Silver Gull 19

Silver Gull 19

LOD 19’7″  LWL 13’7″  Beam 6’6″   Draft 3’0″or 2’8″ Sail Area 95 sqft  Displacement 1,885 lbs.
Ballast 785 lbs.

Oh, this boat has gotten the attention of the crew in a pretty big way. So what’s that all about?

Macnaughton, the designer, says, “There are advantages to a super simple to build keel sailing dory, with a single sail Chinese rig and an enclosed steering station. She could be built very quickly.”

“A young couple with little money might also find her a really capable first cruiser that they could easily afford. An older couple might well love to have her for a weekender or daysailer. They could take her out knowing that the enclosed steering station would keep them from getting cold and wet if the weather turned bad. They could also duck behind any island and anchor to wait out a rainstorm or whatever in comfort.”

“The central defining characteristic of the vessel below decks is a long flat area amidships. This provides seating in the daytime and a bunk flat for two at night. When you are seated on this surface your head and shoulders will be in the pilothouse and you will be able to see all around. The window panels are removable for fine weather sailing along the coast. Offshore or in rain or cold they may be dogged in place against their gaskets to provide a weather proof enclosed steering station. The falls of the sail control lines lead in through water traps and are stored in pockets under the deck fore and aft of this central area. The tiller is entirely under the deck and is easily reached from the aft end of the pilothouse.”

“As you read this, I’m sure you will say that it is hard to envision this as a cruising boat with so little accommodations. It is very easy to say you would surely need this or that and that a larger boat would be better. However I can assure you that it is much better to have this boat now and use it than to save money most of your life for some more luxurious alternative that you will then be too old to enjoy. Anybody can afford this boat. And the experiences waiting for you out there are enormously satisfying. The cost of traveling on this boat is so low as to be almost unbelievable.”

“The boat will be dry and can be loaded very heavily with no adverse effects.

Since all lines in the boat are long and gently curved she will slide along very nicely in any weather. Her hull speed would be 5 knots and in variable winds she might average around 3.7 knots day in and day out. If there is any trick to sailing this basic type it is that, to sail really well to windward in a chop, you must keep enough sail up to give her a reasonable amount of heel. This allows her to present her chine to the waves and avoid pounding. This will probably be a little greater angle of heel than other types to get the most out of her. Off the wind you may choose to sail her with very little heel as she is then unlikely to pound.”

“The whole structure of the boat is 5/8″ plywood except the deck which is 1/2″ sheathed strip construction. The interior will have very little in it other than the central berth flat, compartments for flotation foam in the ends, and shelves for storage of food, water, and cooking equipment.

All the plywood joints are fillet and tape construction.

The really big thing though is the extreme simplicity of building the hull. If we assume that you have all materials and tools in hand at the start, two people can build the hull and all the parts for the pilothouse and deck in three days. Actually building the deck and pilothouse will take a little longer. There will probably be more time in the rig and the pattern for the ballast keel than in the main part of the boat.

Why is this hull so simple? Essentially this is because when you flatten the plywood side panels out they are just long wide panels with straight parallel edges and slanted straight cuts at bow and stern scarphed to length. These are bent over one removable mold and two end bulkheads and the bow and stern are filleted and taped together. At this point she already looks like a boat. The chines are then leveled with a guide plank and router. A panel of plywood scarphed to length is then placed over the bottom, traced with a pencil and cut out. This forms the bottom, which is then filleted and taped in place. The basic hull is now done. The sheer comes not from curved panel edges but simply from bending the planks around the flared sides of the three molds.

Camber molds are added temporarily over which you will strip plank the deck. Add the wheelhouse panels as you go and fillet them in place. Then the deck is turned over and sheathed on the underside. Finally it is put in place on the hull and filleted and taped in place. The rest is really just adding parts to this structure.”

“Personally, after more than half a century around the water, much of the time living aboard and traveling, I’m getting a little creaky. Silver Gull 19 has some appeal in that she is safe enough to envision sending the grand children out in or lending to visitors who have a reasonable amount of sailing experience so that they can have fun exploring our wonderful system of bays and quietly flowing rivers around here. Further she is a boat that I could envision my wife and I day sailing and weekending in. We have lived very adventurous lives but don’t really need any more excitement. We find it is good to have a boat for day sailing that you can throw some water and food aboard and go out for an afternoon’s sailing without worrying about rain or heavy winds ruining your afternoon. If things look like they might get uncomfortable, it is a simple matter to just duck into a cove, or behind an island, or just up under the windward shore of our wonderful system of bays that surrounds Eastport. There you just anchor, make some cocoa, read and, if it appears the most enjoyable option, bunk down and spend the night. If you only have rain to contend with you have the option of dogging the window panels in place and just sailing along nice and dry in the now fully enclosed pilothouse.

Of course, a young couple may be much more ambitious than this. They may choose to start from Eastport and sail over to Nova Scotia. This is roughly one good day’s sail, but “roughly” can be the word for it. We have huge tides here along the Bay of Fundy and when you are out in it and the wind happens to come up from the opposite direction to the tide you can be in absolute chaos. Hopefully even the most adventurous young people will do their best to pick their weather. However if worst comes to worst it is nice to know that Silver Gull 19, when all buttoned up for bad weather, can take just about anything.”


The best way to get advice is to find someone who has built the boat of your dreams.    I’ve only been able to find one other builder of the Silver Gull 19, in spite of it being a design that is at least 15 years old.   His advice seemed good:

“The SG19 wasn’t hard to build but there are some “realities”.  —  The boat is tender initially.  I raised the floors 2″ when I built her so I could put stores – water and so forth low down as extra weight.  She does sail quite well.  The biggest problem is that the boat is small forward.  Unless you are 4′ tall you need to go on deck and not through the cabin to work on the bow.”

“I might say that it wasn’t cheap building the SG19.   It takes a lot of WEST epoxy and I’d price the finished cast keels before I glue plywood.   Also casting the custom rudder fittings in bronze was a major job and expensive although where you live it might be a lot easier to do.”


As to the cast keels he said, “I carved the wooden moulds and had someone cast them with bronze keelbolts.   If you have the time you can do that yourself because lead is relatively easy to work with.   I wanted twin keels cause there’s a lot of tide in my area.    —  Check out carving the rudder fittings for the SG19.   You have to do that then get a foundry to cast them.  Complicated. ”

I learned quite a bit here.  First off, I’ve been in a dory and that initial stability is low, which can be surprising at first.  That was a good reminder.  That’s ok for me, I think, though I worry about any day trips with my wife, though there are a lot of other issues to work out on the boat to make it work for that.

The information about the custom casting was interesting, too.   No idea that this was needed.   The lead alone would be about $800 minimum.  Custom brass casting, ouch.   Plans at $586 with shipping?   And the designer says, “This would be a great little cruising boat for a teenager, who could build it and afford it. ”

Hmm.  I have my doubts.   In fact, if you weren’t careful with shopping you could spend $5000 on this boat, easily.   Let’s see, at $11 an hour from McDonalds, at best, that would only be 455 hours of work, not including taxes and the like.   It’s possible, I guess, assuming that teen had no other expense and no plans to save for college or the like.

And while we are on the subject of research the designer says in his plans listing, “Of course a young couple may be much more ambitious than this. They may choose to start from Eastport and sail over to Nova Scotia. This is roughly one good day’s sail, but “roughly” can be the word for it. We have huge tides here along the Bay of Fundy and when you are out in it and the wind happens to come up from the opposite direction to the tide you can be in absolute chaos. Hopefully even the most adventurous young people will do their best to pick their weather. However if worst comes to worst it is nice to know that Silver Gull 19, when all buttoned up for bad weather, can take just about anything. In fact, if you can persuade yourself that you don’t need to macho it out, you can just take the sail down and let her run down wind under bare poles on her own. With the helm lashed she should run gently, quietly, and slowly down wind even in very bad conditions. With her great flare and identical stern and bow she should sit quietly even in quite severe weather. Most heavy blows don’t last all that long and it is quite likely that you won’t “lose” more than about 7 miles before the wind drops or shifts. The North Atlantic in early summer tends to be a fairly benign place so crossing the Bay of Fundy in tough weather can be more of a challenge for Silver Gull 19 than an Atlantic crossing in some ways. Smaller and less able boats than this have crossed the Atlantic. By comparison with some, Silver Gull 19 is quite a ship.”

OK, he says it’s a tough little boat, and you could go big with an adventure, but there are better boats for that.  Reasonable, it seems to me.

In an online post from a few years ago he said, “We have some keel dories in the catalog on our web site. They are the “Silver Gull” series. However just as I wouldn’t recommend centerboard sharpies offshore, I wouldn’t recommend centerboard dories either. Any of these boats are going to have to have keels and deep rudders to make much sense offshore.”

Seems in line with his earlier comments, but….

“Also one respondent is quite correct the only advantage to this type is the extra confidence in building a simple hull and the savings in time. You don’t save anything in materials cost and you won’t normally have quite as good a performance as you would in a fully round bilge boat. Trust me on this, I design them and I like them, but your only valid reason to do it is to save time in construction. Is that what you want? Granted you can save a lot of time. You could build the basic hull for our 28 foot “Silver Gull” in about three days with two people.

Also resale value isn’t as high as a round bilged boat.”

Hmm.  Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a build, is it?  If you are in a hurry build it, otherwise I’d look elsewhere.   Well, he is honest, at least.

Elsewhere online I have found a half dozen Silver Gull 19 dreamers, but only the one builder so far.  And the response from others as they read questions about the boat are… ok.  “But have you considered…..”

A Few More Realities

As the first builder implied, this boat is smaller than you’d think in some ways.  For example, as best as my meager plans/math skills can gather, there are about 40 inches between the floor and the top of the cabin.  For me, with a cushion, that is just barely enough headroom.  The designer says you can lower the floor up to three inches, which I would do.  That would give me five more inches of space than the first builder had.

Also, it appears there is about 24 inches of “head” space going through the forward hatch.

The boat is about six feet tall, give or take, sitting on her keels.  My garage opening is a bit less than that, so I’d have to build the cabin out front.  Oh… and my garage is 6 feet wide at the door.  Yeah, I live in an old house.  I mention, as the boat is wider than that.  So it wold ALL have to be built outside… for this builder, at least.

My wife calls it cute.   She finds the small cabin space less so.  Our combined age is more than 125 years.  We aren’t that young couple the designer speaks of.

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