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Take Apart Boats

A boat is like a swan, it looks perfect on the water but as soon as it gets on land it is big heavy and ungainly, still pretty mind you.

It takes up an amazing amount of space to store boats and is hugely annoying to transport them.

It's not surprising that designers have been trying to get around these problems for as long as there has been people designing boats. Take apart also called nesting boats or sometimes sectional boats really took off when plywood became readily available to the home builder.

Amateur boatbuilders seldom have large shops. This is why some designs can be constructed in pieces. These later get assembled when the boat is taken out.

The idea of taking a full size boat out for a spin and then when it's time to put it away, just removing a few bolts and magically halving the size of the craft so it fits in the car, or can be stored tucked up in the garage, or even brought up the elevator and put in the condo closet, is hard to resist. Keel-boat owners have been trying for years to fit their tenders on decks with varying degrees of success.

Here is my page on folding boats

Here is how a few designers and boatbuilders have solved the problem.

Here is a page on coroplast folding boats Minimalism boatbuilding closer to oregami as it is to traditional boatbuilding!


Bateau has an 11 ft Nesting Dinghy

sectional boat

Sectional Boat from Bateau. Can be used as an on-deck tender or as an easily stored and transported dinghy. She can be rowed, sailed or fitted with a small outboard.

sectional boat

Besides the plans, Bateau offers CNC plywood cutout parts and a fiberglass kit to complete the boat.


CLC has Several Apart Boats

Passage Maker

John Harris of the Chesapeake Light Craft company has designed many fine boats for his kits and plans. Among them he offers a take apart version of his popular Passagemaker. The 2 sections can be nested to save space.

Passagemaker take apart boat.

The passagemaker is designed to be built without frames. This makes for a simpler build for beginners.

I don't think John Harris has ever designed an ugly boat and this one, like my Skerry is very handsome.

This boat can be rowed, sailed and is big enough for a small motor.

The boat gets built in one piece and gets cut in 2 section once the sides are rigid and true. The 2 sections bolt together and once assembled there is no difference practically with the 1 piece version.

Having a sizable take apart dinghy makes it possible for larger yachts to carry a useful boat to serve as a tender OR to have a smaller boat to play around with. It's 11.5 feet which is a respectable length.

Passagemker blog Peter's build.

Passagemaker you tube video


The Shearwater Sport Kayak is a take apart boat.

In John Harris' words:

Here's how it works: You build the boat full-length in the usual fashion, but add carefully-designed structural bulkheads at the joints. When nearly done with construction, out comes the saw. Steady now! Cut between the bulkheads to create three watertight pieces.

Shearwater take apart Kayak.Shearwater put together

Joins are almost impossible to see once assembled.


The Eastport pram is another take apart boat, nicely demonstrated in this video. For details Chesapeake Light Craft Website link. They have lots of Kits and boat plans geared at beginner to more advanced levels of boat-building. Photos courtesy of CLC.

This video shows how the Pram is cut to separate the 2 parts. This is often how take apart boats are built. First in one piece then cut afterwards when the sides are faired.

Gary Dierkin's Wa'apa is different. It is built in 3 sections right from the start. This allows for smaller building area.



Gary Dierking's Wa'apa is a Take Apart Outrigger sailing Canoe

Gary Dierking has gained fame if not fortune and built a solid reputation designing Outrigger Sailing Canoes and rigs for them.

In his own words,

"Seaworthy, light and easy to build, outrigger canoes combine the romance of the Pacific Island with spartan design and breathtaking sailing performance."

The Wa'apa can be built as an almost 24 feet long boat, in 3 easy to assemble sections. If you look under the seats you can just make out some of the assembly bolts.

Gary Dierking's outrigger canoe is built as a take apart boat in 3 parts Gary Dierking's outrigger wa apa outrigger canoe can be taken apart.

This take apart design has many advantages

3 Youtube videos of take apart Wa'apas in use.

Watch the boat (left) practically fly it's going so fast. Take apart outrigger canoe Youtube video

New Brunswick boys made one of Gary Dierking's outriggers for an adventure

Here is another take apart Wa'apa sailing canoe this time with a Junk Rig.

Gary Dierking's book

Thanks to Gary Dierking for use of his photos. If you want to order plans, get his book on building outrigger sailing canoes including the Wa'apa, or read more about outriggers, his website is here.



Ken Simpson has several Portable Take Apart Boat PLans

Toter take apart boat

At the other end of the boat design spectrum, Ken Simpson, Portable Boat Plans of Arizona of is a retired Mechanical Engineer who worked on Apollo Spacecraft.

He has a long history of research and development and decided to turn his talent and experience to designing small, portable, easy to build, affordable boats.


Toter ready for transport

His designs are simple and even the most inexperienced beginners could hope to succeed. With the help of his fertile imagination and energy he has presented up with several interesting take apart boats.

Toter easily comes apart and nests for easy transport and storage.

Duet is a 2 part boat

Duet is currently being developed. It's a 2 part nesting dinghy.


Bolting detail for take apart boatdesign for a 4 part boat

Ken is currently working on a 4 module boat.

For a list of his designs have a look at his website, Portable Boat Plans He has videos and photos of his various boats.



Puddle Duck Racers Come in Several Models of Come Apart Boats

I don't imagine that when David Routh better, known as Shorty, designed his Puddle Duck Racer, he imagined how popular it would become and how many people would modify the upper sections to suit their preference. The lower 10 inches of the hull must conform to class standards. The rest is pretty much open. Several people have designed take apart versions to make a small boat even smaller. Ken Simpson (see above) even come with a concept that can be seen on his website or more detailed diagrams including free plans for take apart PDRacer can be downloaded

Various people have played with detachable side buoyancy chambers which could be bolted back on. This is an idea that Phil Bolger had when he designed and made the Breakdown punt. The pontoons neatly fit in the main part of the boat.

Phil Bolger experimented with hinging a larger boat in the middle and folding the front onto the back. His Folding Schooner is an example. Link to article and photo on the left side bar.


Mother Earth News has plans for a take apart skiff

In a Will Shelton article dated June/July 2001 there are details for a Take Apart Skiff. Good Details for building.


Old FREE plywood plans from Mechanics Illustrated.

Rowboat comes apart in 3 pieces.

There are quite a few of old plans for plywood boats. They tend to be heavy since they were not fiberglassed so the plywood had to be quite thick. Modern interpretations could easily be made using stitch and glue method of boatbuilding and end up quite a lot lighter than the original.

3pc take apart rowboat3 pc rowboat plan and elevation

Rowboat is made of plywood and clips together. When it's time to go home unclip the 3 sections and put on top of the car and away you go.

Free plans for the 3 pc take apart rowboat here. in pdf format

Tender or Kid's boat have 3 bolt together sections.

3pc take apart kids boat or tender

This small boat was intended as a kids boat, sandbox, swimming pool or play accessory. It could function as a take apart tender. The sections are bolted together and can be quickly assembled.

Free plans for the 3 piece take apart boat. in pdf format


Jonboat has a separate storage/cooler trunk

take apart jonboat

Here is a small car toppable jonboat. It comes apart into a larger back section that can be used on it's own and into a shorter front section that is a removable storage box.


take apart jonboat

It looks from the plans that the boat could be used without the front part. I don't think the motor would make sense if only the back part was used.

Here is a copy of the plans in pdf format, about 700k

If you decide to follow these old Mechanic Illustrated boat plans keep in mind that materials have improved and standards of safety have changed. Do your homework and be safe.



Wooden Widget has a lovely ultralight take apart dinghy

ultralight take apart boat.

They claim it's the world's lightest nesting dinghy at 22 pounds. A real delight to look at. They offer plans, videos and images of their ultralight nesting dinghy AND their folding boat designs on their website.

They are working on a completely transparent version which is very disconcerting!

The boat is so buoyant that it can be assembled in the water. A person can stand in the larger section while bolting on the back.

This take apart boat makes a very useful yacht tender. It can even be set up for sail



Glen-L has a Centerfold Tender

Take apart boat from Glen L

A somewhat outdated name for a useful take apart dinghy-tender with a sailing version available. Glen-L Centerfold dinghy.

She folds or hinges right across the middle, or can be made to take apart. The two separate parts are lighter and easier to carry than a conventional dinghy

Simple fast design available in kit form or plans.



Folding Boats

The above examples are for true take apart boats. There are a number of people who have devised clever folding boats. Many will collapse flat and can be easily put away.

Here is my page on folding boats


Have a look at the side links. I've put a whole lot of links re folding and take apart and nesting boats. In particular check out the Foldboat and the Ar-vag, boats as art/design projects. Sheets of plastic folded in boat shape.

Building and using boats can be dangerous if you are not careful, so be careful already. Some of these plans and ideas are quite experimental and untested. They are fun to explore and consider. Since I have not built or tested them I can't recommend them.


Many of these boats are light enough to be carried on a car rack on top of a car. Any boat over 100 pounds is getting quite heavy for a cartop. Make sure you have good tie downs. and if your boat overhangs the car put a red flag too.




email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine