2016 Stingy Sailor DIY Project Contest Winners

The entries for the inaugural Stingy Sailor DIY Project Contest have all been received, reviewed, and scored. The results were very close among the top entries.

I have to say I’m impressed by your ingenuity and resourcefulness. All of the entries were creative solutions to common problems aboard your sailboats. My hat is off to everyone who entered whether you won a prize or not.

Still, some of the entries stood out as exceptional in one or more ways and deserve to be recognized as the winners of this year’s contest.

First Place

Transom mounted boarding ladder

Diego Flores – San Luis Obispo, CA
1979 Catalina 22

Diego Flores did an extensive refit of his sailboat that included an outstanding topside paint job.  His previous boarding ladders hung over the gunwale or the transom and against the hull. They threatened to damage his new paint job or were cumbersome and inconvenient to store and use. Rather than buy an expensive retail ladder, he modified what he already had, supplemented it with a few parts, and built a custom boarding ladder that met all his needs.


He cut the hooks off his existing gunwale-mount ladder and attached it to the transom with hinged U brackets mounted on teak blocks with backing plates. When folded up, the end is level with the top of the pushpit. When down, the standoffs hold it solidly vertical with rubber caps that protect the finish.

Diego added an extra, weighted lower step with rope to make boarding easier. The extra step also holds the ladder in the raised position when the step is folded over the pushpit. A knotted hand line makes it possible for a person in the water to pull the ladder down by themselves.

Diego’s entry shows how you can repurpose a piece of existing gear to make it even better. His installation makes an attractive addition to his sailboat and improves safety and convenience.

Diego wins a Sailrite $50 USD gift certificate and a one-year digital or online subscription to Good Old Boat magazine.

Second Place

Composting head

Kasi McCain – Fort Walton Beach, Fl
1979 HUNTER 30

Kasi McCain sails a lot and makes many weekend trips so she wanted to replace her portable toilet for more capacity and less odor. After much research, she decided against a traditional marine toilet with a holding tank and opted instead for a composting head.It separates the solid waste from the liquid waste, which avoids a lot of the odor that is normally associated with self-contained marine sanitary systems. The solid waste dehydrates and decomposes into

It separates the solid waste from the liquid waste, which avoids a lot of the odor that is normally associated with self-contained marine sanitary systems. The solid waste dehydrates and decomposes into soil similar to a garden compost pile. The liquid waste is contained and disposed of normally.


Kasi studied the designs of the leading retail products and then built her own toilet made of common parts and materials available at most home improvement stores. It’s basically a five-gallon bucket to hold the solid waste and a one-gallon jug to hold the liquid waste. A funnel under the seat separates the two and a hand-cranked mortar mixing paddle combines the solid waste with peat moss to help accelerate decomposition. Everything is enclosed in a handsome plywood cabinet with a comfortable seat and transparent site window that shows when its time to empty the liquid waste container.


Kasi’s entry demonstrates ingenuity and economy with results that would look at home on any sailboat. Extra kudos to Kasi for being the only woman to enter the contest.

Kasi wins a DrSails epoxy emergency repair adhesive kit (25 ml) from Sailing Technologies and a one-year digital or online subscription to Good Old Boat magazine.

Third Place

Cockpit cushions

Del Clark – North Bend, WA
1974 Tanzer 22

Del Clark coveted some vinyl-covered foam cockpit cushions for his sailboat but he didn’t covet their prices.

When he saw attractive and affordable kitchen anti-fatigue mats at Costco, he wondered if he could cut them down with the DIY hot knife that he made after reading about it on this site.

Del made a paper template, traced the outline onto the mats and cut them cleanly with his hot knife.


In just a couple of hours, he had cockpit cushions that look factory-made but for a small fraction of the factory price.

Del’s entry is a good example of thinking outside the box about ordinary products. As I’ve written before, when you break many problems down to their basic elements, practical and affordable solutions often appear.

Del wins his choice of any $tingy Sailor eBook and a one year digital or online subscription to Good Old Boat magazine.

Fourth Place

Engine room seat

Garland Gray – Waverly, VA
2000 Voyage

Garland Gray just wanted a comfortable place to sit in the engine room of his catamaran while he did engine maintenance. The narrow, rounded hull made spending the necessary time there unnecessarily painful. Besides being useful, the seat also had to be removable or it would be in the way at times.

His solution was a simple resin-coated plywood board that locks in place without fasteners between a semi-circular cleat bonded to the rudder post tube and a straight cleat bonded to the hull. When not in use, the board can be removed and stowed.

IMG_0361 (1)

Now Del can spend as much time as he wants in his engine room without it feeling like a torture chamber.

Del’s entry proves that DIY projects don’t have to be complicated to be worthwhile. Sometimes it’s the little things that, when added up, make a big difference.

Del wins a one-year digital or online subscription to Good Old Boat magazine.

Honorable Mention

Bill Sargent – Laidley, Queensland, Australia
Whisstock 165

Bill’s entry was a bit over the top for this contest; call it extreme DIY. He’s building his own entire sailboat—a trailerable, gaff-rigged sloop. He started in late 2014 and hopes to launch it next month. His sailboat is unique for a 20-footer because the design provides standing headroom in the enclosed head and at the galley bench. It’s made primarily of wood, epoxy, and aluminum.



Bill has invested 1,150 hours so far and has another 150 to go. That’s dedication! You can see more pictures of his work on designer George Whisstock’s website.

The Contenders

By popular request, here are the rest of the contest entries.

DIY Roller Furler

Louis Webster, Seattle, WA
1973 Catalina 22

Louis Webster’s entry arrived after the submission deadline, unfortunately. Otherwise, it probably would have been in the top four. Roller furlers are very popular DIY projects. I might make one and share it here in the future.


Scupper Flap

Tom Luque, Camas, WA
1989 West Wight Potter 19

Tom Luque’s scupper flap prevents following swells from backflowing into the cockpit yet it allows normal drainage. A simple fix that keeps his feet dry. You can see more of Tom’s inventions at mastgates.com.


Companionway Threshold

John Roux, Blanchard, OK
1980 Catalina 22

John Roux’s entry was his first-ever scratch build. He made it from oak with a routed groove on the bottom to fit over the bulkhead opening.

John Roux

Winch Covers

Don Gourley, Springfield, MO
Catalina 22

Don Gourley’s PVC winch covers look great and are hurricane-proof.

Don Gourley_r

Congratulations to all of the contestants! You are all certified stingy sailors in my book.

This contest was not possible without the generous contributions of the following sponsors. Please consider supporting them because they support you!

sailritelogo Good Old Boat magazine DrSails

Now that you know what to expect, it’s not too early to start thinking about your entry for next year’s contest. The competition is sure to be tougher so roll up your sleeves, take lots of notes and photos, and be ready around this time in 2017.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Tom Luque says:

    Nice job Ken for sharing your blog site to display your followers projects via a contest that could inspire others to improve their boats before sailing season starts.
    When possible, post the links to their site for full build information.
    I would also like to see a listing of all ideas submitted and their links.

  2. Robert says:

    Hi Ken!

    I second Tom’s comment. It would be great to see links to these projects and the contestants sites , if they have one.

    1. There you go, guys. I added the remaining four contest entries. Nobody submitted links to their own sites.

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