My Backyard Boats:

Contributors: Your Backyard Boats -- Weekend Skiffers: the Zephyr


  18 March 02: The Weekend Skiff that my brother-in-law Roger built inspired me to build one, too. Where mine is a slavish imitation where I departed from the published plans only when I made a mistake that I couldn't undo, his is innovative. Roger took the pix accompanying his text with a Nikon Coolpix 880. He sent me email about his boat, and it goes something like this (because I did a little editing -- it's in my nature):  

Click on these pics to see larger versions
This is the boat. The rig is 70 square feet. You can see the gaff's outline.
Room for four, and lunch, too.
Detail of the snotter and gaff.
There's nothing simpler than the gaff rig. Gravity holds it all together.
The end that most of the competition sees -- in Greek ... the Zephyr.
Just for fun here is pic taken after a rare snow storm near Roger's home.
One adult and three teens;  three of the four over 6 feet tall. No problem.

Click on these pix to see larger versions


  I, like you, used the Weekend Skiff book as my guide. I followed the building instructions pretty much faithfully, but I didn't like the too-simple shape, so I cast about for an alternative. I particularly didn't like the way the bow rides high out of the water. This results from the bottom of the chines being a straight cut; the wale curves gently, but the bottom is just the edge of the board.

    I liked the shape of Uncle Gabe's flat-bottomed boat in the Sam Rabl book Building a Boat in Your Own Backyard. The shape UG came up with has a very sleek "S" curve to the chine, a wider transom, and more freeboard. The result is a very nice rowing and sailing boat (not too good for a motor, but who cares!). The bow rides IN the water at all loads and configurations, but I am convinced this gives it its superior gliding ability.

    I've gotten some alarmed remarks from rowing companions about the wet bows, but she's the best rowing boat I can remember. Course I always only rowed motor boats (vee bottom aluminum jobs) before. She even rows with LESS effort the MORE you load her down. Good ol' Gabe knew what he was doing: The ride home with a boatload of fish is easier than the ride out!

    The higher sides, wider beam and smoother ride allows my family of four to go comfortably for a row (haven't tried to sail with four; not much room with mast and sail and all).

    Anyway, I used 1/2 inch ply for the bottom and transom, and 3/8 inch for the sides. Used just high

grade double sided interior ply [cq] because I couldn't find the right size marine ply easily. I figure the paint is what keeps it water tight anyway; the wood is just there to give the paint something to stick to, so I wasn't worried about the wood type. Just needed something that looked good. Besides, she sits IN the garage 99% of the time, so she'll never get waterlogged.

    I put in a kick-up centerboard (1/2 inch ply by about 3 feet long) in a trunk under one thwart. Weighted with melted lead poured into two 3 inch holes in the board. Cut them with a hole saw. Started with one but the board wouldn't go down enough.

    The mast I planed out of a fir 4x4 of 14 feet, I think. Can't remember where I got the plan ... . Oh, maybe R.D."Pete" Culler's book Skiffs and Schooners. Got the sail plan from him anyway. Had the sail custom made by Rolly Tasker ( -- 300 bucks! It's 70 square feet. The gaff was a finished handrail 1 and 1/2 inch diameter. (Pretty smart, huh!)

    The rudder is from the Weekend book, modified to fit the gentler angle of my transom. The next time I'm going for a kick-up rudder. Only found that design long after this one was built. The first tiller I made was pretty weak and broke at a very inopportune moment during some early difficult sails. That was a bad day. The new one is about 2 inch diameter, made from glued up 1 inch plywood scraps. Pretty hefty, but makes me feel confident of being able to fight off any pirates or big sharks if necessary.

    Oh, I put her mostly into SF bay at San Leandro (because there is no launch or parking fee there). The depth of water is about 6 feet max for the first few miles out. I enjoyed watching a big sailor turn out of the channel too early one fine day and spend the rest of the day trying to float her off. My flattie just loves the shallows, although the oars scrape bottom sometimes. She likes to sail here because of the wide open room. I intend to sail clear across the bay sometime soon (its widest point is here -- about 10 miles).

    Been on the Pacific at Half Moon Bay, about 2 miles out with the TSCA Sacramento chapter boys. Been on the Napa River with some of the same. Have to admit, they left me in the dust that day. Last outing was on the Del Valle reservoir, which lies in a winding canyon. Worked my way upwind by sail OK though it was narrow. But the wind quit just when I was ready to run back. Had to row back!


& Perkins

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