Three Little Boats
May 12, 2007
A few pics of boats I saw at the Bates Boatbuilding Program the other day: A Norwegian pram dinghy, a traditional lapstrake “flatiron skiff”, and an original Salmon Beach dinghy.
The Norwegian pram is modern plwood-epoxy lap-glued construction, very similar to the way I’m building my Pooduck Skiff, although the craftsmanship is much better than mine (the builder also builds guitars). It is coated in epoxy/fiberglass in an effort to make it more waterproof. In comparison I’ve decided not to coat mine with epoxy and fiberglass, primarily to save myself a lot of trouble, but also because there is evidence that it might actually promote rot when water seeps in through the inevitable cracks and can’t escape.
The flatiron skiff is traditional lapstrake construction with cedar planks, copper rivets and an oiled finish. Ricardo did a wonderful write up for the boatbuilding program’s benefit auction:
Stuart Little’s Dinghy: built by Aaron Gnirk and Nathan Barbre, Bates Boatbuilding Students
A flatiron skiff, to be sure, is not a boat for the very grand. On the other hand, owning a William Atkins skiff like the one before you puts you in select company – much like owning a Frank Lloyd Wright henhouse. Not only will it take you across the lake, it will also transport you to a time when Billy and his brother, John Atkins, designed a series of power, oar, and sailing craft for Motor Boating and The Rudder in the golden age of the citizen mariner, each boat a gem of purest ray serene for anyone who would undertake to build it. Those were the days when marinas were filled with a variety of sweet smelling and naturally graceful wooden craft like this little skiff, bobbing in that particularly buoyant way that only wooden boats have.
Note the length overall: ten feet, long enough to be able and burdensome, short enough to be slung on deck or the top of a car, a length not dictated by plywood merchants. Note the materials: good clear western red and Alaskan yellow cedar, a bit of white pine, a touch of oak and mahogany, copper rivets and stem head, plugged bronze fastenings where you can’t see them but where they count. Note the construction: planking gains carefully cut at the bow and stern, so that the laps disappear at both the stem and transom, a thwart post landed on its own pad. Note the lines: a cheerfully springy sheer and rocker, ready to float over the next wave.
This is a vessel short on luxury but long on comfort, short on pretense but long on strength, short on promise but long on adventure. Given an annual coat of linseed oil, it will serve generations of owners with its honest and generous character.
Lastly, the Salmon Beach dinghy is an original from the historic Salmon Beach community located just south of Point Defiance along the Narrows. Ricardo thinks that it could be at least 100 years old, but according to my research the boathouse wasn’t established on Salmon Beach until Henry Foss towed his family’s two-story boathouse there from Foss Waterway in 1906. In fact, Salmon Beach didn’t even get it’s name until 1909. Note the pic of the Boathouse below -- it seemed like the most popular way to get around back then was with a little rowboat. Of course, building little rowboats was the key to the Foss family fortune.