rover schooners

 Welcome to Rover Schooners...

 ... the official home of Merritt Walter designed working schooners. We have a tab "Other Vessels" for vessels of Merritt's design including private yachts.

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... the vision defined by curves ... and the curves defined by numbers ...


Tahiti Rover


Some boat designs elicit the urge to roam warm climates, anchor up in far away places and let the rest of the world pass by.  The Tahiti Rover is such a vessel and I wish I had one. 

John G. Hanna designed the original Tahiti Ketch over 80 years ago to be built of wood.  The plans appeared in Mechanix Illustrated, launching “a thousand dreams.”  Hundreds have been back yard built.  The design called for a seaworthy vessel capable of sailing the oceans in safety and comfort.  The design did all that as can be attested to by the fact that more Tahiti Ketches have sailed round the world then any other design.  And they are still being built today.

With the fast pace of world events, loss of personal freedoms and questionable economic situation, it’s comforting to think of complete independence aboard a stout vessel ready to go anywhere, just as it was during the great depression and the launch of so many of Hanna’s ketches.

Back in the 70’s I was approached by Dean Conrad, an interesting experienced deep water sailor, to design a 32’ double ended vessel for long distance voyaging.  Dean was one of the Washington D. C. Beltway employees stuck behind a desk day in and day out longing to get to sea.   His idea of a good vacation was to sail his 20’ double ender straight offshore, east into the Atlantic for half of the time he had off, then back to port.  He wanted a larger boat of steel, for its advantages of strength and ease of construction.

I pointed out to him that the design already existed.  The John G. Hanna Tahiti Ketch in wood and a steel version called the Tahitiana by Farmer.  Not satisfied with either, Dean commissioned me to do an engineering analysis and comparison of both the original and later design in an effort to improve windward ability and speed.  A good ocean cruiser should treat her crew kindly, point well, be self-steering, and be well balance with a good turn of speed.  Here are the results of my findings, and the resultant ketch I designed for Dean called the Tahiti Rover.  Since then, many Tahiti Rovers have been built.  The renowned author Robbie Johnson of the cookbook Gourmet Underway has one, check out his web site at .

Although several of the Rovers have been professionally built, the Tahiti Rover is well within the capabilities of the back yard builder.  The tools necessary are minimal.  A couple of come-a-longs, heavy duty grinder, cutting torch, welding machine capable of DC welding up to 1/4 “ plate and tools the average home owner has on hand is all. 

Yes you can do it.  The first schooner my sons and I built in our tiny yard was 65’.  We had only the tools listed above.  At the time, none of us could weld.  We started cutting steel, tacking the parts together and hiring a welder to come by for a few hours. By the time the framing was up, my son, Shon, was a certified welder, ready to do the rest of the job. 

Of all the experiences I have had over the years, nothing compares with the satisfaction of building that first boat.  The memories are still favorite topics at family gatherings.

Look at the pictures of Robbie’s rover.  She is a superb vessel, built by a retired Marine Corps colonel with no previous building experience.