in parking on a shelving sandy beach and lets you personify your boat like nothing else. It’s also guaranteed to help you meet people, which turns out to be one of the pleasures of a solo cruise, no matter how much solitude you think you need.

Next we have a small self-draining wet gear storage area in the bow for anchor, rode and a couple of fenders. The rig is a simple standing lug of approx. 52 sq. ft. with an 11-foot mast and a 7 1/2 foot spar. The mast can be a young spruce cut out of the woods in late fall, skinned, tapered and oiled a few times. Bamboo will make a nice lightweight spar. The sail to be used is loose-footed, though a spare oar or second bamboo stick might be a useful “boom” when running. Keep in mind that this is a “motorsailor,” so the sail area has been kept modest, and no provision has been made for upwind sailing, though I suspect that a few degrees could be made to windward as even a keel as long and shallow as pictured adds up to a couple of square feet.

Next we have a storage area that’s intended to accommodate a plastic bin with all kitchen gear, plus some food and water; it is also where one cooks (see figure 2). In order to keep fire and spills out of “accommodation” area a bulkhead separates the two. By accommodation I mean to say that you can either sit up (36 inch headroom) or lay down. In fact, this last is only accomplished by sponging out the cockpit, removing a floor-level hatch in the #4 bulkhead and snapping a bit of waterproof canvas over the cockpit itself; perhaps an oar can act as a ridgepole to encourage drainage overboard. A 2-foot Goretex “footsack” ($30/yd at Seattle Fabrics Inc.) for your mattress and a sleeping bag assures a dry night’s sleep. This footsack is permanently affixed to the forward face of the bulkhead and stores under the bridge-deck when the hatch is in place. While this no doubt seems like a strenuous solution it’s a way to get “inside” sleeping on a 12-foot boat (see figure 3 for a model of a fifteen foot version that has room enough for both inside and outside spaces). This aforementioned bridge-deck area is where most things are stowed during the day: sleeping gear, a small daypack or two, 3 or 4 gallons of water as well as a 3 gallon sealable bucket to be used as a legal “Portapottie.”

This is all tented in by a marine fabric tarp over bamboo poles that will hopefully let in a little light. A large nylon zipper with a covering flap allows access to accommodation as well as mast and wet well area. The cockpit is approximately 30 inches long, just about right to brace the feet for rowing. Small bins under side decks P and S take all the usual mooring lines and cockpit stuff. At the forward end of the cockpit is a dedicated boom gallows to allow for secure standup motoring (my preference), to provide a place to tie extra lines, binoculars etc., as well as a place to secure the spar and sail when lowered, not to mention the ability to hang a back porch tarp. The area behind the cockpit is a self- draining motorwell, a place for gas, oil, fishing gear, and a rubber bucket with folding shovel, oyster knives and a gunnysack for keeping the livestock fresh. A folding crab trap or two stores below. 7 1/2 to 8-foot oars are supported by their locks and the decorative “ears” at the transom. The leeward oar is used for steering while sailing, this arrangement works fine if you’re not tacking a lot. As for the motor I think that 3 to 5 hp ought to do it. While this is conceived as a displacement boat it would probably plane if all gear was kept light and stowed optimally. (Robb White on his excellent website says that his Grumman sportboat at 130 lbs. will plane with 2 adults aboard!) One might have to be careful not to trip over the keel on turns.

The construction features a 3/8 inch plywood bottom with 1/4 inch bulkheads and rounded 1/4 x 3/4 inch strip built sides in red cedar all stuck together and sheathed with epoxy and 6 oz. fiberglass cloth, maybe 2 layers on the bottom (a la Steve Redmonds’ Elver). I suppose that I would build him right side up springing the bottom ply to the 5/4 x 4 inch keel for the slight rocker indicated (though it could probably be built dead flat and work just fine). Next I’d set up the bulkhead/stations and begin stripping up the sides to the substantial 1x2 Doug fir gunwhales that provide stiffness. That’s about it. My drawing (figure 1) shows the traditional NW canoe colors of black outside and “Indian red” inside with a cuprous green/blue for the trim, which looks just right to me.


      Ply ¼ inch marine meranti
      Ply 3/8 inch marine meranti
      1x4 clear cedar to rip
      5/4x6 cedar keel and outer stem
      1x2 doug fir clear gunwhales
      2x2 doug fir clear stem
      1x8 doug fir clear tramsom
Epoxy and FG cloth
Heavy duty PVC rubstrips 20’
Sail cloth
Marine fabrics
Older outboard w/ tank 3 to 5 hp
Oars with oarlocks
Nav lights
4# anchor w/ 5/16” rode
Total + 10 % =


Gregg Onewein lives on an island near Seattle, where he designs and builds things, draws, cooks, meditates and has naptime, like a grown up kindergartener, his wife says. After teaching art, history and woodshop for 30 years at a local alternative high school he retired to do pretty much the same things without getting paid (hey, wait a minute!). He has 2 sons attending local colleges, and a wife who works as the R.N. for a native american tribal clinic. They used to live on a self-built houseboat but moved just up the street years ago. Gregg is available to do illustrations for others under the name of H2O Arts and can be reached at