As with a lot of careers, you start small and work your way up. Chula was designed for a client in Ventura, CA, who was building a 50’ motorsailer and who wanted a beautiful little tender, hence the name, Chula, which is Spanish for “beautiful.” I helped him with boat design and engineering on the motorsailer. Chula was to be a sprit-sail dinghy for the larger boat—he had the name so he commissioned the design. The sprit rig was so that all the spars could stow inside the length of the boat.
I built my own Chula in the basement of our house. Fortunately, it fit up the stairs and out the front door when the woodwork was done. It sailed pretty well, but I determined that if I changed the rig to a cat, it would sail better. So I did the change, and it did sail better. I did not sail it much—it took a fair effort to unload it from the top of the car and reload it again after sailing. And it really held only one person sailing, so I am not sure that it would have satisfied the original mission of being a suitable tender to the motorsailer. I sold Chula when we moved to Florida, very quickly, in fact, a half hour before our yard sale was advertised to start. The new owner broke the mast about a month later, but I gave him some pieces of spruce that I had used to make the spars so that he could make repairs.
This design came about because I met Danny Greene, one of the editors at Cruising World, and he had recently designed a 2-part nesting dinghy that he had built for his boat, and he had sold hundreds of sets of plans for it. Plans for Chula were not selling nearly as well, so I decided to design a sailing nesting pram which might prove as popular. I focused on simplicity and low cost—the whole boat and its mold are made out of just four sheets of plywood, plus closet poles for the spars. Halfling was indeed more popular than Chula, but to this day it has not matched the numbers that Danny Greene told me he had sold. Never mind, it is a much better design for a tender for a larger boat.
Like Chula, Halfling’s drawings were all done by hand in pencil on vellum. Over the years the vellum got really worn and wrinkled around the edges, so I redrew Halfling in AutoCad so that they would be easier to reproduce. To date, I have sold 290 sets of Halfling plans to people all around the world. The name comes from the fact that the boat is cut in half for two nesting parts, plus it is small like the hobbits in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, who were known as halflings.