Grand Designs – 17′ Norwegian pram

The magazine Water Craft had in March/April 2010 an article about the 17′ Norwegian pram in their Grand Design article  series. You can read the article below. Enjoy

It doesn’t always have to be a US boat type! Around Europe, there are talented designers creating boats inspired by their own local craft. From Denmark, Morten Olesen introduces his: 17′ Norwegian pram.

In the last days of working sail, Denmark had a huge variety of boat types with local characteristics and aesthetics. Each of these types had been developed over generations and refined to suit the waters in which they were used. When I designed the 17′ Norwegian Pram, I took my starting point from a boat type used on one of the most inhospitable coasts of Denmark.

Lying unprotected from the North Sea, the west coast of Denmark is mainly a flat sandy beach with two or three sand bars further out, running parallel to the coast, which are constantly scoured by strong currents. When the wind comes from the west, the seas are rough.

It was in this environment that the predecessors of my 17′ Norwegian Pram were developed and used through the centuries. At that time, there were no harbors along the coast, which meant craft were launched and landed on the beach. Each day, boats would go out and return through the frequently violent surf. This demanding use developed really strong and seaworthy boats fishermen could rely on.

The inspiration for the Norwegian Pram came to me one day when I was sitting in my favorite armchair recalling my younger days as an apprentice learning boatbuilding in a small town on the west coast. I built a lot of small boats back then but I remembered with most affection a secondhand GRP spritsail dinghy, which I’d bought cheap and restored. That boat, a small Norwegian pram, was a fine, fun boat.

I left the armchair to look up Danish boats and soon found a type used on the northern part of the Danish west coast, which for reasons I could not discover, was known as a Norwegian Pram. Described as a strong boat, it was a good load carrier with full lines yet shallow draft; not a sprightly sailor but very seaworthy. All in all, a craft with some very nice properties, worth adapting for modern stitch-and-glue construction.

I started work on the design right away; I have found many times before that when inspiration strikes like this, the whole design process goes faster. I had it all in my head; it was just a question of getting it down on paper. Using all I had learned studying naval architecture, I drew up the lines, comparing them with old photographs as I calculated the different coefficients and hydrostatic properties.

With modern materials like plywood, epoxy and glass cloth, it is possible to build a boat lighter than it was back in the old days when they built in oak and larch, pine and spruce. The old prams were used for fishing, so had to carry much greater loads than a modern leisure version.

17' Norwegian pram boat plans

The 17′ Norwegian Pram ended up with an LOA of 16′ 7” (5.05 m) and a beam of 5′ 4” (1.63 m). She draws only 10” (0.25 m) on a 992 lbs (450 kg) displacement with the centerboard raised and the hull weighs 242 lbs (110 kg) without mast and sails. Originally, boats like the Norwegian Pram were built with broad and thick lapstrake planks on substantial sawn frames but I redesigned the hull for multi- chine construction on plywood frames. Furthermore, I included double frames amidships to give better support to the thwarts and provide compartments for integral flotation or use as storage. It’s also worth mentioning that though I originally designed the hull with a daggerboard, constructing it with a pivoting centerboard is easy if that’s what’s preferred.

I designed the Norwegian Pram with a stayed mast. This was not the case in the original craft but since using stays, the mast can be made lighter than an unstayed mast, I thought it would be an advantage. The sail area is 113 square feet (10.5 sqm), with some 81 square feet (7.5 sqm) in the boomless sprit-rigged mainsail. I am fond of the spritsail since it’s an easy sail to handle and quick to reef.

The first 17′ Norwegian Pram was built in Denmark in 2006-7. The feedback from the builder was positive and the result was a beautiful boat that has given him many pleasant hours on the water. Another customer asked for a 15′ version of the Norwegian Pram that has also been a success… And I would not be surprised if a 19-20′ version is requested in the future.

17' Norwegian pram boat plans

Downloadable boat plans for the 17′ Norwegian Pram and many more designs are available from

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect

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