Sunday, August 23, 2009


Until a few weeks ago, I’d always thought that a nesting dinghy was a matter of necessity, but had little else to commend it, all practicality and little poetry.

But then I met Martin and his home-built Chameleon. When I first saw Martin in the San Juan Islands, he was disembarking from his Allegra 24 cutter, Clover into his rowing dinghy and I would never have guessed this might be a nesting boat. Then, to see it on the water was amazing! Martin has a fine little boat there and it handles as good as it looks.

When Martin loaded his dinghy on his house deck, it seemed easily and efficiently done with the two nesting parts lifted from the water, one at a time.

Martin graciously submitted some photos and his impressions of building Chameleon for the Doryman blog:

“The Chameleon was designed by Danny Greene. The construction is basic stitch and glue. I wanted a hard dinghy that would fit aboard a 24-foot boat. The Chameleon answers the need very well for me. I'm quite lucky - there's clearance under the boom, the fore hatch is unobstructed, and the foredeck is still accessible.”

“One thing I would advise to a person new to boat building, even if they're not new to woodworking, is to get a book on the order of Devlin's Boat Building, by Sam Devlin. That's the one I got for myself, and I learned all sorts of things that I didn't know I didn't know.”

“The other thing would be to not scrimp on materials - not necessarily getting the most expensive possible, but never getting something that you figure you can just get away with. By the time you've added the work required, there's no savings at all left in a part that suffers in quality due to inferior materials. The builder's time, and the resulting boat, are both worth it.”

Martin has some good advice. He's a diligent sailor, too from the look of his cruising cutter, Clover. The Chameleon is a smart design for such a capable little ship.

Here's our friend Kees sailing the Chameleon.

Designer Danny Greene has this to say about his nesting dingy:

Chameleon can be assembled and disassembled in the water, as it is possible to launch and retrieve her, one piece at a time. Each half weighs approximately 50 pounds. There are built-in buoyancy chambers in the stern and a fore-locker that could be sealed for buoyancy by fitting a water tight hatch.”

“As a rowboat, Chameleon features two rowing positions, so she can be properly trimmed with one, two, or three people aboard. Oars of about 7-1/2 feet length seem to work best. Safe capacity is about 500 pounds. For those interested in fitness rowing I have designed a sliding seat/outrigger option that is inexpensively built of plywood and allows use of 8-1/2 to 9 foot oars.”

I witnessed how well the Chameleon rows and sails; as good or better than any comparable dinghy. And with good looks, too! Martin could make some impressive speed under oars. She's a compact stowable dinghy with seaworthy capacity.

Thank you, Martin, you've done a very nice job of your Chameleon!


LOA: 10’-4”
Beam: 4’-2”
Nested Dimensions: 5’-4”x 4’-2”x 1’-8”
Sail Area: 50 sq. ft.
Hull weight 100 lbs.
Motor: 2– 4 hp

Danny Greene
Offshore Designs Ltd.
PO Box GE 213
St George's Bermuda GE BX

For a description of building a Chameleon, check out Sailorgirl.

There goes Martin in Clover now!


Bikingham said...

I love it, I sail a 24' Allegra and this is what I have been looking for.

Eric Wartenweiler Smith said...

My Dad built a Chameleon nesting dinghy and gave it to me 20 years ago, and she's still a great rowing sailing boat. I recently posted some videos ove her underway on youtube titled "Sailing a small boat in the Florida Keys"
and another one of a capsize test!

doryman said...

Thank you, Eric. If you don't mind, I'd like to embed your video here. Love the shot of the mudshark swimming over an old submerged bathtub.

We said...

I am currently building a sailing , sliding seat version and can't grasp the rear seat mounting brackets so it can flip from a seat to a sliding seat. Could you provide pictures of the inside brackets ; front bulkhead and rear stern ? thanks