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The Marsh Duck


On the beach, Sucia Island

Welcome to my blog, mostly about designing, building and using the Marsh Duck, a light-weight sailing-rowing-cruising boat.  For my more recent trimaran design/build, see category “Sealark”.

The Marsh Duck is a sort of cross between a sailing canoe, an ocean rowing boat and a racing dinghy.  Depending on your interests, look through the categories . . .  and feel free to get in touch by comment or directly by e-mail:

She’s 18 feet long.  The hull is 43 inches wide, with wings for hiking out adding almost 6 inches on each side (to 54 inches).  She weighs about 130 lbs, 170 lbs with all sailing and rowing gear.  Construction is stitch and glue using 1/8 and 1/4 inch ply with 6 oz fiberglass and epoxy.

First cruise was 6 weeks in the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound.  I was very pleased with her performance.  With slight improvements I expect she could be very competitive in Raids or will serve me for long cruises, months at a time – the inside passage to Alaska, the Caribbean, even across oceans. 2013 I spent 3 months cruising the inside waters from Port Townsend to the north end of Vancouver Island.

For a better sense of how I use her and what she’s like on the water I would suggest the categories “Cruising Reports” (under “Cruising”) and Videos.

Please note that the blog dates do not correspond to the dates pictures were taken, nor the time of the activities described.  I don’t get to posting that often . . .

  1. Thank you for your wonderful design. This may be the perfect boat for my wife and I. I’m retired and we still ride motorcycles. She ride with me. I can’t stop thinking about your Marsh Duck. Thanks again my friend.

  2. dennis mcfadden permalink

    Scot> I have just received an e-mail requesting money to get you out of a jam. I assume that it is a scam but at the same time I thought that I had better check in with you.

    • Yes, my e-mail address list was hacked. It seems a fairly sophisticated scam. My contact list and “sent” folder were cleared so it’s harder to warn people. I’m home and fine and don’t need money. Thanks, Scot

  3. Doug permalink

    Do you have any Video of the craft in action?

    • No video yet . . . Hopefully soon. I will be posting more photos soon

    • There are now a few videos on YouTube (and here) taken with a GoPro strapped on my head while sailing – running before 20-30 knot winds on Johnstone Strait and sailing with other small boats at the NW School of Wooden Boat Building “Sail-In” at Port Hadlock, early August 2013.

  4. Martin Feaviour permalink

    HI SCOTT Many thanks for the latest blogs,it gives a better understanding of how the boat works and how to use it,i also like to chart your voyages on google map,i’ts a wonderful cruising area

  5. Hi Martin, glad to hear you’re finding the blog useful. Yes, it is a wonderful cruising area out here. If/when you’re ready to start building a Marsh Duck, get in touch. I continue to learn and to refine my ideas about materials and other issues and will be happy to share thoughts related to your plans for building and use. Scot

    • rickiellen permalink

      Any plans for holding a workshop for folks looking to build a Marsh Duck? I’d sign up! (I’m in Port Townsend). I’m also wondering how the Marsh Duck compares to Colin Angus’ RowCruiser… any thoughts on that? Thanks for all your great info!

      • No, no plans or thoughts of doing a workshop. I’d be willing if there were a few people who wanted it and would do the organization, etc. It’s recreation for me, not a business.

        The Duck and Cruiser have similarities, but are also significantly different . . .
        – The Angus Cruiser was designed as a rowing cruiser and Colin added outriggers to make it a tri for sailing. I designed the Duck as a monohull, sailing canoe with sliding-seat rowing as auxiliary power.
        – with the outriggers, the Angus Cruiser is much more stable than the Duck; it’s also bigger and heavier.
        – the Cruiser has 78 sqft of sail, split between two sails each with it’s own spars, the Duck had 107 sqft in a single sail as I cruised her.
        – I’ve never been out on the Cruiser, with or without outriggers, so don’t really know how they compare on performance. I IMAGINE the Row Cruiser (without outriggers and amas) and the Duck may be fairly similar for rowing (Colin once rowed the Duck, so might be able to compare). I imagine that the Sail-Row Cruiser and the Duck would be quite different sailing.
        – I expect that the Duck, with it’s narrow beam and large sail (reefable) requires more skill to sail well and fast, more “athletic” sailing, balancing the big sail by hiking out with upper body outside the boat. Of course she can be set up with less sail . . .
        – I imagine the Angus Sail-Row Cruiser with it’s amas would be hard to capsize; it’s quite easy to capsize the Duck – though I had only one unintentional capsize in 3 months (1500nm?) of cruising (and was up and sailing again in maybe 2 minutes – very quick and easy to right).
        – Angus Cruiser has forward cabin, Duck aft cabin . . .

        When I did my 3-month cruise on the Duck, I would sometimes haul her up on a beach, settle her, and sleep aboard. There were times when I would take everything out/apart and move her up above/beyond big logs, etc. This came in handy at times. I think that would be noticeably more difficult with the Angus Sail-Row Cruiser – bigger, heavier, more parts.

        If I were creating a new Duck-type boat for myself, it would be smaller (I found I didn’t need that much space/carrying capacity). It would be easier to haul behind my bicycle, easier to haul up on a beach, etc. If there were some people who wanted to put together a workshop, I’d probably build such a new boat for myself as part of the process.

        Note that building these boats is quicker and easier if you start with pre-cut (CNC) panels; available for the Angus Cruiser, SCAMP, etc. Set up for that would need at least a few thousand dollars . . . That would probably be worthwhile if there were a half-dozen people who wanted the same boat.

        I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you have any additional thoughts or questions.

        Note: I expect to be in Port Townsend for the R2AK start (plus a couple of days ahead; volunteering). I’d be happy to get together with you to discuss any/all of this further and to explore ways I might help you create a Duck if you’re so inclined.

  6. Johannes Prison permalink

    Really inspirational reading! I’mmmyself in the first thinking stage of trying to build something similar myself. Stumbled over your design when I had more or less settled for Angus rowboats Expedition or Cruiser model (read they’re planning to add sails to these models next year), but I really want to tinker some mote if maybe your design might be even better. Thanks for your work and documentation.

    A question: in what “self explanatory-state” does your drawings come in? Is there any written building instructions or just the line drawngs?

    Thanks in advance.

    Best regards, Johannes (Gothenburg, Sweden)

    • There is a complete instruction manual. It’s stitch and glue. There are drawings, tables and explanation of how to measure and cut the panels, etc., etc. It’s quite complete. I’ll almost certainly do a 3rd edition later this year (perhaps this winter), incorporating what I’ve learned during this summer’s months of cruising. I’ll e-mail this to all who have purchased previous editions.

  7. Martin Feaviour permalink

    HI SCOT Is there any reason why the storage compartment is lower than the cabin? I don’t think i could get my folding bike in at the height it is.

    • Hi Martin,

      I’m not sure why I didn’t reply to this last summer, though I was still cruising, so probably just missed it somehow. I don’t remember seeing it. In answer:

      There’s no reason the forward storage compartment couldn’t be higher/bigger. It’s more than adequate for my needs as it is, and my Bike Friday Pocket Llama (high performance folding bicycle) fits inside without difficulty. I’ve been leaning toward reducing size of cabin and storage compartment and even the hull slightly in order to reduce weight since I found that I had way more storage capacity than I needed during my 3-month cruise last summer . . .

  8. john farrell permalink

    Scot as your familiar with the Hobie adventure Island (i have one)what are your thoughts on adapting the Marsh Duck to take outriggers and the mirage drive? has this occurred to you ?

    • Yes, a number of people have suggested using outriggers or the Mirage. Either would be possible. The Mirage would be challenging to create the hole/mechanism it locks into unless it could be salvaged from a boat or bought from Hobie and built into a Marsh Duck. And it might be somewhat in the way for sailing . . . unless you were using outriggers and sailing it like an Adventure Island . . .

      I designed the Marsh Duck as a high performance mono-hull, which is what I wanted for a variety of reasons. I don’t know that much about tri design, but imagine that a boat designed as a tri might perform better.

      You (or anyone else) are welcome to try such adaptations . . .

  9. I like your Marsh Duck!

    It is pretty much a smaller version of what I have been dreaming about for months now.


    • Hi Wayne, I looked at your perfect boat post, and the Marsh Duck is a LOT smaller!!!!!!!!!! I’ve had a great time cruising on her, but she’s awfully much smaller, and far less stable than what you’ve had in mind, I think. I pull her behind my bicycle and easily haul her up on beaches, and you wouldn’t do that with a 30 foot plus boat, and outriggers add weight as well. Best wishes. Scot

      • Well, I may need to shrink my dream some …. But, when I think boat, I am thinking 30″ BWL. My amas would be more than logs, but barely 20% of the hull, maybe 10%

        Have you seen Gary Dierken’s outrigger canoes? Those are more like what I am looking for.


  10. PS, you should come over and comment about your boat on the thread at

    We have a young guy experimenting on something similar to yours with a small ama.


  11. Arthur Schneider permalink

    Is there any way to utilize the oars as outriggers or as some sort of double rudder system??

    • I can’t see any need to use the oars as rudders, nor do I think it would work well. I suppose one could create a way to use the oars as akas in some sort of outrigger system. That could work OK with inflatable amas for stability at anchor, though I find her stability at anchor to be more than adequate. Using the oars as akas for an outrigger system for sailing would be much more difficult, would risk damaging the oars (mine are high-end, carbon fiber sculls that are rather expensive). I think it would be better and easier to make akas from carbon fiber windsurfer mast pieces . . . And, to tell the truth, the Duck is designed to be a high performance sailing mono-hull. For anyone who wants a tri, I’d suggest designing that. I’ve been playing with tri designs, and will be happy to discuss specifics with anyone who might want one with similar size and accommodations as the Duck. It would be easy enough for me to create plans . . . With 3 hulls and akas that need significant strength with the greater sail made possible by greater stability, a tri is going to be significantly heavier and more expensive than a similar size mono as well as more complicated. And it all depends on what one wants and the compromises one is willing to make.

  12. Paul permalink

    I’m very excited about your design, I have been looking for the same attributes as your design. I’m an experienced and boat builder sailor and have owned 25 sailboats up to my current challenger 40 which I live on, I built a John Wellsford scamp for a customer 2 yrs ago. Can you give me some of your recent improvements or thoughts before I start construction. I Noticed you also competed in r2ak.

    • Paul, I don’t remember whether I’ve seen your comment before, but don’t see any reply from me. Easiest for me to send you info on Marsh Duck improvements by direct e-mail. If you are still interested, please send a message to:

  13. Rui Gomes Carvalho permalink

    Bom dia
    Tomei conhecimento da sua página e do seu barco. Parabéns.
    Para quando o novo design?.
    Se o seu design fosse para 16´ eu era um interessado potencial.
    Agradeço que me dê mais pormenores se possivel, ficava agradecido.
    Rui Carvalho

    • Bom dia,

      I understand very little Italian, but . . .

      I’m currently designing a 5 meter very narrow cruising trimaran, overall beam less than 2 meters, small amas (about 2.5 meters long, buoyance of around 75 Kg.). I expect to post drawings fairly soon.


  14. Rui Gomes Carvalho permalink

    Good day

    I am Portuguese and not Italian.
    Thanks for the answer.
    I await news of the evolution of their work.

    With best regards


    Through Google translator

  15. McCrae Conlin permalink

    Hi Scot, I have owned and refurbished 2 Saroca 17’s. Some of the most memberable cruises were the Inside passage from Campbell River to Echo Bay BC. Recently I did the Pokomoke River from Snow Hill to the Chesapeake.
    That cruise put me in a different mind set! My delightful experience in Maryland was plagued to 5 days of torrential rain. The Pokomoke is one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever explored, although the open Saroca was a huge disappointment. Tent, sleeping bags, clothes, folding bike were all soaked to an “undryable” state. My feet became so white and wrinkled I lost all skin and had to be bandaged for a week.
    The Saroca is basically a fiberglass tub with a poly skin. Modifications are not ideally achieved nor desired for a boat already weighing close to 300Ibs.
    Ready for a stitch and glue project! As a Prosthetist by trade, carbon fiber and acrylic resins are my daily routine.
    Must admit Scot, it would be nice to see a video history of building Marsh Duck.
    Or at least free plans…

    • I’m familiar with the Saroca. Before building the original Marsh Duck, knowing I wanted a sail-row-cruiser, I bought one with a friend in New England. During our initial overnight cruise I strained my back which ended plans for cruising the Maine coast with it that summer. We finally sold it only last summer. Yes, it was heavy! I was much happier with the Duck, though it’s minimal when the weather is miserable. I spent a week in Nanaimo BC with rain most days – it wasn’t wonderful, but way better than it would have been on the Saroca! I never got around to making the custom cockpit tent I intended. That would have helped. I didn’t do video of building the Duck, but took lots of pictures. There are many pictures in the plans/construction manual (available via Duckworks Magazine on-line). If you’re seriously interested in building a Marsh Duck, send me a direct e-mail: and I’ll be happy to discuss details, send some pictures, etc. If you don’t have stitch and glue experience (even if you do), there are some excellent Pygmy Boats videos on youtube – at least there were some years ago, probably still there if you can find/access them.

  16. thanks Scott, we love the story of the Duck’s development; what a well-pedigreed Duck she is!!
    Vancouver Is. is our old stamping ground, too, second-best waterway in the world. After Southeast Tasmania. We’re in Golden Bay, NZ now, third best probably. Going to think hard about building your Duck. Looking for something that can cater for two biggish canine shipmates. On the short trips, anyway. Best wishes!

  17. Marchaj’ book Seaworthiness, the Forgotten Factor, raised a couple of points which bear on some of the discussion here:
    Weight in the mast can be a positive, moderating oscillation due to wave action.
    A bigger cabin gives better recovery from knock-down.
    Just saying. Sometimes these things, though obvious when pointed out, are not seen, when an over-riding priority like reducing weight and/or windage, might overshadow them.

    • I imagine the book you mention is looking mainly at more conventional boats, not an ultra-light sailing canoe with light cabin. There is no weight below (on a keel or ballast low in the hull) that will bring the Marsh Duck up if she’s knocked down. Crew weight outside the boat does that, and crew weight, moving around, is what moderates movement related to both wind and wave action (storage of heavy things low in the hull is also helpful). Weight aloft only detracts from stability for a boat like the Marsh Duck.

      Windage vs. cabin size is a real issue, but, again, a larger cabin wouldn’t be a significant advantage related to knockdown – only related to comfort and ease.

      A more traditional sailboat with enough weight low in hull or on keel to make her self-right is a VERY different situation, and I agree that the issues you raise can be important for such a boat. Though generally speaking I think smaller cabins and less windage have greater advantages for seaworthiness.

  18. McCrae Conlin permalink

    Hi Scot, thanks for getting back to me. Yes, I’m a Canadian in Maine and like to sail, row….and perhaps pedal.
    From what I’ve been reading in the web, pedal power (in terms of speed and effort) beats the rowing and kayak paddle every time.
    To Google ocean rowing brings ocean pedal boats with equal regularity.
    I know you have mentioned ongoing back issues. Have physical problems limited you to rowing? Please share your
    thoughts concerning an ‘Ocean rowing, sailing, pedal’ cruiser.
    In the morning facing aft while rowing, a bow view while pedalling and hanging and holding on as the afternoon wind appears.
    Thanks Mc

  19. Hi Mc,

    Yes, I’m familiar with the issues, particularly performance/energy/effort.

    I’ve been riding a bicycle all my life. I started sliding-seat rowing much more recently. I have no car, and bicycle has been my primary means of transportation for many years. Back issues at times limit how much i can ride a conventional, upright bike, but there’s no problem with recumbent – so that’s not the reason I remain more inclined to use rowing for my boats. Fixed seat rowing can also be problematic for my back, but sliding-seat has not given me problems. I haven’t done a lot of paddling since my back became an issue – it seems more problematic than sliding-seat rowing, as well as less powerful.

    Pedal uses primarily leg power. Rowing uses everything. Rowing is more aerobic and burns more calories for the same power/speed (compared to the best pedal-power systems). If you’re crossing an ocean by human power and capacity to haul food in your boat is limited, pedal may be an advantage. If maximum speed is THE goal, pedal may be better. It can be nice to look where you’re going. Pedal has advantages.

    I love to cruise. Racing is not really important to me. Speed is good, but not primary. The difference between pedal and sliding-seat rowing speed doesn’t seem enough to be significant for me. I enjoy food and tend to carry more body weight than is ideal. So burning calories is good. Aerobic exercise helps keep me in shape. I generally sail when there’s wind and row when it’s calm, so the challenges of rowing in rough conditions aren’t an issue. And I seldom row for very long since there is so often at least a little wind. So the amount of exercise I get is good.

    Minimizing boat weight is a priority for me. Having no car, and wanting to minimize my ecological and carbon footprint, I want to transport my boats by bicycle. Light weight also makes it easier to haul a boat out of the water, do repairs, etc. Simplicity is also a preference for me.

    The biggest problem with pedal power for me is the weight of the equipment and the space and complexity involved. In my quite small boats, the pedal power arrangement would take a lot of space and be in the way when sailing, seriously problematic when sailing in more difficult conditions. So the pedal system would have to be moved/changed at times. There’s also more potential for maintenance and repair issues.

    Pedal vs. Paddle vs. Row (and fixed-seat vs. sliding-seat) – all can be quite good. I think these are very personal decisions.


    • McCrae Conlin permalink

      Thanks for sharing Scot. I find we are in similar circumstances. I too, gave up cars with retirement. My biggest complaint about the Saroca is the weight. I am completely “dependent” (the dreaded word) on others to trailer sail me from location to location. In addition, sailing with the rowing roller in place is cumbersome. Although origanially advertized as a quick conversion from rowing to sailing, the saroca, in fact, takes time, labour and requires additional storage. I clearly see your point of additional pedalling equipment adding more work and reducing comfortable sailing room.
      My carbon footprint has been extended with a folding bike and a friction drive Honda engine. Pedal assist dramatically changed my bicycle experience on land and perhaps I can design a similar experience on water. To date, electric bicycles have only skyrocketed in price.
      I have built several combustion engine assisted folding bicycles. The price never exceeding $1000. A comparable electric retails at $4000.
      As the weather (54 today) in Maine continues to improve, my version of your “Marsh Duck” is taking shape.
      A sailing, static seat rowing, pedal assisted coastal cruiser. ……”Maine Duck”.

      Thanks Mc

  20. It is a very nice design… the current plans being offered on DuckWorks reflect the design modifications that you have made since first launching?


  21. Jason Bruch permalink

    Hello, I am a fellow small boat adventurer. Kayaked, solo and unsupported, from key West to Quebec City.. ;). Very interested in commissioning a Marsh Duck. Jason Bruch. Puget Sound. 307-529-2537 ( f0r- kay-aker).

  22. Thank from Laverna Hohnson

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