James Boyce has been a professor of biology at Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville, North Carolina, for the past 42 years, but he grew up fishing and has kept at it his whole life. From the very start, boatbuilding has been intertwined with fishing. He was raised in Gastonia, North Carolina, and when he was in the seventh grade his family moved to a 130-acre farm that had a 6-acre farm pond. He and his father built two plywood 10′ rowboats for fishing. “For the next five years, while going to high school, I would come home in the afternoon and either go hunting, plinking with my .22 rifle, or get out the bamboo fly rods and go fishing for a few hours on the pond. One of the great pleasures was to catch a 3/4-lb bluegill on a light bamboo fly rod. What a fight!” James later built a vinyl-skinned kayak from a Folbot kit.
Married and with a young family of his own, he built a flat-bottomed Carolina skiff, a boat he used for years but never cared much for: “I finally sold it to a fisherman who used it for about another 10 years, and then I lost track of it.” In the past decade James built an Arch Davis Penobscot 14, a Simmons Sea Skiff, a strip kayak, and, along with a friend, a 21′ stitch-and-glue rowing shell.
The Jericho Bay Lobster Skiff is his most recent build. The 15′6″ skiff was originally designed by Joel White and named for a bay within sight of the WoodenBoat offices in Brooklin, Maine. Renowned peapod builder Jimmy Steele built two of the first boats, carvel-planked, cedar on oak. Tom Hill adapted the design for strip-building and detailed the construction in WoodenBoat (September/October and November/ December 2009).
James got Tom’s plans and set out to build his own version of the Jericho skiff in lapstrake plywood. The modifications he had to make to the hull shape were minor, and his skiff OSPREY is as true as possible to the original form as he could make it. That includes the slightly concave profile of the bottom aft of amidships. The unusual reverse curve there was drawn by White to serve the same purpose as trim-tabs do: bringing the bow down as the boat gets on a plane and holding it there while at speed. James used yellow pine for the keelson and red oak for the keel, knees, breasthook, seats, and console. He laminated ash for the stem and two layers of 3/4″ marine plywood with a 6mm layer of meranti plywood for the transom.
James confesses that he’s not much of a painter, but he did well with the finishwork on OSPREY. He took extra time and care sanding between coats of paint and on the advice from the folks at Interlux, used their 333 Brushing Liquid to keep the surface damp as he applied fresh coats of paint. “It came out looking almost as good as a spray job. I was very pleased.”
OSPREY is powered with an Evinrude E-TEC 30-hp outboard equipped with remote steering and electric trim and tilt. With the throttle wide open, the Evinrude gets OSPREY up to around 30 mph by James’s estimation—keeping the boat simple, he chose not to install a knotmeter. He reports “the ‘hogged’ bottom does a good job in getting the boat up on plane rapidly from the start. At top speed, however, with just me aboard, the boat has tendency to porpoise, so I use about 90 percent power to cruise. With another person in the boat, seated in front of the steering station, there is no porpoising. With a lighter 20-hp motor, that would also cease to be an issue.”
In a hard turn at 25 mph, OSPREY, he reports, “holds the water well and doesn’t side-slip.” The skiff takes on chop with aplomb. Being caught out on open water by a 20-mph northerly would have made for a wet ride in his other boats, but not in a Jericho skiff. “North Carolina rivers,” James notes, “are famous for getting into a hard chop quickly with this much wind.” OSPREY took on several miles of chop very well and stayed virtually dry even when taking a course at an angle to the wind.
Whenever James takes OSPREY out, it draws a once-over from almost every other boater who sees it and many ask where he got the boat. James gets the pleasure of replying: “I built it myself.”
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