Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Oughtred’s Snipefish

Iain Oughtred’s typical designs are clinker built (and/or strip planked). As Iain states below, Snipefish (go to Iain's site, click on catalog >> "Outrigger Skiffs >> "Snipefish") is different in that it is ‘stitch and glue’. Using only 2 sheets of 5mm plywood, it is an amazingly light rowboat that could be converted into an oar cruiser.

Snipefish Lines

Iain’s writeup…

Out of character! this one is neither strip plank nor lapstrake! It's STITCH AND GLUE! Cartopped with ease and for its beam is the shortest possible sliding seat rowing shell. Any shorter and it will have the pecking hen look as the seat slides forward and back; nose dipping, nose rising, nose dipping, well, you know the look., a trainer sliding seat rowing shell that can be car roof topped. Plans include home built riggers and i believe (too lazy to use one so i have never seen it...) the sliding seat, too.  

Plans Overview


  • 4.58 m - 15' 0", Length oveall
  • 0.86 m - 2' 9", Width at gunnels
  • 25.00 kg - 55 lbs, Approximate Weight


Set of Building Photos

A Similar Boat in Action… 

This video is of an Echo Rowing Shell that is similar to Snipefish. The Echo is 3’ (.9m) longer, but only 21” (533mm) wide at the waterline vs. Snipefish’s overall width of 33” (838mm).

As an Oar Cruiser?

If we added SOF decks fore and aft leaving a 4’ to 5’ (1.2m to 1.5m) cockpit opening, watertight bulkheads (with access hatches) providing a 7’ (2.1m) sleeping area between the bulkheads, floorboards for ‘dry’ sleeping and to provide anchors for seat and foot rest (I would not use a sliding seat for the ‘oar cruiser’ version), a ‘tent’ covering for sleeping and an automatic bailer (or two) such as this Andersen Mini Bailer available from Duckworks, then Snipefish could be taken out in conditions as shown in this video.

EC or Texas 200 anyone?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Can We Make a 12' Oar Cruiser?

I think the answer is "Yes"...

Jim Michalak's Vireo is 12' (3.66m) long, 45" (114.3cm) wide and about 60 pounds (27kg) empty. Made with 3 sheets of 1/4" (6mm) plywood. I've rowed this a number of times... found it very stable, easy to row and surprisingly fast for a 12' boat... sustained speed at 3.5 mph (5.6 kh) and 'sprint' to about 5 mph.

This is an overview of the plans, with a picture of my friend Paul's Vireo.
Vireo Plans

Vireo at Round Valley Resevoir, NJ
To convert this to an 'overnight cruiser', I would make the following additions:

- Full deck with cockpit opening 4'6" (137cm) long, 2'6" (76cm) wide and 13" (33cm) deep to the top of the floorboards.

- Overall cockpit 6'6" (198cm) long, extending under the foredeck.

- Aft deck (crowned about 2" (5cm) 2'6" (78cm) long. The after bulkhead moved aft 6" to support the deck.

- The fore deck (also crowned) 5' (1.5m) long and the forward bulkhead moved forward to enable full 6'6" interior length of the cockpit.

- Oar locks installed on short outriggers (removable) hooked onto the coaming.

- Appropriate hatches to allow access to the fore and aft waterproof compartments.

- A full length cockpit floor to provide a flat sleeping area and provide adjustable stops for the rowing seat and footrest.

- Two bows to support a cover at night.

- Note that the only changes to the original planned construction are the movement of the two bulkheads. All else are additions.

- I'd estimate the weight of the completed Oar Cruiser to be approximately 100 pounds (45kg).

Pictured below is an 8:1 scale model of the conversion described above, with 8' (2.4m) spoon blade oars.
Proposed Conversion of Vireo: Scale 8:1

Top View of Model

Looking Forward
Cockpit Interior, Seat, Foot Rest and Outriggers

I can picture rowing down Barnegat Bay (NJ) in the late fall after all the jet skis are put away... listening to the gulls and terns... a cold breeze keeping the perspiration at bay... anchoring at dusk... tucked into a shallow cove behind a sedge grass knoll... buttoning up the cover and settling down to a hot cup of coffee and meal of Dinty Moore beef stew... roll out the sleeping pad and bag... sweet dreams!

Please comment with your thoughts: What do you LIKE about this conversion? What do you DISLIKE? What SUGGESTIONS would you have to make it a more useful Oar Cruiser?

Originally published January 16, 2016.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Laying In a Waterline

You’ve built your boat, but now you want to lay in a waterline so that you can:

  1. Know where the bottom paint and the topside paint meet and/or
  2. Know where the fiberglass sheathing on the bottom stops and/or
  3. Know where to paint a boot-top of contrasting color (or boat-striping-tape). Note: I’ve used this West Marine tape and it has held up for three seasons with no peeling or discoloring… highly recommended (I have no connection with West Marine.)

First Step: Determine waterline END locations

Using the waterline marked on the plans for the boat, mark with a pencil about 1” to 2” inches (25 to 50mm) above (toward the sheer line) where the plans specify.


Put the boat into shallow water, load it (with people, sand bags, etc.) as you will normally be paddling, rowing, sailing, motoring and mark at the bow and stern about 1” to 2” inches above water level.

Second Step: Mark proposed waterline

See this Tips From a Shipwright video. The video shows the technique I used on my Ross Lillistone Flint. As shown in the video, use a tight string between the two horizontal supports, marking the waterline with either a pencil or short pieces of masking tape. You can do this by yourself, no help is needed. This technique is useful if the boat is NOT level, either fore and aft, or side to side.

Horizontal Stick at the Stern for Laying in a Waterline...

...and at the Bow.

A variation of this technique, which requires two people, is to set up the horizontal sticks as above. One person is the ‘marker’ (using pencil or short pieces of tape) and the other person stays at least one boat length away and sights across the two sticks, telling the ‘marker’ where to mark the waterline. I used this technique on an earlier boat I had with my wife as the ‘marker’. Worked well.
Another technique is to use a laser level such as this, (if you already have one!) . This can also be done by yourself.

You can level the boat (so that the bow and stern marks you did in the first step are level) by using a long clear plastic tube filled with water taped to the bow and stern and then moving the boat so that the water level in both ends are at the marks you placed in Step 1. Once the boat is set up ‘level’, take one end of the tube (making sure you don’t spill any water from the tube), walk around the hull, marking  every 6” the proposed waterline.

If the floor under the boat is level and flat (mine isn’t) and you have ‘leveled’ the boat as in the paragraph above, then just use a stick held vertically on the floor to mark the proposed waterline.

Third Step: Mark the full waterline

Using the guide pencil marks (or pieces of tape), lay in a continuous strip of masking tape around the hull. The ‘keel’ side of this tape will be the edge of the bottom paint and fiberglass cloth (if used).

When I glassed the bottom of Lillistone Flint, I laid in the waterline using blue painter’s tape. I then taped newspaper sheets to this ‘waterline tape’ in order to prevent any epoxy from dribbling onto the topsides. When I epoxied the cloth to the bottom, I overlapped the tape by a half inch (12mm) or so.

I then spread about four layers of epoxy on the cloth (sanding between each layer) until the weave was totally filled (each mixed with graphite powder). Epoxy dripped down over the tape and newspapers. When it had all thoroughly dried, I was able to lift the waterline tape, flex it up and down a couple of times, and the epoxied cloth broke off cleanly at the edge of the tape. There was no need to cut the cloth with a knife.

After the hull was painted, I used the West Marine Boot Top Tape, slightly overlapping the top edge of the fiberglass cloth.

Let us know of any other techniques you have used to lay in a waterline.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Paul Gartside’s Flashboat

Paul Gartside's Flashboat is a fast rowboat, capable of handling rough water and easily converted to an oar cruiser by adding SOF decks and a tent arrangement for shelter at night. He also uses an innovative construction technique that results in a very light boat that can be easily car-topped.

Paul’s commentary:

“The Flashboat is a family favorite with its roots in England's West Country. This is a modified version of a Cornish racing skiff. Its construction is unusual, with thin marine ply bent in two directions, which gives high strength for very low weight. It is also more of a challenge to build than most plywood designs. Light, graceful and a dream to row, the design has also proved itself to be a versatile, dependable cruising boat. We have wandered far and wide in our Flashboats. During the summers of 1995 to 1997 we took one 3500 miles down the Yukon River, north up the coast, through Bering Strait and on to Barrow.“

Paul Gartside's Flashboat

The lines drawing above shows why she would be very easy to row... and fast. She would be very tender initially, but have great stability in rougher conditions... 3500 miles (5633km) on the Yukon River and Bering Strait demonstrate that rough water capability.

Flashboat Awaiting Calmer Surf During the Yukon River/Bering Strait Cruise

Construction...note how the full-length keel helps provide directional control


  • Length: 15' (4.6m)
  • Beam: 4' 6" (1.4m)
  • Depth amidships: 16.5" (419mm)
  • Weight: 90 lbs (40.1kg)
  • Sailing rig: dipping lugsail (Downwind only, no centerboard, daggerboard nor leeboard)
  • Sail area: 47 sq .ft. (3.4 sq. m)

Paul on construction:

“It is built of four strakes of 1/8 in. plywood laid over a grid of sawn plywood frames and longitudinal stringers. Plywood this thin can be bent (tortured) into a compound curve, and in the bending becomes a very stiff structure. Building hours are very low (180 hours or so), but there is a little more to this than more conventional plywood construction. It has a properly rabbeted stem; also some patience is required to work the lower strakes into place.”“This building method requires very little temporary work. The frames are sawn from 3/8 in. plywood, left long and set up on the building frame. The backbone assembly notches into them and the transom is fitted. Longitudinal stringers are notched into the frames at the plank lands. Planking is glued and fastened to the backbone and stringers with temporary screws. In order to stiffen the bottom, the floorboards are also let into the frames before planking.”
Flashboat would make a beautiful, fast and sea-worthy oar cruiser... let us know what you think.