Poole canoes – the motorised flat-bottomed skiffs of Poole Harbour

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Poole canoes, photographed by John Lockwood

Home Built Boat Rally UK (HBBR) member John Lockwood has sent me these photos of a British Isles flattie I hadn’t known about until recently: the oddly-named Poole canoe.

The British Isles aren’t generally thought of as the home of flat-bottomed boats, and I can’t tell you how often I have told me that a flat-bottomed boat can’t work. And yet, there are quite a few around our inland waters and even on our coasts, including the turf boats and flatners of Somerset, the punts of the Rivers Thames and Cam, various gun punts, the Fleet trow and the Wexford cot. And, of course, going up-scale a range of lighters and coastal barge types including the celebrated Thames barge have flat bottoms.

So I was pleased a few weeks ago to learn of the Poole canoe a few weeks ago, and I’m now grateful to John for capturing these slender flattie skiffs with his camera before the original wooden boats disappear. I have the impression that they range up to around 22ft by 4ft or a little over. Thanks for the informative shots John!

A message from ‘Tranona’ on the PBO forum suggests that the boats built in the area for use in Poole Harbour were built by eye – and that British Seagull proprieter Mr Weyhope spent years experimenting to get the best speed out of the boats driven by a Seagull 102 model, which I’d guess was a 2hp type. Looking at the boats in these pictures, they mostly have the small amount of rocker I would expect for a low powered boat, though one or two seem to have rather flatter runs, which would suggest they were intended for a bigger power plant.

In this connection, some weeks ago I put up a post linking to an online ad in which someone was selling an old Seagull outboard still in its original packaging, and accompanied by a set of drawings for building a flat-bottomed skiff, which I suppose is likely to be one of Mr Weyhope’s designs. I’ve posted a tiny thumbnail of the drawings at the bottom of this post, and although it only affords a little information there seems little doubt that the ‘20ft trunnel boat‘ it presents is a Poole canoe, or something very like it.

I must say that I’m particularly interested in these boats at the moment, as they are so similar to a design project I’ve been working on for a friend for some time, and I can’t help feeling that they’re a kind of endorsement of the basic idea.

My project is a little different – my ‘client’ wanted a flat-bottomed design he could build in his garage and that would work with a 4-5hp motor rather than Mr Weyhope’s 2hp model – but the drawings I made before I’d even heard of the Poole canoe seem very like the South Coast boats. See my initial drawings here.

I plan to complete them as soon as I can decide whether the end of the prop should be inside or outside the transom when raised – I notice that the long wells seen in most of these photos imply that the prop is inside the well when the motor is raised – and yet I wouldn’t want to find a flailing prop in my well after hitting an underwater obstruction. Does anyone have any insights on this question?

By the way, I gather GRP Poole canoes are still made for fishermen by Salterns and that the yard has developed a higher powered 22ft model designed for sun bathing, fishing and exploring Poole Harbour, and powered by a 30hp electric start outboard. It even comes with a sun deck, picnic table, cool box, navigation lights, fishing rod holders, a tray in the stern for ring netting and flush decks. All of that seems a long way from the boats in the photos!

Thanks for the shots John!

Brand new British Seagull for sale

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Down in New Zealand someone’s selling an unused British Seagull outboard bought in 1971 but still in its box. I haven’t seen one of those for a while!

I’ve always liked the jolly logo of a matelot casually swinging an outboard in one hand, even if I’ve never actually seen anyone managing the trick of looking so relaxed while carrying an outboard of any make.

See details of the item for sale here: http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=250349313

Apparently it comes with a set of dye-line drawings for a 20ft British Seagull trunnel boat – and from the illustration this is a basic but good-shaped flat bottomed skiff with the outboard in a well.

Does anyone know any more about this boat please?

Thanks to Paul Mullings for pointing this out.

Read more about Seagull outboards at the British Seagull website.

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New low-power skiff sketches and model drawings

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New sketch for intheboatshed.net 470

Low-power skiff, at 24 Oct 2009

Working on the low-power skiff I’m drawing for my friend (who wisely chooses to be anonymous) today: 15ft 4in by 4ft 8in, intended for 4-5hp.

Please let me know if your interested using the comment link below, or even if you can see some fatal flaw before it’s too late!!! Be aware that this isn’t meant to be a planing hull – at this power (specified by my ‘customer’) a semi-planing hull form seems a more sensible option. It was his low-power specification that has made the project interesting, and worth the several days I’ve spent on it – I think we need more designs to be created specifically to meet the needs of the expensive oil era.

It would be great if a few builders were to make use of the plans once they are complete. For now however, we have the wherewithal to make a model – which will hopefully keep some of you interested.

The drawings to make a model of this little skiff are in the pdf files below:

Model parts skiff part 1 200910

Model parts skiff part 2 200910

The main frames – frames nos 1,2 and 3 align with the lines marked on the chines. The positions of all other framing, seating and decking components are defined by cut-outs on the main frames, fore and aft lengths of thwartsm decking and chine line.

Full-size plans are to follow. I’m thinking about a small cuddy or shelter, btw.

See the latest posts on this project.

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