It’s always been a dream of mine to build a wooden sailboat. I got pretty seriously into it a few years back, but other plans took precedent. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to boats, and I take a sort of Herreshoff approach to sailing and boat design. Initially, I planned to build the 22-foot gaff sloop Amigo by Glen L. Amigo is functionally similar to the legendary Flicka 20 (by Pacific Seacraft), both are small, trailerable off-shore cruising vessels. The plans for Amigo are available in either fiberglass or cedar strip planking, and it seems like an ideal design for anyone who dreams of weeks at sea.
Cedar strip planking is a great way to build a wooden boat. After planking is complete, the hull is sealed using fiberglass, and the results are stunning. However, I’ve recently decided on a different method (and a different boat). I chose Economy Jane, an old design by the late John Atkin. William and John Atkin designed (arguably) some of the most beautiful and sea-kindly vessels of the 20th century, and John’s widow Pat still sells the plans online.
Economy Jane is a 21 foot, V-bottom gaff rigged knockabout, designed to be traditionally planked with white oak. I originally doubted my ability to construct a vessel using traditional methods, but I’ve since decided it’s worth a go. I’ll link up to another article on traditional ‘carvel planking’ soon. Another reason I chose Economy Jane is that I probably won’t be doing year-long circumnavigations that require a boat like Amigo. Amigo is certainly capable of such trips, and (technically) so is Economy Jane, to a lesser extent. Such a trip in a boat like Economy Jane would be possible but much less comfortable, so she satisfies the daydream in a sense of ‘I could if I wanted to.’
Economy Jane was originally designed to be a budget-boat. The knockabout rig is a simplified sloop (not a true sloop), and removes the necessity for a bowsprit and a topmast. I believe this plan is ideal for the hobby sailor, as it can be constructed economically, and should be easy to rig and handle. For a boat her size, she’s got a hardy displacement and should handle well in rougher weather. She is a very traditional design, and features a suprisingly deep keel.
According to the Wooden Boat Forums (an invaluable resource for boat builders and day-dreamers), the original Economy Jane handles tenderly due to her sail plan and narrow beam. Aggressive heeling might be a bit uncomfortable for those used to modern sailboats, so Atkin’s student Jay Benford penned a wider-beam version as well. Benford designs boats to this day, and his plans can be found on his website. I still chose the original with 6′ 8″ of breadth on deck.
I’m not promising to build this boat. But if I do, I’ll keep you all posted. I am promising an article on traditional planking, which can be expected sometime next week.