The best free plans for a first build

  1. Cheap Canoe
  2. Wackie Lassie canoe
  3. Summerbreeze skiff
  4. Daydream sharpie
  5. Portuguese style dinghy
  6. The Mouse
  7. Puddle Duck racer sailboat


When I was looking for plans as a first-time boat builder I was young and inexperienced and didn’t have a lot of money. So the plans I was looking at were free boat plans that were easy and inexpensive to build. But what was the best free boat plan for my first-time build?

First I started to think about what kind of boat I wanted. What purpose would it serve? Would it only be for rowing, or maybe sailing? A small outboard perhaps? Or all of the above?

The plans should also be easy to understand for a beginner. And then building the boat itself. I only had some basic tools so it would be nice if the boat could be built only using the tools I already had. The construction should be easy too. I didn’t want to build for weeks with the fear of ending up with a bathtub.

Finally, I managed to find some plans and started to build. In a few days, I had built a boat with a little help from my friends. Victory!

We had so much fun building this boat that we realized that it was also about the journey, not only the result. So I would give you the advice of just doing it. Pick a plan and start to build. It is a fun and educational experience.

I will show you some plans that are easy to build and can be built with regular tools and cheap materials just as I did.


 1. The Cheap Canoe.

Cheap canoe launch

The Cheap Canoe is a well-known design and for a lot of boatbuilders, it was their first. It can be built with two sheets of 1/4in lauan plywood. The length is 13′ 5″ with a 30″ beam.

The construction is straightforward and the plans easy to read. Just looking at the pictures gives you a good idea of what you’re supposed to do.


Building picture 1

Building picture 2Building picture 3


Cheap Canoe launched

Many Cheap Canoes were built. Just google “Cheap Canoe” and you will find many finished cheap canoes. Because of the simple construction, you can have a lot of fun building it on a weekend and paddle it the next. Building it with your kids makes it a fun project for their vacation. They will learn building techniques, being proud of what they have made but most of all they will notice how important quality time is. Leave the mobile phone and other distractions and start building today!




2.Wackie Lassie

Wackie lassie rowing Finished Wackie Lassie


Wackie Lassie is a canoe that was designed to be built for and by children. Kids love these boats and they learn to use double paddles much easier than a single paddle.

The plans show a step-by-step explanation of what to do. The pictures make it easy to understand for everyone who’s never built anything before.

You can use basic hand and electric tools so no extra costs at all.

All building materials


Basically, this is all you need; Two sheets of 1/4in Lauan (sides, bottom, fore and aft decks, butt blocks, paddle blades) keel: 1 x 2 inwale: 3/4 by 1/2 (can be purchased as molding) inwale spacers (short pieces of scrap 1 x 2) Duct tape and wire ties (stitching) Three wacky noodles (gunwales) 2″ 8 oz fiberglass tape (chine and deck seams) epoxy resin (only for: tape coating & stem fillet–applied by adults or closely supervised) PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive (fillets, all other adhesive applications) closet rod for paddle shafts, scrap for molds.

This is it. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and make your kids happy and proud!

Wackie Lassie plans






3.Summerbreeze skiff

Summerbreeze Summerbreeze skiff


The Summerbreeze is the design David Beede made as an entry into the 2001 Duckworks Design contest. The rules were to build any boat you can imagine from the following parts:

      • 2 –  4′ x 8′ sheets of 1/4″ (or less)  ” plywood
      • 2 – 10 foot 1 x 12’s
      • 2 –  8 foot 2 x 4’s
      • 2 – 10 foot x 1-1/2″ dia. wood poles
      • 2 –  8 x 10 foot polytarps
      • 2 – 50 ‘ lengths of 1/4″ nylon rope
      • unlimited glue, fasteners, paint, and duct tape.
      • a small outboard or trolling motor may be specified


Summerbreeze plans


With this in mind, David designed the Summerbreeze. An 11’8″ long 50″ beam 16″ sides, high capacity skiff. There were many entries that specific year but there could only be one winner, and the winner was Summerbreeze! Well deserved and I must say; she looks good too.

The plans for Summerbreeze and some other designs by David Beede were shared on his Simplicityboats website. This website was last updated in 2011 but there is a lot you still can find usefull.



4.Daydream sharpie

Daydream Sharpie


Daydream is another design by David Beede. He made the design with the ultimate goal to build a boat in one day. To reach that goal he had to think smart. He made it to use as few cuts as possible. As you can see on the drawings the 4 sheets of plywood were used in the most efficient way.

Daydream built


All in all the first build was not by David but by Rob Smith who built the boat with his two nephews who live in South Africa. They have built the first Daydream in 22 hours. They found that there were not sufficient details for the sailing rig, daggerboard, or rudder on the Simplicityboats website. He reviewed Reuel Parker’s Sharpie book. There was enough info to make the rudder on the fly.


Daydream layout







5.Portuguese style dinghy

Finished Portuguese style dinghy








Hannu’s boatyard is a well know website among the boatbuilding community. There are many designs out there that are easy to build. For this blog, I chose the Portuguese style dinghy which is a small boat but looks spacious and I like her lines.

The design was inspired by the Portuguese fishing boats with flat bottoms, high bows, and a lot of rocker. This little boat has it all.

For stability of the boat with either one or two persons a single lengthwise seat, running the length of the boat, in the middle of the boat was made so the right balance is possible to find with any number and any weight of crew.


The plans are easy to follow and you can use basic tools to build this nice little dinghy. You need two sheets of plywood for this boat, but if you really want to be cost-efficient you can build two boats with three sheets of plywood.


If you want to go even smaller then there’s also the Micro Portuguese style dinghy.



6.The Mouse

The Mouse









The Mouse was designed to develop the smallest, cheapest possible boat. You can build this boat in about 12 to 24 hours. It isn’t the most stable boat of all but it’s good enough to have some fun with during the summer.

After the Mouse there came many designs as follow-ups with improved stability and the ability to sail. Decking and enclosed frames will be very valuable, as the stern and bows enclosed areas will provide a good amount of precious emergency flotation.

You can check the Micro Mouse, Flying Mouse, Eek A Mouse, and Hot Rat. 





7.The Puddle Duck racer

Puddle duck racer

The Puddle Duck racer is something completely different.

First, the Puddle Duck racer is an actual racing sailboat.

Second, the Puddle Duck racer is basically a plywood box.

Third, the Puddle Duck racer isn’t about the boat but it’s about the people. Therefore their motto is “Cheap, creative, and having fun on the water.

10 people in an 8 foot boat

And that’s what we all are about, right? We all love to have fun on the water. Whether it’s with a sailboat, a dinghy, a skiff, an inflatable boat, or whatever you are using to be on the water. You’re there to have fun, right?

The Puddle Duck hulls are a fixed one design shape, the sail rigs, and fins are open for development. The result is our racing competition is a blend of both the sailing skill of the skipper and boat engineering & building skill. The result is an 8′ x 4′ racer.

Basic build

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