Small Craft Advisor — Nov/Dec 2010
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Plan Study: Schooner 18
Fred Shell

The intention is an easily built, economical, lightweight, responsive daysailer for one to six people, that is also suitable for substantial adventuring and cruising for one or two. This latest of my designs was developed using some of what I feel are the best elements of my previous boats.

The two elements of the design that stand out most are the cat schooner rig and the aft cabin. This rig, with the sprit booms, is easy to build, set up and use.

The spars are solid spruce (or fir) and can be gotten out of two-by material from your local lumber yard (1-2"x 4"x 10' and 1-2"x 8"x 16'). The longer (17'- 6") mast requires a splice near the top. The spars are light enough to be stepped or un-stepped on the water. The sails use sleeve luffs and stay on the masts. For reefing or stowing, booms are detached and the sails are rolled onto the masts. This is a rig with a very low center of effort, without giving up the benefits of moderately high aspect ratio sails.

The sprit booms—with special thanks to the late Phil Bolger—are wonderful elements of this design. They eliminate the need for travelers, vangs, goosenecks and all the extra line and pulleys that are needed when purchase is required for sail control. As if that isn’t enough, they also put the booms up high enough that the chances of a painful and dangerous whack on the head are greatly reduced. Several reefing combinations are possible, and speeds of 6-7 knots are not uncommon. The maximum seen has been 9.5 knots. Some of these advantages would also apply to a cat ketch rig, but then the aft cabin would be problematic.

The aft cabin advantages are a little more subjective. One is that the cabin space is in a wider and flatter part of the boat, making it much more usable.
The aft cabin is adequate for gear that needs to be kept dry and secure, and provides very comfortable sleeping for one, or cozy accommodations for two.
Because the cabin is in the back, the view forward is unobstructed, providing the exciting feel of an open boat.

The cockpit space and comfort are remarkable for a boat of this size. The coaming and wide flare to the forward topside keeps that great cockpit very dry.
The coaming is angled to make a very comfortable backrest. Rig setup and sail handling can be accomplished from the comfort and safety of the cockpit—no small matter.

The helmsman will usually sit on the weather side of the bridge deck.
When short tacking in light winds, it is not necessary to switch sides. The boat can also be comfortably helmed from a standing position in the cabin (companionway). A small sea chest in the cabin enables a nice semi-protected seated location for helming. In rainy or cold conditions, sitting on the cabin sole with the hatch closed works, too.

The hull is constructed upright on a simple building-jig. This building method is my own variation on some very traditional techniques; wide-plank glued plywood lapstrake is what I call it. All joints are epoxy glued and the lap seams are reinforced with epoxy fillets. All surfaces are sealed inside and out with at least one or two coats of epoxy. No fiberglass sheathing is used. This is the same construction method that hasbeen used on nearly a thousand Shell Boats over the last twenty-five years. Strength, durability and low maintenance have been well-established.

Oarlock sockets and a comfortable rowing station make human power a reasonable option for this schooner. Rowing does not require any reconfiguring of the rig. Breaking down the rig and stowing it on the gallows and crutch takes less than five minutes and will cut down windage enough to be worthwhile for long-distance rowing.

Outboard power works very well with a two to six horsepower clamped on the transom. The motor is located off-center, leaving room for a fuel tank, and also allowing the rudder and steering to operate. Under power, the motor is locked in the straight ahead position and steering is by wheel. The motor can be started by reaching over the cabintop or through the sliding-rear window.
A throttle-extension through the rear window is the simplest control. A kill button or extension on the cutoff line is needed so the engine can be stopped from the helm.

Tests using a Tohatsu four-stroke, three and a half horsepower show a maximum speed of seven knots, and with the six-horse, nine knots. Having the outboard located behind the cabin makes motoring a pleasant experience— something most small boat sailors may find hard to imagine!

Launching and beaching are made very easy by the bilge-keels and skeg. All three have metal shoes and make for a steady, safe, three-point landing on any boat ramp or beach. Despite the shallow 12" draft, these appendages provide excellent windward sailing ability.

Kits and Plans

Plans for the Schooner 18 are available, as well as very thoroughly prepared kits and finished boats. Kits come with hardware and sails.

Schooner 18 Length: 18'-0" Beam: 6'-2" Weight 450 lb.

Total Sail Area: 110 sq. ft.

Fore Sail: 50 sq. ft.

Main Sail: 60 sq. ft.

Draft: 11" Finished: $8600 Kit: $4100 Plans: $130