Sunday, December 18, 2016

Analyzing today's technical Flats skiff bottoms,transoms and spray rails.

2-1/2 years ago Tom Gordon asked me to design a flats skiff to add to the Islamorada Boatworks company line. I gave Tom the original design sheet with my hand drawn sections and hull lines for free as a thanks for the times we had together at Hells Bay Boatworks. I said he could use what ever he liked and change whatever he wanted. It was his project.

Well.... what I drew up and what he built are two different boats.....and another story.
After posting on this blog that I would really like to see this skiff built as designed and offering the hull design out for free to anyone that wanted to take on this build, I garnered 3 requests. Two by amature home builders that want to build wood strip versions and one from an old friend from my boat building days, Geneo Baker.
Geneo wrote and said he would like to build this skiff and what did I want for the plans. Geneo is an expert in fiberglass resins, epoxys, coatings and all involved in the stinky sticky part of modern day boat building. He was the sales Rep at the time of Hells Bay for Polygaurd resins, our main supplier. When something wasn't curing to specs he was my go-to guy.
I wrote back telling Geneo he could have the plans for free and could build as many skiffs as he wanted and all I would ask is that he build the hull to my design as close as he could so we could see if what I had in my head was going to work. 
Geneo is a very capable boat builder in his own right and is a fiberglass expert. Below are pictures of his personal boat that he built in a barn on his own.
Geneo is in Islamorada working out of Islamorada Marine as a self employed do it all fiberglass, paint fix what ever and rebuild what ever guy. He was allocated a nice shop space to build this skiff. To help things get going Geneo enlisted the help of his personal power boats designer Scott Grider to come down, loft up my design, build the stations, set up the strong back and plank her. The world is small, as Scott and I have never me, but he had a painting of his own boat done by my father years ago and is a childhood friend of my-go to naval  architecture guy Wyatt Huggins. This collaboration led to many emails to me over in the Bahamas asking questions as I could only send Scott the hull sections via this IPad.
Scott being a professional boat builder over a long career was a pleasure to work with as he could read my plans and see my vision and kept a list of which offsets were off. 1-8" 3/16" in a couple of places.
Geneo has also teamed up with Brian Floyd who runs Isla Marine in Islamorada and Eric Shisler who runs Performance Marine where this skiff is being built as partners in the future building and running of their skiff company.

(I think there are at least 100 variations on using Islamorada in company names down here.)

Their plan is to build the hull mold off of this cored hull plug. The hull plug is then going to be hull #1 and built with a simple interior. From there they will build several deck molds offering different styles of skiffs from simple to the yacht type skiff that the upper market demands. They will have the fiberglass parts built using the infusion method by a professional shop in Florida and they will then assemble and rig them in the Florida Keys. Doing it this way they can get the parts built by experts in a location that is cost effective and can deal with the Zoning of fiberglass and they can then build each skiff to order employing their expert skills in a place that they want to live, the Florida keys. This will not be a lets see how many skiffs we can sell and spit out the door operation. 
The great thing for me is that Brian Floyd is one of the best riggers in the business, has worked for Hells Bay Boatworks ( after I left) so knows all my past skiffs, their ideosincracy's, and well all the other skiffs out there having worked on them all over time. Great inside knowledge of what's worked and what hasn't.
All three of these guys are just the nicest down to earth guys. No egos here. It's been great being asked all the way along for details on this and that. The plug looks perfect to me. Can't wait to see how it really works.
Now it's down to get that mold made and hull #1 so we can see what this skiff can do.

Following I will show and explain my path to trying to come up with the " next " skiff, at least for me.

When drawing up a skiff I ask for a list of what's needed. When Tom Gordon talked to me it was for a skiff to compete with my past 17.8 skiff the PROFESSIONAL also known as the WATERMAN 18. Tom  also wanted to compete with the CHITTUM SKIFF and the MAVERICK HPX. These three skiffs plus a small handful of newer skiffs on the market today like the similar EAST CAPE skiffs are to me pretty much the skiffs to look at if you are looking for a no noise, easyish to pole skiff that can handle some rough bay water. 
In my comparisons shown here we will look at my past skiff designs the WHIPRAY, GUIDE, MARQUESA, and the other designs HPX, CHITTUM SKIFF, with the bench mark that started it all the SUPER SKIFF.
The 17.8 PROFESSIONAL is the same skiff as the WHIPRAY but with just a bit more crown to the bottom and the stern boxes. I'am using the WHIPRAY as its the skiff to compare to still in many ways.
I have absolutely no exsperience with EAST CAPE, BEAVERTAIL, BOSSMAN, DRAKE or any of the newer skiffs that have similar details to my past HBBWs skiff designs. Much the same thing but different. Please don't get me wrong by not including theses skiffs. I feel everyone needs to take an idea and run with it to try and wring out a better way. If it is better then we all benefit. I just don't see anything new in these skiffs. I do like the DRAKES look and it's bottom. The chine styling is the only thing new to me.

I feel the SUPER SKIFF is the bench mark because of its great ride and total quiet hull, the HPX because this is an offshoot of the SUPER SKIFF but has been an evolving design over many years all for the better in some versions, and the CHITTUM SKIFF for setting the new bench mark for building standards, innovations and finish. I include my past original Hells Bay designs because I know them very well. My guess is the Hells Bay designs shown here have been retooled and changed many times over the years so let's just think of my era of 1997-2002. We are talking only about skiffs that have no chines coming out of the water when poling.

Ok onto the LITIHUM design goals.

This design is to use as small as HP as possible to be able to plane along at 35-40 mph staying as dry as can be on a beam to forward of the beam sea. To me it's very hard to get a small light weight skiff to be dryish in a beam sea when running along. I have gone to lengths to get the spray water that's coming out from the sides to be directed towards the sea instead of out and away from the hull and blown back onto you. 
To get speed with low hp I have added a center pad and lifting pads. I feel that the forward mid third of skiffs take the sea not the stern so I really do not like having vee back there. But if you are into driving at speed into 2-3' seas then a bit of vee in the stern helps. But it also helps to be a good seaman and if you are caught out in these conditions you can, with a flatter bottom and not so hardy passengers, tack to weather at an angle to save your shelves from the banging up front. To me it's amazing how just angling off across a bay can be so different than going straight into it.
I have drawn in the sheer height to reflect the bigger outboards of today and the big guys of today.
I am 5'3" tall at 160 lbs. most everybody I know is well..... Bigger.
This skiff should weigh when finished with a full yacht interior and deck to compete with a CHITTUM skiff at around 500 lbs. and use a 70- 90 hp engine but still go well with a small engine and simpler interior. 
But what I fear will happen is a 115 hp will be put on the stern as it weighs the same as the smaller engine.
I say forget 4-stroke and get a ride to the Bahamas and buy a way cheaper 2- Stroke there and bring it back.
The stern will not rate for a 115 hp just like several of the others in this discussion. My advice is put your Coast Gaurd tag on the boat with the smaller engine rating and let the guys that need the speed deal with the liabilities of the bigger non sanctioned engine.
If this skiff runs along well with a 60-70 hp at the speeds mentioned, is dryer, fairly comfortable at speed and draws 5-6" loaded then it will be a contender. If it's a lot dryer, still floats in 5-6", is totally quiet because of the new stern design, poles well and is built to the standards that these guys are looking to achieve then it could be a skiff to start looking to get your name on the list.

Geneo and I in the red talking boats. Rachel and I have sailed the Hogfish Maximus to Islamorada to see this skiff build and spend the winter here with Rachel looking for work ashore and me designing boats onboard.
We will be anchored off of Windley Key in a cove on the bayside off the OV hotel. Good dinghy access and nice people ashore.

This is the cockpit of Geneos Sportfisherman that he built to Scott Griders design. It's all built in core using all the highest tech methods available.

She has to be seen to be appreciated. 

Here's the hull bottom with my pads. This boat should be easy to get on plane and to pole along straight. You can see the rounded stern. The bottom is straight at the stern for the trim tabs and to be well just simple. No gimmicks like recessed trim tabs and the pockets that they need. This stern is all about being quiet and hopefully being able to turn quicker. We'll see.

Fish eyes view. The way you get the hull out of the mold is to have the transom top back edge be removable and then you pull and lift the hull out by the bow like taking off a shoe. This makes these trim tab pockets simple to layup and to bolt the trim tabs to. Scott Grider is an expert at take apart molds. All very strait forward.

That's a nice lean hull with a huge spray rail. But the deck foot print is the same or less than most all the skiffs talked about here.

Being upside down you get a different view. The big flange is for Vacuum infusion.

A Waterman hull. Man that stern bottom is flat. How can you not get beaten to death in that? 
It's all about the first 1/3 rd of the bow taking all the seas when trimmed down. The tabs raise the stern and push the bow down. BUT if your skiff is over weight then it feels good because of this weight when running but not when polling. This is a later built skiff from my time at HB and I could just barely lift its stern. Oh man it was heavy. This means more fuel costs, slower speeds and like poling around a dead extra body in the skiff all the time. Bummer.

Look at the blue tape on the next pictures. I have put it where I have seen most of these skiffs floating. Look at it from the underside of the blue tape. This is worse case draft here with big engines and guys.
I know I will get crap for doing this but just look or put the blue tape on your skiff and see for yourshelf.
This is an HPX with its trim tabs set up. If my rounded stern design works this will make this kind of stern obsolete for the diehard fishing enthusiast. It's draft as measured is 9"
My advice is not copy my stern design till you hear from me on how it works. I'll let you know.

My stern design with its straight bottom and rounded above the waterline stern. Even the hull sides are crowned and rounded.

The CHITTUM Skiff. This is a pretty stern with just a bit of curve to it and nice rounded transom corners. This stern would look good on any skiff. But you have those little tab pockets to deal with in building to account for the crown. The blue line shows 7-1/2" draft. This is just a guess from looking at pictures on Instagram. It probably would be a bit less depending on the guys aboard.

Here's a bad picture of a SUPER SKIFF I built for Charley Causey in 1986. It was the last skiff I built when I had my shop Back Bay Boats in the Keys. It's seen better days for sure. I have put the blue tape where it should be with 2 guys aboard and a 90 two stroke. I'm probably under on this.
It's draft is 9" here but if you tilt this skiff over on its side you can get 7" draft.

I just threw this biggish BEAVERTAIL skiff in here to show the transom details that are just like the WHIPRAYS. Nothing new here except they have strakes in the stern bottom to help in sliding which probably work as this boat feels heavy and that should keep it in the water in a turn. But poling?

Here are scale drawings of my past skiffs comparing their sterns to the new LITIHUM.
I will have all these drawings on my sister blog site...... 
For greater clarity You can see the differences here. The Marquesa is deeper as the way they are being built today is way too heavy today due to no shop guidence. I have drawn the skiffs in as they would float- draft.

Now you can see the other skiffs against the LITIHUM'S stern. I measured the other skiffs sterns and have drawn these as close as I can. They are not perfect but close. Also I'am looking at today's skiffs which can be way too heavy except the CHITTUM skiff as I know it's Hal's priority to keep the weight out. But the best way to get your boats to float shallower is to get little skinny people to fish out of them. The LITIHUM is drawn with a 6" worst case draft at 1600 lbs displacement. That's a heavy load but it's reality for the big engine big guy/have everything on board crowd.
My ideal is a 450 lb hull simple interior plan skiff with a 70 two stroke engine and nobody who needs to get scared when running from spot to spot.

Bows, I like my bows to not slope aft like some of the current trend. I think Some are there to make them look fast? Or to make the boats longer without the length?
I feel you need all the displacement- flotation you can up front at rest when you have your big ass sport on the bow. Oh yea his buddy wants to cast too after you hook up and then they wonder why the bow chines are slapping and scare off the second fish. I have heard many 250 lb guys complain about bow slap when fishing out of a Marquesa after Permit in choppy conditions with two guys on the bow.
The push pole should be used by the Guide for pushing people over the side at these times.
This is why the CHITTUM wraparound bow stand hold all your line contraption is so good. There's no more room for the second guy and it helps the guy in it from not falling overboard.

This drawing shows the various bows of my designs and the HPX, SUPER SKIFF and CHITTUM SKIFF.
It shows the LOA of the deck measurements only. Some decks hang way over so the skiffs get a longer measurement and sound bigger. As you can see I have a curve trend to my designs and the others are in their own time frames progression of development. Drafts are shown to the side.

Here is a group of HELLS BAY designs and the LITIHUM at station #7 where I look to get the best ride in chop with a shallow poling skiff of light weight. You can see how radical I have gone with the LITIHUM spray rails. I'm trying to stay dry from the console forward. Today's Marquesas are deeper as they weigh too much because of over building. I feel they draw more than I have shown here. Same with the other newer built HB skiffs. Too heavy.

Now I have not measured the other skiffs sections at this station but I have measured their deck sheer at the hull. The rest is drawn by eye, please give me some leeway. If I have erred it's the other skiffs are not really so wide at the waterline. But it's close. To me station #7 is where all the action is in a skiff when needing to fly along in big chop. You can see why the SUPER SKIFF gets such a good ride, narrow and deep. The CHITTUM and the HPX are sort of similar at this point of the hull bottoms with Hal's skiff changing with his bow design. His bow tucked in at the waterline forward reminds me of fast sailboats and commercial ships with their bulbous bows changing the waterline patterns.
The bow on my sailboat the HOGFISH MAXIMUS tucks in like this too and we have snuck up on plenty of sea creatures over the years. But our mast and sails get in the way of Flyfishing.
Look at the SUPER SKIFF and the LITIHUM at the waterline and then the sheer. About the same. The overhang is the same. I feel the LITIHUM will not be as tippy because the flattish stern will not be as cranky and tippy as the SUPER SKIFFS deep vee and narrower stern. We'll see.

HPX bow derived from the SUPER SKIFF. After thought spray rail at the sheer.

Ah the ole SUPER SKIFF bow. Talk about tippy...when going out on that edge.

BEAVERTAILS bow. Nothing new here that I can see. Could have been more aggressive with that spray rail.

Bows, this is Capt. Billy Knowels MARQUESA. I would change the upper chine today and make sure it's built under 500 lbs. and get rid of that pocketed stern adding a rounded stern.

CHITTUM bow. Look back at the HPX and SUPER SKIFF. Kinda similar except for the sucked in bow detail. Now look at the deep spray rail. This deep vee has to be filled with foam from inside to stop water from getting into it adding weight and noise. Also it can cause a racket when catching water as it acts like a cathedral hull. So it has to be at the right height. That's why my overhanging chine is fairly conventional in angle and has a nice curve to it to hopefully not catch some noise.

The hull lengths of each of these skiffs not including their deck overhangs are as follows;
WHIPRAY   15'-9 1/2"
HPX            16'- 7"
SUPER SKIFF   15'-7"
LITIHUM    18'
GUIDE      17'-10-1/2"
MARQUESA   17'-10-1/2"
The hull beams at the center of each skiff including their upper Chines showing their real hull beam and then their added beam measurement with the upper chine measured. All have wider decks on top of this.
WHIPRAY    59-1/2" hull with upper chine 64-1/2"
HPX            67"
SUPER SKIFF     60"  to  78" when including the flair.
CHITTUM SKIFF   67" and with upper chine   79"
LITIHUM       56" and with upper chine    72"
GUIDE    64" and with upper chine    74"

Everybody's kinda close in size except the two really small skiffs. 

I feel there is a big trend now in skiffs going in a backwards direction with some builders that are claiming to be at the cutting edge of building but are just.... Well just building skiffs to sell.
What I am talking about here are the skiff builders that are building and selling to the technical flyfishing market. At this level and skiff price you have to prove every day why your skiff deserves the cost. You do this by building to the highest standards. Not just claiming to be.
By just browsing builders' Facebook pages and seeing the social media pictures of skiff builds showing up on my Facebook  page I can get a peek of what's going on or as I look at what's not.
What I see are my past designs that have had their bottoms tweaked but are the same size and they are all sinking!!! Yes they are getting heavy and drawing more water. 
This all comes into play with wanting a light weight skiff to pole and drive about. 150-200 lbs more in weight is a lot to deal with. And you are paying for the technology so why end up with an inferior product.

There are lots of ways to build a technical flats skiff. This is not my version of it. The last layer on top of a cored hull should be a dull finished light weight cloth, not the shiny resin soaked matt that you see here. Fiberglass Matt has not much strenght when left as the last layer so what's going on here. My guess is it's easier for the crew to make it look neat and this builder does not understand light weight building standards.
I would have a caniption if this was in my shop. Old school just get it out the door building here.

The deck to the above hull. See the big dark stretch down the middle. That's two layers of fiberglass Matt just lazily laid over each other without fitting down the middle. There's enough extra matt here on this deck to build a big hatch with. Also all that matt going over the hatches and cockpit that has to be cut out later is all wasted labor and materials. Enough on this deck to build all the hatches with. Oh man what a waste of energy and money. The added strip down the middle and across the deck adds weight and does little to add strength. When applying the core over this extra layer extra bonding putty will be needed to bridge the edge of the unneeded layer.
In my day we laid the top skin down and the core all at the same time. All was as neat at a bed covering. All joints get rolled together so it all looks like one big cloth layer.
Now they will bond with putty which will be a secondary bond if not done on time.
This shop needs a technical builder supervisor to get it back up to speed.
I show this as just a glimpse into what's going on today in some shops. It is so much easier to look away when building than to be there everyday making sure everything is the best.
From this slackness comes the amount of bonding putty going in like huge blobs going in under fuel tanks. This is extra weight and it causes the aluminum tanks to corrorde quickly. The tanks were designed to glassed in by two tabs to the hull sides with the tanks not touching anything to keep the moisture away. Changing the details and using lots of putty, it all adds up.
These skiffs will not come apart but they are not what they are being billed out as. They are just average built skiffs. It's not fair to the molds they are being built from. All it takes is know how. Why don't they know how?
In my day we weighed a WHIPRAY on a scale at the boat shows fully rigged with a 25 hp Merc with gas in the tank.
590 lbs. 

If you like the 17.8 PROFESSIONAL, the WATERMAN 18, the GORDON 18, the LITIHUM has the potential to make these skiffs into classics.

I started my flats boat building career in a two car garage in Tavernier. I laid up the hulls and moved the hull mold outside and built my skiffs in a small place with just Lawanda'shelp here and there.
If you are getting a big shop to produce your parts then you can build a nice amount of skiffs a year, probably 12 or more. That's enough for three guys.

Geno and the guys that will be building the LITIHUM are determined to be in the top end, end-all skiff market. They have my vote.

But for their effort I hope my ideas work.