The Open Weekender
by Bill Paxton

I’m still not sure what came over me during the long winter of ‘98-’99, but suddenly I had this terrible itch to build a sailboat. If you’ve ever been so inflicted then you know it is not to be denied, so I set about to find some plans. My criteria was simple:

  • trailerable
  • daysailer
  • beautiful
  • easy to build since I was a total novice.

It didn’t take long before I landed upon the Weekender by Stevenson Projects. I fell in love with her romantic lines, and her plans came with a how-to-build video. The hook was set deep, and I ordered the plans.

The Weekender is a wonderful boat as designed, but I just couldn’t leave well-enough alone. I got looking at the plans and decided the cockpit was too small for my bride and I. (We’re both over 6’ tall.) Concurrently I discovered an ad in WoodenBoat for the Haven 12 ½ . Something in my brain snapped, and I decided to remove the cabin from the Weekender, run the seats forward, and make her an open boat. There was some precedent for this. Bob Butler, who had already built two Weekenders, built a third Weekender as an open boat, and created my dreamboat. Since the Weekender has no centerboard case (it has a keelson that runs the length of the boat), and is flat bottomed, the flat sole makes every inch of the layout usable.

If I had known anything about boat design, I would have been worried that I was weakening the hull be removing the cabin and its corresponding bulkhead. But ignorance was bliss, and I proceeded, unencumbered by the thought process. As it turns out, the seats added plenty of stiffness to the hull. I’ve since had her out in serious chop, and she’s held together like a champ.

It turns out that the regular Weekender and my open version use the same amount and type of plywood. The cockpit coaming is ¼” marine ply, just like the plans specify for the cabin sides.

After seven months of building we named her Surprise and launched her on June 5, 2000. The boat turned out to be a great daysailer. She goes from trailer to water in about 15 minutes, unless curious passersby want to know all about her. Raising the folding mast is a snap since I can walk right up to the mast without having to get on the deck. She comfortably sails four adults, giving us plenty of room to sprawl in the 10’ cockpit. She is exactly what I had hoped for.

Although the elimination of the cabin was the most radical departure from the plans there were other minor deviations, all designed to make our sailing experience more enjoyable.

  • I switched to a tiller instead of a wheel. The wheel is necessitated by the relatively tight cockpit on the Weekender, but since I had all the space I wanted, I went with a tiller which allows me to shift my weight farther forward if I so choose.
  • The seat hatches were moved from the vertical face of the seats supports to the top.

  • Instead of attaching the mainsail to the mast with mast hoops, I laced the sail to the mast. It saved me the trouble of making hoops, and works just fine. (Last winter I sailed on a 76’ schooner out of Key West, and darned if her big sails weren’t laced to the masts.)
  • A common complaint among Weekender sailors is that the open gaff jaws get hung up on the shrouds when the mainsail is let out while running. In my book, not being able to haul in the mainsail when you want to is a big problem. I solved it by making the jaws longer and boxing in the open end.

  • The plans call for an uphaul and a downhaul for the rudder. I only used the uphaul when the boat was on the trailer. In the water, the wooden rudder floats naturally. My problem was that when I was approaching a dock I had one hand on the tiller, one on the main sheet, and needed a third hand to ease the rudder’s downhaul so the rudder wouldn’t drag on the bottom. I figured it was easier to re-rig the rudder than grow a third arm. I used Jim Michalak’s plan to add weight to the rudder so it would stay down by itself, and naturally rise with the contour of the lake bottom. I ran the uphaul along the top of the tiller so it’s handy when I need it.
  • I wanted to make sure my boat wouldn’t sink if I managed to flip it. With that in mind I put individual polyethylene air chambers (sealed, empty milk jugs) behind the seat backs. They are secured in place so they never rattle around. I also made the forward bulkhead solid instead of making large cutouts in it as the plans describe. This creates a large air cavity in the nose.

If you want to see more, check out my building and sailing photos. There you’ll also find pictures of the beautiful Weekender Julie K, built by Dave Richards of Rochester, MN.