The designs don’t require lots of muscle from the power plant, which translates into a lower purchase price and lower costs for fuel over the lifetime of the boat. Both attributes are practical and trace back to workboat roots, placing more emphasis on economy of operation than on speed. The boats are often lumped together as skiffs, but some builders object to that catch-all designation, saying it doesn’t do the boats justice.
Regardless of what you call them, these workboat-derived small craft are popular among those who like the salty looks, seakeeping ability and fuel efficiency of a traditional design. Averaging 12 to 26 feet, the traditional workboat skiffs are a practical, all-around alternative to more specialized bay or flats boats for fishing or simply messing about with the family for the day. Here’s a look at eight noteworthy models:
Eastern 18 Classic
Milton, N.H.-based Eastern Boats produces a range of models from 18 to 27 feet. It began production in 1981 with its 18-foot Classic, and the boat is still going strong. The Royal Lowell design has plenty of freeboard for an added feeling of safety in the cockpit, and the round chine, full-keel fiberglass hull is rugged and seaworthy. The company uses Nida-Core construction for the deck and transom to give high-load areas extra strength.
The boat’s standard features include a stainless-steel destroyer wheel at the sport console with Teleflex rotary steering, a self-bailing inner liner and V-berth seating. The 28-gallon fuel tank and fuel filter/water separator assure good range and reliability for the recommended 90-hp outboard. The company offers many options, including a swing-back storage seat, 94-quart cooler seat with brackets and cushion, bow dodger, and flush-mounted stainless-steel rod holders. www.easternboats.com
Tom Hill is well known among amateur wooden-boat builders who have used his plans to build a variety of small craft, including canoes, dories and skiffs. Hill, author of “Ultralight Boatbuilding” from International Marine, designed the flat-bottom Long Point skiff for use on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod Bay, in the shallows and coastal waters.
At a little less than 16 feet, the boat has high sides and a tall bow for added seaworthiness. Its 1-1/2-inch-thick bottom prevents oil canning in chop, and its weight enhances stability. Hill recommends a 15-hp Honda (long shaft), and he cautions against overpowering the boat. The 15-hp outboard drives the skiff along comfortably at 20 knots in the right water.
The topsides are constructed of glued lapstrake plywood, and the garboards (lower planks) are quite wide, facilitating the building process. Plans from Thomas J. Hill Design Build, Burlington, Vt., sell for $75. Hill estimates that a quality built and equipped skiff will cost roughly $13,000. www.thomasjhillboatdesigns.com
Lumber Yard Skiff
Designed for shallow, protected waters, the flat-bottom Lumber Yard Skiff is available from Walter Baron, owner of Old Wharf Dory Company in Wellfleet, Mass., as either a bare hull or a turnkey boat. He also sells plans for $50. These 12-, 16-, and 20-foot plywood boats (based on the Brockway skiffs) are simple, rugged and easy to build. The 16-footer requires just three sheets of 8-foot meranti plywood, and Baron says he can finish a bare hull in about 40 hours.
A tricked out 16-footer would come equipped with flotation, a short foredeck, side decks, interior coaming, a center console, cedar floorboards, and a fiberglass-sheathed exterior hull. The skiff would run about $9,000 without the recommended 25- to 30-hp outboard. www.oldwharf.com
Like the West Point Skiff, the diesel-powered Pulsifer Hampton is built using traditional strip planking construction with native white pine, oak and cedar custom-sawn and dried at the shop. Dick Pulsifer, owner of Richard S. Pulsifer, Boat Builder in Brunswick, Maine, chooses bronze, Monel and stainless-steel fasteners to assemble the 22-foot hull, and a 29-hp Yanmar 3YM30 to spin the big, four-bladed wheel. At a cruising speed of 8 to 10 knots, the engine burns about a half-gallon of fuel per hour.
The boat is built to take on open waters, within reason. The 42-inch-high freeboard forward and sharp entry to cut through waves help keep the helmsman at the center console dry, and the deep keel running aft to a depth of 2-1/2 feet enhances stability and tracking.
The boat won’t plane, Pulsifer says, but it’s quiet when under way. “There are many lovely little boats that are beautiful in protected waters that you wouldn’t take offshore. They’re not sea boats, but these are,” he says. www.pulsiferhampton.com
Seaway Boats started back in the 1970s with a traditional lobster boat, appropriate for a company from Maine. Over the years, it has expanded its product line to boats up to 29 feet, including three versions of the Seaway Skiff, the 13, 16 and the 20. These fiberglass boats are built with high sides and ample beam for load-carrying capacity, and they are available as a bare skiff or fitted out with a variety of optional features.
The Seaway 20 has a fine entry and flattens aft for better stability and handling, whereas the 16 is flat-bottomed and more at home in protected waters. Options for the Seaway 20 include storage seats, center console steering, casting platforms and leaning posts. www.seawayboats.com
Southport Handy Billy 21
The Handy Billy 21’s roots date to the early part of the last century, when designer William Hand dreamed up vee-bottom skiffs for use in the stiff seas of Massachusetts’ Buzzards Bay. Hand wanted a boat with a tall, easy entry and moderate beam narrowing at the transom to provide seaworthiness and efficient handling at low and medium speeds. Designer Harry Bryan took the best from Hand and incorporated it into the center console Handy Billy 21 in 1998. Southport Island Marine in Southport, Maine, began building it in fiberglass in 2007.
“It’s a sensible design — handsome, quiet and remarkably fast with only a 30-hp outboard. The boat bucks the trend of overpowered boats,” says Southport’s Douglas Goldhirsch.
The Tohatsu 4-stroke is situated in a compartment aft with a foam-cored top to deaden engine noise. The builder uses vinylester resin in laying up the foam-cored hull, and vacuum bagging assures quality. www.southportislandmarine.com
West Pointer 18
Six River Marine in North Yarmouth, Maine, builds the West Pointer 18, not to be confused with the West Point Skiff. The hull design is typical of the Down East-style workboats built a century ago and also is available in a 22-foot version. Standard features include non-skid decks, center console, wiring for running lights and the bilge pump, and PVC rub and spray rails. Options include helm and console seating, integral fuel tank and dodger, among others. The boats are custom-built to order and have a high level of finish to maximize aesthetics and reduce routine maintenance.
The builder uses the cold-molded process, keeping weight down without compromising on strength. Layers of cedar veneer are formed over the mold and epoxied, then vacuum bagged. When complete, the West Pointer’s hull is a rigid, one-piece wood structure. The skiff will easily plane when equipped with the recommended 50-hp outboard. www.sixrivermarine.com
West Point Skiff
Nichols Boat Builder in Phippsburg, Maine, is a one-man shop run by builder Richard Nichols, who uses traditional strip planking construction with custom-sawn native white pine and oak for his 16-, 18-, and 20-foot West Point Skiffs. Details matter to Nichols, so it can take about three months to complete an 18-footer. The bronze fasteners and steam-bent, quarter-sawn oak frames are hallmarks of traditional wooden-boat building. The optional bronze steering wheel for the Teleflex steering system is a salty touch.
The 18- and 20-footers are most popular. All models have a vee-entry and bottoms that flatten aft, providing stability and allowing for modest power. “This boat will get you home,” Nichols says. www.westpointskiff.com
|ELLIS 20 OPEN FISHERMAN
LOA: 20 feet, 2 inches BEAM: 7 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 11 inches HULL: fiberglass WEIGHT: 1,200 pounds POWER: 75- to 90-hp outboard FUEL TANK: 25 gallons CRUISING SPEED: 12 to 20 knots PRICE: $26,500 (without power) CONTACT: Ellis Boat Co., Southwest Harbor, Maine. Phone: (207) 244 9221. www.ellisboat.com
EASTERN 18 CLASSIC
LOA: 18 feet, 3 inches BEAM: 6 feet, 8 inches DRAFT: 12 inches HULL: fiberglass PERSONS: 7 adults MAXIMUM PAYLOAD: 1,675 pounds WEIGHT: 1,225 pounds POWER: 90-hp outboard FUEL TANK: 28 gallons CRUISING SPEED: 24 knots PRICE: $15,500 (without power) CONTACT: Eastern Boats, Milton, N.H. Phone: (603) 652-9213. www.easternboats.com
LOA: 15 feet, 10 inches BEAM: 5 feet, 2 inches DRAFT: 8 inches HULL: glued plywood lapstrake construction PERSONS: 2 adults MAXIMUM PAYLOAD: 400 pounds WEIGHT: 400 pounds POWER: 15-hp outboard CRUISING SPEED: 15 to 20 knots PLANS: $75 CONTACT: Thomas J. Hill Design Build, Burlington, Vt. Phone: (802) 658-9150. www.thomasjhillboatdesigns.com
LUMBER YARD SKIFF
LOA: 15 feet, 4 inches BEAM: 6 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 6 inches HULL: meranti plywood PERSONS: 6 adults MAXIMUM PAYLOAD: 1,000 pounds WEIGHT: 400 pounds POWER: 25- to 30-hp outboard CRUISING SPEED: 15 to 17 knots PRICE: $3,250 CONTACT: Old Wharf Dory Company, Wellfleet, Mass. Phone: (508) 349-2383. www.oldwharf.com
LOA: 22 feet BEAM: 6 feet, 8 inches DRAFT: 11 inches forward; 2 feet, 4 inches aft HULL: white pine, strip-plank construction PERSONS: 6 adults MAXIMUM PAYLOAD: 1,000 pounds WEIGHT: 2,200 pounds POWER: 29-hp diesel (Yanmar 3YM30) FUEL TANK: 18 gallons CRUISING SPEED: 8 to 10 knots PRICE: $46,250 CONTACT: Richard S. Pulsifer, Boat Builder, Brunswick, Maine. Phone: (207) 725-5457. www.pulsiferhampton.com
LOA: 19 feet, 10 inches BEAM: 8 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 6 inches HULL: fiberglass PERSONS: 6 adults MAXIMUM PAYLOAD: 1,880 pounds WEIGHT: 1,500 pounds POWER: 75-hp outboard CRUISING SPEED: 25 knots PRICE: $9,943 (without power) CONTACT: Seaway Boats, Oxford, Maine. Phone: (207) 539-8116. www.seawayboats.com
SOUTHPORT HANDY BILLY 21
LOA: 21 feet BEAM: 5 feet, 10 inches DRAFT: 13 inches HULL: fiberglass PERSONS: 8 adults MAXIMUM PAYLOAD: 1,200 pounds WEIGHT: 1,400 pounds POWER: 30-hp outboard FUEL TANK: 20 gallons CRUISING SPEED: 15 knots PRICE: $35,000 (with 30-hp Tohatsu 4-stroke) CONTACT: Southport Island Marine, Southport, Maine. Phone: (207) 633-6009. www.southportislandmarine.com
WEST POINTER 18
LOA: 18 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 7 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 7 inches HULL: cold-molded wood veneers PERSONS: 8 adults MAXIMUM PAYLOAD: 1,722 pounds WEIGHT: 1,100 pounds POWER: 50-hp outboard CRUISING SPEED: 30 knots PRICE: $65,000 (without power) CONTACT: Six River Marine, North Yarmouth, Maine. Phone: (207) 846-6675. www.sixrivermarine.com
WEST POINT SKIFF
LOA: 18 feet BEAM: 7 feet DRAFT: 8 inches HULL: pine strip, edge-nailed PERSONS: 8 adults MAXIMUM PAYLOAD: 1,700 pounds WEIGHT: 1,100 pounds POWER: 40-hp outboard CRUISING SPEED: 15 knots PRICE: $17,500 (without power) CONTACT: Nichols Boat Builder, Phippsburg, Maine. Phone: (207) 389-2468. www.westpointskiff.com