Tag Archives: norman fuller

Norman Fuller’s Ella skiff at the 2010 HHBR meet at Barton Turf

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Rowing for Pleasure weblogger Chris Partridge and Norman Fuller demonstrate the Ella skiff under oars and with an electric outboard.

Norman brought his Ella to the 2010 HBBR meeting at Barton Turf, and quite a few of us had some fun with it. These clips show Chris putting the little boat through her paces, while Norman demonstrates the outboard, which is a 12lb model that he has set up with control lines.

Free plans for the Ella skiff can be found on the Free boat plans page of this website – you’ll find a link to the free plans page right at the top of this page.

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We try the rowing version of the Ella stitch and glue skiff at Barton

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Ella rows the Ella skiff; Norman rows his new boat; the designer has a go and, finally, my son Ewan takes her out for an electric spin

Norman Fuller took his rowing skiff Ella to this year’s Home Built Boat Rally event at Barton Turf Activity Centre, which gave us an opportunity to meet him and to try out his new boat built to my Ella design.

Norman turned out to be a charming and entertaining chap, and he has clearly caught the boatbuilding bug – having built the Ella skiff, he says, he’ll definitely be building more boats.

Like the design itself, the Ella is named after my daughter Ella, and turned out to be a cute and simple little skiff, just as the drawings in the free boatbuilding plans package promised – download the plans here.

The human Ella isn’t really a rower (although she’s a keen and able dinghy sailor) but has been charmed by the idea that a boat should be named after her, and was very pleased to be able to have a go.

When it was my turn to try the little skiff I was pleased to find she was easy and light under oars – not exactly effortless, but something that even a sedentary desk-jockey like me could expect to be able to row all day. You can’t say that of many 12ft flatties including those based on old-fashioned small American skiffs as this one is, but this boat was drawn with a narrowish beam of 4ft to ensure it would be as good a rower as it could be.

One thing about the event made me a little nervous, however – rowing enthusiast Chris Partridge was on hand. Like most of the journalist tribe Chris is usually pretty clear in his opinions, and is known to be generally unenthusiastic about flatties, so naturally I was a little nervous – what might the author of Rowing for Pleasure have to say to readers and other HBBRers about the Ella design?

In the event, he climbed in, sat down and casually made the little boat fly for a while while we all watched in anticipation. Things looked promising, but my fingers remained crossed.

Finally, though, I was relieved when he returned to the bank with the demeanour of a man who had just had a pleasant surprise and simply said ‘You can get quite a good lick out of her.’

That’ll do, I thought!

I’ve got some video of Chris rowing the Ella to put up when I get a chance to edit it. In the meantime, interested readers can see what he says about the boat on his weblog.

Builder Norman recently managed to pick up a 12lb-thrust electric outboard for £30 at a sale, and so later in the afternoon we had some fun with that. It isn’t quick – it glides around at maybe a couple of knots – but Norman told me this was the second afternoon’s use he’d had out of a single charge.

I should add that I’ve drawn two similar skiffs at 14ft (the Sunny) and 15ft 7in (the Julie) which should be even better, though I’d argue that the 12ft Ella would be a good first stitch-and-glue boatbuilding project for anybody, and one that few would regret building.

Another exciting development is that the first boat built to the sailing version plans is currently in build in the USA – and Ella and I are very keen to see photos of that one!

This boat is designed to be built using the stitch and glue technique – if you haven’t done this before you might be interested in my book Ultrasimple Boat Building: 17 Plywood Boats Anyone Can Build Sunny skiff 14ft plywood flattie plans or one of the other books on this topic available from Amazon Sunny skiff 14ft plywood flattie plans.

Norman Fuller launches his Ella plywood skiff built to free plans – and it’s a success!


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Norman Fuller has launched his Ella skiff built using free boat plans from this website – and has pronounced it a success.

He launched the boat on Wroxham Broad, not far from his home in Norwich. Here’s what he had to say about the project when he emailed me late last evening:

‘Hi Gavin, after a slow start I finally got under way, having not been on the water for many many years.

‘Once I sorted the collars on the oars, worked out where they needed to fit and then nailed them in place, the Ella skiff performed very well. As you see I left the forward hatch open because thats where I kept the nails and hammer.

‘The boat’s very easy to handle and I think the skeg was doing it’s job, as I found I could row in a straight line, which could be some sort of indication the bottom is not skidding.

‘Only one was a little bit awkward, and that is the angle of the rowlock’s. I set them in the gapped inwale following the line of the side of the boat, but they need to be more upright, so I think I will change them. My friend Jenny was so proud of what I had done she took me for a carvery, not bad eh?

‘Till next time!

‘Norman’

From the pictures, I think the problem you had with the rowlocks is that they could be higher – the choice is between lowering the thwart and raising the rowlocks, or both.

I’d start by screwing a 4-6in by 1 1/2in by 1 1/2in block with chamfered ends onto the gunwale for the rowlock to fit into. It’s easy to do, you see it done very often, and when the block wears you can replace it. Small people and kids won’t need them, but I should add these blocks to the plans. Here’s an example of how it would work; and here’s another from intheboatshed.net reader David Luckhardt.

The Ella skiff is a lightweight general purpose stitch and glue flattie skiff for use in sheltered waters. She’s 12ft long overall by 4ft beam, by 400lbs displacement, and is designed for stitch and glue construction using 1/4in or 3/8in 4ft by 8ft plywood. It is meant to be a simple and quick stitch and glue building job of a size that is convenient for building in domestic garages made to take a small to medium-sized car – which probably describes the building area available to most people. For more on this boat and the plans, click here.