Boat Musings

What is it about water and boats that’s so enchanting?  What is it about exploring and seeing new sights that attracts us?  What is it about the dream of a new adventure that’s so alluring?

Boats allow us adventure.  They afford us new experiences.  They take us places we could not otherwise go.  They slow down our busy life styles.  They allow us to see the natural world in a way we otherwise would not.

I’m really excited to take out my Skiff America and begin these adventures.  I want to see local lakes, regional lakes and even far away places in Northern Cross.

And, even before I’ve launched Northern Cross, I still dream of another boat to build.  Can it be that I’m addicted to boat building?  Possibly, but I think the real answer lies in a desire to augment Northern Cross with a small non motorized sailboat.  There’s something about sailboats that I find hard to shake.  There not as practical as Skiff America, and because of this,  I don’t think I’ll ever sell my Skiff America.  I have a large family and Northern Cross hits this target head on —bulls eyed.  Yet, the lure of a small motorless sailboat I could row or sail continues to tug at my heart.  Moving about as mariners did thousands of years ago, by wind or oar.  Plotting a course to circumnavigate a large mountain lake, expedition style, with compass and map, anchors, sails, wind and rain totally captivates me.

I sold my Scamp sailboat thinking this feeling would leave me once I built Skiff America…it hasn’t.  I have consulted my best friend, Jennifer (my wife) regarding these feelings.  Here’s her advise, and what Jennifer says, you can take to the bank:  Use Skiff America for 1-2 years before deciding to build any other type of boat.  See if the feeling persists or wains.  After 1-2 years of boating, I’ll know whether I’m just crazy or if I really do indeed want to build a second boat.

Until then, I plan to use my Skiff America, read, study and learn from others.  My second boat would be small, simple and yet robust and seaworthy.  It would be an expedition micro cruiser.  It would take two sailers to far away places and be designed to the hilt.  It would either be another Scamp (highly modified like Howard Rice’s) or Long Steps, both by the designer John Welsford.

Are any of you afflicted by similar dreams, thoughts and ambitions or am I the only one?  Please don’t leave me hanging!



Layout Tools

There are a few tools that have really helped me layout all the lines for this build.  I will show the essential tools below and explain their purpose.

DSC00459These tools have proved very helpful:

  1. The 48″ T-square.  This allows me to make perpendicular marks all the way across a sheet of plywood.  This has been extremely helpful to keep the layout lines accurate.
  2. The 36″ straight metal ruler.  Handy for measuring shorter lines.
  3. 12′ tape measure.  Ideal for longer lines, like 96″.  If you are buying this tool for this build, buy a 25′ tape measure.  I already own this 12′ so I’m using it.
  4. 6″ trisquare.  Helpful for scribing short 90 degree markings.
  5. A fat pencil.  Lays down a thicker line you can cut from.
  6. A thin pencil.  For markings that require more accuracy.


The most important of all these tools for me has been the 48″ T-square.  It has made the layout  markings fast and accurate.  It’s so fun to mark this beautiful plywood and watch the lines take shape.  Going from paper to actual wood pieces is a very rewarding process to observe.  You think you have a feel for the proportions, but until you cut the wood you’re never quite sure.  Once you cut, it all starts to make sense.  I’m having a total blast here folks.

It Officially Begins

Skiff America 20, here I come!

DSC00459Well, I guess I’m sort of committed now.

 This is my wife’s Ford F-150 with $1,543 dollars worth of plywood sitting in the back.  I actually purchased 17 sheets instead of the 14 sheets as specified by the plans.  I will be modifying the cockpit to sleep two teenagers and I might be adding another 1/2″ panel to the cockpit floor for increased rigidity.


This is all Okoume B.S. 1088 plywood, the best stuff on earth.  I’ve already spoken to the wood, explaining where we are headed and how I intend to use them most appropriately…for the construction of a Cruising Vessel.  I’ve agreed to be kind and not swear, they’ve agreed to take shape and act upstandingly.  I think we’re all going to get along just fine.

Boat Seduction

It happens.  You think you’re over it and then it happens again…the feeling comes out of no where.  It comes on slowly but continues to build.  You find yourself lying awake at night thinking about the differences between the boat you just built and another boat design.  You’re happy at first to just brood over the concept and quietly consider all the options.

Is there room in my life for two boats?  My wife thinks not, but is willing to listen.  Could I be happy with just one boat?  I doubt it.  Maybe I should be, but another design is calling my name.  Literally, the boat is choosing me.  What am I to do.  I can’t seem to run and I can’t seem to hide.

Then you start to become more vocal.  More open about this silent relationship going on in your mind.  You start to expound the merits of this new design.  Not that you’re selling or getting rid of your first love, but your mind opens up to consider yet another.

Would it be a sailboat?  No.  I have a very nice, simple, competent, versatile sailboat in Shackleton (my homebuilt Scamp).

Before I tell you what it will be, let me tell you what it won’t be.

It won’t be:

  1. A large displacement inboard motor.  I have friends who spend over $100/day to operate their ski boats with huge inboard motors.  Their fast, sexy and fun and expensive.  But this is not the path I choose to follow.
  2. Huge.  Like a pontoon boat or a trawler.
  3. Hard to launch.  No extended tongue, not even a long tongue.
  4. A sailboat conversion.  Why not just convert a used sailboat into a cruiser?  Well, I want a steering wheel, a forward and reverse lever and a full coverage bimini.
  5. Displacement hull.  I want the boat to plane for quicker crossings if the weather turns bad.  Top speeds around 25 mph.
  6. Heavy.  This design should be towable behind any size automobile.
  7. Hard to beach.  No shoal keel or skegs.
  8. Expensive.  Projected to cost $15,000 all in for boat, trailer, motor and full coverage bimini.

It will be:

  1. 25 hp Motor Cruiser Outboard.  Efficient, small displacement outboard are reliable, affordable and self draining requiring no winterization.  The 18 amp alternate keeps batteries and electronics charged.
  2. Fuel Efficient.  Sipping fuel at a consumption rate of 1.2g/h at cruising speeds of around 15 knots.
  3. Shallow Draft.  How about 5-6 inches?
  4. Easy to launch.  Flat bottom slips effortlessly off a trailer with rear roller (like a large drift boat).
  5. Simple Construction.  Okoume plywood optimized for strength to weight ratio.
  6. Light Weight.  Built like an airplane, light and agile.
  7. Capable of sleeping 4 (in a pinch).  Optimized for two, but modified to sleep four.
  8. Towable behind any car.  Can you say 500 lb. before motor, trailer and gear?
  9. Beachable.  No skegs to catch or centerboards to drag.  Pass through walk way to bow for convenient boarding straight onto the beach.
  10. Sun Protection.  Full coverage bimini with side curtains for extended cockpit living.
  11. Quick to plane.  Think long narrow skiff.  Always at plane even while sitting at the dock.  This extends the cruising speed options:  8-20 mph all possible.
  12. Storage.  More storage than your backpack, more sleeping area than your 2 man tent.
  13. Capable as extended cruiser.    Dreaming about the Great Loop?  I am.
  14. Easy to board from water, dock or beach.  
  15. Classic look.  Wooden, nice mix of bright work and paint.  Beautiful sheer line.
  16. Simple.  Intelligent design is stamped all over this boat.  The more I look at it, the more I love it.

Now, you might think all this is impossible to obtain.  I did, until I found this design.  Well, what is it?  What is it?  What is it?

(drum roll please………)

It’s the Skiff America 20

This beautiful little birdie is designed by Kilburn Adams.  I actually bought the plans about 2 years ago.  Why haven’t I built it yet you ask?  Well, because “I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces”.

I’ve actually tried to discredit this boat for about 2 years…saying it isn’t this or isn’t that, but I keep coming back to it and the more I look around the better this design looks to me.  There’s really nothing left to discredit…It all just makes perfect sense to me now.

So, will I build it.  I’m about 90% sure I will.  I need a little more time, but might begin screwing around with it within 30 days.  You know, acting like your not building it while you build stuff like the scarfing jig and the temporary bulkheads…stuff like that.

Stay tuned for more details….