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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Time's Winged Chariot. Hopefully.

24ft x 5/4ft x 6in
~1000lbs dry / ~2000lbs loaded

Returning from the Venture

Photo by Bruce Simonson

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’

Into the future…

– From Fly Like an Eagle by Steve Miller

Time's Winged Chariot. Hopefully.

I’ve been musing aloud, as it were, in posts about sailing against the entropic wind (aging).

We want options for less demanding sailing. AND we don’t want to wait too long to get them in hand.

So we worked out a plan, built a vessel (S/V MUSTELID), and took it out for a spin. Four months and upwards of 500nm later we’re pleased with the results. Despite several stretches of conditions we wouldn’t have chosen to venture into, she took all in stride.

The trip included some big water passages with wind ranging from calm to about 35kts (in sustained gusts) and seas from flat to about 10ft (max, over 7ft predominant). Despite bouts of cotton mouth and some pucker factor, it felt safe and capable in every situation. 

Mostly, though, there was a lot of reasonably efficient rowing over flat water. At a relaxed saunter, we moved along at 1.5kts. A sustainable, all-day pace averaged about 2kts (longest day was about 14hrs rowing!). In a sprint we moved along about 2.75kts (we could keep this up for about an hour before falling back to sustainable). Accordingly, our strategy was - as expected - to generally row in light conditions or wait for a fair wind.

All told, the smaller vessel was able to take us faster / farther with less effort than our larger cruiser. Lost in trade were the full comforts of home for the adequate comforts of a camper-cruiser. Most of the trip we foraged hand-to-mouth with a backbone of carbs, which let us sail remote for extended periods, beyond what we could carry in provisions.


Our priorities for the design were as follows:

  • Cheap and easy construction (‘cuz… well… we’re cheap and easy!)

  • Positive buoyancy (best way not to go down with the ship is don’t let the ship go down!)

  • Decent, high stability sailing (our waters are cold… we don’t want to flip)

  • On-board self-rescue (if we do suffer knockdown, we want to right it from on-board)

  • Good carrying capacity (to carry food and tools for extended trips)

  • Decent rowing (the wind is free; our hp ain’t)

  • Retractable rudder / LR (easy beaching)

  • Good offwind sailing (under easy to stow and handle rig)

  • Some onwind sailing (ditto… any windward ability is gravy)

  • Allowance for outboard motor (who knows?)

  • Shelter aboard without set-up (torrential rains after long days)

  • Wood-fire galley (dry heat, fuel gathered as we go)

  • Double berth (important for couples)

After much juggling and balancing, we came up with:

  • Flattie’ hull (flat bottom, moderate flare, moderate full-length rocker)

    • Sampan bow (good foredeck, easy, secure beaching)

    • Parallel runs aft (easy construction above and below sheer)

    • Spread chines (increased stability, displacement, interior volume)

  • BIRDWATCHER aft cabin

    • Fixed shelter (no need to set up dry quarters, improved heat retention)

    • High reserve buoyancy (for knock-down recovery)

    • Telescoping hatches (mount large PV array)

  • Water-tight stowage fore, aft and in cockpit (positive buoyancy)

  • Double station rowing cockpit with rolling seats (efficient, open-air rowing)

  • Ljungstrom / Holopuni Quick Rig extensible hybrid (easy set, strike, reef, handling)

There’s a lot more - this boat got mutted with years of ideas accumulated over the years - but this’ll do for now.

The upshot is, we met or exceeded all of our expectations, and got some insights toward improving windward sailing (which was unexpectedly worth improving!).

At the design level, we were quite happy with trade-offs (compromise among opposing values).

The hull design is 'tightly coupled'. For example, increasing the carrying capacity (as we might wish), would ramify throughout the hull, impacting several other priorities. Deepening draft would exceed the 2ft side panel limit (materials savings) or reduce freeboard (reducing reserve buoyancy, changing oar angles), reducing forward flair and increasing sleeping platform curvature (hard on the back). And though we might wish to carry more on occasion, the half-ton we have proved ample.

In particular, the flared hull was a departure for us from vertical sides. But in this case, it allowed higher ends and rocker on a narrow panel, added spray deflection for the low sided, open cockpit and preserves reserve buoyancy despite narrowing toward the bow (reducing windage and wetted surface). It adds reserve buoyancy from about mid-ships aft, flaring as it does from the full, 4ft bottom. As a bonus, the flair is much more comfortable to lean against within the minimal interior, and gives extra elbow room at sheer level. All in all, we feel this paid for itself for this particular design.

If we were to change one thing, we would consider making the transom vertical. It's 12deg rake looks better (vanity) and accepts a square motor mount (marginal advantage). A vertical transom would allow aft beaching legs for leveling the boat on a sloped beach, increase the waterline length (marginal speed / displacement / stability increase) and simplify construction.

Rig-wise, we added a small driver aft to help keep the bow into stronger winds while rowing into them. This reduced steering effort from the sweeps, freeing them for the power stroke. Otherwise, the tendency was to blow flat, perpendicular to the wind.

Odd ideas that worked out well:

  • OffCenterBoards stow inboard, vertically against the sides. At anchor, they may be laid flat on cockpit cleats to form a large platform for outdoor workspace, sleeping or picnic.

  • A longitudinal locker / seat, cleated P&S, allows rolling seats for leg-powered rowing. These were DIYed ‘double-rolling’ style without bearings (which are vulnerable to salt water).

  • ‘Spacered outwales’ were built heavy to take ‘accessorized’ mounts for cleats, OCB hangers, whipstaff, and what-have-you.

  • Six identical sails are leg-o’-mutton (triangular) and join along luff and leech for a variety of sailplans, tarps or tipis. Worked well for the most part… might upgrade to a shaped mid-ship sail for improved windward ability.


Looking back, the high count of cockamamy ideas not only worked individually, but worked well together. 

The fixed shelter eased the ends of long days and made a fine hang-out during the generally cool, wet summer, punctuated by several ‘atmospheric rivers’. It’s rocket stove heated the cabin quickly and safely and cooked many’s the delicious meal. While we never had to try its self-righting feature, it was several times reassuring to know it was at hand.

Our hope is that with this vessel as our older-age auxiliary, we’ll be able to use it as a forager for our cruising home which we expect in turn to become more sedentary over the years. This trip proved to us that  the smaller vessel gives us a high bar for adventure while we’re able, with plenty of room to downsize as ability declines.

Time will tell!

Plain sail Ljungstrom Ketch

Long-haul tri-mode Schooner (As yet untried)

NOTE: Soon we'll tell you about the experience.

NOTE: Plans are being finalized... watch this space!


  1. I am eager to hear more, and see those plans....

  2. For small wheels they make ceramic bearings for skateboard's and roller skates, side stepping the salt water issue for rollers.
    I look forward to hearing more about this boat as well as how Wayward is working

    1. Hi Charles,

      Something to consider! I suppose the races are stainless?

      As it turns out, we were building remote, so had to improvise anyway. The axels were SS rod from a defunct traction splint, and the wheels were HMD (cutting board material) we'd found along the beach.

      WAYWARD is doing well (says 'hello'). We haven't had her out sailing since a year ago in Dec... that's been the only drawback of the new boat, but then, that's the future.

      Dave Z

  3. Ambitious and interesting adventure. I look forward to hearing more about Mustelid and your adventure. Keep the posts coming!!

    1. Hi Pantalones,

      In retrospect it wasn't as ambitious as we'd thought, but the interest never flagged!

      Hopefully we'll be writing more this winter.

      Dave Z

  4. Looks a design with a lot of interesting features! Hope to hear more about! Many thanks

    1. Hi Lucas,

      We're looking forward to trying the trimaran mode... if we're lucky, in the coming year.

      Meanwhile, will try to fill in some of the gaps.

      Dave Z

  5. So, this is your summer boat with Wayward as winter home? IIRC she's got insulation, yes?

    What happened with the human powered outboard drive Wayward had?

    1. Hi Michael,

      Pretty much, yeah. We sailed into November (just). But no... underestimated her capability, so didn't insulate for the wild seasons. Now regretting it. A retrofit might be possible.

      The SeaCycle pedal drive was with SLACKTIDE. WAYWARD's geometry doesn't allow an easy reach to the water or good lines of sight forward. We gave it to a friend... hopefully it's found or finding a good home.

      Dave Z

  6. Hi All,

    Thanks for the kind words, all. Hopefully, we'll have something more substantial by this coming spring!

    Dave Z

  7. Dave,
    I think you built the boat I've been looking for. I have a few of your other small boat plans (trilobyte, skuttlefish) but I always wanted some outside cockpit space as well. I was shopping some of jim michalaks smaller plans with cabins and cockpits, but he doesnt prioritize living space enough. I think this design is the middle ground. Big enough, with enough cabin space for an extended adventure, but low profile and light enough to still be human powered with possibly an aux trolling motor when a little extra power is needed. I will be following this and hope to buy the plans and build once you have it finalized. I'm looking for an icw and gulf coast cruiser.


    1. Hi,

      Glad you like it!

      I've got a shorter version in mind (16 or 20ft) for a single person. The main consequences would be a single rowing station and less payload.

      Interested? If so and you'd like to weigh in, feel free to write me at "triloboats swirly gmail daughter com".

      Dave Z