Chebacco News 18

Chebacco News

Number 18, November 1997

[This entire issue is given over to the ‘Cruising Chebacco’ conversion. I apologise to those of you who have sent me materials for inclusion in this issue, but I’m sure you will agree that this development is of such importance that it deserves an issue to itself. Materials you have sent will be carried over to a future issue.]

The Cruising Chebacco – The ‘Light Cruiser’ Version of the Chebacco-20

Susanne Altenburger of Phil Bolger & Friends sent me this study drawing for a cruising version of the Chebacco. The idea was subsidised by Alessandro Barozzi who commisssioned the drawings, wanting to convert his ‘Nencia’ for cruising.


This new Chebacco is designed so that exisiting Chebaccos can be converted with minimal surgery into a boat that’s capable of more extended cruising than the ‘camp-cruising’ that’s possible with the standard design.

Phil and Susanne write:

When the Cruising Chebacco issue came up again a few weeks ago, the corporation’s board met officially, including the seven cats, and decided to assign the job to Susanne; she had been mouthing off about how to do it ‘right’ for some time now. Phil ended up having to do ‘draftsman-duty’, as a matter of skill and graphic continuity, ‘once the scheme was hatched’. The second such meeting concluded, that in the light of respective commentaries in your chat group, we should not give cause for speculation about her genesis, but rather state publicly, that Susanne is solely to blame or praise for both the conversion and the commentary on it. She has been increasingly ‘intrusive’ in her ‘messing’ with the design work anyway, over the last three years and might as well ‘face the music herself’; no more hiding behind Phil!

Susanne Altenburger’s Commentary on the Cruising Chebacco –

We’ve been thinking off and on about what a ‘Light-Cruiser’-type-CHEBACCO should be like. And we’ve been all over the place with all sorts of doodles and back and forth. The underlying principle had to be the use of existing hulls, sheet-plywood, lapstrake, strip etc., which meant no changes in their sheer-line, basic structural components, and preferably the use of the rig as it is, both as a matter of family continuity of the 20′ big-cockpit CHEBACCOs, and to save us time producing a full-fledge separate set of plans, still more or less like the existing plans. Finally, we thought that owners of existing CHEBACCOs should be able to see their existing boats as possible candidates for conversion, which meant also to generally limit the necessary ‘trauma’ during the conversion process of discarding extant components you once carefully crafted.

We took the plywood version as a base for our consideration as a matter of convenience, since the local CHEBACCO ‘Kattepus’ offered immediate 3-D comparison, and since straight lines are faster to draw than multiple strakes and slack bilges. The point of this addition to the CHEBACCO 20 line of plans is that it can only be an exercise in approximating dimensions, clearances and minor details, as the various versions differ just enough to make exact numbers futile to define, while their overall similarities in configuration are still similar enough to take these plans for the CRUISING CHEBACCO as a solid refeerence to either build any version or convert existing boats. So, before you get your 3/4″ scale out, check the realities on your version and adapt these plans here to your CHEBACCO.

These plans offer a ‘light-cruiser’ with solid and comfortable shelter for two, sitting and lying, to allow a cruise for up to at least a week without shore-support. She offers a head/holding tank, typical camping-type minimal galley, quite useful battery capacity, numerous stowage options, and the promise to expand you CHEBACCO experience beyond day sails and limited weekend cruises. Indeed, this version should extedn your day-sailing or cruising season by a month or two on either end. And since the house and the transparent bulkhead aft dramatically add to her safety in a knockdown, sudden bad weather might seem of somewhat less concern in her as well. With all the proposed details installed, and the necessary goods aboard, the CRUISING CHEBACCO in full cruising trim will draw a few more inches of water when you first step aboard her, thus will feel a bit more solid underfoot, should be able to stand up to her rig a little longer before reefing, while conceivably giving up some light-air performance. But since the original cockpit was designed to carry a load of friends for a day-sail, carrying cruising capability in lieu of two of your friends, the matter of weight-gain is ‘outweighed’ by gain in opportunities for low-cost adventure.

Her overall silhouette shows the direct family lineage with her unmodified hull lines and essentially original rig. Looking her over from bow to stern there is a mix of obvious and some ‘hidden’ additions and changes that make her a ‘light cruiser’.

– The Groundtackle Compartment –

Ahead of the bow bulkhead there is now a full-depth groundtackle compartment with an optional cover over it. You could hang verticall inside it just about any type of anchor, ready to be lifted out and thrown overboard, with a cruising-correct increased rode of chain and line to fill the bottom of that compartment. As that bow-bulkhead is meant to be closed up solid now, to keep muck and moisture out of your bunks, that compartment should be accessible from the cabin via a screw-in access plate big enough to occasionally check for rain-water accumulation, or the pick-up of a small bilgepump; we assume that on a mooring or a trailer she will accumulate some rainwater running down the mast or her tabernacle.

– The New Old Rig –

Yes, she now has a tabernacle to allow quick striking of the mast with sail, boom and gaff attached, either when she’s doing trailer-duty, or on her mooring to offer least resistance to wind on an exposed location; particularly with her new deckhouse we thought a tabernacle both safer and more convenient, than the original structurally less involved solution.

You will also notice that we’ve moved the mast forward and kept it stock upright in an effort to help those of you who are suffering from too much weather helm. Since this problem seems to strike just some of you, you might want to decide for your case whether to follow this suggestion or leave well enough alone. Alternatively you can move it forward and let the mast rake just a bit for ‘good looks’.

More obviously, the mast, with its original rig geometry intact, has both been raised to clear the house, and some of its lower end cut off to clear the forerdeck and that nice Jonesport cleat when it travels through its 90 degrees up or down. The stout tabernacle will make up for its shorter ‘bury’. Two turnbuckles connecting the mast heel to the cabin’s reinforced forward face will be of comfort ‘out there’ and allow careful no-slack setting up of the mast in its vertical position. Whether you want to ‘muscle’ the mast up and down, or use a light tackle to control its movement is up to you.

With the mast raised in its tabernacle we tried to prevent the rig from moving up well over two feet just to accommodate the boom jaws. Those have now been removed in favour of a gooseneck which attaches the boom to the tabernacle’s after face. With the boom attached below the mast’s pivot, there is enough vertical room for the sail and gaff to be bundled up before the mast comes down over them.

Since we know of no widely available source for them any more, we are proposing a ‘home-made’ gooseneck. It uses two stock ‘heavy duty’ SS gudgeons to accept a 1/2″ SS eyebolt which then connects via another ‘undersized’ bolt loosely to two SS tangs that are screwed to the forward sides of the boom; there should be enough freedom for the boom to move any which way, including twist from the sheet-pull.

Finally, we can use the tabernacle to acccept cheek blocks to run two halyards, the topping lifts and all four slab reef lines aft to the after end of the house top, to control the setting, size and shape of the rig from the safety of the cockpit.

– The Bow Hatch –

The only time you have to ‘go forward’ is to deal with groundtackle, pick up a mooring, and to deal with the lowering of the mast and the associated manipulation of the turnbuckles-mastlock. While she has handholds on her house, wide enough side-decks, toe cleats and hose taut rigging lines running aft from the tabernacle to the house to hang on to, we would propose that you literally dive forward through the house, under and through the 3’+ low trunk, to then open and stand waist deep in the forward hatch, with much greater safety and solid hip support for a strong pull on the ground-tackle, for instance. The Jonesport cleat is about 36″ ahead and perfectly reachable without concern for losing balance. Hinged aft, the hatch offers additional ventilation below – as long as there is no rain or spray from the bow action. Its narrow length os 18″ on a 22″ width is an unavoidable side-effect of wanting to open the hatch while the mast is folded, or while these rig-lines are running tautly overhead – it’s small but still usable.

– Two Decent Berths –

Between the mast bulkhead and the former companionway bulkhead are two good-sized berths, with enough headroom over them to get in and out of them, turn over, but probably not enough for most of you to slouch on; sitting is much more comfortable in the house . . . On the one hand, we wanted to keep her overall trunk profilelow enough to not offer yet another ‘bloated’ mini-cruiser to the world. On the other hand we raised the berths platform to get more usable ‘real estate’ out of these berths, which in turn produce a shallow but wide and long space under each mattress, seemingly perfect to keep clothes in an orderly fashion, one flat pair of socks next to the woollens and the ‘fine threads’ for the occasional well earned meal in a restaurant. Lifting that 1/2″ ply mattress platform would work fine without any hinges etc. Finally, shown here only for the starboard berth, we would propose putting an ‘alcove’ through the aft ‘headboard’ of the berth, to put valuables such as glasses, gun, spare teeth, a few pocket books, AM/FM radio etc.; your imagination is the limit to how far you want to take this between tiny drawers, micro-bookshelf and fiddles.

Getting in and out of the berths will keep you reasonably agile while, with the head aft, claustrophobia should not be too much of a risk since you can look up and see a piece of sky through the deckhouse glass. We dispensed with any trunk portlight since it seemed to look ‘busy’, added yet more labor, and offered no advantages over raising your upper body to peer out through the forward lower corners of the house’s side glass. Sure, there will be curtains . . .

– The Deckhouse –

This is where the Cruising Chebacco really differs from her older sisters. With a three-panel/center-hatch front, two-panel sides, four-panel/two door aft bulkhead and two hatches overhead, there is dry, comfortable and airy shelter for two, including a ‘hard’ dodger overhand in the actual cockpit to get out of the wind, rain or sun while at the tiller. Without any openings in it except the hatches and double-doors on centerline her reserve stability is greatly enhanced to easily recover from a knock-down making a jump across a bay ‘off-shore’.

In both the deckhouse and the cockpit we use the existing cockpit benches and bulkheads, but they all get modified.

First of all, the former companionway-bulkhead is largely cut away, just leaving as berth ‘headboards’ the forward supports of the cockpit benches. This opens up cuddy and house into one space with a length of about 13 feet.

Secondly, to starboard, aft of the ‘alcove’, we propose to cut out a square hole just in the top of the bench to accept a 10 US gallons drop in 1/2″ plywood holding-tank/toilet with a tightly gasketted and lockable lid. contoured in section to your own particular hull-shape below, and measuring about 14″ fore and aft, this is a tiny version of our ‘don’t look down’ no-flush ‘out house’-principle based toilet/holding-tank combination we’ve come to specify as the only 100% reliable and water-economic soution on liveaboards; there we can readily hold well over 200 gals for instance and feature a ‘lid-up-switch-on-extraction-fan’. Here, in the spirit of Herreshoff’s cedar-bucket philosophy, we don’t bother with the fancy fan idea. And we also don’t even think about habitually filling the tank with 10 gallons of dishwater, or human waste, since you could not easily lift this weight out vertically to carry it to a toilet in a marine, or just to lug it aft to dump over the stern where advisable. Rather, about half that quantity should allow use by two for a week, if dishwater can occasionally go over the side, discretely discharged through the centerboard case via a dedicated funnel and screw port combination (use biodegradable soaps!). But the volume is necessary, as there is no horizontal valve to keep slosh under control, if you have to use it ‘out there’, or in a bouncy anchorage; a fore and aft baffle, in conjunction with its more or less triangular shape, should keep matters somewhat under control. The point here is not to have a production porta-potti be in the way everywhere, or eat up too much space with its limited volume for its overall bulk – if you could find a regular spot for it. From toggles on top to latches on its forward vertical, we see a number of ways to ‘keep the lid on it’ reliably; some solutions might require cutting a slot into the bench’s lower vertical to accommodate the lid-latch. How ever you deal with that detail, the ‘tank’ is supposed to be supported below with cleats and rubber feet, in order to have its top surface/lid be flush with the top of the ‘alcove’ forward and the access hatch to the stowage abaft it. If you then throw a cushion over everything to sit on, things should be quite comfortable on that side of the house with a fore-and-aft length of about 30″ per side , and a sitting headroom between 38″ and 42″ over that cushion; considere rolling up charts overhead – very ‘salty’ indeed.

The stowage volume abaft the tank has only a relatively narrow access from the top – about 6″ by 12″ – but reaches well down and aft to the existing bulkhead, which should be made solid again as well. Here is thus quite a useful bit of volume right amidships, to accept lots of weighty cans, bottles etc, things that are tall, narow and you would not like falling over on each tack; putting a liner of 1/8″ neoprene down would keep any movement quieter.

Thirdly, to port, there is the optional port ‘alcove’, while abaft it there would be just a single or divided full-depth galley-bin, opened up undeer a two lid cover in the original cockpit bench; again this volume reaches aft to the said, now solid, bulkhead. Into this galley-bin area you could fit stock, square buckets, or more efficient hull-section contour-shaped 1/2″ plywood bins to carry all kitchen utensils, a one-piece single-flame propane burner, a plastic washbasin for dirty dishes and face that also carries the cleaning utensils such as soap, sponge brush, detergent etc, and also store foodstuffs – e.g. bread and jam bin, oil-bottle, flour and sugar jars etc – whereas perishables like fruit, veggies, dairy products and eggs might profit from sitting in a plastic cooler in the morot well with a wet rag over it for cooling; keep soaking it. Overall, consider her galley and pantry in the spirit of those ingenious ’15-pieces-into-one combos’ you find in outdoor stores and the backs of VW minibuses.

To sit down to prepare a meal we would concoct a ‘straddle’ seat of a 1/2″ ply piece to act as a ‘filler-piece’ between starboard bench and centerboard trunk. Sitting on this seat, with your feet down the port-side of the trunk, cooking is comfortable – without leg cramps – while your crew lounges on the berth forward, or you lock her out in the cockpit. Opening the center panel forward plus the overhead hatch, or the double doors into the cockpit would let all steam and smells exhaust freely. To get going, you flip up one of the lids to take out what you need, and put that stuff on the other lid; perhaps a second narrower filler-piece between centerboard trunk and the after end of the galley are would extend the ‘counter’ to spread out. Again your practicality and imagination are the limits here. However you do it you should be able to feast very well indeed, snugly and smugly, rain or shine, and within limits even when you are underway.

With an eye to trim, both port and starboard weights should be balanceable over time, as water migrates from bottles into ‘the tank’.

If you just want the house to pull up your pants in the morning, there is about 5′ of headroom under that overhead hatch, and near 5’6″ if you do without the floorboards.

Finally, the house top has those two hatches, two handholds, but could also have fishing rod and boat-hook holders, with over lengths extending ahead of the house without ‘poking your eye out’. Indeed a couple of sweeps could be carried for a rowing geometry of your devising – should you have the urge.

– The Shorter Cockpit –

The cockpit itself is now just over 4′ long , still good enough to seat four butts in a pinch, and fine to stretch out one set of legs on the bench with a book to read in the shade under the house top. For an unimpeded view from the helm, the after roof-hatch allows full headroom and 360 degrees of uninterrupted perspective. For sailing sitting down on the weather bench, you will have to look through at least two layers of glass/polycarbonate – three if the house doors are opened up; still much better than trying to squint through one layer of yellowing and increasingly opaque PVC sewn into floppy dodgers.

And there is even the option to fire up a windshield wiper or three on those forward-facing 1/8″ laminate glass windows, because there are, placed under the new cockpit hatches, two 6V deep-cycle batteries capable of around 215 Ah at 12V, enough to let those wipers run for a while, but actually mostly intended to run navigation lights and nav. and communications equipment, the radio-cum-CD-player and the reading lights, or to briefly light up your sails at night with a ‘giga-lux’ spotlight, should someone big fail to notice your existence. If you then spring for a small solar-panel, you may be able to stretch out that one initial charge you poured into those batteries at home before your Cruising Chebacco left your driveway. At any rate, in these bins and those flanking the motor well, fenders, tools, spares, lines, extra fuel/oil etc. would be secured here, out of the cabin, but ‘in their place’ within ready reach.

Incidentally, we counter-intuitively hinged those 1/2″ ply-cum-stiffeners cockpit bench hatches on the straight inside for geometric simplicity; shaped as shown they should open up, in and down through 270 degrees to end up hanging more or less vertical when open. To lock them down reliably, consider putting 1/4″ studs into the four outside corners of these benches, i.e. out of reach of your behind, to tighten down each hatch on its neoprene gaskets with two wing nuts and washers. You might find a better solution, such as using those smaller, but complete and O-ringed commercial plastic hatches. Ditto for those hatches now cut into the top of the after compartments left and right of the motor well.

Whatever hatch and locking system you might pick, make sure to put two small screw-in plate openings into the overhead-protected vertical of the cockpit, to leave open when she’s left on the mooring, thus allowing adequate ventilation for those cockpit compartments, without risking serious swamping from uncloseable openings, when you are underway. Again your imagination will take care of any questions. For the house/cabin, we would put one vent in the house top and a matching intake vent on the forward hatch to produce a good de-facto solar-powered ventilation circuit from the relative heat trapped in the glass-house.

So here she is, ‘warts and all’, with greatly enhanced reserve stability from that house, much enhanced overall utility, a different look, and the promise of exquisitely independent ‘gunk-holing’ between the longer stretches of coastal, riverine or lake cruising. She is a very ‘Light Cruiser’ in all respects, but in terms of weight and absence of serious ballast she also remains an unsinkable cruiser.

She’ll easily do 70MPH on the highway behind your car, rushing from one great cruising ground to the next – on that lake one week, and then around the bay the next. The distant canal system might appeal for next Summer while the coming winter might see you and her ‘down south’ somewhere.

– 2 sheets of ‘Cruising-Upgrade’ plans are US $50.-ppd. –


Phil Bolger and Friends, Inc,

Boat Designers,

29 Ferry Street,


MA 01930,


And finally . . .

That’s all there’s space for in this issue. There’s now something of a backlog of material which will ensure continued survival of this newsletter. Nevertheless, keep it coming! Send your news, photos, stories, dreams, questions, . . . to me. I’d also like to take this opportunity of wishing you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Bill Samson,

88 Grove Road,

West Ferry,


DD5 1LB,



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