The Westport Dinghy and how I built it my way

Construction photos at the bottom of this page....

The dinghy is always a tough choice to make.
You need a good husky dinghy, maybe with an outboard so you can make longer runs to town for provisions. Or to take gear with you to scuba or snorkel. This needs to be a very steady dink. But it 'always' needs to be inflated, off-loaded and sometimes carried in davits.

Then you find that many times it is just too much trouble to make all that happen just for a quick stop someplace so you can dash into shore for some quick provisions.

So the years have taught me a couple things about the dinghy.

When I bought Flying cloud, she had huge davits on the stern and a VERY large rib inflatable that the davits were not ready to handle.

I hate davits! They look unsightly, they're always in the way and the rarely work the way they should.

So I believe I have found the happy solution........

I carry on the foredeck an eight foot rib inflatable. It is deflated and stored very secure in chocks and straps. When I need it and its 9 hp outboard, I use one of my downwind poles to lift it off the deck and over the side.

I have on the stern Port quarter one of those lovely (expensive) hoists that can load and off load the motor.
In my laid back approach to things I have installed a 12 volt air compressor in the engine room and plumbed it to the base of the mast. That does a fair job of inflating the thing.

But back to that quick trip ashore or the need for a dinghy in a hurry.

For that I bought the plans for a Westport Dinghy. These are great since they only weigh 40 pounds! The normal construction is the same as they used to do with aircraft wings. A wood frame work and cloth stretched over they skeleton. Today they use Dacron, Kevlar and epoxy for this construction.

But of course for me there is no simple out-of-the-box solution.
So using the plans from the Westport dinghy, I constructed the mold or jig to build the dink. Using 'under floor layment' panels, I constructed the stations for the jig. But, I made her stern section a bit wider and shortened her length just a little so she would fit upside down on top of the inflatable.

Then to take it a step farther and knowing I would destroy such a delicate craft out cruising, I decided that instead of bent ribs from oak, I would use three layers of mahogany ply and epoxy and bend them as they were installed. This was a sort of 'glue-lam' beam which is much stronger.

Fabric was not going to work either. So I 'cold-molded' one inch by 1/8 inch luan strips diagonally across the ribs and stringers. two layers of this with epoxy in between and then finished off with fiberglass cloth and epoxy, gave be a very stout little boat of 52 pounds. I sanded her smooth and coated her with clear AwlGrip, trimmed her with the same colors as Flying Cloud and gold-leafed her name on a teak transom.

Now I can carry this dinghy upside down resting on top of the rib dinghy.

If I need a quick dinghy, I just un-strap her and toss her over the side. To retrieve it, I simply raised it on deck by it's painter.
The additional advantage s, this little boat protects the Rib from ultraviolet damage.

For info on these boats and plans go to:



Photos of the dinghy project

Jig is setup on a strong back and stringers are glued in place


Ribs are being laminated in place and held with wire ties until glue cures



With ribs bent and glued in place, the strips are started at an angle.
This proved to be too much trouble



These strips (left) look good but don't work very well.
So I removed them and made new strips 3/4 inch wide using 1/8 inch Birch Plywood.
On the right is a view inside the dinghy with the Birch strips clamped in place.


I have attached all the strips that I have clamps for. They will sit over night like this so the curve can be set for fitting.
The next day these strips will be numbered and removed. Edges will be sanded and they will be re-installed with epoxy glue and staples. The staples will force each strip to glue exactly to each stringer.

Floor timbers installed and now the boat is ready for the dacron covering.


August 30, 2013

At this time it appears that the strip plank method is not going to work out as planned.
So, I have removed all the strips cleaned up the strakes and removed the shell from it's form.

Placing it upside down on the deflated rib dinghy, it is clear that this dinghy is not going to work.
So I have given this dinghy to my good friend Houston Barker for his 26 foot Wharram Cat.

However; using this shell as a basic design for the dinghy I want, I have taken the plans and modified them to provide a dinghy that will fit.
The new dinghy will be about seven inches shorter and the transom about six inches wider. I am doubling the number of stringers, using heavier timber on everything and may try to use plywood as for the bottom.
Below are pics of the new dinghy in the works...

Using the original strong back from the first dinghy, I started mounting all the station forms. By moving each station an inch or two forward I was able to shorten the dinghy to the length required to fit on deck

Keeping stations 1 thru 4 exactly as designed I maintained the forward section of the boat very close to the plans.
Then I modified station 5 and the transom to the additional beam I wanted. A little tweaking here and there and everything looked pretty good.

The new stations and transom are in place and I have installed the gunwales and part of the new stringers.
The plan call for 1" x 3/8" gunwales but I used 11/4" x  5/8" for additional strength

The plans also call for a total of 10 stringers at 3/8" x 3/8". Here I have doubled the number of stringers to 20 and they are 1/2" x 1/2".
I am considering a plywood bottom.

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