Build a sailing canoe for $15

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How to build the $15 canoe, 1876-style

The $15 figure is at 1876 prices, I’m sorry to say. In this excerpt from a Scientific American Supplement dated that year, Victorian-era writer Paddlefast provides offsets and the rest for a canoe with a simple hull that looks eminently buildable by  either clinker or strip-planking methods.

In our time, we’d build it with water-tight compartments fore and aft, but many details could easily remain the same. For example, clever details here including halliards that are led forward through a block to provide forestays, and the drawings include outriggers for rowing.

Thanks here go to Craig O’Donnell, proprieter of the always-intriguing Cheap Pages.

Follow this link for more on sailing canoes at

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Drawings for plotting coordinates and building the boat
– use earlier printouts for model-making

In case you’ve been wondering, in addition to working on boats and digging the garden, I have found just a little time to work on the Julie skiff. Actually what I’m sharing with you today took about four hours!

The panels are now plotted onto 8 by 4ft rectangles representing plywood sheets, I’ve used letters to label each of the key plotting points to create the shapes, and I’ve made up tables specifying their positions. It’s dull but necessary work, and we’ve now reached the point where building can begin, particularly for people who know the stitch and glue process well.

In plotting coordinates, I always begin by squaring off the material in 12in squares, which helps with the plotting itself. Don’t be surprised if the material is a little longer than 96 inches – for some reason, in my experience ply is always 48in wide, but a little more than 96in long.

Download the drawings and coordinates in the form of a zip file, together with almost everything else needed to build the boat: julie-skiff-zip-package (To avoid confusion, this is now the complete package, by the way.)

All that remains is my little essay describing all the files, and commenting on issues like shaping or notching the tops of the frames to accept the gapped inwales, oar placement and so on. If you’ve built a boat this way before, you won’t need to wait for my text file on this subject to begin work, and you may not need it at all. Before building, however, I would counsel building a model as described in an earlier post (see below). Phew – after all this work I do hope someone will build it, as I think she’s a handsome, practical boat for rivers, lakes and sheltered waters generally.

If on marking out you find any errors or anything that looks wrong, please let me know – if there’s any doubt, please don’t make a cut but contact me immediately at Mistakes do happen and I’ll fix any you find as quickly as I can, and as soon as my paid work allows me to be at home long enough to deal with them.

These drawings are my work and my property. Individual amateurs are permitted to build one or two boats for their own use from these drawings for themselves but commercial boatbuilders and those intending to build more than two or three boats are required to contact me for permission to build.

I would also warn that I am not a professional boat designer and accept no responsibility for any damage or loss that may result during building this boat or in its use on the water or on land. I would ask that boat users take special care and always take sensible precautions when using this boat on the water including using lifejackets.

I still plan to work up a second set of plans for more traditional-style boatbuilding, and to work up a sailing rig. After all my hard work, though, I hope I can be forgiven for having a few days off from designing and drawing!

If you build this boat – even if it’s a model – PLEASE let me know by getting in touch via

See the complete series of posts on this project:

Complete free plans package for the flat-bottomed 15ft 7in skiff skiff – drawings and coordinates for stitch and glue skiff – photos of our model, and maybe yours too? skiff – now we can make a model skiff progress
Early drawings for a 15ft 5in lightweight flat-bottomed American-style skiff

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Windward-sailing Barbary pirates


Xebec pirate ship

!!This post now with added singing – see the bottom of this post!!Â

My canoe sailing and building pal Jim van den Bos sent me this link from The Times newspaper yesterday:

Here’s the TS Pelican’s website, which tells the story of her interesting rig; see also this article by Philip Goode, the designer involved in the TS Pelican project:

The whole thing led me to speculate how Continue reading “Windward-sailing Barbary pirates”