Flat-Bottomed Skiff HERON

HERON kept busy with family and friends on a vacation stay on the shores of an Arkansas lake.

Nick set his sights on a larger version of OTTER, long and slender, easily driven, capable of cruising at 10 knots while carrying 600 lbs. He enlisted his father, who had many more boats to his credit, to help design HERON, as the new boat would be called. The two spent the summer of 2017 studying flat-bottomed skiff designs for inspiration and borrowed elements from Pete Culler’s Long John and William Atkin’s Ration and XLNC. With the shape they wanted in mind, Nick and Daniel got to work, starting with a quarter-scale lofting of what would be a 20′ 6″ skiff.

A Boat of His Own

Jon followed the advice of Spring River Boatworks and installed folding outrigger rowlocks. They each add 4" to the span, allowing the use of longer oars for a more comfortable stroke.

He upped the ante considerably by deciding to build a wood-and-canvas canoe in the traditional manner. If you like to build things, it’s a good way to go: you get to double your fun (not to mention the time and expense) by building the form required and the canoe. Jon got his plans from Stewart River Boatworks in Knife River, Minnesota. The Fishdance model he chose is listed as a 15′6″ Sportboat. Named after a lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota, it’s a square-stern canoe with a beam of 43″, so it’s meant for rowing and motoring rather than paddling. With the bigger boat Jon would be better able to manage the wider waters of Green Bay in his backyard.

A MacIntosh Canvas Boat

Middle schoolers have the privilege of taking MSS BROOKWOOD out rowing on Cutler Pond on the edge of the school grounds.

The design chosen for the build was the 9’ canvas-on-frame double-ended tender designed and built by Ned MacIntosh back in the 1940s when he and his wife were living aboard their Atkin cutter STAR CREST in Panamanian waters. The boat caught on among other cruisers, especially after Ned added a sailing rig.  Soon there was a fleet of about 20 of them. When STAR CREST returned home to New Hampshire Ned made more of these lightweight tenders. Maynard Bray, an author of many books on boatbuilding and a frequent contributor to WoodenBoat, saw the tender, took a liking to it, and measured one of them to create drawings to work from to build one for himself. His plans were the starting point for the Brookwood project.


William Chamberlain was building boats in Marblehead, Massachusetts, around 1900, and his double-ended gunning dory was 19′5″ in length. Gardner took the lines off one of them in 1942, and in 1965 modified the design. The new version was 18’6″ and built with plywood. The shorter length was a better fit for Harvey’s garage shop, but he wanted to get a taste of traditional construction. Fortunately, Gardner’s drawings include an inset with the details required for a lapstrake build.  


BUTTERFLY, all dressed up, now gets admiring looks, which had never come her way in her previous life.

Patrick, approaching retirement and seeing boatbuilding would fill the leisure hours he’d have ahead of him, thought the skiff would be a good winter project and decided to do much more than put a new finish on the still serviceable hull. He pulled out the factory-installed aluminum seats. They were covered in mahogany-brown vinyl, and as unpleasant to sit on as they were to look at. They’d be replaced with warm, bright-finished cedar thwarts. After giving the boat a three-tone paint job, Patrick add faux sheerstrakes of varnished ash
. The skiff’s flat sheerline made it possible to get the nearly straight planks out in one piece from long ash boards.

Nesting Boats

With open sections for the cockpit and stern, the nesting configuration allowed an overall assembled length of 12'.

Trailering a boat comes with its own set of limitations, and cartopping a boat on his van didn’t appeal to him either, but a nesting sectional boat could go in the van, stored safely until he found an opportunity to get afloat. He checked the Internet for nesting boats and didn’t find much, just a two-piece 8′ dinghy and a kayak.

A Sturgeon-Nose Canoe

Harry takes his canoe to many riverside gatherings and lets people give it a try.

Paul Montgomery of Kirkland, Washington, usually has plenty to keep himself busy whether it’s building skin-on-frame boats, keeping bees, tending a greenhouse, or making musical instruments. So when Harry Wong of Seattle called Paul, hoping he’d build a canoe for him, Paul initially turned him down, saying he was too busy. Harry mentioned that the canoe he had in mind was a sturgeon-nose canoe, the kind his grandfather used. That was all it took to get Paul to clear his workbench and his calendar.


James' daughter Kyrie was three when construction began. By the time she had turned four, she had taken an interest in helping build the boat.

In the months that followed, Jim and James, father and son, assembled the 15′ hull, enjoying the other’s company as much as seeing the curves emerge from the flat plywood panels they stitched together. Jim eventually ceded his role as co-boatbuilder to his granddaughter, four-year-old Kyrie, the youngest of James’s five children. Kyrie had her own toolbox and projects to work on, but often suited up with the proper protective gear to help with the sanding and painting of the Chester Yawl.


The dinghy sits lightly on the water and has enough volume to carry a complement of three.

Ernst Glas takes his family on summer cruises on the Baltic Sea aboard RONDINE, a 43′ sloop his father built in the early ’90s. He’d had a rather disagreeable tender for the yacht, too heavy to haul up on deck and powered with a rather unreliable two-stroke outboard that required “a lot of begging and praying.” He sold the tender, but his young son Tristan missed the boat and pleaded with his father for a new dinghy.


The Catherine Whitehalls are raffled off to one of the students at the end of the class. This one went to a carpenter who lives in Friesland, a Dutch province west of Den Helder.

Bert van Baar runs De Bootbouwschool (The Boatbuilding School) in an old navy yard in Den Helden, a canal-laced city on the coast of the Netherlands. The boats he and his students have built over the 20 years since the school’s founding are mostly traditional, open, lapstrake boats for oar and sail, though not, as you might expect, inspired by Dutch designs. Bert has a fondness for what he calls “the American Style,” and among his favorites is the Catherine design, the boat detailed in Richard Kolin’s book, Building Catherine: a 14-foot pulling boat in the Whitehall tradition. Bert describes the Catherine as “sleek, tender, and gracious, and builds like a miracle.”

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