Widgets Tubing: Quietly Revolutionized in 1950

Tubing: Quietly Revolutionized in 1950

Cropped from Boat Builders annual


Pint-Sized Sailor.  

Thanks to a letter by Mark Suszko in the latest issue [#15] of Make Magazine, I have learned about a boat design called the Corky designed by David M Swartwout published circa 1950 in Boat Builders Annual.  My lady Hannah and I used to live in Montana, and one of our favorite activities was floating rivers in a inner tube.  I always fantasized about ways to modify the truck inner tube to improve it as a tiny boat.  I was mostly thinking in the category of drink holders, but this Corky sailboat takes it to a whole new level.  

The real thanks here goes to David Beede at  He says, “Here are some old boat plans I ran across at a garage sale in Maine.”  He hosts a fantastic small collection of boat projects.  The complete Corky page has more great information as well as both pages of the design.  (Also, be sure to check out Beede’s Pond Skiffs, these awesome model boats kits he sells.)

Perhaps my favorite discovery in this lengthening line of inquiry is a letter on Beede’s Corky page in which a Tom Dacon describes seeing these scans of Corky Article.


I absolutely couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it after more than fifty years. When it was published in 1950, I was a seven-year-old who was already in love with sailboats. My father helped me build it and my mother sewed the sails. At that young age, I was already studying the rudiments of boat design, and I worked out a yawl rig for it. I designed a swiveling combination rudderpost – mizzenmast, added a bowsprit, and rigged it as a yawl with jib, mainsail, and mizzen. The sails were navy blue muslin. The boat is long gone, of course, and I never had a photograph of it. Now that I have the plans again I’ll build another one someday, just for fun, and try to find a young child to give it to.

The story of this 2 page design, published in the 50′s, carried around in boxes, sold in Maine, and ultimately scanned, shared, and voila, Mr. Dacon is psyched!

1 Comment

  1. Mark Suszko Said,

    June 17, 2009 @ 8:28 pm

    I’m the fat guy in the oversized truck tube Corky in MAKE magazine. Since then, I’ve moved up to a real boat, a 1077 Barnett Butterfly scow, she’s very nice. Thought you might want a few more details on the Corky-Plus.

    The inner tubes were easy and cheap to get on Ebay. Inflating this with a portable mini 12 volt air compressor, operating off the car battery at lakeside, was ineffective, compared to a little workout with a stand-up bike pump. Even when full, the tube has such a low internal pressure it won’t register on my tire gauge. :-)

    The Corky was just okay on the lake: she had so much windage from floating high in the water, it was sometimes more than the meager sail could overcome. It absolutely will only sail downwind unless you put a substantial keel on it. I tried two means for this: a full-length bilge keel sort of board that was cleated underneath the main board. This increased the minimum draft to the point that it was hard to jump off the lake bed and up into the tube to board the boat. My best method was to belly-flop onto it, then spin around to face upwards, very amusing to folks on shore.

    The second variation was to cut a slit in the main “hull” board and slide an actual daggerboard down into the slot after launching. Unfortunately, considering the sidesaddle/egg in a cup style of sitting in a Corky, every time I ran aground, the daggerboard found another slot on the other side to bump against… namely, my fundament. This was wholly unacceptable. Maybe hinged leeboards or retractible keels would be better.

    My next step, until I found the scow, was going to be tandem truck tubes with a rudimentary platform deck on top, more effective daggerboards and the lateen rig from a Sunfish or Snark. You need massive sail area to overcome the other dragging forces on this design. This thing is very draggy in the water, no matter what you try to do, sails more like a piece of the dock that broke off and floated away from shore:-)

    If you still plan to build one anyway, I suggest using the absolute lightest and least wood you can, or to try it with PVC pipe for the unifying crutch substructure. And that you launch on a lee shore unless you have a recovery crew on stand-by to tow you back in.