Shoestring Shipyard Frequently Asked Questions

Shoestring Shipyard – Top Ten Frequently Asked Questions (in no particular order):
1) What is the top speed of the boat design I’m considering?
2) What is the weight of the hull?
3) How much will the boat hold?
4) Can I use building materials other than specified and what will it cost?
5) How long will it take me to build the boat?
6) What is the freeboard of the boat?
7) How will the boat handle in various sea conditions – will it pound?
8) What are the performance specifications?
9) Can I use an outboard larger than specified?
10) Can this boat capsize?

I receive inquiries every week that usually include most if not all the above questions; regardless of the design the person is interested in building. My answer is in essay form because my response involves most of the above topics. That is to say that to explain one is to explain all as they are all integral to each other for the most part (one explanation covers all so to speak).
Most people are familiar with boat shows that feature a wide variety of production boats on display. Every company hands out color brochures with pretty pictures and all kinds of measurements, specifications, performance data, and such. This is how all the boat manufacturers try to distinguish their boat model and compare it with the competition. We as consumers have grown to expect such data that we can use to make educated decisions as to which vessel to choose for our individual needs.
Manufacturers of boats can usually provide stock data for any model boat they offer. This is because the boats in question are production vessels which are produced in great numbers with exacting specifications in materials, craftsmanship, finishes, and other hull materials. The boats have been exhaustively tested and evaluated, and each hull off the production line will be the same in its characteristics as the next one. All of the data does not change in general.
Things are much different when you purchase boat plans for a vessel you are going to build yourself. The above questions can be easily answered for a production boat but for boats that are built by various individuals, the same questions become quite subjective. This isn’t just a grey area, it’s more like a black hole. Every single boat that is built by various individuals making their own choices as to materials, trim, outfitting hardware, finishes, etc. are all different, and all such choices make significant differences in performance data, measurements, weight, etc of the hull.
Usually, my first answer to most of the above questions is: I don’t know. Then I follow up with the explanation that I’m providing here. My stock designs for backyard builders offered through the Shoestring Shipyard Web Site are all fairly small vessels. As such, almost any change will have a direct and significant change on virtually every specification I could possibly think of listing. For example: One builder may wish to build with marine grade Okoume plywood which can be from 20% to 25% lighter than marine grade Fir plywood (and much more expensive). Another builder will opt for the strength (and higher cost) of White Oak for the structural components such as stem and main frames while another builder will build from significantly lighter Eastern Spruce. These examples show a vast difference in hull weight from one boat to another – both being the same model boat built by two different builders. The performance characteristics are obviously going to be different. The lighter boat will hold more payload, and typically be faster. How much so? Once again, I don’t know. Why? Well, one builder may decide to sheath the entire hull in epoxy and fiberglass cloth which once again will add significant weight to the hull. The other builder may just glass tape the seams and simply paint the hull because the boat is stored on a trailer rather than on a mooring. Cost is another question: How much do you want to spend? It’s up to you. You choose the materials so you determine what you will spend. Some people scrounge around and others pay top dollar, and others are just good shoppers. It does pay to shop but the amount people spend does not really average out to give you a quote. Some people can build for next to nothing and others spend a fortune – and then there is everything in between. The materials you choose alone can provide a broad spectrum as to what you may actually spend.
What else can have a direct effect on weight and performance? What motor has been chosen? One might use a heavy 4-stroke outboard and another may use a lightweight 2-stroke and therefore there is another big difference even though both motors may have the same horsepower rating.
For those wishing to use larger horsepower motors other than the max specified: Don’t do it. These days, the maximum specified HP rating is determined by a formula specified by the US Coast Guard. Use a larger one and you may receive a Federal citation.
What about boat handling and can the hull capsize? Most flat bottomed boats have a bad rap with respect to pounding. Of course a flat bottomed boat will pound in steep choppy seas if the boat is propelled by an outboard and the operator goes too fast for sea conditions. Try backing off the throttle and the problem seems to go away like magic. This is called seamanship. Seamanship can be taught to a small degree, however there is no substitute for at-sea experience in a variety of boat types and in all types of weather and sea conditions. The more one goes to sea, the more experience one gets. As far as hulls capsizing and or sinking, or anything else: Yes, of course any of these things can happen depending on weather and sea conditions and the skipper’s level of seamanship skills. Re-read this paragraph. If you wind up treading water because of stupidity (trying to sail through a category 5 hurricane when you could have stayed in port), please don’t blame the boat designer.
As far as time is concerned when building the boat, it varies quite a bit. The boat plans I offer have been designed such that they can be built with simple hand tools that one usually has around the house for home maintenance and repair. The boat building period will speed up quite a bit though with a collection of power tools. There is also the factor of wood working experience. The more the better. Everyone is different and times to build will vary quite a bit.

It usually takes longer to sand, prime, paint, and apply other finishes than it does to build the hull. How long will this be? I don’t know. If you are building a work boat and are just slapping some paint on the hull for protection purposes, the finish time may take only a couple of hours. If you are building a shrine to the great boat building God with lots of bright work, and an expensive yacht like finish, it will take you ages.
Do you have any other questions? Think about how individual builders may have an effect upon the outcome before you send me an email. If you re-read the above several paragraphs, you’ll probably have your answer. Now I hope that you can understand why there are not exhaustive lists of all kinds of data on my Web Site for each of my boat designs like boat production companies have for their boat models. It is you, the individual boat builder who gets to make all the decisions that will directly relate to the final look, weight, measurements, and performance data for your boat. You decide to add side decks or applying fiberglass to the hull, types of wood, paint finishes, etc. You decide how you will be outfitting your boat with fishing gear or whatever. You know how big you and your crew are – I certainly don’t.
These are all good things though. Why? You are building your own boat the way you wish to build it, and you are making all the decisions. The final result is a boat that is custom built and a reflection of you, the individual. Your own personality will shine through and the boat is a work of art that is a piece of you. I as the designer will have only provided you with a basic guide. You as the builder can say with pride that this is your boat and you built it yourself. You get to put in features that you only wished some of the production boats had.
I may not be able to provide you with specific answers to the above questions, but I hope that I’ve enlightened you as to why this is not possible.

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20 Responses to Shoestring Shipyard Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Ed Waterman says:

    Hello: I understand that one shouldn’t use a motor with more horsepower than specified on a boat, but I can’t seem to find what the specified horsepower actually is. I’m interested in the Frugal Skiff 10 and 12.


  2. Ed Waterman says:


    OK, that makes sense. I’m only thinking of a 2-3 hp motor

    Other questions:
    What is the beam on the Sagamore Tender?
    How is the Sagamore Tender different, other than dimensions, from the Frugal skiffs?


    • admin says:

      Ed, The Sagamore Tender has beam that is a bit more narrow and sleek. The hull was designed specifically for rowing and sailing. That is to say that the shape of the hull combined with the amount of rocker allows the boat to slip through the water with very little effort. It was never intended for power although a small motor could be used with it. The degree of rocker built into this design would cause the boat to “push” water and resist any attempt to plane the hull. The Sagamore Tender is more complex to build than the Frugal Skiff Series as it incorporates two main frames rather than just one and this allows me to get more shape into the hull. The Sagamore Tender plans also include the sail plan and drawings for a sprit rig if the builder wishes to go sailing.

      The max beam on the Sagamore Tender is 3’9″ and the Max width of the transom is 3’and3/4″

      The Sagamore Tender is still within the scope of our designs for novice builders, but will probably take a couple to a few days more to complete than a Frugal Skiff. If you like to row, the Sagamore Tender is an excellent choice, but I would personally never even consider putting a motor on it. Most of my customers that built a Sagamore Tender with plans to clamp an outboard on it changed their minds once they first got in and tried rowing it. If you decide to build a Sagamore Tender, try rowing it first before you purchase an outboard. The experience may save you whole bunch of money!

  3. Xengineguy says:

    I have developed a sensitivity to epoxy, and do not want to touch that stuff again. I want to know if your boat plans include instructions for ply on frame construction, or only the composite (stictch and glue) construction method.

    Is it possible to build the pilgrim with marine adhesives (3m 5200 for instance) and fasteners?

    The pilgrim looks perfect for my needs, nearshore rockfishing, clamming, and crab fishing.

    • admin says:

      Actually Mr. Xengineguy, all of my designs in the Shoestring Fleet are what you referred to as “ply on frame” (sort of) and are what I refer to as “glue & screw.” None of my designs are “stitch & glue” with just one exception: The Simple Simon design incorporates a combination of both the above methods as it was designed for teaching students both methods of boat building. Simple Simon could be built using only (either) one of the methods if desired.

      The Pilgrims Pride as my other designs uses a combination of epoxy (glue) and stainless steel screws to assemble the hull. To build the boat without epoxy, a few slight changes would have to be made. One such change would to fabricate the transom with hardwood such as White Oak. The screws would then have a solid bite and superior holding power attaching the side and bottom panels to the transom. Screws are still used in the present designs, however they go into the edge of the plywood transom and have no reliable gripping power other than to be used as mini-clamps while the thickened epoxy glue sets up and bonds the parts together. Hence the name glue & screw. Solid lumber frames, stems, and chine logs are employed within the design though, and so simply screwing the components (with perhaps a few more screws positioned closer together) through the plywood side panels and bottom panels to the solid frames, chine logs, etc. would work just fine. You could then use a goop like 3M brand 5200 to help as a combination sealer/glue/bedding compound instead of using epoxy. You still have to protect the plywood edges where they join together on the outside of the hull though, and so you might employ external chine logs as protective strips, or you could still glass tape the edges using polyester resin instead of epoxy. If using polyester resin, you can use products such as “Bondo” plastic auto-body filler to help fair the glass tape to the hull.

  4. james smith says:

    Building your 12ft frugal skiff. She will be used all the time with a 5hp outboard motor. My question..Is the skeg/raised keel in the stern needed? Should I build with or without it. First self built boat for me.

    • admin says:


      If you will always use an outboard motor and never have plans to row the boat, the skeg can be omitted. However you should still install the keel strip as this helps to protect the hull when beaching and helps a bit by keeping the hull from “slipping” from side to side while underway. That is to say that the directional stability is a little better with the keel strip than without it, but the protection to the bottom of the hull is what really makes keeping it worthwhile.

  5. Ross says:

    I could have used the factor data last year when I repowered my aluminum boat. I called the manufacturer RE: Hp., weight & 2 vs. 4 stroke and all they could come up with was ” I dunno, maybe” Thanks, R

  6. James Smith says:

    Anyone building or has built the Humble Pheasant (other than the one already posted). Id like to see more pictures. Its a very good looking boat.

  7. Keith John says:


    I’m also interested in the Humble Peasant. I was wondering if there have been any others built or being built. Also wondering if there was a BASIC materials list.(i.e. how many sheets of plywood for hull, etc.

    Look forward to hearing from you, Keith

    • admin says:

      There isn’t any sort of “official” materials or fasteners list for the HP-22 as for my smaller boat designs. The HP-22 is a relatively large vessel and it can be built a number of ways with various methods and each variation would significantly alter such lists. Many people who opt to build the HP-22 seem to have a large number of wood scraps that can be employed in the construction of the vessel, thus reducing expenditures. Other folks tend to buy a little material at a time (as they have the money to do so), just enough to complete one building stage at a time. In such a case they just look at the plans and figure how much they need to build a main frame perhaps or construct a side panel, etc.

      To get you started though, you will need about fourteen (14) sheets of ¾”x4’x8’ marine grade fir plywood (or ACX fir plywood) for the side and bottom panels, etc. You’ll also need around six (6) or seven (7) sheets of ½”x4’x8’ marine grade fir plywood (or ACX fir plywood) for other parts and components. You’ll need a variety of 2×4’s, 2×6’s, and 2×8’s KD Spruce studs of various lengths you can get from your local lumber yard (or you can opt for much more expensive white oak custom cut from a saw mill). This material is used for making main frames, stem, keel, keelson, etc. and again, simply measure off the plans and buy what you need for each stage of the project as you go along. This way, you won’t have to find all kinds of storage space to put the building materials and you won’t have to lay out all kinds of money at one time.

      For epoxy, I recommend that you use a high-grade marine epoxy system such as MAS or Gougeon Bros. WEST System. To start out, you’ll use at least 5 gallons of epoxy and probably much more. MAS is a 2 to 1 ratio system, so buy 2 gallons of resin and 1 gallon of hardener to start. Buy more as you need it. Gougeon Bros WEST System is a 5 to 1 system You can buy smaller containers or a 5 gallon jug or resin and a one gallon can of hardener to start. You also need wood flour and micro-balloons to mix with the epoxy when making a thick paste for various applications. Start with a quart container of each to start. Epoxy does have a limited shelf life, so it’s really best to purchase amounts that you’ll use up in a relatively short time period.

      Addressing fasteners: The method I recommend to build my boat designs is what I call “glue & screw.” The glue in this case is marine grade epoxy as mentioned above. The screws are not really necessary once the epoxy has cured as the epoxy/wood joint bond is stronger than the wood itself. The screws are actually “mini-clamps” that hold various components in the proper position during assembly, and hold the proper amount of compression in the joints until the epoxy has cured. We used to use drywall screws for this because they are cheap, but they tend to strip or break off when trying to remove them (plus there is also all that extra labor to remove them). When they broke off or stripped and couldn’t be removed, they would begin rusting in the wood and that caused all kinds of problems. I now recommend using stainless steel screws. They are stronger and much cheaper than silicon-bronze. You don’t have to use actual wood screws. You can use self-tapping sheet metal screws (flat-head) and countersink them into the wood. This variety of screw is much cheaper than a proper wood screw. All screws should be countersunk and filled with thickened epoxy. The screws can remain and don’t have to be removed because they are stainless and that saves much labor. Generally speaking, use #12 screws for ¾” plywood, #10 screws for ½” plywood, and #8 screws for any 3/8” or ¼” plywood that you may use when building or fitting out the boat. Rule of thumb is the length of screw should be three (3) times the thickness of the component being fastened, so ¾” plywood being fastened to a main frame would require a 2-1/4” long screw. BUT…..since the screw is countersunk into the wood, figure about ¼” less so you would use 2” long screws. The spacing of the screws depends on curvature and whatever it takes to hold the components firmly against each other while the epoxy cures. Generally 4” or so spacing between screws seems to work quite well, but sometimes they can be spaced further apart and at other times they may be just a little closer together, but this will become readily apparent as you begin building. I think you’ll find some pretty good prices on this type of screw on EBay.

      For starters, you might order about (400) #12×2” screws, (200) #10×1-1/4” screws, and (200) #8×1” screws, and (200) #8×3/4” screws. You can always buy more if you need them and they generally come in boxes of 100 each. Check out Hamilton Marine and Jamestown Distributors, both online for their prices on screws before looking on EBay and also check out their prices on epoxy products.

      That should get you started. Try building the various components such as main frames, etc. first and assembling side panels, transom, etc. before beginning to assemble the hull. The book on how to build the Pilgrim’s Pride 16 should be on your shop work bench as it gives you step by step instructions on how to build the basic hull with pictures as guidelines (The Pilgrim’s Pride 16 goes together the same way as the Humble Peasant hull). The book explains much of what I’ve outlined above, but has much more information and detail. More importantly, it tells you what to do first, next, and so on in a smooth transition of hull assembly. Most of your questions will be answered by reading this book and having it in the shop as a reference. Remember: It pays to shop when purchasing your building materials.

      I know of at least four builders that are presently in construction of HP-22’s at present, however I have not heard any news or updates from any of them, nor have a received any photos. My policy is not to solicit my customers for information for the purpose of promoting Shoestring Shipyard, or to invade their privacy by revealing any of their personal contact info to the public. I rely solely upon information and/or photos that are volunteered by my customers for use on our web site in our Customer Photo Gallery. Only a small percentage of folks actually send photos and comments. The PP-16 and Sagamore Tender, along with my Frugal Skiff Series are my most popular designs, so I do get occasional feedback on a regular basis (hundreds of plans sold for each model). I only sell about six to ten plans per year for the HP-22 so it’s less likely I’ll hear back from anyone for awhile. Perhaps some of the HP-22 builders out there may read this blog and might be willing to share some photos & comments. I’ll be happy to post them as soon as any come in.

  8. James Smith says:

    Thank you.

  9. Keith John says:

    Thanks Paul,

    Thats pretty much what I was looking for. I ordered the PP book to get a better idea of what I’m looking at.

    My plan was to fabricate as many parts as I could and then put it all together.

    Thanks for the quick reply, Keith

  10. zach says:

    what is the diferance between paper back plans and large scale plans for the Pilgrim’s Pride 16

    • admin says:


      There are no paperback plans offered for sale by Shoestring Shipyard with the exception of Simple Simon which is a construction manual that does include construction drawings. All other models of boats offered by Shoestring Shipyard have separate plans or drawings if you will, that contain all the dimensions and notes necessary to build a boat. Then there is an instruction book (or shop manual) that contains written, step-by-step instructions with photos on how to go about build the boat. The reason they are sold separately is because experienced boat builders don’t need the instruction manual and therefore it’s unfair for them to be required to purchase something they don’t need. The book is only an instruction manual – it does not contain any plans or drawings and you cannot build a boat from it unless you have the large scale plans. Another reason for selling these items separately is because many folks will order just the book first to see if they think they can actually get through such a project. It helps them get a sense of what is involved before spending money on the plans which of course cost more money. If a customer feels such a project is beyond their ability to build a boat after reading the book, at least they have not spent additional money on the plans and buying just the book alone is an inexpensive way to look into what is involved. If someone decides they can handle such a project after reading the book, all they have to do is order the plans for the boat they wish to build. This system has worked quite well for Shoestring Shipyard and customers for over 12 years now. We used to sell both plans and books together as a package years ago, and discovered some people were unhappy with having to buy both items when they only really needed or wanted just one of them. Now you have choices: You can purchase just the book or just the plans or both at the same time. Again – just to be clear: You CAN build a boat from the large scale plans (provided you already know how to build a boat). You CANNOT build a boat from the instruction book on how to build the boat in question – it’s an instruction book ONLY. If you ARE NOT an experienced boat builder, you will discover that having the book IN ADDITION to the large scale plans is essential in order to complete your project.

  11. zach says:

    what are the purpose of the floataion chambers in the PP16, my friend built this boat w/o the chambers and it floats fine, is it just mandated by the Coast Gaurd?

    • admin says:

      If the boat is swamped and filled with water for any reason, the flotation chambers provide just enough buoyancy for the hull to still float with the gunwales just above the surface of the water. If the PP-16 was a production boat intended for pleasure use, the Coast Guard would require this. Since this vessel is not a production model sold to the public for pleasure use, custom built by individuals, and was designed and intended as a commercial inshore work (fishing) vessel, you can build the boat without the flotation chambers. My personal opinion is that the flotation chambers should be built into the boat regardless, however this decision is up to you or anyone else building this vessel.

  12. Crissy Walford says:

    What is the history of the Frugal Skiff?

    • admin says:

      The following was copied from the Shoestring Shipyard Frugal Skiff page:

      The 10′ Frugal Skiff was designed specifically to be featured in a series of articles written for On The Water magazine. If you collected the issues containing these articles, you’ve got sufficient information to build the 10′ Frugal Skiff.This salty looking boat performs well and is very easy to build. This is a great first boat building project. Falmouth High School (Mass.) regularly includes the frugal skiff as part of their boat building curriculum.

      In addition to the above comment where you can see that the 10′ version of the Frugal Skiff was the original design of the series, I’ll just add that as a result of the 10′ Frugal Skiff popularity and numerous requests for other sizes – I designed the 8′, 12′, and 14′ versions to add to the 10′ footer. Thus the Frugal Skiff became a “series” of designs – all incorporating the exact same building methods and assembly procedures. This series of designs is the most basic & simple of designs I offer, and perhaps the most inexpensive to build. They also go together quickly, even for folks without any boat building (or even carpentry) experience.

      There is still a certain level of ability to read and correctly interpret instructions, follow said instructions, and have a reasonable ability to handle & use basic hand and power tools that most people own for use in home maintenance.

      I would love to say that absolutely anyone can build one of my boat designs, but sadly that’s just not true. There are some folks in this world that have no business picking up a tool (of any kind), and others that just can’t figure out drawings and dimensions (the “geometrically challenged”). I’ve found that most people are capable though, and it’s okay to ask for help from a friend or neighbor once in awhile if you need it.