The New Boat

After years of talking about it, scheming about it, and thinking about it, we have made a decision; the new tender for our friendship sloop will be a design by Iain Oughtred called the Penny Fee.

One reason why it took so long to come to a decision was that when you start listing what you want out of your next boat (and there is always a next boat) it is almost always the case that items on the list are mutually exclusive. Finding the solution always involves compromise.

In our case we wanted a boat that has a classic look, but does not add significantly to my already extensive yearly boat maintenance. We were drawn to boats of the Whitehall family, and we wanted something with similar looks. The more we looked the more glued clinker plywood looked like a lower maintenance solution than traditional construction.

Next on the list we needed something with more crew and cargo capacity than our current dinghy, which can carry three adults max. Most of the actual Whitehall designs had the same capacity as our glass dinghy. Further, we also wanted a boat that we could comfortably sail as well as row, and yet the Whitehall designs that we looked at that could be modified to sail all fell into the category of a really nice rowboat that you could sail if you did not mind it being crank. Now the last thing we need is a tender-tender (if you follow where I’ve drifted).

The more we discussed our needs the more we realized that what we needed was not a boat to replace our glass dinghy, but a boat that we could sail around on when the friendship was anchored for the day, and a boat that more of us could pile into to go ashore. Further, two of our regular crew are now teenagers who row at their respective schools, so a boat with two rowing positions and two sets of oars became more important. In short we found that we were talking about a larger boat than we had originally thought.

Eventually we realized that we needed a true sailboat that also rows well and is not too heavy. The more I read the more often designer Iain Oughtred’s name came up. I got, and read his excellent book Clinker Plywood Boatbuilding Manual and was impressed by the clarity and detail. I also really like the aesthetic lines of his boats, but at the time I had not met anyone who had built one. I should also say that at the time I was not aware of any of his designs that met all of the criteria that I have listed above.

When the new biography of Iain came out, I ordered a copy. It was an interesting read of a life that has been lived, to a large degree, outside the confines that most people in industrialized countries buy into. More to the point, here was a sailor designer with passion and focus who could comfortably marry traditional lines and proven performance to modern building methods and materials.  Towards the very end of the book the author mentions a design that Iain was working on at the time called the Penny Fee. The description, although brief, was the exact boat we had been looking for.

Before going any further I should say that I am not a novice boat builder and I should also point out that the one thing I never have enough of is time. One of my concerns with taking on a project like the new tender has been the amount of time required to build a boat. The two parts that had me the most concerned were finding a source of plywood and the actual process of spiling planks, that is the process of figuring out the odd, sometimes bizarre shape of a plank in two dimensions so that when it is twisted and bent into three dimensions it looks straight smooth and sweet. I have done enough spiling to know how time consuming it is, and although enjoyable, it one of those skills that I have already proven I can do and do not need to prove again. It was therefore with some interest that I read that kits were available in several types for many of Iain’s designs.

I started doing some research on line, and it turns out that Jordan Boats, located in Scotland and purveyor of Oughtred designs, has a partial kit. In it are the planks, cut by precision router and the forms for building the boat along with detailed materials lists and hardware lists; this sounded perfect. More research, some emails across the pond, and I found myself talking with Alec Jordan of Jordan boats. Budget is an issue, and shipping from Scotland would not be realistic, however, Jordan boats works with several kit production companies, and one is nearby in Maine.

Without too much further discussion we ordered a kit. It is on the way and I will be chronicling our progress on this site. I have already begun the next and perhaps most ugly step in this whole process: clearing out enough space in the shop to build the thing.


5 Responses to “The New Boat”

  1. Henry Smith Says:

    Did you ever receive the Penny Fee kit? How did it turn out? I am very interested to know. Hope it turned out well.

    • dovetails Says:

      Hello Henry,
      The kit did arrive and as of this writing has been a real time saver over building from scratch. I can give you a more complete answer when we have the boat completed.

  2. Henry Smith Says:

    I am sorry–I read the date of this post as March of 20 ELEVEN, not last year. I thought this was the current entry. However, since then I have read the reast of your blog and have been thoroughly enjoying it. I look forward to your next posts!

  3. Clive Shaw Says:


    I am interested in building either the Arctic Tern or Penny Fee but am leaning towards the Penny Fee as it can built in my garage. The pictures look very good indeed.

    Is the Penny Fee relatively stable (my wife does not enjoy sailing) and is it a relatively dry boat in a chop (my wife will be in the spray!).
    Living in England I would like to try the Caledonian Raid and for this the Arctic Tern is perfect for us but am sure the PF would also be suitable.

    Being a novice builder I will use one of Alec Jordan’s kits.

    Clive Shaw

    • dovetails Says:

      Hello Clive,
      You ask some great questions, and I fear that may not have all the answers. We chose the Penny Fee as the boat that we would build because she is supposed to be more stable and a dryer boat. Our Friendship sloop is large enough and draws enough water that we never seem to be anchored or moored very close to shore, and after many wet and wild rides in our little dinghy, we wanted something more stable, that we could sail or row, that had a larger cargo capacity, and that was a dryer boat. She will be large as yacht tenders go, but we feel that this is a realistic trade off for us.
      I have no first hand experience with the Arctic Turn (although I have certainly heard good things about the design) so I don’t really have any basis upon which to make a comparison, and therefore am not much help on the real crux of your question.
      If I remembering correctly, I believe the Penny Fee design came about because builders who participated in the Caledonian Raid were asking for a design that was better suited to that event, and some of the other Raids that hare held in your part of the world. As I recall, several builders had, with the help of Iain Oughtred, built elongated versions of the Tammie Noire design, and although beautiful, they were not quite the perfect boat for Raids. The Penny Fee was the resulting design that Iain came up with to meet that need (at least that is what I remember reading somewhere).
      Alec Jordon is a good guy (he is a bit overly busy so he might not be able to answer your questions right away, but he is very reliable) and Jordon Boats has a very good reputation.
      If you are a novice builder, I would highly recommend both Iain’s book Clinker Plywood Boatbuilding Manual, and How to Build Glued Lapstrake Wooden Boats by John Brooks and Ruth Ann Hill. You will need to buy the plans for the Penny Fee as they don’t come with the kit, although Alec Jordon may have some sort of package. The instructions that come with the kit are clear and a bit simplistic, which is where the other books will be invaluable.
      If I can be of further assistance, please let me know,

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