“Pinocchio” was commissioned by my 7 year old son who wanted to learn paddling. He saw these kids paddling in small plastic kayaks which looked more like “bricks” or “barges” rather than boats. So he got intrigued but wanted something more “boat looking”.

When I started designing his boat I could have gone with a dead flat bottom which would have provided high initial stability. However, sea worthy, safe and good looking were on top of the list of requirements. Initial stability is good to a certain small angle of heel after which it dramatically reduces and the boat capsizes easily. So the hull shape has a bottom that has a flat central section followed by bilge panels before the sides go up. This provides a fair amount of secondary stability and better handling of small waves. For maximum stability the chine between side and bilge panels needs to be just above the waterline or slightly submerged, which means an ideal load between 65lbs (30kg) and 110lbs (50kg). “Pinocchio” is beamy and kids have a lower center of gravity so stability shouldn’t be an issue as long as they don’t try to stand up in the boat and dance.

One thing I would do right on the first day of launch is to teach my son what to do if the boat capsizes. In other words, go to a warm lake close to the beach and start practice capsizing. “PINOCCHIO” SHOULD NOT BE USED WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION IN COLD WATER FAR FROM THE SHORE. In case of a capsize there isn’t much to be done except trying to bail out some water and by swimming and pushing the boat in front of you get back to dry land. It’s impossible to get back into this little boat from the water. Being made of wood the boat has a positive floatation so she will never sink. She will stay close to the surface flooded but won’t sink. Structurally “Pinocchio” is very rigid and strong. The taped seams inside and out act as stringers and provide longitudinal strength. The transverse strength comes from the two large breasthooks at both ends and the seat backrest which acts as a middle (kind of) frame in combination with a rubrail which considerably stiffens the sheer line area.

Hull is made of 1/4″ (6mm) exterior grade plywood which some might consider an overkill for a boat of this size. Usually such boats are made of 1/8″ (4mm) plywood, but first of all it’s hard to find such plywood compared to the 1/4″ (6mm) one which is commonly available everywhere. Second, the strength and especially impact resistance of the hull are dramatically reduced if 1/8″ (4mm) plywood is used. Kids usually abuse boats more than the average adult would. There is a long skeg or a keel we might call it, which extends from stem to stem along the bottom to provide some reasonable tracking for a boat this short. Plans for a paddle and a simple seat are included in the plans package. The entire boat is coated with epoxy which significantly increases the life span. If properly stored “Pinocchio” can last for many years. As the boat will not spend more than 3-4 hours a week in the water, there is no need for expensive marine paint. 3-4 coats of ordinary house (porch) paint should be sufficient. All parts of the boat fit on a single sheet of plywood 4x8′ (1220x2440mm). With a weight of 26lbs (12kg) “Pinocchio” can be easily car topped and transported to the water. Storage is easy to find – I keep mine on the balcony.

The boat can be built for less than a 100 CAD (2016). Here is the bill of materials needed: Exterior grade plywood 4x8′ (1220x2440 mm), ¼″ (6 mm) thick – 1 sheet; · Fiberglass tape 3″ (75 mm) wide by 6 oz.(200 gr/sq.m) – 23 yards(21 m); Epoxy resin — 1/2 gallon (3.78L) plus hardener; Others – bread flour, chip brushes, rollers, fairing compound or filler, paint, sandpaper.

Plans package consists of 3 pages of drawings (metric or imperial) and 20 pages of instructions with lots of photos. Technical support is always available through e-mail. After payment is processed you will receive an e-mail with two PDF attachments — drawing and work instruction. Plans in imperial units are set up to print on letter size paper at the convenience of your home printer. Metric plans are set up to print on A4 size paper.

Design Specs

Alex Bogdanov
Year of Design: 
7'6" (2.34m)
29" (0.73m)
Not Much
Skill Level to Build: 
Available as: 
Complete Plans
20$ CAD