Commentary by Mike OBrien

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Typical Maine outboard lobster skiffs appear to be juvenile versions of the larger Maine inboard lobsterboats. They share strong sheerlines; shapely topsides, with considerable flare in the forward sections; firm bilges aft; and relatively low beam-to-length ratios. Tradition calls for strip-planking or plank-on-bent-frame carvel construction. Of late, some skiffs have been splashed in fiberglass and a few have been cold-molded. Altogether, they are a handsome and efficient breed.

A few years back, I visited Arno Day's shop in Sedgwick, Maine. This native of coastal Maine has been designing and building traditional lobsterboats and skiffs for more than fifty years. After we had conducted some now long-forgotten editorial business, he asked if I'd like to see his latest drawings. Of course — and I should have known from the look in his eyes that these new designs were out of the ordinary.

We walked from the shop, across the dirt driveway, and into his well-kept, barn-red house. In a room that appeared to have been intended for dining (but now was filled with splines, battens, ducks, and tubes of vellum), the designer pulled the dust cover off his drawing board. There, in place of the lines for his usual round-bilged hulls, were preliminary drawings for a series of straight-sectioned, multi-chined lobsterboats. Day explained that he had drawn the sheet-plywood hulls so that watermen might have easily built boats — boats they could put together themselves even if they had little experience as builders.

Among the drawings were sketches for a lean 21-foot outboard skiff that Day later would flesh out for builder Mark Abb as the Great Cove 21, the design you see here. Abb, an aspiring marine photographer, wanted to replace his chunky fiberglass runabout with a longer boat that would easily and smoothly traverse the sometimes rough waters of Penobscot Bay — a fast and steady camera platform.

Abb built his skiff using about 38 sheets of M-inch plywood (doubled all over to give a hull thickness of /2-inch) and 15 gallons of epoxy. He reckons that material for the hull (plywood, epoxy, solid timber, and fastenings) spoiled the better part of $2,000 [1995].

Total construction time amounted to nearly 1,600 man-hours spread through three winters. Some of that time must be charged to the inefficiencies of stop-and-start boatbuilding. (Untangle the extension cord, find the drill motor, get the epoxy working. Then, coil the extension cord, put the drill back where it ought to have been in the first place, clean the brushes ) And the showboat finish applied by Abb and painter Jack Powell couldn't be accomplished overnight. Working straight through and settling for a plain-vanilla appearance (i.e., lots of latex house paint), we might cut this time in half. The result wouldn't look half so well as Abb's expert work, but it would run the same.

Quick study of the construction drawings for the Great Cove 21 reveals a complex web of internal structure. Couldn't we knock more than a few hours off the building time by eliminating some of the transverse frames and longitudinal stringers? In fact, might we resort to stitch-and-glue construction, which would

Particulars Great Cove 21

LOA

21'2"

DWL

19'4"

Beam

7'2"

Weight

(bare hu Weight

l)

1,600 lbs

(all up) Power

2,100 lbs 60 to 115 hp

The Lines Plan With Arno Day

Arno Day drew this deeper and wider (but not longer) version of the Great Cove 21 for skippers who want to use larger engines and carry heavier loads.

A Sheet-Plyivood Lobster Skiff drastically reduce our need for solid timber? Day responds that the traditional framed-plywood construction specified in his plans allows a builder to choose adhesives according to personal preferences and costs. (For most contemporary builders, stitch-and-glue dictates the use of epoxy.) I'll add that framing and beveling can be pleasant work. On the other hand, grinding down epoxified stitch-and-glue joints is, well — not grand fun. As may be, this hull shape seems suited to stitch-and-glue construction. If you want to convert this design (or other framed-plywood hulls) to stitch-and-glue, it can be done. The construction work will be messy, but the results will be clean, tight, and strong.

The prototype Great Cove 21 made a striking appearance as it slipped into Eggemoggin Reach on a cold day in late spring. Long, lean boats of simple line are almost always pleasurable to our eyes. Builder Abb cranked up the 115-hp Mercury, backed down clear of the trailer, and made a few careful low-speed passes by the pier. Builders are allowed their caution. On about the fifth turn around the float, he stopped to pick up designer Day. After a brief discussion, Day took the controls. He secured his cap with a tug at the visor, grabbed the throttle, and jammed it forward — hard forward, all the way forward. Designers are permitted their curiosity. For a moment the high-powered skiff paused and pointed at the sky, then it climbed over its own bow wave and screamed away at 35 knots.

The boat proved more than fast enough; but, as happens with prototypes, there were minor glitches. The "moment" required to jump onto a plane from a dead start proved to be longer than hoped, and, under certain combinations of throttle setting and motor trim, the boat tended to porpoise. (In fairness, it should be said that the powerful Mercury packed about 45 more horses than had been called for in the original design.) As may be, Abb corrected both of these problems simply by tacking A-inch-thick wedges (shingles, if you will) to the boat's bottom at the stern.

Day has ensured that future Great Cove 21s will run perfectly by straightening the lower chines slightly in plan view and providing greater beam on the bottom back aft. The changes are reflected in the drawings shown here. Design at its best can be a cooperative venture. While recalling the evolution of this boat, Day explains, "I wrote the words, but Mark sang the song."

I suspect that designers are always designing. Not long after the epoxy on the prototype Great Cove had set up, Day unveiled drawings for a wider and deeper version of the big skiff. Hulls built to the new plans should be happy with more powerful engines and heavier loads, but they might sacrifice some of the fuel efficiency and gentle ride of the original. The prototype's beam-to-length ratio (about 1 foot of width for every 3 feet of length) coincides with the proportions of the traditional hulls that Day has designed and built for decades. The 8-foot beam specified in the new drawings seems more representative of contemporary high-powered lobsterboats.

Although the Great Cove 21 can run fast (35-plus knots), it seems most natural when loping along with an easy gait — say, 21 knots at 4200 rpm — leaving little fuss behind. It rides smoothly, banks predictably in high-speed turns, and demonstrates no handling vices. In the designer's words, "It works all right." That's high praise Down East.

Plans for the Great Cove 21 are available from Arno Day, P.O. Box 23, Sedgwick, ME 04676.

Great Cove 21

Golden Gate Bridge Line Drawing Design
Construction drawings for the sheet-plywood lobster skiffs indicate plenty of internal structure.
Construction sections at Station 5 and the transom show deck and rail details.

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Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.

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