“Lugs and Jibs: An “Autumn Leaves” Update” – TTG

David Dawson’s lug-rigged Autumn Leaves on the left, Eric Vance’s jib-headed Autumn Leaves on the right. With its mast moved forward, the lugger has a slightly longer cabin top. It would take a very scientific series of races, with all variables minimized, to determine which rig was actually faster. One thing is for certain: as things stand now, the lugger, with its unstayed mast in a tabernacle, is two or three times quicker to rig at the launch ramp.

The Shallow Water Sailors are an informal collection of small boat nuts who for over 40 years have been gathering on the Chesapeake to cruise. I’ve had the privilege of joining their spring or fall retreats from time to time. A Shallow Water Sailors cruise is notable for its near-complete absence of fixed itinerary or programming. A locale and launch ramp are announced, always a pretty place with the right mix of open water and protected coves. The Wye, Chester, and Sassafras Rivers, for example. Skippers launch whenever they happen to arrive, and a fleet of small boats fan out. Some open, some decked-in, some modern, some neo-traditional. Some skippers sail in groups, some aren’t seen for three days. Rafting up for dinner is optional. Everything is optional. The typical Shallow Water Sailor’s cruise, in abandoning the regimented schedule of a regatta or formal cruising rally, embraces an experience reminiscent of a child’s carefree summer day.

This year’s destination was the St. Mary’s River, a quiet, tree-lined tributary of the Potomac River, an hour southeast of Washington, DC. I heaved a couple of tote bags of food and warm clothing into PocketShip and trundled down from Annapolis to join the fun. I was also carrying a couple of nice cameras for reasons that were entirely mercenary: the first two examples of my Autumn Leaves design to hit the water had joined the cruise. Both were built closely to spec, and, even more interesting to me, one carried the lug-rigged option, and the other the jib-headed sailplan.


Saturday night raft-up with the Shallow Water Sailors. Two Autumn Leaves yawls on the left; an Edey & Duff Dovekie on the right. The Dovekie was one of many inspirations for Autumn Leaves. Robert Waddell, I included this photo just for you.

Comment: This article is written by John Harris of Chesapeake Light Craft, a designer and builder of a large fleet of CNC plywood boat kits. He’s come up with some fine and interesting designs almost always guided by his belief that sailboats should not have motors. He has truly turned “messing about in boats” into a vocation and way of life.

John’s “Autumn Leaves” design has intrigued me for years. It’s a canoe yawl under 19 feet in length. That could fit in my garage so the HOA wouldn’t have anything to piss and moan about. The design looks more like a Phil Bolger design. He was famous for his practical, easily built designs often with hard chines perfect for a non-yachtsman like myself. I like the looks of this design. It has a traditional look, especially with the lug rig, with some nifty features in its cabin layout. I could see myself waiting out a stormy day in that cozy cabin reading a book with a mug of tea… or a mug of something else. The oar setup is also somewhat unique. You row standing and facing forward. I’ve only seen that before in some Pete Culler rowing skiffs. Now there was another genius of a boat designer.

Right now, I’m content kayaking the Potomac, the James and a few other places, often with my younger son. But if I want to do the Everglades Challenge or the Blackbeard Challenge and build the “Autumn Leaves” or some other design, I best get to stepping. I’m not getting any younger.


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12 Responses to “Lugs and Jibs: An “Autumn Leaves” Update” – TTG

  1. MJ says:

    TTG – Saw this on the Chesapeake Light Craft website:


    Big Little Boat Festival 2022
    Location: Camp Wabanna – Edgewater, Maryland
    Dates: Friday, May 27, 2022 – Sunday, May 29, 2022

  2. Rob Waddell says:

    Muchas gracias senor Genio ‘el retorcido’

    I can see that pretty Dovekie tied up alongside those two canoe hull sailboats and it brings back happy memories of my time in Florida 2021 in ‘Southern Cross’, a Dovekie 21′.
    The CLC website is very good with tons of info available to nautical enthusiasts of all types. Checkout the video of the lug-rigged ‘Autumn Leaves’ (almost) chinese gybing in 20-30kn. Its in the ‘download plans section’. It survived probably thanks to the 240 kilo of lead around the base of the hull. In fact the whole she-bang weighs 680kg and that’s quite heavy for a small boat. It will sail well but don’t ground her. I still recommend buying a ready to go boat and there are quite a few available around the eastern seaboard and Florida. I recommend a facebook page ‘Sailing vessels for sale by owner’ as a good start point, some very good bargains here including 18′-22′ canoe sailboats as described in CLC.
    Of course building a sailboat is a great challenge and I’m sure your up to it. The ‘Autumn Leaves’ pre-cut plywood design is a achievable and affordable project but expect to triple the kit cost with sails, rig and fittings. Rowing: ‘the boat that I row won’t cross no ocean’.. it’s a sailboat matee!
    Re EC300 2023. The ‘Southern Cross’ rides again. with long time (and successful) EC competitors Andy Hayward and Nate Vilardebo and these two have already entered EC2023 with a spruced-up Southern Cross including a new electronic and battery package. I can honestly say that our EC 2021 race was only able to be completed with the aid of our Garmin GPS plotter and 100Ah lithium battery. That west Florida coast is very tricky. Has any sailor here ever seen a tide stream vertically flowing from the sea bottom to to top! We sailed through one and you get them in that part of the world.
    All the best with your adventures TTG and also to any other sailors wanting to take on these challenges.
    Rob Waddell Muriwai New Zealand

    • TTG says:


      Good to hear from you. Hope you’re doing well.

      I saw where Southern Cross was being refitted for another Everglades run. She may outlast both of us. Your advice about picking up a good used boat for the EC is something I’ll definitely stick with. It makes so much sense. I think about the abuse I put my plastic kayak through without giving it a second thought. Then I think about how I would feel about that same abuse inflicted on some hand crafted, strip planked, perfectly smoothed and varnished hull. I couldn’t do it. A good sturdy used hull is the only answer. Thanks for your wisdom on that. I do peruse those for sale by owner pages once in a while.

      I’m still going to build something. May not be Autumn Leaves. May be John Welsford’s Walkabout. I’ve had those plans for years. Now back to Autumn Leaves. I saw that video of crossing a shallow bar in 20-30 knot winds with two reefs. Pretty wild. and I bet that ballast is what kept it from capsizing. I wonder if that lead ballast could be replaced by water ballast tanks?

      I think you’re right about that GPS plotter. I don’t drive with GPS at all and don’t use it on the lakes and rivers I paddle/sail on. I remain a map and compass, and local knowledge, guy. But I can’t see doing the EC without GPS, at least for the first run.

      • Rob Waddell says:

        Thankyou TTG..
        Its all very good in this part of the world away from the trouble and strife that affects a large part of the worldwide population .. so sad and unnecessary. Just a plug here…. NZ is open to international travelers without mandates from 31 July 2023.. welcome aboard!

        That JW Walkabout would be a great project for you. At 16′ and 220kg it would be easy to trailer, launch, sail and retrieve. If it looks too pretty to put in the water, leave it setup in the lounge for your visitors to drool over while they peer into the meticulous varnished topsides. More bang-for-buck than a ’67 Chevy restore I reckon.

        Water ballast systems are widely used on racing sailboat in certain classes i.e. Sydney to Hobart. Along with canting keels, these large sailboats are really non-displacement planing hulls. Obviously more difficult scheduling is required for a go-about as the leeward tank needs to be filled while the windward tank is drained. Unfortunately not much use on a small boat due to the above complexity but mainly that lead is 11 time denser that plain old H2O.

        Your dead right about the prolific use of GPS road maps. Its taken Man 100’s thousands of years to develop built-in mapping but it seems only a few years of use of ‘GoogleMaps’ to destroy this wonderful feature.

  3. jim ticehurst says:

    Nice Break TTG,,Enjoyed this for mny reasons..Fond Memorys of a Favorite Cousion who sailed..The Photo reminds Me of “Doug”..A Scotsman..
    My Alter Ego Life would have included a hobby like This..Good Time For You to Start…
    So you can Read that Book…And Have that Jig..

  4. English Outsider says:

    TTG – I liked this bit –


    Can’t judge speeds but it seemed to be shifting. Faster than the old clinker built tub I used to sail anyway. Why plywood? I looked up the price of marine ply here and in a reasonable thickness it came to over £200 a sheet. And that smaller than the old eight by four. Wouldn’t clinker or carvel built cost much the same and be stouter?

    • TTG says:


      Yes, she seems to moving along pretty well in a moderate breeze. I think it’s important to see how she would move in a light wind. How much wind is needed to ghost along. Given the weather conditions in this area, that’s an important consideration for me.

      Marine ply is ubiquitous, even in clinker construction or lapstrake as it is more commonly called here. Plywood lapstrake is far lighter than traditional copper riveted solid wood construction, but that solid wood grain and copper rivets do make for a nice looking solid boat. Iain Oughtred uses plywood extensively in his designs. I have his Clinker Plywood Boatbuilding Manual. Good marine plywood is expensive, but so is any good quality marine lumber. Here’s some current prices for 4X8 sheets from CLC. It’s within driving distance for me, so no shipping. Not far from where I got my second windsurfer many years ago.
      4mm 1/8 inch $81
      6mm 1/4 inch $105
      9mm 3/8 inch $118
      12mm 1/2 inch. $148

      • English Outsider says:

        TTG – it was that solidity I liked. Scrape a mooring post, or beach on rocky ground, and all you lost was a bit of paint. Fibre glass or ply – not so easy to get away with it. But wood requires so much maintenance, particularly the varnished bits, that I suppose you lose on that aspect.

        Good to see a boating article come up again. Maybe means the Colonel will be doing some more grilling soon. We have not as yet examined the art of barbecuing a whole chicken. Hint.

  5. JK/AR says:

    Ahoy TTG:

    This post was brought to my attention:


    The blog host is a certain “Aesop” – Former Marine currently works in the medical field in CA (Emergency Department[s] if I deduce correctly). The fellow I’ve noticed catches a lot of flak for his comments on many other sites I visit. Many but not all.

    Apologies if you’re already knowledgeable about this material. (The post layout has some space[s] so you’ll needs must scroll to the bottom-most.)

    • TTG says:


      That’s an interesting and informative article. Thanks. I knew there was more to Ukrainian artillery from the early accounts of the defense of Mykolaiv earlier in the war. There were several mentions of a smartphone app used by the locals to spot for artillery. I did a little research based on what Aesop wrote in his article. I’m prepared to say that Ukrainian TTP for artillery may be the best in the world.

  6. JK/AR says:

    Ahoy again TTG

    I must not betray my Arkansas-sourced (you’re aware the state’s got alot of AF assets) OPSEC but “something” appears to be happening behind the scenes. Mostly I’m hearing from parents, very concerned spouses – you know the like …

    I’m not so well-connected as I was pre-2003 (my ‘actual identity’ exposed in a circa 2011 wikileak … water under the bridge) However “something” appears to be afoot.

    Yours and the good Colonel’s sources being far more educated and knowledgeable than the ‘tids & bits’ that I’m getting in my email y’all perhaps, can maybe do some prognosticating?

    None of whom’s kids/significant others are presently in theater but there is growing concern.

    I’d appreciate a post to direct to so to allay that growing further.

    I can [almost] guarantee Turco to not suffer additional commenters.

    • TTG says:


      Not sure what you’re referring to. Are you concerned that US troops, advisors or pilots will be sent into Ukraine? Some US individuals have found their way there as volunteers. I know of no SF, SOF or clandestine involvement in Ukraine. Of course, I’m in no position to every know of anything like that. I, like Colonel Lang, would like to see a new AVG flying A-10s show up in Ukraine, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

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