View Full Version : Skiff to Micro Mini Cruiser

05-29-2015, 02:08 PM
I have an ongoing project, a 15' 8" flat bottom skiff. A friend stopped by and asked if I'd like a little three seat wooden rowing skiff, I was looking for a project boat or to build a small power boat that a couple of people could cruise or fish the Puget Sound comfortably in at displacement speeds.

The rowing skiff was awfully low barley a foot high in any particular place, but the hull had some rocker to it , the bottom was narrow with nicely flared sides and the bow came to a pleasingly fine point. I thought: "Maybe it would be a good idea to just change this a little so it's better suited to my vaguely defined goal. Of course it will be much easier to change this here and there as it's already half done." In hindsight; "I wonder how many btu's of usable stove fuel are in this skiff?" would have been a more appropriate response but having committed myself to the path of greatest resistance I feel compelled to slay this windmill.

The pictures below show sistering in some 2x2 ribs to raise the sides and the bow extension roughed in. I let everything run wild as I wasn't sure how high the sides and stern needed to be raised or what kind of lines the topside would have. After that I spent a little time clamping thin boards on sliding them around a bit then standing back and looking at the lines until I got a rough mental picture of the "look" I wanted, what might likely be stable and how much of this could be easily (another manifestation of the illusive chimera of simplicity) be accomplished with material at hand left over from other projects I wanted to use up.

Things have come along quite a bit since these first pics, I'll try to post updates fairly quickly until I catch up to where things are today. Please feel free to offer any suggestions or criticism. I know I cut a few corners here and there and on occasion went in a full circle by cutting all four but I think I'll see a finished project that will float upright, although that may be open for discussion as well :)


James McMullen
05-29-2015, 02:39 PM
Floating upright is overrated. Go on, live a little.

05-29-2015, 03:28 PM
The upside of turning turtle here in the Seattle area is that at least you have something to hide under to get out of the rain for a moment :)

05-29-2015, 03:34 PM
Now that I felt I'd done enough caffeinated conceptualizing and went through some stock I decided on some 1/2" MDO to raise the sides. I used some old 1/2 exterior plywood to fit a band of 6" wide backing blocks (3" on the old material and 3" up to back the new MDO) The original boat was constructed of 3/4 material throughout, in order to shim out the blocs and sistered ribs so the MDO would come out even on the outside I added a three inch band of 1/4 ACX all the way down then added a strip of 1/4 ply to each rib above that.

Before I go any further please allow me to say that I've learned here that Gorrilla Glue isn't the ideal glue for boat building. I had quite a lot of it on-hand and had seen some folks building skiffs and duck-boats with it online. Next time I'll go with some other glues despite being robbed of the pleasure of scraping off the abundant mess and steel wooling my hands to get the "three day black" off.
Here are some pictures of the sides going on you can see the shape and style emerging here. As mentioned above the glue may not be the best but there are enough deck screws in pretty much everywhere that if you threw a magnet at the boat chances are it would stick.

05-29-2015, 05:40 PM
The stern had a lot of rake to it and it seemed practical to make the addition completely vertical so a motor would hang easily from it. First a piece of 5/4 cedar was added to provide some light yet strong "beef" and then another sheet of 1/2 MDO finished the job. You can see where the front of the "poop deck" has been added along with a couple of pieces of aircraft aluminum to add additional strength and create the sides of the diminutive motor well. The last picture in this set illustrates why shims and dogs should be kept well away from each other. Nothing slows a project like a protracted tug of war session over a wedge and sometimes the dog wins forcing one to cut another.
Since it rains a lot here and the boat won't be real fast it's important to me to have a sheltered place to get out of the weather or maybe even take a little nap after a big meal at the island buffet. Here you see the ribs being added that will support the front deck. I cut these out of old 3/4 MDO concrete form boards, they have a few little imperfections but that's OK with me. I'm not looking to do everything so perfectly that it never gets finished and frankly the only one that really notices the small stuff is me. It's long enough and tall enough to slide into quite nicely but more about this area later.

05-29-2015, 07:15 PM
You have my attention! Is that a little Seagull clamped on back there?

05-29-2015, 07:55 PM
Indeed it is a Seagull. Nicely picked out among that montage of junk, I know who I'm going to tap when it comes time to play team Where's Waldo! It's a 5hp Silver Century Plus with a five blade fan prop and an in out transmission.

I thought a Seagull would be a good choice to achieve the dependability, fuel economy and slow speed cruising power at a low weight I was looking for. It also has a nice classic look that I think will fit well with the projected appearance and as an added perk with the fuel/oil ratio being 10-1 I think I can pretty well forget about any midges or mosquitoes in my vicinity. I'm going to set up the throttle, shifting and steering to be done from the wheelhouse (Currently being constructed. I'll catch up to there in a day or two) Plan "B" is to use a couple of 50lb electric trolling motors, a couple of deep cycles and a rig made from a Briggs Motor and 100 amp Chevy one wire alternator to recharge on the fly. I'll have to see how well the Seagull works and how loud it is, particularly after the first couple of hours. (although the raised stern may block a little of that).

Sea Dreams
05-30-2015, 07:21 AM
Looking forward to seeing this come together. I've thought of doing the same thing with a boat I have. Hadn't really considered extending the sides.

Sea Dreams A.K.A. Brian

05-30-2015, 11:22 AM
I love it! Love the project and your sense of humor...

05-30-2015, 12:06 PM

Very nice!
Looking forward to more pictures as the build progresses. Especially interested in your take on tackling throttle/steering control on your Seagull.
I have 3HP Forty Plus with a clutch, and looking for ideas to do the same.
Love the design you are coming up with - wheelhouse etc !


05-30-2015, 04:01 PM
I finished up the ribs then used up an old piece of porch trim to make a stringer down the middle. The thought of never having to move that piece of trim again pleased me greatly. Sometime during the process of screwing down the stringer it occurred to me that I should probably flip it over and do what I wanted to the bottom before I went much farther.
Turning it over went fairly well except for when the offshore breeze blew in that psychedelic fog from the 70's you can see in the photo. The bottom was sound but ugly and was fastened with random screws and nails. I refastened it with deck screws and the long flat bottom seemed to cry out for a keel. I figured it would add a lot of strength, make the boat track nicely on long runs and provide a little shielding for the bottom should I bump down onto something.

I ripped the first and second layers out of a piece of 5/4" cedar, there was a knot in the side but it worked out well as the top layer was shorter and it was cut off. I laid down and glued the wide one then laminated the narrow one onto it. I added a shoe made of a cheap peace of box store aluminum flat-stock and through bolted it in a few places as well as securing the keel with lots of deck screws. The finish keel is 2-1/8" deep. The cedar is a little soft, hopefully the shoe will help keep it from getting to banged up. A coat of shiny red paint and it's ready to be flipped back over.

05-30-2015, 04:27 PM
definitely good idea to add the keel!

05-30-2015, 04:30 PM
I've added a bench seat here, the front and back sides are watertight bulkheads. The top is made of the old seats and opens via piano hinge. I made it wide enough to hold a battery box so I can have a little power or two batteries if I need more.
I've also cut out the floors for the front and rear and added pearlings between each rib to support and seal the floor edges. I got a great deal on some sheet aluminum and thought a good use for it would be to make some watertight decks. (I know this is the wooden boat forum so try to think of the decks as Shiny Silverwood from the Alum-num tree if it helps preserve the ambiance.) Thin weatherstripping will help seal the floor down and prevent chattering from vibration. This with the bulkheads in between makes for a couple of nice 4" watertight compartments that will pop open easily by undoing a few screws for ventilation purposes when in storage.
Next I used up all the 5/4 cedar "shorties" by making them into pearling like blocks fixed to the sides and attached to "shelves" to make a nice surface to attach the upper deck to then moved on to add a section of shear clamp and rail. The rail leans out a little to shed water and sunglasses. Last is a picture with the back deck in and the rails on. At this point I was mulling over all the little collateral expenses involved; At least 25-30 gallons of coffee and dozens and dozens of doughnuts have already been consumed during this re-build and I still have a ways to go.

I think tomorrow I'll be caught up to the present. Thanks to everyone commenting it's nice to see some interest in an off the wall project planned as I go. Don't mind saying something critical, either I'll see the error of my ways or work even harder out of spite just so I can say: " Oh Yeah! I can see how that extra three weeks of work it took to do this upside down and backwards really paid off when I can proudly say "I told you so" to some stranger on the internet named spongewax_43"

05-30-2015, 05:05 PM
definitely good idea to add the keel!

Thanks! I thought the keel salted it up a bit.

I don't think the Seagull controls will be to hard, I have some old outboard controls and a few lengthy throttle cables kicking around. I want to do the least modification possible, probably something that will attach to the existing controls with a couple of pins and a clamp. I'm setting the Seagull up to accept fuel from an aliminum external tank also. The tank is cylindrical and fairly small 3+ gallons. I want to "T" off the fuel line on the motor and use a valve to select between on board and external. The tank will be mounted on the back deck and gravity feed.

With the tank and wheelhouse things might get a little top heavy I'll just have to see how it goes. If it's top heavy or even just to heavy overall no big deal, I have three options. If it's just plain to heavy I can add at least a cubic foot or so below the waterline by adding a couple of box like extensions to the stern or I can get a membership a Jenny Craig. If it's top heavy and rolls alarmingly I'll make up a couple of slide out pontoons and have a trimaran that looks like it was on the losing end of a shrink ray attack.

05-31-2015, 01:26 PM
Some inside finishing was done, in the bow you can see where a small shelf was added that's also a watertight compartment. The panels are backed with foam insulation board. The cardboard patterns from the floor were saved and will be used to cut exercise "puzzle mat" and indoor outdoor carpet to cover the floor in there. When reaching in and under all the interior area while finishing it's a good idea to have an 11 year old daughter who can "paint angry" handy. We got her head gear from the grocery store, it's the only place you can get personal protective gear filled with tasty yet nutritionally worthless snack food.

The top deck is on in the first pic below. I've been short sheeted though. It looks like last time I let those kids from the Jr Sea Scout camp lay out my deck! No worries though I traced out the shape of the bow on a piece of 3/4" MDO, drew out the way I wanted the bow piece shaped and made sure it overlapped the deck sufficiently. The deck is 3/8" ACX, a nice brand of this virtually void free. I marked out where the overlap was then routed out 3/8" of the bottom of the MDO. The whole thing was screwed and glued and a small pedestal for the bow-light was added.

The next post will show the wheelhouse going together which is the current project. It's going to have a rounded front with access to the front deck via the middle window and curved roof to match the top decks. I plan on leaving the back open and using a roll-down tarp in the back to keep out the weather when needed. I have some exterior bead board on hand that will side the enclosure. I'll try to post that stuff later tonight, I'm struggling a little to keep everything straight and alined while working in the back yard here. Maybe I'll do some yard sailing and buy up every clamp and strap I find!

Paul Denison
05-31-2015, 02:17 PM
Can't wait to see it finished.

06-03-2015, 02:09 AM
Here we are moved fully forward through time from the past to the present, I really hoped I'd be seeing those cold fusion outboards by now. The first pictures show the decks on. Next I laid out what I thought would be a pleasing curve in pencil and reproduced the curve on some 3/4 MDO. I fastened a couple of pieces together and cut both the top and bottom of the wheelhouse front frame at once. I've got three windows in front with the center serving as a hatch to access the bow deck. I slotted out the frame to accommodate some fairly beefy posts I ripped out of a cedar 4x4. The cedar 4x4 came out of a farm pack of cull cedar it had a ding on a corner I was cutting off anyhow and was reasonably priced at around ten bucks .

I've used more cedar in this than most of my other projects, it's light, strong and i don't mind using a little larger material than I would have to use if working with hardwoods in most cases. After fitting the rough posts I used a gauge and stick as my guide when I ground off the excess on the outside of the posts to match the curve. I used a 4" grinder to do this as the cedar had a knot or two in it I didn't want to hand plane over.Getting everything aligned was tough, you can see that I'm not working in a shop here. Not only is a large level spot a problem but the ground's soft so keeping it level is a problem also.

Using many clamps, straps and braces I managed to get the frame together without to much skewing and rough cut some exterior bead board to skin the nose with. The bead-boards pretty stiff even for bead-board, it's been curing for about two years in storage. The last photo shows it bent around the frame and clamped. It rained here yesterday and today. Last night I left the whole deal out in the rain overnight, allowed it to damp dry between showers then covered it with Tyvek then threw a small heater under there to cook it overnight tonight. By morning it should be much more co-operative. My original plan was to screw the bead-board directly to the plywood frame but I'm not sure that screws in the plywood frame will have enough "grab" to pull the bead-board down tight. I'll add some backing that will accept a stouter fastener tomorrow.

When the front has it's siding on it I'll set it on the deck, scribe it and fit it to the curve of the deck, transfer the curve to the top then frame side and fit the sides. I'm still settling on a light yet stiff material for the wheelhouse roof. I think I'll frame the curved roof out of Lowes "Redwood" (I think it may be European Larch) 1x2's and cover it with 1/4" plywood. Too bad the aluminum was a one time deal or I'd use that to keep the weight down. Nothing heavy is going up there and it won't be walked on. Suggestions are welcome particularly now that I may be able to incorporate some going forward. Who knows? Your good idea may be viewed by either fellow boaters or recreational divers for years to come.

Skiff Man
06-13-2015, 08:11 PM
Any more progress? Concerning the deck and weight, a flatbottom boat has high roll stiffness for rough water usage. Some weight up high might be welcomed to improve motion comfort. Of course the easier the motion, the more groceries end up overboard.

On the freeboard: A minimal freeboard at the bow for an open water power boat is about 1/7th of the boat length. The front deck will keep water out of the boat, but you could install a bulwark rail forward to increase freeboard if the bow dips under too frequently.

The correct transom rake angle for an outboard is usually 12 to 14 degrees. Your plump transom modification may give you trim issues.

06-14-2015, 02:30 AM
Of course the easier the motion, the more groceries end up overboard.

It's not the bobbing roll or the pitching that gets me it's the bobbing,rolling pitching, while twisting and sliding slightly sideways that seems to signal it may be time for the "chumming of the fish" for me:) Yes, I've made more progress! I'll post a couple of pictures tomorrow. I beefed up the wheelhouse frame and fixed some minor alignment issues with the framing. I know that doesn't seem like a lot right now but... A couple of days after my last post I got a call from a friend, we've been looking for a large piece of property that meets several criteria. It had to have enough living space to accommodate two families plus our extended familys. He stumbled on a deal for 5 acres house, kennel area for my friend who raises Heelers and Border Collies, 2 cabins and 1200 sg ft high ceiling shop with a sealed concrete floor (where I can better pursue my interests in marine projects) and a nice large apartment on the second floor for me.

If you noticed my gripe about the lack of facilities above you'll likely understand why I've put most of my effort at this time into securing the property and the move. There's a lot to move in the background of those pictures you can see a TollyHome (not wood, so I've made no mention of the extensive refitting done to that) Yesterday I got motors ready to pull, one to drop in my tow vehicle for the 10k lb TollyHome and an Isuzu diesel to re-power the houseboat with. It may be a little while until I can engage properly and finish the job on the skiff. I'm thinking a month or so to get everything moved but then with my stored tools set up in a dry shop I can really bear down on projects under proper working conditions. So, progress yes, boat-building progress yes, visible progress on this particular build not as much at this time.

The freeboard: Thanks for that bow ratio info! I know a few of the basic ratio's but that particular one has either flown right by me or circumvented me until now.

At the start the sides mirrored the rocker in the bottom being a constant height from chine to gunwale bow to stern. When I raised them I clamped on a couple of battens to the free form ribs and stood back sliding them up and down until the finish height "looked right", to make it simple and economical I followed the builders lead and cut four 12" strips out of a sheet of MDO I had laying about. The height looked about right and I was thinking of keeping the deck weight as low to the water as possible so the whole thing with the superstructure would have a little lower center of gravity.

It's pretty sharp of you to notice that the bow seems a little low. I've entertained that notion also thinking that the forward deck would be at the least "wet". The boat is a little under 16' and the total height at the bow is 23 7/16" inches (I would have said 24" inches but the "angry painter" measured and insisted on accuracy) total meaning maybe 20" of free-board loaded ending up with a 9.6 to 1 ratio. Here's the fly in the ointment, the lines at top and bottom being the same means the front deck slopes slightly backwards and the seat area is lower than the bow. To compensate I made a nice high arch in the deck to shed some water but the higher I raise the bow the higher I have to sit to see over it and the taller the seats and superstructure have to be to accommodate that. I'm thinking that a person needs to have about 34" of headroom to sit comfortably based on measuring the headroom in compact cars (most boats seem to have a bit more) because I wanted to keep it as low as possible to avoid rolling.

Another interesting thought about the transom. I did that to cute it up and also because the original transom had a lot of rake and I was trying to keep the weight of the outboard as far forward as possible. I'm planning on powering it with a Seagull pushing a five blade fan prop at displacement speeds looking for the best possible economy from the Seagull or another small outboard. I'll do some research and see if I can find the optimum angle for the outboard to sit at for low speed then see what range I'm in with the adjustment on the Seagull and a couple of other small outboards I've got. I think I'll have to drop it in the water and see how it sits to fine tune it. Maybe add a long wedge to the transom under the motor area to help correct that if needed.

Thanks for the input, in hours I'm close to the end of this build, roughing out plans for my next from scratch build and those are the type of things it's nice to take into consideration as I go.