First Sail Boat

Hi all,

Totally new to sail boats, but am looking for a project and want to learn to sail and build some sailing experience. I was hoping to get some feedback on boat suitability. In the boat there would be myself, another adult, and a small dog. River/inlet use.

I quite like the tenderly and passagemaker, and wondered whether people would suggest one over the other for someone new to sailing? Which would be most stable and less likely to capsize?

I'm not fussed on performance/speed.



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RE: First Sail Boat

Either would be a great boat to learn with. The main difference that I see is that the Tenderly, with its simpler balanced lug sail rig, would be easier to learn while the Passagemaker's rig would get you used to sailing with something that's closer to production boats. You'd learn how to handle a jib on the Passagemaker, but not on the Tenderly.

The Tenderly's rig, while simpler, is also more forgiving of mistakes and bad situations. In the worst case, you can just let go of the sheet and the sail will blow straight out, instantly depowering the boat. Try that with the Passagemaker's rig and it'll get hung up on the stays and cause serious trouble. Would you ever need to do this? Unlikely, but you could if you needed to.

The simpler rig also gets you away from the trailer faster. While the Passagemake is still being rigged, the Tenderly could be out on the water. On the other hand, a Passagemaker teaches you more about how to rig a boat.

The other things to keep in mind are the weights and physical sizes. The tenderly is shorter and quite a bit heavier. You'll need to consider if that will impact how you move and store the boats.

Again, each one is a wonderful boat. Whichever you end up with, you'll like it.

Have fun,



RE: First Sail Boat

+1 on everything that Lazlo says.  I would add that the PMD can be also built with a lug rig, putting it on par with the Tenderly for rigging and sailing ease.

I would suggest thinking long and hard regarding the logistical aspects.  How will you transport and where will you store?  The PMD is pretty heavy to caretop unless you have another guy to help.  Tenderly would be a very heavy cartop even for two guys.  A take apart PMD would be easy to transport in the bed of a pickup.  If you are going to trailer and ramp launch, both boats are probably similar.  Lastly. consider ease of build.  For a first build, PMD is probably a little easier but you may want to ask CLC.

My last, and biggest point is to take some sailing lessons.  Ideally you can find a club type setting where you can learn to sail crew ballasted boats.  Sailing is just like flying or driving a car.  No matter how much you read, you will never be very good at it unless you get some lessons.


RE: First Sail Boat

Welcome to the club!  A lot of people would suggest you go get some sailing experience before tackling a build.  There is some merit to that.  If you still want to jump into the deep end, then I would suggest the Passagemaker because of your payload.  I would suggest the gunter sloop rig for performance and to give you more production boat type of experience.  Also, you can sail the PMD just fine without the hassle of the jib, you just lose about 10° on your tacking angles.

Here's a video of my PMD build.  If you have any questions, you can contact me here or at [email protected].

RE: First Sail Boat

We have a Passagemaker Take-Apart, lug rigged, and I can attest to the boat's versatility.  The take-apart feature makes the whole business slightly heavier, but I can pick up either part and move it around by myself.  The larger (aft) section is stored standing on end in a corner of the garage, with the bow part and most of the gear nestled in, leaving more than enough room for the car.  The larger part will fit in the 8' bed of my full-sized pickup truck with the tailgate up, though for local sailing I generally assemble the boat in the garage and pull it up stern-first into the truck.

She's a splendid rowboat: responsive, tracks well, good rowing ergonomics from the midship thwart, and a good load carrier.  Not a racer, mind you, but a handy, stable rowing dinghy.  If I'm on my game and have had my Wheaties, I can get her to nearly 4 knots in smooth water.  I can keep her going along at 2-1/2 to 3 knots all day without hurting myself.  During her rowing sea-trials, we loaded her up with about 800# of man-meat (all four wearing life jackets!) and found that she still rowed passably and wasn't anywhere near swamping, a very burdensome little boat, indeed.  She's rated for 650#, vs. Tenderly's 425#.  If you ever mean to carry more'n two adults and a dog, I imagine a Passagemaker would handle that better.

We've also found that our Passagemaker is a better sailboat than we imagined, not that we expected her to be a slug.  She really does get along well, including upwind in a bit of chop.  That lug sail pulls like an American Cream draft mule (we got the cream-colored sail--looks very nice), and I don't know that the supposed "performance penalty" going to windward is as much of a handicap as some folks think, if one understands what makes a balanced lug work and takes the time to get it set well.  We went with the lug rig mainly to keep things simple and the ability to strike the rig quickly and clear it out of the way for rowing, but we've been pleasantly surprised at how well we can get her to sail.

The large watertight compartments in the ends will keep the boat floating high on her side in the event of a capsize.  That is not a theory.  I found her easy to right and easy to get going again after rounding up loose gear (ahem!) and swimming back in over the side.  (Most of the gear is now in mesh bags clipped to jacklines I rigged under the lips of the forward and aft seats, so I reckon the next capsize recovery will be a bit more organized and perhaps look a bit less like herding cats.)  I don't think the regular Tenderly has all that floatation built in, though the Tenderly XP has large compartments built in along the sides.

Being both longer and wider, I expect the Passagemaker might be a bit more stable under sail vs. Tenderly, but I've no personal experience with a Tenderly to back that up.  Our Passagemaker seems pretty forgiving under sal to me, especially for what is basically a hundred pound rowboat.  The only capsize we've had so far was more of a failure to move my weight quickly enough than the wind knocking her over.

I'd recommend you find a club where you can learn to sail in Flying Juniors, Wayfarers, Interlakes, or some such, just to establish a baseline of confidence.  Whatever you learn there will transfer to whatever you decide to build, sloop rig or not, pretty quickly.  Heck, if you are confident in your choice of CLC kit, I don't see why you couldn't learn to sail while the building project is underway.


RE: First Sail Boat

The Passagemaker is a lot easier boat to build, if that matters. You’ll be on the water sooner.

George K   

RE: First Sail Boat

   Guys, You've got me convinced that the Passagemaker should be Stephen's first build. . . . But if I just wanted a rip-roaring good time sailing (with plenty of time bottom-side up), I build the Tenderly XP and pack it full of sail area.

RE: First Sail Boat

Oh, heck yes.  For blood-pumping screaming around bay or lake under sail, Tenderly XP would be the way to go, if one is comfortable with the extra weight and rig complexity, trickier build, and a bit less versatility.  Heck, just looking at the prototype photos gets my pulse up and my tiller fingers twitchin'!  If you give her a jib-topsail, running backstays, and a big reaching spinaker like Pocketship, she'll be four hands-full for the crew, leave boiled fish in her wake, and it'll take a couple shots of Maker's Mark to settle the nerves afterward, for sure.  <;-)


RE: First Sail Boat

No doubt the Passagemaker Gunter Rig Sloop is a great boat and a ton of fun to sail. But I echo Laszlo's sentiment that it is more complex to rig. 

I have a stock gunter rig and it takes at least 35 minutes to step the mast, lace the sails, tension the stays and the parrels, and adjust the down and out hauls. 

I have riggers-envy of CaptainSkully's awesome modified rig which would be well worth investigating. Captain, have you had two adults on that?

I also would recommend taking an intro to sailing course to make sure you know what you are getting into, though.

The sloop rigged PM, in my humble opinion, is an ideal sailing dinghy but tight for two people. 

Here is a photo of my PM.

Beached Gunter Rig


RE: First Sail Boat

Nice, Patrick.  Seeing her with the tanbark sails on the Gunter rig, I'm struck by how much she resembles a Mirror Dinghy...from a distance, at least.


RE: First Sail Boat

   Hi all,


Thanks to everyone for the thoutghtful replies.

Definitely need to do some more thinking between the Tenderly and PM. Eitherr way the lug rig sounds the way to go for what I am after.

It is hard to go past the beauty of the Tenderly, but perhaps it isn't spacious enough for me, the girlfriend and dog plus a few bits and pieces. While the take-apart possibility of the PM is pretty appealing.

Does anyone here sail a Tenderly with passenger?

As suggested above, I plan on having some lessons before-hand. The area I am moving to has several rivers/inlets around and I have already found a few clubs that offer sailing courses.



RE: First Sail Boat

I took my 130# wife and 60# son sailing with 220# me last weekend on Green Lake in Seattle.  It was only blowing about 8kts with 12kt gusts, but still she was as stable as you could ask for a 12' dinghy that weighs just over 100#.  With the 650# payload, I'm also planning on loading her up with at least 200# of gear to go camp cruising in the San Juans next summer (probably not Salish 100).

As far as rigging time goes, I spend more time talking to people who stop and ask questions about the boat than I do rigging.  Same with the lug rigged Eastport Pram I built years ago.  I keep the halyards reeved, shrouds and forestay attached at the mast head.  I keep the mainsheet attached to the boom and the yard is laced to the mainsail.  The jib sheets also stay in the rope clutches. 

Here's my process.  I lay the mast on the boat, attach the shrouds to the chainplate/padeyes, step the mast and attach the forestay tensioner, then tension up the rig.  I attach the boom to the gooseneck.  I attach the halyard to the yard.  I set the main, sliding the guides onto the track.  I run the outhaul through the cheek block and cleat off.  I install the bridle through the handles on the transom, then I attach the mainsheet to the bridle.  Done in just a few minutes. 

I wouldn't let rig time be a determining factor on which boat I'd build.  The fact that the gunter-sloop rig is a bit more complicated to rig is more than made up by the time saved due to better upwind performance.  For example, when I launched at the ramp at Camano Island State Park, I was able to sail straight back to the ramp even though it was upwind and the current wasn't helping.  That saved at least one tack, if not more.

RE: First Sail Boat


Surprised to see a local on the board, I'm still working on my skerry but super interested in your plans for sail camping on the san juans,  I've been pondering that same thing since I started the build.  Care to share any details/thoughts/precautions?  


RE: First Sail Boat

Hey wookmaster,

I would think you shouldn't be surprised that there are other CLC builders in the area, the PNW has an amazing tradition of maritime culture.  I have built both CLC's Eastport and Passagemaker prams and have taught coastal cruising in the San Juans.  I narrowly missed doing the Salish 100 this year thanks to work.  

My destinations of choice are Sucia and Matia if you're launching from Bellingham or Lummi.  If you're launching from Anacortes, then James Island or Lopez are also nice.

Anyway, as far as thoughts about camp cruising the San Juans, the first thing I would address is current.  It seems like the only time we have decent wind is when there's a storm a brewin'.  Any time the current is faster than your hull speed, you're going to have some challenges.  I haven't been able to outsail the current on a 40' sloop, much less a 12' dinghy.  Also, if you have to go between islands, the water experiences a venturi effect and speeds up even more.  Also, wind shadow from tall islands extend 10x their height across the water.  Let's say Lummi Peak is 1000 ft tall, then the wind shadow can extend almost 2 miles.  There's also something I call "canyon effecte" where the wind can accelerate and bend considerably as it goes between islands.  This can mean you have to tack upwind all the way through a pass, regardless of the direction of the wind or your compass heading.

In order to address this issue, I have a 2.3hp Honda outboTard that I'm going to rebuild and hang off the back of my Passagemaker.  I'm extremely happy with the upwind performance of my gunter-sloop rig, but it can't outsail the laws of physics.

The PM isn't really designed to easily sleep aboard, so I plan on bringing a tent and the various accoutrement of camping on shore.  The cooler fits nicely along the centerline forward of the center thwart.  I'm thinking of installing a large Tempress hatch in the foredeck to access that volume and to keep it reasonably water tight.  I also plan on doing some capsize drills next summer on Green Lake in the shallows.  I have found over the years of owning over a dozen boats that until you have actually capsized it on purpose and self-rescued, there always remains this niggling doubt/fear in the back of your mind about "what if".  I had a bad experience with my Eastport pram on Lake Union and wasn't able to self-rescue as the spring to the shear on the gunwales was an inch under water once the boat was righted and I was back inside.

On top of all that, I always have a whistle and a VHF clipped to my life jacket and I bought those Holt buoyancy bags they use on Optis.  They fit nicely under the center thwart.  I also sit on a Type IV throwable.  My phone goes into a Ziploc bag in my pocket.

Of course, some of the best safety drills you can do are just learn how to sail the heck out of your boat.  Tacking, jibing, chicken tacking, heaving to, reefing underway and MOB drills are all very important.  I have a downhaul rigged on the jib and lazy jacks on the main.  I also installed a reef point on the main, even though it wasn't in the original plans of the kit from Sailrite.

My next build will most probably be a Welsford Navigator.  It's a great design, stretches my building experience quite a bit over the CLC designs I've built, scratches the camp-cruising itch nicely and is very well documented with several build blogs and active builder participation on the wooden boat forum.  Since I'm so happy with my Passagemaker, I'm in no hurry to jump right into the Navigator.  With that being said, I just got back from the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival yesterday and I spent about half an hour looking at Joel Bergen's Ellie, one of the nicest Navigator's you can find with a presence online.

I don't want to hijack this thread, so maybe we should start a camp-cruising in the San Juans thread.  At worst, I could just paste this there.


RE: First Sail Boat

OP, hi, have you considered the NE Dory? We were pretty much noobs to building and sailing before we built ours and it's worked out well. It's a big stable boat where adults can sprawl out, with an unsane 800lb capacity. Yet it's lighter, and the price range is the same as the boats you mentioned, I believe it's simpler and cheaper because the NE Dory is not a motorboat and the others are. Although being physically bigger means there's more surface to work on, a lot of build time depends on the number of parts, and the NE Dory is pretty simple. 

RE: First Sail Boat

   I learned to sail on a Blue Jay sloop back in the 70's, and recently re-aquired one in my '50's.  A fine craft to pick up the basics.  Classic sloop rigging, easy to pull around, a breeze to set up.  Stephen Sparkman design ensures a lively sail in any air.  I would, however, recommend something with a tiny outboard or oars if you are going to learn to sail on any type of moving water.  Any tide or current can and will overpower your beginners sailing skills at the beginning, and trust me, you will be grateful for a back up power source.   

RE: First Sail Boat

Not having been on the CLC Forum for a long time, I am reading with interest this wonderful thread. The PMD was my first build and I had opted for the lug rig which at that time was not yet an official option. A fabulous design with great load carrying capacity. John Harris actually sent me some additional info to ensure that I was doing it correctly. ALL of the sailboats designed by John Harris are good sailing boats and both the PMD and the Tenderly are beautiful sailing dinghies. I have sailed both designs. I came to boat building rather late in life but had sailed many one-design dinghies previously.

I am surprised that nobody suggested yet to include in your consideration the Jimmy Skiff II. Based on your criteria, I would put it at the top of the list. It is John Harris' most recent contribution to the CLC catalogue of sailboats. And though each of his designs represents its own unique flavor of sailing with a particular purpose and target audience in mind, JH's concepts for ideal dinghy sailing have evolved.

After building the PMD and subsequently three kayaks from CLC, I ended up building a glued lapstrake lug-rigged boat called ILUR designed by Francois Vivier. What had ultimately sold me on buillding this particular design was the fact that the ILUR was in its 4th design iteration, i.e. Mr. Vivier had been thinking and re-thinking the design coming up with on-going improvements.  Amazing what 20 years of experience in boat design will do. The Jimmy Skiff is like that for John Harris. Though there are not other interim iterations of this design, he has been gaining immesurable experience - not to mention feed-back - from this and other designs. All of that went into the newest version of the Jimmy Skiff. Of all CLC designs, I'd consider that the best design for a novice sailor.

The Jimmy Skiff is a less fancy looking boat but extremely well thought out. If I were to build another CLC dinghy - and I may - I would without a doubt choose the Jimmy Skiff II. It's versatility, practicality and safety are convincing. It takes me 45 minutes to rig ILUR. The Jimmy Skiff could be in the water in a couple of minutes. It is a bit heavier than the other designs under consideration BUT honestly, none of these boats should be car-topped anyway. One of the advantages of this design is that you don't sit on the floor but rather on the side bunks or a moveable thwart. So, contrary to the PMD and Tenderly, there is no fixed thward to obstruct moving about this boat.

Since you are new to sailing, I cannot recommend strongly enough - as others already  did - to take a small boat sailing course. Speaking as a US Sailing certified sailing instructor, I can assure you that you'll benefit greatly. Be sure you learn on a small light boat (such as a Sunfish for example rather than a keel boat) because the CLC boats are exactly that: LIGHT CRAFT.  Do this before you consider what CLC boat may best suit your needs. The next thing I'd recommend is to come to the next OkoumeFest  (every May) and test sail each of the boats you are thinking about. The last thing you want to do is to build a boat only to realize that it is not exactly the right choice for you.

Fresh Breezes!




RE: First Sail Boat

Hey Chris,

Not to hijack this thread, but Ilur & Beg Meil are on my short list for the next build.  How was your experience?  Do you have a build blog?


Chris (also)

RE: First Sail Boat

Chris wrote >> I am surprised that nobody suggested yet to include in your consideration the Jimmy Skiff II

That's because the OP specifically asked for a comparison between the PMD and Tenderly. We were avoiding thread creep :-)

Seriously, your points about the JSII are good ones. It's certainly the easiest boat to build of the three, too. On the other hand, the Tenderly is at least as forgiving to sail, maybe more so. I sailed it once when I was severely under the weather (left side of my face wasn't working, including my eye) and felt perfectly safe and in control even though it was my first time in the boat. And moving to the purely subjective, the Tenderly is a lot prettier to my now-functioning-again eyes.

There's also the difference between the slap-slap of the flat bottom and the gurgle-gurgle of the rounded one, as well as length. The JSII takes up the most room when stored.

All these things are nit-picking, though. Both (all three) of these boats are really nice ones, all good for beginners and experienced alike.

So many boats, so little time,



RE: First Sail Boat

   I'm going to +1 Laszlo's comment on the appearance of Tenderly, but I'll add that Tenderly XP is even prettier to my eye, with its classy bowsprit and its comfy side seats (not to mention the extra flotation those provide). Stephen1 seems most interested in learning to sail, and Tenderly XP is a sailor's sailboat. 91 sq ft of sail area! Yet Stephen1 can use it with the mailsail alone (68 sq ft) while learning the basics.

Having said all that, I just came in from a nice, long sail in my lug-rigged Northeaster Dory, and I continue to think it is the best boat in the world for me! Thank goodness, everyone's needs are slightly different. That's the reason why John Harris keeps turning out such fun new designs. 

RE: First Sail Boat

... but Ilur & Beg Meil are on my short list for the next build.  How was your experience?  Do you have a build blog?

As per request:

Ilur in PA Building Thread - WoodenBoat Forum

RE: First Sail Boat

I've pored over your Ilur build blog many times.  Thanks for the link.  Were you involved with  That was an amazing resource that is now no longer available.

RE: First Sail Boat

   Hi all,

It has been a long time, but I finally was in a position to order some plans to get a project underway. In the end I decided to start out with an Eastport Pram. Plans have arrived, now it's time to have a good look through them and start tracking down materials.



RE: First Sail Boat

Don't sweat the time spent on deciding, Stephen!

I got bit by a desire to build a sailing canoe back in the '80's, took many years before I chose the newly introduced Waterlust kit in late '16, then another 2-5/6'ths years before I started assembly! I'm about 60% along (I think!) with maybe another 75% left to go before she's ready to pedal... or row, or sail!

- another Stephen

RE: First Sail Boat

Hey Stephen, 

You're going to love your EP.  I sailed mine on Lake Union and Greenlake in N Seattle for years before building a Passagemaker.

Here's a link to my EP build video and also my Instructable.

Let me know if you have any questions.  Enjoy your build!  Remember, when you're half-way done, there's only 90% to go!

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