Designing the perfect tender for Points East cruisers

Boat designer Clint Chase at his desk. Chase is seeking input from Points East readers to design a new pram. Photo by John Gold

December 2021

By John Gold
For Points East

There are dozens of designs for prams literally floating around out there. The small, utilitarian dinghy is defined largely by its transom-shaped bow. Within that definition, however, there is plenty of room for variation that includes size, materials and building style. Although these boats are frequently propelled by oars, they can also be powered by a small outboard or sail.

Clint Chase of Chase Small Craft is looking to add a pram to his collection of boat plans and kits that he sells from his Route 1 workshop in Saco, Maine. Chase, a 2006 graduate of and former teacher at the Landing School in Arundel, Maine, designs plans and full build kits for a variety of small craft that range from a 10-foot-skiff to a 25-foot daysailer.

“I’ve been wanting to design a pram for years,” Chase said in an email to Points East Publisher Joe Burke when he introduced the idea earlier this fall. “What I am looking for is input from people who use dinghies and prams as tenders and who know from experience what makes a good one.”

The pram design provides the greatest amount of capacity for a given length, according to Chase, who noted that the square shape provides more underwater volume along the waterline, making it a practical option for a tender.

“Prams can stow on deck, they are easy to get in and out of,” Chase said. “They are immensely practical as a tender.”

To design the “perfect tender,” Chase would like the help of Points East readers. He’s asking for input on the most desirable tender characteristics and insight into who will be using the boat and how.

“I don’t want to do just another pram,” Chase said. “Knowing how it will be used and who is going to use it will help me focus on those characteristics that are important.”

Among the factors Chase would like to include in his design are weight limitations, stability, rowing performance, other propulsion options (power or sail) and how boaters plan to use the boat. As a tender? As a stand-alone recreational craft? Strictly a utilitarian craft to shuttle cruisers from mooring to dock or possibly something they’d use to explore the harbor after tying up?

The exact dimensions will depend on how Chase weighs the various characteristics involved in boat design. A wider bottom will create a more stable hull, and a narrower one will improve rowing capabilities. The importance of towing capability would affect the design of the bow.

And since Chase’s business is to help people build and launch their own boats, he’d also like to know if readers would be interested in building and finishing the boat themselves or perhaps attending a class or workshop to build one.

Chase designs his boats using Rhino 3D CAD software which allows him to generate detailed three-dimensional models of the projects. While not specifically designed for marine construction, the software is used by many marine designers, according to Chase.

His kits are built using plywood and hardwoods, cut on a CNC machine in his shop.

Chase plans to design the pram using the same boatbuilding techniques used in his Compass Skiff, which is built using a mortise and tenon method he calls “Tab-n-Lock,” which mates bulkheads to the hull in an easy and precise manner, eliminating the need for a strongback. He uses a wooden chine log and the “glue and screw” method at the seam between the bottom and the first wide plank, which he says is neater than traditional stitch and glue construction.

“There is less mess in the building and more opportunity to teach boatbuilding skills and tool use,” Chase said. The chine log is very easy once people try it, it produces a clean interior and probably results in a lighter boat.”

The design of the pram will evolve with suggestions from Points East readers, but Chase is contemplating a flat bottom with a two-plank hull in which the top plank is shiplapped to eliminate the need for fiberglass above the waterline.

Chase estimates construction and finishing of the pram could take anywhere from one to two weeks to a month, depending on the skill of the builders, the amount of time they devote to the project, and the level of finish they seek in the final product. The boat’s size would allow it to be built in a basement workshop and make for a winter project.

This article is the first in a series as Points East follows the design and construction process for the boat. Future articles will list reader suggestions for pram specifications and Chase’s response to those. When the kit is completed, we plan to assemble a Points East pram and document that process.

What do you think?

What do you think would make for the perfect pram? We have a short questionnaire at pointseast.com/pram. We’ll pass along your suggestions to Clint and he can respond in a follow up article.