Some boats at the Barton HBBR meet

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A traditional ‘Welsh woman’ style wherry burgee on a shed at Barton Turf
catches the evening sun. Click on the images for larger shots

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HBBR member Wayne Oliver’s boat built to Conrad Natzio’s Oystercatcher
design and fitted with deadeyes, shrouds and other entertaining features

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Chris Perkins perfect little Stangarra built to Iain Oughtred’s Stickleback plans
was deservedly very popular – here it is paddled by Ewan Ryan-Atkin and
HBBR member Peter Nobes

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Tim O’Connor’s Iain Oughtred designed Acorn skiff named Ardilla

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Mark Harvey sails his father’s Goat Island skiff built to plans from Michael Storer

Nearly two weeks ago now we finally met the Home Built Boat Rally folks at their annual meet at the Barton Turf Adventure Centre. The images above are just a small selection of photos – so I’m sorry if anyone’s upset at being left out!

I’ll say a little more about the Barton Centre in a moment, but first I’d like to talk about the HBBR and its members. I’ve been a member of its Yahoo Group and publicised its website and events almost since Alec Jordan of Jordan Boats first floated the idea, but life’s usual complications have prevented us from attending any of their events.

Having met the HBBR group, I’m glad to be able to report that in real life they turn out to be a jolly bunch whose members cover the spectrum that ranges from boating enthusiasts who happen to have made their own boat at one end to perfectionist boatbuilding enthusiasts who are only now getting into boating – or maybe never will. The HBBR is a broad church, but it’s also one that has fun.

Julie and I rolled up together with my two teenagers Ella and Ewan, played with the boats and took photos – and my kids enjoyed themselves so much that they want to attend again next year, even though teens are usually allergic to any group  made up mainly of blokes of their father’s age.

As I write many of the Home Built Boat Rally folks are currently making their way from Lechlade in Oxfordshire down to Pangbourne for the Beale Park Thames Boat Show. I hope the weather holds for them, and that their nights are reasonably comfortable!

On the Barton Turf Adventure Centre, I’d like to say that Ella and Ewan had a superb week’s sailing tuition on Barton Broad while we stayed in our caravan and tents on the site, and Julie and I alternately sailed and went sight-seeing. The fact that we could camp made the cost of the course affordable, and the Fishwick family who largely run the place couldn’t have been more kind and helpful during our stay.

As well as sailing tuition, the Barton Centre caters for groups involved in boating, ecology and nature study and it’s difficult to imagine a better place for these activities. It’s certainly an excellent base for small boat sailing. Click here to get to the BTAC website.


Two happy teens: Ewan and Ella Ryan Atkin at the end of a busy
week’s sailing tuition at Barton Turf Adventure Centre

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14ft flattie skiff Sunny – new free boat plans from Gavin Atkin in the making

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Sunny skiff – as usual, click on the thumbnail for a
larger and more useful image

We’ve worked hard this weekend, what with the shopping, the boat maintenance and the gardening. But in response to one or two requests, I did manage to find a few hours to start work drawing up a little 14ft skiff for those who find the Julie skiff too large and the 12ft Ella skiff too small.

Julie is my wife and Ella is my daughter, so this one’s named after my dear mother, Sunny – she was almost always known by this name, though the name on her birth certificate was the much more exotic Sunya.

Anyway, if you’re interested in a quick and simple stitch and glue flattie skiff in the style of the Ella and the Julie but at 14ft, keep your eyes on!

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Free plans for the Ella skiff now online and available to download

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12ft length overall by 4ft beam, by 400lbs displacement, designed for stitch and glue construction using 1/4in or 3/8in 4ft by 8ft plywood

If you build this boat PLEASE send me a report about how the project went and how it works on the water, together with photos! I’m at, and will usually be available to  provide online advice.

At last I’ve managed to find a few hours to make up a plans package! I hope it was worth the wait. In a mass of material like this there will no doubt be an error or two, so if you find any, please let me know and I’ll put them right.

For previous posts on the development of this little boat, click here and here.

From the notes:

The Ella skiff as laid out in these plans is a lightweight general purpose stitch and glue flattie skiff for use in sheltered waters with no strong currents or tides. It is not suitable for use on the sea or in hazardous waters.

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.

Like this boat? Send your comments to me at

The boat is designed with rowing primarily in mind, though it could also be used with a VERY small outboard of NO MORE than 2hp. Too many accidents take place because outboards of the wrong size have been used, and far too many of these are fatal. If a small outboard is to be used, the transom should be doubled to ensure it can support the weight of the engine.

The name came from my daughter, who has taken rather a shine to the boat – readers of will find photos of a model she has made.

Compared with the Julie skiff, the form of a boat like this must be strongly influenced by the need to work in a decent amount of displacement into a shorter hull, as anyone who compares the lines drawings of the two boats will quickly see. The Ella skiff is therefore a more curvy boat than her big sister, but I hope that her more jaunty sheerline lends a certain cuteness people will like. The stem is angled somewhat in order to turn splashes and ripples downward, for I know that dryness is an important part of comfort in small craft, especially for those unused to boating.

Sailing enthusiasts will note that I have not drawn any details for a sailing version of this boat and I would prefer that no builder should add a sailing rig to this bare design. Boats like this should not be converted for sailing without serious thought about the safety and construction issues.

However, my daughter has asked me to develop a sailing version for her, and at some point I intend to do so. The design for this boat will feature a good amount of built-in bouyancy for safety, will be half-decked, and will probably have a balanced lug rig for ease of sailing.

This boat has been designed by an amateur with no qualifications in boat design or boatbuilding and should be regarded as experimental. The designer accepts no liability for any loss or accident that may result from following these instructions or plans or from any loss or accident that may follow from using this boat.

Click here to download the latest version of the free Ella skiff plans.

PS If you’re looking for a longer, sleeker but equally easy to build rowing skiff, click here.

PPS There’s now a 14ft version, the Sunny skiff. Click here.

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.