I think I built WeeVee in 1993. I still have the original.
A DEEP V DINK...
I had done several flat bottomed and
multichined boats by the time I was thinking of WeeVee
and wanted some first hand experience with a V bottom.
I decided to go with a small dink although I'm pretty
sure that experiences gained from a tiny boat might not
apply to larger boats. I kept the length to 7-1/2' so
it would fit on one length of plywood. I kept the beam
at 3-1/2' which had worked so well with some previous
designs. In order to get any sort of volume of displacement
I had to make the V quite deep as you see in the lines.
9" deep, in fact. I had been used to sailing and
rowing boats with 3" or 4" of draft where I
could usually drive the boat onto the beach and step ashore
with dry feet or at worst step into ankle deep water.
But the lines show an advantage to the
V bottom. With WeeVee I made the V deep enough that the
chines were kept above the water in any normal loading.
I thought that would give very good water flow over the
bottom. If the boat is kept from side slipping, the flow
lines should never pass over any seams, just from bow
to stern over the smooth gentle curve of the bottom panels.
I also think there is an advantage in water flow even
when heeled in sailing. The V boat will sail with just
one chine in the water where a flattie will sail with
two (until it heels enough to fly a chine) and hard chines
in the flow usually stir up a fuss. That's why I think
shallow V sailboats like Y Fliers and Lightnings seem
to sail so much better than dead flat boats.
WeeVee was a taped seam project from
1/4" plywood. She has no internal structure at all
- no ribs or longitudinal stiffeners or keelson. The arcs
in the plywood stiffen the panels.
Although the panels have no stiffeners,
they are fastened to a stiff top perimeter. The basis
of the stiff perimeter is a wide wale, 3 plies of 3/4"
lumber as shown below. The trick of it is to make the
outermost ply wide and in effect making a channel or I
beam situation of the wale. Most traditional wales would
have the wide ply against the skin for looks, but here
the wide ply is outside for stiffness. I call this the
"Carnell Flange" because Dave Carnell kept after
me until I used it. The ends of the hull are plated with
3/4' lumber across the wales tying the whole structure
together. The system was a total success even though the
stripped boat weighs about 45 pounds!
The actual building of WeeVee involved
5 mm lauan underlayment from the lumberyard, seams filleted
with automotive Bondo and taped with polyester resin.
Then the lumber parts were glued with Weldwood powdered
glue. None of these things are supposed to work but WeeVee
is still in the shed 5 years later with no repairs and
no sign of needing any. Indoor storage surely makes a
difference. I really never know what to tell people about
materials because of the varied successes and failures
that happen. The only thing I can say is that if I start
reading somewhere that only one material or method works,
I stop reading.
I had the Moby gaff rig in the shed
so designing it into WeeVee was pretty easy. I used my
usual pivoting leeboard, easily adapted here because the
boat had vertical sides and needed only a minimal lower
guard. For the top guard I took advantage of the wide
Carnell flange wale and simply added one more lumber ply
in the area of the leeboard and sawed a slot through the
There were two experiments in the rig
for me. One was the use of lashings to secure the mast
at the partner. So instead of building up the mast partner
board to sufficient width to allow a full hole for the
mast, there is just a half width slot for the mast with
two 1" diameter pegs right in front of the slot.
The idea is to push the mast into the slot and secure
it with a rope that belays around and around the pegs
and the mast. So there are no metal fittings. I had seen
the system work well on Marc Smith's Birdwatcher.
Second, I used a shallow wide rudder
of the sort that was becoming common. It had an endplate.
The rudder was hung with rope hinges instead of metal
ones. The ropes were secured to the inside of the hull,
passed through holes in the stern (the lower rope was
fastened to the skeg) and then through holes in the front
edge of the rudder. They eventually passed out through
the rudder sides to cleats. It fastened on pretty quickly.
I took WeeVee out on a windy spring
day but was careful to keep it in very sheltered water.
The first thing I saw was that the deep V made her hard
to get into, at least from a beach. She had to be walked
out into 9" deep water before boarding. Usually with
a flat bottomed boat you can find a way to get going without
getting your feet wet. Later I found that by tilting the
boat over about 20 degrees one way or the other you can
make it sort of flat bottomed for a while for getting
closer to the beach. But if you look at the photo of the
boat above you will see there is almost no freeboard in
the stern corner when thus tilted and I have to be careful
while doing the tilt.
While rowing, with my weight secure
in the center, the boat has fine stability. As for a seat,
I use a loose board that wedges itself in place from my
weight. In fact the usual loose board is the leeboard
which would not be used while rowing. Eventually I cut
out another loose plywood board that was only used as
a seat. You don't want to stand up in a craft like this.
WeeVee is very fast under oars for her
length. She'll go 4 mph with good effort in good conditions,
about what I'd expect from a 12 foot rowing boat. A case
could be made for WeeVee as an exercise boat because she
is smooth and fast enough to be interesting and yet is
very cheap and takes up so little space. I found there
were many small lakes, say a mile or two long but narrow,
where the boat was ideal. At 45 pounds it is easy to carry
it on a shoulder from the parking lot to the dock and
plop it into the water. At a dock the boarding problems
that occur while beaching are not problems. Then I can
cover the whole lake in an hour.
The boat is actually OK in rough water.
It sort of hops over waves. But keep in mind the low freeboard
and total lack of flotation. Swamping it means going for
a swim with no chance of self rescue.
And WeeVee could hold both me and my
wife, say 280 pounds of people. Freeboard or rowing effort
were not problems once underway. But getting two folks
arranged is more than twice the challenge of one. When
the passenger sits in the stern before the skipper, the
bow cocks up way high! We were careful and it never took
water over the stern.
I just thought of one more small experiment.
Instead of buying rowlock sockets, I took advantage of
the wide flat wale to make my own and shown below. Essentially
they are 1/8" thick aluminum plates bolted top and
bottom to the wale. A hole is then drilled for a standard
rowlock. The aluminum I used was simply that of a standard
aluminum yardstick, about $3 at the lumberyard, the kind
meant for drywall work but very handy for everything.
These sockets have worked very well with almost no wear.
A bit of grease helps, of course. Phil Bolger had done
the same thing with one of his fancy rowing boats only
he used stainless plates.
Boy, what can I say!
The mast lashing partner was marginal.
It worked well on Birdwatcher and my own Pencilbox design
because the step and partner are well apart. But on WeeVee
the partner is maybe 10" above the step so the loads
there can get quite high because the "couple"
is so short. The rope lashings were always strong enough
but getting all the slack out of the ropes is about impossible
and any small amount of slack in the closely spaced supports
made for big defections of the mast. It was always a struggle
and I never tried it again.
For essentially the same reason the
rope lashings of the rudder were not a success. Now matter
how tight the lashings were at the start, after a bit
of a sail they loosened and the rudder got floppy.
And this boat pretty well taught me
to not use a gaff sail on a cartopper. It takes a while
to rig everything, although once rigged you have great
control with a rope at each corner. Repeatable simplicity
is so important on a small boat. Quick rigging will mean
the boat gets used a lot more. And on a boat so small
that your weight placement controls the boat, the idea
of going forward to tweak the rig is silly.
The deep V made the boat hard to sit
it while sailing. My butt always slid to the middle which
is always where the deepest puddle was. Eventually I used
my new rowing seat board closer to the stern. I'd sit
there with my butt to one side and my feet forward in
the deep V. Upon tacking, I'd slide my butt to the other
side. All this had to be done smoothly and well timed
because the V made the boat quite a balancing act under
I've mentioned the problems with the
rope hinges in the rudder, but there was another problem.
The original shallow broad rudder worked fine close hauled
or on a reach, but on a brisk downwind it couldn't hold
the boat. She would spin around into the wind. I took
to "tacking" downwind and avoided straight downwind
runs. I tried wider endplates and an endplate on top of
the blade because it was plain to see that water was swirling
over the top of the rudder. I gave up on that rudder and
made a deep plywood drop rudder like I normally use and
hung it with metal fittings. Great improvement! Full control
under all conditions.
Well, I can't help but think that WeeVee
was not suitable for sailing by anyone except the skateboard
crowd. After the first year I parked the sail rig and
it has stayed parked.