Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Footloose Skiff "Pickle"

Depoe Bay, Oregon has an annual Wooden Boat Show. The tiny rock bound harbor is a secure sanctuary from the raging storms of the Pacific Ocean. Or so it seems in late April when wooden boat owners, builders and fans gather, in occasionally inclement weather, to commune over displays, boats, food and fun. Some of the boats will be for sale. (Often so the owner can have an excuse to build a new boat!) One such boat caught John Kohnen's eye one April in 1999. Here is John's story of how he came to own his Footloose skiff, Pickle:

"Pickle is a Footloose Skiff designed by Warren Jordon of South Beach, Oregon.
She was built by Lou Brochetti for his own use and launched in 1998. Louie took her to the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival that year, and then camp-cruised in her in the Gulf Islands on the east coast of Vancouver Island (Canada)."
"I first saw her at the 1999 Depoe Bay Wooden Boat Show. The show was in the lot by the launch ramp then. I walked around the harbor, and the first boat I came to was Pickle (though she was not named yet). I looked at her and thought to myself, "I can see myself in a boat like this!" Several months later I came into some money, so I called Louie to see if he'd like to build a Footloose skiff for me, but not so fancy. He said, "want to buy mine?". He was selling everything to take up the life of an itinerant boat builder, spending his winters fishing in Mexico and summers working in the Northwest. So, I bought Pickle from him and have been happy with her ever since."
"I named her Pickle after the Royal navy schooner that brought news of the Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson's death to England."

"I've taken Pickle to Sucia Island (San Juan Islands, Washington Sate) a couple of times for the Western Oregon Messabouts Rendezvous, and have sailed her in many of the rivers, lakes and bays of Oregon. She's been in the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival three times, twice while I've had her. She suits me very well. She's quite seaworthy for a skiff, and forgiving of occasional mistakes on my part. She's a bit under canvased (she was designed for the windy lakes and bays on the coast) and thus sluggish in light breezes, but she goes along good when the wind picks up. I enjoy sailing other boats, but when I get back out in Pickle I think, "I sure like this boat!"

Doryman has to second that! Pickle exemplifies the classic, carefree boating experience of the flat-bottomed skiff. Skiffs have been built in many sizes and configurations and have been used for every purpose, for work and for fun. Do you need a boat that will take you fishing and on family sailing outing, too? Flat-bottomed skiffs are easy and economical to build and they are able to do almost anything a mariner could want. They sail and row well and are especially suited for shallow waters. Building and owning a flat bottomed skiff requires basic construction and maintenance skills and as John says, suits the avid sailor just fine.

Here we see John enjoying the simple pleasures of light airs and blue skies!

All photos courtesy of John Kohnen.


Length overall 15'-2"
Beam 5'-6"
Draft (board up) 6"
Hull wt approx. 300 lbs.
Sail area 79 sq. ft.
Power outboard motor to 5 HP

The designer has this to say about the construction of the Footloose Skiff:

"Footloose is designed to be built on a solid, but simple and inexpensive ladder-frame jig. She is assembled with transverse frames and longitudinal structural members, a system that has proven over many years to result in boats of superior strength and durability. The five rigid frames are set up on the jig, and with the stem, transom, chines and keelson, provide the form to which the marine plywood is fastened. The frames remain an integral part of the boat, providing rigidity to the hull and attachment for the seat risers, inwales and gunwales. A centerboard trunk, thwarts and stern bench finish out the interior joinery. Plywood floorboards, fitted in removable sections between the frames, provide a dry walkway while protecting the bottom from wear."
"The sailing rig I chose for Footloose is my favorite: the traditional loose-footed sprit. Besides looking right for this type of boat, it embodies the ultimate in simplicity, both in rigging and handling. Among its many virtues, it is inexpensive to fabricate and maintain, requiring no high-tech hardware or fittings. The spars can be easily fashioned by hand. It is extremely reliable and displays remarkably good overall performance, Another of its endearing features is that it spreads the largest area of sail on the shortest spars of any rig, It can be set up or struck in seconds and the whole rig can be rolled up and stowed inside the boat along one side, leaving plenty of room for the crew to row or motor. The 79 square-foot rig is boomless, in traditional fashion, making it very safe for children and those not used to "ducking the boom". The sail plan also specifies a 30" deep reef, a reduction that should handle most conditions encountered."

Be sure to visit Warren Jordon for this design and more.

I know for a fact that Louie sold his boat so he could build another. In fact more than that, he's currently building Pacific Pelicans, yet another seaworthy daysailer. Look for more about Lou Brochetti and his boats in future posts.

Lou Brochetti, Redmond, Oregon - 14' Pacific Pelican plans now available. Contact Lou at email

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