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Dinghy Andorinha, the right medicine for homebuilding itch

Amateur boatbuilding is one of the most pleasurable hobbies for people who enjoy making things with their own hands. Designing boats for amateur construction is also fascinating. However, designers involved with this segment of architecture are required to be aficionados, if good results are to be expected.

That was the case of the Andorinha project. The story of how this design was created is one of dedication and enthusiasm. The project was developed by our naval architect Astrid Barros, when she was in her last year of graduation in marine engineering. At that time she was a trainee at our family business, and since she had a compulsive passion for dinghy racing, she suggested producing a one-design centerboard dinghy to be built by the stitch-and glue building method.

We really appreciated her intention, especially because we hadn't any boat of this type as stock plan yet. Our only conditions were that the boat had to be extremely user's-friendly to be built and that it had to be a joy to be sailed. Astrid didn't need any other support besides that, and, to prove her enthusiasm about the challenge, in very short time the plans were concluded.

Astrid has sea water running in her veins. She was born in the South Pacific, when her parents were cruising along the South Seas in a twenty-five foot sailboat destitute of auxiliary engine. She started her racing career when she was barely three years old and her taste for sailing competitively never relented since then.

Dinghy Andorinha flattened hull panels

Astrid's approach to the project was quite interesting. At a time when there weren't many facilities for cutting plywood panels with water jet, something that nowadays is commonplace, she developed her own program for flattening the hull panels, so builders had an easy way to draw and then cut them with jig-saw.

This was one of the fundamental reasons for the success of the class, since not even once we heard about any complaint, or difficulty, in overcoming this step in the construction. A building manual was published together with the plans, showing, step by step, all phases of the construction, and no sooner the work had been completed, the design was put available in the list of plans in our site in internet.

At that time the office was established at Rio de Janeiro, and the local sales were such good trade that the income from the revenues, even though the plan's price were quite affordable (the same as today, AUD$240), the income was helpful in assisting her in improving her kitty.

Soon after graduating she got married to the naval architect Luis Gouveia, when, among their ambitions in the new life, there was the plan for constructing one of these boats.

Meanwhile the first Andorinhas begun to appear in the most different corners of the country, with owners absolutely pleased with their achievements. The very first to launch a boat of the class was from a distant town in the fringes of the Amazon Forest, His dinghy, Lisiri, sailed so well that, after the builder's report about the boat's performance, the itch to build Andorinhas spread fast.

Lisiri ready for the first trial

ver this was just the beginning of a successful story. Other launchings soon followed, invariably having proud builders praising their accomplishments.

The second boat to sail came from the other side of the country, from the southern state of Santa Catarina, not far from the border with Argentina, a region of extreme beauty, mainly colonized by Germans, and where almost everyone speaks German. Adauto, her builder, was so enchanted with his boat, that, in spite of living in a farm hundreds of kilometres from the sea, wished to make a five hundred miles crossing from his state to Rio de Janeiro, a plan he couldn't go ahead with because he didn't manage to obtain the necessary permission from the port authorities.

For personal reasons, since the new family had other important priorities, the construction of the family's Andorinha had to be postponed for a while, but one day they finally decided the time had come for them to try their own recipe.

The second Andorinha to be launched sailing in a farm's pond.

There is a courtyard in the neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro International Airport where it is possible to rent a shed for amateur boatbuilding. That place is the favourite haven of many of our wacky homebuilders, buddies that do not hesitate for one second in exchanging the wonderful Rio de Janeiro beaches with all those beautiful girls wearing dental floss bikinis for the searing suburb where they spend whole weekends in building their floating dreams.

This place is known as a B & G Yacht Design “mare nostrum”, having dozens of our boats built or being constructed there, from our MC41 design to the dinghy Caravela, which is offered as free plans in our price list.

Astrid and Luis took a bit longer than they wished to start the building, but when they set a first gear in the task, they really put their guts into the job and in record time for the class the boat was concluded. They have two close friends, Arapoan Fernandes and Marco Veras, who were building two MC28 together, which, while their boats weren't concluded, were starving for having a sail dinghy for them to improve their sailing skills.

Since Astrid and Luis were also building the 28 foot catamaran Bora-Bora as their cruising boat, they agreed in building the Andorinha in partnership with the two. However when their larger boats got finished, the two friends lost interest in the dinghy and never used it since then.

Stitching the panels together. This was a simple operation, taking just a few hours to be done.

During the whole time of the construction a slew of visitors used to go there to learn how it was to build one of these dinghies, and it is no wonder that many went back home firmly decided in building one for themselves. One of these back-seat drivers, the plastic artist Fernando Leitão, decided to start his construction with no delay, just in the next shed to the one Astrid and Luis were occupying. His Andorinha didn't take long to be finished, and is one of the well-built among the boats already finished.


Fernando's Andorinha is a show apart. The fairing of bowsprit telescope deserves a prize as a work of art.

After a long delay in starting the construction and a hurry to finish it, finally the family's Andorinha was launched, and from then on became the leisure boat of the family, which by then had already increased in number.

The family's Andorinha in partnership with two friends sailing in Marina da Glória, Rio de Janeiro

For bad luck, after using the boat for a few seasons, Astrid and Luis had to abandon their boat for some time, since the office had been transferred to Perth, Australia, where it is registered presently. For contract reasons in their other trade, oil rig construction, they moved temporarily to Singapore and now again changed address to South Korea.


Luis, Astrid, using a cap, their children Christian and the toddler Juliana, enjoying a Sunday sail aboard their Andorinha. They were arriving at Marina da Glória at the other side of the bay where they kept their boat.

At the moment the boat is kept covered with a tarpaulin at Rio Sailing Yacht Club, the same club where the Star Class Olympic gold medalist Torben Grael has made his base, and as soon as they return to Perth, they will put the dinghy in a container and take it to Australia, since this boat made with such commitment in their lives, they don't consider selling it. Whenever their two friends schedule a visit to them, they will have the chance to invite the whole crew for a sail in the Swan River.  

This Andorinha is made with PVC foam as core material instead of plywood. In this photo she is performing her first sea trial using a borrowed 470 class set of sails. Employing PVC foam instead of plywood construction is optional.

The Andorinha is a sensible boat for a beginner who wants to try something affordable and quick to make for a start, before adventuring in the construction of anything larger. The experience obtained in its construction and the pleasure of sailing the craft made with one's own hands is priceless, and will bring invaluable know-how before trying more ambitious flights.

This has been the choice of a number of our builders, including Astrid and Luis, who also built the catamaran Bora-Bora from our list of stock plans. This time lady luck wasn't on their side. When the boat was concluded, ready for the first day-out, they traveled to Australia to be settled there as their permanent base.

A boat that requires maintenance, since it had to be stationed in the water, couldn't stay unassisted and they had no other choice but to sell her.

Finalmente (means finally in Portuguese) is one of the latest Andorinhas to be concluded. This boat is stationed at a yacht club in the Guaíba River, Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost Brazilian state.

Presently there are many Andorinha Dinghies (andorinha means swallow in Portuguese) being built in various countries. We consider this design one of our most eloquent contributions to amateur builder.