Silver Gull 19

Silver Gull 19.gif (33637 bytes)
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.

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This little design grew out of the idea that a smaller version of our Silver Gull 28 would make a wonderful little pocket offshore cruiser that anyone could afford. 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 also be built very quickly. Originally we were going to make her 14' and actually started drawing her this length. However it just didn't quite work. Instead of practical, interesting, and intriguing the enclosed steering station had to be too high to be nice looking. With this slightly larger size everything comes together well.

This would be a great little cruising boat for a teenager, who could build it and afford it. 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.

As we conceive this boat she  has backpacker type accommodations for two. Providing one is willing to keep life simple two people should be able to cruise extensively and fairly adventurously without much worry.


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. The area of the deck just aft of the pilothouse has no camber so that when you remove the aft window panel in the pilothouse you can crawl out onto this flat area. This allows you to climb over the side in warm waters for swimming or to get out onto a dock. I wouldn't bother using a dinghy with this boat when cruising. In most areas arranging your anchor as a haul off and using chest waders should get you ashore dry-shod, when water temperature makes this important, and there are no docks or bold shores around. Remember the boat draws only three feet. I guess you could also take a really tiny two person inflatable boat that could be deflated and held down on the stern deck with shock cord.

Up forward we show a hatch. This is fine for ventilation and as an alternate way out of the boat over the bow but it is also important as an easy way of lowering, setting and retrieving an anchor. Anchors and rodes will be stored on a shelf. Aft of this area on either side would be stowage for elements of a simple galley and some water jug storage.

Aft of the pilot house there would be stowage for a bucket and other gear.

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.

You can absolutely stuff this boat with gear and supplies and she will still perform well and give great confidence in her abilities.

What is the downside? For any really long trips you will probably be carrying enough water and supplies to find them crowding you in the interior. Only in coastal cruising will you be carrying a small enough amount of food and water to feel she is roomy. Also in any boat this size you are going to find the easiest way to bathe to be swimming. This is all very well in really warm climates. But in the higher latitudes you will definitely find yourself looking for every opportunity to borrow a shower or a hose or find a lake or stream to bathe in.


The lines of the Silver Gull 19 show a very simple double ended dory. There are no compound curves in the hull. There is good flare and a springy sheer. 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.

Originally we designed her with a single keel.  However we got repeated demands for twin keels and eventually worked out a good arrangement which keeps the center of gravity low enough in the twin keels so that the stability will be the same as the single keel plus we managed to go a few inches lighter in draft.


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. 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.

Study Plans $66
Complete Building Plans $568

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