Explorer 18

Lapstrake Plywood Classic Sailing Dinghy





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A family dinghy of classic styling

~ Stable and forgiving

~ Large 3:1 dinghy

~ Lapstrake plywood for amateur building

~ Camp-cruiser capability

~ Great family boat

~ Large enough for group sail-training

~ GRP production boat

~ Flickr Album

Explorer 18 GRP classic sailing dinghy

This design was commissioned to satisfy the demand for a simple, safe and strong open boat with traditional rig and styling. It has been sold as a GRP production boat in South Africa for years and now we also offer plans for building with plywood using lapstrake methods with epoxy fillets that are reinforced with glass tape. The plywood version is the same as the GRP version except for minor changes to make it easier to build.

The GRP boat has an inner moulding forming the entire deck and cockpit. Up front is a moulded anchor locker with lockable flush cover and aft there are a moulded outboard engine well and a removable flush fitting insulated hamper. The hamper is omitted for the plywood version, for construction simplicity. The volume under the decks is used for stowage lockers and sufficient buoyancy to make her unsinkable. A bilge pump is mounted on the aft end of the centreplate casing, drawing bilge water via a strum box alongside the casing and discharging into the void of the casing.

Hull shape is lapstrake in form and traditional in profile and plan. However, traditional does not necessarily mean slow. The panels have been laid out so as to give a moderate bow for beating ability, with sufficient flare for dryness. Further aft the bottom panels have slight Vee to reduce drag for light air performance and rowing. They have little taper aft of their widest point and have a flat run to give offwind speed. This is most effective broad reaching, when she is powerful, with good speed.

Explorer GRP classic sailing dinghy

The centreplate is 12mm steel, galvanised after manufacture and is raised by a tackle system. The transom hung rudder has a pivoting blade, giving easy beaching.

The rig is traditional gunter. The foot has a stiff batten instead of a boom, essentially to keep the sail out to increase projected area for off-wind sailing and doing considerably less damage to unwary heads. Slab reefing allows reduction of sail area to suit heavier conditions.

Explorer 18, transom of prototype wooden boat

The outboard engine is placed in a well and mounted on a bracket which pivots sidewards instead of the more normal forward tilt. The engine then lies on its side in a well below aft deck level when not in use and can be covered with a lashed fabric cover if desired. When sailing there is no motor visible to upset the traditional lines and it was not necessary to spoil the pretty transom by cutting a big slot for engine leg clearance. The engine cut-out in the bottom has a flush plug to close it off when the engine is stowed, improving efficiency.

The Explorer 18 gives safe sailing to the traditionalist, with reasonable performance under most conditions. Those with the nerve to carry the full rig in heavy airs have some exciting sailing while those who are more conservative have the ability to reduce sail as much as they want. Gunkholing on rivers and dams is a pleasure, with a boom tent giving a campsailing option. However, the seaworthy hull shape gives her the ability to go to sea in reasonably rough conditions.

She is sold in South Africa by Sentinel Boats (email them), who can supply kits for owner completion or complete boats.

The original drawings were hand-drawn before CAD. The construction drawings for the plywood version are all CAD drawings and include full-size paper patterns for all bulkheads. Full size patterns can also be supplied for all hull and deck skin panels, either on paper or Mylar.


LOA 5.50m (18'1")

LWL 4.85m 15'11")

Beam 1.90m (6'4")

Draft 0.24/1.25m (9"/4'1"0

Sail Area 13.37sq.m (144sq.ft)

Max power 10hp

Please note that our plan prices include for adding imperial measurements to our metric designs if needed by the buyer.


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This page was updated 10 August 2023

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