The Poor Man's Whaler
by Dynamite Payson

Excerpted from Messing Around In Boats)
(click here for more information about MAIB)

I don't suppose Skimmer would win an award purely for looks, but for the shortest time between two points she fills a need, and she does that handsomely. Her total cost of $50 to $75, which represents the current tab for a couple of sheets of plywood and a few 2x4s, justifies my calling her "the poor man's Boston Whaler."

Watching lobsterman Don York skittering around Spruce Head Island in a similar type of his own design first aroused my interest in this kind of speedster. Actually, he turned out a series of variations. His first effort was perfectly flat bottomed with her forward end turned up like a Sea Sled's, poor cornering and cavitation spurred him to further experimentation. At one stage, his chariot was two Styrofoam logs in a framework bolted to a piece of plywood on which he mounted an old fashioned wooden kitchen chair. All you could see was Don upright in this chair, tearing across the harbor like a bat out of hell with water flying everywhere.

It was one of those things people are sometimes driven to do for the good of their souls, I guess. You've got the motor, you've got the materials, you've got the goal. So you do it. I'm all for this kind of thing, but it's best done with the aid of a designer. The fun of the thing kept nagging at me and kept me nagging Phil Bolger until he gave up and designed Skimmer.

Even so, I had plenty of critics busy making me uneasy. Brooks Townes, then with National Fisherman, kept telling me, "You know, you can flip one of those when you get air trapped under her." I let Phil know of my concern and left it to him to make the venture safe. When I got the plans I began to wonder about the effectiveness of the three skids along her bottom. How much lift would they give and how much tunnel effect would they provide, as the Whaler's cathedral hull does, to let the air escape?

An explanation accompanied the plans, from which I gathered that the combined area of the three 1-1/2" skids would produce quite a bit of lift, similar, for example, to the human feet, which have performed successfully as substitutes for water skis. Anyway, during the trial runs of the prototype, my son Timothy drove her at a good clip with his 10 horse Mere and I could see that she cornered very nicely. When he took her on longer trips, such as out to the Muscle Ridge Islands, he reported that she never showed any tendency to back up.


Two sheets 1/4" 4' x 8' AC exterior or marine grade plywood. Four 8' 2"x4"s for bottom skids, inside gunwales, transom framing, and bow transom Filler (optional). 20' of 3/4" pine, spruce, fir, or mahogany for chine logs and seat framing. One 1-1/2" x 5-1/2" 8" plank for motor support board and bow transom framing. A 5" board for the bow transom top framing.

1 ib. of 1" #13 bronze anchor nails for fastening chine logs to bottom. 1 lb. of 1-1/4" bronze anchor nails for fastening bottom skids. 1 Ib. Weldwood dry powder glue (or epoxy or marine glue of your choice, it's not critical elsewhere, but epoxy is best for the bottom skids).

20' of 3" fiberglass tape for chines and a short strip of wider tape or Fiberglass cloth to cover the bow transom joint. I qt. resin and hardener.

Oarlocks, oarlock side plates, and 3/8" x 4" bow eye. Dow Corning sheet styrofoam (blue) for rotation under seat.

Layout And Assembly

Mark a sheet of plywood at 1' intervals as on the plan and draw in perpendiculars to use in measuring from the edge of the sheet to establish the shape of the sides. Define the curve area near the bow by driving nails and springing a batten around them. Mark sides for molding, waterline, transom rake, seat location, and oarlock side plates. Cut the framing for the top and sides of the stern transom from a 1-1/2" strip, the bottom framing is 1-1/2" x 2-1/2" and is beveled 14 degrees.

Establish the shape of the chine logs from the sides. Lay the sides on the floor and glue and fasten the chine logs to the inside bottom edges. Instead of the filler block noted on the plan, use a piece of 2" x 6" plank (detail drawing of this option is included). Let the bottom and bow transom plywood butt at this joint and glue and fasten the hull bottom and bow transom using 1" nails. Fasten the ends of the plank to the chine logs, plank ends flush with the outside of the sides. Round off to suit and apply Fiberglass tape and resin. Fasten the bow transom top (a 3/4" x 4-1/4", 3', 11-1/2" board) to the bow transom using glue and 1" nails.

Mark the outside bottom for the locations of the skids. Cut these from 2" x 4"s, six strips in all, and glue them together in pairs as shown, using epoxy. Form the curve either by securing each pair to the extreme outside edge of the bottom before gluing, shoring in place to follow its outline, or by constructing a jig for this curve and doing all three at once. Let glue harden overnight and cut the fore and aft taper the next day.

Bore pilot holes for skid fastenings through the bottom, glue skids with epoxy, and fasten them from the inside with 1-1/4" anchor nails, shifting to the 1" nails in the tapered sections.

Turn lhe boat right side up. Install the inside gunwales, sheer moldings, quarter knees, and seat frame. Pack Styrofoam flotation under the seat. Install the 1- 1/2" x 3-1/2" backing block for bow eye.

The only change I made in the original plans, with Phil's approval, was in the bow joint, which catches the lower edge of the bottom as described in the option noted above. This is simpler and faster and it makes for better nailing than using the 3/4" x 5-1 /2" framing as originally drawn and adding a filler piece.

There are no bugs in building Skimmer. The hardest part is getting the correct bend in the skids and holding it. I bent and glued two pieces of 1-1/2" x 3/4" spruce together and clamped them to the outside edge of the bottom to conform to that shape until the glue dried, one set of skids to each side. I clamped the third set to a jig, taken off the shape of Skimmer's bottom. The next day I tapered their forward ends and fastened them on, nailing from inside while a helper backed the skids up with a heavy maul from the outside.

Click image to enlarge

Skimmer is a very stable platform, stable enough to stand up and fish from. 10 hp to 15 hp is just right for Skimmer. Don't put on any more unless you want to scare yourself
half to death.

Plans are $30 a set, from H.H. Payson, 31 Pleasant Beach Rd, S. Thomaston ME 04858.