Portage Pram

From AN article in Small Craft Advisor: After reviewing and comparing four dozen pram designs, one stood out as a personal favorite – ideal in size and capabilities for our own camp-cruising adventures, as a tow-behind dinghy that’ll accommodate two adults and their gear.

This pram was designed by naval architect William (Bill) Peterson of Maine, back in the 1970s. Bill and his well-known father, yacht designer Murray G. Peterson, had built a beautiful little 28-foot schooner, Susan – considered Murray G. Peterson’s greatest design achievement – and shortly before his death, the elder Peterson had described a pram he planned to design and build for the schooner. Following his father’s passing, Bill Peterson undertook the pram design and had their boatbuilding crew do what he called “knitting work” on the pram, cutting and fitting parts during slower times in the shop. The resulting pram was a true gem – lapstrake-planked in mahogany, to match the schooner.




Bill Peterson has maintained Murray Peterson Associates since his father’s passing. One of the prams was acquired 34 years ago by Small Craft Advisor reader George Kruzynski of British Columbia. George bought the little 6′ 8″ Peterson pram built by Peter Legere in Squamish BC. Peter built the boat, one of a series then called “Willow Pram”, with Bruynzeel mahogany, red oak transoms,white oak frames, skeg, inwales and knees. Silicon bronze and copper fastened the dinghy and it has been cherished ever since.

Drawing is of the Portage Pram kit available from SCA.

Long story shorter: After being impressed by George’s pram, then learning more about the design from Bill Peterson, we were happy to be appointed as an outlet for some of Bill Peterson’s small-craft designs including what we’ve branded the Portage Pram. Through Duckworks we currently have large-scale plans available for $100 plus postage, and by July we hope to release the first pre-cut Portage Pram kits for stitch-and-glue construction. The kit version will feature precut and pre-beveled parts; will weigh only 40 pounds; will be unsinkable with fore-and-aft watertight compartments, and will have two rowing stations so that trim can be maintained with one or two adults aboard. The new pram kit will include virtually everything needed to complete the boat: epoxy products, fiberglass cloth and tape, wood flour and silica powder, mixing containers, chip brushes, copper stitching wire, oarlocks and miscellaneous other items. (If you already have some leftover epoxy products or glass cloth in your home workshop, you can buy only what you need from Duckworks Boat Builders Supply located in the same building as Small Craft Advisor offices.)

Below is a photo of George Kruzynski’s 34-year-old lapstrake pram, along with a computer-generated illustration of our new featherweight Portage Pram kit. Dimensions of the kit pram will be identical to the original lapstrake version: 6′ 8″ overall length with a beam of 42″.

Built in the traditional plank-on-frame method, the 6′ 8″ Portage Pram (originally called Sandy) weighs about 60 pounds. Duckworks is offering full-size paper plans and building-sequence instructions for the original Peterson tender designed for lapstrake construction in plywood. Each set of plans is $100.

The Portage Pram has received excellent design reviews over the decades, from owners and experts in small-boat design. The late Dick Wagner, founding director of The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle – a critic who generally distrusted stubby boats – penned the following comments in a letter to one of the Peterson-designed pram’s owners, George Kruzynski of North Saanich, B.C.:

“I’ve always preached that a short, fat boat cannot be good at rowing, but yesterday I rowed a pram that was 6′ 8″ long and I liked it very much. This little Peterson-designed pram was a great boat, despite my dogmatic prejudices. It accelerated quickly, tracked better than a Gloucester Gull, carried well between strokes and made no wake at hull speed. I don’t know why it worked so well, but it sure did! This little pram is a hell of a good boat!” – Dick Wagner, The Center for Wooden Boats.

Above two photos are plans-built Portage Pram.

Quite an endorsement for the Portage Pram…enough that we’re starting construction on our own Portage Pram immediately, and it’ll serve as lightweight tender to our 16-foot pilothouse sloop when we’re on future cruising adventures.

Plans include one 24 x 36 sheet with necessary drawings, measurements and offsets, as well as a 5-page building guide that includes strong back drawing.

Plans for the Portage Pram from Duckworks.

1 Comment

  1. I named my first snow plow tractor “Sancho Panza,” when we moved from Sunny San Diego to Snowy and Cold Almostcanada. I figure that trundling snow from where God put it, to where I think it might be more convenient to store it, seems the ultimate in jousting at windmills. I suspect that shoreboats are often called upon for such “yes, sir” duties as well.

    Best of luck with that little packet. We’ll all be watching closely for her splashing. Soon?

    Dan Rogers
    “Miss Kathleen & Plan-B”
    Diamond Lake, WA

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