Designs by Karl Stambaugh and Philip C Bolger Commentary by Mike OBrien

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Both Karl Stambaugh and Phil Bolger started with similar stacks of plywood and a drawer full of traditional ideas. Both came up with trailerable pocket cruisers that measure 19 feet 6 inches on deck. There the similarity ends.

Stambaugh's Mist awakens memories of plywood sloops that filled the pages of Popular Whatever magazines in the years following World War II. But, in some ways, she's quite different. Many of the early-1950s hulls were designed aggressively for sheet construction. That is to say, every ounce of twist had been wrung out of their carefully developed developable shapes. Stems and rails were faired into the hulls to the extent that they virtually disappeared.

In order for strongly flared hull sides to mate well with a nearly plumb stem, some twist should be worked into the plywood sheets up forward. Alternatives include increasing the rake and/or curve of the stem (particularly near its heel) and/or tolerating less flare. Stambaugh chose to twist the plywood. As a reward, Mist has a hull shape that probably will appeal to most sailors. It is stiffer structurally, and the entry is a touch finer. Twist isn't all bad — although if you ever try to hang the bottom panels on a sheet-plywood catboat, you might think it is.

Stambaugh has gone out of his way to ensure that this plywood boat doesn't look like a plywood boat. He insists that the stem stand proud, as it would on a conventionally planked hull. Solid, coved sheerstrakes add to the illusion, as does the severe rounding-over specified for the chines back aft. And the curved, raked transom isn't exactly standard fare for sheet-plywood boats. In all, this is a handsome little cruiser.

Down below, there has been no attempt to cram in coffin-style quarter berths or an enclosed head. The arrangement is simple and traditional, and it should work fine. Mist's relatively wide cabin sole survives the intrusion of the long centerboard trunk, part of which hides under the bridge deck.

The cockpit offers good lounging space, but the motor well intrudes. I can understand the designer's reluctance to desecrate Mist's transom with a bracket. Perhaps we should eliminate the well and investigate the mysteries of the yuloh, the over-the-stern sculling oar of Eastern origin.

The gaff-sloop rig suits Mist, and sailmakers who have experience sewing four-sided sails seem to be easier to find than they were a decade ago. Although standing rigging can become a time-consuming nuisance when a boat lives on and off a trailer, Stambaugh has kept it simple here. If he were to draw a free-standing arrangement, the mast would likely be heavier and/or more expensive in an attempt to support tension in the jib's luff — and the tabernacle would have to be altered.

Jn the early 1980s, Phil Bolger drew the Micro pocket cruiser for sailor and plans promoter Elrow LaRowe. The 15-foot 4-inch plywood cat-yawl has proven to be a popular and capable sailer. Long Micro, as the name implies, is a stretched (19-foot 6-inch) version on the same 6-foot beam.

This boat's hull consists of a rigid plywood box, with free-flooding ends and watertight accommodations amidships. The curve of the sides, in plan view, more or less matches the profile of the bottom's rocker. Cross-flow is reduced, and performance is improved.

The most controversial feature of this hull is certain to be the complete lack of flare. Its sides stand dead perpendicular to the water. Long Micro's designer writes that the deck is a "necessary parasite weighing down the bottom, so the smaller it is relative to the bottom, the better the boat will run." Like thinkers will point out that, for hulls of this type, vertical sides can result in nicely drawn-out waterlines, maximum initial stability, easier construction, and slightly reduced materials cost.

The opposition will claim that this reasoning makes sense only if the boat is to be built in a particularly narrow shop or kept in a 6-foot-wide box. Why not increase Long Micro's beam at the rail to, say, 8 feet (to match Mist's), and let the crew hike out to take advantage of the increased lever arm? The Bolger camp will shoot back that, indeed, a flared side acts as an outrigger supporting an alert, athletic crew — it demands caution for that very reason. In a plumb-sided hull, the bottom extends out under any point on which someone can stand, and the boat tends to roll less as the crew moves. Detractors might respond with the unanswerable point that they simply don't like the looks of vertical sides. So the debate rages, and it won't be settled here.

Be that as it might, plumb-sided boats really can sail, and they can demonstrate friendly stability curves. The reputation for treachery this type holds in some quarters stems from the bad behavior of similar canoes and skiffs when they are overloaded. If the depths of immersed rectangular sections become too great relative to their widths, these unballasted boats can turn

Particulars, Mist LOA 22'0"

LOD 19'6"

Beam 8'0"

Draft (cb up) 1'6" Draft (cb down) 4'6" Displ 1,800 lbs

Sail area 225 sq ft

Ballast 800 lbs unfriendly in a hurry. Long Micro, with external ballast and predictably lighter relative loading, will maintain her composure.

We've talked before about the self-vanging properties and other advantages of sprit-boomed leg-o'-mutton sails. The cat-yawl arrangement adds merits of its own. The masts are stepped in the ends of the boat, they're clear of the accommodations, and they put the sail area where it's useful for maneuvering. With no headsail luff to support, the spars can be light and unstayed. When it breezes up, only the mainsail need be reefed. The main's center of effort moves forward as it's shortened down, but, because its size relative to the mizzen is reduced, the helm remains balanced.

Either of these boats would make a fine end for a stack of plywood.

Plans for Mist are available from The WoodenBoat Store, P.O. Box 78, Brooklin, ME 04616; 800-273-7447.

Plans for Long Micro can be obtained from Common Sense Designs, 11765 S. W. Ebberts Ct., Beaverton, OR

Plans for Long Micro can be obtained from Common Sense Designs, 11765 S. W. Ebberts Ct., Beaverton, OR

Catboat Plans Free

Karl Stambaugh's Mist combines sheet-plywood construction with elegant traditional appearance.


Karl Stambaugh's Mist combines sheet-plywood construction with elegant traditional appearance.


Bolger Long Micro

Two Plywood Pocket Cruisers

Particulars, Long Micro








2,400 lbs

Sail area

263 sq ft

Phil Bolger's Long Micro: 19 feet 6 inches of functional simplicity and speed.

Two Plywood Pocket Cruisers

Karl Stambaugh Boat Designs




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Benford Boat Design PhotosBenford Boat Design Photos

Long Micro's body plan (left) illustrates the cat-yawl's absolutely plumb sides and adequate rocker. A view looking forward from the cockpit (center) shows the cover for the open standing room, the afterdeck or seats, and the arrangement at the companionway. The main bulkhead (right) speaks of ultra-simple construction.

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