Dunlin: An Experimental Peapod
Small Craft Advisor|September - October 2020
A brief row in a 13-foot peapod during one of our local small-boat gatherings inspired me to design and build a small cruiser.
Kees Prins

The beauty, simple elegance and functionality of the peapod have always inspired me and it seemed a fitting starting point for designing a small cruiser/explorer. You can row it both directions, which is handy for exploring coves and such; it’s light enough to pull up a beach and has a seaworthy shape on the water. Lobstermen in Maine survived many perilous trips in peapods. Ironically the boat I ended up with is a far cry from the simplicity of the original inspiration, but the elegance is still there. I’ll take you through the steps, from rough idea to the finished product.

Hull Design

Peapods are double-ended, typically around 15 feet long and 4 to 5 feet wide. Within these parameters different shapes have developed over time. They first appeared around 1870 in North Haven, Maine. They were often used by Maine lobstermen working in tight spots where bigger boats couldn’t go.At the fishing grounds they were rowed, often standing up, facing forwards using extended oarlocks. They were usually sailed with a small spritsail, mainly reaching or running, but they didn’t sail to weather well. They were heavily built, using oak keels with cedar or pine planks over steam-bent oak frames.

I found lines drawings of several different models and compared them by copying the lines on transparent paper in a ½ scale. By overlapping various lines drawings I was able to study the many subtle differences. I was looking for stability, carrying capacity, maneuverability and aesthetics. I settled on Howard Chapelle’s own favorite tender for his schooner (plate 56 in his book Boatbuilding). He describes her as a heavy, but excellent rower and decent under sail. Her lines show relatively full sections and ends.

Weight

Port Townsend, Washington is a wonderful jumping-off point for endless exploring of islands, coves and beaches surrounded by beautiful mountains. Most pristine waters are north from there and access often involves a ferry ride. Putting a car with trailer on the ferry, however, is expensive. Hence the thought to try to make the boat “‘cartopable,” which would reduce ferry cost as well as make driving around easier. This put a definite limit to size and weight.

Chapelle’s detailed drawings show heavy scantlings with a 2 x 6 oak keel going down the center. I lofted the hull lines and lightened up the construction dramatically. Instead of the oak keel on edge, I drew a flat keel made of two layers of 3/8 Yellow Cedar, so she could sit flat on a beach. Laminated stems were reduced from their original size and made of Yellow Cedar while the hull is ¼ western red cedar with epoxy and cloth inside and out. Frames were eliminated since there was to be enough structure inside. The slight tumblehome was also eliminated and this increased the beam at the rails by a few inches to a total of 4' 5. Decks, seats and bulkheads were to be ¼ Okoume plywood. All up, including the rig, she weighs about 250 pounds. To get this boat on top of my truck would require some clever lifting device, which I made many sketches for but never built. A trailer would have to do for now.

Buoyancy

As soon as one starts sailing, one challenges Mother Nature; she will try to push you over while you attempt to stay upright. Folks have come up with all kinds of ways to mitigate that force—ballast keels, multiple hulls, stiffer hull shape, added beam, greater weight, and more. In a small row/sail cruiser your choices are limited, however. Likely there will be a day where things get out of hand, so how a boat will handle swamped needs to be considered. I know from experience that a swamped boat can be really hard to manage—it usually just wants to roll over. Being able to self-rescue is vital. Watertight compartments or dry-bags are some ways to keep most water out while also keeping gear dry.

I employed watertight bulkheads with hinged access hatches in decks both forward and aft. Even the side seats are buoyancy tanks with screw-in hatches. All of this is constructed of ¼ plywood with glass cloth on all horizontal surfaces. If swamped, I’m confident one can bail her and get back underway before things go south.

Water Ballast

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM SMALL CRAFT ADVISORView All

Upgrading the Potter 15 Centerboard

When I bought my Potter 15, Blue Knot, in 2014, it already had more than 25 years on its clock.

9 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

REMEMBERING MY POTTER 19 TANBARK

In the mid-1980s, Joe Edwards flew me out to California to try out our new boat.

7 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

The Sea Trials of Minimus II

Since our first article about Minimus II, our minimalist, four-masted voyaging catamaran (SCA #117), we’ve taken her offshore for initial sea trials. On our second outing, we spent two days and a night offshore from the coast of Oregon.

5 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

The Importance of Capsize Testing

I was glad to see your recent article on the back page regarding one person’s experience with a capsized boat (Artful Sailor #122). I’m so glad he did this testing on his boat and I agree with his conclusions.

3 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

ESCAPE TO QUARANTINE SHORE THE TEXAS 200 IN 2020

It is almost dark. The sun has finally hit the horizon as I tack down Matagorda Bay towards Pass Cavallo.

10+ mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

SMALL BOAT CRUISE: Moosehead Lake, Maine

There’s adventure in leaving a place you know for a place you don’t know.

9 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

Sweet & Simple

Fred Shell shares some of what he has learned over nearly 40 years of designing, building, and sailing small boats

7 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

Diversity Afloat

As the sailing season comes to an end on northern waters, I find myself pondering the modern sailing scene.

3 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

Boat Review: Salish Voyager

Gig Harbor Boat Works releases a new design aimed toward adventure

10+ mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

Anchor Juice

That’s odd, I said to myself. It hasn’t rained, yet there’s a cup of water in the bilge.

3 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021