Saturday, June 7, 2014

Argie 15 - A Boat with Multiple Personalities

The Argie 15 is our most popular design, with about 50 plans sold to builders worldwide every year. I designed it in 1988 for the Argus newspaper group in South Africa, for publication of the full plans in their newspapers around the country. The prototype was built by journalist David Biggs, who wrote their weekly DIY supplement, in which the drawings were first published. It has also been published in magazines in Australia and USA, with amateurs able to build from the articles. We can only record plan sales and have no idea how many have been built from those publications.
Newly launched Argie 15 prototype, Dudley at helm.
The Argie 15 started life as a large 3:1 dinghy, able to be rowed, sailed or motored. The design brief was for as large a dinghy as could be built from 6 sheets of plywood. To that I added the ability to be used for camp-cruising, so I laid out the cockpit to give enough length and width for two adults to sleep on air mattresses in the cockpit, under a boom tent.

Over the years that followed, many builders added side seats to make it more comfortable to sail than was possible with the thwart-type seating of the original design. Eventually I added information to the drawings for building with full-length side seats, which added another two sheets of plywood. These also increase safety for sailing in rougher water by reducing splash water entering the cockpit and adding flotation. For camp-cruising, the seats add watertight stowage compartments for clothing and food.

The Argie 15 has proven to be a very versatile boat, well beyond the scope of the original design. It was intended as a large open boat for family fun but has proven capable of so much more.
This photo of Nick Fairley's boat shows the capacity of the Argie 15 pretty well.
The late Colin Farlam, a larger-than-life character around the yacht clubs of Cape Town, liked to tell the story of his first sail in an Argie 15. He was visiting a friend at Zeekoevlei, the lake where I grew up and did most of my small boat sailing. The Zeekoevlei Yacht Club fleet was on the water, racing in quite strong conditions. There was an Argie 15 on the lawn and the friend said "Come, lets go race the Fireballs". Colin's response was "We can't race them in that". They did "race them in that" and Colin was shocked. He told me that they could hold the Fireballs on all headings except that they sailed a fraction lower to windward. Not bad for a 3:1 family dinghy. But this 3:1 family dinghy can pick up it's skirts and fly like no 3:1 family dinghy is supposed to do. Colin immediately bought one for himself and later declared to me that the Argie 15 was the best dinghy that he had ever sailed.

The Argie 15 has classic styling, with a springy sheer and good freeboard. That makes it a dry boat in lumpy water and well-suited to fishing in moderate coastal conditions. This was the plan of Pete Frielinnghaus when he fitted a centre console and 30hp outboard to his Argie 15. He reports that it can do more than 20 knots. Pretty good for a 3:1 family dinghy.
Pete Frielinghaus in his Argie 15 centre console fishing boat.
 After the 2004 tsunami, I was approached by a church organisation from California, asking if I had a design that could be used to help replace the decimated subsistence fishing fleets. I donated the Argie 15 design for as many boats as they needed to build. They cut plywood component kits and supplied the kits plus all other materials needed, as well as training, to allow fishermen to build the boats on the beach in India. I have no idea how many were built this way.

The Argie 15 would be a great boat for raid-type adventure sailing events. It has the load capacity to carry the crew plus stores, camping gear etc. It is fast enough to get there ahead of most of the competition. It is light enough to be portaged over short distances or trailed on a dolly for longer overland legs.

I have been promising myself for years that I will build an Argie 15 for myself. Somehow there has always been some other project or adventure in the way, so it hasn't happened. This would be a good boat to take to the Wooden Boat Show at Mystic Seaport. I must pull finger and build one to take to the show in the next year or two.

Construction is the most basic of basic boatbuilding methods, stitch-&-glue plywood. It uses 6mm plywood that is jointed mostly with fibreglass tape and resin. This method sometimes produces rather boxy shapes but the Argie 15 manages to be quite elegant. It can be built from plans only, with components drawn full-size from dimensioned diagrams on the drawings. An optional extra is to order full-size patterns that save the measuring work by supplying printed patterns of the components, for the builder to transfer onto the plywood.

Pre-cut kits of all plywood components are also available from suppliers in a few countries. Our USA kits are cut and shipped by Chesapeake Light Craft in Annapolis but must be ordered from us direct. For suppliers in other countries go to our kits page.

There are many sailing videos on-line of the Argie 15. A new one by Justin Philips of Nick Fairley's new Argie 15 sailing in about 12 knots of breeze, shows how responsive and quick it is, tacking on a tickey and accelerating very quickly out of turns.

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