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Happy Jack (of All Trades)

Inspired by a small but capable workhorse tug, the Dunlin 22 is a factotum for its intrepid owner.
A shallow draft, high-thrust outboard and roomy cockpit grant the Dunlin 22 versatility.

A shallow draft, high-thrust outboard and roomy cockpit grant the Dunlin 22 versatility.

The inspiration for the Dunlin 22 came to me about 15 or so years back. It was a cold but calm November morning, and the night before, we had experienced a lively storm with lots of wind and rain. I had my little yard tugboat Godzilli and a high tide awaiting me. Quite often following these early winter storms, one can find good cedar logs (full tree’s branches and all). They are almost always free for the taking, as most landowners would have to pay day labor charges to have them removed from their waterfront homes.

I gathered up my son Mackenzie, who was 21 at the time, and we set out to see what might be ours for the taking. Godzilli is a 16-foot boat with a shallow draft, a good tow bitt and a strong, high-thrust engine, almost ideal for the task. It was a great day of adventure: We ended up rescuing two neighbors’ boats that had drifted off their moorings; salvaged a section of a dock that had blown off its own mooring; and, at the end of the day, lashed onto a 60-foot cedar log that provided no boatbuilding lumber, but that did yield some nice siding for a small shop building we were constructing.

We took time to have a wee bit of a drink in celebration of our achievements, and to reflect on my little tug. That’s when I started the scheming that eventually led to the Dunlin 22 design.

The pilothouse’s large, forward-facing windows provide excellent visibility.

The pilothouse’s large, forward-facing windows provide excellent visibility.

The day’s wish list was for a galley (something Godzilli lacked), a fuel heater/stove to warm our cold and wet hands, and a cozy space where we could sit and enjoy a drink together. We’d need a boat a bit larger than Godzilli, but with her same simple lines and utility. She’d need to have a shallow enough draft that I could nose her close ashore (to allow me to lash onto logs for salvage) and she’d need to be heavy enough that the large logs couldn’t pull us off course once we had a tow made up.

Those musings came back into my mind just a few days later, and I roughed out a set of lines. Some months passed before I welcomed Oregon resident Don Blum into my office.

Shortly after sitting down, Blum outlined his dream boat for his home waters. He lives on Coos Bay, an estuary of the Pacific with several rivers feeding into it. The bay is large enough to allow lots of exploring, and with the right weather, one could even think of running a boat out over the bar to do a bit of fishing on the open Pacific. While he didn’t need a tugboat, his dream was close to my own ideas. I don’t think more than 15 minutes passed before the rough set of lines that I had drawn were out on my drafting table, and we were both busily talking over the details of the upcoming build.

A trunk cabin forward of the elongated pilothouse gives increased headroom over the berths. A longer-cabin version, with a larger galley, and helm and co-pilot seats, makes for an ideal Great Loop cruiser.

A trunk cabin forward of the elongated pilothouse gives increased headroom over the berths. A longer-cabin version, with a larger galley, and helm and co-pilot seats, makes for an ideal Great Loop cruiser.

She was to have a small outboard (about 60 hp) mounted conventionally on the stern. With one of the high-thrust models, I hoped for a top speed of about 13 knots, and a cruise speed of 8.7 knots. Blum didn’t need much speed so much as good fuel performance.

The cockpit was vital to the success of the boat, as Blum anticipated diverse pursuits. He is a scientist and avid birder, so would use the boat as an active blind to observe animal and bird life in his home waters. He also is a fisherman. A cargo hold was planned in the middle of the cockpit that could house gear, and function as a working table and seat perch. A crab pot puller was mounted on the starboard side of the cockpit, as the Dungeness crabs on Coos Bay are numerous and succulent.

Her pilothouse is entered via a centerline, bifold door. I provided headroom of 6 feet, 3 inches, plenty enough for Blum’s head not to bang about in rough seas. A solid-fuel stove built by Navigator Stove Works of Orcas Island, Wash., was specified in the pilothouse on the port side, up against the rear bulkhead. This model, the Little Cod, is a wonderful piece of cast-iron heaven, burning just about any fuel (we favor 1½-inch- to 2-inch-wide alder hardwood limb cuttings) and providing radiant heat that will knock the chill out of marine air in minutes. A galley counter to port and a counter to starboard form the edges to the pilothouse, and Blum suggested forgoing any fixed helm seat in favor of a more flexible, movable stool.

Belowdecks is a double berth. The cushioned platform is 16 inches above the pilothouse cabin sole, and has stowage built into its base. A space was also planned for a Porta Potti to be accessible below the berth flat (removing a cushion and a hinged lid would expose it for use).

We later added a longer-cabin version to the design with an enlarged galley, helm and co-pilot seats, and an enclosed head with full headroom just abaft the skipper’s seat, allowing visibility to the after port side of the boat. I find that no skipper can swivel his head completely astern from a forward-facing seat, and I often use the blank area just abaft the helm for head or other purposes that might normally block the view. A trunk cabin forward of the elongated pilothouse gives increased headroom over the berths. This version would be a terrific candidate for a Great Loop cruiser.

Soon after she was delivered, Blum and his wife were at a party at a friend’s home, and the talk was all about his new boat. It wasn’t long before someone asked how much she had cost. He thought for a few moments before answering, “Nothing. She didn’t cost me even a dime.”

He had paid with part of an inheritance he had recently gotten from an account at the Lehman Brothers brokerage firm. Just a few weeks later, the company went bankrupt. If he had not used that money, he would have lost the entire amount.

His quick retort was quite true, and it’s a great reminder that perhaps the best tack is to enjoy what we can of life while we still can.

Dunlin 22 Specifications

LOA: 21ft. 6in.
Beam: 7ft. 10in.
Draft: 1ft. 5in.
Displacement: 3,290 lbs.
Power: 1x 60—90hp outboard

This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue.

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