The Skipjack
- Model Boat Building
by Steve Rogers &
Patricia Staby-Rogers

215 x 275mm

Published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd, PA, USA


ISBN 0-88740-937-7

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Extract from back cover of book:

Skipjacks are working boats. Called bateaux by the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay, they were expected to yield a return on investment. After all, oystering is a business, and the skipjack emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century as a cost effective working boat for the dredging of oysters.

Although the boats vary somewhat in size, the parameters of the design are remarkably consistent. In fact, the skipjack is a "ratio boat," meaning that almost every dimension of the hull and rig is a function of the length of the hull. Besides being used to dredge oysters, in the off-season skipjacks also carried freight from the bay regions up to Baltimore and carried duck-hunting parties out to shooting areas. The oyster dredging was done during the fall and winter months in shoal waters against the short, steep chop of the Chesapeake. A dredge full of oysters is heavy, imparting tremendous strain on a skipjack's hull. The leg o'mutton sail rig is low and powerful, contributing to the overall stress and strain that taxed the strength of iron, wood, and canvas. Even poorly maintained boats lasted twice their expected lifetime of twenty years, due primarily to their heavy construction. Well-maintained skipjacks survive even today, although their numbers have dwindled. Although fewer venture out each year at the beginning of the season, they still dredge for "arsters".

There are some excellent plans and books available about skipjacks and building models of specific boats. However, I thought it would be fun to try a different approach: building a model the way a shipyard would - by the formula. No one ever used plans in the building of these boats. Maybe a sketch, maybe a few lines scratched in the dirt, but no formal plan or blueprint ever found its way onto the shipwright's workbench. The starting point for a skipjack was the timber selected for the keelson. Whether the finished boat was to be 39 feet or 48 feet was determined by this particular tree and how much could be carved out of it. From this point on, all measurements followed (more or less) a standard formula.

This is the process we will follow to build our model. The model I've built for this book is in 1/2" scale, based on a skipjack that is 45 feet on deck with a 15 foot beam. Because the deck length is accomplished by way of a rake in the bow and the transom, the main structural members are shorter than that and we will need to lay them out on a flat piece of scrap plywood in order to calculate the lengths and angles of the various cuts. I've provided layouts to help you build the transom, determine the size and angles of the strongback, and build the keelson and stemliner assembly. I recommend that you become familiar with the various scale conversions of 1/2" scale to make your work easier. A 6" square timber will be 1/4" x 1/4" in scale and a 3" x 3" beam will be 1/8" x 1/8".

Photos: Colour

Units of Measurement: Imperial



Building the Skipjack

The Gallery

References, Bibliography and Recommended Reading