By Ted Kilsdonk - Cherry Hill, New Jersey - USA

About a year ago I bought plans for Jim Michalak's Oracle rowboat, as well as some hardware, fasteners, and tools. I wanted a fast rowing boat that I could use with my two young kids.

Three boys in a boat

The boat went together well enough - the delays came from working outside, then from moving house, then from work pressures. I first splashed the unpainted hull in late July, and finished the boat in late August. I named it Asphodel, because I just like the word. I painted it pale yellow for visibility.

First launch

One interesting note. Neither my wife nor I trusts me around power tools. So the only power tools I used were the cordless drill and a hand-held jigsaw to cut the holes for the hatches. All the rest was done with a cheap pull saw from the big box store, chisels, and a Stanley block plane.

Boat parts

Compared to the original plan, I decked over the bow and stern for flotation - very important with kids aboard. I also added locations for the bow and stern tie-downs. The big brass handle from Duckworks now works to: hold the boat onto the car, dolly the boat around, and attach the bow painter.

Asphodel tied to the top of the car

The original plan was for a boat that I could dolly up and down a 200 yard steep muddy hill to launch. We then moved away from that hill and lake, but I find it easy to load, unload, and launch solo just using the dolly. I could lift the boat over my head solo until I added the final paint and brasswork. That took the weight just out of my comfort zone, but it is still an easy 2-man lift.

A model was built first

The boat is made out of 5mm occume plywood, with the seams and bottoms taped as listed in the plans. I had a terrible time getting the seams to feather, and ended up applying the rule of "two coats then move on". I have pine backing braces behind the four cleats you see. The rubrail on the transom contains a slot for the rear tie-down.

Going together

I ended up making the wales out of poplar, after which I discovered that poplar rots almost as easily as occume! I gave the wales a couple of coats of painted on epoxy before varnishing them. I suspect that they will last as long as I keep the varnish up and the boat mostly dry.

Boys in the boat

So far I have used it on the Jersey shore (see photo below), in the Cooper River, and on the lake that I originally designed it for. I am very happy with the way the boat handles wakes and chop. I am using some 6-foot oars I bought at auction, and am completing a set of 7 1/2 foot oars to Jim's plans.

An evening row along the Jersey shore.

I am thinking about adding a low sailing rig - probably a sprit yawl of 40 to 50 square feet. It won't sail as well as a dedicated sailboat, but it will mean that I won't have to agonize over which boat to bring on vacation.


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