banner for puddle duck racer boat

Being perfectly satisfied with my little Skerry,
I decided to make a new boat.

WHAT is a Puddle Duck Racer??!

photo of puddle duck racer

Quoting the Puddle racer website:

"The PDRacer is a one design racing sailboat that is basically a plywood box with a curved bottom, and is the easiest boat in the world to build. Free plans, ... all boats must have have the lower 10" of their hulls be alike, but the rest is up to the builder. You can put any type of sail rig or underwater fins that you wish. Also the interior and deck above 10" is completely up to you.

A simple hull can be made from 2 sheets of plywood, titebond II glue, and latex house paint. It only took me 10 hours to make the basic hull on my boat. The sail can be made from polytarp, or borrowed from another sailboat. You could literally make a complete boat for $100 or less using materials that came from your local Home Depot. Or, there are many different ways and configurations you could use to build your hull."

So far there are over 700 hulls registered. (You can get a hull number once you have gone 3-D). My Boat Hull Number is: #457

photo of puddle duck racer being pirate style

WHY build a Puddle Duck Racer?

For Fun!!!

WHERE will I build?

The nice thing about building a 8 feet x 4 feet boat is that it will fit just about anywhere. So far I've been working in the basement and then in the back yard. Its moved to the garage now. My long suffering Nick is eyeing his shrinking garage with alarm.

Can it actually sail?

This is the surprising part. YES. It even can plane.
Because of its footprint it is extremely stable. Various people have developed sailing rigs and leeboards or daggerboards that have performed extremely well for an 8 foot box. Crazy groups have taken Ducks to Gulf of Mexico races. Texas 200, Everglades challenge

There is an active building community hellbent in experimenting and just plain playing.

To be class legal the lower 10 inches have to conform to the official shape. Everything else is pretty much open for experimentation and sometimes just plain silliness.

  • Official Website Designer of the boat Shorty Routh website. Free plans and lots of info and links to Duck related pages.
    There is tons of interesting material, and photos (Most of the finished boats on this website come from the official pdf website, with thanks!)
    If you plan to make a boat this is your first stop. You can get plans and lots of suggestions for rigging your boat, playing games, and you can register your hull and get an official hull number at no cost!
  • Michael Storer's PDRacer look alike page. Its often referred to with the oz prefix. He has produced plan which includes his rigs and spars. In particular he has refined the shape of the profile for the daggerboard / rudders. Although his boat is not Class Legal it is an interesting read and a nice boat.
  • Lots of video are available on youtube about PDR's here is one example among many.

  • There is an active yahoo group on the PDRacer.
2 puddle duck racer boat with cool paint jobs

Sails for the Puddle Duck Racer

The triangular sprit also known as leg of mutton sprit and a few other names is often seen on Puddle Duck racers. Its easy to make out of polytarp and allows for a clear deck free from low head banging spars.

Some puddle ducks sport ridiculously large sail rigs. Because the boat is so stable it allows for lots of experimentation.

There have been lots of fun paint jobs as well.

Some photos of my Puddle Duck Racer build

photo of puddle duck racer being built.
Sides have been cut out. Since I am working with non standard plywood I have a joint.

I have cut out the sides from baltic plywood I had left over from making my kitchen cabinet doors. It comes in panels 5 feet x 5 feet. This is 6mm thick and has 5 layers. It is heavier than the mokume I used for my Skerry but I had it. Since the Puddle Duck Racer is designed to be quickly built out of 4 x 8 feet panels I was sort of shooting myself in the foot using odd size plywood! I had tested it for waterproof qualities and it had passed the 1 hour boil test.

I made the joint using Dynamite Payson's method of just butt joining the 2 sheets and putting a band of fiberglass stuck down with epoxy along the joint. It works very well at least for this thickness and this plywood.

Gluing Bottom
Here is the bottom pieces being glued. If I had a regular sheet of plywood I would not have had to glue it up.

Here I am gluing up the bottom. I did one side, let it set then did the other side. I probably could have devised a way of gluing both sides at the same time but the delay was not important. It's been warm here and I found that the cling wrap I used actually stuck to the epoxy resin. I had quite alot of trouble getting it off. This had never happened to me with this resin before.

I made the panel over-sized. I figured it would be easier to trim than to align perfectly.

Detail of the joint, you can see the strip of fiberglass covering the butt joint. So far it has been very solid. I think it would be stiffer than the surrounding plywood but I'm not having to bend it much so there is no reason not to use this method of joining plywood.

Detail of side joint
Detail of the side panel joint.
Front, back and 2 sides.
The 2 sides have been sanded and smoothed out. I put them back to back and made sure they were the same curve. There is actually a flat spot on the bottom. It helps to keep the boat steady and prevent rocking. I have glued the parts together and they are being held by c clamps. I measured the diagonals and made sure they were equal.

(I got a virus and lost the earlier photos of putting the sides together and fabricating the front and back.) Unlike stitch and glue boats where the plywood is held together with wire, then glued in place with epoxy, this boat has strips of wood glued to the edges. The various parts then are glued together. I used temporary screws to hold some of the joints and in this case c clamps.
it was tricky to bend the chine (that's the name of the piece of wood that follows the curve of the bottom) I cut 3 thin pieces and laminated these to curve them. I had some douglas fir but it is not that easy to bend so I laminated.
We are looking towards the back. The transom has a thicker piece of wood to support the future rudder.

back chine gets trimmed
The strip of wood at the back sticks out beyond the bottom of the boat and needs to be trimmed. I used a combination of plane and belt sander. This occurs because I used a square piece of wood and the back and bottom meet at an angle. I could have cut the wood at an angle but this is easier.
The sides and the box and stern have been glued. I am using epoxy thickened with a mixture of silica and sawdust. The whole assembly is pretty wobbly at this point but the corners are well glued. I had glued the little wood bands on the back and the front beyond the edge of the plywood to allow for the curve of the bottom. Now I have to shape the piece so that the bottom panel will fit smoothly over the front and back.
Although I use epoxy, many people have tried Polyurethane Glues such as PL Premium. It works well particularly if there are screws to clamp the pieces. Read my page on PU glue.
Puddle duck racer has a bottom
I squared the frame, and carefully put the bottom on. I made sure the bottom was still square then put a few temporary screws in.
Once the bottom was temporarily screwed on I checked the alignment. Then I removed the screws at the front and glued about 4 feet. First I painted the surfaces with liquid resin, then added the thickened stuff. I put my screws back in but not overly tight. Epoxy likes to have a loose clamping so that it is not starved of glue. I then went to the back, removed the screws there, put my glue on and tightened the back. That way my boat was more rigid and kept its alignment. At this point my boat was 3-D and I was entitled to apply for a hull number. I sent an email to Shorty, the designer, and he sent me back my hull number. I have hull number 457! My boat will be called Kwaker Jack.
Cutting bit on router
I used the router with a cutting bit and a guide ring to cut the bottom even to the sides.
I used my Makita router to cut the bottom to size on the sides since they are at right angle. The front and back I cut with a japanese saw. I then used the orbital sander to smooth out the cuts. I now have a bottom that fits.
I expect I will round the edges slightly because I plan to use very thin fiberglass cloth on the bottom and bring it over to the sides about an inch. My boat club is quite rough on boat bottoms.
PDR flotation
Making the flotation compartments
I had prepared 2 additional "sides" to make a flotation on each side. These panels were cut to the same size as the sides also with wood curved to the bottom and front and back. I used old underlay plywood I had around. it is nowhere near as nice as the baltic ply and has only 3 layers. I'm hoping that the strain on the inside panels will not be so great as on the hull. I expect they will help make the hull stiffer and support the deck. The underlay was warped and I will have to struggle to make it straight before I attach the deck. Here the 2 sides have been glued and screwed temporarily.
Although it is not necessary to glass the bottom of the PDR I plan to use it where concrete ramps and steel beamed docks are the norm so I put a thin layer of fiberglass. This is 4 ounces weight. I looked at the 2 oz cloth and found it too thin. I had sanded a very small radius on the edges and the 4 corners. I'm using slow epoxy and have lots of time to spread the resin. I'm finding that after wetting the cloth the plywood started absorbing resin and I had to add some more. Glassing the bottom
Glassing the hull bottom.
Bottom and 1 inch of side of the boat have been fiberglassed.
In order to get the fiberglass cloth to turn the corner and stick to the sides of the boat, I had stretched and stapled the cloth. This worked very well. It was tricky to do because the cloth seemed animated with an evil spirit, but eventually I had it stretched and fastened. When I put the resin on I did not cover the staples. I only turned the corner and glassed for about an inch. After the resin had had a chance to set somewhat but was not rigid yet, a couple of hours later, I went and cut the cloth and removed the stapled and the sticky extra cloth. It just pulled off nicely. The staples came off with pliers, it was easy because they had not really gone in very far. The cloth was nicely stuck to the side even though my radius is not very big, less than a quarter inch for sure.
I added another layer of resin to fill in the weave better.
Detail of staples holding the cloth to the boat hull while the resin sets. The staples were not in very deeply and pulled out easily. I did not worry too much about the width of the glass on the side. It is important to protect the edge from concrete but I expect the sides to be fine. I just ran my knife about an inch from the edge and pulled off the strip of extra glass and many staples as well. The rest came off with pliers. Staple Detail  on PDR hull
Details of stapling the cloth to make it easier to stick it to the sides.
detail of edges
Edges of Kwaker Jack get a strip of bias cut fiberglass tape.
After cutting a whole lot of bias strips I stuck these to the edges of the boat. They went on with no argument and stuck down well. I am now confident that I can grind my little PDR against the ramp and not kill it completely. I suppose I will keep a jar of paint handy for touch ups.
The boat is carefully leveled and will sit for a day or so. I checked my measurements and found that the diagonals were a very slightly off. Annoying because I though I had been careful. Sigh! Oh Well!
PDR port
Side tank cover / inspection port.
I'm putting slightly larger inspection ports in the side. I found in my Skerry that it was tricky to get my camera and other junk in the compartment because the port was too small. These are about 6 inches across. I supported the edges with fiberglass cloth. I don't trust the plywood much. The inside sides are only underlay and not very strong.

Daggerboard Case

Puddle Duck Kwaker Jack gets a Daggerboard
Daggerboard case glued and clamped
The Daggerboard inside faces got 2 coats of epoxy and were glued together. I'm using cut up pipe for clamps. When I want extra pressure I just tape 2 sections one inside the other.
I had a pleasant surprise. Old shelves I had in the basement turned out to be Douglas Fir 1 inch thick, with unfinished surfaces. Nice wood with some knots.
I decided on the daggerboard rather than the leaboard. I'm used to them and they seem more solid than the lee boards. There are lots of stories from PDR boat builders where the leeboard gets ripped off, or gathers weeds and junk. I'm told daggerboards give better performance but I don't know. Since I want to be able to put a seat across for rowing or a passenger then it makes sense to have it in the boat anyway.
Daggerboard case glued to bottom of the Puddle Duck Racer. I'm using weights to keep it in place while it sets. I checked that it was square and properly lined up to the boat.
Gluing Daggerboard
Gluing the daggerboard case in PDR bottom.
PDR support thwarts
Support pieces glued up and placed.
2 Crosspieces will support the Daggerboard case and also a seat.
I had to cut the crosspieces and re join them otherwise I could not have placed them through the buoyancy tank side. I did not trust the plywood of the tank to support the case and seats. It's underlay ply and not very good. Mostly the problem is that the underlay has voids. My joint is not quite long enough so I added fiberglass cloth to stiffen it.
Support is glued and taped with a strip of fiberglass. It will support a seat. join
Joint in support.
PDR seat
Seat glued in.
Kwaker Jack will double as a tender for my other sailboat. For this reason it has a seat. I will be opening the slot for the daggerboard using a router. It feels very solid even without a coat of epoxy. I'm thinking that I can store my junk under the seat. Bailing bucket, sponge, lunch, sweater, all can be put under the seat out of the way. I have some mesh bags that I can use.
Foam blocks in flotation chamber. I did not intend to add much support in the flotation chamber but the luan that I used on the inside wall is slightly flexible and I don't trust it much. The foam adds a great deal of rigidity to the luan and adds no weight at all.
I cut the foam with my table saw. Its amazingly tricky to do. The blade slices it very easily but the foam sticks and seems inclined to bind. I almost had a kickback a couple of times. I switched to using a knife instead. Not as accurate but safer.
Foam blocks glued in and covered in resin.
PDR Gunwales
Gunwales being glued.
I cut a mahogany board in three quarter inch width and glued them to the side. I had to force the curve but it worked. I'm using epoxy thickened with silica, cabosil.
One trick I learned while building my Skerry sailboat is to use cut up water pipe as clamps. Here I've got them just keeping the gunwale from falling to the floor while I work on the other end. It allows me to work solo rather than need another set of hands. join
Clamps made from plastic pipe support my Puddle Duck Racer Gunwales until I place them and clamp them securely. I have thickened epoxy on the board. I was careful not to clamp too tight because if the joint is starved of glue it is not strong.

Mast Step

Puddle Duck Kwaker Jack gets a Mast Step
Mast Step gets glued in.
Mast step gets cut and glued. There are various reinforcements still to go in. The old shelves that are being cut to make the pieces miraculously turned out to be really nice douglas fir.
I measured the location of the mast partner and glued the first pieces on. There are a few other parts that will reinforce it.
The step has had a couple of inside braces glued in and plywood pieces glued on top.

Before gluing the top on I have to decide what I need to attach to the sides and front decks because I have to support any screw that gets put in. I have a front stainless steel ring to attach in the bow piece. I think I will also needs some oar locks. Some rigs for this boat use a rudimentary traveler so I guess I need a place to attach this at the back as well. I have already cut a piece of wood to line the mast opening. This piece will have a downhaul attachment and maybe a halyard attachment.
Puddle Duck Kwaker Jack gets a Mast partner
Mast partner.
Puddle Duck Kwaker Jack gets afront deck
Fitting the front deck.
I cut the front deck and cut the hole for the mast. It is still the Baltic ply and is quite strong. I'm planning to put splash boards to keep water from coming in when I plow into a wave, and these will strengthen the deck. At that point I will decide what other reinforcement will be required. I guess the deck should support my weight ( OH Dear! )
To be continued. Sailing season is short at this end of the world so I sailed instead of building and then it got cold so the PDR is on the back burner until next Spring.
My boat club requires members to do a certain number of hours of work. I was repairing one of the tender dinghies and the oarlock was broken. I put together a wooden pair with copper pipe insert. I used red oak salvaged from an old coffee table I garbage picked. It was not quite thick enough so I added a little wood patch to strengthen it. I made 3 pairs, one will be for my PDR.
After half a season of NOT gentle use, the oarlock is still holding up fine.
I drilled the oarlock mounting holes on the side of wooden patch when I installed it so it would match the existing holes on the dinghy. It gets bolted on with big washers. I put some bedding compound in the hole and on back to keep the water out.
Puddle Duck Kwaker Jack gets an Oarlock
Puddle Duck Kwaker Jack gets oarlocks
Pair of oarlocks
The copper insert is a half inch water pipe. I drilled a hole and gently tapped the copper insert in. I had wet the hole with epoxy. I was working with epoxy at the time so it was just cleaning the brush. The whole oarlock got a coat.
I plan to mount it on the outside of the hull. I figured I would reinforce the side floatation compartment and embed a bolt so that the threaded ends protrude through the side of the boat. I would just attach the oarlock with nuts. I still have to figure it out so that might change.
I finally got back to the boat! Wind has been either really small or too strong so I can work on the boat.
Cut more foam. The foam will help provide stiffness on the sides. I don't trust the Luan I used for the inner walls. I wish I had used good plywood
Some foam just support the width but some go all the way to the bottom and will provide stiffness when I sit on the edge.
Puddle Duck sides get foam
More foam provide stiffness.
Puddle Duck racer gets fiber glass on bottom
Fiberglassing the inside
I put a layer of cloth in the front and back compartment. its quite thin, 3-4 ounces if memory serves. Definitely not the more usual 6 oz. I'm hoping to save on weight.
I made some thickened epoxy and made a thin fillet at the base of the floatation chambers. This rounded the corner and allowed the fiberglass to go up the side for an inch.
I'm only glassing the spots where I will stand. One quarter inch seems too thin to leave unsupported. That's the thickness of my Apple Pie Tender, but it has fiberglass on both sides. Sometimes I have to jump into my boats from quite high when the water is low, so bottom should be strong.
I've tried all kinds of ways of applying epoxy on cloth.
I think my preferred method is using a paintbrush to put resin where I want it and using a plastic spreader or a piece of foam to work it into the weave of the cloth.
This piece of foam worked marvelously well, go figure.
foam applicator for epoxy for the Puddle Duck racer
My Foam Spreader
Inside gets coat of epoxy
Sealing the inside
Put a second coat of epoxy on the inside of the float chambers, and over the whole inside of the boat. There is at least one coat on everything and some spots have 2 coats of epoxy.
Sealing the boat with epoxy helps keep the plywood intact. The birch ply is good quality and could get wet but the Luan is not as good. Epoxy adds stiffness too.
It is surprising that the boat is still floppy and if I pick up one corner it still distorts the shape. I'm hoping after this coat of glass and resin the boat will be much stiffer.
I put a second coat of epoxy on the sides of the boat. It is quite rough and will want some sanding before I apply a final coat of resin.
After leveling the boat I left it to harden. I'm using slow cure epoxy. Its slow but allows some time to work and there is less waste.
2nd Coat of epoxy on outside
2nd Coat of epoxy on sides of the boat.

emails: Christine

This web site reflects my personal ideas and doesn't represent anyone else's point of view.