Duckworks - Vintage
The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

This champion "little ship" is easy to
build, sail, handle, own and love.

by William H. Short
Reprinted from "Build 20 Small Boats" - 1966

The Annual San Francisco Trans-Bay Pelican Race has already become a popular classic. On June 11, 1966, the big event attracted Pelicans from. all over California and Washington, and forty-two Pelicans participated. The race to San Francisco from Sausalito and return now includes a windward leg to test the Pelican's tacking ability. She is smart to windward, too. Not a single Pelican capsized or met any trouble this year, although the afternoon breezes were fresh as ever.

Throughout the planning research for the Pelican, the designer kept firmly in mind the challenge of San Francisco Bay's strong winds and rough water. At the same time he was aiming at a design simple to handle—and fast. The Pelican is a little craft capable of safely crossing San Francisco Bay's main ship channel west of Alcatraz (the weather side) from Marin to San Francisco in the strong afternoon winds. On the face of it, none of this seems impressive, until the size and type of boat is known—a stalwart 12-foot centerboarder.

Chloe, the original Pelican, passed all her heavy-weather channel tests with flying colors. An article appearing in Rudder, May 1963, thoroughly describes her sailing characteristics. Briefly, her great stability and buoyancy are created by combining the lines of the famous Banks fishing dory with the Oriental sampan. Foredecks, side decks and ample stern deck, make her exceptionally dry. Real coamings around the entire cockpit complete her corkiness. The combination of resilient lug rig and the great flare and freeboard of her beamy topsides make her outstandingly safe.

The Pelican can be sailed either as a lug cat or lug stoop rig. The regular cat lug is not changed in any way, nor is the mast shifted. Big and long, the plywood centerhoard can he swung forward enough to balance the helm nicely, when sailing with the jib. In brisk winds the mainsail is certainly all that is needed. (72 sq. ft. main, not counting
large roach, and 33 sq. ft. in the jib.) She will plane and surf serenely, often when larger boats are starting to seek shelter.


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Basically, the hull is formed of three sheets of plywood; only one piece for the bottom and one panel for each side. These three sheets are joined together by a transom bow and a transom, stern, and two longitudinals or "chine logs" (running fore and aft inside—to connect the dory bottom to the flaring sides). An interesting fringe benefit in the joinery work lies in these chine logs; their bevel angle or flare angle is CONSTANT clear fore and aft, from stem to stern. So the chines can be ordered pre-bevelled from the mill, and this eliminates a lot of hand faring or bevel adjusting labor.

Pelicans are built upside down. upon their simple (five-part) jig. Her bow and stern transoms do double duty as hull end forms while she is building on her jig. There are four mold forms (made of 2 x 4's and 2 x 6's, these stay with the jig). The four mold forms and the big 2 x 12 strongback complete the building jig. No lofting is necessary. Pelican lofts herself. The bevel angles given in the blueprints for her chines and transom frames render it unnecessary to loft any part of her. All bevels and dimensions have been thoroughly proven.

Pelicans are built upside down on simple jig.
Transom bow and stern are end forms.

After the 6" wide laminated plywood keelson is pulled down on the strongback with wires and turnbuckles, or ''Spanish. windlasses" (from underneath. the jig) and transoms attached via their knees to keelson; the prebevelled chines are bent into place over the jig and attached to transoms. Wire and turnbuckles are used here, too, to hold chines down while work is completed.

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Limber, straight grain air-dried spruce is recommended for these husky
chine logs. Her chine logs are quite large in cross-section for a 12' boat, but it's mighty nice to have a positively Weldwood-glued and bronze-fastened bottom that will last a lifetime. Douglas fir chines have been used, but because of its stiffness, this material had to be laminated on 'the jig to facilitate the bending operation. Note the unorthodox but very strong and simple method of securing the chine ends to transoms with chine stopper blocks of plywood, rather than notching out transom frames. This new method eliminates a lot of awkward bevel notching, joinery work and also guarantees a wider faying surface of transom frame near edge of chine to prevent chances of leaking.

Next, the 2-foot wide 3/8" thick plywood side panels are attached to the chines and the transoms. Then the single, 3/8" -thick 4-foot wide bottom panel is fastened in place on keelson and chines; it overlaps the side panel. This ''planking job'' is glued and bronze boat-nailed to keelson, to chines and transoms. Bronze "Everhold" or "Anchorfast" serrated boat nails are faster and much easier to use than screws and better holding in most areas. Large screws, however, are used in very "springy" places, like fastening the forward ends of panels to the transom frames where one cannot easily hold down work while nailing.

Sides are 2ft wide 3/8" plywood panels
which are glued and bronze-nailed in place.

The 6-inch wide plywood keelson, composed of two layers of half-inch plywood, laminated down one layer at a time, is broad enough to allow very wide trunk bedlogs to secure to it. And the laminated down, trunk bedlogs, provide 2-inch wide surface-to-surface contact with keelson, guaranteeing watertight integrity and tremendous laminated strength. These bedlogs are laminated down to keelson with bronze screws. C-clamps are placed through centerboard slot to create thorough pressure while gluing and screwing down.

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Trunk headledges are not thrust down clear through bottom of boat as in orthodox practice, but are buried and thoroughly glued 2 inches deep between the husky bedlogs and stand on keelson. Thus there is no end grain of headledges exposed through bottom. Centerboard trunk panel sides are glued and screwed to bedlogs and headledges and they, too, have a 2-inch bury and surface to surface contact to their bedlogs. Forward headledge is secured to main deck beam. After headledge is secured with wide knee to keelson and to floor timber.

After the waterproof glue dries, she is taken off the jig, turned right side up, precut sheer clamp and the four laminated deck beams installed. These parts and the centerboard bedlogs and trunk are all installed after the boat is upright and off the jig.

After single-sheet 4ft. wide bottom is
fastened, turn hull upright for top work.

Footlings are glued fore and aft to the inside of the bottom of the boat to further stiffen and provide good footing.

The deck beams are butted into sheer clamp and attached with plywood knees to vertical frame batten beneath sheer clamp. The only purpose of the side frame battens is to support and secure deck beams, their knees, and the side deck knees, and the thwart riser and
its knees.

The external stempost is not only a strengthening member, but is used as a gammon head to snap the plank type (plywood) bowsprit down over. Also the forestay tang secures to it. And this stempost makes trailering easier for it nestles into the standard trailer's winch-post bowsaddle.

The mast is 2" x 3'' spruce. Boom and gaff are from 2'' x 2'' spruce. Approximately 12-inch wide plywood coamings reach deep into the cockpit and provide great box beam and cantilever strength to the entire hull, for they combine with the side deck knees, completing triangular box beam rigidity.

The shrouds are 3/8-inch nonstretch dacron rope, or nonstretch Samson Yacht Braid. The upped end of the shroud is hung over the mast and onto the hound. The lower end has an eye splice around a thimble so that it can be secured by the old lanyard method to the chain plates' eye shackle. (Both ends of the shroud are eye-spliced.) There are no gadgets or tricky hardware in her rigging. Her chain plates are secured to the outside of the hull, bolted with three bolts through large half-inch plywood plate with washers and nuts on the inside. The entire boat, with passengers, could be picked up with a crane, hooked on to a single shroud.

The main halyard is nonstretch 3/8-inch dacron rope. The main halyard block is a 5-inch shell and 2-3/4-inch diameter sheave, a big enough sheave so as not to chafe the halyard through, as little sheaves will do. This important block is hung by a 3/8-inch diameter dacron strap, choked on to the mast over the shrouds hounds with a lark'shead bend.

The bowsprit is very quickly rigged. When sailing the jib does not have to be rigged or set to keep the bowsprit from sagging, for the bowsprit is thrust into place under a hold down block on the forward edge of the mast. The regular forestay stays with the boat whether sailing cat rigged or sloop rigged. (This forestay is attached to the stempost tang.) The double jib sheets lead outside and around this forestay and the shrouds. The bowsprit bobstay is permanently spliced to the outer end of the bowsprit but has a quick release Pelican hook that can be secured into the towing ring eye at the bottom of the bow transom.