Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Flint - a capable boat

Eddie Guy with the very first Flint
I think it was sometime in 2004 that Eddie Guy came to me for a new rowing and small outboard boat. Eddie lived on an island in Moreton Bay, and being an experienced waterman, he used small boats to travel to the mainland, in all sorts of weather, to pick-up supplies. His previous boat was a stitch-and-glue, flat-bottomed rowing boat which he had built from plans. The design is well-known, and of a similar size to Flint with an emphasis on rowing, but with provision for mounting a very small outboard. The problem was that Eddie found her very difficult to keep tracking in a cross-wind or cross-sea, and the pounding was driving him crazy.

As a result of Eddie's query about a replacement boat, I drew Flint. The construction was the same as the flat-bottomed boat he was using - stitch-and-glue from developed panel shapes - but my design incorporated a V-bottom with extremely fine and sharp foreward sections in an attempt to avoid the pounding problems Eddie had encountered. The radical part was the amount of twist and bend in the bottom panels, which takes developable plywood panels to the limit. As it turned out, eddie said that, "....the boat just fell together..." Now Eddie is a very capable builder, but my experience has been that as long as you use good-quality plywood of the correct thickness, the boat is a breeze to build.
Very simple construction - no mold or strongback required
Eddie liked his boat very much, finding that she handled the choppy conditions of Moreton Bay well, without pounding, and tracking well.

I subsequently built one for another customer, and had the opportunity to test her.
Car-topping was easy...
...boat was light...
...rowed nicely...
...and to my eyes at least, looked pretty.
There have been a lot of Flints built, and generally they get used. One person who has really inspired me is Alec Morgan. Alec has done a number of muti-day rowing expeditions and has also fitted his Flint with a polytarp "crab claw" rig. He doesn't use a centreboard or lee-board - just relies on her sharp sections and a steering oar for lateral resistance.
Alec's rig
Beachcruising under oars - healthy for mind as well as body
Alec has just sent through a nice email about a recent trip - only half-a-day, but it goes to show just what good fun can be had in a very short time, using minimal resources - very impressive

Hi Ross

In this part of the world it's that time of the year when the dominant swells travel north with the humpbacks and the estuary bars are safer for small craft going to sea.  A couple of weekends ago I set off early to row from Currumbin Creek to Point Danger.  With forecast 0.8 metre swells and light to moderate winds out of the south I packed the sail for a cruise on the return run.

Everything went to plan except for 10 or so seconds where the gps records a 15kph spike surfing a wave back in through the rivermouth  No harm done but a few exciting moments and half a dozen scoops with the bailer.

The gap in track is a result of me not knowing how to pause while taking photos.

Distance:  20.46km
Time:  3:32:10
Max speed:  15km/h
Ave Speed:  6 km/h
Alec's Journey
An early start from Thrower Drive ramp in Currumbin Creek just beating the sun to the water.  The wind blew off the land from the southwest all morning hence the outward track hugging the coast sitting a 100 metres or so out from the surf zone.
My offshore rig includes a safety pack of the usual kit, V Sheet, flares, mirror, whistle boarding ladder, torch.  The kit can be reached from either side of the boat or when upturned sliding on the lighter red line.
The thicker rope tied to the centre mounted cleat on the transom serves as a boarding ladder if I'm in the deep.  The underseat tanks are filled with sealed plastic softdrink bottles.  I wear a floatation vest through the surf.  I have bailer attached on stretch cord 'at the ready' in a fishing rod holder.
Forgive the tardy stitching on the leathers.  The twine was a kite string I had so I waxed it afterwards with surf wax to provide some protection.  I planed the oars down to take out some weight and add a little spring so fitting was a bit harder than I planned.  The lanyard around the rowlock is a thing I do when sailing as I often drag an oar to leeward while standing and using my weight to steer. I get them at conferences all the time and they have handy little clips on them.  Having the oar in the water and ready means I often only have to twist the blade slightly to pull the bow off the wind and get her tracking again.  The trailing oar also functions as the leeboard when reaching.
Photo is looking north to Burleigh Heads (Bluff in centre of picture) with Surfers paradise further to the north.
Not much surf for the boardriders at Snapper Rocks the home of the Quiksilver Pro surfing contest.  To the right of the twin pines on the hill in the centre you can just make out the Point Danger lighthouse that sits on the border of NSW and Qld.
Making for home.  Wind remained in the sou-west.  Sun shining.  Muscles warm.  Lots of 9 km/h + readings on this leg.
Happy happy Alec
Well, what more encouragement do you need? Low-cost boating at its best, low carbon foot-print, good exercise, and rest for the mind.

I've drawn two rigs for Flint but her primary function is that of a rowing boat. A small outboard will push her nicely at semi-displacement speeds.
Here is Steve Dorrington in New Zealand doing 6.3 knots by GPS with a 35 year-old British Seagull 40-plus 2.5hp

Free study plans are available on my website in the designs section.


  1. It looks so pretty. You have made such a nice boat. As you said by your eyes she is so pretty but she really looks so beautiful. Great works.

  2. Thank-you very much indeed for the kind comment. What makes the whole thing worthwhile is having people build the boats successfully, and then have good fun.

  3. Hi Ross. I have always admired your work and Flint has thrilled my imagination. Could you suggest a building scenario for someone like me who would want to keep Flint's weight down for easy solo cartopping. In another post you mention that just the plywood panels weigh at 24 kgs. Would it be possible to have a finished boat (mainly 4mm Okume, taped seams, just varnished, no paint) with a weight in the range of 35-40 kgs? Keep up the good work!

  4. Really, a useful, capable and a very nice looking boat! Congrats!
    Kiel, Ger

  5. This would be an interesting boat to weld in 1/8" aluminum. So many jagged rocks where I live on the BC coast!

  6. That's a great boat. seems to be very efficient and useful. Great work!

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  7. Hi Ross, I'm a great admirer of your work. Thank you! I study your plans endlessly but can't decide between Flint and First Mate. Flint has the advantage IF it is seaworthy enough. The seas are very choppy and big swells here on the Gulf of Thailand.

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