Commentary by Mike OBrien

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We grew up in these skiffs. Many of us made childhood voyages of discovery in them. The little flat-bottomed boats weren't perfect — short and wide by the oarsman's standards; slow if powered by the specified engines, and downright scary if pushed by larger machinery. Still, they served their purpose and asked not much in return.

The design concept is simple. Start with a good flat-bottomed pulling boat. Make it wider for greater stability. Make it shorter for convenience and to keep weight and cost from spiraling out of control (all else being equal, effective "size" increases as the cube of the length). Add freeboard to achieve some gains in ability and capacity (moderately amplified windage presents no real problem here). Flatten the run, more or less, depending upon whether we want to emphasize the oars or the motor. What we're left with is a healthy waterfront skiff suitable for low-powered outboard motors and knockabout rowing.

William and John Atkin, aware of a pervasive prejudice against flat-bottomed boats, employed their talents in both drafting and design to create this "outboard fishing skiff." Many a handsome skiff looks too plain on paper to attract the uninitiated. Not Jebb. From the gentle sweep of the bottom-paint line (why do people insist on cutting the waterline dead straight these days?) to the sketched-in wood grain, the hint of seams in the cross-planked bottom, and the suggestion of the water's surface, this is a simple but carefully crafted drawing.

Jebb's moderately flat run (flat compared to most purpose-made rowing skiffs) will cause her transom to drag when she's loaded down some, but even a small engine will notice the increased resistance less than will the strongest oarsman. And, because a propeller's thrust is continuous, the skiff's carry (ability to glide between strokes of the oars) isn't crucial. The substantial bearing provided by reduced rocker and fairly broad transom will be welcome if Jebb sees service as a tender. Should the need arise, you'll be able to exit over the stern; this skiff won't dump you and run away.

Considerable flare will help ensure a friendly stability curve when Jebb is heavily loaded. The wide, flat bottom, with its beam carried well into the ends of the boat, promises plenty of initial stability.

Between them, the Atkins must have built more than a few skiffs. Their experience shows in the presence of two baselines on the drawings. A baseline at the top (24 inches above the LWL) will be used if you set the molds bottom-side up. Should you choose to build right-side up, a line 12 inches below the LWL represents your shop floor — a considerate touch that might save some arithmetic.

The construction details shown here represent fairly standard building practices for traditional skiffs in the designers' place and time. Chine logs, keel, frames, breasthook, and sheer moldings are got out of white oak. Planking is white cedar, % inch for the bottom and % inch for the sides. If you can find good stock, cedar is a pleasant wood to work — and its aroma is little short of intoxicating. Of course, with appropriate thought given to framing and sheet thickness, you could sheathe Jebb's bottom with plywood. In any case, the lapped sides ought to be retained, as they make good sense structurally and aesthetically.

LVI I Three Simple Skiffs for Oar and Outboard

Along time ago, Charles W. Wittholz sketched a simple 11-foot 6-inch plywood skiff for Boris Lauer-Leonardi, then editor of The Rudder magazine. Taken with the concept, Lauer-Leonardi asked the designer to complete the plans. Later, nearly three full pages of that much-admired publication were devoted to the finished drawings. Wittholz credits the exposure with putting his career "on track" — a career that spanned more than 50 years.

Wittholz's cartoon suggested no fewer than 10 different names for the utility skiff. They alluded to function (Rod & Reel, Rod & Gun, Flatfish) and/or construction (Plyfly). The final name, Decoy, didn't appear until publication. Perhaps it was the editor's choice. By whatever name, this is an easily built, relatively lightweight (about 115 pounds), potentially leak-free skiff.

Decoy's narrow stern and somewhat slender (4-foot) overall beam imply, perhaps, that oars would provide her main propulsion. However, a small outboard could be hung directly on her transom. It was drawn to accommodate the standard motor shaft length of her day (short shaft, now) without having to be cut down.

I suspect that at least one consideration in determining Decoy's overall length was the availability of continuous, splice-free, 12-foot-long plywood panels during the 1950s. Today, you'll have to make your own — or have someone scarf the panels for you. Either way, it's no real problem.

Wittholz's extensive use of transverse framing in this little skiff leaves no doubt as to the rigidity of the bottom. Some of us might prefer a cleaner interior. Certainly, we could employ thicker plywood and fewer frames. But we should remember that, without the use of exotic materials, our results might prove heavier and/or more limp than the original.

During the early 1960s on Barnegat Bay, a Decoy lived just down the beach from me. Her owner (more fisherman than boatbuilder) had made a plain but fair job of putting her together. He fished the little skiff with varied results but with constant satisfaction. The boat received neither terrible abuse nor lavish care. In fact, her builder seemed hardly to think about her one way or the other. And that's the point — she was simply waterfront equipage.

I should mention that the skiff outlived the marshes she fished. They're clogged now with hydraulic fill and blocked by causeways that hurry people to somewhere or other.

Ken Swan's Nez Perce 13, with her run carried out straight, is a pure outboard fishing skiff. Probably the ash breeze will be rigged only for jogging around while fishing or in emergencies. (Given the reliability of contemporary outboard motors, running out of fuel constitutes the most likely crisis.)

When she is rowed, the Nez Perce ought to be kept down by the bow to avoid dragging half the bay around behind her transom. Installing the oarlock sockets at the forward thwart, as the designer indicates, will help ensure proper trim. The boat won't show her best with this attitude, but she'll row acceptably in smooth water. To track well, she'll need the substantial skeg shown in the drawings. Without it, despite a rower's best efforts, she'll be inclined to turn around and look herself in the eye.

As I said, Nez Perce is a powerboat. Pushed by a 5-to 10-horsepower outboard motor, she'll jump onto a plane more quickly and go faster than most of her production fiberglass competitors. (Unless worked into sophisticated composite layups, fiberglass tends to be neither a stiff nor a light medium — and builders seldom lavish sophistication on flat-bottomed skiffs.) The designer reports that a 4-horsepower Johnson outboard propels his own Nez Perce at a comfortable 9 miles per hour.

Swan intends for this boat to go together in true skiff fashion. The pre-cut plywood sides are fastened together at the stem, wrapped around a couple of frames, and pulled in by a Spanish windlass at the stern. Building time is about 60 hours.

Don't be fooled by Swan's spare drawing style. This is one handsome skiff. The dory-like flare and sheer give her strong character. I believe Nez Perce was modeled before being drawn on the flat. Skiffs seem to benefit from that design sequence.

So, here we have three good little skiffs: Decoy, designed primarily for rowing but able to carry a small outboard motor; Jebb, designed for a small outboard motor but able to be rowed; and Nez Perce, an efficient low-powered planing boat that can be rowed if need be. I'm tempted to build all of them.

Jebb's plans are available from Atkin & Co., P.O. Box 3005, Noroton, CT 06820.

Charles Wittholz's plans are available through Mrs. Charles Wittholz, 100 Williamsburg Dr., Silver Spring, MD 20901.

Ken Swan sells plans for Nez Perce at P.O. Box 267, Hubbard, OR 97032.

Particulars, Jebb

Length 12'0" Beam 4'7" Weight 120150 lbs

With her lapstrake sides and cross-planked bottom, the Atkins's Jebb displays more or less typical skiff construction.

Particulars, Decoy

Length 11'6" Beam 4'0"

Weight 115 lbs (approx.)

George Calkins Boat

LVI Three Simple Skiffs for Oar and Outboard

Particulars, Nez Perce

Length 13'6" Beam 4'11" Weight 190 lbs

Length 13'6" Beam 4'11" Weight 190 lbs

Outboard Boat Plans

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How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

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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