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The Elusive Pelican Class


  • The Elusive Pelican Class

    You might have seen one or two of these home built oversized prams out and about. The Pelican was originally created in
    1959 by Captain Bill Short. His original, simple 12' home built plywood pram could be made from sheets of marine grade plywood and some planks of vertical grain fir or spruce. A design which incorporates the simplicity of the El Toro with the flare of a Banks Dory and an oriental Sampan bow. The stability of the boat, it's roominess, and balanced helm make it an ideal boat for gunkholing and family sailing on a budget.

    Bill Short went on to build a 16' version called the "Great Pelican" which was followed up by the 14'7" Pacific Pelican designed by Bill Barlow, his son Jim and Bill Short.

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    The Pacific Pelican is specifically intended to meet these criteria of safety, comfort, and low cost. She is deeper, has more storage space, and is more stable than a racing dinghy or yacht tender. Although not a racer, the Pacific Pelican is fast in a breeze of 7-9 knots. The design incorporates the lines of a Banks dory with the oriental sampan bow. If her lines were extended to the dory’s extreme ends she’d be about 22’ long. The pram bow is safe, it will not dig in and cause a broach capsize when running before 3Okt gusts in 3’-4’ seas; we know, we’ve done this on blustery San Francisco Bay!
    Jim Barlow

    Plans for the Pacific Pelican can be purchased Here

    In it's heyday, the Pelican fleet attracted as many as 42 boats from the West Coast to participate in the Annual San Francisco Trans-Bay Pelican Race

    Chloe, the original Pelican, passed all her heavy-weather channel tests with flying colors. An article appearing in Rudder, May 1963, thoroughly describes her sailing characteristics. Briefly, her great stability and buoyancy are created by combining the lines of the famous Banks fishing dory with the Oriental sampan. Foredecks, side decks and ample stern deck, make her exceptionally dry. Real coamings around the entire cockpit complete her corkiness. The combination of resilient lug rig and the great flare and freeboard of her beamy topsides make her outstandingly safe.

    Full Article

    Today, the Norcal Pelican Class runs a nomadic list of regattas, with site that include Tomales Bay, Lake Washington (Sacramento), Lake Merritt, Huntington Lake, The Estuary and Richmond. Interested parties can contact the group via Their Group Discussion Panel



    Sheet A: 3/4” ply. - Bow and Stern Transoms, Centerboard, Rudder, Rudder core, Tiller cheeks.

    Sheet B: 1/2” ply. - Centerboard trunk, Thwart, Rudder cheeks, Floor timbers.

    Sheet C: 1/2” ply. - Keelson, Thwart, Footlings, Floor timbers.

    Sheet D: 3/8" pIy. - Aft Side planking

    Sheets E and F: 3/8” ply. - Forward side Planking, side deck, bowsprit.

    Sheet G: 3/8” ply. - Forward bottom planking.

    Sheet H: 3/8” ply. - Foredeck, Cockpit seats.

    Sheet I: 3/8” ply. - After Deck, After Coaming, Butt plates, Cockpit seals.

    Sheet J: 3/8” ply. - Aft bottom planking, Deck knees, scrap for gussets.

    Sheet K: 3/8” ply. - Fore and Side Coaming, Deck knees.

    Sheet L: 1/2” ply. - Deck beams, Headledges, Footlings, Chain plate backing.

    In total, one 3/4” sheet, three 1/2” sheets, and eight 3/8” sheets are required. If the side planking and decks are made from 1/4” plywood, five of the eight 3/8” sheets can be 1/4”. They are sheets D,E,F,H, and I. We recommend staying with 3/8” ply however, for all—around sturdiness. If panel I is 1/4”, the aft coaming will not be sturdy enough as it is laid out. Another partial panel of 3/8” or 1/2” plywood will be required. Also, the material for the aft cockpit seats will be marginal since it comes from panels H and I.


    (All widths and thicknesses are nominal unless identified as true).

    6' long for the bow transom top and bottom cheek pieces. This should be planed down to a true 1” thickness.
    two pieces each 8’ long for the remaining transom cheek pieces. Also planed down to a true 1”.
    two pieces 16’ long. These are for the laminated chine and sheer clamp. The sheer clamp strips should be cut off the boards first and then the boards should be planed down to a true 1/2” for the chine
    five pieces 8' long. For the transom knees, thwart stringers and stiffeners, the bowsprit, frame battens and stempost.
    three pieces 6’ long. For the bedlogs and the stanchions.
    three pieces 8’ long. For the side deck strangers, mast and deck carlngs.

    (You may wish to figure out how you will lay out the parts on these boards before you start to cut them. Remember to select the direction of end grain for maximum resistance to splitting).


    A 1/2” by 6” (true) by 14’ long board could be used as the top layer of the keelson. This will dress up the interior of the boat. It will have to be planed to size at the yard. You will also need some mahogany for
    coaming trim.


    Specific lumber requirements are not given for these parts because there is some choice in how they are made. The spars could be laminated from some combination of fir or spruce, and mahogany, for example, or you may choose to purchase your spars. The tiller could be likewise laminated of several woods.
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