Construction of Two Portuguese Style Dinghies (Small Boats)

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Picture of Construction of Two Portuguese Style Dinghies (Small Boats)
This project covers the construction of two rowboats that are primarily constructed with three sheets of plywood. The design is not mine. I used a design by Hannu Vartiala, a very generous boat enthusiast who has graciously provided boat plans free of charge on his website.

This project can be found at:

This is a step-by-step documentation and explanation of the project found on that site. I've tried to simplify some of Hannu's steps for laymen like myself. You will need to refer to that page as you read this Instructable. I won't repeat Hannu's instructions step by step since this is really his design. I'll just explain how I did it, what problems I ran in to and how I got around them.

If the link to Hannu's website ever changes (I discovered that it had) please Google Hannu Vartiala and his new website should come up.

This project tool me about 3 days for the first boat and 2 days for the second.

I will also include tips for oar construction, which Hannu did not cover in his project.
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Step 1: Cut the materials

Picture of Cut the materials
I purchased 1/4" exterior plywood in 4x8 foot sheets.

With the first sheet of plywood you can cut out two side pieces and two transoms (the back end of the boat). Measure carefully and you'll be fine. Refer to Hannu's diagrams for dimensions. The first boat I made was the larger of the two.
I used a skill saw and sawhorses to cut the sides and transoms out of the wood.
Since I was already cutting, I used the last two pieces of plywood to cut the sides for the second, smaller boat sides. I kept the larger remains of both sheets of ply to cut the bottom of the boat from.

To save yourself some time in the long run, I suggest you order your oarlocks now. By the time they reach you the boat may be ready.
I found a decent deal at, specifically this item:

This turned out to be the only real hardware I couldn't make myself.
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Erfunden made it!4 months ago

I started building one of these boats 6 years ago or so. I made a horrible mess with the fiberglass and set it aside for a while while I figures out how to fix it (an angle grinder was the answer. Finally finished it. I also cut a mattress to fit in it since I needed a bed for my daughter.

Now, unfortunately, My wife won't let me take it out on the water. Guess I have to make a second one!

vvvieira9 months ago

Very nice instructable, congratulations.
I guess you would like to know more about the origin of the boat's "style" - Portugal. So, I invite you to take a look at (sorry, Portuguese only - check for a Google translation).
The correct name is "batela", and its primarily use was to transport people from land to anchored ships, and also, as you can see in the site, to go to the "pesqueiras" - fishing channels on rivers, namely the Minho river.
Nowadays they usually use small one-piece fiberglass boats, and this man is one of the last to know how to build this kind of boat.
The finishing is made with rubber paint - no need for beauty, I guess ;)
It took 4 hours (2 X 2 days) for a man, with the help of two others, to transform 9 pine boards into a boat.

pmarkwort9 months ago

Horrible Work.

quinault10 months ago

fit to sail in sea? seems easy to build.

rook999 (author)  quinault10 months ago
Technically you could take it to sea. But they are very small and in rough weather I think you would have a problem.
if I may point out when you hunt and kill a trophy animal you should have it taxidermed as a momento i mean its not like they waste the meat they eat it and if your going to a hunting store expect that. p.s. my dad has several "dead deer" mounts. .p.p.s. you sound like a environmentalist.
rook999 (author)  Paracordaholic1 year ago
Now I wonder if maybe some of those animals may have died from natural causes. Who knows? I'm not sure where they got the animals. But they definitely promote the killing of animals.
I suppose I am an environmentalist. I consider myself a steward of the planet. At least I try to be.
Thanks, I won't shop at Bass Pro Shop. I'm not surprised because they're also very fond of selling electric shock collars for dogs. When people kill animals simply for fun, there's not much they won't do.
thinkscott1 year ago
Two things about understanding Hannu's diagrams: 1) reading his instructions above the diagram help in knowing where to start the measurement to a certain point, 2) he gives the distances in inches-and-eighths so 18" 4 means eighteen and four eighths inches, or 18 1/2 " In case you didn't spot them, when Hannu gives the instructions and diagram for the sides he gives them first for the 8' boat and then for a 6' boat.
rook999 (author) 2 years ago
I don't have specific dimensions. I ended up buying a metric and standard tape measure from Home Depot so that I could follow along with Hannu's instructions. Both boats were large enough for one average adult to row in.
kjpwnage2 years ago
Can I get the dimensions of the smaller boat? I can't understand Hannu's diagrams for my life :/
stormy03144 years ago
The correct term for the front of the boat is the bow and the correct name for the "bow stick" is the stem. The back end is the stern and that back panel is called the transom. 12 years with the Navy and 40 years in and around the merchant marine plus having a hobby building boats and I never once heard the term prow used except with Viking ships of old. Prow is a lubbers term for bow though.
If I built one of these I'd have to add a viking prow. A big carved dragon, that'd be cool!
I am thinking of building a kayak for my daughter with a removable dragon head. I would make it removable for taking off if the wind got high enough to blow the kayak off course with the head in place.
rook999 (author)  stormy03144 years ago
LOL! Thanks!
Clayton H.4 years ago
I want to build this boat as a end of summer project, but I'm confused on how to read the diagrams on the other website. How are you suposed to read it? (like the height of the sides of the boat)
rook999 (author)  Clayton H.4 years ago
Refer to the other website. Hannu has his instructions all in the metric system. As an American I regret to admit I had a hard time converting to the metric system as well. I suggest investing in a metric/standard tape measure. That is, it has metric on one side of the tape and the "standard" system on the other side. It will help you convert the measurements. After doing this project, I am convinced that the "standard", or "Imperial" measurement system is silly. The rest of the world is metric, and Americans should just go with it. It's really much simpler.
pfred2 rook9992 years ago
I got your metric system right here for ya. 12.7x99mm my eye, that's Ma Deuce! She is 50 caliber through and through too. Yankee imperialism keeps the world free. Well, as free as it is ever going to be. Maybe if the rest of the world was more like us it'd be a better place?
Thanks, I started building the boat around 12:00 and finished the outside fiberglassing about an hour ago. going to try to do the inside and gunwales before dark.
cammers3 years ago
Thanks for posting a great ible.

Not only have you inspired me to have a crack at building a boat of my own, but you also made some mistakes - saving me from doing the same. Thanks for including them.

I have just put my first coat of paint on the hull. Can't wait for sea trials. Hope she floats.

Here's a couple of ideas that worked for me and might help future makers:

1. Instead of the tie down strap to bend the sides, I just used rope and tightened it "spanish windlass" style, twisting the top and bottom parts of the rope with a stick. It worked really well tightening top and bottom evenly.

2. Just use resin and hardener for soaking the fibre-glass cloth or mat. There is no need to bulk it with saw dust. That just looks painful. Just paint some resin onto the timber, lay down the cloth, then dab more resin on to wet the cloth. Then use a roller to get the air out. The finish will be pretty smooth especially if you use a woven cloth.

3. To fill holes etc I made a putty from the fibre-glass resin and talcum powder. I found some in my wife's cupboard. It made my workshop smell like an Avon lady, but it works well. Just mix in enough to make a workable consistency.

4. Use Hannu's website. Both for instruction and inspiration. The gallery page has a lot of pictures from other makers and it's full of good ideas.

Thanks again. And to anyone tempted to try one for themselves: Just Do It!
cammers cammers3 years ago
Here are some pictures of my effort.
SIRJAMES093 years ago
personally I LOVE BASS PRO SHOPS(BPS) & would never shop anywhere else for all the fishing I do.

as far as killing trees to decorate the store, most if not all the trees that I have seen there, are fake trees...the animals are also MOSTLY fake. Fake meaning the heads & such are man made no real animals are killed and/or used to decorate their stores.

I know this because I used to work for BPS in the Headquarters in Springfield MO.
I say used to because stage 4 cancer destroyed any chance I ever had at holding any kind of job ever again.
I pray for your recovery from such a horrid disease. If not recovery then perhaps some joy or other good will be at the end of that battle. So many have gone and yet we have failed to find an easy cure.
TY Sir.
May Allah(swt) be with you always.
geenance3 years ago
So what is your best estimate as to the cost to build these boats?

Is it worth it? They look great and fun!
rook999 (author)  geenance3 years ago
I wish I would have kept closer count. It is also hard to say because I had many of the tools and supplies already. I would ball park $200. About $100 per boat. But it would vary from there.

I think it was worth it. If I were to do it again I may forego the oars and find a trolling motor on craigslist.

It also is better to have a place to use them available. It is hard to haul them out to a lake every time you want to use them.

If you do it, send along pictures!
ginchi17393 years ago
I built two of these several years ago out of regular 1/4 inch ply. Actually I used two layers of plywood. The finished product wasn't a great deal harder to handle than a one ply boat, and I could get both boats in the back of the pickup (turned on their sides). They will also work well with a small trolling motor, or a regular motor up to about 5 HP. The boats lend themselves easily to modifications. I am in the process of building another that I hope will be stronger and speedier than the other two.
SIRJAMES093 years ago
This looks a wee bit small for fishing, but then again, I'm claustrophobic.

I like the boat! you explained it well, the pics helped tie together any loose ends, & the safety tips, I love it!!!

this is a good boat for toying around in the water, I think maybe you could even add a 3.5 HP outboard (I would NOT go any larger than that tho). This was an enjoyable read.

I think it would be very easy to build a bigger boat based on what you have done here....

You did good!! TY for sharing.

Oh Yeah, if I came across a wee bit harsh about BPS, I appologize. It's just that BPS is my "go to" Store for all my fishing gear.
Easterro4 years ago
Thank you for the Instructable - it really fills in some information gaps in Hannu's instructions.

I was curious, how much epoxy did this project take? I'm curious what volume I should purchase.
rook999 (author)  Easterro4 years ago
Buy the big one. I used fiberglass, which has two parts to mix together. Home Depot sells a big metal can and a small can. I went through several small cans and finally sprang for the big can and used most of that. Start with the large amount. The amount it takes depends on how thick you lay it in and how wide you put it on and how many coats you put on. Hope that helps!
Thanks, that is a big help. I'm starting one this weekend with a buddy. I'll send pics when it's done. Thanks again!
rook999 (author)  Easterro4 years ago
Good luck! Wear a respirator, goggles and clothes that cover your skin. That fiberglass is nasty stuff.
grjackson4 years ago
I've been meaning to get back on here for some time to thank you for your contribution.

I wasn't terribly confident in following through with this project so I went CHEAP CHEAP! lowest grade plywood and scrap lumber for everything else...

Once I had put the first boat together I was impressed - so I went whole hog with the quality of paint and adhesives I used - three seasons later it's still a sound water tight little rig.

I'd recommend this instructible as a first time boat building venture to anyone!

Thanks again.
rook999 (author)  grjackson4 years ago
Sweet! I'm glad it worked for you. I'd like to see pictures of your boat if you can share them.
well this give you an idea of it's capacity - it wasn't a pleasure cruise - but it got us out to the sailboat - three adults and a bit of gear...
rook999 (author)  grjackson4 years ago
Wow! I had oars with mine so I couldn't fit other people in my boats, but with a trolling motor, I guess three could just fit in there. Don't rock the boat!
stormy03144 years ago
Forgot to say I did enjoy this "ible".
saastamo5 years ago
I would prefer talcum as a filler in epoxy. It is more inert than flour or sawdust.
zoltzerino5 years ago
 I HAVE THE SAME "CROCS" AS YOUR WIFE!!!!!! </capslock>
Runnerdude5 years ago
Is it possible to sail with a right-triangle sail that has only a mast and sheet, no booms or sprits or anything?
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