Saturday, September 20, 2014

Didi Mini Mk3 in Vancouver BC

Mark Paterson lives in Burnaby, British Columbia, in Canada. In 2010 he was one of the first customers to buy plans for the Didi Mini Mk3. His boat is nearing completion and he expects to launch before the end of this year.

I met Mark in 2011 when I was a speaker at the Metal Boat Festival in Anacortes, WA. He drove down from Canada to meet, a pleasant surprise for me seeing as he was building a plywood boat and I was there to discuss steel and aluminium boats with people who work with cold and hard materials, grinders and sand-blasters.

A few weeks ago, when I was a presenter at the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, WA, Mark came down again. He caught up with me at the Didi Cruise-Mini that was being exhibited by David Blessing. Mark gave me a flash drive loaded with photos of his project, from start through to the present nearly complete stage. I will post photos of his project over the next few weeks.
Mark's Didi Mini Mk 3 with hardware going on.
 Mark has done some exquisite work while building his boat, work of which any builder would be rightfully proud. Some of it is above the level of expertise that I would expect from an amateur builder and is to his own detailing, modified from my drawings and made from carbon/epoxy instead of aluminium or stainless steel. The lighter weight of these items will go some way to offset the comfortable interior that he has put into his boat. I can see the influence of a wife in the interior.
Nice galley to cook up a storm in a little boat.
I won't show the early construction photos. The construction method is much like her bigger sister, the Didi 950 that is shown in posts on this blog over the past few months and I don't want to bore you with repeated info. You can access the Didi 950 posts through the archive list at left. Instead I will focus on the more interesting aspects of Mark's build. Watch for those posts over the next few weeks.

To see more of this design and others in our portfolio, please visit

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Update on Didi 26 #14

I designed the Didi 26 in 1997 and sold the first plans in 1998. I had drawn it as a speculative design, with no customer to commission it but a bunch of people asking about that concept. I went ahead and drew it to fill the needs that were most often requested. Along with that it also had to fit into an Australian trailer-sailer rule that existed at the time, did not gain a following and died a few years later.One of the first to be launched was "Butterfly", built by Ake Unander in Malbo, Sweden. Ake built her in a carport alongside his home.

The hull of "Butterfly", coming out into the snow to be turned upright.
"Butterfly" being towed to launch by a VW Golf
"Butterfly" on an early sail, in breezy conditions.
Last week I received an email from Ake. He still enjoys sailing "Butterfly", although he has toned her down somewhat by replacing her bright yellow livery with a more sedate white. He has also modified the cockpit and interior to better suit his advancing age and has replaced the retracting bowsprit with a shorter fixed sprit and furling headsail, making her easier to sail single-handed. I am very much in favour of these personal modifications because the whole point of a boat is to go sailing and you will do more sailing if you are comfortable with your boat.
A recent photo of "Butterfly" in relaxed mode on Lake V├Ąttern
Thank you Ake, for building "Butterfly" and for using her as she was intended to be used.

To see more of this and our other designs, please visit

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sneak Peak at Cape Charles 32

I started to design the Cape Charles 32 a few years ago, commissioned by a client in Maryland. He passed away without having built the boat and it slid to the back shelf, with other designs having higher priority. There it stayed, waiting for a new client to take it on.

Word did get out about this incomplete design and I occasionally received enquiries about when it would be complete or when they could start building. Somehow there was always too much pressure from other designs on my board. Earlier this year the Cape Charles 32 found a spot on my board and is moving forward again and two will start construction when I have the necessary drawings ready.

In the process it has gone through a metamorphosis, prompted by the change of primary client who helps to steer the direction of the design. Eventually the concept of the original client, of a gaff rigged coastal cruiser with simple traditional layout, will be available alongside the version on which I am now working, as shown here.
Preliminary Marconi rig for Cape Charles 32
The square-top mainsail has been described as the modern equivalent of a gaff rig. It behaves differently from a gaff rig but has some of the same advantages and it is prettier than a leg 'o mutton mainsail. I think that it will work well on this cruiser. As seen here it is preliminary and it may change in some way before completion.

The new client for the Cape Charles 32 likes the interior layout of the Didi 950 and asked if something similar will work for the CC32. When I looked at this possibility I realised that the two boats are almost identical in overall dimensions. The concepts and hull shapes are very different, of course, but in some ways the Cape Charles 32 is the Didi 950 taken back a few steps in time.
Cape Charles 32 Accommodation
The layout will be very comfortable and offers good privacy for two couples or a small family. Full standing headroom extends over all standing areas of this boat because of the horizontal cabin crown. The U-shape galley is very secure at sea, with enough counter area for entertaining in harbour.
Profile and Underbody of the Cape Charles 32
Hull shape and construction is very much as for the smaller sisters in this design range. They are the Cape Cutter 19, the Cape Henry 21 and the Cape May 25. The family is growing.

With a draft of 1.2m (3' 11"), the Cape Charles 32 will be a good boat for thin water cruising. If you do run her aground, you can hop over the side to push her off again. That will get you into private anchorages that are out of bounds to deep keel cruisers.

To see our full range of designs, please visit

Saturday, September 13, 2014

International Cape Cutter Week 2015

The Cape Cutter 19 is a popular little gaff cutter that I designed for Nick Voorhoeve of Cape Cutter Yachts. Originally built in Cape Town and exported to UK, production moved to UK when Honnor Marine bought the company. Since then many boats have been built and rumour has it that the factory currently has a waiting list for boats to be built. In addition to more than 100 GRP boats, more than 60 have been or are being built by amateurs, from plywood.

Plywood Cape Cutter 19 "Tiptoe" built by Ian Allen in New Zealand.
This pretty little gaffer sails very well and has earned a very loyal following. Her character and sailing characteristics have resulted in bigger sisters coming off my drawing board as well, the Cape Henry 21 and Cape May 25. The Cape Charles 32 is now part way through the design process.

Earlier this year a group of GRP Cape Cutter 19s met in Cornwall to sail together in the first International Cape Cutter Week. After a successful event, they have now announced their plans for International Cape Cutter Week 2015, from 23-31 May 2015. The sailing area will be on the rivers and waters surrounding Suffolk Yacht Harbour on the River Orwell. For this event they hope to also have entries from Europe.

International Cape Cutter Week 2014 from Charles Erb on Vimeo.

If you have a Cape Cutter 19 or are building one and you are in UK or Western Europe, this is an event that you might consider as a holiday destination for next year. You will meet others with their boats, cruise in company, learn from each other and no doubt have a great time. I have been invited and hope to be able to be there. Time will tell whether or not that works out.

The 2014 event was enjoyed by all participants. The 2015 event is getting off to a great start, with three confirmed entries already.

To see more of this design and others from our office, please visit

Monday, September 8, 2014

Didi 950 - Up and Over

This seems to be a period of hull-turning. About 10 days ago I posted about the Didi 26 being turned in Hood River, OR. Now I am doing the same for Mike Vermeersch's  Didi 950 in Ohio.

Mike turned his hull this weekend and it went very smoothly and safely. It is a much bigger boat, with more weight that can potentially get out of control and more height needed to successfully accommodate the hull on its side as it goes through the process. Bigger and heavier boats need more care, preparation and equipment than is the case with smaller boats.

Mike chose to turn it using the spit-roast method. This is only one of many methods that I describe in my book "Shaped by Wind & Wave".

Turning by this method is done by attaching axles to both ends of the hull to suspend it on supports (Mike used engine hoists) while it is rotated on the axles. Care must be taken to get the axles on centreline and close to the vertical centre of gravity of the hull, to keep the rotational forces small. In this case Mike asked me for the position of the VCG, which he says proved to be spot-on. Once lifted, he turned it by himself, exerting about 20lb of force to rotate the hull. These photos tell the story.
Spit-roast axles ready to be fitted.
Axle bolted to transom.

Axle bolted to bow.
Axle in chain sling attached to boom of engine hoist.
Lifted on engine hoists and turn started.
Almost over.
Cradle ready for the hull, on castors for easy moving.
Safely settled in her new cradle and ready for interior work.
Thanks Mike Vermeersch for the great photo series.

To see more of this and our other designs, please visit.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Wooden Boat Festival Starts Tomorrow

Today I spent a very pleasant few hours sailing the Didi Cruise-Mini "Segue" on the very beautiful Puget Sound. She was lying on the dock of the NorthWest School of Wooden Boatbuilding at Port Hadlock and we needed to take her the few miles to Port Townsend, venue of the Wooden Boat Festival, which starts tomorrow.
Fine bow and beamy hull of the Didi Cruise-Mini "Segue"
 This was the first time that I had the opportunity to sail one of these little boats and it proved to be a delightfull surprise. It is a cruising version of our Didi Mini Mk2 design, with detuned rig and shallower but heavier lifting keel in place of the deep draft fixed keel. The water was flat and the breeze a very pleasant 10-15 knots. We were towing a 12ft dinghy that is also to be exhibited and which was probably knocking off about 1 knot from our speed. Yet she still sailed at good enough pace and heading to outsail other small cruisers that were heading the same way, both on heading and speed through the water.
Robust rig, with full-width swept spreaders.
 "Segue" was built by the NorthWest School of Wooden Boatbuilding for David Blessing, who completed her from the structure and interior that was supplied. She proved to be very stable, able to carry her generous full sail plan to windward even in the strongest gusts that came our way. I helmed from the leeward side of the cockpit, only moving to windward twice when stronger gusts arrived. She is very forgiving, with light and comfortable helm and just the right amount of weather helm to allow her to round up if the tiller is left unattended. With only two of us on board, she did not demand weight on the rail to give her power and was very easy to helm from leeward, for best view of the jib telltales. She has the feel of a much larger boat, giving a sense of strength and security.
Didi Cruise-mini "Segue" with her tag-along dinghy.
Overall, she showed me that she very aptly fits the fast micro-cruiser role for which she was designed. I would be happy to go coastal cruising on her, with her lifting keel and shallow twin rudders opening up many cruising areas that are totally inaccessible to larger boats. She can tuck into shallow bays, far from the cruising crowds. And when she comes out onto open water she can pick up her skirts and carry her crew to their next destination at better speed than almost any other cruiser of comparable size, as well as many bigger boats.
In company of hundreds of other wooden boats, waiting to show herself.
David Blessing sails her single-handed much of the time and at other times with friends and family. His comments to me have been that she is an amazing little boat and has not disappointed him in any way. I tweaked the rig and his sail setups during and after our delivery sail and am sure that he will find her even better now than before.

To see more about this and our other designs, please go to our main website at .