Richard Spelling




by Guest Columnist Richard Spelling 

SAILBOAT 20ft, shallow draft, trailer

I have this boat I'm trying to sell. link Now, this is a custom (read home built) boat, however it's a well built boat, and I'm asking a reasonable price for it. Can't seem to find anyone who is interested. Maybe this is because it's a "fake" boat.

There is a story here. One Memorial day I was launching the boat, and one of the teenage local yokels hollered "Your boat looks FAKE!"

My ad goes thus:

SAILBOAT 20ft, shallow draft, trailer

Extreme shallow draft camp cruiser or day sailer. This is an AF2. A cat rigged sharpie designed by Jim Michalak, similar to boats designed by Phil Bolger. This boat has a kick up rudder and board, you can sail it right up to the beach. Floats in about 6 inches of water, and will sail in a couple of feet. Can launch from shallow ramp. Very fast boat, will out sail most boats it's size or slightly larger. Sails very well in light wind. Includes trailer. Boat is light, and can be towed behind a small vehicle with a four cylinder engine. Unstayed rig makes setting this boat up very quick. Can go from arriving at boat ramp to sailing away in less than 15 minutes, with one person setting the boat up. Very easy to single hand, but big enough for the family! This boat is too big to fit in the mailbox so you will have to pick it up in Tulsa, OK. Might deliver somewhere close for a small fee. Includes trailer, sails, and electric motor. Will accept cash, money order, or PayPal. Pictures and writeup at:

Now, I'm not a professional writer, but the Ebay page screwed up on me three times, so this is the third rendition. I think this describes an interesting boat.

Before I started my latest project I looked at the used sailboat market. I found a 20ft boat at the local marina, guy was asking the same price as I'm asking for Entropy. It was basically junk, you could walk around and feel where the FG had delaminated from the core material.

I asked him how long it would take to rig it from trailer to water.

He said, oh, 45-50 minutes, on a good day. This was a "trailer sailer"

He has since sold it. The question that begs asking is, why would someone buy this boat, but would not be interested in mine? Must be because his was a "production boat".

If that is so, let's recount the virtues of production boats:

Almost all production sailboats are designed to adhere to "race rules", so the rig is all screwed up. What is with getting 70% of your thrust from the head sail? This is the one up front, that is hard to control and tune. (You know, the one you DON'T let out in a puff? So it can pull you to leeward, exactly were you DON'T want to go in a puff?)  Must be why even the big expensive production sailboat have such a tendency to broach, get knocked over, etc. That is probably why you need umpteen hundreds of pounds of ballast....

I forget the origins, but I remember reading of an Americas Cup boat, going full tilt with it's crew of 20+, being passed by a "pure cruiser", single handed, on AUTOPILOT. This is what you get when you neglect to follow "racing" rules.

What is with the high aspect ratio rig, that requires (high drag) standing rigging to hold the damn thing up? They all use the airplane wing as a model, but airplane winds work best over 100 mph. Sailboats operate in a different regime. They should be using a kite or a hand glider as the model, then most sails would look like, the, emmmm, GAFF RIG!

What is with a $100k+ boat, that you have to drive from out in the weather? Why don't all boats have pilot houses and hard dodgers? Bimini tops and floppy dodger are very popular, why are they not incorporated into the designs? How can a sailboat be big enough to stuff a bathroom and four beds into, but not big enough for a pilot house?

What is with a sailboat you can't sail in water under 5ft deep? OK for an ocean, but for a lake? Most are not that bad, most only draw 3ft or so. I remember the day I discovered what the warning bouy was for. Oops! Water now 2 feet deep. Oh well, tack and pull leeboard back down... Try that in a Catalina.

What is with a sailboat that is so badly designed you have to drag an extra boat around just to reach the beach?

What is with a "trailer boat", that takes an hour to get from trailer to water? Is this a conspiracy so you will have to keep it at a marina?

How come the motor, for BIG, EXPENSIVE, sailboats, is stuck on the back on a dropping bracket, as if it was put on there as an afterthought?

Maybe mine won't sell because it's not fiberglass. Isn't fiberglass the best material to make a boat out of? Here is an interesting link discussing the virtues of the wonderful fiberglass.

Hey, come on now, everyone knows fiberglass is such a better boat building material than wood. I mean, fiberglass is impervious to water, right? It blisters? Oh, well, at least it floats then? Oh, you have to add half the weight of the boat in foam to make it unsinkable? Well, then, it doesn't rot, right? No, fiberglass doesn't rot. However, all the wood bulkheads sealed in airtight compartments needed to make the boat float do rot... Well, then, it must be lighter then? Again, no. It doesn't float, remember? It's heavier than the water.

Incidentally, when someone finds out I make boats, they invariably ask: "What do you make them out of?". My stock answer is: "Wood. Wood floats. What else would you make a boat out of?"

Then, why would all the production boats be made of it? Pretty simple, it's CHEAPER.

Maybe mine isn't selling because it's a "sharpie". You know, one of those odd square looking (fake?) boats? Aren't smooth round curves (which, incidentally give strength to flimsy fiberglass) the best for boats? Well, personal experience outrunning nice smoothly curved boats would tend to say no. There have been lots of studies, and basically, each design is faster in certain conditions, but on the whole, neither is that much faster. It could even be argued that sharpies are faster, as the racing rules have been written to forbid them from racing, I here tell because they were always winning...

To misquote that Phil guy "It is interesting that the performance that people like so much is given by the shape they so dislike". (respects to Mr. Bolger and Friends)

Don't even get me started on production power boats. I have trained my young crew to call these "yucky boats"....


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