Here is an article by the late Don Elliott. He gave me permission to publish it online, although he retained copyright. I am publishing it again, because I think it will be of interest to the readership of my blog. Please bear in mind that details of where plans for building ‘Sleeper’ may be out of date, as the original publication was in March, 2001.
If you have ever lived aboard a boat you would know how important a good dinghy is. It has to transport you back and forth in all kinds of weather. It has to carry your food and laundry, and hopefully those items will make the trip without getting wet from rain or spray from choppy conditions. In other words, it has to do a great many things well. There are times you must take the dinghy with you on your car for various reasons, so the dinghy has to be easy transport.
This sketch is of the ultimate dinghy. It's called Sleeper and was designed by Derek Van Loan.
This second sketch shows details of the dinghy. The wheels are tied to the Sleeper for moving it around and removed when the dinghy is in use.
As you can see this is quite a step up from your basic dinghy. The Maurice Griffith Hatch appears too small in the drawings. This photo of Sleeper gives a better view of the hatch.
Sleeper is called the "Swiss Army Knife of Boats". It was given that name by Derek Van Loan. Derek lived aboard boats on the San Francisco Bay for 11 years and travelled over 8,000 miles in dinghies. In the process of using dinghies daily he learned a great deal about what a dinghy needed to be. With that knowledge he designed and built Sleeper #1.
This is what he has to say about Sleeper #1. "Sleeper became my favorite day sailor and tender and I soon grew to appreciate the decks which keep out rain and spray. Before Sleeper I spent hours bailing open dinghies. Locked stowage for oars and other items was also handy. Sleeper also served as a stable platform for general use and proved excellent for anchor handling."
The reason it's called sleeper is it has accommodation to sleep two in its "Cabin". Derek has actually used this boat to cruise the shores of San Francisco Bay using Sleeper as a camp cruiser. This is a photo of Derek's Sleeper, I'm not sure I'd pick this color scheme for myself however.
San Francisco Bay can become very windy at times, with a lot of chop and any boat that sits as low in the water as Sleeper must have a good watertight hatch. The hatch used on Sleeper is called a Griffith hatch. An Englishman named Maurice Griffith designed it. This hatch keeps the water out in all but the very worst conditions and an unusual thing about it is it is not dependent on seal or gaskets; a simple hasp is all that's needed to keep green water out of Sleeper's interior. Also its design provides for ventilation by using the drain holes and top clearance of the coaming to allow air to enter the cabin while keeping the water out. The Griffith hatch has a plastic window in its top surface so you can study the stars before to going to sleep.
This is a brochure cover that I received from Derek Van Loan, who handles the sales of the plans for Sleeper. (His advertisement for Sleeper's plans appears in every issue MAIB. The plans come with four sheets of details and a set of building instruction). They may be obtained from Epoch Press, 186 Almonte Blvd, Mill Valley, Ca. 94941 (TFP), but the cost is $37.00 dollars; I guess that would be about £25.00.