About 30 years ago, when my four sailing kids were small, I decided that the fourth and youngest of my water rats, Mark—then 3 years old—deserved a shot at learning to row in something other than the tender to Iolaire, my 46-foot wood yawl. It was a hard-to-handle eight-foot pram, and asking a 3-year-old child to learn to row it was like asking an adult to master a 20-foot pulling boat.
Thus was born Mark’s Ark, a light, easily rowed, flat-bottomed dinghy design that I built out of a single four- by eight-foot sheet of plywood in one day! I wrote an article about my design with accompanying plans, and “A Dinghy Built for Little People” appeared in Cruising World in November 1985. Another version of the Mark’s Ark design also appeared at about the same time in Practical Boat Owner. About four years later, I spotted a plagiarized version of the article in a free yachting newspaper, and not long after that, I saw a plagiarized version of the plagiarized version in yet another sailing rag. Twelve years after the original article appeared, Bruce Bingham devoted CW‘s entire December 1997 Workbench column, “A One-Sheet, One-Day Dory for Children,” to the design, including detailed building instructions.
Mark, the son who inspired me to design and build the dinghy, is now the first mate on a 120-foot classic powerboat, Fair Lady. My four water rats have continued the Street tradition by producing four more water rats. About 12 years ago, I built another version of Mark’s Ark for my oldest grandson, Dylan—whom I suspect emerged from a centerboard trunk rather than from his mother’s womb—and he learned to row the renamed design, Dylan’s Dory, at the age of 5. It was then passed on to two other grandsons, who learned to row it at similar ages.
I wonder how many other small children over the years have learned to row in Mark’s Ark or a version of it?
****Download PDFs of Mark’s Ark articles by Don Street and Bruce Bingham here:**
A Dinghy Built for Little People by Don Street, November 1985
A One-Sheet, One-Day Dory for Children by Bruce Bingham, December 1997