Pt 1, Ch 2/Canoeing, Sailing & Motor Boating/Miller



by Warren H. Miller.



WHAT first awoke me to the sailing possibilities of the round-bottomed boat, or skiff, was when on a lazy summer afternoon, when we boys were loafing on the porch of the Yacht Club, we noted a girl rowing a 16-foot Whitehall boat with a speed and ease that would make any boy envy her. There was a nice easterly blow on, with the usual choppy sea, and most of the yachts of the fleet were out in it, knocking about the bay. The tide was on strong, as usual, yet that girl was pulling her skiff in the teeth of it, across the choppy seas, in long, sure strokes that jumped the boat ahead twenty feet to the stroke. It showed easy work on the face of it, and of course, being a girl, she couldn't have had much strength anyway!

A brilliant idea struck me. "Say, mates, if a good sharpie rig were stepped in that Whitehall boat, just wouldn't she go right along like a scared cat!" said I.

The idea was received with tumultuous approval. One of us owned a seventeen-foot St. Lawrence skiff, which is built on the lines of the Whitehall rowboat, only she is clinker built with lapstrakes, instead of carvel built with smooth planking. This boy, Harry, had a rich father who gave him everything he wanted, but his mother was as timid as a mouse and wouldn't let him do anything with all his possessions, and, while all the rest of us had our sail batteaux, sail dories and sneak boats or sail ducking craft, poor Harry had to content himself with rowing, and so was "out of it," most of the time, for we went so fast and covered so many miles of distance that he hadn't a chance.

But here was a way to let him in on the fleet. "Buy a sailboat for Harry -- Never!" was the verdict of his family, but, to step a rig in his skiff, -- well, as Harry had been "mate" on nearly all our sailboats and was a good sailorman, we might get a rig for his boat across!

We spent the afternoon discussing the best way to make the change. The first thing wanted would be a keel and keel board, for these long, fine, round-bottomed boats have too narrow a keel to think of putting in a centerboard, and if they have no keel at all will make leeway like a balloon. We decided on a four-inch keel, running the entire length of the bottom and rockered two inches in a long slant towards bow and stern. This rockering process is hard carpentering, but necessary or the boat will be too slow in coming about to get around without the help of oars. The wood for this keel was to be a piece of 3-inch by 1-1/8-inch hard yellow pine, and, to fasten it to the bottom of the boat, we would use five brass 3/8 x 7-inch through bolts with their heads sunk flush with the bottom of the keel and augur bit holes drilled through the built keel and keelson of the skiff. The threads of the bolts stick through about an inch, and when the nuts are screwed down tight it makes a strong job. To make it watertight around the bolts we simply tie around each bolt a couple of turns of wicking soaked in white lead, and when the new keel is drawn up tight this wicking is clamped in firmly between the new keel and the built-in keel of the boat.


For the rig we chose the sharpie leg-o'-mutton, with the leach cut full to destroy that distressing bag-and-nigger-heel combination that usually afflicts this type of sail. The mainsail had 15-foot hoist, 11-foot boom rising one foot aft, and 18-foot leach. The mizzen had 10-foot hoist, 6-foot boom, rising about 14 inches, and 12-foot leach. This pair of sails were made of American drilling and staked out on the floor of the big dock where we boys kept all our boats. A twine run around nails driven in the floor at the corners of these sail areas gave us something to cut to, and to get fullness in the leach we cut the gores of the sail perpendicular to the leach, instead of parallel to it as you would do with an ordinary mainsail. We allowed 4 inches of outcurve to the leach, bending a thin batten over a nail from peak to clew so as to get a fair curve. The sails were cut to these limits and then sewed up and hemmed all around, for a leg-o'-mutton sail of this size does not need a bolt rope. Brass 3/8-inch grommets were next put in at the end of every gore and midway between each, and the sails were ready to bend on the spars.

To make these latter we discovered that the planing mill carried round spruce in stock, in 14-and 16-foot lengths, thus doing away with the necessity to work them up from square stock as I had done with my sailing batteau. All this round stock needed was a little tapering at gaff and boom ends and mast tops and you were ready for the spar varnish. The mainmast was of 2-1/2-inch round spruce, main boom and mizzen mast of 1-3/4-inch stock, and mizzen boom of 1-1/4-inch. The rig was all made ready down at the club in three days of work, after the daily swim, and we all pitched in and helped Harry out, as we wanted him along on a big consort cruise down the bay. Both sails were lashed to boom and mast by a running white cotton rope around the spar and through the grommets, as no halyards are wanted on this rig; they are a nuisance except on large sail dories. To step the mainmast all that was needed was a 2-3/4-inch hole in the bow sheets, a stout oak mast step bolted to ribs and keelson, and a 3/8-inch iron rod run through the ribs at the bow sheets clear through the boat and upset on the outside. This is essential, to brace the boat to withstand the strain of the rig, or the pressure of the sail on the bow sheets will strain the planking and make her leak forward. We had the village blacksmith cut this rod for us and upset it over wide iron washers, using an axe at one end as anvil and an ordinary hammer to upset the other end.

The mizzen mast was stepped by simply screwing a galvanized iron U-clamp to the aft rowing thwart and putting a mast step in the grating below this thwart. This U-clamp can be bought at any pipe fitter's, of the size to go around a 1-1/4-inch iron pipe. Around the mizzen mast we also put the yoke for managing the rudder, for, of course, you should not sit way back in the extreme stern to handle a two-sail rig. The mast went through a hole in the yoke, and two wire cords led back to the yoke on the rudder, so that a boy sitting amidships could steer nicely.

This boat went like a racehorse. I took the first spin in her, a leg out to sea and a leg back again, while the rest were in swimming near shore. I got back so fast that I nearly ran down two of them! The mizzen sheet was simply cleated fast and took care of itself on either tack, as it was led down to a pulley block on the stern transom and thence for'd to its cleat. My principal attention was on the mainsail, the sheet of which was held in the hand and never cleated, for this boat was nearly as lively as a sail canoe. And fast! She beat most of the power boats that we met going our way, when I shipped Harry and Raymond, my old mate of the Margaret, for a crew and "beef to windward."

In bringing a sharpie about you use your mizzen to help out the rudder. Get a good full on her, and then put the helm down hard. This will throw her in stays where she will most likely hang, so at this point back the mizzen, that is, push its boom out to windward by hand, when the wind will fill it and shove her stern around so that the mainsail will fill off on the other tack. With our 3-inch rockered keel she still made a good deal of leeway, and was so slow in stays that we could generally beat the W.B. ("world-beater") as Harry called her, in tacking to windward, so later we added a keel board. To make the rocker (I should have told you before), you strike a long curve from one end to the other of your keel plank, making it 3 inches deep for about 5 feet amidships and then tapering gradually to 1-1/2 inches at bow and stern, and this is easiest carpentered by dubbing down with a hatchet and finishing with a jack plane. To add a 5-foot keel board, we got a piece of 7/8-inch dressed oak board 8 inches wide, sawed a slant at each end of it and put in three carriage bolts through the top of this board, so that by putting the ends of these bolts through three corresponding holes in the keel we could screw it fast with galvanized iron wing nuts by hand. To put it on, of course, you had to beach the W.B. and turn her over on her side, but, with a light boat like the St. Lawrence skiff, this was easy for a couple of boys to do when you were off for a long sail. With the keel board added she was less lively, made less leeway and stood up much stiffer in a blow. In all, I do not know of a better rig than this leg-o'-mutton sharpie for a long, fine round bottomed rowboat, such as one finds In thousands on all our lakes and the salt water bays and sounds of the Atlantic Coast.


Another exceedingly popular small sailboat with us boys was the Barnegat duckboat. As you will note from the plans herewith of a typical boat of this type, she is built something like a wide, shallow slipper, a "punkin' seed" as she is called in many localities. The bottom is round, with a shallow dish curve, and the deck is almost a duplicate of the bottom. There is a small cockpit amidships, a mast hole a short distance for'd of this, and a centerboard trunk for a dagger type centerboard is generally built in at the same time the boat is made. As a cruiser, a ducking craft, and a fast racer in blows that would put many a larger craft under three reefs, it is hard to beat the Barnegat duckboat. With their high, rounded decks they are a most easy craft for a boy to slide overboard out of, so the stern deck is generally enclosed by a high board frame, secured to the decks with hooks and eyes, and inside this frame go also the two wooden, folding oarlocks.

 [Editor's note: I added this so the discussion of sneakboxes makes more sense; a gunning or cruising sneakbox is not like a racing sneakbox in rig.]

We boys knew these boats well, and sailed them in all kinds of weather. I had an aunt down at Barnegat Bay, and whenever I visited her she knew just what to do with me, and that was to give me the exclusive possession of a small duckboat and sail and turn me loose! It was just a little sprit sail, of some seven feet hoist and eight foot boom, say, ten feet to the peak, and I was in a perennial condition of wet feet with her, for she sailed with her whole lee rail awash and I was a regular Roll-Down Joe -- I never spilled wind unless she was positively going to upset! These small duckboats were steered with an oar out astern through the sculling chock, and were simple and primitive to handle, but how they could go! With a gun, some snipe stools, a wad of fishing tackle and some bait, a boy could be so happy for week on end at Barnegat that Heaven itself would have to go some to beat it! Inside the cockpit coaming the baymen always put a sort of wooden rack in which sedge grass could be stuck so that the boat herself, by covering her decks with seaweed and anchoring her off a point, would be an excellent duck and snipe blind. Although wet in a heavy sea practically no water gets over the cockpit coaming, and, as a boy's boat, they are one of the safest types imaginable.

Naturally the fame of such a boat would extend far and wide from its birthplace in Barnegat Bay, and soon the "punkin' seed" was developed into an able, fast racer, culminating in the Butterfly Class of the Bayside (L.I.) Yacht Club, where a fleet of 21 of these boats were ordered built at Barnegat, N.J., and raced every Saturday on Long Island Sound.


These were 14 feet long by 4 feet 6 inches beam and usually had a crew of two to three boys, or one man. The sail area was increased to 106 square feet, that is, boom, 12 feet, rising 14 inches; hoist, 9 feet 6 inches; head, six feet; leach, 16 feet, with about 3 inches fullness. The sprit was retained for simplicity and made rather long, 14 feet, stepped low down so as to throw plenty of draft into the sail. All sprits are stepped alike, a slip noose around the mast and an eye for the foot of the sprit to rest in. To set the sail the sprit is slipped into a pocket in the peak (or an eye in the bolt rope at the peak usually), and the peak is then raised until the foot of the sprit rests in the "slippery Jim," as we called the sliding sprit rope. Then, to tauten the sail arid throw wrinkles into the luff, you just raised the noose up along the mast and it would stay fast wherever put. A simple rig and the best for small boats of twelve to fourteen feet L.W.L.

Charley Hall was the only one of us boys that owned a sailing duckboat. She was sixteen-feet by five-feet beam and had standing rigging, that is, the mast was stepped in her and held so by wire shrouds, the sail raised with throat and peak halyards, and she had a traveler over the tiller so that the main sheet block could cross the boat on either tack, the sheet pulling so hard as to require a block instead of being held by hand or over a cleat as with the smaller duckboats. She was an able, fast boat; could beat the Margaret, hands down, and no weather was bad enough to make her stay in if Charley could get in reefs enough. But the smaller 14-foot boat, with its simpler rig, we found the handiest type. She could do anything the big boat could do, and then some, for you were not handicapped by standing and running rigging, could leave the sails at home when the wind was wrong or in working up a crooked salt creek, and you could pick the whole boat up by the bow and camp under her, as she was so light.

As this boat is so easy to build I will outline here the plans of her construction.

All the ribs are steam bent over the same mold, both bottom and deck, usually of 3/8-inch by 1-inch oak stock. The keel is simply a broad plank, 1-inch stock, a quarter inch heavier than the 3/4-inch cedar or white pine planking of which the rest of the boat is built. The keel plank is tapered from about 8 inches amidships to 3 at the bow, and 5 at the stern, in long easy lines, and is then bent up forward and aft to fit the sheer. The frames are then screwed onto the keel in pairs, riveted together at their ends, the transom secured to the keel with a knee and a yellow pine chine is bent around inside the frame joints, securing them all together longitudinally and taking the place of the sheer strakes of the batteau construction.

The planks are next gotten out, three on a side, and planed to an easy taper bow and stern, so that they lie side by side over the ribs. They are riveted to the ribs, or secured with galvanized iron clout nails, and where deck and bottom meet are finished with smooth joint, and usually a low molding or gunwale is run around the deck at this point. The cockpit coaming, and cockpit ceiling, screwed to the frames, is next put in and the boat is done and ready to caulk and let swell tight. She needs a skeg, sawed out of pine board, and a center board trunk if you are going to sail her.

The centerboard trunk should of course be built before the planking goes on while the boat is still in the keel and frame stage. A slot is cut in the keel between the ribs just for'd of the cockpit, two posts let in and the trunk sides screwed to these posts and screwed to the bottom from the under side of the keel. The top of the board ends in a corresponding slot in the deck planking, and a dagger centerboard, 12 inches by 3 feet long with a stop head, is shoved down through the trunk, and it is removed entirely and stowed below when not in use.

The mast hole is cut in the deck partner plank and the mast step screwed securely to the keel plank. Some boys of my acquaintance, not feeling expert enough in their carpentry to plank this duckboat, have built her as above described, fitting the planks as closely as they could, and then put a canvas deck and bottom on her just like a canoe, painting it to get her watertight. Such a boat will do nicely anywhere but in rocky waters.


Down Boston way, where one sails a good deal on the open ocean for pleasure and the heavy ocean swells run right into the harbors in an easterly blow, the demand for an able, deep sea boat has brought another favorite boy's sail craft into existence -- the sail dory. The Barnegat duckboat is too low and shovel-nosed to live in a heavy ocean sea. The choppy and comparatively low seas that get up on inland waters and such wide bays as Barnegat and Great South Bay she manages very well, albeit somewhat wet.

But suppose one end of her is held up on a comber six feet high, while her nose is rammed into the breast of another of the same height, -- you can readily see her whole for'd deck going under and the boat swamped. What is wanted is a high, lifting bow, and high sides, a deep, narrow boat, non-capsizable because of her depth, and non-swampable because of her high sides and bow, -- in a word the deep-sea Viking type of boat. Such a craft is the sail dory, such as you will see on Long Island Sound and Down East from Buzzard Bay to Maine. In addition to this the dory is light enough and flat-bottomed enough to be easily beached, another fine feature for a boy's boat, as going ashore on a strange coast is half the fun!

In general, the dory construction consists in a somewhat narrow, flat bottom board, usually in three planks, a natural-bend stem piece secured to this bottom board at one end, and a deep, narrow transom stern secured to the other end of the bottom plank with a bent knee. Four frames, sawn out of natural-bend rib stock, give you the ribs and around these are wrapped the side planking, four planks on a side. You will see that she is rather an easy boat to build, not as simple as a batteau but considerably easier than a narrow-planked round-bottomed rowboat which only an expert ship carpenter can put together.

The original Swampscott Dory was 18 feet long by 4 feet 6 inches beam, 30 inches deep forward and 28 inches aft. It carried a rig, as shown in the illustrations, of a wide shallow leg-o'-mutton, 13-foot 6-inch foot, 11-foot hoist, 16-foot leach, and a jib of 8-foot hoist, 6-foot foot and 7-foot leach. A centerboard was let in between the first and second frames for'd, giving you room enough for a 3-foot board. About two hundred pounds of ballast in sand bags ought to go on her bottom, and so rigged and ballasted she makes a very able, fast boat for a boy of twelve to fourteen years.

It seemed to me that a sail dory would be a splendid proposition for cruising in Barnegat Bay down near the Inlet where the ocean rollers come into the bay and the distances are so great that a very neat sea gets up in the bay itself. Such a boat could live in weather that would either send the duckboat to port or else make a very wet boat of her, and so I ordered the largest and best of the sail dories, the decked 17-footer, as made by the Toppan or Cape Cod Dory Companies. This boat was wider than the regular dory, being 5 feet 6 inches beam for 17 feet of length. She was about the same depth fore and aft, but was decked over, with a 10-foot cockpit about 4 feet wide, and a traveler astern to lift the main sheet block over the tiller.

This boat, the Bee by name, carries much more sail than the smaller and narrower type of dory. She has 17-foot hoist, 18-foot boom rising two feet, and 14-foot hoist by 8-foot foot for the jib. The rig is standing, that is, there is main halyard, jib halyard, jib downhaul and wire rope shrouds for the mast. She will take four to six people easily, and for a cruiser for four boys is unsurpassed.

Seaside Park is the furthest point by rail to the hunting and fishing grounds of Barnegat, and from there down to Cedar Creek is six miles further before the shooting gets good, and ten miles to the Inlet where you get channel bass in the surf, also weaks and croakers and bluefish, small weakfish in the bay, and snipe and ducks in their season. Further on, down towards Great Bay and Little Egg Inlet, the water is still rougher and the shooting and fishing splendid. To reach those places requires a long roundabout trip by rail, and we have also tried rowboat and sand tramping with a camp on the beach for several days to get to it. Sand camping is the hardest of all sorts of outdoor camping; the sand blows into everything, the mosquitoes and flies are a pest, and the wind blows so hard that even your fire gets blown out!

The big sail dory changed all that. Now we take the train for Seaside Park, hoist our sail and are away for the delights of a cruise in those waters. Decoys, provisions and a cockpit tent are kept aboard under the bow deck, so that all we have to bring is the rods, guns, ammunition and bait. A water butt takes care of the all-important water problem, and we go ashore to fish and shoot wherever we please, as you can beach her anywhere. At night, we top up the boom and tie the ridge of the cockpit tent underneath the boom, fastening the sides down to staples outside the cockpit coaming. A scrim front and rear curtain keep out the mosquitoes, and we have four ticking bags which we fill with dry seagrass on the beach and put one on each side of the centerboard and two up in the stern sheets. The grating is taken up out of the bottom and hung just below the cockpit seats, with turn-out cleats for the purpose, and so you get two stories, so to speak, for our tent, and there is plenty of room for four to sleep aboard.

In the morning the little alcohol yacht stove is pulled out in its tin galley box, and a breakfast of coffee, bacon, eggs, fried fish and creamed potatoes is furnished by the cook -- which is me! Then a lunch is put up and we have the whole day ashore fishing or in the snipe blinds. Returning at nightfall, a big feed is cooked up aboard the boat, and a little later we are ready to turn in, for "early to rise" is the only rule to get good fishing and shooting. No sand, no mosquitoes, no wind blowing everything to kingdom come -- it's a great improvement over our old camping days on the beach, and now we can go forty miles, when ten used to be our outmost limit.


The smallest sail dory is the 14-foot open sailing boat, virtually the Gloucester fishing dory with a sail stepped in her. The hoist for this would be 10 feet, boom 13 feet, rising 12 inches. The simplest possible spar rig would be a horizontal sprit, running from a slippery Jim on the mast to a pocket in the clew. The mainsheet is bent to a ring in the clew bolt rope and there you are! This makes a very nice boat for young boys, but rather too small for youths of sixteen and up. If you live in a town where there are shipyards, especially in New England, it will not be so very hard to build yourself a sail dory of the 17-foot or 18-foot size.

Dory side planks have so very much sheer to them that the plain lumber mill board will cut to a lot of waste, so regular white pine dory stock is kept on hand by most Down East shipyards. This is natural-bent tree, sawed into 5/8- or 3/4-inch stock. Then the ribs, which are of tamarack (or, as it is often called, hackmatack), are sawed out of natural crooks, which are kept in stock at the shipyard. Enlarge the frame patterns I give you in the illustrations to fit the size you want on big sheets of brown paper, cut out and take to the shipyard where you can try them on the stock and pick out what you will need and have it sawed out on the bandsaw at the yard. In the same way the stem is gotten out of a 5-foot piece of 2-inch oak, natural curve, and with it the stern knee. For bottom board you will want 7/8-inch white pine stock, 6 or 8 inches wide, in the 14-foot merchant length, ordinary dressed lumber boards, and, for side planks, dressed white pine, 5/8-inch stock, 20 feet long, about 10 inches wide, for the six side planks, and 14 for the two garboards. These will be natural sweep stock.

Enlarge your bottom plan to full size, and get out the three bottom planks to make up, the center plank being full width, as in it you must cut the centerboard slot and so do not want the centerline to be a crack. Now clamp together and tack with a few cross pieces, and then set up your four frames, screwing through the bottom with No.10 brass screws, allowing three feet for the centerboard frame and the rest spacing about even, some 2 feet 10 inches apart.

Plumb and set up the stem and stern knee, and secure to bottom board with three or four galvanized iron screws each. The frames and stern transom are then beveled to fit the planking, the angles being gotten by running strips of light stuff around, touching all the frames. The stem knee has of course been rabbeted to receive the planking before setting up.

You are now ready for the garboard planks, the spiling of which will be shown from the frame flats. Bend your wide garboard plank around and mark the pattern points on it direct. The bottom line can be scribed with a pencil and the upper points marked and joined with a long flexible sweep strip. Saw it and its mate out with the rip saw and nail on with galvanized iron clout nails, about 10d. is right, clinched on the inside of each rib. Bore holes in the plank and rib before driving the nails, to prevent splitting, and do not nail anything until the garboard is a perfect fit everywhere. The bottom planking wants about 1-1/4-inch rocker on it before scribing the bottom line of the garboard

Note that the bow and stern of the garboard are much wider than the midships, about 12 inches for'd and aft and 6 inches amidships is about right. Also note that the first two planks come in line on the stem and stern, there being no knuckle, and are almost carvel fitted at the center frames. The next two lap and are beveled to a fit and clinch-nailed together.

The planks can be wrapped and marked in place or a spiling taken from a straight strip, either way you prefer. After the garboards are on, the craft will be strong enough to turn over and build upside down, as that is much the easiest way to plank her. After the planking is finished you will want a 2 x 7/8 inch oak gunwale wrapped around outside, and a 2 x 7/8-inch pine riser secured around inside about 8 inches below gunwale to rest the thwarts on. The centerboard trunk is made of two oak posts of 2 x 7/8-inch stock (same stock as gunwale) and two wide 17- or 18-inch white pine boards, 3 feet long, are screwed to each side of the posts over a white lead and wicking filler, making a tight trunk, with about an inch of the posts sticking down below the trunk.

The posts are then notched half an inch to give the ends of the trunk something to bite on when in place, and a 3/4-inch by 3-foot slot is then cut in the center bottom board of the dory. (See construction drawings in Part One, Chapter IV.)

Drive in the posts, with a turn of lamp wicking, soaked in white lead paste completely around the slot, and secure with galvanized iron screws driven up through the bottom of the dory into the bottom board of the trunk. This job should be tight enough to squeeze out paint all around. The center board is next gotten out of 5/8-inch dressed oak and hung by a white pine pinion driven through the side of the trunk in the lower for'd corner and the dory is ready for sails. Brace the mast step thwart by knees to the planking and put in the step with the grain running across the boat.


The mast will be two to three inches for the 14-foot and 18-foot dories, and the other dimensions I leave to you. I would suggest 14 feet by 3 feet 10 inches for the 14-foot size, 18 feet by 4 feet 6 inches for the 18-foot open dory and 17 feet by 5 feet 6 inches for the decked sailing dory. Scaling in proportion on the frame plans, etc., given here without dimensions, you can make up your patterns and build the boat any size you prefer. These drawings were taken by Mr. Victor Slocum from the original Swampscott dory and we are indebted to him and the Yachting Magazine for their use.


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