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 or one of the other books on this topic available from Amazon.
3 thoughts on “We try the rowing version of the Ella stitch and glue skiff at Barton”
Mr. Atkin, I think there's a flattie in my future and I'm currently debating construction techniques, mainly Gardner's traditional vs stitch and glue.
Ella looks like a great deal of fun. The ones you've shown us so far look great.
A question that's probably answered in your book (ordered, but not yet received)…
I see mention of glass seam taping in the doc file that accompanies the Ella plans. Are these boats (Ella, Sunny, Julie) also sheathed with glass? (interior, exterior, both?)
I'm delighted to hear you're interested in this design. The plans define the panels that create the forms of these boats, and the key structural issues, but don't stipulate which variants of stitch and glue should be used; I'd certainly consider sheathing the outside and any area likely to come in contact with footwear – but that's all. Stitch and glue is quick and easy and can make a nice boat with care – the traditional route is I'm sure better for those of us who are good woodworkers, which I'm not!
Before you commit to a set of plans I would also advocate looking at the displacement figures and other dimensions and considering your needs. The Ella is the only one of the three that I'd consider is truly car-toppable and it's a narrow, fine-ended little boat that rows well for its size and type. However, these are not the characteristics of a boat for carrying loads – if you need a tender, for example, you'll need a different set of plans. Have fun, and do please keep in touch if you choose to build one of my designs.
Where's that video then?
(They're getting restless in the cheap seats)