Sunday, December 30, 2012

Amateur Steel Boatbuilding

Plywood is the material chosen by most amateur builders who want a high performance boat. However, for those who are attracted to serious cruising to faraway places, particularly to the high latitudes of the Arctic and Antarctic, the need for a boat that can be bounced off rocks and ice is of more importance than speed. For them performance means being able to sail away from whatever hard object they happen to have encountered at sea or along the shore somewhere.

A few owners of our metal boats have beached them on rocks unintentionally during hurricanes, storms or lapses in proper navigation. Every one of them survived without structural damage severe enough to have endangered them.

 I once very embarrassingly bounced the 12mm plywood hull of my Didi 38 "Black Cat" off a big rock that was being used as a turn mark for a day race in a big regatta in Cape Town. I was not paying enough attention when I should have been and we were pushed onto the rock by the crew of another boat to which we got too close. The surge sucked us against the rock, which we hit hard enough to feel like we had been holed, then we were stuck there by the surge repeatedly pulling us in. It got her photo into both national sailing magazines and the newspaper. She even starred in a video on Finish national television, showing us using the spinnaker pole to push ourselves off the rock. In my rather weak defence I have to say that we managed to extricate ourselves without starting the motor and we did do our penalty turns for hitting a mark of the course.

My ego was just slightly dented by that episode but "Black Cat" proved the strength of plywood/epoxy by not even showing a scratch from the big rock. Despite that, I would not be tempted to put her up against ice or a prolonged beating by waves against a rocky shore. If I was planning to sail to high latitudes I would undoubtedly choose a metal boat.

Professional builders have produced excellent examples of our steel designs. They are, after all, being paid for their expertise and their ability to produce a quality product. But I have also seen some really beautifully built steel boats built to my designs by amateurs, to a very high standard. People with fairly basic skills at the start of a project learn as they go, through experience and additional education where needed, ending up suitably skilled when they get to the important parts of the project. By the time that they launch their boat they have absorbed a whole host of new skills and many go on to become professional builders.

Dennis Wagner made a beautiful job of his Dix 43 Pilot.
This Dix 38 hull was built by Frank Menton and finished by Alan Reynolds.
Then there are the amateurs who do most of the work themselves but bring in the professionals for some stages of the work. This may be to do final welding of the skin plates or the electrical, or some other aspect with which the amateur does not feel comfortable of confident of producing a good enough standard. An example is Sergey Federov in St Petersburg, Russia. He did most of the work himself but brought in the professionals to do the final finishes, both inside and outside. The result is a stunning example of our Hout Bay 33 design.

Hout Bay 33 built by Sergey Federov in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Often amateur boatbuilders are bitten by the bug and become hooked on the process and the rich experiences that they get out of building, launching and sailing the boats that they create. I was bitten in the early 1970s and have never been cured. It led me into yacht design as a career. Others travel a different route and become professional boatbuilders. My friend Howdy bailey is an example. He built a ferro sailboat of about 43ft in the 1970s and developed into one of the true artists of metal boatbuilding in North America as a professional boatbuilder.

Hout Bay 33 built by Francisco Rego in Portugal
Francisco Rego built the flush deck Hout Bay 33 shown above, as a pure amateur project. He also built his own self-steering gear for her and plans to take orders to build custom self-steering gear. So, if you are interested in having Francisco build a vane self-steering unit for your boat email Dudley Dix and ask for contact information for Francisco.

Go to to see our full range of designs. We have many varied concepts from which you can choose.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

To all of our readers, we wish you a happy Christmas and a great 2013.

We thank you all for your support throught the last year and hope that we can continue to work together in the future.

This is a dangerous time of year to be on the roads, so please take it easy through the festive season.

To see our designs, please visit or on mobile.

To keep up with what we are doing, please keep following this blog or keep in touch via Facobook at .

Monday, December 24, 2012

Benefits of Building your own Boat

I have built numerous boats over the years, always as an amateur, not a professional boatbuilder. Each time I have launched my boat at a considerable monetary saving when compared with an equivalent production-built boat. My boats have generally cost me about 45% of the equivalent production boat, so a saving of about 55%. This was with my boats fully equipped for ocean sailing and the production boats being to basic sail-away level. Similar savings apply to smaller boats as well.

When I launched my 36ft boat in 1978, I was asked by a professional in the boating industry what it had cost me. I told him R23,000, which was the total of what we had carefully recorded throughout the project. He told me that I had got my figures wrong because it was impossible to build a boat of that size for less than R50,000. In the 2 years and 9 months that we took to build the boat, my wife and I had only earned $32,000 and had paid our apartment rent, food, transport etc in addition to what we had paid out for the boat. We didn't go to movies, eat at restaurants nor go on holiday but we did build a boat that was equipped for trans-ocean sailing. And it did not cost the R55K or more that a production boat would have cost.

"Tai-Neam", the 36ft boat that we built in our 20s.

Of course, amateur boatbuilding is not for everyone. Some people are all thumbs and almost guaranteed to mess up whatever project they tackle. If you are one of those people, successful amateur boatbuilding is probably not in your future. There are exceptions, or ways to turn this failure tendency around though. I failed woodwork at school because I was totally disinterested, yet I have been able to build wooden boats to a good standard.

For anyone who has reasonable woodworking skills, able to build kitchen cupboards to a reasonable standard, it is not a big step to building your own wooden boat. Whether for a small family boat for fishing on the local lake or a big boat for ocean cruising, our designs have been used successfully by first-time boatbuilders. If you work carefully and apply yourself well, you can do it. The main requirement is that you take pride in your handiwork, then you will do as good a job as you are able.

An argument often used against owner boatbuilding is that there is no saving when the cost of your own labour is added onto the material cost. That certainly applies if you are a professional boatbuilder who is building a boat for himself. For the rest, boatbuilding becomes a very productive hobby and a time for release from pressures of professional life in whatever profession you happen to be. Sure, you can make enough money spending the same number of hours at your job to pay a professional to do the work. In the process you deny yourself the satisfaction of building your own boat and the relaxation that comes from having such a great hobby. You also deny yourself the satisfaction and sense of pride that inevitable comes form creating this living thing of beauty, even if the beauty is only in your own eyes.

A big plus that comes out of building your own boat is that you know every nook and cranny of that boat; you know it intimately and can very quickly figure what has to be done when something goes wrong. You will understand all of the electrical and mechanical systems, without having to pore over manuals showing wiring diagrams, switch panel layouts, plumbing pipe runs, location of skin fittings etc and be able to remedy most problems at a moments notice. I still remember much of the structure, electrical, plumbing etc from the first big boat that I built in the 1970s.

A benefit that must not be underrated is the pride that one feels when launching and sailing this beautiful thing that you have created with your own hands. The builder moulds the character of the boat and, in the process, the boat expands the character of the builder and teaches him new skills that can be used elsewhere in life.

The boat that started it all, my 15ft catamaran.

One warning though, this bug bites hard and often results in an incurable affliction. I built the 15ft plywood catamaran shown above in the early 1970s. The bug bit me and led to a 36ft offshore yacht as my next project. That led me to start my yacht design studies and proceed to a career in boat design. So be warned, if you build your own boat you may end up doing something that you really enjoy for a living.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Governor's Cup Race

Yesterday the Governor's Cup Race between Simonstown, South Africa, and St Helena Island started in ideal sailing conditions. After a comfortable reach in a Westerly breeze off the mountains, they rounded the Cape of Good Hope before setting course North along the coast of the Cape Peninsula, then out into the South Atlantic.

Two of our boats are in the race. "Black Cat", the prototype of the Didi 38 design that I built in my Hout Bay garden, is in the racing division and well up among the leaders at time of writing.

"Black Cat" soon after the start in False Bay.
Photo Clive Dick
The other is the Dix 38 Pilot "Bryana", which is built, owned and skippered by Luke Fisher. She is in the Rally monohull division and going well. The rally division boats are able to motor for 100 miles during the race. It is not possible to know their true positions because we can't tell how much motoring each boat has done. I suspect that most have used up some of their allotted 100 miles because overnight conditions were light breezes and the rally boats are well up with the racing fleet.

"Bryana" on Vaal Dam before she was moved to the ocean.
Photo Luke Fisher
You can follow the race at Governor's Cup live tracking

Friday, December 14, 2012

Parting of the Ways on Facebook

I have had a Facebook account for a few years and have used it as both my personal account and for business, from the start. That worked fine for awhile but it has become clear that the time has come for me to give my business its own home on Facebook.

I did this a few days ago and have been adding images of my boats to the photo section as and when time allows. I have a way to go but there is already a good spread of photos now, each with a link to the relevant page on my website.

I will use this new venue to interact with our supporters, announce new posts on my blog, introduce new designs and anything else that seems relevant at any time.

Our new Dudley Dix Yacht Design Facebook page

 When you have the time, please visit and Like our new Facebook page. Visit us regularly to see what is happening.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Keeping your Boat Honest (and Legal)

A nice boat is one of the real pleasures of life, particularly when we have built it ourselves, with our own hands and using skills that we have developed over a range of projects. We put so much of ourselves into building a boat, in the form of time, effort, sweat, pain and occasionally some blood, that we should be proud of what we are doing. We do it out of love for what we are doing and what we are creating. We sometimes do it on a shoestring budget because we want to get as much boat as we can for the $$ that we can afford.

There are many places that we can cut costs and most of them involve us doing the work ourselves rather than paying a specialist worker to do it for us. That is a valid and satisfying way to reduce the cost of the project.

Another way is to reduce the costs of the hardware and other equipment. This can be by doing without a non-critical piece of equipment and accepting the possible reduction in efficiency. You might also find some reasonable used hardware to suit your boat that has enough life left in it to be worthwhile buying. Or you may choose to buy some cheaper hardware. It may be cheap because it is inferior and might give problems in use. Alternatively, it may be cheap because the products that you are buying are black market items, possibly stolen from the factory or from someone in the legal supply chain. You have no way to know the origin of this equipment if bought from a dubious source. If you can't establish for certain that it is legal product don't do it. You place your boat at risk of confiscation by the police and you may go to jail if you or your boat are found to have stolen goods, a risk not worth taking. Don't buy from dubious sources.

If you are a boat designer then you will, of course, use your own plans. If not, you will have to source plans for a boat that suits your needs. When researching what plans are available, bear in mind that the price that you will pay for the plans is very small when compared with the total cost of your new boat, probably less than 2% of the boat cost. This is not the right place to try to reduce the overall cost of your new boat project. It is unwise to build an expensive building on a cheap foundation.

To get to the real purpose of this post, you will occasionally see boat plans advertised by third parties who claim that they are unused and legal plans. They will sell to you at a fraction of the cost of buying those plans direct from the designer. Be wary of this offer, it might come back to bite you.

I currently have a situation that I am trying to resolve. I became aware of someone starting to build a boat to one of my designs far away from me. His name was unfamiliar to me and does not appear in my customer database. I contacted him to enquire about the plans he is using. He was convinced that he had legal unused plans because the person from whom he bought them told him so. That person was also not in our database but told us who had sold them to him, from another country thousands of miles away. That third person was the original buyer of the plans but by searching emails from years back it became clear that he had all of the structural components cut to build his boat from those plans soon after he bought them.

Boat plans are generally sold with a licence for the construction of only one boat; it is illegal to build more than one unless authorised by the designer. Before buying plans from anyone other than the designer or his agents you should contact the designer to ask if the plans can be sold to you, simply to protect yourself from possible future problems. If it can be confirmed that no boat was started to those plans then you will probably be able to buy them. If it can't be confirmed then don't take the chance.

The small saving that you might have from buying plans from an unauthorised source is really not worth the potential hassles attached to them. Not least of these hassles is the possibility that your local authorities will confiscate your boat. On a few occasions I have been requested to supply a letter confirming that a builder had the legal rights to build the boat. This information is required by some national authorities, who are increasingly clamping down on copyright infringements. Boat plans are intellectual property so anyone using them illegally is stealing from the designer and opening themselves up to prosecution.

The other factor that comes into this is that you should endeavour to have a good relationship with the designer of the boat that you are building. No-matter how good the plans are, there may be times when you want to ask a question to clarify an issue. If you have bought unauthorised plans then you cannot expect to receive any support from the designer, you will be on your own. All this trouble, just to save yourself maybe 1% of the cost of your complete boat.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

2013 Calendar

Last year we published our first calendar, featuring boats that have been built to our designs. We received orders for that 2012 calendar through to about mid-year, so it was a popular item.

Since then we have been collecting photos for the 2013 calendar and it is now ready. We have the first stocks arriving within 24 hours and will be ready to start shipping orders immediately.

Cover, featuring an aluminium Dix 38 Pilot built in Italy.

We are featuring one boat per month, with photos generously supplied by their owners. All are beautiful photos, some in exotic places. Some are owner-built, others professionally built. Each is interesting in its own way.

August shows the plywood Challenger 13
of Jonas Klimantavicius in Lithuania

A calendar would make a nice present for yourself or your favourite person who loves boats. And in good time for the festive season too. We will ship to you in good time to go under the Christmas tree or to hang on the wall by 1st January 2013.

You can order direct from us or go to the publishers,, to preview the calendar. In case you don't have Dudley's book, "Shaped by Wind & Wave", both sites also have links to buy the book.

To see our range of designs, go to .

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Time to Buy a Boat

I recently spent a week in Louisville, Kentucky, for IBEX 2012 . The tone at the convention was pretty upbeat and the exhibitors were very positive after the show about the number of visitors and quality of enquiries that they received. In confirmation of other industry indicators, the boating industry seems to be slowly coming out of the lengthy recession that has plagued us all for the last few years.

My Paper Jet displayed at IBEX 2012.

Now is a good time to be in the market to buy a boat, before prices start to go up again. That applies as much to used boats as to new ones. There are many boats that owners have put up for sale, for economic or other reasons. There are some very good deals available to those who want to to take advantage of this market.

We have some quality boats listed in the brokerage section of our website. They are generally boats that have been well loved by their owners and have proven themselves through extensive cruising to faraway places. They have been well maintained and are extensively equipped, ready to go wherever your dreams would like to take you. The available boats range from the classic fast cruiser Shearwaters to the very modern and eye-catching Dix 61.

Go to our brokerage section to see the listings. If you are interested in any of these boats, please contact me by email and I will connect you with the seller. We don't offer full brokerage service, so your dealings will be directly with the seller. The benefit to you is reduced brokerage fees, so lower purchase cost.

Please visit our website to see our full range of designs.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Paper Jet at IBEX

My last post was about IBEX, which is now a bit over 2 weeks away in Louisville, Kentucky.

News since then is that my self-built prototype of the Paper Jet design will be displayed at the show. If you want to see it, you will find it in the Lobby C Entrance of the Convention Center. I will set it up with the Turbo Rig jib and mainsail set. It will be there for the duration of IBEX.

Aside from my own presentations, I will also be attending other sessions. I will be at my boat occasionally during the show but can't say ahead of time when I will be there.

Prototype of the Paper Jet, with Dudley Dix sailing.
If you will be at IBEX, please take time to go to Lobby C Entrance to see the Paper Jet .
To see our other designs, go to

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

IBEX 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky, is the home of the Kentucky Derby. Even as a kid growing up in South Africa I had heard about the Kentucky Derby. I had also heard about Kentucky Blue Grass but didn't really know what it was until I tried it for seeding a part of my lawn in Hout Bay that persistently refused to grow with local grass types. Until then it might have been a distant cousin of California Grass for all I knew.

Now Kentucky has another attraction to boast. IBEX, the International Boatbuilders' Exhibition & Conference, was relocated to the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville from the previous venue in Miami Beach, Florida, about 3 years ago. The new location is much more central and convenient to visitors from the whole Eastern half of USA and is not far from the Great Lakes.

I have been a speaker at IBEX on occasions in the past, when it was in Miami Beach. This year I will be involved in 3 sessions and hope that some followers of my blog may be able to attend one or more sessions.

Session 507 on Wednesday October 3rd is titled "Wood Kits" and will be shared with John C Harris of Chesapeake Light Craft.

Session 807 on Thursday October 4th is titled "Metal Sailboat Kits" and will be shared with Brian Russell of Odyssey Yachts.

Session 907 on Thursday October 4th is titled "Innovative Wooden Structures" and will be shared with Joe Parker of Pro-Set Epoxies.

I will also be presenting one of my new designs at the Pechakucha, so I will have a busy schedule.

Louisville is not entirely landlocked, as the uneducated like me tend to expect. In fact, it is situated on the banks of the Ohio River, which sees large volumes of commercial traffic up and down river on large barges moved around by pusher tugs. The Ohio River is the largest tributary of the Mississippi River, which takes its waters into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans.

IBEX is a great place to learn about all manner of subjects to do with boats and boating, whether you are a professional in the boating industry, an amateur builder or a consumer. Come join us on the blue grass of Kentucky near to the waters of the Ohio.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bob van Niekerk, the Passing of a Great Designer

Today I received the sad news of the passing of my friend, colleague and mentor, Bob van Niekerk. He will be sadly missed.

Bob was a very accomplished designer and builder, with a history in various industries that included sports cars, powerboats and surfboards. I remember, as a young teenager, watching the Dart and Flamingo cars of GSM (Glass Sport Motors) racing at Killarney, the local Cape Town race track. I have always thought that the Flamingo was one of the prettiest cars ever built and would still love to own one. Bob and his colleagues were a great inspiration to so many people.

Bob was almost unbeatable in offshore powerboat racing. His big offshore racing cats held the top spots for decades and many are still racing and still winning.

He also did a large amount of work with the South African armamants company Armscor. His work with them was designing catamaran patrol boats for harbour and coastal defense. His big coastal patrol boat was too pretty, in my opinion, to serve a military role.

Bob was a contemporary and friend of my parents, living not far from us, waterside, at Zeekoevlei in Cape Town. At that time I was a young child, a long way from choosing my own direction in life and Bob was already an accomplished designer. It was many years later that the two of us were to team up for the design of the 72ft "Sea Princess" ferry and party boat that operates from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town.

"Sea Princess" on Table Bay

Dehlia, Michelle and I offer our sincere condolences to Laurette and family. RIP Bob, you will be remembered for a long, long time.

Dudley Dix

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We've Gone Mobile

We have a strong on-line presence and most of our business comes via our website. However, I built the bulk of that website in the mid 1990s, when the South African market had collapsed along with apartheid and was no longer able to sustain boat designers on local orders. I had learned to hand code html as a last ditch way of bringing food to the table for my family.

In the 80s I was building a nice international market, then politics got in the way with sanctions and I lost that international market very quickly. The same politics artificially inflated the demand for long distance sailboats in South Africa and that supported a few other designers, aside from myself, for a few years. When Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and the world didn't explode in horror, the demand for boats evaporated, many boats came onto the market and suddenly we were no longer able to sell our services.

Income went from fairly comfortable to almost zilch and I did not have the resources to wait for things to maybe change at some time in the future. I saw the newly spreading Internet as the only way that I was likely to rebuild my international market, to rescue my family from the jaws of starvation.

After a foray into website building software available at the time I soon realised that to make this work efficiently I would have to learn how to hand code. I did that with books and lots of trial and error. I also soon found out what worked for me in terms of the amount and type of information that I had to make available to visitors. I learned all about sizing graphics for efficient download and efficient coding for the same purpose.

In those days of universal dial-up Internet the dividends were great because my website was so much faster-loading than my competitors. We developed markets in faraway places because people could see what I wanted to show instead of waiting interminably for graphics that sometimes caused the download system to crash. Having only had dial-up myself, I knew that I had customers in Europe who wanted me to look at their projects on-line and I sometimes couldn't see more than 25% down a page loaded with photos before the download crashed. I swore to not be guilty of that error in my own website, so everything revolved around presenting info efficiently rather than trying to entertain visitors with fancy effects that waste download bandwidth.

Those days are long gone and we now live in USA with high speed fibre optic Internet access and very fast downloads. However, I have not forgotten the lessons learned about efficient downloads. I still have a considerable market in places that don't have high speed Internet. I keep my graphics small and my coding efficient for those people. My website has on occasion been criticised by some as "an eyesore" or other nasty descriptions but I let it wash over me. The criticism is undoubtedly from people who do not understand the demographic at which it is targeted.

Now, unexpectedly, we have gone full circle and efficient downloads are once again an advantage. I am relieved that I did not resize the photos on my site, which would have entailed many hundreds of hours of work.

The closing of this circle is due to the fact that more people are now using smart phones for their Internet access than their laptop or desktop computers. The importance for us vendors with websites is that download speeds with telephones and wireless services is considerably slower than it is with cable or fibre optics. Also, the size of a smart phone screen makes the use of smaller images quite practical. Smaller images give faster downloads, so the ever more impatient Internet traveller does not leave my website in disgust because it has not started to download within 5 seconds. Our attention span and demand for instant gratification is such that we want the information to appear in front of us almost at the same time as we click the link.

So, to finally get round to the purpose of this post, I have set up a mobile version of my website, optimised for efficient download onto the small screen using wireless downloads. The direct link is and will take you into the new mobile home page. From there you can choose links to browse our images in photo albums, view our YouTube videos, browse design pages or even place an order. If you prefer, you can also access our entire main website as you might have done before.

As always, we appreciate our customers and the support that you have given us over the past 30+ years, of which more than half have been since I built my first tentative website in the early hours of the morning and waited in terror for the visitors to arrive, to rescue us from our predicament. I say a big thanks to all of you, who now number in the thousands, for your support in the past and I assure you of our best intentions to keep you coming back in the future, with interesting design concepts to build.

Visit our main website at
Visit our mobile website at

Friday, August 10, 2012

DDYD Calendar 2013

The time is fast approaching to prepare our 2nd annual calendar. Once again, it will feature photos of boats of our design. I have received a few suitable photos during the past few months but still have a long way to go to fill the 12 pages plus cover.

Cover of our 2012 calendar.

So, if you have one of our boats and have some really nice photos of your boat in a great setting, or some nice action photos, please send them along to me by email for consideration. We will not be paying for use of the photos but your boat will be featured in a calendar that you will be able to buy for yourself or for gifts, to show off your pride and joy. Captions on the photos will include info on the boat and owner.

Interesting build photos will also be considered. If you have a photo of your project that has something very aesthetic or appealing about it, that might also make it into the calendar.

This is a build photo from our 2012 calendar. It
shows Brian Russel's aluminium Dix 43 Pilot
project, in a beautiful and very aesthetic photo.

Photos must be clear and of high resolution to be suitable. Preferably in colour but sometimes a good black and white photo looks even better than colour.

Please scour your hard drive, cameras and memory cards to find the best images that you can offer. I look forward to selecting the best for the 2013 calendar. Browse our 2012 calendar on the publisher's website. The 2013 version will probably have a similar format.

Regards to all and happy sailing.

Dudley Dix

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Plywood Boat Kits

Most of our plywood boats are well suited to being built from kits and many boats have been built this way to our designs for years. Kits are available from suppliers in countries worldwide. See further down this post for a list of countries and the companies to contact.

We have recently changed our strategy for cutting kits in USA, for reasons that are beyond the scope of this blog. This has involved a change of company to cut the kits, resulting in a change in the way that they are sold.

The company that we have selected to cut our kits in future for USA is Chesapeake Light Craft, also known as CLC. This company has been cutting plywood kits for many years and is well experienced at cutting, packaging and shipping plywood kits, boatbuilding materials and accessories. They have shipped in excess of 20,000 kits to date, which must rank them among the top plywood kit companies worldwide.

Hunter Gall working on his DS15, built from a
plywood kit. This boat is not yet on our website.

CLC market their own kits and don't want to confuse the issue by marketing our kits among theirs. This means that we must market them ourselves and CLC will concentrate on the cutting and shipping. So, from here on, Dudley Dix Yacht Design will be the ones to speak to if you are in USA and want to ask questions about a kit for one of our plywood designs. We will answer your questions, sell plans and take your kit order and payment and provide all backup during construction to our normal level, as shown in our backup policy. We will pass on your order details to Chesapeake Light Craft and they will cut the kit, package and ship to your location. If you have any problems with damage in shipping or other issues, send them to us and we will arrange the remedy with CLC.

Please note that CLC will not sell you a kit for our designs, they will only cut on orders from us. Your order for one of our kits must be placed with us, not CLC.

Chesapeake Light Craft cut their kits from Joubert okoume marine plywood, so you are assured of a high quality kit as a good base from which to start building your new boat project. Starting with a kit will save you the time-consuming step of drawing out your components and cutting them from the plywood sheets. The time saving will vary between designs but you can expect it to be in the range of 10-20% of total building time, depending on the complexity of the boat.

At the moment we only have a few smaller designs shown for supply from CLC but this will increase to the full range as time permits or enquiries dictate. Also, CLC intends to expand their services to include epoxies, glass and solid timbers to those who want them and hope to also offer hardware kits.

Another view of Hunter Gall and his DS15. This
is a small sportboat that is based on our
Didi Mini Mk3 radius chine plywood design.

You can choose to buy a kit from any of the following suppliers, wherever you are in the world. None of them has sole rights to any country but it is likely that the supplier closest to you will be able to supply to you at the lowest price. Be sure to ask what is included in the kit that is being quoted because this may vary between suppliers.

Australia - Cape Boatworks
France - Pidgikit
Germany - Metz Boats
Italy - Nautikit
Norway - MBoats International
Russia - Chava & Boat Kits Russia
South Africa - CKD Boats
Turkey - Ertug
UK - Exocetus Yacht Kits & Jordan Boats
USA - Dudley Dix Yacht Design

Go to the Dudley Dix Yacht Design website to see the full range of our designs for all materials.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

CNC Kits for 47ft Plywood Catamaran

There is a tremendous amount of work involved in preparing CNC cutting files for a big boat. When the boat is a catamaran, that preparatory work increases due to the two hulls and bridgedeck structures. A few people have asked about CNC kits for the DH550 catamaran. I have done panel files for the bulkheads but not for the remainder of the boat. That allows bulkheads to be cut by our normal plywood kit suppliers in various countries around the world. You can see the list of plywood kit suppliers on our kits page. For all other panels of the big cat the builder must develop the correct panel shapes by the normal boatbuilding methods then cut them from sheets of plywood.

Until now, this has also been the case for the smaller sister, the Dix 470. However, that is changing. A new company has been formed in UK to supply CNC kits for the Dix 470, available to both amateur and professional boatbuilders. Exocetus Yacht Kits has developed the cutting files in-house and is building the first boat. This gives them the hands-on experience to fully back up builders who choose to buy their kits. If a builder has a problem with any aspect of the construction, Exocetus will have already dealt with that issue and be able to answer the question.

Parts of a bulkhead ready for gluing.

The Exocetus kits use stepped scarph joints to join the parts of each panel, with the joints laid out to a saw-tooth pattern to add strength. This joint pattern can be seen in the photo above. People who build her as a one-off without a kit would do a conventional straight sloping scarph instead of this stepped sawtooth scarph.

Exocetus is keeping a complete photographic record of their build project on-line, which gives an excellent resource for builders to use for reference, as well as for potential builders to see what is involved in building one of these boats. The photo diaries can be accessed at the Dix 47 Catamaran Project .

They are developing various kits for the Dix 470, so that a builder can buy what is needed for the next stage of his construction or to suit his needs.

Stern steps, built from pre-cut components.

For information on this and our other designs and kits, please visit

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mast Raising for Trailer-Sailers

Trailer-sailers are great boats for those who don't want a bigger boat or don't have the funds needed to own a bigger boat and keep it on a permanent mooring or marina. They can be taken home or to a storage facility when not being used, to reduce ownership cost. Their size allows them to be used as a short-term cruiser for a small family, for weekend or holiday cruises of a week or two. They are also capable of getting you into all sorts of nooks and beautiful little spots that are inaccessible to larger boats. This can be great to get away from the crowds in some locations or for just getting you right up to the beach, to almost step ashore onto dry sand.

Cape Cutter 19 "Zest" tucked into a small spot that
is out of reach to bigger boats.
Cape Cutter 19 "Kaliope" taking a party break from
the tough duty of cruising the Greek Islands.

Launch and retrieval, with their associated activities of preparing the boat and raising or lowering the mast, are relatively simple when there are enough hands to help with doing the actual muscle work and ensuring that rigging wires, halliards etc are not hooking around the trailer, rudder or other obstacles. It is when this is all being done by one person that it can become rather challenging and it becomes very necessary to have your boat well prepared for the operation.

There are various ways to do this with hinged mast steps or tabernacles in combination with spinnaker poles, folding bowsprits and bipods, with varying degrees of effectiveness. The biggest problem is normally ensuring that there is decent lateral support for the mast as it goes up, to stop it from going off centreline and damaging something.

The bigger the boat and the taller the rig, the more important it becomes to have a well thought-out system to raise and lower the mast without a host of people to help. Another factor is how far out of alignment the mast hinge position is from the chainplates. The Cape Cutter 19s shown above have a short mast, folding bowsprit and tabernacle on a flush deck, so it is fairly easy as long as the many ropes and wires don't hook on anything. The Didi 26 shown below has a hinged mast step (less stable than a tabernacle) and taller mast stepped on top of a high cabin, so it will not be easy to do it by yourself without a decent system.

Didi 26 "Butterfly" tied to a tree in the Swedish
Baltic Islands.

A few days ago I read an article about a system that seems to have sorted out all of the normal problems. The best solutions are normally developed out of necessity, which is the case here. The owner of the boat has a mooring that is up-stream from a low bridge, which means raising his mast after passing under the bridge every time he wants to sail and lowering it before the bridge when returning to moorings.

My thanks the staff at  Tropical Boating for taking the trouble to write a clearly illustrated article about a solo mast raising/lowering system that can be adapted to most trailer-sailers.

See out full range of designs at .

Monday, June 11, 2012

More Sneak Preview

A few months ago I blogged a Sneak Preview of a new design that was developing in North Carolina. That boat will not be ready for the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic Seaport later this month as expected but it is progressing. It should be there next year.

Yesterday I received the latest photos from the owner builder, taken this past weekend. When you look at them, please bear in mind that this man is an amateur boatbuilder and this is his first ever boatbuilding project. He has been a very hesitant builder, unsure of his own woodworking skills being up to the task that he had taken on. He has occasionally needed my reassurance to guide him in the right direction or confirmation that he is doing something correctly. He has shown himself to be a meticulous craftsman, working to a higher degree of accuracy than I have in any of my boatbuilding projects.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

He has chosen to stain the colour onto the plywood and to use clear finishes. His aim was to allow the grain to show through, highlighting the fact that it is a wooden boat as well as the details of the construction, to anyone who looks at the boat. This could have backfired badly for a careless worker because any mess-ups would be highlighted or accentuated. This level of work takes time, of course, so his progress has been slow.

As you can see, his boat is looking absolutely gorgeous. He is producing a boat that is a work of art and of which he will feel very proud, justifiably so. I look forward to sailing this boat and seeing it exhibited at Mystic in 2013.

The builder is Aussie Hunter Gall. He lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia but is building his boat at a friend's property in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

You will not find this design on my website yet but it should be there soon. The tentative design name is the DS15, for Didi Sportboat 15. It is 4.5m (14' 9") long and 1.8m (5' 11") beam.

You can see our other designs at

Friday, June 1, 2012

More Didi 29 Retro

The files for cutting kits for the Didi 29 Retro have been completed and delivered to CKD Boats in Cape Town. They will be adapted to the CNC Machinery that will be used to cut the kit and cutting of the first boat will start in the next few weeks. The owner will start construction in the next couple of months.

I will keep you updated on construction progress through this blog. In the meantime, here is animated video of the Rhino model of the design.

See more about the Didi 29 Retro in my previous blog entry or at

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Design - Didi 29 Retro

We have a new design that is a little out of the ordinary, named the Didi 29 Retro. It is a development of the Didi 26, which is one of our most popular designs with more than 250 plan sets sold. It has the same basic hull, keel options and interior arrangements but that is where the similarity ends. I think that, with the two boats lying next to each other on a marina, few people would realise that they are blood sisters.

3D rendering of radius chine plywood underbody

This boat is intended for classic sailboat racing, so it needed a classic appearance. To this end we have:-

1) Extended the aft end into a counter stern. This will weigh a bit more but it extends the sailing length, for higher speed potential in stronger conditions.

2) Cropped the forward end to form a plumb bow.

3) Added bulwarks, both because it is a classic feature and to add spring to the sheer. The bulwarks are 100mm high in the bow and taper to a normal toerail height aft of the cabin, so that crew can sit comfortably on the rail.

4) Changed the cabin shape to a more traditional profile with almost vertical sides and compound curved roof.

3D Rendering of topsides and deck

5) Replaced the modern fractional rig with a big gaff cutter rig. It has carbon spars to reduce rig weight and increase stability. It is very versatile, allowing a wide selection of sail options, to really pile on sail area in the light stuff and reef it right down to a compact fully inboard gaff sloop rig in strong winds, and many variations between. The bowsprit pivots around the bow and retracts to stow on the sidedeck. The Genoa, Yankee and asymmetrical spinnaker are tacked to the bowsprit, so they can be pivoted up to windward for deeper sailing angles instead of being stuck on centreline.

Versatile gaff cutter rig

These changes have morphed a very fast modern little racer/cruiser into a traditional racer/cruiser that will be capable of even higher speeds than the original design. It should be extremely quick in light winds and downwind in stronger conditions. The rig is a direct development of the rigs used on the Cape Cutter 19 and Cape Henry 21. Both are surprisingly quick little cruisers in the light to moderate breezes because of their large sail plans, yet are very capable in stronger conditions as well. However, they don't have planing underbodies and the Didi 29 Retro has inherited the planing underbody of the Didi 26, so should go like a witch downwind.

The standard keel options are lifting or fixed bulb keels. The rudder is a cassette that drops through the cockpit floor and locks in place for sailing but can be lifted out for trailing or access to shallow moorings.

The first boat will be built in Hout Bay, South Africa, by the owner. He will use a pre-cut kit of all plywood components, which will be supplied by CKD Boats . Builders will have the choice of building from plans only, plans with full-size Mylar bulkhead patterns or plans with a plywood kit.

For information on our other designs, please visit .

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ost Power 20 - An International Effort

The Ost Power 20 is a new powerboat design that was commissioned by Ost Yachts of Moscow, Russia. The design brief was for a production GRP boat of very modern "stealth" styling and which could be economically shipped internationally in containers. The first boat was introduced at the Moscow Boat Show last month and will be doing demos in the Moscow area throughout the summer.

Ost Power 20 on the Moscow Boat Show

This project turned into a true international effort, with multiple countries involved. I am a South African designer working in USA for a Russia client. The hull and deck plugs were made on a 5-axis router in Virginia, USA and were shipped to China. There the plugs were brought up to final finish and moulds were taken from them. The hull and deck components are moulded in China, with all stiffening added in the moulds. Then they are nested inside 40ft containers and shipped to the builder in Moscow, Russia. In Moscow they are assembled and all joinery and hardware added to complete them for sale into the Russian market. The first boat taken from the moulds underwent some testing in China.

The first boat testing in China

Ost Yachts plan to show their boats on boat shows in Europe. Visit the Ost Yachts Website.

Visit for more inforamtion on all of our designs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

WOOD Regatta

It is time for the WOOD Regatta again and I encourage anyone with a small to moderate size wooden boat to join us for a weekend of fun. If you are on the US Mid-Atlantic Coast or nearby, it is well worth the effort to be there.

This is a weekend of racing but the emphasis is on fun rather than proving that you are Olympic medal material. Everybody there is a lover of wooden boats, especially the particular one that they will be sailing. Many of them have been lovingly restored or have been built by their owners, so they have little interest in enforcing their rights at marks or on the start line by bashing you out of the way. You need a working knowledge of the racing rules to be competitive but, if you are short of experience in that department, hang back from the fray to be safe.

Venue for the event is Rock Hall Yacht Club, on the Delmarva Peninsula, on the East side of Chesapeake Bay. The on-site facilities are good, with a club restaurant and plenty of space for camping in very pleasant surroundings. The club also has a swimming pool and rolling lawns for family to relax while you are sailing.

View of the sailing waters from Rock Hall Yacht Club.

I will be there with my Paper Jet #1 and invite any other Paper Jet owners on the East Coast to join me there. Argie 15s would also be great boats to sail in this regatta, so please join us there. Last year there were entries from as far away as Massachusetts and Maine. I think that there was also someone who drove from Michigan.

Go to to read more info and to download Notice of Race and application forms. Deadline for entry is 5th May, so put this on your "to do" list for action this month.
Rock Hall Yacht Club from the dinghy beach. Camping is along the tree line to the right of the club house.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

eBook Version of "Shaped by Wind & Wave"

Thanks to the support from all who have bought my printed book "Shaped by Wind & Wave", sales have gone well in the weeks since it was launched. I have now also converted it to eBook format to expand the range of reading options for those who prefer to download and read on one of the many eBook readers or a computer.

It can be bought from by clicking here . The free eBook reading program Adobe Didital Editions is needed to read it on a Windows computer. This program can also be installed via a link on the eBook download page.

To view our boat designs, go to

Friday, April 6, 2012

Last day for discounted book

Thanks to all who have already bought my book, we have had a surges of sales the past few days while the publisher has had a general disount on all publications. Today is the last day to buy at the discounted price. From tomorrow it will be back at the normal price.

Go to


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why do we build boats?

In the March/April 2012 issue of Wooden Boat Magazine the Editor, Matt Murphy, picks up on a discussion on the Wooden Boat Forum about whether to buy or build your own boat. This is an issue that is very close to my heart and soul. I would not go so far as to say that my life was aimless before I started to build my own boats but it certainly did change for the better from that first boat. It was the spark that took me into a string of builds and into a career in boat design.

I have responded to Wooden Boat with a letter to the editor, which I hope will be published in an upcoming issue. In the meantime, I have permission from Wooden Boat to publish it here on my blog. It makes this post a bit long, so I apologise. Please bear with me, I hope that you will read what I had to say.

Dear Matt,

Today I read your editorial "To Build or to Buy" in the March/April 2012 issue of Wooden Boat. Thank you for highlighting this issue. I know that I have a vested interest in the good health of amateur boatbuilding. I make my living primarily by designing boats that are intended more for amateur builders than their professional counterparts. With that "full disclosure" out of the way, I would like to comment as the amateur boatbuilder inside me that has always provided my main driving force.

I have built, with my own hands, almost every boat that I have ever owned. This started as a young child with tin canoes, sealed with pitch and paddled with the end pieces from wooden peach boxes. I have received such pleasure from creating all of those beautiful things myself, from "sticks and glue" bought from the hardware store, an enjoyment that is hard to put into words. There is a satisfaction that comes out of it that will never be understood by those who have not built a boat themselves. There is intense joy that is felt when that boat first floats and on the first sail, when all of it finally comes together and the dream is fulfilled.

There is a common saying that we have all heard many times. "The best days for a boat owner are the day that he buys it and the day that he sells it". I can see that it may be true for a boat that is bought. I cannot see it being true when you have created that boat with your own energy, with much sweat and and blood spilled in the process. I have felt sadness when parting ways with all of my boats but life has to move on.

I have built many small boats and three big ones (34-38ft). Most of this was building by myself with some help from friends or family when needed. I have a head-full of memories that will never leave me. I remember clearly exactly what led up to me losing my concentration and running my thumb through a spindle router when shaping a small part for my 38ft boat. That loss of control cost me much pain and loss of work but I will never forget the lesson learned.

I remember how difficult it was to lift my 34ft boat and slide it sidewards in my back garden, to remove it from its position on top of the mast with a spreader base through the bottom of the hull. It came to be there because nature is much more powerful than I am and had sent a Cape Town gale to pick the boat up bodily and dump it on top of my very new mast.

I remember how I cried when the person who had bought my 36ft boat from me destroyed her. I remember seeing hundreds of pieces of boat scattered among the boulders. To others they were just pieces of wood; I knew every piece of wood, exactly where I had built it into the boat. I felt that a big piece of me was destroyed along with that boat.

When you build a boat you have an affinity to it that cannot be easily described. You shape the character of that boat in the process and your own character grows along with it. I am currently rebuilding a classic British sports car that was given to me as a wreck. My neighbours, who have never created much with their own hands, have asked me if I knew how big a task I was taking on with this car. I reply that it is no big deal, any big project is a succession of small projects and I will get there, all in good time. This project is small compared with building a big boat but people who have not done such projects cannot comprehend it. Restoring a car or a boat that somebody else created long ago gives much satisfaction but it cannot compare with shaping a multitude of bits of wood into a new boat, creating an entirely new entity that would never have existed but for you and your passion, energy and endurance.

With my amateur boatbuilding hat replaced by my yacht designer's hat, I must comment also on a related issue. I received an email a few weeks ago from someone who had apparently considered building one of my designs but decided against it. He said that the $400 price of my plans added too much to the overall cost of building a boat when he could buy an ageing used boat of the same size for $1000. Frankly, anyone who has that mindset should rather buy than build because he will never appreciate the effort that goes into producing a good set of drawings nor what is involved in building a boat. That particular drawing set comprises more than 20 large paper drawings and two strips of costly 36" wide Mylar full-size patterns. They show very clear detailing that was drawn in a CAD program and are printed on expensive roll-media architectural plotters. They took many hundreds of hours to prepare to a standard that can be understood by people who are not trained as boatbuilders, architects or engineers. The price also includes full access to me to ask questions if needed from start to finish of the project.

I don't understand how all of that cannot be worth $400. Maybe it is all part of the mindset that has destroyed manufacturing in USA and sent it all off to China to be made by others at both lower price and quality, turning Americans into buyers instead of creators. Get up out of your computer chair and create something. It doesn't have to be a boat, just create something for yourself instead of buying it. You will be surprised what enjoyment and sense of achievement you will get out of it.

Dudley Dix

Virginia Beach, VA

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book discounts

The publishers of my book 'Shaped by Wind & Wave" are offereing a limited time mystery discount to all buyers of everything that is published by them. To take advantage of this offer click on the link above , the discount will be applied when the item is placed into your shopping cart.

Time runs out on this offer on Friday April 6th, so get in on it soon.

See our range of boat designs at

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Musings of a Boat Designer

I have been trying for many years to find time to publish a book on my writings about the principles of yacht design. Time pressures never have let up, so in the end I just had to make time to get it done.

The title, "Shaped by Wind & Wave", refers to how my own life has been formed by my involvement in sailing and surfing and also to the way that a boat must be shaped to suit the winds and waves if it is to properly serve its intended purpose.

Front cover image.

Much of the content is a collection of articles that I have written over the years for boating magazines and talks that I have given at various boating events. I have updated the articles with new information and added photos for illustration. Most of these chapters cover technical aspects of boat design but presented in layman's terms, so that the normal boating reader can better understand what characteristics result from the multitude of decisions that are taken during the design process.

I have included a chapter about the only circumnavigation of the world ever to have been completed in an open boat. Consider the feat of sailing around the world on a 19ft boat that has no cabin and having to be out there in the elements nomatter what nature throws at you. This was accomplished by Anthony Steward, on a modified version of a boat that I designed.

Ant Steward's little boat shipwrecked on a beach in the
Seychelles, part way through his amazing voyage.

I have also included a chapter about sailing the southern route around Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope. It does not make much sense to take on the massive risk of encountering the Somali pirates by going through the Red Sea in preference to sailing around the Cape of Good Hope. The South African coast is hostile in some places but the locals sail there in good weather and bad. Any experienced sailor can do the same as long as they prepare properly ahead of the tough parts. My own experience is limited to the Cape of Good Hope rather than other parts of the SA coast but I have learned much about its behaviour through my surfing and sailing. Live there for more than a few weeks and you will soon appreciate why the alternative name to "Cape of Good Hope" is "Cape of Storms". In this chapter I explain what to expect, where the dangers are and what you can do to sail safely in this area of wild winds and big waves.

Satelite photo of the Cape of Good Hope area.

The book is available as a letter size paperback through . Click on the link to preview some of the book and to buy if you want to add it to your library. The cover is also pretty enough for it to make a nice coffee table decoration.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Kits for Russia

We now have a kit supplier in Russia, in Irkutsk, near to Lake Baikal in Siberia. The supplier is Boat-Kits Russia and is owned by 39 year old Peter Tatarinov. Initially he is offering plywood kits for our dinghies, the Dixi Dinghy, Argie 10, Argie 15 and Paper Jet. Later he will expand into our small to medium size plywood keelboats as well.

Peter has a shop fitting company with CNC equipment, has some dinghy sailing experience and is currently building a small boat. He has decided to expand the use of his CNC equipment to offer boat kits in addition to the furniture. We have sold plans for many boats to builders in the Irkutsk and Lake Baikal areas, so there seems to be a vibrant boatbuilding community there.

Kits can be ordered directly from  Boat-Kits Russia or from our Russian Agent Andrey Popovich in Vladivostok, through his website

Peter also has CNC equipment to cut metal, so he would be able to cut kits for our metal designs as well if needed.

See our full range of designs at

Friday, February 10, 2012

Government Gone Berserk

I am not normally one to voice my political opinion, prefering to listen quietly to what others say. Occasionally something gets under my skin and itches me so badly that I must have my say.

We are all hearing constantly about the increasing size and cost of government and everyone says that government must get smaller and less costly, in the interests of the future of the nation. Today I have received an email with a link to a news story in Tennessee  that is worthy of the time to read and watch the video.

The State of Tennessee is trying to classify an amateur boatbuilding project as a professional boating business and to tax it accordingly. This is a 14ft one-off wooden skiff that a man built in his garage for his 7-year old son, who likes to fish. The tax that they demand is $539, which is probably near to half of what the boat cost to build.

Is the State of Tennessee so morally and financially bankrupt that it has to rip off its own citizens? We know that government is way too fat and lazy when it has to bend the rules and regulations beyond breaking point to bring in money to pay the salaries of the enforcers.

Murfreesboro TN may be a long way from your neck of the woods but sickness in government has a tendency to spread and other states could catch the virus also, if they see Tennessee getting away with this ludicrous twisting of regulations.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Oppikat - A Boat for Little People

Years ago Neels Lund of Nebe Boats commissioned a catamaran intended for children to sail. He was going to make moulds then build it as a GRP production boat. I designed the Oppikat  for Neels but his company closed its doors before he even started building the moulds.

Over the years since then we have sold a few sets of plans for it but I have never received any photos of completed boats until recently. Frank Nagel in Berlin, Germany, has completed one for his children and has started to send me sailing photos.

Frank's newly completed Oppikat

Frank has two sons. Johnny is 7 and sails with Frank aboard for safety. Vincent is 11 and weighs 33kg. He sails their Oppikat by himself in breezes up to Force 3. Frank says that he also sails it himself with both sons aboard in up to Force 7. The 120kg total weight is a bit much for the little 9ft cat but it is good to know that she can take it.

11-Year old Vincent sailing the Oppikat

Although I first detailed this little boat to be built in fibreglass, I more recently did detailing for a combination of plywood and strip cedar, to make it more suitable for amateur builders. Frank built his boat using that method.

This is a great boat for children to learn how to sail a catamaran, in a size that they can handle either single-handed or with a friend. The fact that it manages rather well with a full-size adult means that Dad can have his fun with it also.

The Oppikat is a nice boat for a winter project, for Dad or Grandpa to build and possibly have some quality time with the little ones. You can be building in a warm basement or garage in the winter then be ready for time on the water in summer. The hulls are small, so it can be built inside almost any room in a standard house or apartment, then taken out through a standard door. It can be car-topped on small cars, so no trailer is needed to get her to the water and back home again.

I hope that we will see a lot more of these fun boats on the water before too long.

Visit our website at for information on all of our designs.