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Fisherman 17               

Those readers among you who are familiar with my work will undoubtedly be shocked to learn that I design power boats. The truth is that power boats were my first love, and I have been designing them since 1958 (I was 12). I haven't made this widely known, and certainly I have been primarily focused on traditional sailing craft for many years, but it's time to come out of the closet!

I grew up on the Great South Bay of Long Island, where boats like this one were every boy's dream. The Bay held relatively flat water, precariously thin (often 6" or less), tidal flats full of those sweet cherrystone clams--infinite possibilities for exploring--all spread out to include islands, inlets, grass and sand, criss-crossed with wheel tracks. I didn't have a clue back then how much it would be like the Florida Keys.

In 1985 I set up my little boatyard in Islamorada, not knowing it was sport fishing heaven. I tried to ignore the clean, low, flat and fast guide boats behind the Lorelei where the gang gathered to toast the setting sun. But it didn't last. Any boat that can float in a drop of dew, turn on a dime, and fly across the pale turquoise water at breath-taking speed can't be ignored for long. Soon I was going for rides on one of the really radical custom models, and one thing led to another....

So this is a serious little boat. Though not for the first-time amateur builder, she is certainly within the capabilities of the serious garage boat builder. She is built of tortured plywood over a fairly sophisticated network of web frames and stringers. Every component is epoxy glued and coated, and the boat is very light and strong. She is a very serious fishing machine, and should be set up by the builder to suit the owner's specific needs. I have not drawn in steering, controls, swivel seat, trolling platform, pole brackets or windshield, because their type and placement is individual to the man who will fit her out.

The service gutter, center-console drawers and cabinet, ice box/passenger seat, fish box and bait well will suit diverse fishing needs. Rod racks are formed by doubling the plywood frames below the side decks, and notching them as required. Cast-in-place 4-pound-density closed-cell polyurethane foam will dampen pounding in rough seas, reinforce the bow and stern, make the ride more quiet, and make the hull unsinkable. The permanent fuel tank will provide a long cruising range, and its location will improve performance and comfort. There is a large self-draining locker forward for ground tackle and life vests, huge lazarette lockers (also self-draining), and the center console cabinet, all providing water-tight storage for tackle and gear. The deck is also self-draining through 1 1/4" PVC pipes through the transom. Easy to clean up.

All exterior surfaces are covered with epoxy-saturated Xynole-polyester fabric, including a second layer on the bottom (both layers are wetted out simultaneously to eliminate "secondary bonding") and double layers of polyester tape over all seams. The boat is finished with linear polyurethane.

While this model was designed as a Florida Keys Guide Skiff (bone fish, tarpon, pompano, amberjack, etc.), she will be equally suited for most other fisheries requiring a small, light, fast, manouverable shallow-water hull. She will be an excellent river and estuary boat, as well as a bartender, reef and inlet boat. Her limit will be large, steep chop, which she can negotiate safely at lower speeds. Recommended power is 25 to 75 HP. After powering several boats with them, I strongly recommend 4-cycle outboards, for their efficiency, durability, environmental friendliness, and low noise.