Bob Burns, as a novice boatbuilder, once paid a visit to Joel White to get some advice on what boat to build. He had a cedar-strip canoe to his credit, had brought the bare hull of a bass boat to completion, and was ready for a new project. Joel suggested that Catspaw, a 12′ 8″ dinghy he had designed as a carvel-planked version of Capt. Nat Herreshoff’s lapstrake Columbia dinghy, would be well suited for Bob’s growing set of skills. Armed with a set of plans, Bob was soon at work in his cellar. The boat is still there, unfinished, 20 years later.
In 2016, at 72 years old and with retirement from a career in IT management in the offing, Bob was seeing an opportunity to finish the project. That worried his wife, Beth. She imagined the dinghy setting sail from their vacation home on the shore of Lake Mooselookmeguntic, a sprawling wilderness lake in Rangeley Lakes region of western Maine. The lake is subject to sudden storms that can bring high winds and waves over 3′ high. Beth noticed Bob poring over a pair of WoodenBoat articles about the Jericho Bay Lobster skiff, another one of White’s designs. The 15′6″ outboard skiff seemed to be a better choice for the lake—she saw her opportunity and surprised Bob with a set of plans as a Christmas gift the year before his planned retirement.
Beyond being a better boat for their lakeside summer home, Beth thought building a Jericho skiff, given Bob’s record with the Catspaw dinghy, would keep him busy for at least a couple of years and stave off the ennui that often settles in with retirement. She was wrong on that count. Bob started work on the day after New Year’s last year, and six months later, launched LIZZY B, named after her.
When Bob set up the molds, he stretched the length by 1′ to make more room for a center console. The new length of 16′6″ also would also meet a rule of thumb used by early boatbuilders in the Rangeley Lakes region. They believed that a boat needed to bridge the two troughs between three wave crests. Their assumption that the wave lengths rarely exceeded 8′ set the minimum boat length at 16′. The Jericho skiff’s beam could remain at 62 1/2″ because Bob would have 1/2″ to spare when it came time to move the boat out through the cellar door.
Bob made steady progress on the project this time, even though he worked on the boat only in the mornings and spent his afternoons with Beth so she wouldn’t feel widowed by the boat. On Easter Sunday, he invited his sons and grandsons to the house to take part in moving the boat and the building jig, sporting a new set of wheels for the occasion, out of the cellar. In the back yard, the crew lifted the hull off the strongback, rolled it upright on the lawn, and set it back on the wheeled frame.
As they were rolling the boat back into the cellar, a 250-lb boulder tumbled off the stone wall adjacent to the door and hit the side of the hull. It scratched the paint, but the Alaska cedar strips, protected by 24-oz woven biaxial fiberglass on the outside and 12-oz cloth on the inside, took the blow without damage. The unintended test proved the skiff would be able to take a beating on the Maine lakes.
LIZZY B was launched on Lake Mooselookmeguntic, and Bob and Beth spent the summer of 2017 exploring and fishing on lakes Aziscohos, Umbagog, Richardson, Kennebago, Rangeley, and Cupsuptic and on many of the rivers connected to them. October brought cold and wind, and LIZZY B was pulled out of the water and put away in the garage for the winter. The boat, Bob, and Beth eagerly await this coming summer.
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