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Enigma sailboat

Page history last edited by Dave Raftery 11 years, 7 months ago

Enigma sailboat

The Enigma is a self-righting, flat bottomed and beachable mini-cruiser. Enigma is referred to as a small, long distance coastal cruiser and is propelled by a single sail, or with an oar. It has room for 2 people for daysailing, but only enough room for one person to sleep aboard (the E460 may have enough room for 2 smaller people to sleep snugly). The Enigma was designed by Matt Layden.



Enigma - building photos

All photos

Yahoo Enigma group

Wizard's logbook

Advantages of Matt Layden mini cruisers


360 - The original version of Enigma is 12 feet long (360 cm). This is the boat that Matt sailed around Florida in the Ultimate Florida Challenge. 


Length: 12 feet, 3 inches.

Beam: 3-feet, 3 inches.

Draft: 6 inches.

Weight (empty): 180 pounds.

Payload: 420 pounds.

Sail area: 56 square feet. 


460 - Matt has designed a 4.6 meter version of Enigma with a plywood deckhouse for George Van Sickle. He is documenting his building progress here. Once the prototype is proved out, Matt will offer the plans for sale. 


LOA 4.6m = 15'-1"

Beam 1160mm = 45.6" = 3'-9"

Draft 186mm = 7 3/8"

Displacement at DWL 458 L = 1010 lb

Empty weight rigged (est.) 120 kg = 260 lb? depending on construction.

Ballast: min. 50 kg = 110 lb. It looks like the 460 will need 300 pounds minimum.

Max. payload (est.) 450 kg = 1000 lb?

Sail Area 8.86 sqm = 95 sqft

Length between the fore and aft bulkead (crew compartment) is 7' 7"

Headroom: sufficient height for 6 foot person to sit inside, with several inches of clearance.


Elusion is Matt's latest and smallest version. It is 9' long and 38" wide. He is currently racing Elusion in the Ultimate Florida Challenge Race. Pictures and more pictures

Dimension 360 460 Paradox
Length 12'3" 15'1" 13' 10"
Beam 3'3" 3'9" 4' 1/2"
Draft 6" 7 3/8" 9"
Empty Weight 180 260  
Displacement   1010 1410
Ballast 100 300 400
Sail area 56 100 100




Click on the 'Challenge Viewer' then a view button (Green arrows)

and then select "Wizard - Stills and video Chokoloskee to Key Largo"

Click here to view video tour of Enigma

Video  of Enigma 5 miles off Miami


On-line NOAA charts




Pictures are of Enigma 360






Interior space

I have been trying to get my head around the interior space in the Enigma 460. The beam is 3' 9". Now in comparison to Paradox, whose beam is 4', Paradox's built in shelves on each side of the hull, must take up 3 or 4 inches per side. That effectively reduces the room for humans to a beam of 3' 6", which is 3" less than Enigma. This picture shows 2 people crammed into Paradox in a sleeping position.

There should be the same amount of interior room in an Enigma 460. Now the movable sand ballast in the Enigma may take up some of the interior floor space, but I imagine they could be moved up against the forward bulkhead at night while at anchor, where they would be out of the way. Also if I went with a denser material (steel or lead), the ballast would take up less floor space. The length between the fore and aft bulkead is 7' 7".

"...there is going to more interior space than I thought. I can sit upright athwartship with several inches of clearance overhead (I am 6 ft.)" GVS

I just realized that there are essentially 3 watertight compartments in the Enigma. There are water tight openings in both the forward and aft bulkheads. I realize that there is a hole in the stern for Enigma's rudder, but the aft compartment is sealed off from the rest of the boat.

I would also like the ability to have a removable 2 foot section of the rear of the deck house; basically a lift out rear window like on the Paradox Enuf. That way in good weather, I could sit on the aft deck with my legs inside the cockpit. Yes, I would have to duck down when tacking from this position and I would not have anything to rest my back on; I could use one of those portable Crazy Creek chairs.

Enigma looks to a certain extent like a miniature Paradox and she embodies some of her characteristics such as the chine runners, flat bottom with rocker and box sides, but she is a different boat in that she is a light displacement vessel by comparison with Paradox which is a heavy displacement boat. This means that Enigma relies on her crew's weight as ballast to maintain stability and because of her light displacement she could even plane. The internal stowage arrangements between the two boats are dissimilar and Enigma 360 does not have a hardtop cabin. -- Enigma 460 has a hardtop cabin

Enigma 360 - construction

Made of: 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch (hull bottom) plywood and fiberglass.

Length: 12 feet, 3 inches.

Beam: 3-feet, 3 inches.

Draft: 6 inches.

Weight (empty): 180 pounds.

Payload: 420 pounds.

Sail area: 56 square feet.

Ideal speed: Three to four knots.

Other: No keel, self-righting, tubular sand bags for ballast that are secured to the floor


Bottom: 3/8 ply with 2 layers of 9-oz. tight weave fiberglass cloth. 3 more layers of glass tape: 6", 4" and 2.5" wide, will follow along the chine joints. (I plan to use 2 layers of biaxial cloth or 1 layer of biaxial cloth followed by 1 layer of woven cloth on bottom, and 3 layers of biaxial tape on chine joints. I'll do same on inside)

Sides: 2 layers of 3.25-oz. glass to the sides and transom. The cloth laps over onto the deck to tie this joint together. (I'll probably go with 2 layers of biaxial cloth or 1 layer of biaxial cloth followed by 1 layer of woven cloth). Biaxial fiberglass notes

Enigma 460 (prototype as built) - construction

Bottom - 2 sheets of 9mm (3/8") Okuome.

Sides - 2 sheets 6mm (1/4") each side.

3 scarfs total.

Bow exterior - 1 layer of 3 inch tape followed by 1 layer of 6 inch tape

Stern exterior - 1 layer of 3 inch tape

Bottom exterior - 2 layers of 10 oz glass

Bottom inside - 1 layer of 10 oz glass

Inside bulkheads - 1 layer of 4 oz both sides

Exterior sides - 1 layer of 4 oz

Interior sides - 1 layer of 4 oz

Interior joints - 1 layer of tape

Ballast - 220 lbs from 6 steel plates + 160 lbs from 2, 80 lb sandbags


In 2005 Matt built his sixth micro-cruiser, Enigma. This 12 footer was also intended for coastal sailing, but it differed from his earlier works in that it was much lighter in weight. At 180 pounds, the new stitch and glue built sharpie could even be hefted onto the top of a car for easier transport to far away cruising grounds. It certainly appears that this cruiser shares some of the best features found in all of his older boats. The shape and the proportion of Enigma's hull have a striking resemblance to a scaled down version of Little Cruiser, which even includes her shapely rudder. The rig comes straight from Paradox with it's efficient roller furling along with the very distinctive low aspect ratio lug sail. The fold down dodger is a much improved version of the one now found on Swamp Thing. As for the chine runners, they are a new shorter and deeper shape especially created for this lightweight boat. 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 Ultimate Challenge race to finish first in her class and third overall.


4mm = 3/16

6mm = 1/4 inch

9mm = 3/8 inch

12mm = 1/2 inch

1/8 luan = door skin - $10/sheet

1/4 luan = underlayment - $15/sheet

I'm working on an article for Small Craft Advisor with a fairly detailed description of Enigma and her origins. I think they're talking about 2 or 3 issues out. I'll have construction plans out later this year with some minor mods based on experience in the prototype. - Matt - April 05, 2006

To Enigma fans and future builders of the craft, for those the following should be very good news.

Recently I received a letter from Matt Layden; it was in reply to a letter I wrote to him after the Ultimate Everglades Challenge ended. Builder's plans will be available for Enigma soon. Here is a partial quote from his letter, "At the moment Enigma is in her `prototype' testing phase…I plan to make some minor changes in the model and draw up building plans later this year.

Don Elliott - 20 Apr 2006

In the words of Sven Yrvind: "I am now convinced that the chinerunner concept, created by Matt in 1982, is the greatest innovation for small cruising boats in the last century."

Podcast with Sven on Matts boats

In Layden's latest boat, Enigma, the chine runners have evolved into higher-aspect foils, and Layden reports that they seem to be an improvement over Paradox's runners.

Break down the steps to build Enigma to discrete tasks and estimate the time to do each task. Do this is in a spreadsheet and post to Enigma Group. Estimate Enigma material costs too.

My Enigma posts

Comparison of materials for ballast in Enigma

sand = 1600 kg/cubic meter = 100 lbs/cu. ft.

steel = 7850 kg/cubic meter = 490 lbs/cu. ft.

lead = 11,340 kg/cubic meter = 708 lbs/cu. ft.

kg/cu.m divided by 16.02 = lbs/cu.ft

Weight of materials

22 Feb 2005


Bateau sells a Coast Guard approved buoyancy foam. Each gallon expands to an average of 4 cubic feet. One cubic foot provides 62 lbs of positive flotation.

Biaxial fiberglass

There is a difference between plywood covered with 10 oz. woven and plywood used as a core between biaxial glass. In the first one, the strength comes mostly from the plywood, in the second one, the strength comes from the fiberglass skins. It is very different. Monocoque composite construction

Stitch and glue construction

Biax tape



Furthermore, the regulations state that "unpowered vessels," defined as

"sailboats or those that are paddled, poled or rowed," and if less than 7

meters (23.0 ft.) long, must, "if practical," exhibit the same lights as

required for unpowered vessels less than 29 meters (65.6 ft.) in length.

These include, red & green sidelights visible from a distance of at least

two miles, or if less that 12 meters (39.4 ft.) long, at least one mile, on

a dark clear night; and a stern light visible from a distance of at least

two miles. "If not practical," unpowered boats must have instead on hand at

least one lantern of flashlight shining a white light to show when needed by

traffic considerations.


Just remember that the p/s lights must be forward, as

well as below, the all-round white light when running under motor power.

I merely mount a removable battery-powered combined p/s

light on the single forward-centerline cleat (right up on the bow)

whenever needed.


Sources of material:

Marine plywood source in Somerville, MA

Source for bucket lids to use as bulkhead hatches

Marine battery FAQ

Rectangular kayak hatch cover - 12" x 20"

Rectangular hatch cover - 11" x 21"

Rectangular hatch cover - 14" x 24"

Rectangular hatch cover - 14" x 24"

Trips I plan to make on Enigma

  • Sail all around Boston harbor, including the nooks and crannies around Quincy
  • Sail all around Squam Lake for a week
  • Sail around Cape Cod and out to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket
  • Sail down the NE coast to Kings Point and dock in the yaught basin for a few days
  • Anchor in Charles River during 4th of July concert and fireworks


"Never having done a scarf joint before I played it safe and purchased the West System Scarffer circular saw attachment. The decision proved to be a good one because it made nearly perfect scarf joints which were much better than I could have done by hand."

from http://www.charliesweb.com/pelican/construction_page_4.html

Sitting room height is all that needs to be considered…..when not sailing, if you just provide a "pop up" top in the center portion of the cabin. The sides of the pop top can be any material that will shed water. Holding the top up only takes one stanchion in the middle or two at the side or end. The side material when in tension will prevent any racking loads. In public, I find it important to be able to stand up even hunched over a little just to put on my pants or sponge off. Some minor details are not included here but they would be easy to provide.


"...Last time things were very tight aboard Enigma (360) for 2 people so we intend to make some minor changes to the boat to give us a little more space. One of these adjustments is to use lead as our primary ballast. Last time we used sand bags, and the bags took up a lot of precious interior space. This time we intend to use the 1 pound ingots that we bought off of Ebay. These are going to be placed in much smaller bags for a total weight of 12 pounds each. We will most likely need between 14 -16 bags in all, and each one will be secured to the bottom of the boat.


We also intend to make one large custom foam pad to sleep on instead of using two individual thermarest pads. We discovered last time that there wasn't enough beam to fit both of them at once without overlapping them in the middle, which created an uncomfortable ridge. The final change will be the addition of cloth side pockets to store lightweight gear and navigational items like our gps and our vhf radio. In 2008 we packed our gear primarily in dry bags, and we had trouble accessing our stuff quickly since we located our equipment in the bow and the stern compartments to free up the cabin." - Dave & Mindy Jan 2009 www.microcruising.com

"...in all but extreme conditions it is quite possible to sail standing up.

I quite often stand leaning with my elbows on the hatch cover with a book in front of me, but watch the sun on your back!. I have even been known to climb onto the aft deck and dangle my feet in the water over the transom, during a quiet downwind run." -- Al about his Paradox

Paradox construction

Birdwatcher construction - ideas and techniques useful for building Engima

Advantages of Matt Layden mini cruisers

Serge Testa and his boat, Acrohc Australis

Private Enigma discussions



Elusion Pictures

More pictures


Enigma Planning


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