Boat Plans: Elver

A Strip Planked Cruising Canoe Yawl Sailboat

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Elver under sail in a good breeze

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Elver at the Newport WoodenBoat Show

The Perfect Pocket Cruiser

-- 12" draft. Beach it. No dinghy needed
-- No lofting, no building jig, only 4 frames, full size master curve pattern supplied
-- Tow it behind the family car
-- Half the weight and cost of similar size cruisers
-- Roomy cockpit, double berth
-- Self steer with a lashed tiller
-- A backyard builder favorite for 25 years
-- THE original strip planked canoe yawl pocket cruiser
Click here for:  Plan Price and Order Information

How to Build Elver

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Builders Photo Page

Builder Letters

 ElverSBJartsm.jpg (2237 bytes)Elver SBJ article (Feb/Mar 1981)


Elver is a light weight 20 foot long open canoe yawl pocket cruiser with a cuddy, designed for low cost and simplicity of construction. She is trailerable.


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Elver has a dead flat plywood bottom. Her topsides are strip planked and curved in section. She has some tumblehome in the stern sections. No lofting is required. The sectional shapes of her bulkhead framing are determined by a master curve which is supplied full size on the plans. The plans are pasted onto a piece of hardboard, and cut along the master curve to yield a marking template for laying out the frames. There is no large scantling keel -- just a plank keel, and a plank skeg.


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Elver was originally designed for extreme simplicity, low cost, and light weight by including minimal accomodations. The original berth was a set of three canvas sling panels which attached to the centerboard case, and could be rolled up and tied. The panels could also be hooked to the cabin to form seats. Most people have opted to  build in a plywood double berth of lightly framed 1/4" plywood. The cockpit seats were also originally shown in cloth. If built this way they should have lacing on the undersides to tighten them as the material stretches.

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Sail Plan:

Elver has a yawl rig with a sprit main and a lug mizzen. The mizzen is set off center to clear the tiller. The tiller can slide back into the rudder head to clear the mizzen when maneuvering onto a trailer. A lightly built Elver has about the weight and sail area of a Lightning class boat. The rig is set up almost entirely with rope. There is little hardware to purchase. The mizzen holds the boat head-to at anchor, and prevents sheering about . The mizzen and main can easily be set wing-and-wing with a boathook tied into the foot of the main and braced out. Elver will self steer for hours at a stretch that way, with the jib sheeted in tight and the tiller lashed. Most Elver's will tack through about 90 degrees. All spars were designed shorter than 16 feet, (though the sprit will be easier to work with if longer stock is available).

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Elver was originally intended for use with one or two sweeps, as were many early canoe yawls. Nevertheless, many owners have installed outboard wells, and if carefully done, this has not generally interfered with her sailing ability.  My preference is for an off-center well beside the keel. The aft bulkhead will have to be cut to fit the particular setup. The well and cutout should be as small as practical, and the dimensions will have to suit the motor. An 8 horsepower motor is large for a boat of this type.

Elver Dimensions:

Length on Deck 20'-0"
L.W.L. 17'-1/4"
Beam 7'-3"
Draft (Min.) 12"
Design Disp. 1300 lbs.
Weight (Min.) 900 lbs
Sail Area 174 sf. total
Trailer 1500 lbs. capacity min.
Power 5-8 hp max outboard on bracket, or single sweep

(c) 2003 Stephen Redmond. All Rights Reserved