Wednesday, December 14, 2011
This winter's indoor project is a Melonseed Skiff, an adaptation of an old hunting design from the Delaware River Basin, on the eastern seaboard of the US.
One of the first modern reproductions of this 1880's New Jersey gunning skiff was drawn by Howard Chapelle. The design proved to be a favorite daysailer and has been praised by contemporary sailors as a responsive sailing performer, handy under oars, and just plain beautiful.
Today there are many techniques that can be applied to building these fine boats; stitch and glue, clinker (lapstrake), strip plank, cold-molding, and traditional carvel cedar planks.
This boat will have seven planks, a combination that, to my knowledge, has not been done before. The bottom is a flat wherry keel, symmetrically double-ended and about a foot wide amidships. The next plank is wide and brings the hull up to the waterline. The wherry bottom and the garboard planks will be joined with a flush-matched chine.
The topsides are comprised of two planks which will be lapped, clinker style. The finished boat will be half-decked, because with less than a foot of freeboard, there is a risk of swamping under sail. This low, sweeping shear profile is one of the Melonseed's most attractive features.
The most common sail rig found on a modern Melonseed is a simple sprit-boom, stepped far forward. Because many of these boats are approximately 13.5 feet long, the sail is small. The rig is designed to strike and stow in the boat for rowing and duck hunting.
To adapt this boat for gunkholing or a RAID, I have lengthened it two feet and maintained the same proportions. The resulting boat is perhaps 40% larger than a Jersey Skiff of the 19th century. Every effort will be employed to keep this larger boat from becoming too heavy for one person to row. The hull is planked with 6mm marine plywood and shaped with a minimum of bulkheads. Lightweight spruce stringers will back the plank seams or laps as necessary.
The sail rig as shown in the plan employs a gaff yard with a boom. It is considerably larger than the old duck boats and should power this racy centerboarder like a thoroughbred. There are many rigging options for this little skiff, so this design may change. But the hull is already underway, so there is no turning back now.
Work is progressing slowly since the temperature outside (and on the back porch too) is above freezing only four hours a day. This is unusual for our northern Pacific coastal climate so I expect daytime temperatures to rise soon, when the rains come back. Still, it takes days for glue to dry and the sun sets way too early. Looking out the window at three in the afternoon, I could tell the sun was already near the horizon by it's low reflection on the alder trees in the backyard.
I'll keep plugging away and posting photos to my Flickr site when there is any significant progress, hopefully once a week.
Please stay tuned.....