Dinghy Andorinha. The pleasure of building with one’s own hands

The dinghy Andorinha plans for amateur construction has prepared good surprises for us. Besides being one of our most successful stock plans, being only surpassed by the MC23 and MC28 classes in number of builders, it is also one of our designs that our clients feel more fulfilled when building one of these boats. It is difficult for an outsider to realize the magic meaning of receiving a set of plans and sometime later going to sail in a centre-boarder made with one’s own hands. This day uses to be a landmark in the lives of the families involved with the effort.

Astrid Barros and Luis Gouveia, the naval architects that produced the plans, built this Andorinha just to test if the project corresponded to their expectations. They liked so much the boat that when some time after the launching the office had been transferred to Australia, they didn’t have the courage to sell her, keeping her in the Rio Sailing Yacht Club, waiting for an opportunity to send her to Perth in a container for their leisure in the Swan River.

The Andorinha is the typical family centre-boarder. She is so stable and balanced that even rookies feel safe sailing her with children aboard.

The good acceptance of the plans didn’t happen by chance. The formula for the success resided in the building method adopted for the construction, the so called stitch and glue construction technique.

Flattened panels of the Andorinha hull. Having the drawings of the expanded panels gives plenty of confidence to go ahead with the work.

Since the shape of the panels are easily obtained from the plans, be it by traditional plotting using a spline to obtain the curves, or by means of a CNC file, the result is that all builders obtain the hull panels without difficulty, and as soon as these panels are stitched together, the hull assumes its final shape. Then it is a matter of sheathing the outside of the hull with fibreglass and filleting the joints internally with epoxy putty, and then applying a cloth tape over the epoxy fillet along the joints. In short, reaching this stage of the construction is a piece of cake, and the rest of the job to build the boat is no more difficult than it was to build the hull.


When the panels are stitched together the final shape of the hull is already obtained. From then on the outside of the hull is sheathed with fibreglass and the joints are filled internally with epoxy putty, and finally a fibreglass tape is applied over the filleting.

The “stitch and glue” process is an old acquaintance of the Barros family. During the sixties the couple Roberto and Eileen Barros built a “stitch and glue” dinghy they called Yellow Peril to be the tender carried on the coach-roof of the twenty five foot sailboat Sea Bird, with which they sailed from Rio de Janeiro to French Polynesia. This dinghy was built in the living room of their apartment in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, and was taken to the boat using the building elevator to transport it to the underground garage. Weighting less than 10kg and having the chines covered with fibreglass, it suffered the most merciless punishments, having arrived at the other side of the world unscathed, never requiring any sort of maintenance. This demanding test brought a tremendous confidence in the process, and it is no wonder that we were willing to introduce a stock plan designed for “stitch and glue” construction.

The “stitch and glue” building technique was first tried by the office when the Barros family built this 1.50m x 0.90m dinghy, weighting less than 10kg. This photo was taken in 1968, in Caracas Bay, Curaçao, Dutch West Indies. Eileen is doing the ferry between Sea Bird, in the background, and the pier in the marina.

It is amazing how quickly boats of the class started being launched in the most different places soon after its introduction. No sooner the plans were available and an amateur builder sent us photos of his home-built Andorinha sailing in the protected waters of the Parnaíba River, in the northeast of Brazil.

Li-Si-Ri, the first Andorinha to sail.

Then other clients began informing us about their launchings. The two most recent ones came from Argentina and Brazil. From Argentina we received the following e-mail:

Dear Luis Gouveia:
Here is the photo of the sea trial of my Andorinha that took place in Puerto Mar del Plata. I’m very impressed how nicely she sails. We tested her with a crew of four and she still sailed beautifully.
Roberto Mahmoud
Mar del Plata, Argentina

This Andorinha was built by Roberto Mahmoud, from Mar del Plata, Argentina. How rewarding is for us to know that our clients build their boats without stumbling upon plain ground. How wonderful it is to know that our builders manage to construct their boats as if it were a walk over.

The latest Andorinha launching is Russão. This boat is a good example of what our amateur builders manage to produce. Our client sent us a kind e-mail with a slide show that we reproduce next:

Dear Roberto Barros and Luis Gouveia
Another Andorinha is sailing. The launching happened this June, 2, 2012. The boat is simply fantastic. Now we are going to try her in fresher winds to measure her top speed by GPS. Then I’ll send you more photos.

Leonardo Oliveira
Itatiba, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Itatiba, SP, Brasil

As it can be seen, the Andorinha is fulfilling its social purpose, that of bringing young families to the sport of sailing, and the project seems to be doing this role with plenty of success.

Click here to know more about the Dinghy Andorinha.