I have been building and
repairing boats in Wellfleet, MA, Cape Cod since 1977. I have built slightly more than 100
boats, and repaired many more. The Lumber Yard Skiffs are a pair of small work skiffs that
I designed in 1993. The design is inspired by the classic skiffs of Ray Brockway, whose
boats were known on the New England Coast from Old Saybrook, CT to Provincetown, MA.
Sometimes they were called Cozzi skiffs or Montagna skiffs, for the shellfish buyer who
often sold them on the Cape. I have repaired and rebuilt several Brockways, and currently
co- own a 14' Brockway with my son Nicolas. Ray Brockway died a few years ago, so there
are no more new Brockway skiffs.Click here for more information about my Lumber Yard Skiffs
I decided to offer an improved version of these work skiffs in two
sizes , 16' and 20'. I settled on these sizes because they make efficient use of standard
4'x8' sheets of plywood. One of the ways I improved on the original Brockways was in
materials used. I use underlayment plywood instead of C/DX sheathing plywood, stainless
steel deck screws instead of shingle nails , and Sikaflex Marine Adhesive instead of
roofing tar. These changes add up to a much stiffer, slightly more durable boat. I
designed the hulls using scale models made of 1/16" airplane plywood, which bends
like the full- sized stuff. I taped the panels together temporarily so I could experiment
with panel shape. When I got a shape I liked I traced the side panels onto another piece
of thin plywood, re-assembled the boat with tape, then glued it permanently together using
5-minute epoxy. Using the model, I get the shape of the sides, the shape of the transom,
angles for the stem and transom, and beam length and location.
Next step is to go to the lumberyard, where I pick up most of the
materials to build the 20' skiff. Materials include 11 - 4'x8'x3/4" underlayment fir
plywood, 1- 12' x4"x4" fir, 3- 12'x2"x8" spruce, 2"x6"
spruce in the following lengths - 1-18', 2- 16', and 1- 12', and 2- 14'x2"x4". I
pick through the piles to get the clearest materials I can find. Other materials
previously ordered are square-drive , stainless steel deck screws - 300 of 1 1/4",
700 of 1 5/8", and 100 each of 2 1/2" and 3", 15 cartridges of Sikaflex
adhesive, and a few other miscellaneous fastenings.
The first step in actually building the boat is to assemble the two
side panels. Each side panel consists of 2 1/2 sheets of 3//4" plywood, joined by
butt blocks which are screwed and glued. When the glue has cured, I lay out the panel
shape obtained from the model. I cut out one side and trace the other from it, then cut
that one out. I clamp the panels together and fair them to the lines, making sure they
match. Symmetry is very important, as the panel shape determines the shape of the boat.
While waiting for the glue in the butt blocks to cure, I usually
cut out and assemble the transom, which is laminated from two pieces of 3/4" ply ,
again screwed and glued . It's also a good time to cut the stem and the transom side
frames out of the 4"x4", using the angles from the model and leaving the pieces
long. I then assemble the transom and side frames, and cut the bottom frame from one of
the 2"x8"'s, screwing and gluing that to the transom also.When all this glue has
cured, I fair up the angles on the sides and bottom of the transom, checking them again
against the angles on the model.
The next step is to put the stem, 2 sides, and transom together to
form the shape of the boat. This is one of the best parts of boat building, when you see
the actual shape of the boat for the first time. These 4 pieces, plus a piece of
2"x4" cut to the proper length and put in the right place, determine the shape
of the boat. This assembly is done upside-down. The actual assembly is a wrestling match,
as the side pieces flair out from the stem and have to be winched together using a Spanish
windlass or a come-a-long, then the beam has to be put in , then when you get the ends of
the panels close enough you slip the transom into place, which usually falls over a couple
of times before you can clamp it, but in the end you get it screwed and glued. At this
point the boat is setting on the ends of the stem and the transom framing, bottom up, and
is pretty stable.
The chines are cut out from the clearest 18' 2"x6" (or
2"x8") that I could find, using the angle from the model. I notch the butt
blocks for the chines, then fit them into place and bore for fastenings. This is another
wrestling match, especially after everything fits and you cover the contact areas with
slippery , black glue. Disposable gloves come in handy here.
After the glue cures, it is time to fair the chines, keeping both sides the same height
and the proper curve in the bottom.
Now it's time to put the bottom on. I start at the stern, put a
sheet of 3/4" ply on the chines, trace it and cut it out. I then set it in place with
a few fastenings, fit and temporarily fasten the 2"x8" butt block, then trace
and fit the next panel, etc. I cut the panels a little large, and fair the whole bottom
after it is permanently screwed and glued. A pair of rubbing shoes are fitted also, about
10" each side of center. These are made from treated yellow pine 2"x4". At
this point it is a boat, and would float if you put it in the water, but there are a few
things left to do before you can actually launch.
One of those things is to turn the boat over . I do this very
carefully, using slings and come-a-longs, and set the hull on blocks, at a comfortable
working height. I check the measurement at the beam, to make sure things haven't moved
during the turning of the boat. Now is a good time to clean up excess glue that has oozed
out of the joints. Finishing up is pretty simple on a boat sold as a bare hull. I cut a
breasthook out of scrap 3/4" ply, and fit and fasten it to some spruce cleats. and do
the same for quarter knees. I laminate 3 pieces of 3/4" ply for a stern knee, and
bend on a pair of 2"x4" rails. I also cut off the excess 4"x4" at the
stem and transom, and cut the transom down for the outboard motor.
The last thing to do is burn in the hull identification number,
which I make according to a formula supplied by the Coast Guard. This meets the Coast
Guard's requirements for a boat built for commercial use, like this one. Then I roll the
boat out of the shop onto the owner's trailer, clean up the shop and get ready for the
Old Wharf Dory Company
170 Old Chequessett Neck Road
Wellfleet, MA 02667
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