Sail Ahoy


Over two years ago, I decided to build a boat (or more accurately, two). According to the detailed instructions, each hull should take about 20 hours. In the end, after many diversions, trips, procrastination’s and more trips, I did complete both hulls in a slightly embarrassing 12 months. Then promptly moved to the other side of the country. Initial plans were for sails on both boats, but the lucky find of an ancient motor changed that idea. Before a sail could be found for the second boat, more diversions followed, including a prize winning race down the Waikato River and a visit to a real shipyard in Costa Rica. Eventually, I did finally get around to making the oars, and just recently, a simple sail rig. Could both boats be finally finished?

Too ambitious?
Much more achievable
Never enough clamps!
Lee board
Lee board, rudder cheek and rudder
A strip of fibre glass cloth and epoxy along the seams for strength and to prevent water ingress into plywood
Test fit of rudder assembly. Note the pivot point so rudder can kick up in shallow water

If you want to sail a boat in any direction *other* than what the wind is blowing, you need more than just a sail. First up, a rudder and tiller. With clever of arrangement of stainless bolts and a length of rubber strap, I assembled a design that keeps the rudder pointing down, but allows it to kick up if you run into shallow water. To prevent the boat going sideways (to leeward) when sailing upwind, you also need some sort of resistance in the water, or a keel. I went with simple, and made a lee-board that goes into a slot on the outer hull and can be pulled up in shallow water.

A cheap tarpaulin is measured and cut. Although not UV resistant, it should last at least several seasons if stored indoors
Captain Ra is also a deft hand on the sewing machine. All seams and a dart in the centre were double stitched
Fitted to the bamboo mast with heavy duty zip ties
Boom and rigging still to be fitted. Note the dart seam running from bottom-right to centre of the sail. This fold allows the sail to curve inwards with the wind

With rudder and lee-board created, plus a socket for the free-standing 14ft bamboo mast to go into, work begun on the sail. A cheap blue tarp from the local auto parts shop was cut to size, with the edges and centre dart double stitched. The original eye holes on the tarp were used to zip-tie it permanently to the mast. For storage, the sail is rolled up on the mast. After a short, but tense test on a Sunday afternoon in the small inlet adjacent to the local boat club (unfortunately also located adjacent to many drunken comments) a few minor adjustment were made to the rigging. The next weekend, on a fine Auckland summer day, the dinghy was christened “Jig-About” by her captain and new owner. We set off into the blue unknown, also known as Karepiro Bay.

Is the journey now complete? What should I build next? Who knows, but after constructing such a challenging design, almost anything seems possible!




  1. Hi Damo,

    Extraordinary! How are the boats (and the motor) holding up after a year? Sewing the blue tarp sails was pretty clever and respect to Captain Ra and you too ya salty sea dog. 🙂

    The photos on the blog have really rich colours, although that may be due to being in the land of the long white cloud.

    Summer has left the building over this side of the drink and a bit of rain has fallen. Relief all around.

    What next? Well it is not a far leap from the carpentry involved in a boat to a shed or house. Your mission should you decide to accept it…




  2. Hi Chris,

    Well the boats are still both leak-free with zero leaks in the watertight compartments. Little bit of paint wear in parts, but other than that no problems. They don’t seem fragile at all, but I expect a pointy rock at the wrong angle would cause an issue. Motor is flawless as usual. Not sure what could go wrong on it. Started on 3rd pull last week with 10 month old fuel.

    Hmm, house or shed. Or granny flat perhaps….



  3. Hi, Damo!

    Every time I look at your blog I feel like I am on vacation. That’s because you and Mrs. Damo do all the hard work . . . Beautifully done hard work and beautiful filming job.



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