Chebacco News 10

Chebacco News


Number 10, July 1996


‘Sylvester’ hits the water!

Bill Samson names ‘Sylvester’

Your editor’s sheet ply Chebacco-20, ‘Sylvester’, hit the water for the first time on 6th May 1996. This is the first Chebacco to be launched in the UK and is now nodding at her mooring in the Tay estuary, here in Bonnie Scotland. “Why ‘Sylvester’?” I seem to hear you say. (Or, possibly, “What a bloody awful name for a boat.”) Since the Chebacco is technically a cat yawl, and catboats are almost non-existent on this side of the pond, I decided to call her after a well-known cat. My tender, when launched will, of course, be ‘Tweety Pie’. I’ll now bore you with some excruciating detail.

It’s always been a worry to me that she might not get out of the garden. I’d made models and tried it out with them, but it was never clear that it’d get around the dogleg by the garage. I planned to hire a crane to lift it over the garage, but when the crane arrived, it was 4” too wide to fit down the drive. After a couple of nights tossing and turning I got a rusty old dinghy trailer, with collapsed suspension, and moved bits of it around so that the Chebacco might fit. She did fit, and was even nose heavy when I put some junk up for’ard in the cuddy. She JUST made it past the garage (an inch to spare) with help from my glamorous assistants, Sheila and Esther. Since the trailing arrangement didn’t quite meet the letter (or even the spirit) of the law, I decide to launch when traffic was minimal – at 5 am. Three friends, Louis, Donald and Paul were mad enough to get up at that ungodly hour to help. I trailed her down to the harbour (just a mile from home) without incident, at 5 mph. I drove back home for the tender (a very heavy 15 foot skiff) and spars, sails, outboard etc. The mast was raised (Phil’s slot works well) and gaff, boom, mizzenmast and sails were put in place. Everything was raised on shore to make sure the ropes weren’t tangled up.

Sails up on dry land.

She slipped quietly into the water and we moored her in the harbour temporarily:

Moored in the harbour at Broughty Ferry, Scotland

We then motored upriver to my mooring (which had been prepared previously) hooked her on and nervously left her to it.

First impressions:

Several of you have asked me “What about the weather helm?”. I am happy to assert that it hasn’t been a problem for me. I’ve been out sailing in ‘Sylvester’ nine times to date, in conditions ranging from flat calm to force 5. Weather helm only becomes noticable when she heels a lot. When I’ve had a crew sitting on the weather side with me this has never happened. Sailing single-handed she begins to heel uncomfortably under full sail at about force 4 and the answer is either to spill wind or take in a reef.

On the wind she points high and makes good progress to windward. I’ve sailed in company with ‘Wayfarer’ dinghies and do as well as them to windward, and somewhat better off the wind. I’ve even sailed alongside a 25 foot (heavy) Bermudan sloop and did better in a force 2/3 wind. I daresay the sloop would have done better in a heavier blow.

For the record, my mainsail has maximum draft about 30% back from the luff and the mizzen is cut dead flat.

Downwind, some concentration is needed in heavy weather to keep her running straight. Her performance is exhilarating when surfing down good sized waves! She has little or no tendency to roll when in a dead run. Gybing is straightforward and gives me no anxiety (even when it is accidental). On the wind, she tacks like a dinghy; with no tendency to stick in irons.

A New Chebacco?

Phil and Susanne wrote to me a few weeks ago:

How much interest do you suppose there would be in a “cruising” version of the Chebacco, with a longer cabin, a shorter cockpit, and a raised deck for more space inside and more reserve buoyancy? . . . It seems offhand to be workable without major changes in the class.

My own view is that the ordinary Chebacco-20 suits me nicely. A nice big cockpit for lots of folk daysailing is worth more to me than a seldom used roomier cabin. On the other hand the big cockpit is a pain in that it isn’t self draining and so I need to fit a cover over it whenever I leave the boat on its mooring. Room in the cabin is adequate for a short-arsed individual like me though I can see the attractions of more head-room and possibly room for cooking, reading charts, permanent potty site and so on. Nevertheless, if I was starting over I’d still go for the sheet ply Chebacco-20.

In order to quickly sound out a sample of Chebacco fans, I sent an email to some of you for your reaction. Here are some of them, in no particular order.

Gil Fizhugh writes:

I think Phil’s proposed cruising Chebacco would be an improvement.

The main drawback of the 20-foot Chebacco now is that they’re awfully cramped for those of us who aren’t “short arsed” [Gil is quoting my own description of my stature back at me – B.S.]. Joan used to enjoy camping. She hasn’t done any since she’s known me because I’m turned off by the whole idea. I’ve thought it might be fun to spend a night in the Chebacco once in a while, dry under the roof and with a potty close to hand. I wouldn’t have to lug my sleeping and cooking accommodations to where I was going to use them, on my back. But the Chebacco cabin is going to be awfully tight.

If the 25-foot plans had been available when I started, I probably would be building it now. I presume the materials would cost 30% or so more, including a bigger engine. Spread out over the number of years I’m managing to fritter away on this project, that’s not a big deal. (If I had to add 30% in a lump sum on top of the already high cost of having a Chebacco commercially built, it would be a very big deal indeed!) The 25-footer has the reserve buoyancy and enough cabin space for two tall people to be comfortable – well, almost. There remains one major problem with the 25-footer: it’s beyond the size and weight that can comfortably be towed by an ordinary car. My boating suddenly gets much more expensive if I have to buy, feed and maintain a Ford Explorer for 100% of my driving, because the Subaru can’t do the job in the 5% of my driving that’s done with a boat on the back end. Not many family cars weigh 2 1/2 tons and have 6-liter V-8’s any more.

So the proposed boat would be roughly a 20-footer with the cabin space of the 25, the sacrifice being a small cockpit instead of a small cabin. This would be a 2-person boat (or singlehander) all the time, because daysailing with more than two adults in a little aft cockpit would put too much weight in the tail, wouldn’t it? Still, if I were starting over, I think I’d prefer such an option – a boat well- balanced for sailing and camping for two, rather than great for sailing for six but cramped for camping for two.

I’m curious about what Phil means by a “cruising” version. If he just means one that’s comfortable for more than one night on board, the proposal is an improvement. But what’s the extra reserve buoyancy for? I hope my boat will be adequately buoyant for sailing in Maine, Cape Cod, the Chesapeake, . . . Is the new one to be an offshore boat? Through the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas? Still an unballasted gunkholer? I shall try to open my mind so Phil can pour his genius in.

Best regards,


Fraser Howell writes: Bill, I agree with you. I like Chebacco as a “camp cruiser”. I don’t like the boxy version of the Chebacco that was shown in P. B.’s latest book, although I have been thinking about a self-bailing cockpit, but that would be a later modification.

Brad ( says:

This sounds like a good idea to me at least. I think if I could only have one boat I’d rather daysail a cruiser than cruise a daysailer.

Jamie Orr writes:

. . . my first reaction is “no thanks”. I think this is because the current version is close to my idea of the perfect boat. Any design is a host of compromises, and I like the choices already made. These are (not in any order of preference):


  • Trailerable – light with no ballast, shallow keel, not more than 20 feet overall.
  • Shallow draft for ease of landing on interesting beaches, islands.
  • Big cockpit – that’s where most of the time is spent – I won’t give that up.
  • Simple to rig – no standing rigging certainly meets that one!
  • Simple and relatively inexpensive to build.
  • A place for the crew to get out of the rain. I feel the boat already has the ability to cruise if helped
  • out by a boom tent or tent ashore. If two can cruise comfortably for 10 days in a 16 foot canoe, a
  • Chebacco should be palatial, even for four. (Mind you, the raised deck sounds like it could be a good
  • idea.)
  • Good looking – the lines caught my eye back in 1991, and I still find them attractive.


Right now I’m still building my Chebacco, so most of my likes and dislikes are based on prejudice, not experience. We like camping, so a minimal approach seems right. Otherwise for serious cruising I would probably look for a larger boat altogether. In that case I would go the whole hog and look for an enclosed head, galley arrangements, and four berths below. I would probably charter a boat like that once a year, and keep the small boat for daysailing the rest of the year.

If I was to dream about a cruising Chebacco, I would abandon the 20 foot limitation – how about a 30-footer with the same proportions and sail plan – maybe an inboard engine, a self-draining cockpit if it could be done while keeping that sheerline . . .

Of course, I’d have to dream up some added cash, too.

Jamie Orr

Bill Parkes says:

What prompted PCB to propose the cruising Chebacco idea? It strikes me as an excellent notion. I very nearly fell for the glass-house version. There is, I think, more cockpit space than I would ever need in the Chebacco-20.

What is he proposing?


  • conventional plywood or lapstrake?
  • long ballast keel (like the glass-house version)?
  • a cabin configuration like the 25?


Happy sailing!



So there we have it. We await developments with interest . . .

Who’d be a boat designer?

Chuck Merrell of Seattle reads Chebacco News. He lives aboard a ‘Jessie Cooper’ that he built himself and is thinking of getting into the boat design business. Reading his letter makes me appreciate what Phil has to put up with! Now read on . . .

Hi Bill,

Having inserted a toe into the idea of the design business (after telling myself I’d never do it), I’ve grown to believe that Phil’s policy of having an unlisted phone number might be a stroke of genius. Ted Brewer also went through an un-listed phone period lately.

As late as yesterday, I had a meeting with a potential dinghy plans customer, and the conversation went like this:

Him: “Gee, that’s a neat design, I’m gonna build one . . . but whatja put that keel on it for? I’d build in a centerboard if for no other reason than the trunk would support the athwartships seat for my girlfriend, and other seats so I could haul me and two others to the beach from my cruiser, you know drink beer, toss a shrimp on the barby–all that.”

Me: “Well, the idea behind this dink is that it is to be sailed primarily by oneperson, and you’re supposed to sit on a cushion with the inside of the boat uncluttered so you could move around and it would be easier to sail–not to mention lowering the center of gravity by sitting in the bottom on a soft cushion.”

Him: Well, it looks pretty light . . . but I’ll bet that if I put my 25 horsepower Evinrude on the transom that sucker’d really really fly, maybe twenty or twenty five huh?”

Me: ” Not really, the bottom of the boat is designed for sailing speeds, and the aft sections are prismatically correct for lively go-fast performance and helm stability particularly on a down wind run.”

Him: “How fast is “go-fast”?

Me: “Well, even though the boat is only seven and a half feet long, you could probably get six, seven knots under good conditions.”

Him: “God, that’d take forever to get from where I anchor in Mystery Bay to the store for a beer run. Maybe I just ought to just buy a Livingston. They don’t row very well, or sail very well, or tow very well, but they’ll handle three grown-ups (!?) and two racks a’ beer with three or four inches of freeboard, and still make 20 knots with my 25 Evie. Still . . . those Livingston’s are pretty pricey . . . I bet I could build yours for a hundred bucks if I could get the plans for ten bucks or so, whadda ya say”?

Me: (Mentally filling out an Employment Application for the shoe store down the street) “Well, actually, I don’t really think this is the boat for you, but why don’t you ask about Livingston’s at the office. I think they have a couple used ones you could get really cheap”.

Him: (Heading for the door) ” Wow! Really? Terriffic! Great! Glad they sent me over! They told me you really know what you’re talking about! Hey, gotta check that out . . . maybe a lee board, you know one of those snap on kind like on a Livingston might be better than that keel, though. I know about this design crap. I been ‘bashin’ the Sound since you were in diapers. Catch ya later!”

**Fade To Black**

Bottom line: I’m not sure that hostile criticism from those in the diaspora stands up especially in reference to a “trial baloon”. The war waging inside me right now is: “If I were going to do this stuff for profit, should I (like 95% of the other designers) meet plan buyers at the door with sheep shears, suffer the inevitable lumps with aplomb and have a much better looking exchequer at years end?


Photos from Australia:

Peter Gray has sent me some photos of Gray Feather, which is now fully rigged. He reports that he is very happy with her sailing performance, especially in heavy weather.

Gray Feather as a swimming platform?

ch108 Peter has put a box for the anchor under the side deck.

Stop Press: Peter entered Gray Feather in the Sandgate Gaff Vintage regatta and was placed 7th out of 19 boats (on handicap).

And from Canada . . .

Fraser Howell is making excellent progress with his strip-planked Chebacco. She’s strip planked in half inch fir, with 1/8” ash veneers epoxied over the strips and sealed in epoxy:

The coachroof is strip planked and veneered

Fraser’s strip-planked hull has been veneered with ash

Fraser’s rudder is welded up in aluminium

Stop Press (27 June) – Fraser plans to launch any day now!

And finally . . .

That’s all for this time. You may have noticed there’s been a longer gap than usual since last time. I can really only print what you send, and since there’s been little news, I’ve not had much to put in. PLEASE send me your news to ensure bumper issues in the months to come.

Bill Samson, 88 Grove Road, West Ferry, Dundee, DD5 1LB, Scotland. 1

Chebacco News 06

Chebacco News

Number 6, November 1995

Peter Launches!

Peter and Sandy Gray, of Queensland, Australia, have launched their Chebacco. As far as I can tell, this is the first amateur-built Chebacco to be launched. (If anyone knows this to be wrong, please let me know!) Congratulations to Peter for a great achievement.
Gray Feather afloat in the Noosa river.

Peter writes:
Dear Bill,
Well, it has finally happened. Our boat was launched on 31 August 1995.
It was a beautiful morning on the Noosa river as our boat slid off its trailer and into the water. She sat exactly on the waterline and looked a picture. I stood back to take a photo of her but our camera wouldn’t work. At that moment a person walked down to admire her and after seeing that our camera didn’t work, he offered to take some photographs for me (- he was a professional photographer). After the photos were taken, Sandy and I boarded the boat and motored off down the river.
. . . the sails will come later. She has an 8 hp long shaft Johnson outboard. I estimate that she cruises at about 6 kts comfortably.

Bill travels and Gil flips . . .

I was fortunate to be in the USA on business at the start of October and took some time off to visit Gil and Joan Fitzhugh in New Jersey, and Bill and Mary Parkes in Pennsylvania.
Gil kindly timed the ‘flip’ (ie lifting his hull from the molds and turning it right way up) to coincide with my visit. A host of neighbours and relatives turned out for the flip and they were fuelled by generous quantities of grog and grub supplied by Gil and Joan. The flip went without a hitch – apart from participants having to dodge acorns falling from 100 foot high oaks around the boat. I was particularly impressed that the hull lifted off the mold without a murmur – no screws had been left in; no glue had stuck the hull to the molds.
Gil’s hull is beautifully fair – the product of more hours of sanding and filling than I care to imagine – and the plank lands are sweet and fair to the eye. Now for the fitting out . . .
Gil Fitzhugh’s hull safely flipped and on its trailer.
Bill Parkes travelled from Mechanicsburg to assist in the flip. I went on to spend a couple of days with Bill and Mary. Bill is planning to build a sheet ply Chebacco. He has already built two Bolger boats – a Nymph and a Gloucester Light Dory. He took me rowing in the Light Dory on the Susquehanna river. Having rowed and admired it, I can understand why it is called Phil’s ‘ticket to Heaven’.
Sincere thanks to Joan, Mary, Gil and Bill for their kindness and hospitality to me during my visit, and particularly for allowing me to OD on boat talk with them!

Want molds for a lapstrake Chebacco?

Now that Gil Fitzhugh has completed his beautiful hull, he has a set of molds that are now surplus to his requirements. If you are planning to build a boat like Gil’s, you are welcome to take away his molds, free of charge, also saving yourself the hassle of lofting the lines full size. Gil would rather they went to a good home than put them to the torch. You can contact Gil at his home in New Jersey:
Mr Gil Fitzhugh,
Primrose Trail,
Mt. Kemble Lake,
NJ 07960


phone: 201 425 9010

Chuck Merrell on Anchors


Chuck Merrell of Seattle lives aboard ‘Tomboy’, a ‘Jessie Cooper’ designed by Phil Bolger, and is currently finishing ‘Wonky’ a steel ‘Tahitiana’ ketch which he bought half-built. Chuck is a self-confessed anchor-obsessive and emailed me with the following observations in response to the chat about anchors and how to stow them in Chebacco News #5:
Hi Bill, I usually singlehand, and even if there is someone with me, I generally wind up doing most everything by myself anyway. Singlehanded anchoring is always a problem if you have to leave the tiller to drop the hook, especially on a boat like Tomboy. Wonky wouldn’t be such a bad problem, but anchoring from the bow still takes a thirty foot run from the cockpit to the front end and back.
On Tomboy, I keep the anchor permanently mounted on the stern, and keep the anchor chain in a bucket in the cockpit. (I use 30′ feet of chain). I have the chain shackled to the nylon anchor rode which is led back to the bow, through the chocks and cleated off. When I’m ready to anchor, I have made up a little quick release device that allows me to drop the anchor out of its mounts as the boat is moving forward. I hold the chain bucket overboard so the chain doesn’t flail against the boat as it runs out. The rode follows the chain and the forward motion of the boat digs the anchor in and turns the boat in line with the anchor, then it can be backed down and set and adjusted at my leisure. The system works great, and you don’t have to leave the tiller during any part of the operation. I’ve done it dozens of times, and never have had a mishap under power or sail, regardless of how hard the wind is blowing or what the conditions. The way I have the anchor mounted makes it very easy to deploy, and the anchor always stays put even in heavy weather till it’s time to let it go.
That brings up the subject of what kind of anchor to use. According to what you say, Phil has recommended a 25 pound Plow, or an equivalent Bruce. Phil as you know is a “belt and braces” man, particularly when it comes to anchors. In my opinion, a 25 pound plow is almost 3 X overkill unless your local conditions absolutely dictate the choice. This anchor is better suited to a boat weighing about 6,000 lbs, not a daysailer less than a ton. A 25 pound plow is about the smallest you can buy, and Phil probably recommended it because he figured any Scotsman worth his Haggis would want to spend the money at home with Simpson Lawrence. I don’t like to use a plow unless I have a bowsprit and winch. They are heavy, and it’s easy to bang the topsides and pinch your fingers. A 25 pound isn’t too bad, but on a pitching foredeck, my 45 pound can really smash a pinkie and make dents in the topsides or deck. (I’ve designed Wonky’s bowsprit and rollers to work in such a way that there is no way raising an anchor will bang into the hull regardless of the conditions. You’ll see when I get the pix developed and scan them to you.)
Bruce anchors are nice in certain types of bottoms, and they don’t foul easily, and will reset in their own length if they drag. But they’re pretty expensive, and in general don’t perform much better than a Danforth type, especially to anchor a light boat like the Chebacco. Danforths and Bruce anchors are roughly for the same type of bottoms, but the Bruce is harder to stow.
I think that I would use an 18 pound standard Hi Tensile Danforth (assuming that a Danforth type will work in your ground conditions) with 30 ft. of 5/16″ BBB chain as my working system on a Chebacco. One thing is, with that setup, you could sit around and wonder if the anchor was holding the boat, or could you just get by with chain only (just kidding). A 1/2″ nylon rode would be nicer to hand, but 3/8 nylon would be plenty strong enough. A Danforth can be made to hang on a flat vertical transom like the Chebacco has. If you use the natural design of the Danforth, the flukes will fall away from the boat when stowed, as well as deployed, and never cause marring. You can use a second 18 Lb Danforth on a Bahamian mooring arrangement if you anchor in the river. You can leave the anchor rigged and hanging in its bracket when you are tied to your mooring, or when trailering down the road. This is a good system if you ever really need to anchor fast.
For comparison, on Wonky which weighs 20,000 lbs, I have the following ground tackle: 50 Lb Herreschoff, 45 Lb Plow, I built the following anchors: 40 Lb Danforth type, Two 40 Lb large fluked folding Yachtsman anchors, 18 Lb. Kedge, 5 Lb Kedge. 200 ft of 5/16 Hi-tensile chain, 200 feet of 5/16 BBB chain (given to me as a gift), and a couple dinghy anchors. For storm conditions I would becue the 50 Lb Herreshoff and the 45 Lb Plow. For Hurricane I’d also put out everything else, and all the chain. For nylon, I have 600 feet of 3/4″ Guess you get the idea that I like anchors and feel that you can never have too many, huh?
. . .
Have a good weekend.

Fraser’s stripper . . .

Fraser Howell continues to make astonishing progress on his strip planked version of Chebacco. He sent me a whole bunch of photos of which a small selection are included in this newsletter. The captions are supplied by Fraser.
Here is the bottom, while fitting the CB case. The roughed out laminated stem is just beside the case. You can see that I built up the base of the stem where it will bear on the bottom. This stem enlargement made it easier to fit in a free-standing fashion. I fit it with a 1/2″ stainless steel post that passes through the stem enlargement and the keel ( – I had just broken a molar repaired in a similar fashion). You can also see some distortion of the bottom due to moisture. At this point the ‘boat’ went back into the shed, dried out and came back into shape. I then turned it over and applied the 1/4″ ash veneer in epoxy.

Some time later, transom, main bulkhead, stem and molds ready to be aligned. You can just see the untrimmed edge of the bottom veneer.
A successful rolling crew. I don’t know why the rest of them are smiling, I’m the only one with a beer.
Fraser’s other photos show details of the stripping process, scarfing of strips, breasthook and knee and various views of the hull. He writes:
I made the seat supports, after cockpit bulkhead etc. out of 5/8″ exterior ply. There are two partial bulkheads on each side to support the seat. I placed them at mold stations. This allowed me to use the mold profile rather than scribe them. The forward and after bulkheads were scribed to fit. All bulkheads were epoxy filleted and taped with 4″ wide 10 ounce cloth. I put in all that internal structure to stiffen the hull for the roll-over and hold the shape. Molds 3 and 4 were left in for the same reason.
Presentlly, I’m planing the 1/8″ ash veneers. I will lay them at right angles to the strips, stapled in thickened epoxy. I’ll then fair and seal the hull exterior to leave it through the winter . . .


Alessandro Barozzi sent me this photo of Nencia, his lapstrake Chebacco which has no cabin.
I fear I must apologise for getting the builder’s name wrong. He is Casavecchia (not Casavecellia). I was also wrong when I described her as an ‘open’ boat. She is mostly decked, with a self-draining cockpit. She is certainly a most attractive boat and may give some of us pause for thought as to whether we really need a cabin, when she looks so good without one.
Alessandro has been out of action recently, with surgery to his right arm. I hope he makes a full and swift recovery so that he can continue to enjoy his sailing.

Bill Samson’s Sheet Ply Chebacco

My own Chebacco is now complete except for spars, sails, outboard and trailer.
Bill’s Chebacco tilted to receive its centreboard and rudder.
The next two photos show the lower gudgeon (pintle??) for the rudder. This is made from galvanised iron. Note the nylon bush to take the downward thrust of the rudder.
Galvanized gudgeon before fitting (Yes- I know it’s countersunk on the wrong side! In fact it is countersunk on both sides.)
Gudgeon and rudder in place; bedded in liberal quantities of Sikaflex.

And Finally

This has been a great year for amateur Chebacco builders with Peter Gray getting into the water and Bill Samson hoping to follow soon. Please do keep in touch and let me have your news. Thanks to those of you who have sent me letters and photos as well as those who have sent financial donations to help keep this little newsletter afloat.

Bill Samson,
88 Grove Road,
West Ferry,
DD5 1LB,

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!