Having built a number of boats over the years, I have always dreamed of designing my own boat. Then one day I realised that I was running out of time and soon it would only be a dream. So I decided to build a small cabin sailing boat. I wanted to see how small it could be, but still have room in the cabin to stretch out and sleep. Being over 6ft the cabin had to be high enough to sit up and have legroom under the cockpit seat. I have always sailed small boats, but another advantage was that if it didn’t work it would not be a big financial loss.
While looking at other designs for ideas I came across a French designer who built his boats the right way up. As I intended to build a full scale model using cheap materials it would give me the opportunity to check the dimensions as the boat progressed.
One of Yann Quenet’s small designs drew my attention, but I did not like the idea of a pram bow so I decided to work on a design of my own. Even though I didn’t buy plans from him Yann was very generous in supplying me with drawings and advice.
The end result is a reworked model of his Bihanig design. Yann is currently sailing across the Indian Ocean towards the French island of Reunion and should be there in a few days. His boat is only 4m long.
I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to build a boat without plans and work out problems when things didn’t go to plan. The boat was built with chine runners which allowed more room in the cabin, but it didn’t work as well as I expected. The boat required more ballast for the chine runners to be effective so in the end I decided to add a daggerboard. I was able to add the daggerboard without losing too much room in the cabin.
The next problem was the size and type of sail. I had an old Optimist sail which worked quite well when there was enough wind, but I needed a bigger lug sail.
After working out all the problems I am pleased with the end result which is a boat no longer than a Mirror dinghy.
Despite its small size the cabin is quite cosy at night and allows me to stretch out for a good night’s sleep.
I live in Adelaide and sail from the Clayton Bay Boat Club which is situated near the mouth of the Murray River which gives me a large area for cruising in a small boat such as the lakes and into the Coorong.