Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Today I will be showing a basic photo chronological list of what I think might be the progression of the upper spray rail history. Well it is at least to me in my short history of being around flats skiffs here in Florida.
There are several skiff manufacturers out there today that go back and forth with salvos of who invented the upper spray rail claiming that theirs was there first and it is the defining one in the industry.
I hope to show you a progression of upper spray rail designs starting with my involvement in this industry. The following skiffs to me are a refinement of past ideas.
I encourage you all to send me pictures and info of skiffs that would fit into this time frame blog.
To start off here is a small skiff that has to be 35 + years old. Spray rail is nice and low so this skiff is going to be dry.
A skiff from the late 50's . Cut that sheer off a foot and add a flat deck and Bingo you've got a flats skiff! Look at old Fiber Crafts and the like.
Wooden skiff with edge screwed on spray rails. This skiff is from the 70's. The rails keep you dryish but the bow is too full and they are noisy.
Look at Challengers
A super skiff with its added upper spray rail piece along the sheer. The slight curve of the lower chine-edge detail does nothing. Dave Exley cut the bottom off a 14' Mitchel skiff and lengthend it to make the Banana River skiff which he then merged into the deep vee Super Skiff as we know it today. The added spray rail idea could have come from Harry Spear as he had one back in the day when I started in these skiffs.
A Willy Roberts plywood skiff in here to show how things have changed.
My Spanish Wells Skiff design. The Alburys spray rails in their fiberglass hull designs were narrow and tapered when going to the bow. I made mine 1/2" wider and all the same width right up to the bow with the hull sucking in to accommodate the width. Worked and is way drier.
29 years ago. 168 skiffs built to this design to date.
SW skiff coming out of the retooled molds.
See how the chine looks with the hull sides going up from them. This was not my idea. The Alburys were doing it on their designs way before me.
My late father, our daughter Kalessin and Rachel with some dolphin we just caught hand line trolling in the Exumas. See the chine spray rail in the skiff behind. 24 years ago.
Here's the same skiff design but built to fold in sections. See the chine. I fit this around a great sailing hull and made a dual purpose skiff. Today I have refinement # 3.
A cored skiff I designed and built in 1996. The upper chine is now raised and separated from the bottom.
The hull is still a displacement hull although very light.
Finished hull with upper chine. A year later I lowered the bow area of this chine to better effect.
Now the Makerick Mirage comes into play with no upper chine but the same sheer spray rail catcher as the Super skiff which it adapted and many others to follow suit. More of these skiffs out there than any of the others built below. Started in 1986
Hells bay earily ideas. 1997
Now the Whipray comes on the scene. Upper spray rail chine and lower reverse spray strake only where it's needed to direct keel spray downwards to help keep the skiff dryish. 1997
Nice light Hells Bay going along. 2002
HB Guide showing my thinking well here.
As I left Hells Bay my last design was the Marquesa. I was trying for a different look but the same results. 2002 Just under 1700 skiffs built of all models to date.
On my sailing travels I have come across some interesting craft. This skiff was found in the Saints in the Leewards. It's French built and around 20 years old.
Lots of chine ideas going on with these French fishing skiffs.
Back in the early days of Hells Bay Boatworks when we would take our skiffs to Mark Castlows Shallow water shows I met the young Kevin Fien. He was a salesman for one of our clients that manufactured and sold scaffolding and plastic sheeting. Kevin was always asking about how to get into the skiff market. Several years after I left HB I heard he was selling kyaks and had struck out on his own to build skiffs. This I think is one of his first forays into the technical skiff market. Started in 2006
Here he has realized he could have made the upper spray rail a bit more aggressive. The cool thing about this picture is it shows you where the sprays coming from and what to do in the next design.
Looking better now in this model.
Now we'er talking! A nice refinement of previous skiffs.
Looks good to me. Deja vue
Another East Cape flatish bottom design.
Ok now you can see the upper chine with the deep concave vee in it. I don't know if Kevin or Hal Chittum did this first. Who cares. It's a different approach to what essentially is just an angle.
I hear that this concave detail can be noisy in big chop as the seas compress into it with the air compressing making a big warbling noise. Kevin's done well with his adaptations as he has built according to his web site over 800 skiffs so far.
A nice simple elegant Harry Spear skiff. Pretty basic hull, no noise, easy to push along and with the added upper spray catcher on the deck sheer. Harry's been tweaking skiffs for a long time.
A plywood skiff by Brian Esposito. I saw this skiff the other day and went over for a look see. I thought it was a Spear skiff. Looked nice, was very solid. A Marquesa in the background.
Now to the Chittum Islamorada 18. This picture shows off the bottom nicely. To me this bottom design looks very similar to the Maverick Mirages except for the bow chine wedge thingy's. If they were lowered down to be inline with the outer Chines it would just be a typical vee bottom skiff. But this bow design is under the MILITARY DESIGN PROPRIETARY INFORAMTION clause so I don't know if we'll ever really know the numbers on what those two wedge pads really contribute. My guess is deverting spray.
Now on to the upper spray rails. Yes they are deep and fairly wide. A bold approach for sure.
I Don't know if East Cape was first or not with this deep angle detail or not. Hells Bay has retooled some of their skiffs with is detail. 2008 ? Maybe 40 built to date.
Ah the Yellowfin skiff. When this came out the spray rail did not have this add on flange to it. Cheaper to do this then Make a New hull and deck mold. In profile it looks just like the Hells Bays Biscayne.
Beavertail skiff. Good looking skiffs and I'am told they are dry. Many versions of this chine detail. Very original chine detailing. 2011? Lots built
Cayo skiff. Just came out in the last two years. 2016?
Marsh Heron. New skiff 2016? Looks to me like lots of this skiff will be built.
Dustin Bates personal skiff design. 2016 3 built
Thomas Haye skiff. 2017 1 built
Tom Gordons Element. Still in progress? 2016
1 under development.
Ren Stanley's home built and designed skiff. 2016 2 one offs built
The Drake Brothers new design. Very original upper spray chine detail here. Love the looks of this.
Drake skiff. 2017 1 built
And Now my Lithium 18 design ! Let's see.... It has the widest spray rails out there in the fleet as of today. It has a round stern. Could this be the next new trend? Time will tell.
I will be building hull #1 from the new mold on speculation to help fund our next sailing adventure.
Should be launching hull number one soon which is the plug shown here.
Now no matter how much we designers and builders go to make your skiffs drier there is still the crowd that doesn't really care. Fill it up with everything in the garage and lets go have fun.
To end this look at things past and present I feel that it has all been good. I just feel I took a chine detail I saw in a Bahamian built skiff and raised it up to make it work in a light weight flats skiff. Others have agreed too so it's been a progression of different ideas.
See nothing's original, it's just the refinements and details that matter.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Since sailing back from the Caribbean, this last May, to our home base in the Bahamas, I have immersed myself back into the Flats skiff world. I had all my old drawings and a nice big desk to draw from. The best thing for me has been really good instant WiFi. In the Caribbean WiFi can be very slow.
I've had an agenda of redrawing all my past designs and to finish off a few more of my current ideas.
Along with doing this I have been reading lots of the technical flats skiff threads on the Micro Skiff site and others. I read mostly about discussions of my past designs and others that I personally know, to see what others are saying and to try and learn from them like everyone else. It can be very informative, especially if you know the skiff very well. I have been in a few of the others' designs so it's a good way to see if the public sees what you are seeing.
The thing I find a bit tiresome is wading through the same behind-a-fake-name guys that spew advice on everything, all the time. Eventually you get to see the skiff they are using and it's so far out of the thread's format it makes me wonder, "Why are these guys not designing and building their own masterpieces?" I have been making a mental list of these Trolls and their real life skiffs. It helps to weed out these guys from the real info in the threads.
With this train of thought I will share my thoughts here on two new skiffs being introduced to the skiff market this month. Lots of the technical skiff threads revolve around the high cost of new skiffs today and how they relate to what is perceived to be the top end company's of this market.
I have said before that I feel the high costs of these skiffs are there because this small niche market can bear it. I am almost finished with a blog that will explain the complete breakdown of the cost of skiffs today. It's complicated because of the material factors used in the different skiffs and the overhead of each individual company. What you will see and hopefully understand is the yarying profit margins of the high end skiffs to these two mid range costing skiffs. It all comes down to very similar hulls,hardware,engine and trailer costs. This is very obvious as all technical skiffs are very close in dimensions, and use pretty much all the same hardware. The first factor after these initial costs are the labor to build the skiff, then the overhead of the shop. The over head is the rent or mortgage, advertizing, insurance,and all the little costs that can add up. After all this is spent you then have profit for the owners and investors. Of course all this is obvious.
The two skiffs talked about today come from opposite coasts of the flats fly fishing world.
The SABINE SKIFF built in aluminum is from Texas and the fiberglass composite ZERO DEADRISE SKIFF is from the east coast of Florida.
Both will fish each other's waters equally well. Both skiffs have been designed by the people that are selling them and are building themselves. Both skiffs are being introduced into the market place with understated personal pride. All involved are not claiming to have reinvented the skiff market with lots of hype and hoopla. They are just simply saying," This is our-my skiff. It's well built, it performs as stated, and we welcome you to meet us and go for a ride and see for yourself."
I am a big believer in sharing information and ideas in the skiff world. I feel that everything in the small skiff world is a refinement of a previous idea. It all benefits you, the consumer. We will look over these two skiffs and their respective ideas and refinements of the craft we now call TECHNICAL FLATS SKIFFS.
It's all refinements of previous work. Heres a 40 year old small skiff with an upper outer chine. Yes it's all been done before but now it's being done better.
DISCLAIMER.... I feel I need to say this to satisfy all the trolls on the Micro Skiff sites.
As you can see on this blog site I don't have any advertisers. I do not have any affiliation with any company or products what so ever. I feel that magazines and blogs that sell advertising will have a bias when writing.
I do know the Littles in person and have talked many times by email to Thomas Hay. I have been able to see the behind the scenes making of their visions. I asked permission to do this post on their respective craft. They will read my post here just like you.
I did though get 3 free hats and a nice tee shirt at the Miami boat show last month from 3 flats skiff company's though. Hells Bay, Chittum, and Piranha Boatworks.
I gave a Chittum hat I got to my new son in law's best man, Desmond, a few days ago. He lives in Zambia. Desmond is graduating from collage next month. He will be going into the mining industry in his country with a degree in engineering. He and my new son in law used to race 4 man shells in their school's rowing team.
The object of this blog is to give my personal backstory to these builders, high light what I see in their craft, give a couple of suggestions I see on some details, and most of all, explain why these two builders are the future of the flats boat designing and building world.
SABINE SKIFFS- The New Alternative
A year and a half ago Rachel and I were anchored on our sailboat in the Lee of the Island nation of Antigua in the Leeward islands. I posted on FaceBook about catching some Tarpon off our sailboat there. Brian Little commented on FB how he would love to do that someday. I posted back and said we had extra bunks, why not come down for a vist. Brian's wife Kaylor's dream is to someday move aboard a sailboat and take off. We had only met via FB.
We made plans and the next thing you know the Littles are spending a week sailing around Antigua with us. We swam with Tarpon, sailed, hiked, snorkeled, we talked skiffs, sailboats, projects and life.
I saw in this young energetic couple a thing that is being lost today in lots of our youth. That is the desire to build and do your own thing. To not want to buy retail but to rebuild something old that is still good or best of all to design and build your own personal vision of something. That being furniture in your home, a new kitchen or your own flats fishing Redfish skiff.
Both Brian and Kaylor hold down regular jobs but build their own house hold interiors and their own skiffs. Kaylor has her own blog about remodeling furniture and interiors. She does all her own work her self from building, sanding to spray painting.
Brian and Kaylor have been thinking skiffs for quite awhile having rebuilt, designed and built many small skiffs in their garage over the 12 plus years of their marriage. All of these have been successful craft. All done after a regulars days work.
I could go on and on. What you see here is along with a good friend and their building partner Jay Dore's concept and design of a quiet flats skiff but built in aluminum. Designing in aluminum has its challenges. To save weight and still be strong you have to understand its pros and cons, its limits to shape to still be light in build.
Brian has worked on a few craft over the years refining his designs. Jay Dore is a professional welder building his own designed INSTAGATOR boats along with the new SABINE line of semi custom skiffs. They started out in a garage but have now expanded to a bigger place with a few employees to keep up with the demand. Both Brian and Jay have worked together to refine the hull scantlings and build details to make their craft as light and as strong as possible in this no noise technical flats skiff.
I owned and used for many years an 8' 40 year old Grumman rowing dinghy built in aluminum. It's hull shape was two molded sides riveted together down the middle. It was a bit tippy because of its design when standing but rowed like a dream. It was indestructible to normal beach dragging up, rocks, oysters and all sharp, nasty, sea side stuff. I lent it to a friend and it was stolen. Otherwise I would have hidden it buried in a sandy beach nearby my house to dig up someday when I needed it. Aluminum can be a great material.
We all know this otherwise there wouldn't be millions of small aluminum skiffs about. Now the big question in flats flyfishing is going to be.... How noisy is it?
Truth is I have not been in this skiff. I can only say I trust what the Littles claim. I believe them but all you need to do is go for a ride and pole it on your own. The Littles will be show casing their skiff the next few months to get people the chace to see what they have created.
I will post their email below so you can ask them the dates.
The thing that I like about their skiff is it floats in a level state. It has an ERGONOMIC look.
What I want you all to think about is that if you have a flat bottom skiff design it will perform very similar to all the other skiffs of similar bottoms when running. The differences can be in how the ride feels being transmitted through the hull skin and bottom. I would love to go for a ride to see the difference between and single skin hull and a cored skiff. I feel that the aluminum skin will be very forgiving compared to a glass skin when touching the bottom. You will get the same scratches to your hull bottom but the alumimium will take it better. Just think..... This in not your average riveted skiff but a welded skiff with only a few seams. This type of building is virtually indestructible over time. Paint it camouflage and never paint it ever again as the wear and tear to the paint job will be reminders of adventures past. Really screw up and put a dent in the bottom, get out your bathroom plunger and do what you do when you mess up with your car. Very forgiving for the crowd that wants to hunt, fish and explore with a versatile skiff that's not worrying about a yacht finish all the time. With a cored composite hull build, if you abuse it you need to maintain it.
The other nice thing about alumimum is you can build one-off decks and hatches as all these skiffs are built from an origami start in the hull shape and then the deck is built from scratch. My advice to the Littles is to offer a standard layout and then have a structured options list as to making changes in interior layouts. Otherwise you will lose so much time with customers trying to redesign your vision. If they want more, it has to cost. Aluminum sells by the pound. Cutting and welding up costs by the hour. Eliminating welded seams is the goal to make a design simpler, and more cost effective.
They have refined this process quite well.
Brian poling Kaylor. Looks quiet. Nice, light, level and enough freeboard left. You might say this is just a clone of the other low Flatish bottom fiberglass flats skiffs out there. I see a refinement but in aluminum with all the build details figured out. Plus no mold so it can be improved very slowly without being stuck to a one shot hull design mold. When you have a Patent pending hull design you are stuck with that design. It's very hard to change course and go in a different direction. But with aluminum and not touting you have invented the wheel and nobody else can use your wheel you can then go in many suttle directions. I feel you will be seeing lots more aluminum skiff ideas from these three.
On their wedding day over a ten years ago in an early learning build design.
Brian drew up and built this skiff in plywood for their black lab. Kaylor is the painter in the family.
She will be painting your SABINE SKIFF.
One of their early skiff projects getting the final bottom on it. This was a cored boat built by them to Brian's design.
The rub rail dips to follow the slight spray catcher at the sheer. Because the rubber rub rail has a lip to its bottom edge this is a logical move. You could cut it off, install it straight and paint the sheer to match the hull. But I like its common sense look.
Now I see that if it was painted like the hull the gators might not see you coming.
Noted fishing guide Scott Sommerlatte went for a test ride and ordered one for himself incorporating a 35 hp Tohatsu jet drive to guide out of.
They call this the VERSATILE model. 17'-6" long with a 78" beam weighing in at 650lb or a bit more depending on the console used.
With a 4stroke 50hp she gets 35 mph with a 15 pitch 3 blade prop.
NOTE... I talked a few weeks ago to a past owner of a Hells Bay Whipray that had installed a 70 hp on his skiff. I asked him how fast it went with this engine top end. 38 mph. The best I ever saw was 32 mph with a Mercury 25 two stroke. The fact is skiffs reach a terminal speed but can go faster by losing weight and adding lifting strakes and such. Gain speed but complicate the bottom and maybe it's harder to pole about.
He went back to a 40hp and saw 36mph.
I have no experience in the foam that is being used today to overlay decks and such. I will buy some and install it around my helm steering wheel on the cockpit floor this year. I want to see how it holds up and if it absorbs water over time.
The foam on the tower top really makes sense to me.
Pretty bullet proof looking here. I would suggest to install as big a hatch drain tubing as possible 1-1-1/2" at least.
Going along in the back waters that they both love to fish, hunt and explore in their past all cored design the INCOGNEGRO. Look this build up at... http://www.microskiff.com/threads/custom/-designed-one-off-poling-skiff.16966/
I know this team will be coming up with new ideas for years to come. They are part of the new future of flats skiffs with young smart blood flowing into new visions to suit their personal needs and to provide affordable skiff options to others.
You can follow Kaylor's home building and decorating ideas and projects online at,
For more info on their skiffs,
I wish them well in this the beginning phase of their boat designing, building and selling careers.
ZERO 18 DEADRISE SKIFFS
Here we are catching up with what the talented Thomas Hay is up to. In a past blog I have written about Thomas and this skiff design he calls the ZERO 18 DEADRISE.
This is reference to the stern vee, or lack of.
Since I first met Thomas via emails a coulple of years ago showing me his skiff bottom before he made his mold he has been a very busy man. It has been a very pleasurable correspondence with Thomas showing me first hand his ideas and how they have turned out. Thomas works full time at Boston Whaler as their infusion expert and has been with this company for many years.
The skiff you see here is his after a real job hobby project. He has many innovative ideas that I feel will be soon absorbed into the semi custom skiff world as they are extreamly practical. What I like so much about Thomas is he is doing his own design and build with his own cash on his own time and terms. He is not going around spouting words like... PROPRIETARY METHODS AND PATENT PENDING. Thomas has quietly built his craft and is now offering it up to the public for sale if someone wants to order one.
In today's world of the big name skiff company's and their followers-devotees going at one another online as to who invented the wheel first this is so refreshing.
Oh and Thomas is going to collage part time too to finish a degree as he works the night shift at BW and who needs to waste daylight hours.
I will take a tack here now before we look at this first ZERO 18 DEADRISE skiff out of the mold.
Most all my blog posts revolve around the Technical skiff world. I want to say here that I feel that the main point of a technical quiet shoal draft dry riding stable easy to pole skiff is in all its details. Wew, that's lots of things to put into a sentence and a small craft. I feel the aim is to get to the fish, to catch them and to have a good time doing this. To do this and have all the above work well these craft need lots of design details that are not used in day to day craft. Hence they can look very radical by today's standards. To me as long as they work well who cares. And if they can look practical in their own way too that can make them look "right".
I love classic sailboats but they can be very cramped, wet and time consuming to own.
Boats are compromises, I like the looks of this skiff.
Several of the top end skiff builders today claim they invented the upper spray rail and all its greatness.
I say phooy to them. A plastic surgeon invented breast implants to help women after breast surgery but he sure did not invent the breast. To claim you have a patent pending on a spray rail you designed is the same as saying I like ONLY ONE TYPE of breast and all the others are obsolete.
Well I will say I like all shapes, styles and designs of......spray rails. To me there is no claim to one in particular, but some can work well with certain vessel shapes.
The above spray rail looks fantastic to me.
This look to me is the new norm in modern day spray rails.
I feel you can say upper spray rail designs have gone along like the silicone fake boob market in America with bigger is better. This set fits this skiffs proportions well to my eye. A dryer skiff will make you a happier fisherman at the end of a day on the water with a pair like these.
The spray rails I designed into my lastet LITHIUM design are a bit bigger. We will see soon enough if I went the way of America.
Nice balance here. That's a big engine at 70 hp but that's the new normal today.
Thomas added a bunch of things to this his first hull build to showcase some of the details he can incorporate in his builds. This is one for the baitfish take your catch home crowd. Notice how he puts the gas powered spring lifts lower fastening in the gutter instead of in the bait well to help stop corrosion. See the hinges, total gasket fit.
A nice 20" Redfish awaiting it's fate. Thumbs up or down? That's a lot of water weight in there. This added weight won't mater if you are a bait fisherman. If you are a fly fisherman only then most likely that fish will be let go in the sea without touching it to live another day. To me this detail makes this the coolest flats skiff option out there today. Just think of how much entertainment your young kids would have with this. Or you.
The console seat is removable to be used as a forward casting platform. For two guys fishing this is nice because you can use this and not have to be looking through a permanent casting platform on the bow. When running you can sit side by side on the short runs once at the fishing grounds.
All rigging is to ABYC standards incorporating resettable breakers and no fuses.
The battery sits in an aluminum billet tray.
Nice details for the trolling motor plug. As is all the deck parts to Thomas's deck mold they be added or left off.
Please go back to my past blog about the start up of this skiff design to see how all the hatches and parts are put together in his skiff. This to me is what I have hoped to see in others. The sharing of ideas with others freely. I feel that building a set deck mold today with a curved crowned deck looks nice if its executed perfectly. If the hatches sit crookedly then it ruins the whole look. By going this way you are forever stuck with that One deck mold. With Thomas's flat deck and his movable hatch moldings he and you have lots of options to work with. This detail will set him and his shop apart till others catch up and adapt to his innovative process and thinking. To me this is brilliant as you can have a smaller shop with less molds and pass on this savings to the customer. You can't do this with a crowned deck mold.
This is the first skiff out of his mold and is his test model showing many things in one skiff. The weights and drafts will change with a simpler model inside and his next building.
Thomas goes along with what I look for in skiff design and engineering. That is that whatever weight you can keep out of a hull build you can use when adding other weigt options back in to keep your skiff strong but still at its designed weight and draft.
With this in mind he will change core thicknesses here and there and will only infuse his skiffs using flat perforated core and not Kerfed core panels.
In a 1" grid of grooved or Kerfed core 1/8" wide x 3/4" deep you can get up to 144 cubic inches of resin which adds up to almost 5/8 of a gallon of resin in 32 square feet of core. A typical skiff can have close to 180 plus Sq. Ft. In just the hull skin. This adds lots of weight that if using modern infusion technology can be avoided.
Take a good look at your skiff builder today and see what's up. This simple detail fact frustrates me when I see my old skiff designs and others being built with Kerfed cored vertical bulkheads. These should be plain cored and not have this extra weight. The big builders have lost track of what's going on. All the onces add up to many pounds which means your skiff will not perform the way it's being sold to.
For someone that's looking for this type of flats skiff I suggest taking the time to see Thomas and this skiff in Edgewater, Florida. There is no doubt in my mind that you would be getting a very personalized skiff built by the owner, designer and builder of the highest quallity and craftsmanship available today.
At a competitive price.
Go look up more info at;
So ends my tale of two skiff builders with similar goals going after the same fish but in different mediums in their craft. My hat is off to these young designers and builders that have taken it upon themselves to make their own visions and dreams come true on their own terms. The best thing is it's like putting yourself through collage on your own and coming out debt free with a degree as they have not bought another mans existing company, or spent tons of money with many other's advice and input to get started.
They, like I, and all the others throughout time, have looked around at what has been done and what's being done now and have refined what they liked and have improved on the process so that they and the consumer will benefit.
Thanks, well done
Posted below is a simple time line showing how a quiet shoal draft idea in a flats skiff has progressed.
It's all been good with all its refinements.
Dave Exleys Super Skiff sales add. This was the Banana River skiff with an absolutely flat bottom.
The deep vee version would come later. Date 1978
A skiff design of mine I built for Charlie Causey in core in 1996
Flip Pallot poling with me on the bow for a sales picture in the new WHIPRAY skiff. Date 1998
DEADRISE SKIFF..... 2017
I want to hear the DRAKE SKIFF story and others....
Email me at email@example.com