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Tod Kerr dips his small Cinderella open canoe built from free plans

Tod Kerr hadn’t quite finished building his Cinderella canoe when he put it in the water for the first time – but he seems pretty pleased with it. Take a look at his weblog account to see what he has to say.

Free plans are available from this page.

The Cinderella is an unconventional stitch and glue design that’s very easy and quick to build using a method that works at this small size – there are no real frames or a proper strongback, just (using the plans in Ultrasimple Boatbuilding) three T-shaped temporary frames – though the boat can also be built using just one T, as outlined in the online plans.

Tod went with the book as you’ll see from his photos, has clearly done a good job (well done Tod!) and reports that Cinderella is ‘really light, very maneuverable, easy to paddle and fast’. 

With these characteristics she’s also tippier than larger commercial open canoes with wide flat bottoms, and Tod has learned that trying to sit up too high can be a bit wobbly…

I predict that he’ll find his best seating position and be very happy balancing the little boat – but I also think he’ll likely find he enjoys uses his Cinderella in the sheltered waters she was designed for, rather than far from shore on the sea.


Ben Crawshaw sails the Ella skiff

Ben Crawshaw sailing Ella skiff

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Theinvisibleworkshop weblogger, writer and small boat sailor Ben Crawshaw has been sailing the sailing version of the Ella skiff off the coast of Catalonia – and I am delighted by the review he has posted.

The boat’s builders call the boat El•la – a point that won’t be lost on my own daughter, who is named Ella.

Read Ben’s piece at Theinvisibleworkshop here.

I’m delighted that he was able enjoy such a nice day of sailing with his daughter Yoeh, and I’m thrilled that my simple little boat designed lived up to his expectations.  Yes, here’s a set of boat plans that are free and which produce a little boat that works as I’d planned and hoped.

Here’s the gist of what he had to say about my little sailing skiff design:

‘… I turned to wave to a small send-off party then re-trimmed the sail to go broad and tootle along just 200 metres off the shore… Ella was already well into her stride as we were still sorting out our seating arrangements.

‘The GPS registered a healthy 3 knots… the wind came up and white caps began to appear. The breeze settled at a solid 10 knots, causing us no great problem but raising our speed a knot…

‘The boat had already shown herself to be well balanced, with a light tiller and a touch of weather helm but I was impressed at how high she pointed to windward. She was wet, though, with the moderate breeze and chop and would have liked a reef. I tacked carefully and she came round well… Sailing dead down wind with the daggerboard raised Ella became unstable and ached to gybe but by lowering the board a tad and turning slightly to windward she regained posture.

‘Ella was not designed for these open sea conditions but like Onawind Blue [Ben’s Light Trow] she behaved well with the decent breeze and short sea… ‘

Many thanks for the report Ben!

Plans for the Ella skiff – both the rowing and the sailing version with a snug standing lug rig – are available from the plans page here at

PS – Since this post first went up, Ben has put up two more posts about the Catalonian Ella skiff, one showing details of the boat as built (I very much like the scheme for stowing spars by the way), and another about a day when the El•la and Ben’s Light Trow Onawind Blue were unexpectedly able to sail in company. This one includes some wonderful photos, including the two shots I’ve pasted below. Please take a moment to see Ben’s posts, and leave a comment: Ella details and Goodbye to Ella.

Ella skiff off the coast of Catalonia Ella skiff and Light Trow Onwind Blue



A Julie skiff powered by small outboard motor


Geoff Jones has got in touch to report on how his Julie skiff performs with a small outboard motor. (Click on the images above to see much larger photos.)

The Julie skiff is one of my designs, and the free plans can be found here.

This is what Geoff has to say:

‘The short version is: Pretty well, with no surprises.

‘The motor is a 1953 Sea King 3hp, which is a lightweight single with a built-in fuel tank.

‘It moves the boat along with good speed and generally good manners. I have an idea that more horsepower wouldn’t be very useful (except with a heavy load and a headwind). Perching a much heavier motor on the transom would be a bad idea, regardless of how strongly it was built.

‘The trim is about right with an adult in the forward seat, except that it pounds in heavy waves. It is better with more weight amidships. With only a single person in the stern, it is completely unacceptable, so a tiller extension or forward ballast is really a necessity.

‘Handling is very good, except that the skeg drags in turning sharply (no surprise), and trying to turn sharply with too much throttle sets up a cavitation. The skeg also prevents the motor from being reversed (it has no reverse gear), although a small amount trimmed from the heel of the skeg might solve this.

‘The photos show her making good speed up the Mississippi against a stiff wind and a strong current at about 2/3 throttle. Note the lack of wake. Speed increases appreciably up to full throttle, and a modest wake develops. I have not made any attempt to measure actual speeds.


Thanks Geoff – you, your crew and the boat look good, and I’m most grateful for your detailed and perceptive report.

With that outboard, your photos have a timeless quality – they could have been taken yesterday or decades ago.