Matt Layden's incredible boats

Matt Layden is a gifted marine draftsman who designed, built and sailed full-time for about 10 years aboard five of his shoal draft micro-cruisers.  His first boat was the 16 foot cat boat, Terrapin, and later he went on to create Swamp Thing, Gjac, Little Cruiser, Paradox, Enigma , Sand Flea, and Elusion in this order. With each new boat, he refined and perfected his ideas during his trips, some of which included long voyages up and down the East coast of the United States and out to the Bahamas. More importantly, he wasn't afraid to try out new ideas, which he either refined or he discarded if they didn't work out.  If you look at his little cruising boats carefully, you can see how he gradually developed his ideas on creating his "perfect" micro-cruiser.

Terrapin was constructed in around 1985. This was a moderately beamy boat with leeboards, a cabin and a full battened main sail.  We were told that she was quite fast and that her accomadations were fine,  but eventually Matt discovered some shortcomings during his travels up North. He noticed that the leeboards were cumbersome, noisy and they tended to pick up debris.  He also realized that the 6 foot beam prevented the shoal draft boat from being self-righting after he experienced a severe knockdown off the coast of Maine. Luckily, the large diameter hollow mast prevented Terrapin from going all the way over, and the boat was eventually righted. He also concluded that his use of marine grade plywood was not cost effective for the times.

With the completion of the 13'2" Swamp Thing in 1985, he simplified the whole construction process, and he minimized the costs of building by using exterior grade plywood.  The beam was reduced by over 2 feet, and he added chine runners or external chine logs in place of the leeboards. The complex mainsail on Terrapin was replaced with a simple lug sail that you could manually roll/furl around the boom. Because the boat was so small it could be easily rowed or sculled. This little gem took him all the way down the East Coast of the United States from his home in Connecticut and then out to the Bahamas for the first time. Of course Swamp Thing was quite small for long term cruising; so eventually a new boat was built. In the next boat, Gjac, he enlarged the hull somewhat, but he kept many of his best ideas like the chine runners and the boom furled lug sail. 

However, after cruising this 14'10" boat for only a year, Matt replaced her with a new creation in 1988. This boat became known as SOST (Sun of Swamp Thing) or Little Cruiser.  Though similar in length, she was a complete departure from some of his earlier designs in terms of her complexity. A centerboard and a lug sail with battens was added, and this new sail employed slab reefing with all the lines leading down through the centerboard trunk and into the cabin. The mast was stepped on deck, and it could be folded down easily via a unusual "A" frame tabernacle. All the earlier chine runner designs had their masts pass through the deck which were then stepped on the cabin sole. In addition, her large cabin insured an adequate amount of interior space, and it kept her occupant comfortable and safe in all manner of weather conditions.  Little Cruiser was also well insulated with foam, which kept the boat drier and added positive buoyancy.  In fact, the boat was so well insulated that Matt spent a winter aboard her in Cape Cod with only his stove to keep him comfortable. The addition of 4 large built-in water ballast tanks also facilitated his long range cruising plans, and a small folding dinghy was kept aboard to make access to shore easier. Overall Matt told us that he was very happy with this design. During the 4 years he lived aboard his miniature cruiser, he traveled as far North as the Bay of Funday and as far South as the Bahamas. Eventually, he became involved in modifying a 20 foot Balboa for travel with his future wife, Karen, and Little Cruiser was sold to us in 1992.

After a year's worth of cruising, which included a trip to the Bahamas, the Balboa was also sold, and Matt returned to his roots by creating the 13'10 Paradox in 1993. Since he concluded that Little Cruiser's centerboard did not seem to improve windward performance sufficiently to merit it's construction, Matt used the chine runners again on this new design.  He also went back to the simpler boom furled lug sail; however, he improved it with a drum so that it could be reefed from inside. The mast was stepped like in his earlier designs, but he made a small self-draining well for it to sit in. The boat was well insulated, and the ample cabin provided safe all-weather cruising. The new boat was then sailed down the Eastern Seaboard from Connecticut, and it was cruised in tandem with Little Cruiser to the Bahamas in 1994.

In the ten years that followed, Matt got married, found employment, and worked on a few smaller boats like his "Rob-Royoid" canoe. However, in 2005 he put together his sixth micro-cruiser, Enigma.  This 12 footer was  intended for coastal sailing, but it differed from his earlier works in that it was much lighter in weight and it had a "v" bottom at the bow.  Weighing a mere 180 pounds, the new stitch and glue plywood sharpie could even be hefted with aid onto the top of a car for transport to far away cruising grounds. Most importantly, this design shared some of the best features found in all of his older sharpies. The shape and the proportion of Enigma's hull is remarkably similar to that of Little Cruiser, but it employs Paradox's efficient roller furling and distinctive low aspect ratio lug sail. The fold down dodger is an improved version of the one now on  Swamp Thing.  As for the chine runners, they are similar to the ones found on Paradox; however, they have now been made shorter and wider. Of course it didn't take long for Enigma to prove herself as a worthy successor. In March 2006 Matt sailed Enigma on her maiden voyage for 1200 miles around Florida in the Watertribe Ultimate Challenge race to finish first in her class and third overall.

More recently, Matt built an incredible 8' cruising dinghy, which he christened Sand Flea.  Amazingly, he entered this tiny craft in two 300 mile-long Watertribe Everglade Challenges (2007/2008) and the 2012 Ultra Marathon, finishing near the top as usual.  Finally, his most recent design is the 9' Elusion which he used successfully to sail all around Florida in the 2010 Ultimate Florida Challenge. It shares many characteristic of the Enigma design but is even easier to cartop due to it's lighter weight.

All in all, I'd have to say his boats are winners.

More info on his boats