Friday, January 9, 2015

A new flats boat design commission from Tom Gordon and Islamorada Marine.

Here I will explain why my current design on the surface looks very similar to a lot of the latest skiff designs out there, OR why they look so similar to some of my past designs. 

I have not been living in the U.S.much since selling out of HBBWs having been off sailing the Atlantic, building our small place in the Bahamas and generally trying to avoid traffic lights, rules and regulations of which the U.S. Is full of. About 3 years total since 2002 in the U.S. I have moved on from the flats boat world , with my only encounters being the skiffs I have come across in the Bahamas and on the decks of yachts with these being mostly HBBWS skiffs. I have seen them as far south as Grenada. I did work as a guide at Flamingo Cay in Andros for 3 months poling around a HB  Guide.
 From time to time I look at the pictures of my old skiffs in magazines and have observed the emergence of the new skiff company's taking form. But all from a distance. Hal Chittum and I exchange emails every now then mostly talking about one of his projects and from him I get a short run down on old employees, and what's up.

Since I sat myself down and posted my flats boat history on this blog I have had a nice small amount of responses to it with old customers and friends saying hi. It's been very nice. One of these emails was from a past customer Ron Anno who emailed to tell me that Tom Gordon was just recovering from a Heart Attack . I had no clue . The last time I had seen Tom Gordon was about 8 years ago when he owned Gordon Boats and I was buying some gelcoat and resin from him for a project I was doing.
After reconnecting we got around to talking skiffs, his current projects with me peppering him with questions about the industry, the new skiffs, just basic catching up from someone's opinion whom I valued. Tom and I worked together for 3 plus very intensive years building the HB skiffs under my direction so I know Tom quite well.
Tom asked if I would be interested in designing a new flats skiff for his company as he wanted to get back into the small technical skiff maket. I feel I can say " technical " here as Tom and I perfected the word technical skiff while building up the HBBWs reputation for quality control and build while lots of the other company's except Egret were scrambling to figure out what all the fuss was about.
Tom also said that Scott Empson was doing the rigging in his shop. Oh boy! Nice .

What Tom was looking for was a design that could, would compete with my old 17.8 Professional from HB, the HPXs, Chittum skiff, East Cape Skiffs and the rest. The boat should fit a 60-90 hp outboard, float well with two guys but in no more than 6" of water fully loaded. The design was to run well but speed was not paramount, dryness and comfort first. Also he did not want a design with sponsons on the stern.I said " yes I would love to".

What I explained to Tom and I will now try and show you is that a skiff can look very similar to another Very successful design but it can be two totally different boats. It comes down to ITS ALL IN THE DETAILS  that separates all skiff designs and company's. In this new design I will show you in detail my past ideas, how they came about , what I think I've learned in the meantime and how I hope to improve on these DETAILS to make a better skiff. 

The deal we struck is I would give him a set of lines drawings that he would then give to a real designer to put the offsets into the computer, look at the numbers, and then I could give opinions and we would work together on the final hull shape. I would advise, etc on the interior construction and details but would take a back seat to Tom as this was going to be his skiff with his name and reputation on it. Tom has been in the game for a long time now so has way more experience than me in seeing what works and what the latest building system works for him and his crew. This is huge in finding a boat to be built to your design. 

I will be showing you lots of examples of what details and ideas I think really work and don't using past designs of mine, and others. I will be critiuqing lots of current skiffs and mean no disservice , I am just giving my observations and opinions on what looks to be working and how " I " would do it. I hope this discourse will be giving food for thought. I must say here that I have not ridden in most all the New skiffs nor have an idea of how they are built other than what I can see on the Internet. I can see a lot in the details of shop photos from the gloss of too much resin, using the wrong cores, how they are laying in the cloth etc. , but remember I'am a total control detail freak when it comes to claiming it's the lightest and best ever. Maybe... But the details do make the difference.

I have to go way back and start with how I came to the Whipray hull shape. This skiff I and others believe  started the whole "let's rethink what we'er doing here" movement. 28 years ago i redesigned a skiff for the Spanish Wells Fishing Industry that I have written about here earlier. This boat had a nice deep vee that rounded into a good full length chine. This was a good sea boat as it was not cranky because it did not have a conventional shaped hard chine giving it that little bit extra stability at rest and under way. Good sea boat but not as fast as a conventional chined boat . This detail I logged in my back brain. During the time of building these skiffs I took a good sailing dinghy I owned and added a full length chine to a conventional round sailing rowing shape to get the boat to plane under power, be dryer, give more inside volume and make it more stable at rest. 
Here you can see my take apart version that is 22 years old. It's 11' 10" long and weighs 120 lbs put together. With this added chine designed in to be just above the waterline when sailing so as to cause no drag the skiff became very dry when sailing , was super stiff when climbing over the side from diving and would plane out with a 4 hp outboard at 12 knots with one man. With a 15 hp outboard and my family we could explore for miles away from our " mothership".
This skiff I redesigned when I started up HBBWs giving it more beam, filling out the stern adding my Whipray chine detail to get it to be more stable when on plane , adding more freeboard and fairing out the bottom.
The HBBWs " Ultimate Skiff" . We built and sold 7. I built 6-7 for myself and friends.
This is how I get my latest one on the deck of the HOGFISH.
With these two skiffs with long low full Chines I could see the benefits of a soft curved hull shape. Very easy going when rowing, towing and at rest at sea. All the other conventional hard chined skiffs and dinghys when towing , rowing, were a huge drag unless specifically for each purpose. But could not do all three... Row - sail- power well. This kind of hull shape does all well equally well. It can be stretched and be a great all round skiff. BUT because the long upper chine is low to catch the spray and give lift aft when planning it is TOO NOISEY to be a flats skiff. 

Back in my early flats building redesigning  designing days in the early 1980s I could see a bunch of skiffs that were retrofitted into flats skiffs. Back then very few people thought of noise. Like I've said before the only two people that I knew that were onto this was Steve Huff and Harry Spears . They both had Super Skiffs that they had put together themshelfs. Harry since that time has been tinkering and building all kinds of one off skiffs trying out his ideas. Today he has a nich market with his personal family approach to skiff building. I can see a bunch of ideas he has refined from other skiffs and given it his twist- input. I like seeing this. Always trying to improve on an idea.
Your basic Super Skiff

Two skiffs caught my eye - thought process back then were the Challanger one off skiffs and the Fibercraft that had a long low upper chine and a soft vee forward. By this i mean a slightly rounded bow. 
A real nice example of the " Challanger Skiff" one offs that were built way back in the day. See the nice rounded bow. Nice and quiet when at rest but that upper chine spray rail had to go there or you were going to get soaked. The stern under water chine aft is giving this very tippy round bottom boat stability when on plane. Look at the hull shape right where the water is coming out from under the hull. That could use my reverse under water spray strake like I introduced in the Whipray. Also see the slight sharpness of the hull shape just above where the spray is coming out. I belive is a very important transitioning point in current hull designs. I feel a lot of the new skiffs as this one here are too sharp here. The spray needs to be told- led to where you want it to go. Too sharp and it will fly out and the last place to catch it is the sheer. I can see this happening in my HBBWs Guide design, the HPXs, some of the Spear boats and lots of others as an after realization. On my Guide I feel we made the plug too full from what was drawn. I have the drawings which I will show later.
You can see the two wooden Chines here in the water. This boat is so classic but has so many flaws in it other than being a cool boat to be out in. I could see at the time how I could use the upper-lower chine idea in the future with a completely new hull shape. The Fibercraft hull had too small of an upper chine to be of any use but I kept that in my mind for future use. This I did in the before mentioned skiffs and dinghys.
 I was sailing in the Exumas when I drew up the design for the proposed all round skiff to go with a catamaran mother ship to fish all the remote paces in the Bahamas. At the time my wife and daughters were visiting her family in Canada for six weeks so I was out exploring the islands. Charley Causey said he would pay me to explore and scout out a bunch of flats just out of reach of the George Town fishing guides. I had just spent a few weeks all down south of Exuma catching bones, taking photos and diving in the channels to see if there were Permit about. You can see a lot by what's in the channels before they come up on the flats.l have had the good fortune of fishing and exploring 95% of the creeks and flats of the Bahamas since 1977. At one time or another I have been most every where over here. What I did for Charley and others is outline on charts every thing to expect and what to look for. I can still do this today so let me know where you want to explore. This I've been able to do as I've always been dept free and live a very simple thrifty life. 
Here I show again the skiff I built for Charley. You can see the waterline on the stern. I put in a small pocket . Not a fan of these now. Too much drag when polling. The upper chine was a bit too high and not wide enough. I changed this a few years later to good results. I added my reverse spray strake on this hull after the skin was on so that's why you don't see it here now. When I went to my next design it was to become the Whipray. It was to have a 25 hp to start with and lower freeboard. What I wanted was more speed ,a better hole shot, dryer boat, too pole well in a strait line and turn easily. 
The Causey boat is to the left. The Whipray is to the right. Here you can see the differences. The Causey skiffs upper chine was desined to be high as we were going to be using the skiff in good sized seas crossing channels and covering long distances. This works good as an all round detail but to redo  I lowered it 7" at the bow and tapered it in aft. 
The departure I did on the Whipray was filling in the displacement curve into the lower stern chine. My idea was that I could use the extra displacement, it would plane off better and that inboard chine edge could act as a mini keel when poling. I also belive that when the water parts from the hull bottom it sweeps up and is then quickly caught by this upper chine that nocks it down in a slightly more inboard and lower angle than a conventional chine. This has been copied by lots of boats now and I will go into this in a bit. Also the Whipray was supposed to float in "John "boats depths. Every ounce mattered in weight and hence displacement. When I say displacement I mean what the boat will weigh all up with every thing and the fisherman too. 
A cubic foot will displace 1728 cubic inches. It will float 64 lbs of sea water. If your skiff weighs all up 700 lbs and you have 2 sports that weigh 220 lbs each and you want this design to float in 4" of water then it will displace 1140 lbs of sea water. In order to get your design to float properly when launched you will need to know within ounces of what every thing will weigh in adavnce including the finished hull weight. To do this you have to get a square foot measurement of the entire hull skin and then calculate the weight from this. From here you can then figure out how to add and subtract your hull lines, construction engineering and what type of hardware will be used. At 1140 lbs this skiff would displace 17.8125 cubic feet. For all you guys out there that have just been winging it and making a facsimile of some current designs you can figure out your exact displacement- weight by filling your mold up to its floating waterline. I cubic ft. Of fresh water weighs 62.4 lbs and will hold 7.5 gallons. To get a cubic ft. Multiply 12x12"=144"X12"= 1728 cubic inches , all very simple. Just keep track of how many gallons it took to get to "Your "designed waterline.
Here's a Whipray showing the reverse spray strake and the stern chine cove. Done right this works very well. I will be using it on my new design but with refinements. Lots of the new batch of skiffs have adopted this detail. Some I believe because it was already on the skiff they were trying improve ? Or just getting on a past skiffs known performance . 
Here's a new skiff idea ? Kinda looks like the skiff above but they lost their nerve with the upper spray chine. Also the lower chine cove. This looks like a wet boat to me.

 Here's another but they must have filled in the stern . The stern lower chine edges need to be sharp or the water will peel up. Those three bows sure look alike ! Sheesh guys be a little original here.
I don't want to sound like I'am harping but to not put in a good attempt at an upper spray rail is a waste of plug building time. This skiff looks like it will be a wet one. See the water peeling out from the hull ? Thats where a good reverse spray strake should go. I don't know if this boat has one. 
This skiff has put the reverse spray strake to good use. It also has done a nice job of imitating the HBBWs Marquesa bow upper chine detail. It looks nice and if wide enough and the bow hull lines flow into it well then it's a quite nice look. What I would change in this hull is the sharpness in how the lower chine transitions to the bow. Too sharp for me as I think it will throw the spray out and away and over onto you.
Here's the Marquesa in a nice shot. Today I would be way more aggressive in the upper bow spray chine as to its width, also change the lower chine and would add a reverse spray strake just where the bow is clearing the water. Why not? The difference in these two skiffs most likely will be in how they are finished out inside and the final cost.
By knowing in advance how your design will float you might not end up with this bow down look. Fishing alone at 220 lbs that bow will be down I suspect.
Looks better here though. I feel this skiffs lower aft chine is being carried too far forward and then it transitions too sharpe into the bow which does not have enough bouancy in its forward sections. This could have been see in advance by drawing up the skiff and calculating its forward load waterlines. The problem is at this static at rest attitude even with a guy at each end the bow is lacking in displacement.
I would love to take a ride in this skiff. Looks pretty interesting.
A Whipray at rest. 
The Maverick HPX  designs work. Looks to me like they have been tweeking that hull bottom for almost 29 years. I have no idea what is going on down there.
 Hal out showing what too big an engine will look like under way. I don't know how that little boat could rate for that size engine. Lots of my past clients always said they needed more hp because they could not take the extra 15 minutes to get to where they where going. I always said just leave 15 minutes earlier. To me there's no sense in this size engine on such a nice light skiff. You can see all his chine details here. I don't understand the bow chine detail. Although it will catch the spray well and I guess he was thinking it would be practical in the bow pressure wave detail dept. I have been out with Hal in this skiff and it does what he claims. Too complicated for me to build though.
This is the HBBWs Bicayne . The lower lifting strake shows why I do not design these in so far forward. Here you can see it sending the spray right on up barely being caught by the upper chine. A little light weight skiff like this does not need a lifting strake there. Put them aft for the lift and the little air pockets they provide that will reduce friction and hence will give a bit more speed.
The Guide is to the left and the Marquesa to the right. The 17.8 is above the Marquesa. Above the Guide I've drawn in a dotted line that will show how I would change the bow now to catch the spray better. You can also see the thinking in the three skiffs hull shapes. Look at how much smaller the 17.8 is . I have not given away any secrets of HBs skiffs as these are all what is known as common knowledge . Anyone can go out and take the lines off of these skiffs . Here I'am just giving you a rough representation of these past designs. With out the scale , the profile dimensions you really just have food for thought here.

From these pictures I will now explain what and why my new design is different in several ways from the current crop of skiffs and my past skiffs. Basically it's the same thing but with I think some new details that will set it apart , plus Tom Gordon's building it.
-  I drew on the original Whipray design a very rounded stern. You can see this in the HBBWs video of the red half modle that Chris Petterson has on the table when talking to Flip in his HBBWs video .At the time a flat stern seemed simpler . This new design will have that very curved stern . I have drawn a stern that is like a great big tire inner tube that will not make any noise with the seas aft. Hal put a bit of crown in his Chittum skiff design with a nice radiused transom corner but this will be like no other skiff. Everything is going to be curved and have a good radius in it to be quiet. For the trim tab problem I have drawn in a flat bottom stern edge that will be strait across . Instead of making recessed pockets like on the Chittum skiff these will be the opposite so as to have a strait transom bottom and not have any pockets to cause any noise at any trim angle. The boat hull will have to be pulled from the mold like taking off a shoe. Sounds complicated but its not. This will take care of all the purists that complain about stern noise.

This is the sketch that I sent to Tom explaining how the stern would work . You can see how much curve and crown it will have.

- In this skiff I used the lines from the old 17.8 as a guide in displacement and shape. Because of the bigger engines I have drawn in more vee to the bottom and have sucked in the above the waterline hull to give and make the spray flow in the best possible directions. At the full 6" draft worse case load is what you are looking at. This skiff is the same beam as the 17.8. Without stern sponsons and with the curved stern it will spin better when poling. 

- Because of the added vee to the stern the bow has more vee. Should be a very nice ride. I feel this skiff will run head to head with the bigger vee skiffs like the Marquesa, HPX , Spear skiffs and other vee bottom skiffs. It's way more boat than the 17.8 in vee and bottom so that skiff and its offshoots will be a bit shallower if light but not have the ride of this skiff. It's going to look similar in size but when you put the hull numbers together they are two different boats. 

- I have drawn in a detailed lower chine pocket. This I feel  will be an improvement on my past ideas.

- On the bottom aft there will be a center flat pad with a lifting strake on each side. This I feel will add speed . 

- On each stern quarter I have drawn in a mini keelson that can be added after the hull is built. These can be added to the current 17.8 s and Guides if wanted. Just glue on with epoxy. This will cure the sliding but will be an option. Tom and I both wanted a hull that will lean in a turn instead of the G- force feeling you get with a conventional chined bottom.

- This skiff has two sets of reverse spray strakes to divert the spray away as a first line of defense.

- The upper spray chine has been drawn in to the current thinking of catching all that can be caught with the hulls lines drawn in specifically to catch the spray.

 - I have drawn in a very clean waterline to make to boat easy to pole and for the spray to flow in a uniform way.
This is how it all starts. I do a drawing to scale which was drawn over the old 17.8 hull lines as a reference. It's nice to have these drawings to use as a reference .I then glue up a block of wood and start shaping.
By continually drawing in the half sections I can see it take shape. The drawing is on the table for reference. It's very full forward now. You can see the stern curve. It will have a crown from top to bottom too so as to have no flat surface on it.
Here I can see the vee in the bottom. I have also drawn in the spray and liting stakes in.
Comparing it to the Causey skiff. Wish I hadn't given away all my old half hull designs. But I do have all the drawings.
Finished hull. The waterline is just below the darkish plank. See how nice and fair it is with no hard sharp transitions above the waterline or else where. The process to carve this out takes 4-5 hours.
I can see the boat in the wood block just like the fish I carve.
Again the under water part is the white wood. See how clean and fair the waterline is. Also note the size of the upper spray chine and how the half sections flow into this. I feel if it was high up and part of the sheer like on the HPXs, and Spear boats the wind could catch it and throw it over the side. This boat at speed will be planning on just the stern area and will only have to trim the bow down when going into a good chop. It has similar vee aft as the HPX, and Chittum skiff but way more forward from admidships onward. My guess is the East Cape skiffs are a lot wider at the waterline.

This is a fun process for me . To do this well you need all the requirements up front. It takes time to make out the list . Then it's just good to sit back and have a rum and dream about the project starting at  the bow and working aft. Think about the list. Get it in your head. Then start drawing and get going.

Now it's up to Tom Gordon to get back to me on what he thinks and his designer to spit out the numbers. I'll keep you up to date on what happens.


boatman said...

wow, this is just great chris.....I have had a design I have been kicking around for 3 years just for some retired friends of mine to build some one-offs for themselves.....thanks a whole lot for your candor....this has really got me thinking about a few of my details.
I'm going to run them by Wyatt while camping this week.

Juan said...

Hey, Chris, that's my little blue Glide right there in your blog! Thanks for sharing so much of your knowledge and experience; I've enjoyed reading the posts. PS I guess it looks all wrong at the dock, but poles beautifully--even solo.

James Sheehan said...

In this day and age with CAD drawings and such, it's great to see how a real architect comes up with a hull design. A beautiful looking hull may I add. Can't wait to see it.

Martin Bowers said...

That reference to Egret quality must be from when Jim ran things, before he sold the company to that used car salesman BS artist. My biggest regret is trading in a wonderful Florida built Egret for a North Carolina built turd.

CRawlings said...

I really appreciate your generous sharing of knowledge. Your attentive design and observation has tansformed the humble skiff. Thanks.