Kiddie sailboats?

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Toot, Sep 21, 2006.

  1. Toot
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    Toot Senior Member

    Ok. This isn't a submarine or an aircraft carrier. This question involves a dramatically more probable project.... :rolleyes: Honestly, I don't really quite know how to describe the boat I'm thinking of without using silly cliches, but I'll do my best.

    I've seen all manner of training vessels and "first boats", usually 8 to 12 feet in length and easy to haul in and out of the water, but I was wondering what else was out there for young people. Sure, there's racing classes, beachcats, etc. But what about "fun" boats?

    I was recently looking at the Adelie 14/16 and thinking, "That would be a neat little 'funabout'". Something you could grab a nap in, maybe sail for a day or two on the water without frying under the sun the whole time, etc. Then the thought occured to me- I wonder if there's a kiddie boat that is along those same lines? No, not for me, guys.... for a kid or two. But still something that "dad" could climb aboard in a pinch.

    I'm thinking something along the lines of a clubhouse. It would uncomfortably fit an adult or two, would have an enclosed (or partly enclosed) cabin with maybe a berth, or a couple of seats. No stove, obviously, but maybe a cabinet to store some "provisions". Something that would be small and light and just give a little bit of "cruiser" feel to a small sailboat for protected waters? Something that would feel like a clubhouse.

    The obstacles I see are: safety of kids in a somewhat-enclosed structure. You wouldn't want it completely enclosed for a boat this size, but some sort of partial canvas top could do the trick and give a tiny a boat the feel of something more substantial. But let's face it- if you can't give a couple kids a place to hang out, will they want to stay on the water for more than an hour or so before shouting for their parents? I'm thinking about the nautical equivalent of a tree fort, I suppose. Size could also be a problem- if it gets to the size of, say, the Adelie14, then it's a tiny grownup boat. I'm thinking something very small and light. Headroom is not an issue. :) Anybody have any thoughts?

    I guess my question is: Is there anything "fun" out there, in the spirit of a sail cruiser, for kids besides the typical dinghies and racing boats?

    Or, would it be possible to create a miniature structure atop an 8 or 12 foot dinghy?
  2. waikikin
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    waikikin Senior Member


    When I was 2 , my dad built a Hartley TS 16, probabley a bit big as a training boat, but what a terrific vessel- easy to tow, sparkling performance(in its day, but still a valid machine today), top fishing platform(those blue swimmer crabs scuttleing the bilge still freak me). Maybe with a nice awning it could fit the bill?Regards from Jeff.
  3. Figgy
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    Figgy Senior Member

    Hey Toot, why dont you design one? Your in the right place for it :)
    If you think there is a market for one, put the plans up on a site, or sell 'em for five bucks, just to cover paper and shipping.
  4. DGreenwood
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    DGreenwood Senior Member

    I once saw a family built dinghy (very simple) that was equiped with an acrylic underwater viewing port and a rig on the stearn for hoisting objects off of the bottom. They had mask and snorkles and tools for treasure hunting. Man those kids had a time. Their imaginations were wild with what they might find. They came home every evening sunburnt, rope burns , pinched fingers, and salt encrusted with an improved understanding of boat handleing, anchoring and the physics of blocks and line. The boat was also equipped with camp-out possibilities. It's a great idea.

    On a more cynical note...I have taken note of the complete lack of kid activity on the waterfront these days. The creeks and beaches that would have swarming with kids on the go, swimming, sailing, and chasing crabs, are quiet now. I guess they are in the air conditioning playing video games---living a virtual life.
  5. Toot
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    Toot Senior Member

    You make an excellent point. I guess I may have to since I haven't seen anything like it. And I suspect there's more than a couple of fathers here who wouldn't mind giving their kids a nautical version of a tree fort.

    Yeah, I think there'd be a "market". And by "market", I mean that 10 of them would probably be built if I sold the plans for $5 or less. :)

    I like the idea of a view port. Maybe a piece of acrylic with a frame around it, that extends an inch or so, so that it doesn't get too scraped up when beaching. Or.... maybe a reverse periscope would be a better idea? Something you could extend and retract down into the water to have a look...

    Masks and snorkels are exactly the types of on board "gear" that I am imagining for this vessel. :)

    The hoisting rig is a really neat idea. Some rope, a hook, and a pully or something like that. That and a swim platform, and you have yourself a jen-u-wine kiddie dive boat!

    What about sails? I'm thinking it should look "piratey". Or is that too cliche? Maybe it should look "grown up" instead. A pair of masts could double the "workload" and help kids to work as a team. I guess stability comes into play. Obviously, if you want your kid to become a great sailor, you get him a race trainer which is tippy and may border on being overpowered. On the other hand, what I'm envisioning is something that is slightly under-powered to assure easy handling, but that doesn't preclude a "complex" set up which makes kids work a little bit for their propulsion. Or, to put it another way, can be sailed by one to three sailors, depending on configuration. What I'm really thinking here is that if you have a boat that "requires" two or three kids to really get it going, then that will force teamwork upon them if they want to go have fun in the water.

    It should be self-righting, so there will be a bit of foam involved, but unlike trainers, it shouldn't be easy to tip. Stability is more of a concern.

    A swimming platform off the back would be nice, though on a tiny boat, it would have to offer quite a bit of buoyancy itself in order to offset the shifting weight. So maybe have a 2 foot platform with the hull underneath it to extend the boat a little bit. So it'll look a little shorter than it is. And obviously, for kids, you would want to have some way of them getting into and out of the water. I'm imagining a rope ladder with some weights on the bottom would be fine- they could just toss it into the water to provide easier boarding.

    There ought to be windows somewhere on the boat because windows are something that makes it a grownup boat. And probably a deck rail to allow some standing and walking, for the same reason.

    The enclosed structure should probably have an open middle third with canopies coming off the side to offer a little shade on the outer thirds. This would allow tall people to walk through without having a ridiculously tall structure. So this means you have 18" benches integrated into the hull, plus 2 feet of walkway width, so that pretty much sets the beam at 5 feet, plus some hull thickness.

    You'd only need maybe 36" of headroom where you sit. The entire cabin would be maybe 4 feet long. That would sit two kids and two adults in "comfort". The walls of the cabin would just extend upwards from the hull along the side of the boat. And headroom isn't really an issue except while seated. Maybe a velcro canvas piece to completely cover the top for complete shade, but can be torn off to allow simple egress in the case of a capsize. Or would a big piece of floating canvas be more of a hazard than an enclosed roof? Anybody have an opinion on that?

    Cabinets under the seats for gear and provision stowage.

    Built in icebox. I'm figuring a $0.99 styrofoam cooler glassed into the bow.

    All these features are telling me that it can't be too tiny (a designer trying to fit too much into a tiny boat, does this problem sound familiar to anyone? LOL). So I'm guessing 8 feet of "boat" with an integrated 2-foot swim platform off the back with retractable swimming ladder sounds like the smallest possible vessel. That's a ten footer, all told.

    It's probably not necessary, but since this is obviously a "boat first, sailboat second", there's got to be *something* done to not make it a total turtle in the water. So probably a shallow V-hull to add a little comfort. And of course a generous freeboard. It'd be ok for the passengers to get a little wet from time to time, but you don't want it to be a regular occurrence.

    The other thing I'm envisioning is retractable wheels. Lift them up when sailing along, and then hop out of the boat, lower the bicycle wheels, and you can drag it up the beach to your house singlehandedly. And now here's where I blow the entire project. Since one or two kids should be capable of moving it in and out of the water, the weight should be kept under 120 pounds or so. Or, at least, the lighter the better.
  6. Toot
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    Toot Senior Member

    I think that, with everything available to them, kids have a shorter "attention span" these days. I think a typical dinghy gets boring after a few weeks or so with nowhere to go. Being a youngin myself (28), that's kind of how I see it, anyway. That's why I wanted to incorporate a sort of "treehouse" into the boat. To give the kids more options than just simply sailing to sail.

    Make it a sail trainer. Make it a fort they can hang out in. Make it a swimming platform. Add a "crane" for underwater "recovery operations". Make it a place to have a picnic without baking under the hot sun.

    All of a sudden, the kid has got 5 reasons to use the boat. He has 5 different "games" he can play on it. And last I checked, video games cost about $40 a piece and game systems are $300.

    I guess the budget for this project (excluding sails), should be around $500 or so. Ha! yeah right. Well, at least for the unfinished boat. Parents and kids can add whatever doodads their hearts desire.
  7. frosh
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    frosh Senior Member

    Thinking a bit small!

    Hi Toot, my thoughts are that a semi-live aboard for kids ( and we cannot realistically send tiny very young kids out into the open water for a whole day needs to be somewhat bigger than 8 to 10 ft. Also in Australia you could only build a raft for around $500 bucks.
    I would think that you have to be more ambitious to make it work. Maybe something like this with some cabins built on: The two master is good but the sail area shown in the photo is way too large for kids.

    Length: 18' 1", Beam: 4' 6", Draft: 6" (board up),
    3' 6" (board down), Weight: approx. 200 lbs. (rigged)
  8. l_boyle
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    l_boyle ol' can of sardines

    That the troubles with them kids these days, spending many hours in front computer or playing games on x-box, PS2..
    When I was younger all these electonics wasn't advailable til atari comes out.
    But, we play outdoors, playing yard games. Going camping with family is fun back then, catching fish, playing baseball, there wasn't a time wasted over a stupid television.... You know "roughing it", no running water, no electric. Just campfire, hotdogs and marshmallow.
  9. Toot
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    Toot Senior Member

    Frosh- You are probably right that it would need to be a tad more ambitious. The problem, then, is where do you draw the line between a kiddie boat and a pocket cruiser?

    As I sat down and imagined the sizes required and how to do it, what I came up with is a cutter-style bow (surprise surprise- a lot like the Adelie 14 has! Imagine that!). The extra height there would more easily acomodate a cabin without looking goofy. Then have a V-bench (U-shaped) along the hull to seat 4 under a partially enclosed roof. This would keep the cabin of the boat under 5 feet in length and pressed to the front of the ship.

    Then I guess you'll need a good 4 feet behind the cabin for sailing duties, plus two for the dive platform. 11 feet. And, I suppose, if I redo my thought process again, I'll be up to 12 feet. Then 13 and so on. :p

    I've got to keep telling myself, this isn't a boat for adults to drool over, it's something for adults to say, "Man! I wish I had that when *I* was a kid..."
  10. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Phil Bolger did a boat that falls into the category you guys describe. I think it was called Jolly Roger or pirate boat or something like that. The boat would be easy and cheap to build,according to the Bolger and Payson mindset. The boat is about 15 ft or so. The game that is played with these boats, there needs to be several of them on the water at the same time, is to capture the other boats flag or pennant. The rules have been worked out rather neatly and it looks like so much fun I want to try it. I doubt that they'll allow geezers to participate so I'm out of luck. If I recall correctly, this project was commisioned by a group of parents in the San Francisco Bay area.

    I think the Jolly Roger boat is shown in one of Bolgers books: Boats With An Open Mind. Apparently the idea did not blossom noticeably. Maybe most kids would actually rather play Nintendo with their thumbs than to be participants in real adventure. Sadly, they will never know what they missed.

    In all my many years of boating, I have taken many people sailing who had never done so before. Some of them were kids. There are two kinds of reactions after the first sailing experience. Type One: "Is that all there is ?" Type Two: "This is the neatest thing since night baseball" Type two people are in the minority.

    Toot; I hope you can get something going on behalf of the "lucky kids" who have enthusiasm for the kid boat thing. According to Ratty, There is nothing quite so worth doing as messing about in boats.
  11. will cilento
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    will cilento New Member

    kid's sailboat.

    I'm sixteen. When I was fourteen, I decided I wanted a boat. My dad bought me a gp-14 (it was as much for his benifit as mine) for $350 (aus) with trailer. a lick of paint and a bit of woodwork here and there, done by me with some vague instructions from dad, and the skiff had forward and aft compartments, smoothly running rigging and a hull devoid of most of it's rot. it's since been on many an adventure since. In any case, I soon decided that this boat building idea was a good one, and I set about looking for a suitable boat to build I went through many designs, from those set out by Glen-L marine, to the Stevenson Projects Weekender ( Eventually I settled on a design by Selway-Fisher designs ( It is a 19'6" lod. trailerable gaff-rigged cutter, with room to sleep 4 and a stove, sink and porta-potti. So far I have finished all the frames, and the skeleton has now been turned upside down for the hull to be panelled. I wouldn't recommend this design, or, for that matter, the designs from this company for this purpose, for while they are fantastic boats, the way in which they have been put on paper leaves much to be desired. However they are worth a look. The main one that would be very useful here is the weekender, and some of ther other designs by that company. These are small, light and designed for absolute ease of construction. The other advantage is that, unlike Selway Fisher, they have an absolutely HUGE customer support system, including builder/user groups, help forums, instructional material (including a three hour instructional video, relevant to all designs but based on the weekender) and even patterns for a paper model. They all have cabins that are pretty much just an enclosed space, much like the two Adelie designs. Failing that, the design your own approach sounds like a mighty good one if you are that way inclined ;) but I'd check those out first
  12. Richard Hillsid
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    Richard Hillsid Senior Member

  13. Figgy
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    Figgy Senior Member

    Excellent first post Will!
    I agree, the Weekender is an easy boat to build with great support. I bought the plans a few years ago, with the video, and both are well written. The video goes into such detail as showing people how to make thier own non-skid with epoxy and sand.
    IMO, it's a great father/son project.

    edit: After previewing my post, I sound like a salesman..sorry.
  14. lewisboats
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    lewisboats Obsessed Member

    Bolger Mayfly(AKA $200 Sailboat by Dave Carnell) with a boom tent. Just what you are looking for.


  15. djwkd
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    djwkd Senior Member

    You keep mentioning Building a 'Nautical tree fort',but you could install a crows nest that has a canvas over part of it,and a ladder/rope ladder going upto it.
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