This is my third year sailing my Uncle John's skiff.  I built the 12 foot version with two row stations over 3 months of winter.  I also built oars and paddles from closet rod and scrap plywood.  The cost of the boat minus the rowing and sailing bits was about $300.   My largest sail cost $5 for make.  All of the accessories added about another $100 to the overall cost. 

I built my skiff with 2 row stations intending to use it as primarily as a row boat However, the instructions on making a sail was too hard to ignore. I made a movable lee board thwart to find the proper sailing position to give slight weather helm.  This was found to be just in front of the forward thwart.  I then built the dagger board slot halfway into the seat and against the thwart for good structural support.   The mast step is a 2x4 with a 3 inch hole glued to the floor.  The mast sits on the hog.

According to my GPS, the boat rows at about 2.7 mph which is the theoretical hull speed.  A 1.6hp outboard moves it at 2.8 mph.  Slightly slower with a decent trolling motor.  Under sail, it averages 2 mph and can easily achieve a blistering 5 mph.  Top speed planing downwind in a gust with two crew on board is 11+ mph.  A Sunfish will sail rings around it, but won't carry as much gear - or get as many positive comments at the boat ramp.

"Hey mister!  Where'd ya get it?  Did ya build it yourself?  Does it float?  It's great that people like you repair these antique boats.  Whatja pay for it?"  Seasoned sailors often ask what my sails cost; then are amazed when I tell'm.

My boat build is testing several inexpensive techniques.  I used 11/32" exterior grade sanded plywood from a local hardware store costing $15 a sheet.  So the boat weighs about 125lbs.  2 people can load it into the back of a pickup and with the boat sitting on a simple 2x4 with lawnmower wheels on the ends, I can do it solo.   Only the seams and joints were fiberglassed, and using resin instead of epoxy (not a full hull glassing).  The boat is waterproofed with latex house paint and polyurethane (bright work).  I added a false nose to round off the front.  It's just a 2x6 glued to the front that I shaped with a modeler's plane. 

The mast and blue/white lateen sail are from a Sunfish (donated).  The polytarp sails have duct taped seams (no sewing).  The only sail parts not purchased from local hardware stores was a cam cleat for the halyard (I was paranoid about safety), cleats for the aft corners, oarlocks & horns, and the colored lines (ropes).  I've since found suitable lines at a local tractor supply store and the cam cleat was unnecessary (but handy).

(click images to enlarge)

The bottom sheet wasn't of preferred quality (hidden voids) and hole rotted through at the beginning of the 3rd season.  The damaged area (2"x6") was easily cut out and replaced.  The plywood dagger board swelled and stuck in the slot after a year so it was replaced with one polyurethane instead of latex painted.  This gives better waterproofing.

This boat is stored in an attached garage in St. Louis.  Seasonal temperature changes do have an adverse effect on it.  No fasteners where used in the construction.  All joints were glued with water soluble glue and fiberglass taped to waterproof them.  A yearly fresh coat of paint on the boat once year would be a good idea.  Plus it makes the boat look better and gives the builder a chance to have a different colored boat each season!  And it keeps the neighbors guessing.

I've broken a lot of rudders and mounts but now attribute that to rudders that were too big and plywood rudder mounts that were inadequate.  If a  rudder breaks too far to row home now, an oarlock is moved to one of the plastic oarlock bushings installed in the aft corners braces, allowing an oar to be used as an emergency rudder.  This simple feature was designed out by necessity and experience.

To make more room in the boat for sailing, I removed the third seat between crew members , leaving just the thwart.  The boat is best sailed sitting on the floor to increase stability and allow headroom for jibing booms .  I applied doorstop to the top of the thwart matching the gunwale rub-rails.  This opened up 5 inches in each compartment.  A temporary row seat was made that straddles the top of the thwart to row out.  It folds into comfortable seat back while sailing.

The is a very fun and stable boat.  It is easy to store and transport.  It can be a fun project for an entire family to do as a project.  I liked the economy of materials - very little scrap plywood was left over for the fireplace.   It is simple to construct and offers many opportunities for modifications.  I just wish I would remember to install integral cup holders.  It only takes about 10 minutes to put it in the water, drop the rudder in, bang the dagger board down, haul the sail up, and go exploring.

"And while others wave to me from shore,
I battle real & imaginary sea serpents,
While rowing my guts out,
Or sailing my heart out.
Trying to go nowhere in particular
For no particular reason at all.
Other than the joy of being out on a lake,
On a nice warm sunny day.
In my own little boat,
That I made my own little self."

And there's nothing better them being calmed in the middle of a vast lake knowing that you can't get to work even if you wanted to.

Thanks, Uncle Johns!

St. Louis, MO

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