Sailboat for a beginner - a couple of questions

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by solarsea, Mar 22, 2016.

  1. solarsea
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    solarsea Junior Member

    Hi folks,

    I'm Stan and I'm currently enrolled in a skipper course. Once I'm through I intend to build a small sailboat and use it for a while to gain some experience.

    I would like to know whether what I am considering is sound, as my decisions are based primarily on what I've read on the net, and as we know articles and reality differ quite a lot :) So thanks for reading and replying!

    * I'll be limiting myself to a 15ft boat - that's a legal limit here, anything larger has to comply with a number of regulations and be designed by a qualified ship engineer. So question number one - can a 15ft boat be seaworthy ? I'll be sailing her in the Black Sea, its not exactly open ocean but isn't protected waters either.

    * As for the boat itself, it seems to me that Ljungstrom's boats are one of the most beginner-friendly types so I intend to follow suit closely. Rigging will be as-is on a Ljungstroms, but I'm having some thoughts about the hull material and the use of a fin keel. It seems that ferro-cement is both the easiest and the cheapest way to do a hull - would it be feasible for a small, 15ft boat ?

    * Keel-wise, I think I'll go leeboards instead. It would be advantageous to be able to land it safely on beaches and traverse shallow waters and I'll be able to toy with their size and placement much more easily. Sounds like the better alternative to me, doesn't it ?

    Once again, thanks for reading all of it!

  2. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Ferrocement is very hard to build, specially on a small boat where the shell is thin. Plywood is the easiest and cheapest material you can build a boat with. In general, inexperienced builders take years to finish a boat; most give up and never finish. If you are looking for a bargain, find a used boat that needs cosmetic work. Eskimo hunt whales in the Arctic from kayaks of that length. Most open or partly decked sailboats of that size will not be ocean going boats though.
  3. Martin B.
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    Martin B. Junior Member

    Stan, have a look at Ross Lillestone's 15' long First Mate design.
    A good looking craft, relatively easy to build and light to move about. You should learn everything you need to know about building and sailing in a First Mate.
  4. Jamie Kennedy
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    Jamie Kennedy Senior Member

    I recommend against the Ljungstrom rig, especially for a small boat, especially for your first boat. I think you will learn to sail much more effectively in a boat with a fairly conventional rig, like an up-sized Optimist Pram rig, or a rig you could buy used sails from a racing class, like the 470, and use them on a gunter rig, on a somewhat heavier and more stable boat.

    For offshore dinghy cruising, you want an aft deck, to side decks, and a forward cuddy. This gives you four separate buoyancy and storage compartments, and reduces and centralizes the amount of water that can fill the cockpit. Still, the cockpit should have a raised bottom for most of it's area, and be self-draining. The space under the cockpit could be filled with water for ballast, or water bottles. As you empty you fresh water bottles you can fill them with sea-water. This will give you fresh water, and keep your tanks clean.

    For additional stability you can use a steel centreplate, grinded of rust, and coated with epoxy. With a grinder you can make the leading edge half-round, and the trailing edge bevelled. This would require a long centerboard trunk, but it gives you a place to rest your feet and divides the cockpit in half.

    Here is an example of a 14 foot dinghy cruiser. You could also buy an old fibreglass boat and modify it and repair it, but it's also nice to build fresh. It reduces sailmaking costs by using sails from an Enterprise Dinghy.

    There are many more designs out there, but you might see what boats are popular in Bulgaria that you might be able to get some used sails from. If plywood isn't as cheap as lumber where you are, you should look at strip-building, or even conventional sailing dories using planks. You should also look at modifying and repairing an old abandoned fibreglass boat if you can find one. You can still add lost of wood trim.
  5. Jamie Kennedy
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    Jamie Kennedy Senior Member

    I see the Optimist Dinghy is popular in Bulgaria, as it is most places. If used sails and rigs are available, they could make great mizzens. At 35 square feet, to might be enough for a 15 foot schooner rigged sailing dory. It's a powerful little sail, and you can always do a little rowing besides. Or you could build a sailing canoe, or a pocket cruiser like the Paradox. Have fun.
  6. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Before building a boat, you should sail as many different boats as you can. Your ideas about sailing will evolve quickly, as you gain experience and the thoughts you currently have, some of which aren't well founded, will evolve just as quickly.

    Don't even consider ferro cement for a small boat. It has way too many things against its recommendation to list, frankly.

    Ljungstrom designs aren't for the novice sailor and don't fair well, against more conventional rigs. There's good reasons the major manufactures didn't adopt this rig.

    Building is considerably more costly than purchasing. With the glut of used boats on the current markets, you'd be best advised to cut your teeth on a simple, small production boat. You can fix it up as you learn about things, eventually sell it and decide if you want to build.
  7. SukiSolo
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    SukiSolo Senior Member

    I'm with PAR on this. The only thing I'd like to add is that weight of the boat can be an issue, heavy is slow and hard to handle ashore. Light is easier to deal with, so something moderate to light is probably where you should aim. Then performance and ease of handling is rewarded much more as you improve.

    Sail as many diferent craft as possible to get a feel for what you want and also probably go towards something that will stretch you slightly now, because it won't after some months...;) Your experience will change your choices as you evolve as a sailor.

    As for building, well, light ply has an awful lot going for it. However you will spend quite a while before you can get on the water. Better if you can get a second hand boat to sail while you are building, otherewise you will be off the water too long.
  8. Jamie Kennedy
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    Jamie Kennedy Senior Member

    Very good point. Even the most brilliant naval architects need to be sailors first. Definitely start out in small boats though. Adult sized Opti would be ideal. Instead of 100 pound boat, 8 feet long, 35 square feet, 100 pound crew, why not a 200 pound boat, 10 feet long, 70 square feet, 200 pound crew? Or bring a friend and some gear, and some water ballast, for something 800 pounds with gear and crew and ballast, 15 feet long, 105 square feet. Why should the kids have all the fun eh?
  9. Jamie Kennedy
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    Jamie Kennedy Senior Member

  10. Skyak
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    Skyak Senior Member

    Welcome Stan.

    the advice given above is all correct and from excellent sources. There is a counterpoint to present -or more specifically there are builder/sailors who get great satisfaction from boats that are masters of survival in harsh conditions rather than speed.

    Paradox is an interesting design that has logged a very impressive number of miles in more challenging conditions than you would expect -including the north sea and crossing the Gulf Stream on numerous occasions.

    Manie B. is building a 10ft boat for the southern ocean -he is both practical and entertaining -

    If you are more concerned about the cost of performance check out

    for 14ft race boats for under $600 from scratch.
  11. solarsea
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    solarsea Junior Member

    Thank you all for the replies and opinions. I will take them to heart, or try at the very least :)

    The Paradox looks like a really nice boat, I had a good read about chine runners and boy they sound good - to have *some* windward stability without sacrificing cockpit space or having to raise/lower leeboards while able to dock on beach sound perfect to my usecase.

    I will spend more time reading up to plywood construction techniques and try a thing or two.

    Thanks again! :)
  12. captainjo
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    captainjo Junior Member

  13. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I don't think a cruiser of any kind should be his first boat. The best chance for learning to sail and its fundamentals, is a small day boat. I think the Opti is too small and he will not learn enough. A small sloop, preferably with a mast that can also be stepped forward, so it can be sailed as a cat in big wind or as he just learns.

    The idea is to learn and a dinghy will teach him quickly, reward him with some performance as he grows, punish him for serious mistakes and he will not outgrow the boat in a single summer, like an 8' or 10' puddle jumper might. if the boat is designed as a trainer, with "expansion", he can replace the rig with a taller one and continue learning.

    As to the sea worthiness stuff, well he'll learn quickly enough that little boats in big seas, is a bad hair day to say the least. There are very few truly sea worthy boats at 15' (read none). I have a Cat. A sloop at 18' (on deck), but it's no dinghy, nor easy for the novice to build.

    Once he's got a few seasons under his keel, then maybe he might consider a build of some sort, after he's figured out what he likes, needs, desires, etc., of which currently he hasn't a clue. Building a boat, requires you know what you want and have the experience to make the multiple decisions, about any particular design you might be interested in.

    Simply put, get some sailing experience, before even thinking about a self build. You haven't any idea what's well suited for you now and you can just as easily build a boat that you'll hate to use, as one you'll love. The only determining factor is your experience level.
  14. Jamie Kennedy
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    Jamie Kennedy Senior Member

    The mirror dinghy is incredibly versatile, and at 100 pounds can be cartopped.
    This fellow sailed one from North Wales to the Black Sea.


    Used to be a plywood kit, in the 70s for about $250.
    Apparently you can still buy plywood kits, and fibreglass is now an option.
    As with most boats, buying used is usually the cheapest option.

    wikipedia reference...

  15. Squidly-Diddly
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    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

    I'd start with a Sunfish. Just under 15ft and a world wide best seller.

    Lots of FREE SUPPORT from massive user base.

    Able to plane and lots of flotation built in.

    You don't want to be going in bad weather anyways.

    You should be able to buy the whole rig in good working order for about $1000 anywhere in the world. Trailer, boat, sails, and a few extras. The boat will still be light enough two men can easily take it off the trailer and lean it up against the house....then you can use the trailer for hauling other stuff.

    Snipe is just over 15ft but I'm guessing it would be A-OK since its obviously a professional design.

    I don't think the dagger board is a problem unless you plan on lots of fast sailing on a ROCKY bottom.

    I'd get a standard, well sorted out boat like a Sunfish, then, if you still got the "build my own" bug, build your own lee-board rig for it, maybe out of flat canoe paddles. Maybe a combo Lee-board/spud-pole dual purpose rig for shallow water.

    I'm pretty sure there are a few experimental sailing rig plans for Sunfish. Sunfish is like the VW Beetle of sail boats.

    I do get the "shallow water" thing. I prefer sailing, paddling or rowing very close to shore. Its just more scenic and I'm wary of any water I not able to swim to shore from.
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