Nelson Zimmer was born in 1922 and by the time he died in 2007, it is thought that he had produced some 500 designs, some of them while working for companies such as Chris-Craft and Toledo Ship Building. In 2018, Zimmer’s Utility Launch caught the attention of Peter Green, then an amateur boatbuilder originally from Ilfracombe in North Devon, England. Peter spent much of his career working in the oil and gas industry all over the world, and while he was based in the U.S., he built a Caledonia yawl. When the time came to move back to the U.K., he sold the boat rather than face the difficulties of shipping it. With a view to building another boat at some point in the future, he perused the designs in Fifty Wooden Boats, published by WoodenBoat. When he found the Zimmer Utility Launch, he immediately bought the plans.

Photographs by the author

Designer Zimmer writes “Since this little launch is only 20′ long on the waterline, it cannot be pushed much beyond seven statute miles per hour, after which she will leave her stern wave behind and begin to squat, to the detriment of increased speed.”

According to Fifty Wooden Boats, Zimmer’s inspiration “came from the many slim handsome launches and cruisers that silently and gracefully passed by his waterside home following the First World War.” He designed his Utility Launch to transport passengers and supplies between towns and remote fishing camps in Canada’s North Woods. It had to be seaworthy enough to deal with the chop it might encounter when crossing large lakes but didn’t have to do so at any great speed. “So, they needed a pretty decent cockpit for six to eight people and some supplies,” said Peter, “and then occasionally, I guess, two people would end up sleeping on board, so there was a cabin with a couple of bunks and a bit of indoor storage for anything that needed to be kept out of the weather.”

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