Design Contest #6 - Entry 7 click here to read or make an observation about this  article
By Justin Pipkorn - Thousand Oaks, California - USA

Puget Sound Budget Cruiser

Drawings - Statistics - Description - Budget - Bio


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LOA 15'6"
LWL 14'5"
Beam Max 4'0"
Beam WL 2'5"
Draft 5"
Hull weight 130# - 150#
Load for cruise 350# - 450# Includes crew, all equipment, supplies.
displacement 600#
Lb/in immersion ll0#
Outboard Hondo 2HP four stroke air cooled
Gas 6 gal
Range 120-150 NM
Hull speed 5K
Water 10 gal
Oars 8.5 ft
Construction Marine plywood, fiberglass, epoxy resin composite
Statistics are estimates.




1. Slender, long waterline, narrow waterline beam, lightweight, easily driven, proven hull design. Flat bottom allows boat to be rolled onto beach or set flat when tide recedes. Low, straight sheer cuts wind resistance.

2. Propelled by rowing, sculling and small outboard. Adding sailing capability would double the cost and construction time and is not feasible considering the budget.

3. The San Juans are protected water, no large waves. Major hazard is tide rips and whirlpools. The outboard should power the boat to hull speed, about 5 knots fast enough to "ferry" across tide currents by matching COG and Bearing to destination on GPS. Row or scull when bird watching or for exercise.

4. Light weight and flat bottom allow car topping or simple trailer transportation.

5. The initial stability of the five panel hull is more than a kayak, canoe or dory but less than a vee or flat bottom design. As the boat heels, stability increases smoothly. This set of characteristics gives the hull good seaworthiness in waves or ferry wakes.


Composite plywood, fiberglass, epoxy construction chosen. Method creates a light, stiff boat without requiring significant boatbuilding skills or expensive tools. The bottom hull panel, seat tops, transom, deck, and floor board are 6 mm Okoume or Meranti marine plywood. Hull side panels and interior structure are 4 mm. Inside seams are taped with 12 oz biaxial fiberglass. Exterior seams are taped with 6 oz fiberglass. For strength and abrasion resistance, the bottom is sheathed with 12 oz biaxial fiberglass. Above the waterline, one layer of 6 oz cloth sheathing is applied although simple flow coating with epoxy would be sufficient. The side box structure, rear seat and deck are filleted in place. Before assembly, stringers or hat sections are glassed in to add rigidity. The transom motor mount and sheer strakes are solid wood, either spruce, fir or mahogany. No fasteners are required for the hull. 3/4 inch square floors (cross pieces) bridge between the side boxes, stiffening the bottom and providing mounting for floorboards. If the boat is beached and lived aboard, the bottom of the boat must be strong enough to take the load.

Two assembly methods are suggested. Recommended method is to build a simple male mold using a 2x4 strong back. Three particle board section frames are mounted to the strong back and stringers fitted along chine lines. Hull panels are tacked to the frame, the chines filleted and the hull sheathed and sanded. Sheer stringers can be laminated in place over the rigid frame. At this point, the hull is stiff enough to be removed from the frame and the interior finished. The second method requires computer lofted panel shapes. Panels are wired together along seams and seams filleted. Because of the flexibility of light plywood panels, I believe a better boat will result from the first method. Fabricating the mold might add 8 hours to the construction process but would payoff in assembly time.

The galley/seat box is made up of left over plywood. Seams are taped and the box flowcoated. Oars are constructed of selected fir 2x2's with plywood blades.

The mahogany plywood grain will show through the light fiberglass sheathing allowing the hull to be varnished. Onlookers or prospective second owners will be enchanted. The varnished surface requires much less sanding or fairing to look good and each time the boat is wet sanded and re-varnished, it will look better than new. Since the 12 oz biax will require filling and fairing, the bottom and interior will look best painted. The insides of lockers in the side boxes will be flow coated with white pigmented epoxy providing an easy to clean surface.


The broad transom seat will be occupied during motoring. The Honda outboard works well with left hand steering. The boat will be rowed from a middle position, sitting on the galley box. Under way, gear will be stowed forward. A fitted tonneau covers the forward section of the boat. held in place by shock cords hooked under the gunwales.

Navigation uses guide books and paper charts in clear kayak map folios. GPS provides the best way to ferry across tide currents to a selected destination. A compass is also provided. A handheld VHF provides weather info and communication.

The tent structure covers the forward section of the boat. Sitting headroom is provided. The best sleeping position is between the seat boxes. The floorboards will keep a camping or foam mattress above any bilge water. Weathering a rainy day at anchor, the round top tent gives sitting head room and a chance to move around. The floor boards fit in slots on the side boxes to form a comfortable seat. The camp mattress forms a cushion. A side window at eye height gives a chance to look around. A porta-potti is stowed forward. We have found dump sites at Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor. The contents can be dumped in any toilet.

When cooking, the galley box is moved aft. The hinged top is folded over to provide a cooking surface and access to utensils and propane stove. Water is stored in camping water bags. Food and supplies are stored in the side box lockers. The ice box is normally stowed forward. The galley box can be taken ashore.

The boat can be anchored in water up to about 30-40 feet on the single claw anchor. The claw was chosen because it will reset if the boat is anchored in tidal water and the tide reverses direction. An additional 200 feet of inexpensive line is included so the boat can be shore tied in confined anchorages.

The flat bottom hull panel allows the boat to be pulled onto a beach using rollers. We watched boats three times this size rolled onto Mexican beaches using plastic beverage containers. If a launch ramp is not available, this same method can be used to beach launch. This sounds good in theory but many of the San Juan beaches are really mud flats.


Click Here for Budget

Explanation of Budget

Making up the budget illustrates just how difficult it is to "go on the cheap." The materials and other items specified are based on years of experience both cruising and building similar boats. In order to stay within the budget, I costed the essential items and then suggested options for items which would make the trip just a little more pleasant. I am sure that I have missed some items. Each builder will decide to make or buy certain items based on his personal skills.


Quality marine plywood and epoxy resin are specified for construction. The resultant composite structure will be very light, durable, and maintainable. Notice that no costly fasteners are used in the construction, the hull is entirely assembled with filled epoxy putty and fiberglass. The builder will save money by making his own oars and other fittings.

The hull lines for this type of boat are attributed to Joe Dobler, an early pioneer designer of taped seam plywood boats. Although plans are no longer available from Joe, other designers have drawn up similar plans. My recommendation is to purchase a set of plans to obtain the lines drawings and panel shapes and then modify the construction for my scantlings and camp cruiser adaptations.


Most of the items on the equipment list are items which I have used over the years. The prices for common items are from the West Marine catalog, not the lowest price place to shop. Bargains may be found elsewhere. The Honda outboard is reasonably priced and perfect for this light boat.

Included are both a GPS and weather radio. The GPS is highly desirable and the primary method of navigation. The optional waterproof VHF radio receives weather forecasts more reliably and provides emergency communications. Charts can now be downloaded free but a small budget for charts and guidebook is included. Our favorite current aid is the Canadian tide atlas. I use a free Palm handheld tide program but tide tables can be printed out before the trip.

Electrical needs are provided by replaceable batteries. I assume no night travel so only an anchor light is needed. If rowing at night, a flashlight is all that is necessary to meet navigation light regulations. The optional battery and solar panel would power navigation
lights, GPS and recharge a VHF on a longer expedition.

Basic Safety:

Meets minimum USCQ standards


Collapsible aluminum tent poles hold up the light duty tent. The tent is fabricated from a heavy duty tarp. A shock attaches tent to hooks on the gunwales.


Water, gas, ice, provisions, restaurants, and showers are readily available. We plan menus and buy staples before leaving home, then buy perishables just before launching.

What is not included:

I assume the voyager has appropriate camping gear. The construction budget assumes that the builder has all tools and supplies necessary to build the boat. An advantage of this lightweight boat is that it can be car topped. Help may be needed to unload and launch but a skilled builder could fabricate a version of bobler's car top loader described at my web site. Joe car topped this boat single-handedly.


Justin Pipkorn
Web site: Building the Vagabond+

On the water since 1967. Spent 2-3 weeks each of 20 years cruising the PNW in kayaks, camp cruisers, sailboats and trawlers. Three trailersailer trips to Florida Keys, Pensacola. and Bahamas. Raced and cruised in California including Channel Islands. Cruised Mexico from border to Manzanillo, and Sea of Cortez.

Boatbuilding experience includes 6 boats. 5 were taped seam construction from 7-20 feet. 2 were kayaks. 3 were five panel hull dinghies and sailboats. Construction of the Vagabond+ 20 foot sailboat is described at my popular website. Owned and maintained 4 fiberglass boats from 16-27 feet. Built and maintained sails and other canvas work. Entered several design contests which lead to a study of design principles.

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