Last spring I had no idea I would ever offer plans for Slider. People had asked me about plans, even before I started building the prototype, but my usual response was that it seemed like a lot of work for very little financial return. Besides, who knew if she would be a boat that other folks would want?
Eventually I launched the boat and really liked her, but it still seemed possible that serious problems with the design might surface.
There the matter rested for a while, as I gained experience with the boat in conditions ranging from dead calms to 30 knots plus.
In the beginning, I built Slider because there was no other way to get a boat like Slider. Not a single solitary plan by any designer, established or otherwise, existed for a 16′ open cruising cat with in-hull seating. There were a number of plans for tiny cruising trimarans, but it was my opinion that for beach cruising and camping, a little open cat had many advantages over a little open tri. The only tiny cruising cats that existed all had cabins, which seemed to result in excessive windage, and sometimes a shortage of beauty. The advantages of open monohull cruisers were well known, but open cruising cats did not yet exist, as far as I could tell, so it was hard to make comparisons.
Had proven plans for the kind of boat I wanted existed, I’d certainly have bought them, and thereby saved myself a great deal of time and energy.
In any case, my search for a Slider-like boat had given me a great deal of sympathy for those who would see in Slider something outside the familiar monohull open boats, and outside the speed-is-everything formula used by beach cats and daysailer tris. I loved the little boat, and I could already tell that others would feel the same way about her. I was pretty sure that some of them would want to own a boat just like her– and no one was providing similar plans.
A couple more months passed. I fell more in love with Slider and her remarkably good manners. I was putting up a few picture and videos, and some articles describing what it was like to sail Slider, and this resulted in even more interest in plans.
I’d never drawn boat plans, of course, but since my training and background is in the visual arts, I didn’t feel terminally intimidated by the prospect. The trouble was that I’d built Slider from a lofted table of offsets drawn in Gregg Carlson’s Hull Designer program– an excellent free tool for would-be designers of chined plywood boats. The rest of the structure was worked out as I went along– so no plans at all existed. Worse, since I regarded Slider as a wild-eyed experiment that might well end badly, I’d kept no detailed records of the steps I’d gone through in the course of making the million decisions, small and large, that constitute the design of a sailboat.
Still not entirely certain it would be right to offer plans of an unproven boat by a novice designer, I drew a first page that could be used as a study plan and posted it online. It was a bit crude, but the response was very positive. As luck would have it, I’d kept the white-painted plywood on which I’d lofted Slider’s lines (intending to use it for shelving in our new backyard shed) and one day I dragged the sheets out of the carport and set them up on sawhorses. I started taking the measurements for the bulkheads and frames off the lofted lines… and the die was cast.
The next time someone asked me about plans, I explained that I had only three sheets completed. This served to discourage a lot of potential builders, but eventually someone came along who liked the boat so much that he wanted to get started right away, even though the plans were far from finished. He offered to pay me for what I had, and I could send the rest when I was done. It seemed likely that I could draw the plans faster than he could build the boat… and just like that, I’d sold my first set of plans. I decided to include a building manual as well– an excerpt can be found here.
Now, admittedly, I offered the plans partly out an evangelizing spirit. I had faith that many sailors (and their wives and children) would enjoy sailing in a safe, stable, secure, dry, and comfortable little boat, a boat with a healthy turn of speed and the deck space to pitch a fairly luxurious tent aboard. I imagined that every Slider that sprouted up around the world would spread the idea that such a boat was not just possible but well within the financial grasp and building abilities of many sailors who’ve grown tired of the expense and responsibility of larger boats and the less-than-perfect comfort of small open monohulls. I was pretty sure there was a market for Slider among those who wanted something simple, practical, lively, and well-behaved– and something very different from anything else they could build.
Other sales followed, and though I may never make enough to pay for the prototype, I’ve made enough that I might be able to buy Slider a nice new loft-made mainsail this winter. Among the buyers was an Italian who had an idea for improving the boat… and here we come at last to the unexpected pleasure mentioned in the title.
To repeat myself, I love the boat. I’ve had more fun in the last 8 months than in any 8 years since I started sailing over 30 years ago. I have no doubt that many sailors would also love the boat if built strictly to plan. However, home builders are thoughtful, creative, and intelligent people… and some of them are bound to come up with some very clever ideas.
Renato Scolaro may have already done so. He was initially concerned that the trailering limit is slightly less in Italy than in the States, and so he gave some thought to what might be done about this. My advice was that he simply reduce the overall beam by the couple of inches that would be required, since I did not believe this would significantly alter the sailing characteristics.
When he received his first plans package, he took the eminently sensible step of building a model, thus confirming that the given offsets produce a fair hull, and giving insight into the manner in which the hulls are constructed.
But Renato took his model a step further; he used it to illustrate an ingenious idea for folding the hulls under the center deck, and thus achieving a boat that could have substantially more sailing beam than trailering beam. Here is another image Renato was kind enough to send me, and to allow me to use here:
Finally a more detailed image showing the location of securing pins or bolts:
This strikes me as a simple and reliable method of folding the hulls under the center deck. It will probably involve building a trailer that supports the boat with rails under the center deck and main crossbeams, rather than bunks under the hulls, but this might actually be an advantage when launching and retrieving from shallow ramps. I would probably reinforce the portion of the fixed beams that the pivot bolts pass through, but that is a detail than can be worked out.
The original Slider compromised speed for easy trailerability. I made her with a fixed beam of 8.5 feet, the highway maximum. This is a relatively narrow beam for a 16′ cat with flared hulls, and is the reason why I rigged her with the modest sail area I did. The whole point of the boat was relaxed, anxiety-free sailing, and a too-large rig seemed antithetical to that purpose. But with Renato’s clever idea, increasing the sailing beam seems as though it might be less labor-intensive than with many of the approaches taken by designers of tiny multihulls. If he increased the sailing beam to 10 feet, well within the capacity of his system, he could put a larger rig on the boat, yielding substantially more speed without increasing the possibility of capsize.
Now, all that said, I personally wouldn’t increase the original Slider’s beam, because I’m content with the surprisingly lively turn of speed she already displays, and I enjoy having a sailboat that’s no more complicated to launch than a johnboat. But Renato’s idea may prove very appealing to those who would like to have a comfortable little beachcruiser like Slider, but are put off by her admittedly sedate performance.
I fully expect that I’ll hear many more good ideas, because after all, Slider is a beginning, an attempt to do something completely new in the world of small boat cruising. The first version of anything will attract improvements like honey attracts bees, for the obvious reason.
I’m delighted that I’ve been able to play a part in this process, something that might never have happened had I not decided to take a shot at drawing plans for my little boat.