Workstar 17

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Workstar 17

Workstar 17/540  plywood/epoxy boatbuilding  Workstar 17/540

The Workstar 17 concept of plywood/epoxy boat building was the result of a co-operation between Working Boats UK Ltd (the predecessor of Pacific Workboats cc) and the Humphreys Yacht Design Prefix System™, which enabled people with no experience in building boats to put together, from a comprehensive kit of profiled parts, epoxy and FRP tape, a Workstar 17, a rugged and very capable small garvey which could be built anywhere, with no dedicated workshop and no power tools and by those with no previous boat building skills.

The Workstar 17 design is essentially that of a very tough and robust small workboat. The Prefix System™ of tabs, slots and wedges means the profiled parts pull the hull together as the kit is assembled: no building frame is required. The parts are then bonded with epoxy fillets, with the chines, around the bow and stern transoms and along the keel internally and externally, reinforced with bi-axial FRP tape.

Originally intended as a small workboat for remote villages in the developing world, the Workstar 17 plywood/epoxy boat building method was embraced from the start by amateur boatbuilders who had been put off building their own boats by the complexity – and the mystique – and the skills required to build their own boat. The Workstar 17 has also been built by organisations such as the Sea Cadets, the City of London School, Heritage Coast Sailing & Rowing; in replacement workboat aid projects in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Madagascar and Argentina, and used for teaching modern boat building in maritime colleges in the UK, France and Germany.

Workstar 17. Plywood and epoxy boatbuilding Workstar 17. Plywood and epoxy boatbuilding Workstar 17. Plywood and epoxy boatbuilding 

The Prefix System™ is plywood/epoxy boat construction. It is not stitch and tape.


George Durrant, builder and owner of “La Puce” writes: Building my Workstar 17 this year was the best fun I have ever had, and I highly recommend it to anyone. It’s a fabulous boat to build and then it will delight you when you finish and launch for the first time. I would very happily build another one just for the fun of it!!

Lisa and Bill Perry of Denton, Maryland: “We are having a great time building our Workstar 17, the “Working Girl” and plan to be motoring around the Bay in Spring. The kit is just as easy to build as you said it would be.”

Ben Larsen in Michigan: ” I started the kit! It’s going great! My 11 year old son helped me last night put the 5 frames onto the longitudinals. He was amazed at how much we got done!! You could probably feel the vibes all the way across the sea, GOOD vibes that is!”

Jeff Parsley, Missouri: “It was a very proud moment in my life to see the boat launched for the first time. I am so glad I made the decision to build the Workstar 17″.

Chris Roe, Seaforth, England: “I have been spending all my spare time boat-building (surprise surprise!). The Building Video is superb. I am now just filleting the joints, having put the seats in”.

Tas Maketu, Rehabilitation Committee, Aitape, PNG:
“Many, many people gave generously their time, efforts and money to contribute towards the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction programs for the people affected by the tidal wave disaster.

Workstar 17. Plywood and epoxy boatbuilding  Workstar 17. Plywood and epoxy boatbuilding  Workstar 17. Plywood and epoxy boatbuilding

We therefore must thank both you and your very worthy establishment, Working Boats, most sincerely for making the boats project possible. I can assure you that they are a great source of admiration. They look neat and sturdy and are proving their worth in our sometimes very rough seas in and around Aitape.”

Brad Saegesser, Tawas Area Elks Lodge #2525, Community Grant Coordinator/Heritage Coast Sailing and Rowing: We launched the Morning Sun this morning and put it through its sea trials.  It passed with flying colours. It looks great on the water and rides really well. Job well done!!

The basic layout is with a centre line console but plywood/epoxy boat building lends itself to ready customisation. The Workstar 17 may be fitted with a centrally-placed, substantial and braced tow post for efficient and well-controlled towing as a yard boat.

The Workstar 17 features:

  • A moderate Vee, refined garvey hull shape, sea-kindly, stable and fast
  • A watertight, self-draining load deck
  • Fore and aft buoyancy compartments
  • Ample locker space
  • Substantial all-round fendering
  • Seating for 8-10 pax
  • Pram-hood shelter
  • Tow post
  • Payload: up to 1 tonne

The plywood/epoxy Workstar 17 is not sold as a kit, nor as a set of plans.

Purchase of the Building Licence releases the Cutting Files in .dxf format to the builder, to have a kit cut from 18mm (3/4″) and 12mm (1/2″) marine plywood. There is no laborious lofting or marking out from full-size plans and no cutting with hand power tools. All the parts are accurately profiled and construction is rapid: the plywood/epoxy boat building begins on Day #1. To completing the boat, prior to painting, takes 4-6 weeks.

The Building Licence purchase also covers the Royalty for one boat, a comprehensive and well-illustrated Assembly Manual, Assembly Manual Supplements A, B & C, the Sheet Schedule, Construction Drawings, Work*Star 17 decals and a short Building Video.   

The concept of building your own boat and then using it: “falls exactly into the Sea Cadet philosophy” says Cmdr. Martin Pickering, Director of Training, London.

CYE Sailing Centre, Chichester, England: “The Workstar 17 Rescue is a lovely boat and does all that we ask of it and more.”

  • Workstar 17: Principal Dimensions:
  • LOA: 17’8″ (5.40m)
  • LWL: 14’2″ (4.30m)
  • Beam: 6’9″ (2.04m)
  • Draft (ex engine): 10″ (0.25m)
  • Displacement: 700lbs (318kg)
  • Power: 45hp/33.5kW – 60hp/44.7kW
  • Design: RH Yacht Design/Working Boats UK Ltd
  • Skill Level to Build: Basic
  • Building Licence: USD380 (payment taken in all major currencies)

Workstar 17 Reviews:

“…. first impression – enormous amount of usable space within the 5.4m hull.”

“I was impressed by the stability of the boat – even with two people standing on the side seating, the list was barely noticeable.”

“… the sea conditions were about as rough as you would want to fish in aboard a small boat, and the Workstar 17 took them in her stride. The hull gave a tremendous sense of security and rigidity when driving across the short chop, and I felt absolutely confident and safe.”

“Once the waves started to get white caps… the run back was what finally convinced me of the seakeeping abilities inherent in the hull of the Workstar 17. With a quarter sea I was still able to push to over 13 knots and still feel completely in control…. the buoyancy of the bow lifted the front of the boat, keeping the ride stable and dry.”

Over forty of these robust, stable and sweet handling Workstar 17 garveys have been built, in varying countries and under widely different conditions.
More information, magazine articles and reviews (see extracts above), drawings and pix are available on request. Contact us for the Workstar 17 Starter Pack.

Workstar 17: Updates and News: December 2019:

  • We are now able to recommend profilers for the Workstar 17 kit in: Germany, France, Spain, Ukraine, the USA and Australia.
  • The students at the Landesberufsschule für Bootsbauer in Lübeck Travemünde are now on Christmas vacation. We shall post more photos of their building a Workstar 17 in the New Year.
  • Geoff Smith, based in Thailand, will start building his Workstar 17 shortly. We hope to post photos of his progress. Geoff has quite different ideas for the interior layout he needs, so it promises to be interesting. Even a small cabin?

George Durrant writes: The boat is very nearly finished now with just the stainless-steel work to fit. I took her down to Newhaven yesterday for the engine to be PDI and commissioned and then we launched for a trial. The first run was with a 4 bladed 17 pitch prop which only gave 4200 rpm at full throttle, so we went back in and changed it to a 3 blade 14 pitch. The difference was amazing, and we pulled 5800 rpm at full throttle giving a shade under 30 knots. That was with two heavy blokes on board and nearly 100 L of fuel plus anchors and kit, so I was very happy with that. We cruised around for a couple of hours and she behaved perfectly. Completely dry on all runs, no cavitation at all and amazing acceleration between 15 and 25 knots.

Overall, I am absolutely delighted with the boat but just a little sad that the build is all but done as I have enjoyed the process very much, maybe I will build another one!!!

Dave Wentworth and his team at Heritage Coast Sailing and Rowing on Lake Huron, Michigan, USA, launched their Workstar 17 Rescue in 2018. The Workstar is scheduled for duty as a coaching and safety boat and also a regatta patrol boat. David Wentworth reports: “All of our work this past season was at low speeds following 7yr to 17yr olds in 10ft sailboats. The Workstar 17 is very well liked by our sailing school safety crews. It is easy to move students from boat to boat and easy to get them out of the water. The two bottom tab-steps that we left protruding aft of the transom are helpful.The Workstar 17 is ideally suited for being the safety and set up boat. We are delighted with it”. 

Building and Launch Day:

Workstar 17. Plywood and epoxy boatbuilding  Workstar 17. Plywood and epoxy boatbuilding  Workstar 17. Plywood and epoxy boatbuilding

Workstar 17 Building - Launch Day Workstar 17 Building - Launch Day Workstar 17 Building - Launch Day

The Workstar 17 kit for the HCS&R build, was cut from Okoume metric marine plywood by Hewes and Company, Marine Division, Blue Hill, Maine.

Matthias Krueger, in Lubeck writes:

“For 19 years now a German-French school exchange program in boat building has sent apprentice boat builders and boat mechanics to their neighbouring country in order to improve their skills and to be prepared for the European labour market. For the 20th. anniversary of the cooperation between Landesberufsschule für Bootsbauer in Lübeck Travemünde (where almost all German apprentices are trained) and the Lycée Professionel Rompsay in La Rochelle, a combined project was agreed on with both partners: building a Workstar17. The German students will build the Workstar 17 in the vocational school in Travemünde, sponsored by Helge von der Linden, who will provide the materials and profile the plywood, then shipped to La Rochelle to have the engine, engine controls, instruments and all fittings and equipment installed, painting and finishing and then launched for the sea trials to be carried out by the French students in cooperation with their German colleagues during their visit to France”.

A Workstar 17 in Slovenia. Allen Weeks, lately of Alabama, USA but now resident in Ljubljana, Slovenia, plans to start building a Workstar 17 shortly and we hope to bring you updates and photos as the work progresses. The kit will be cut locally. Interested builders in Northern Italy, Austria and the Balkans, contact us and we will put you in touch with Allen.

A Workstar 17 in Australia. John Rankin in Melbourne is getting set up to start work on his Workstar. More info and photos as they come in.       

Follow the new Workstar 17 Builders and Owners Group on Facebook