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April 7, 2014


So You Want to Build a Skiff?

by mrbrownliner

I have been told that I am just a hair on the crazy side on more than one occasion.  The tendency to take the path less traveled somehow seems to find me even when I am not actively searching for it.  So began this journey.   If you knew me as a kid, you would know that I grew up chucking plugs from an 18′ Lund V Hull that my fathers employees aptly named “The Master Baiter”.  (mom was so proud)  My father ended up selling the boat as I got older and have been a walk and wade fly fisher for over 20 years.  Deep down I have always missed having the boat and would often lament to my wife about the day that the kids grow up and I can buy my dream boat.

Long long long story short, I decided that that time was now.  No… the kids are not grown up.  No I don’t have the budget for the boat I had my eye on…. and I truly had no clue what I was going to do.  As luck would have it, my friend Dale Fogg is a pretty handy guy and makes beautiful hand crafted fly tying stations.  He turned me on to J and J Dream Boats ( on FB) up in Union City, PA.  Jim and Joan are truly amazing folks and not only do they sell beautiful hand crafted drift boats, but they offer classes for the novice (like me) who would like to build their own.

Now, if you have read any of my previous posts you’d know that I had purchased a small hull with the notion of rehabbing it.  After some sense was talked into my head by Mark Sikora up at International Angler, I realized that the boat did not have enough displacement to carry the weight of what I wanted to do….  So at that fateful moment, a skiff was born!  I found a perfect set of plans for what I wanted to build on Bateau for a fair price but if you look hard enough, there are plenty of free plans available in books or on the web.

My journey started with a FaceBook message and then a phone conversation with Jim and Joan.  They were not only helpful and insightful, but they agreed to schedule a class to accommodate my crazy schedule.   In a full day, Jim walked me though each and every step with hands on experience and patient explanation.


Not only did I walk away with knowledge, confidence, and excitement, but Jim fed me a lunch of some of the best deep fried blue gill fillets I have ever had!  According to Jim, Joan caught most of them and is deadly with light tackle.


J and J have sold boats to all different kinds of folks, including some of the most well known guides in Pennsylvania.


So building a 16′ boat is at times not a one man operation so I recruited my good buddy CW and my neighbor Rich to give me some much needed help.  (I pay in beer, but always really really good beer!)  So this week it began with the goal to have the boat in the water for our late May pilgrimage to Presque Isle Bay.



IMG_1059 IMG_1058


Yes… I know, I know… It doesn’t look like a boat yet.  The early stages are a ton of prep and joining of boards.  Stay tuned for more to come as things take shape.  We are still searching for a fishy name so if any of you have some cool ideas, let us know!

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,



6 Comments Post a comment
  1. David Kramer
    Apr 7 2014

    Well…building a canoe is on my bucket list. So now I feel inspired. While your Dad’s Lund had a great name, you might want to shy away from keeping that tradition (at least in public). Else CYS might be at your door. Why not use “Tight Lines and Loose Pants” with your blog site address below. Then corporate sponsorships will flood in (assuming the fiberglass tape seams hold).


    • Apr 7 2014

      Yeah…. I think we will go with a bit more of a family friendly name… especially if I ever want Mrs. Brownliner to ever set foot on it. 🙂

  2. Apr 10 2014

    You’re really making me want to build a boat too. I’ve searched for plans online previously and have always wanted to do it. I’m currently building some built in bookcases… but as soon as that’s cleared out of the workshop… I may have to give this a go.
    I have lots of experience with woodwork and carpentry… so I’m pretty confident I’ve got the necessary skills.
    I am curious to know if that’s just sanded pine plywood you’re using… that’s what it looks like to me. It doesn’t look like anything too special, and always thought the boat builder types wouldn’t settle for anything less than marine grade plywood. I always thought if you sealed it well enough you could use regular plywood.

    • Apr 10 2014


      Go for it! If you have some basic carpentry skills and a few tools you are good to go. I may get myself into some trouble here with the purists but my understanding is that you do NOT have to use Okoume or any other marine grade plywood.

      Thousands of boats have been build and still float today using exterior grade plywood purchased at your local lumber yard. The key is making sure you buy a grade of wood that does not have voids (or minimal voids). There are trade-offs to keep in mind. Okoume is much more expensive, but lighter than the same thickness exterior grade plywood. The lower the grade wood you purchase you will have to deal with knots, voids, etc… If you are going to paint the boat, the knots will have minimal impact to your build. If you are doing a bright and clear finish you will probably want to buy the best wood you can. I am using exterior grade plywood from Lowe’s. The outside hull of mine will end up being a mirror black finish of epoxy/carbon so I really don’t care what the outside wood grain looks like. The inside decks will be covered with SeaDek or a similar product so the only significant grain I will be showing is the inside of the gunwales, bulkheads, and a small portion of the deck. If you are serious about it, drop me a message and we can chat…. hopefully I can help you avoid a few of the rookie mistakes I have already made!

      • Apr 10 2014

        I’m definitely serious… and I have more than just basic skills and a few tools… I’m downright dangerous. 😉
        Just for starters… what thickness plywood are you using? Are you doing fiberglass or carbon fiber tape at the seams?

      • Apr 10 2014

        Jay, I have no doubt… you have a router and aren’t afraid to use it! Plywood thickness varies by boat plan and boat part. I am building the Indian River Skiff from Bateau. The bottom is 1/2″, the sides are 1/4″, etc….I am modifying a bit so my decks will be different than what the plans lay out which means I will also have to provide rigidity a bit differently as well. My seams are all going to be wood flour fillets with glass tape on both sides. I will however be mixing graphite powder with epoxy for the final coat for durability on the outside of the hull.

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