Incidental Sailboats

tekne-5During one of my motorcycle trips around Turkey, I visited a coastal town with a port and loads of sailboats in it. Wandering through thoughts looking at the sea and the beautiful vessels, I noticed that I actually did not know how a sail worked. I mean I could roughly guess that it had to do something with the wind ‘obviously,’ but I bore a random knowledge, I didn’t know where I got from, that sailboats could travel faster towards the wind then they do along the wind. It was then I got extremely curious about the subject, especially the wing‑like operation principles of the sail, and eventually ended up building a fully functional model sailboat once I returned from the road trip. I must admit that this was kind of an overreaction when I could simply just read about them, but I just wanted to try and see it for myself. Having built another model power boat (picture here!) previously with my flat mate, I thought “how hard can it be?” Right? Before I knew, a weekend project turned into a 2‑month project as I got deeper into the subject of making model sailboats, and eventually I have crafted a ~75 cm long, ~1 m high, radio‑controlled sailboat with a race‑compatible hull (I think) without even buying a proper plan or a guide book, and constructed only using hand‑made parts for the accessories and rigging fixtures.

20150521_194425I used free sample pages from a sailboat making guide book to have a general idea about how the plan was going to be like. I scaled and detailed the overview of the plan I found on these pages based on what I’ve read about sailboats, and what I knew about making things. I should say in the end, it played out pretty well.

I can say that this was one of my rather sophisticated makes, except for the electronics which are simply composed of two servo motors for controlling the main sheet and the rudder; an off-the-shelf radio receiver; and a battery pack. The hull and the keel are composites of 4 different types of wood, 5 different types of coating material, sheet and tube aluminum parts, cast lead, 3 different types of glue, and so on… Don’t even ask about the required craftsmanship, I think I made my point about it when I said that it took around 2 months for me to complete.


The boat past the test for water leaks, buoyancy, and balance in a bath tub. The funny part of the story begins here. Before I could test the boat in open waters I came to Boston for a couple of months to visit MIT, and I now possess a provisional level sailing card from the MIT Sailing. In the end I was able to “try and see it for myself” how a sail worked. However, slightly different from what I had in mind in the first place, it was in an actual sailboat on the actual river of Charles.

Now I know it for sure that it is strictly about the wind.

General view of the hull after initial planking.
View of the stern after initial planking.
The keel’s center is made of 3-mm sheet aluminum. A block of lead is cast on one end to counterweight the tilting caused by the sails.
The keel plate and the end weight is later covered with balsa wood. Notice the keel on the left-hand side of the picture. The cone-like balsa wood covering pieces are crafted using a handheld drill as a lathe.
The keel after painting. Note that the final coat of varnish is not applied yet on this picture.
The rudder after painting and varnishing.
The main sail is attached onto the mast using hand made stainless steel clips.
The connection of the boom and the boom vang. Note that round beech wood sticks are inserted into aluminum tubing to support the o-screws’ connection. The bedding of the mast is also supported with aluminum tubing and sheet within the hull (not visible in the picture).
The view of the hull before primary coating.



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