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The Openboat

Build your own boat and support the development of water sports in Africa.

The Openboat – a self-build rowing boat or canoe:

The Openboat Project developed from my work as a Development Coach for FISA (The World Rowing Federation) in Uganda and Kenya. The aim was to support the development of rowing by providing a ‘starter pack’ of boats and training for the coaches.

This has been successful in that two of the Ugandan and Kenyan athletes are now competing at international level.

However, the growth of the sport is limited by the high cost of imported equipment – transport and import duties can double the cost of boats and spares. The obvious answer is to have training boats built locally, using local skills and materials in a way that benefits the local economy.

It is likely now that local wooden boats, used by fishermen, will be used as basic training boats but the next step is to provide a design that is faster and can be used for local competitions to identify those with the potential to train in international class racing boats.

Va'a Canoe

Minus Floats


After researching many different materials I settled on Plastazote, a closed cell foam that can be quickly formed into a hull shape. It is light, robust and as it is impervious to water, it has built-in buoyancy. It can be damaged by sharp objects but the damage can be cut away and a new piece welded in place with a hot air paint stripper.

Currently the cost of the materials bought ‘off the shelf’ is around £120. With bulk buying (forma group) the cost should be a lot less.

There is now a need to build and test prototypes. Rather than pass this on to a commercial company, I would like to involve ‘volunteers’; boat enthusiasts who would like to build their own version, test it, develop it and to feed back the results so that we can, together, get an appropriate set of designs for rowing, canoeing, kayaking and sailing. And, if you take part, you should end up with a useful small car-top leisure boat.

It might be that a sports club, social club or college would like to take this on as a group project. Developing the production of a small number of boats (possibly to sell) would be a very useful contribution to the skills and knowledge of production techniques that we need to pass on to developing countries that wish to make a range of water sports more accessible.

Jim Flood

To find out more, please contact me, Jim Flood, at:

The Herreshoff Project

Probably the name nearly everyone knows in boat design is Nathaniel Herreshoff. He was our first authentic genius in engineering and design. Those who worked with him said he had a photographic memory of parts, their exact size and thickness, and how much stress they could take. You could say his name in nearly any sailboat dock in the world, and heads will turn to hear what you might say.

As we know, MIT harbors the collection of Herreshoff plans. So it's not any surprise that the most visited and requested part of the MIT Museum are the Captain's designs. The museum at MIT which houses the collection of his plans, drawings and artifacts says:

'The 14,000 plans in this collection are the most heavily accessed collection at the MIT Museum.'

The museum has the exceptional vision to make these plans more available than they have been. This is what they have in mind:

'Through advanced digital displays, 3D imaging, and specially created CAD tools, visitors will have unprecedented interactive access to Herreshoff's historic designs and his broader contributions to marine design. We will develop engaging interactive learning experiences involving traditional and modern methods of marine design and engineering, highlight connections to current research and developments in nautical engineering, and provide relevance to a broad audience that includes middle and high school students, families, and adult learners. An exciting challenge for this project is developing successful educational content and programs that can translate well for international audiences.'

HMCo. design # 404 Coquina, licensed building plans available through, Courtesy MIT Museum.

Right now MIT has a fine website, with some grand photographs of Herreshoff yachts, basic information about giving to the project, and their immediate plans for the site and the collection. They have big plans for the small boats in the Herreshoff plans collection. The collection has 2600 plans drawings, so you won't run out of fun.

With Christmas and the end of the year coming up, if you've got a few extra dollars in the pillowcase, this would be a worthy cause. This project is going a long way to training and inspiring our next generation of Bolgers, Atkins and Welfords. It's like seeing a Michelangelo painting and saying, 'I think I want to do that.'

What caught my attention on this site is they have decided to raise the funds before they sign loans. I like this. So many charities and ministries and ventures sign loan papers before they have the money, and then they have to beg to cover the loan. This is more responsible, a better way to do business and handle our donations with honor.

This is their website. Give them a chance to help us all.

Pau Austin

TerraLUX TT-3 Review

A couple of months ago, I was sent one of these flashlights to review. At that time, I was told it was a "Tactical Flashlight" and that it retailed for $100. It is a nice light, but I did not think it worth a hundred bucks. I did not want to review it and have to say that so I stalled. Finally, figuring I could find something good to say, I went online to see what others were saying. To my surprise, it is no longer being called "Tactical" and it is now being sold for almost half the previous price. What a relief! Now I can say it definitely is worth the money.

This little light packs 250 lumens in a waterproof, machined aluminum case that has a nice heft. it comes with a very well-made holster, a pocket clip and a lanyard. The main lighting function has three levels and the unit also has a secondary flashing function which is so intense, I suspect it could cause seisures in an unsuspecting victim.

Here is the business end of the TerraLUX TT-3. Notice there are two buttons. The larger, round one turns the light on and off. The smaller, crescent switch dims the light in three steps. With the light off, if you press the crescent switch only, the flashing strobe comes on momentarily. If you hold the crescent switch for 3 seconds, it stays on.

This will make a great piece of gear for any boat I am in for as long as the thing lasts - which I suspect will be for quite a while. It has a pretty focussed beam which will be handy for finding navigation markers in the dark. When I first saw this light, I thought that it would make a much better boat light if it had a focusable beam. But now that I think about it, those things are never set the way you want them when you first turn them on and it takes two hands to adjust the beam.

So I can easily recommend this light for anyone looking for a durable, bright light for their boating adventures or just to carry in the car for emergencies. It would make a dandy gift for a boater or any guy who likes flashlights - and what guy doesn't?


Maritime TV

Maritime TV recently launched a new Internet TV program series entitled the Maritime TV Seafarer Criminalization Bulletin Video to highlight the abuse of Law, including lack of due process and other abuses for seafarers who face criminal charges in jails, worldwide. The response worldwide has been overwhelming, internationally in support of this new series. Here is the second  episode in the series released October 23, 2013 detailing new specific cases where seafarers are being treated unjustly.

Click Here to View Episode #2 
Click Here to View Episode #1

Thanks for watching Maritime TV!

A Little Color

I put a little color on fat fly today, I got tired of looking at white primer. Here is V fly so you can compare the color pattern.  It is hard to get back to building after the Sail OK break but I am getting back to it a little every day. 



Sorry to report that Bruce Hector died suddenly Oct 25. He was as you know a jolly energetic guy who could tell a great joke, cook up a storm and loved boats. In short he was fun to be with and is gone too soon at 60. 

Bruce Hector

He built and owned many boats but entered the consciousness of many of us when he organized the several Messabouts in Kingston, Ontario about a decade ago. They were great fun and brought a lot of us together.

A great example of his style was landing a radio controlled airplane on a home built aircraft carrier, the famous TIMS cooperatively built modular boat. Certainly a first.

I have pictures somewhere. And very good memories of Bruce, another star now for us to steer by. His spirit also lives on in the builders of the Ottawa Messabouters several of who were with Bruce way back when.

John Bartlett

Spooky Riva....


How Many, is TOO MANY?

There's this construct bandied about in current discussion of geo-political and behavioral-economic trends, called the "tipping point." It's that moment when everything changes. Often, for the worse. Really-smart people seem bent on trying to predict this or that tipping point. Except.

Except, the only real good way to see a tipping point coming, is to look back after the dust settles. Yeah, déjà vu. Often, as our favorite Yankees' catcher immortalized it, "déjà vu, all over again."

And, in the world of small boats, a tipping point can have all sorts of unforeseen consequences if you would rather stay dry. Anyhow. I seem to have become a member of a rather select group. People who admit to already having too many boats. One of those unforeseen consequences of continuing to build, and collect, them. A tipping point. Sort of like the world wide fixation with Imelda Marcos for her endless collection of shoes. The popular rejoinder at the time was, "but she only has two feet to wear 'em on." Yeah, but.

This isn't about shoes. This is about something much more important. This is about an artform. A veritable way of life. This is about, well, a shared obsession. It's OK. You're among friends here. Go ahead. I'll tell you my story, and you can tell me yours.

Anyhow, I've been "trying to quit." Well, no. Quitting isn't an option. But, maybe "cutting down," would be a good idea. Except, for those pesky unintended consequences. Like, for instance. Which boat, or dare I say it, BOATS should go? In the interest of appearing to be behaving rationally, I told Kate I was going over to the RV storage shed where the bulk of the fleet is moored for the winter. And, see about thinning things down a bit. Of course, I greet each one with something like, "Hi there, little girl. How you doin'?" All the rest of you guys do that, too. You do, don't you? And then I prattle on about how I'm going to get to that gouge in the port quarter, or that deck leak up forward, for sure, this year. About how she is "almost next" on the maintenance list. Mostly, I'm trying to convince myself. The boats already know the truth.

The truth is, that I have another "new" one in the shop. This one is in for a total overhaul, resulting in an essentially new boat. Everybody else has been slid back, a notch or two. The new interloper is certainly going to take up all my time, energy, money, and Motrin supply for the next several months.

So, after wandering around at storage for a while. Fingering a brightwork scratch here, a trailer wiring problem over there. After circling around and imagining life without this one, or that one, of my floating creations, I gave up and came home. Of course, Kate asked me what I was going to do about "all those boats." I said, "I'm working on it." And scuttled back out to the shop.



I know nothing about this boat. I found the photo on Facebook. I have heard of people of building boats to furniture standards, but this is beyond that.


Sweet Spot

I am about to launch the new design, Sweet Spot, I mentioned to you.

Danny Greene


This is a 1935 cutter from Falmouth England.  We will keep her here in N. idaho.  I sailed her to Panama, then thru the canal, and up to Vancouver, WA.  

Ten years ago we had Katherine Jane, shown below. Three summers was all I could afford. The cutter above can stay on my dock and should be more manageable.

Details: Built 1952. Twin turbo alaska marine diesels, 3400 gallons fuel, 70 tons, 58', Bill Garden designed. Was in charter in seattle and went to a good home after we owned her. The original owner had her built using Fellows and Stewart of Los Angeles, to go from L. A. to the Gallapagos Islands. I think she could have made it, but instead, she went north to seattle and AK.


Is It A Car - Is it a Boat

Unfortunately it doesn't float.


The Brush Blog

Titanic Key Rack

I just wanted to let folks know that Paul Austin and I are working on a new blog called The Brush Blog with free scollsaw patterns for your ply scraps.

Mike John

Caledonia Yawl

Ready to start a new build of a Caledonia Yawl right after we finish turning the Robb White Sport boat into a trimaran.

Rex and Kathie


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