Sailing on a shoestring


If you are like me and enjoy sailing and cruising but have an extremely limited budget, then the big fancy yachts are out.  Even the little ones are probably beyond your reach.  Sure there are dinghies, but even these new can run into thousands of pounds.  Second hand vessels will still cost although bargains can be picked up if you are prepared to put in a lot of hard work to get them sea-worthy again.   In the UK occasionally a small 10 foot dinghy might come up for sale for around £200 but usually will require a fair bit of work.

If this puts you off getting back out on to the water then I would suggest very strongly to think again.  There is another way to get sailing again and have an incredible amount of fun.   The idea is self-build your boat.  It doesn’t matter what your skill level is you can build anything from an 8-foot sailing and rowing scow up to large sailing cruisers with cabins.  It will still take a fair bit of money, especially for the larger boats.   However, there is one self-build boat where the plans are free.  Best of all though they can be built with the most basic of tools and wood.  You can scavenge for all the wood and parts.  In fact the free club you can join encourages its members to be creative and come up with unique solutions to various boat-building problems.

The name of this type of boat is the Puddleduck Racer or PD Racer or more commonly the PDR.  These ugly little shoeboxes are 8 foot by 4 foot scows that can be used for sailing, rowing and cruising.  They have even been one or two that have had a light motor added and used as a motorboat. They are sturdy, stable boats that can hold two people quite easily.  They are designed to be safe in the water with built in floatation boxes to keep the boat afloat after a capsize.  They only require 3 sheets of plywood, some pieces of cut wood for strengthening and for the mast, tarpaulin for the sail or sails, some latex house paint and a good dollop of elbow grease.

The class itself is dependent on its hull shape from the bottom up, up to a height of 10 inches.  After that, what you do to your design is entirely up to you.   Have a look at some of the photos on the internet of some of the designs.   These little craft have rapidly become legendary in the sailing fraternity especially with the Texas 200 sailing crowd.  The Texas 200 is a gruelling 200 mile sail up the Texas coast.  The variable weather has beaten even some commercial boats, but the Puddleduckers have bravely and stoically competed and completed the course.  One person is even going to take one PDR that he has designed with help from fellow PDR owners on to the Everglades Challenge sailing event.  This is an even longer, more gruelling race than the Texas 200.

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