Friday, December 19, 2014

We are Moving

After more than 10 years in this spot, we have sold our house. We will be moving both home and office between Christmas and New Year. Our mailing address will remain unchanged, as will our telephone numbers and email.

There will be disruption in our service during this period. Aside from moving, we will have to set up all of our computers, plan printers, network and internet connection. It may last the full week between Christmas and New Year. We also have a new 36" roll plotter that must be set up and brought into the network.

Anyone wanting to order plans before Christmas must please do so in the next few days. Any orders received after Tuesday 23rd December may not be shipped until after New Year. I apologise for any inconvenience but ask you to please bear with us during this period.

Here are our contact and other details:-

Dudley Dix Yacht Design
1340-1272 N Great Neck Rd #343
Virginia Beach, VA 23454, USA
Tel (757)962-9273  Fax (888)505-6820
Email dudley at dixdesign dot com
Blogs &

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Why Would Anyone Build a Boat?

Why would anyone build a boat? What kind of question is that for a boat designer to ask? I ask it because there are so many people who ask it in all seriousness. They ask it because they really can't understand why anybody would build a boat instead of buying one. There are so many boats out there that are available and can be acquired with so much less effort, new boats, good used boats, boats that have been damaged in weather events, tired boats that can be rejuvenated and almost dead boats that can be resuscitated.

There is no single answer to that question, there are many reasons why people build boats for themselves and each builder no doubt has a bunch of these reasons rolled up inside whatever it is that drives him to build his boat.

A reason that is common to all of the builders is passion. They have a passion to create a boat, to create something that would never have existed were it not for them and their desire to do this. Having been there myself many times, I can attest to the fantastic feelings that flood through when we first put that new boat into the water and then to give it life by hoisting sail or opening the throttle for the first time. If you think about how wonderful you felt when you first used a new boat that you had bought, doing the same in a boat that you have created with your own hands intensifies those feelings in ways that can't be described.
Petr Muzik built his Shearwater 39 then circumnavigated in his 70's.
It is that passion that also drives many of the decisions that are made during the build project. It drives them to do quality work because they want to feel pride in the final product. They want their creation to show well when seen by others, to be seen as a thing of beauty. Those who have never thought to build a boat themselves look at it and say "Wow, did you build that?".

Financial restraints are behind many amateur boatbuilding projects. If you need or want a new (as in not pre-owned) boat that costs double the money that you can afford to put into it, then the only route to get it is to build it yourself. I have never calculated ahead of my boatbuilding projects how much they are going to cost. Each time I have just dived right in and started, then kept going to the end. That was when I found out what the total cost was and was able to compare with what it would have cost me to buy an equivalent new pop-out production boat. Each time the cost of my fully-equipped boat was around 45% of the cost of a base-package for a production boat of similar size and concept.

Those who don't get it say "It cost you a lot more, you haven't priced in your labour hours, which must be priced at your professional rate of pay". No, we don't price our labour into the project and no, we should not price it at the rate that we receive in our paying jobs, whatever they may be. The project serves as a hobby, as recreation that helps us to recover from a tough week working for someone else. It helps to keep us motivated and able to take on the world. The alternative of working very extended hours at our paying jobs to generate the funds to pay someone else to build our boat brings with it a risk of getting burned out in the process.
Andrew Morkel built his Argie 15. Now he and his family are learning to sail in it.
Many people who build big boats for long distance cruising want to build it themselves to give them confidence in the strength of the boat. They know that they will be sailing their boat on very remote waters, far from rescue services and possibly with their beloved family aboard. The safety of all depends on the quality of the build and they don't want to leave that to people whom they don't know. They have vested interest in doing everything in the best manner possible, so they want to do it themselves. In the process they garner the side benefit of knowing intimately how the boat works, where all of the important parts are, how to get to every seacock or filter in a hurry when dictated by some emergency that may develop onboard. They know exactly how to repair everything onboard because they installed it in the first place. They are likely to lay out all aspects in a very sensible and logical manner because they will have to maintain it themselves. At sea in a storm is not the best time to be trying to track down plumbing or electrical faults in systems that are overly obscure because the person who installed them before the hull liners or lockers were installed didn't consider the problems of working on them in the completed boat.

Others build their own boats because they want something different,  a boat that will stand out from the crowd on marinas, at sea and in distant anchorages. They add personal styling features to fit their own characters and they choose joinery detailing such as is not available from production boatbuilders.
Sergey Federov built his Hout Bay 33 to a very high standard.
Some people choose to build a boat purely for the hobby benefit. They enjoy the build more than using the boat, so the project will be drawn out interminably. They produce exceptional quality in the process but will probably sell the boat when completed or soon after.

It has been said many times that the happiest days of a boatowner's life are when he buys and when he sells the boat. The exception to that cliche is the boatowner who has built his boat himself. There is so much of the builder wrapped up in that boat, in the form of blood, sweat and tears, to say nothing of chunks of skin and body hair, that he and the boat have an affinity and  intimacy that is unknown to those who buy their boats. I have felt very sad when selling each of the boats that I have built, far from the happiest days of my life.

It has also been said many times that boatbuilding is a disease and when you have had it, you will experience periodic relapses. I have to agree with this one, I have had numerous relapses. I can't say that I have suffered relapses, as would apply to most diseases, I have enjoyed those relapses too much to convince my wife that I have suffered in any way. And this is the way that most amateur boatbuilders feel. Visit any of the many boat shows that cater for amateur boatbuilders and you will see for yourself how much they love what they do and just how much passion they build into their projects.

To see our range of designs, for amateur or professional boatbuilding, please go to

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hull Turning Methods

I have shown a few projects in this blog over the past few months with the hulls being turned using different methods. The bigger the boat the more critical this operation is. The risks of damage to property and injury to people increase exponentially as the boat becomes more bulky and increases in weight. Imagine the difference between turning over a plywood hull that is 6.4m (21ft) long, 2.4m (7'10") wide, 1.2mm (3'11") deep and weighing 200kg (440lb) or a 50% scaled up version of the same hull. At 9.6m (31'6") long, 3.6m (11'10") beam and 1.8m (5'11") deep, it will weigh 675kg (1488lb).

It has only increased 50% in all directions but the weight is more than 3x that of the smaller boat. The bulk becomes more difficult to manage and the weight to lift and lower becomes a major factor. If, at the same time as increasing the size, you also change to steel as the construction material, that same size hull could weigh 2500-2750kg (5500-6000lb). Now you are talking about some serious loads that can get out of control, yet the boat is still only 50% bigger in each direction.

Those smaller projects are easily turned over by hand, with friends and neighbours supplying the motive power and the boat having a soft landing on tyres or some other cushioning material. Years ago a client of mine in South Africa turned his 32ft hull by himself. He jacked it up on one side until it reached the balance point, then let gravity take it the rest of the way. It fell against a young tree, then slid down the tree and came to rest flat on the ground. Luckily his hull was relatively undamaged but the tree didn't survive the experience.

There are many ways to turn a hull but that is not one of them. I have a whole chapter on this subject in my book "Shaped by Wind and Wave", to give guidance on how to safely turn your hull. The two Didi 950 hulls that were turned recently in USA and Australia both used the spit-roast method. For each of my own big boats I have used a chain block to do the work, another of the methods explained in the book.
Turning the 38ft "Black Cat" using a chain block on a scaffold tower.
The book can be ordered either as a paperback or as digital for reading on whatever screen device suits you.

To see our range of designs, go to

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Of Camels, Boats, Dunes and Things

We all learn in school about the "ship of the desert", the much maligned camel. These animals and their owners are totally adapted to living on and cruising the undulating surface of the desert. We also know of the traditional boats of the Arab world, the dhows that are seen in both power and sail versions. These are very seaworthy boats and have done extensive voyages.

Not heard of nearly as often in that part of the world is the construction of a modern high performance yacht. Such a construction project is the Didi Mini Mk3 of Hugo Vanderschaegh, proceeding apace in Dubai. This is a Mini 650 racer that is built from plywood. Designed primarily for amateur builders, this one is being built by professionals. The photos below show the hull with all flat sheets fitted and the radius skin starting, through to hull turning.

This boat is being built from a CNC kit that was supplied by our Cape Town kit supplier, CKD Boats. They are able to supply kits for most of our radius chine plywood designs as well as the classically-styled lapstrake designs.
Didi Mini Mk3, flat panels completed and 1st layer of radius starting.
2nd layer of radius almost finished.
Didi Mini Mk3 hull skin completed.
Clean and powerful stern sections.
Completed hull ready to turn over.
They turned Hugo's hull right-way-up last week and recorded it on time-lapse video. They accomplished it with plenty of helping hands and no mechanical equipment. This is a wide boat, at 3m beam, so it towers above the men providing the muscle power. It worked in their situation with lots of hands but "don't try this at home". For the average builder it is better and safer to use mechanical equipment to raise one side under control then lower it again on the other side.

You can see more of his Didi Mini Mk3 project on Hugo's website and follow future progress. Also visit our website at to read more about our range of designs and available kits for our plywood boats.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dudley Dix Yacht Design Calendar 2015

Our 2015 calendar is ready and our first stocks arrived today. If you are a lover of our designs then this calendar will be a great piece of art to fill that empty space on the wall of your office, home or workshop.

The cover photo (also November) is a beautiful sunset photo sent by Phil Semenov of his self-built Didi 34, sailing in Ukraine.
Here are a few other sample pages.

June is a collage of photos showing the Cape Henry 21 built by Roeboats of Co Cork in Ireland. They used some interesting and very pretty detailing in this boat, built for a customer from France.
August is the Didi Sport 15 project of Hunter Gall in Virginia Beach, USA. She is named "Scallywag", which is what Hunter's grandfather called him as a child. The main photo is an interesting view during construction and has a somewhat spiritual feel.
December is Petr Muzik's Shearwater 39 "Shoestring III" sailing in St Helena Bay, South Africa. Petr circumnavigated on this boat when well into his seventies.
Order your calendar from our website via the link on our homepage at and we will mail it to you.

Alternatively, click here to order from our  publisher, Lulu. They will print and ship one copy, or as many as you want, from their closest affiliate to your delivery address.

Either way, get yours now to be ready for January 2015.

If you have one of our boats and would like to see it featured in one of our calendars, please send me some nice high resolution photos of her. The pics need to show her in pretty surroundings or to be interesting in some other way. Now is a good time to start with the 2016 calendar.

And if you want to see more about our designs, please visit our website at

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cape Henry 21 Professional Build in Ireland

Tiernan Roe is a professional boatbuilder in County Cork, Ireland. His company, Roeboats, specialises in building quality wooden boats. Mostly of classic styling, they build for sail, power or rowing. Roeboats recently launched a Cape Henry 21 that they built for a customer from France.Tiernan sent me these photos, which show some interesting details brought into one of our most popular small cruisers.
Cape Henry 21 ready to get wet.

Launched in a pretty setting.
First sail of the new boat.

The mainsail has still to be fully set up in these photos.
Compact sink & cooker unit, neatly executed.
Other side of the galley. Nice detailing.
Looking aft from the double forward berth.
You can follow the construction of this boat on the Roeboats news blog, from start through to launch.

After launch, Tiernan Roe sent me these comments. "She sails very nicely and I found her easy to single hand from the get go. The interior is pretty snazzy with frame and panel oak fronted drawers and a gas stove with tank fed sink.  Also the centreboard was a lot easier to operate than I thought. It's an awkward shape out of the boat to try and move alone."

To see our full range of designs, please visit

Sunday, November 16, 2014

DS15 (Didi Sport 15) Build in South Africa

Until now I have only shown the DS15 prototype, being built in Virginia Beach, USA, by Aussie Hunter Gall. Hunter's project is currently stalled due to circumstances but one of the the other builds is steaming ahead apace. This one is being built by Jim Foot in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. This weekend Jim applied the last coat of epoxy to the outside of his hull and is preparing to paint it.

This series of photos shows the basics of Jim's project up to this stage. This is a radius chine plywood design, with hard chine along the topsides. It is the same family of designs as the Didi Mini Mk3 and Didi 950.
Frames set up on building stocks, with stringers going on.

Stringers all done and bottom panels fitted.
Same stage, showing stringers running into forefoot.
Side panels fitted and first layer of radius progressing.
Stitch-&-glue detail of topside chine.
Second layer of radius going over first layer.
Completed radius chine, running smoothly into flat panels.
Glass taping centreline seam. Jigsaw joints of bottom panel can be seen.
Epoxy coatings started.
Nice finish starting to show.
Clean stern and nice finish.
Final coat of epoxy, ready for sanding and painting.
I will show more of Jim Foot's project as it progresses toward launch date. I tend to show the projects for which I receive the best photos, so please send me your best pics if you want to see your project on this blog or the Dudley Dix Yacht Design main website.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Didi 38 Prototype Birthday

"Black Cat" is the prototype of my Didi 38 design, built in my back garden in Hout Bay, South Africa. She was also the experiment that developed into my radius chine plywood range of designs, all under the Didi name. Today is her birthday, it is 19 years since we launched "Black Cat" at Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town.
Didi 38 "Black Cat" at the start of the 1996 Cape to Rio Race.
Much has happened since then. She has 70 sisters in the water or in build around the world, in the Didi 38/40/40cr design series. She also has hundreds of smaller radius chine plywood monohull sisters being built or in the water, from the Didi Sport 15 through to the Didi 34. She has also spawned catamaran designs in the Dix 470 and DH550.

When I designed her, I did not imagine how popular this construction method would become. The Didi 38 design was for my own use. After that I drew the Didi 34 for a design competition that was run by South African Yachting magazine, now part of Richard Crockett's Sailing for Southern Africa magazine. Since then I have always had at least one other concept waiting in line for me to draw it for this method of construction. Now is no different, I have a commission for a 38ft big sister to the Didi 950 and have many people asking for smaller sisters to the two catamarans, in various sizes. All that I need is the time to draw them.
"Black Cat" in Brazil's Bay of Islands.
Happy Birthday "Black Cat", you have been very good to us.

To see more of our designs, go to

Friday, October 31, 2014

We had a good Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race earlier this month on the Shearwater 45 "Apella" and even won our class. I wrote about it in an earlier post, with some of my photos from the race. What was missing was race photos of the boat that we were sailing. The chairman of the race committee sent me two nice ones today, taken from the start boat while boats were preparing to start. Thanks to Bill Mellen for these photos.
Dan Hall's schooner-rigged Shearwater 45 "Apella".
This year "Apella" gained an asymmetrical spinnaker to help her in the reaching conditions. Next year she will have a fisherman staysail added, to fill in the gap between the masts and add power for beating and reaching.

Our main website is at, where you can see details of all of our designs.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Didi 950 Downunder

I have shown the Didi 950 project of Fred Grimminck in Queensland, Australia, in previous posts. Since then he has progressed nicely and is now well into the fitting-out phase. This, of course, had to start with turning the hull right-way up. Fred used a similar method to the hull turning that I showed recently in Ohio, except that he replaced one of the engine hoists with a tractor-mounted forklift, to lift the hull and pull it out of the building shed, then push it back in. Here is Fred's video of the operation.

The fitting out is moving along, as can be seen in these photos.

Starboard water ballast tanks
Port water ballast tanks and double quarter berth.
Building the saloon settees.
Same area, from above. The open area where the vacuum cleaner is
standing is where the engine is located in the fixed keel version.
This boat has a lifting keel, which will pass through this area.
Looking forward at the foredeck, with deck beam flange being laminated.
This is the second boat of our design that Fred has built. Five years ago he built a Didi Cruise-Mini that he sailed for a few years, then sold recently. Watch this space for more photos of the progress of Fred's project.

See more of this design and others in our portfolio, at

Sunday, October 26, 2014

New rig for Didi 29 Retro

The Didi 29 Retro was commissioned by a client in Cape Town, to build for himself for competition in the classic yacht races in the Caribbean. He wanted a boat with modern underbody and appendages but with a large gaff rig of classic configuration, to race in the modern classic division.
Underbody of Didi 29 Retro
Last year I was asked to draw a more conservative cruising gaff rig for the design, to better suit those who have no aspirations to race with a big crew or simply want to cruise. That resulted in the cruising gaff rig with about 20% less sail area on the same foretriangle height.
Didi 29 Retro racing gaff rig at left, cruising rig at right
This year I was asked to draw a more modern rig for it, which developed into the squaretop Marconi rig. This one will better suit most sailors, being easier to handle and easier to understand for those who don't know gaff rigs. On sail area, it fits between the two gaff rigs and it will be interesting to see how the three compare on the water.
Didi 29 Retro with squaretop Marconi rig
The squaretop Marconi rig suits the aesthetics of this hull rather well. It would be my choice if I were building this boat for myself. Should be an exciting boat to sail too, able to take advantage of the power of modern stable sail fabrics.

To see more of this and our other designs, go to

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Didi Cruise-Mini available in UK

The Sail 4 Cancer charity in UK has a Didi Cruise-Mini that has been donated to their cause and is available for sale. This is a cruising version of the Didi Mini Mk2, with a lifting keel and reduced rig, as well as more headroom. It is a small performance cruiser in the image of the Mini 650 trans-Atlantic racers.
Didi Cruise-Mini, a sleek little performance cruiser.
I sailed one of these boats recently on Puget Sound when I was there for the Wooden Boat Festival. She proved to be a speedy little cruiser with delightful manners. She handled beautifully, carries her rig very well and has comfortable accommodation for weekending or short holidays afloat. We sailed past everything under sail that we saw on the water, sailing higher and faster. This was despite towing a clinker dinghy that was almost as long as she was. We had no desire to tow the dinghy but it was also destined for the Wooden Boat Festival and dragging along behind us was the simplest way to get there.
Twin rudders and lifting keel give access to shallow anchorages.
This boat that is available is in the Hamble yard of Boatshed, in the charge of Peter Delbridge. Anyone interested in it can contact Peter at the email address (peter at boatshedhamble dot com). It was built as a rehabilitation project by a man who was recovering from a serious illness. He completed the boat, sailed it once then donated it to Sail 4 Cancer when he moved abroad and could not take the boat with him.
Lifting bulb keel, excellent stability with shallow draught.
It is a complete boat, with all hardware and sails, ready for coastal cruising. The lifting bulb keel and twin rudders will get her into shallow anchorages that are inaccessible to larger or deeper-draught boats.
Swept spreader rig for easy handling, less complication than a Mini 650 rig.
100% of the selling price will be donated to Sail 4 Cancer (less yard fees etc), a UK charity that provides water based respite services for families affected by cancer. This is an excellent opportunity to buy a boat at a very affordable price and benefit a worthwhile charity at the same time.
Efficient cockpit with cuddy for shelter when on watch.
She is priced to sell, at £6,000 and well worth a look to see if she may suit you.

To see more of this and our other designs, visit

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Our Schooner Race on Shearwater 45 "Apella"

The 25th running of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race proved to be a well-run and memorable event. The weatherman came close to creating big problems but it all worked out in the end. The massive cold front that tore apart parts of USA in the previous week arrived in Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon, dumping enough rain to wash out the planned Parade of Sail through Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Other than that, everything went off with the usual smoothness of a well-practiced organisation.
"Apella" alongside "America II" at the start of the 2013 race.
Behind the wind-driven soaking of Wednesday, we were handed a couple of gorgeous days to carry us down to Portsmouth. The weatherman didn't get it all correct though. The forecast light breezes from the south at the start, swinging to westerly for most of the race, held only for the biggest and fastest boats at the front of the fleet. Behind them the wind was sometimes the opposite of the forecast and then fell apart into increasingly large holes that trapped boats for hours. The further back that they were in the fleet, the larger the holes and the longer they battled to get through.

As for us on Dan Hall's Shearwater 45 "Apella", we had a pretty good race, one to store in the memory banks for recall in the coming cold winter days when only professional seamen and crazy people are out on the water. We had a good crew, comprising the owner, myself and a bunch of friends who are capable sailors.
Dan Hall, Dudley Dix, Paul Schaub, Dylan Bailey, Tom Miller & Scott Page.

We had a crazy start. Dan was on the helm, labouring under advice from Paul and myself that obviously conflicted with his own thoughts and must have been comical to anyone paying attention to us on nearby boats. Complicated by current, spectator boats and a big boat fleet that started 10 minutes before us but was mostly late to the line, we were dodging boats and going the wrong way within the last minute, yet still managed to cross the start line first, within 10 seconds of the gun and right at the committee boat. As Tom said, "sometimes too many chiefs actually works".
A Class gaff schooner "Hindu", which gave us some close-quarter racing.
We worked our way through much of the big boat fleet and had mostly good sailing all the way down the bay. Most of the time we were lying between 7th and 10th on the water and thoroughly enjoying what we were doing. A highlight of the race was twice managing to get ourselves ahead of the beautiful Baltimore clipper replica "Pride of Baltimore". When the wind came through after we broke out of the hole together, she sailed away from us.
Creeping up on the beautiful "Pride of Baltimore II".
We were in B Class, with our Windmill Point finish line 40 miles short of the Thimble Shoals line for the bigger boats in Classes A and AA. We planned to sail the optional additional 40 miles to claim "bragging rights" but gave up on that idea when the winds went light and onto the nose. Mission accomplished, we whimped out and motored the rest of the way to Portsmouth.

The awards party was today and we came away with first place in B Class, ahead of "Tom Bombadil". A great end to an enjoyable few days. Thank you to the crew of "Apella", all other competitors and especially to the organisers and volunteers who together made this such a successful event.
Tom, Dudley, Paul and Dan with the silverware. Scott & Dylan missed the party.
Dylan has promised to bring his Little Creek 47 "Flutterby" north from St Augustine, Florida, for the 2015 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race and we will race the bay together again. I look forward to it.

To see our full range of designs, please visit