I’ve had a copy of Phil Bolger’s book Boats With An Open Mind for a long time, and I’ve always liked the looks of the Clam Skiff he designed for Harold “Dynamite” Payson. Payson, writes Bolger, “was a lobsterman before he began to write and teach. His orders for this design were for a solid skiff that could stand generous power, carry a big load, and have flat footing right out to the side. Nothing about it should be hard to explain.” At 18′ long and 5′3″ wide, the skiff will carry 1,100 lbs and draw just 3″; it seemed to me that it might be a very good companion for fishing trips in the North Country. When my brother Jon expressed an interest in a fishing boat, one he could easily trailer behind the family car and reach the many lakes and rivers in his part of Wisconsin, it didn’t take me long to talk him into the Clam Skiff.I called Payson and ordered Bolger’s plan #606, called there a Workskiff, which came practically in the next mail. The drawings were clear and very easy to understand. After buying epoxy, plywood, and Douglas-fir lumber, I built a jig to make it easier to scarf the plywood sides. That turned out to be a waste of time, and I ended up scarfing the plywood by hand: I arranged the pieces for the sides stair-step fashion and cut the 8:1 scarfs using a power plane, a remarkably fast way to do it. A long, flat piece of 2x4 edged with sticky-backed 80-grit sandpaper flattened things out nicely.I cut the various plywood parts out with a circular saw with the plywood set on a sheet of 2″-thick rigid foam that later ended up as flotation in the boat. The transom is built up of four layers of ½″ plywood. Like the bulkheads, it is edged with Douglas-fir to give the builder something more substantial than plywood edge-grain to hold the screws that secure the sides. I scarfed together the plywood sheets to make the sides. I clamped the full-length panels together, then cut out the sides with the circular saw. While the bottom edges of the sides are nearly straight, the top edges have more shape, but the long curve of the sheer was easy to cut out with the circular saw. After I planed the sides up to the lines, I separated them and glued Douglas-fir chine logs along their bottom edges. I had cut the chine logs square and realized later that they’d hold water; next time, I’d cut a bevel on the top of them to let any water to roll off. Assembling the transom, sides, bulkheads, and stem was a two-person job and used just about all the clamps in the shop. Deck screws served as extra clamps when needed, and with two screw guns, things came together faster than anticipated.

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