Tag Archives: plywood

The virtues of a flat bottomed skiff

The virtues of a flat bottomed skiff

I think this is an impressive video that includes a couple of very nice ideas.

My little stitch and glue skiff designs – the 15ft 6in Julie, the 14ft Sunny and the 12ft Ella – are all ply, not ply with a planked bottom, but they will still have many of the important properties of these boats, including useful rowing characteristics. And the plans are all free…

Building a Connecticut-style outboard skiff

This, British chums, is how they build a flat-bottomed outboard skiff on the other side of the Atlantic.

I’m sorry about the odd layout, but it seems to be how the latest version of WordPress and Jetpack seems to be doing it – no doubt they’ll change it shortly as the revisions usually come pretty rapidly.

The Brits tend to believe that flatties don’t work as boats because there are so few in our boatbuilding and boat-using tradition, but it ain’t so. Admittedly the British coast is probably not the best place for a beamy flattie like this one, but it represents an easily built, inexpensive and affective model for more sheltered areas.

With a building method that involve using a Spanish windlass to form the stern, you might say it’s another fine example of how people elsewhere in the world do things in very different ways!

In fact, this is an example of the famous plywood Brockway skiff being built by – among others – Tim Visel, aquaculture coordinator at The Sound School at New Haven.

The Brockway skiff was in production at the Brockway Boat Works in the Floral Park section of Old Saybrook, Conneticut for more than half a century, and became popular on the Connecticut River, New England and the Chesapeake Bay.

In 1982, Mr. Earle Brockway agreed to have plans produced for the 16ft extra-wide version of the skiff to be used by US aid and Peace Corps efforts. I think this boat has a remarkable pedigree!

Plans for the Brockway skiff are available here, some additional material is here, and Google Images reveals some nice photos of finished boats here.

My thanks to Susan Weber and Tim Visel.

Mark Napier’s Julie skiff


In South Africa, Mark Napier has built a Julie skiff adapted for a sliding seat, and loves it! Here’s what he says:

‘Hi Gavin,

‘I built a rowing boat based on your Julie skiff design. I fitted it with a sliding seat and use it to troll for large mouth bass.

‘Being my first boat, I made a few mistakes. Fortunately, I discovered that my father has a friend who is on his fifth boat, so he gave me tips on local suppliers of decent epoxy and varnishes.

‘Stitch and glue is not big out here in South Africa. The epoxy supplier is nearby in Durban, luckily.

‘The boat has turned out really nicely. I made some minor changes to the foredeck and transom – I wanted to fit two sliding seats on the boat, but I realise now that that’s going to be tight for comfort.

‘I power it with a 2hp outboard as well, which works great, especially when I keep the weight well balanced. I wouldn’t mind getting a sneaker motor later.

‘We have the Albert Falls dam 15 minutes down the road – a wonderful setting. Good fishing too.

‘The sliding seat is just wonderful. I started rowing (sculling) last year, but was looking for something where I could include my two young daughters. I considered many designs, but settled on yours due to its simplicity. It is so awesome to row for brilliant exercise, to be stable in the boat and able to enjoy the scenery around us.

‘Many thanks for making your designs available to the public.

‘Kind regards,


The boat looks great and the lake is even better! What a handsome lake to have just 15 minutes from your home.

It’s great to see another Julie skiff on the water and to have a builder so pleased with the boat – Julie herself is delighted as well. I trust Mark realises those girls will likely need little boats of their own one day when the can swim well…

Plans for the Julie skiff, a lightweight and easy to build stitch and glue plywood skiff developed from traditional flat-bottomed skiff designs are available here. There is of course no need at all to have the complicated sliding seat arrangement if you don’t fancy it – for most of us a simple thwart, and oarlocks and oars will do nicely.

What’s more if you’d prefer a smaller boat, the Julie has sisters at 14ft and 12ft.

BBA students build a Whitehall rowing skiff


Boat Building Academy students Luke Cooper, Casey Milburn and Seby Rubatto built this 14ft 9in by 4ft Whitehall rowing skiff made of glued plywood this summer.

Luke, who is from Devizes, was 18 years old when he joined the academy and had just completed A levels – the story goes that he met BBA graduate Ian Thomson at the Southampton Boat Show and  immediately decided to sign up for the long course.

(Ian was at the show exhibiting his now well known Nestaway boats range of nesting boats, which he’d started to develop when he was on the 38-week BBA course.)

When Luke visited the academy for an interview before joining the course, he noticed a similar Whitehall skiff that 2010 season student Matt Cotterill was building at the time, and so Luke decided to build the same boat on his course. There’s a diary of Matt’s build here.

The boat itself was built from a Robert A Pittaway design obtained from the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, and appears in the book 87 Boat Designs – a Catalogue of Small Boat Plans from Mystic Seaport. The plan dates from 1973, and the original boat is said to be still in service at Mystic.

The book Aak to Zumbra- a Dictionary of the World’s Watercraft states that a Whitehall skiff was originally used on the Columbia River in the mid-19th century.

I gather Luke is pleased with the boat and plans to keep it as a rowing boat for himself and his family to use.

Before relocating to Lyme, Casey lived in Antibes in south-eastern France, raced Optimists and Lasers, and from the age of 15 began spending his holidays teaching sailing at Club Nautique D’Antibes.

He completed his Yachtmaster qualification at the age of 18, and then spent three years crewing on super yachts before attending at the BBA.

Casey has returned to France where he is working with friends developing a boat repairs and maintenance business.

Seby came to the BBA from Trieste in Italy – it was his first visit to the UK, and so he spent his time both learning boat building and improving his English. Seby has now returned to Italy and is looking forward to starting a career in boat building.

Shipwright John Owles warns against laying timber decks on plywood

Rotten timber from a timber on plywood deck - John Owles shipwright

Rotten stuff from the timber and plywood deck of Antares. Scary, isn’t it?

Cornwall shipwright John Owles has issued a stern warning against timber-on-plywood decks: the commonly-used technique of laying timber decks onto a plywood substrate is doomed to failure.

‘Have one or the other type of deck construction but do not mix the two,’ he says to anyone considering a big repair and restoration job.

John makes his point on a web page reporting on restoration work he did on Antares, a 55ft schooner that was in his yard a little while ago. Her decks consisted of teak planking reclaimed from an old steamer laid onto a plywood substrate and payed with a polysulphide rubber – and the result was widespread rot.

The choice is clear, he argues: if you want a traditional-looking deck then lay a proper traditional deck using fully dried timber. Otherwise lay an epoxy-glass sealed plywood deck and paint it with a two-pack polyurethane sprinkled with glass beads for grip.

With timber on ply decks, it is almost impossible to achieve a good seal, even when the substrate is coated with epoxy.

This is particularly true where fastenings pass through the timber planking and plywood: ‘When a hole is cut in plywood it exposes 360 degrees of end grain, so every layer is at risk of absorbing water.

‘When moisture is trapped in these mid-layers where there is no air circulation, it is impossible for it to dry out… creating an ideal climate for any spores to become active and so the risk of rot is ever present.’

In building a deck, try to avoid anything that allows hidden water to hang around, he adds, and keep your vessel very well ventilated, especially when left unattended.

See John’s website here: www.rovcom.co.uk

The first Oarmouse is launched

Oarmouse Pennant Oarmouse Pennant

 Oarmouse Pennant  with about 300 lbs

The first example of my Oarmouse rowing skiff has been built and launched by Fred Rodger in the USA, and I’m very pleased to see that it seems to work as intended, and for that reason I hope Intheboatshed.net readers will forgive me for posting a cheapo stitch and glue plywood boat on this weblog.

There’s a short video here: Oarmouse in action

I designed the Oarmouse some ten years ago at a time when I was particularly interested in developing a series of small boats that would enable those without money (like me) to get on the water for only a small outlay in money and time. My aim in this case was to create a light and quick little skiff with a good waterline length and small waterline beam that could be built from just two sheets of ply.

The long chines are intended to provide a bit of confidence-inspiring stability for beginning rowers, by the way, though the square-headed bows say little about the boat’s underwater lines, which are nice and easy.

Fred seems very pleased with the result: ‘My first impression is that it is a good and easy rower, very fast and responsive – with someone who can row well of course.’ He also reports that it refuses to hobby-horse as he leans to-and-fro during rowing.

By the way, the paint job is intended to be like a ship’s commissioning pennant. Fred also says the hull shape seemed to him to have traditional quality that he decided emphasised with the scallop along the gunwale cap, the rope handles, and the look of the outriggers. ‘Along with that, the Stars and Stripes are quite late Baroque in design (thinking Betsy Ross),’ he says. ‘I thought that went well with the overall scheme of things. On the other hand it could all be given space age appeal with a nice early 1960’s sensiblities informed by, say the music of the Ventures.’

One thing I would say is that Oarmouse requires a skeg, and I’m pleased to report that Fred has already started work on adding it. I’m also not sure whether the oar length is right – Chris Partridge of Rowing for Pleasure will likely have views on the matter.

This little boat won’t perform like the boats the professionals use to practise, but it can certainly be made very cheaply, and will be considerably quicker and lighter than a flattie skiff of the same length. Bags of fun, I say… Click on the image below to get the free boat plans.

oarmouse plans

Christine DeMerchant builds an Apple Pie plywood and epoxy dinghy

Christine DeMerchant builds Chuck Merrell's Applie Pie dinghy

Christine DeMerchant builds Chuck Merrell's Applie Pie plywood dinghy

Christine DeMerchant is having a great time building an Apple Pie plywood and epoxy dinghy from plans drawn up by Chuck Merrell. The aim is to use it as a tender to her sailing cruiser.

Follow her progress here. The plans she’s working from are here, and there’s a nice article explaining how Chuck came to draw the plans here. Merry Christmas everyone – and if you read the last link, you’ll know why I say that.

The Apple Pie is about as small as a boat can go and still be useful, and I think it makes a great quick get-afloat summer project; a couple of winters ago I suggested it would also make a good mid-winter kitchen-table kind of project.

Either way, if you haven’t yet taken the plunge and built your own boat, and don’t know if it’s an activity you would enjoy, this could be the way to go.

PS – Check Christine’s message in the Comments link below. She has completed and launched the boat, and is as pleased as punch with it. There’s a YouTube clip showing just how well it works.