The WoodenBoat School

Build Your Own Plank Constructed Pond Yacht

Pond Yacht construction photo

Build Norumbega, a vintage Marblehead-class pond yacht designed for radio-control

Tuition: $800

Materials: $315

Note: While no previous boatbuilding experience is needed for this class, a basic understanding of simple hand tools and fundamental woodworking is a requirement. This is a six-day course ending Saturday afternoon.

Pond yachts are exquisite small wooden sailboats raced in urban settings. In the height of their popularity, the 1920s to 1940s, they were a common sight in public parks. They conformed to class ratings and were raced in international competitions, including the 1936 Olympics. Today we admire them for their beautiful woodwork, simplicity of form, miniaturized fittings, and their ability to be sailed without high maintenance costs or storage and slip fees.

In this course each student will be gaining experience in building a hull for a Marblehead-class pond boat. This type of small sailboat originated in 1932 with the minimal design requirements of 50″ LOA and 800 square inches of sail area. Over the years, this type of pond boat became the premier example of a racing pond yacht. Norumbega has been designed by the course instructor, but it exemplifies the classic qualities of boats from another era. Norumbega’s form is inspired the 1930’s Cheerio designs of John Black, which garnered him a medal in pond yacht racing at the 1936 Olympics. When fully rigged for sailing, the pond boat is over 7′ tall, which makes it very impressive from shore when under sail. The boat can be easily dismantled for transport in keeping with the origin of the 50″ length, which was to facilitate fitting the boat into a 1930s car rumble seat.

group photo

Working from lines drawings, each student will work on their own hull using the tapered plank building method. Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) parts for the strongback, molds, and keelson will be used to facilitate the initial building steps. Several past students have gone on to build other designs of pond boats using methods learned in this course. Besides actually building a pond yacht, this class is excellent for someone interested in building plank-constructed examples of model boats or being exposed to the fundamentals of full-sized boatbuilding.

Pond yacht racing

This course will be an intense six days of building and learning through demonstration and practice. Even though some of the furnished materials will be pre-cut before the course, this is not a kit boat, and the student will learn to make decisions based on reading blueprints and developing an eye for form, along with enhancing building skills. Also, instruction on decking, painting, mast and boom construction, rigging hardware, and radio-control devices will occur during the week to ensure ease of completion of the sailboat. A number of completed class boats will be available for viewing during the week. If you can schedule an extended stay at WoodenBoat School, join Thom for next week’s VINTAGE POND YACHTS—PART II course.


WoodenBoat School, 41 WoodenBoat Lane, PO Box 78, Brooklin, Maine 04616 USA
Tel: 207-359-4651, Fax: 207-359-8920

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