Tag Archives: skiff

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.

Sharpies and a skiff up for auction at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

sharpie 1


sharpie 2 sharpie 3 sharpie 4

sharpie 6 sharpie 5


An email from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has reminded me just how much boat types vary around the world – and it has to be said that the contrast between the form of the curvacious-lined and heavily built Whitstable oyster smack Emeline and the sharpies of the East Coast of America, also often used for oystering, could hardly be greater – as the shots above show.

The photos from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum depict a series of boats given to the museum for sell for fundraising.

Apart from the 34ft sharpie and the 20ft Chesapeake sharpie shown at the top of this post, there’s also an example of RD Culler’s Good Little Skiff design up for sale, and an example of L Francis Herreshoff’s widely admired Rozinante design canoe yawl. These too are very unlike the general run of British boats – we do have our own small flatties, but there aren’t many of them and we don’t generally think of flat bottomed boats as being desirable.

It’s worth checking out the geography of the Chesapeake area to get a sense of the waters for which some of these boats were developed.

There’s a lot of other stuff up for sale by the museum – the auction is to be held on the 31st August, and the boats for sale by the museum are listed here.

Good little skiff 1 Good little skiff 3 Good little skiff 2

Good Little Skiff 

Rozinante 3 Rozinante 2 Rozinante 1



A classic flattie skiff on the river Vilaine, Brittany


Here are a few shots taken from the water of what seemed to me to be a classic small working skiff built from what looks like solid timber we sighted on the river Vilaine in Brittany while on holiday a few weeks ago.

It’s crude, heavy, basic and all the rest, but its interest lies in the fact that in England, just across the Channel from Brittany, we don’t really have boats like this – to the extent we often think of them as being exclusively North American boats, thanks to the work of American language authors writing in English such as Howard Irving Chappelle.

But I’m pretty sure the American models, some elegant, light and nicely made and some heavy workhorses, some called just skiff or maybe sharpie skiff, flat iron skiff or flattie skiff or a range of other names, must have developed from European craft like this one.

PS – In answer to Doryman Mike Bogoger’s query in the comments below, here are two photos of the interior of a somewhat different boat local to the same area as the skiff above. These are used for tending mussel beds etc in the Vilaine estuary. I don’t know how closely these boats are related, but I think their construction is broadly similar.


Video: The Sea Bright skiff – working on the Jersey Shore

Seabright skiff building

Here’s a charming half-hour film about fishermen and traditional boat builders working with Sea Bright skiffs – and if you’re patient it comes with some very nice music on the melodeon, or accordion, if that’s what you like to call it, starting at about 14.40 minutes. If anyone knows what it’s called, I’d like to track it down.

While we’re at it, this shorter clip about a pirogue maker in Louisiana working with an adze is pretty good too. Is that a fretless banjo in the background? And who is that singer? Finally – here’s a video about the Cajuns by Alan Lomax. It’s not about boats, but you do get some real culture round here, doncha?

Thanks to Thomas Armstrong of 70.8% for pointing out the Sea Bright skiff video on Facebook.

Scottish Coastal Rowing – a reminder


St Ayles skiffs Scottish Coastal Rowing

St Ayles Skiff Coigach Lass beating Ulla in the Ladies Open at the Loch Broom Sailing Club regatta. My thanks to Chris Perkins for use of this photo

Who’s having big fun this summer? All of you, I hope, but most of all I’m quite sure the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association folks are having a riot!

I’ve been meaning to write another post about the SCRA for a little while, but have been distracted by all sorts of busy-ness – with the result that a lot of people have beaten me to it. So this is just a short post designed to serve as a reminder that this project to create a new class of rowing racing around the coast of Scotland is proving amazingly successful with races taking place at Portsoy and at Eyemouth.

Apart from the main association website, photos and information can be found at:

PS – I’d also like to draw readers’ attention to Osbert Lancaster’s thoughtful and informative comment below. It’s well worth a look. Thanks Osbert!

Scottish Coastal Rowing Project grows to 19 St Ayles skiff boatbuilding projects


st ayles, skiff, iain oughtred, rowing, scottish coastal rowing, alec jordan, jordan boats, plywood boats, boat kit

Rowers trying out the original St Ayles skiff at Eyemouth last weekend

Alec Jordan of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project tells me that he received the 19th order for a St Ayles skiff kit this week.

Nineteen St Ayles skiff building projects in less than a year reflects a fantastic explosion of interest in the SCRP project since it began. See my post about legendary small boat designer Iain Oughtred drawing the plans for the St Ayles skiff for the Scottish Coastal Rowers here: Iain Oughtred draws the boat that will bring coastal rowing races back to Scotland. It appeared only in July last year!

Alec, whose business Jordan Boats makes up the kits, says that planning is well underway for the first regatta at Anstruther on 29 May, and that seven or eight completed boats are expected to be ready and on the water for the event.

He’s careful to observe that some of the teams won’t have had much time to practise rowing by that time and  however, and suggests the standard of the rowing should be a little bit higher by the time of the Portsoy Festival four weeks later, when there may be even more of the new boats competing.

Other news this week is that the first official women’s crew from Anstruther will have had its first practice.

A particularly striking development is that I gather there have even been expressions of interest in the SCRP from south of the border with England

st ayles, skiff, iain oughtred, rowing, scottish coastal rowing, alec jordan, jordan boats, plywood boats, boat kit st ayles, skiff, iain oughtred, rowing, scottish coastal rowing, alec jordan, jordan boats, plywood boats, boat kit

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