Rethinking the Interior Layout

OK, folks.  Here’s the dealio.  I never loved the interior layout of the Skiff America.  In fact, I can be found earlier on this blog to state I plan to change the interior in order to accommodate 2 additional sleeping areas.  I actually had a plan in my head  to accomplish this.  But, I’m again rethinking this area of my boat.

Here’s why:

  1. Overnighting with 4 people would happen quite rarely, less than 5% of the time.
  2. Overnighting in the cockpit has it’s own set of problems, like:  Mosquitoes, gnats, rain, privacy etc.
  3. I don’t want the complication of zip-in side panels.  Been there, done that.  Too much work setting up and taking down.  Too bulky to store.  Gnats get inside at night and can’t escape.  Two under the cabin will have to be sufficient.  I can always throw in a backpacking tent if necessary.
  4. Finally, why should I configure the cockpit of my boat for a function that represents less than 5% of its actual usage?

So, here’s my current thinking.  I’ll design the interior around how it will be used the majority of the time and what makes sense from a visual and functional stand point.  I’m sure Kilburn will not agree with me here, but he knows I’m a free bird.

So, what makes sense to me?  Ok, here goes.  I’m going to design the interior seating much like that of a ski boat.  I’ll have 2 captains chairs up front and U shaped seating in the back.  The front seats will be on adjustable pedestals (that will swivel, raise up and down and adjust fore and aft).  These pedestals will be mounted into the floor with a secure base.  The front pedestals will allow ultimate flexibility.  I can swivel the seat around and rest my legs on the aft side bench, visit and have a cold drink.  It will also allow adjustability for my kids to captain the boat.  It also allows me to tuck my feet under the seat for multiple leg positions.  And, finally, I can mount the seat exactly where I want it irrespective of the placement of the back bench.  So, both captain and navigator will have adjustable pedestal seats.

Now for the back portion of the cockpit.

I’ll run a continuous U-shaped seat (starting aft of the pedestal seats) and joining across the back of the boat.   The U-shaped seat will afford flexible seating.  Someone sitting in the aft corner of the boat can put their feet up and run them across the back of the boat, or forward toward the cabin along the side of the boat.  Also, boarding from a dock will be easier by allowing you to step onto the bench before stepping onto the floor (remember the sides are sloping inward).  This is very similar to how you would board when entering from the lake.

False Transom.

This all dictates how my false transom will be designed.  Hence, I made some changes here too.

DSC00029This is the stock false transom fit to the boat.  The first thing I noticed was the straight line across the top of the transom.  To me, it looks too straight, too flat, too proper.

DSC00030I milled down a stick of sapelli to create a stick 3/8″ x  1,5/8″.  I knew I could easily bend such a stick.

DSC00032I glued this stick to the top line of the false transom, but held the ends down 1″.

DSC00037Here’s the new transom.  I love the subtle arch to the top line.  It mirrors the arch from the true transom of the boat.  And yes, I’m opening up the lower portion of this area to improve access.  All the openings measure 13″ heigh.  These open area will not be trimmed in solid wood, as they will be behind the U-seating area (this also saves weight, more on this latter).

DSC00038Now I’ll add 2 layers of epoxy to both sides prior to installation.

Thoughts on Weight:

 I understand and respect the importance of not adding unnecessary weight to this design.  As I’ve made changes to this boat, I’ve always tried to keep the weight concept in check.  Kilburn has done a great job of shedding weight, so let’s not screw it up.

However, In a conversation with Kilburn, he kindly expressed a concern that by running my floor doubler all the way to the back of the boat, I’dd added too much uneccessary weight to his elegant design.  In fact, he felt I had already added the equivalent of a cooler of food to the back of my boat.  This put a zap on my head for a few hours after our conversation, so I thought deeper about his concern.  Here’s my take:  A full 4 x 8 sheet of 1/2″ plywood weights 40 lb.  By running my floor doubler all the way aft, I added an additional 20″ x 38″ or 16% or 6.40 lb. to the back of the stock plan.  Let’s call it 8 lb. with epoxy.  That’s a pretty light weight cooler.  I weighted all the parts I removed from the false transom on my digital scale and got 1.92 lb., let’s call this 2 pounds after epoxy.  Hence, I’m currently sitting about 6 lb. over what might be called stock boat weight.  Now, if you added a thicker top piece than mine to the false transom, the weight will be even closer.  Then if you consider I’m not running an interior gunwale, solid wood around my false transom areas and thinner than stock gunwales, bow and cockpit coamings, I dare say I’m actually under stock weight for this boat.  Not that the exact number actually matters, but it is important to keep these boats light.  I’m resting better now after actually calculating some of these weights.  Yes, my boat is light.



My U-shaped rear seating arrangement will make more sense in the coming posts.  I believe it will increase access to hidden storage areas, improve boarding ergonomics and provide flexible seating options.  And, I’ll continue to keep it light. 

This is a very beautiful design and it gets more beautiful to me each and every day.  


Additional Transom Work


This morning I added fillets and glass to the underside of the slosh and motor wells.  Access is good if you don’t mind crawling on your back while balancing wet epoxy on a popsicle stick.  Just have a few paper towels handy for the drips.







After sanding all the new glassed areas, I can begin working on the false transom and edging materials.  

If you work on your boat daily, it seems like the boat just sort of builds itself.  You can’t get in a hurry.  Think tortoise not hare.  Completing small tasks daily seems to be the secret.  

Fixing Problems

 No matter how hard we try not to make mistakes, they happen.  My father always said, “the difference between a good carpenter and a bad carpenter, is a good carpenter knows how to cover his mistakes”.  Well, today, I got some experience learning how to covering my mistakes.   DSC00029I cut the Starboard slosh well floor too short on the outboard side.  So, I added a strip of pine to the edge.  I then added a strip of glass to the under side seam for extra strength.  

DSC00030DSC00033I then tacked the slosh well floors down to keep them from shifting.  This was very helpful when trying to keep things straight.

DSC00034You might notice the slosh well floors are sitting 1/2″ too heigh.  I didn’t notice this at first, but finally figured out what was happening.  Remember the 1/2″ floor doubler I added?  Well, that threw off my measurements by 1/2″.  So, I simply rounded off the corners and called it good.

DSC00035Then, I noticed the motor well sloping toward the Port side.  Though not severe, it bothered me.  So, I called my dad and asked him how to be a good carpenter.  Dads always have the answers.  “Cut a dato son and level it out”.  Brilliant!  I cut 2 uneven datos in the motor well floor where it rests on the cleats.  This accomplished  2 things:  1-it allowed me to level up the floor and 2-it lowered the floor almost back to it’s proper placement. DSC00029 (1) The glass conceals the datos in this photo, so you can’t see them.  I also added the 3/4″ oak motor mount pad and glued it into position.


DSC00042I laid 2″ tape over all the joints for extra strength. DSC00039


DSC00043Here’s the final product.  It’s now getting harder and harder while I cook brats on the deck for dinner.




Transom Work

With family reunions and work commitments, I’ve had little time this last week to work on my boat.  But, I did get a few things accomplished.  And, here’s the proof.

DSC00031This first thing I did was add cleating to the inboard sides of the tank wells.  This is not called for in the plans but I wanted a stable platform for the motor well floor.

DSC00032 (1)

DSC00029 (1)

DSC00032I then placed the motor well floor into position to determine the proper location of the drain hole.  I drilled one hole (inline with the motor to conceal it’s presents) for drainage.

DSC00035To prevent split-out, I clamped a sacrificial board against the outside of the transom.

DSC00039I then added cleating to the side panels.  This again will provide a secure, stable platform on which to lay the slosh well floors.  Could I have just used nails or screws to hold the slosh well floors in position while applying the fillets?  Yes, but I like this method much better for 4 reasons:

  1. It’s more secure.
  2. They ensures proper alignment, position and slope.
  3. It’s easier to apply fillets to a board resting on a cleat than one resting on a screw.
  4. There’s nothing physically in the way when you lay in your fillet and tape.

They do require a bit more time, but who’s in a hurry?  After all, boat building is fun.  Take the time to do a nice job and you’ll sleep better at night and be more proud of your finished product.   Finally, the cleats weigh virtually nothing if you use pine or fir.


I positioned my side wall cleats for a 1″ slope as opposed to the 2″ slope in the plans.  I’m going to be stepping on this slosh well panel with wet feet as I climb into the boat and felt a 1″ slope was safer and still adequate for proper drainage.   

It’s a lot of fun to watch the transom area come into shape.  


Cabin Top Complete

Steps I followed:

  1. Using a flush cut router bit, I flush trimmed the edges of the cabin top to the side panels.
  2. Using a Shinto rasp, I further flushed up the cabin top with the sides panels (the router alone doesn’t completely flush the panels because the side panels are sloping and your standing on a round earth 😉
  3. Using an 1/8″ round over bit, I took the edge off the cabin top.
  4. Using a card scraper, I cleaned up any rough spots (there are always plenty despite your best efforts to clean up after every step).
  5. Hand sanded all edges and rough spots.
  6. Rolled epoxy on all sanded edges and cabin top edges.
  7. Laid a fillet in the outer cabin coaming/cabin top junction.
  8. Laid a fillet under the inside cabin top/side panel junction.
  9. Hand smoothed all fillets (by dipping my gloved finger into a cup of alcohol and softly running my finger along all fillets.  This creates a beautiful finished look).


This completes the cabin top.  It looks great and will provide a lot of protection from sun or inclement weather.  I’m really glad I used 7/8″ stock for the cabin coamings.  They look and feel great.   I’m now ready to focus on the false transom, slosh wells and motor wells.  

Installing the Cabin Top

Cabin top baby!  Installed!

Steps I followed:

  1. Sealed cabin top with 2 coats of epoxy, sanding between coats (all done on the bench).
  2. Rolled wet epoxy on top of all mating surfaces (cabin side panels and bulkheads).
  3. Rolled wet epoxy onto the underside of plywood cabin top (where it makes contact with the boat).
  4. Laid a fillet on top of the cabin sides and bulkheads where the cabin top will rest.
  5. Laid the cabin top in place.
  6. Begged, borrowed and stole enough clamps to fill a wheel barrel.
  7. Placed clamps all around the edges.
  8. Thanked my friend, Matt Blackham for his help in this step.


Matt is actually thinking pretty hard about building one of these boats.  Maybe some day you’ll see his build blog of another Skiff America 20.  

If Matt builds one, we will be planning an Idaho Mess About inviting all of you, including Kilburn to beautiful Idaho for a weekend of, well, messing about in boats.  We have some beautiful scenic lakes to explore.  We’re giving you notice well in advance.  

Cabin Coamings

Next up are the cabin coamings.  These are beautiful sticks of 7/8″ mahogany.  They will provide a sturdy hand hold as you move forward in the boat to drop anchor or access the bow.

DSC00029I first glued the 3/4″ cleat to the main coaming pieces.

DSC00031Then grab your handy saw of choice and begin to make 2 compound cuts (angling in two different directions).  Don’t sweat this stuff…you can always add some thickened epoxy like I did if they don’t fit perfectly.

DSC00034I’m only showing you the good one.

DSC00040DSC00041And… there you have it.  The cabin coamings in all their glory.  Once cured, I’ll cut and  shape the vertical pieces to match the coamings.


The coamings add structural integrity to the light weight roof and define the upper portion of the cabin top.  They look awesome.  I’ve never had more fun on any wood working project than I’m now having on building this boat.  

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record when I continue to articulate how beautiful this boat is.  I’m quite dumbfounded at its simple elegance.  The photos don’t do it justice.  It’s just bang on gorgeous.  

Installation of the Subfloor

I got up early this morning to have sufficient time to get the subfloor installed before heading off to work.

Steps I followed:

  1. Rolled all contact areas and entire subfloor with a 2nd layer of epoxy.
  2. Laid a fillet on top of the bulkhead cleat and the stem cleat.
  3. Positioned the wet subfloor.
  4. Laid fillets around all edges.
  5. Wet out 4″ glass on bench.
  6. Laid wet glass onto wet fillet.
  7. Trimmed all edges of the frayed glass with scissors .
  8. Smoothed out the glass.
  9. Rolled the wet glass to smoothly distribute the epoxy.
  10. Cleaned up with alcohol.

And, here’s how she looks:

DSC00025 (1)Summary:

The installed subfloor really defines the bow area.  Before, it looked so deep and cavernous, but now it looks trim, tidy and efficient.  I’m having a blast building this boat!!


Subfloor Work

As I move through the subfloor steps, I want to be mindful of all the different functions of the bow area.  Along those lines, I came up with an idea for routing the wiring for the front navagation lights.

I purchase a 5′ piece of plastic tubbing with an inside dimension of 3/8″.  I then sprayed the tube matte black for a better look.  I then epoxied a 25″ piece of the tube on the port side of the inner stem.  It’s lower end will be below the subfloor.  This creates a run to secure and conceal the navigation wiring.


DSC00028 (1)It’s hard to see, but if you look closely, you’ll see a black tube along the port side of the inner stem.  This will run below the level of the sundeck and then make its way aft.

DSC00028I then glued short sections of the tubing to the underside of the subdeck.  My wiring will run aft, under the cabin berths, along the port side to the battery compartment.

DSC00026Now for the water drainage issue.  As you know, the subfloor is slopped aft.  You are to drill 2 holes (one in each end) to the outside for proper water drainage.  This is one of the aft corners that needs requires drainage.

DSC00030My dad lent me a hole saw kit.  It had a center drill bit, to direct the hole saw, while the outer hole saw completed the cut.  It worked like a champ.

DSC00031I angled the cut downward and aft for good drainage.


DSC00034Core samples shown here as proof that I indeed drilled 2 holes through my boat.


It takes a lot of courage to drill holes through your boat.  I’m amazed at the length of the core samples.  I drilled through the side doublers on an angle.  I don’t plan to install any tubing into these holes, but I will epoxy them for a water tight finish.  I’m now ready to lay in the fillets and glass around the subfloor.  I will then re-drill the drain hole (from the outside of the hull, cutting inward) to cut a clean hole through the fillet and glass.  This should create a nice smooth looking drain hole.  We’ll see.  



Fitting the Subfloor

I first mocked up the subfloor using a scrap piece of cardboard I found in my dumpster.

DSC00025I then transposing the marks to the 1/2″ plywood.

DSC00026I then cut out the subfloor using my jig saw for a perfect fit.  

DSC00027And, it didn’t fit.  So, I assumed the prenatal position on my shop floor, but only got dusty.  So, I got up, dusted myself off, and cut some extensions for each side.  This made it fit much better. Once cured, I’ll shape slightly and drop it into position.


Don’t get discouraged with a bad cut, Just figure out how to fix it.  I’m tired now.