ZO Boats is a new company started by Bill Koffler and Scott O’Connell, partners in Aquidneck Custom Boatbuilding, a company specializing in high-tech composite construction. [Note: This review is now archival material. The company is no longer in business.—Ed.] Involved in modern yacht construction for many years, they came up with a decidedly simple idea for ZO Boats: to offer small-boat kits that allow the novice home builder to produce professional results. The boats were to be as simple to use as they were to build, with no sacrifice of performance or beauty. Dave Walworth, a naval architect, drew up the designs in collaboration with Bill and Scott and now ZO Boats offers three models: the goZO, an 8′ pram designed for the true beginner; and the rowZO and sailZO, both versions of a 15′6″ flat-bottomed skiff design. I was lucky to have a morning with Bill, rowing and sailing the sailZO in the waters around Bristol, Rhode Island.The sailZO is a 15′8″ double-chined skiff with a beam of 4′5″, designed to perform well under both oar and sail, carry three adults, and afford a couple or a small family the opportunity to explore coastlines and lakes, whether for an afternoon, or an overnight camp-cruise. The boat has three thwarts, each with a set of rowlocks, as well as a bow seat and sternsheets. With the centerboard and rudder retracted, the hull draws mere inches and under oars can poke into backwaters and glide over shoals. For sailing, the boat uses a simple free-standing lug rig stepped through the forward thwart. This was chosen for its ability to generate ample power while keeping the center of effort low, and to complement the traditional look of the boat. A high-aspect-ratio centerboard is enclosed in an unobtrusive trunk that spans between the second and third thwarts. The rudder is a kick-up type and steering it is accomplished by means of a continuous rope which passes through fairleads in the frames around the interior of the boat a few inches below the gunwale. The ends of the steering line pass through the transom and are made fast to the rudder’s yoke. This arrangement enables one to steer from anywhere in the boat.

The kits include all of the precision cut okoume plywood parts for the boat, including foil-shaped rudder and daggerboard blades, and for the strongback, including the legs to bring it up to a convenient working height.courtesy of ZO Boats

The kits include all of the precision cut okoume plywood parts for the boat—including foil-shaped rudder and centerboard blades—and for the strongback, with legs to bring it up to a convenient working height.

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