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by Ralph Poe – Lutz, Florida – USA

My wife Joan and I built our lakefront retirement home in the little community of Lutz, Florida. Lutz lies about 20 miles north of Tampa in the middle of what we locals call God's country. Within a 25 mile radius from downtown Lutz are over 300 lakes, 3 navigable rivers, Tampa Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. Boats of all kinds. from the humble Jon Boat to the Mega Yacht all coexist in great harmony here in God's Country. Blessed with such opportunity, naturally I had to have a boat for fishing and rowing exercise.

Uncle John was kind enough to introduce me to boatbuilding with his Cajun Pirogue. Surprisingly, that experience taught me a lot and resulted in a neat little boat that served me well for about a year. Unfortunately, I gave no thought to rot, and sure enough, the Florida weather tore it apart in no time. Lesson learned: glass all surfaces with 3 coats of epoxy and lavish the paint on. My next boat was a self designed skiff that looked great, but dragged its butt badly. That poor little boat ended up at the dump. Lesson learned: either design a double ended boat (points at each end) or put in enough stern rocker to get the butt up out of the water. Boat number three was a rowing catamaran. Unfortunately, using the Virus Kataram as inspiration, it turned out to be too short for a sliding seat. My fat butt sliding back and forth made it buck up and down like a kid's hobby horse. Lesson learned: for a sliding seat, make the boat at least 20 ft long, or forget a sliding seat and use a sliding rigger instead. Of course, I had no sliding rigger, and was not about to part with the $ 700-$900 it would take to buy a Virus or Piatedosi rigger. That boat ended up with a third pontoon, a full deck, and now serves as a floating play platform. The fourth boat was a 20 ft sliding seat punt. The sliding seat was made from parts salvaged from a Stamina Body Track Glider rowing machine that cost only $50 on Craigs List - high quality, works great. The riggers were attached to the side of the boat. That boat actually performed quite well. It had a 24in beam narrowing down to 12 in at each end. She was only 8 in deep and the bottom curved up at both ends as a punt should. That boat looked and performed so well that she was stolen on her first trip to the Hillsborough River. I left her unattended for about an hour and ... she was gone.

That brings us to the birth of the Lutz Skiff. Although the Punt was successful, she was not versatile enough for my needs. I wanted something I could use to fish as well as row for exercize. Several serious searches on the internet brought me to John Wellsford's Seagull. Here was a boat that had it all. The seagull can be used for fishing or rowing exercize and best of all, she looks so much like the boat my grand dad had when I was growing up. Seagull is a pretty boat. There was one serious hitch however. The Seagull plans are priced at $105 US. My total budget to build the boat was only $250-300 tops. Between my Scotch blood and Scotch whiskey, I just could not part with the money to buy the plans. What to do? I went looking for every article I could find on the internet that had anything to do with the Seagull. After a lot of looking I was able to glean enough info to figure out the overall dimensions and a lot of details.

I then decided that Seagull was not exactly what I wanted. I reduced the beam at the floor to 27 in, and the beam at the gunnels to 39 in. The freeboard was reduced a few inches since this boat is intended for flat water only, but we do get some decent winds on these little lakes. The idea here was to reduce wind drift problems and to add a little speed to my rowing exercize. There is still enough flare to handle the ski boat wakes common here in Florida, in fact she bobs like a cork on those wakes. Initial stability is quite good, and I can stand in the boat without a great deal of anxiety. I spent a lot of time working to get the rocker right. Many thanks to Gavin Atkin who took the time to explain his thoughts on proper rocker vs. Jim Michlak's theory of "a river of green peas". The boat handles like a dream: great glide, tracks straight as an arrow (a small skeg is attached), and still turns quite well. Although built for rowing, she is narrow enough to paddle with a kayak paddle. My brother in law brought his kayak over to our lake and he was amazed that I was able to keep up with him using a paddle. For fixed seat, fixed rigger rowing, I use a couple of small riggers that get the pins out to about 50 in, just about right for 8 ft oars. Rowing with the sliding rigger, I use 9' 6" oars.

I'm pleased with this little boat, but let no one think it just came together by itself. I must thank the hundreds of folks whose articles and plans I studied on the internet. A great tool in the planning stage, was the Cheerios Armada that I built using the trial and error method with 1" = 1' cardboard models. My wife wanted to know why I repeatedly built the same model over and over, but we know that each one was a little different from all the others. By the way, I think this scale is just right. Each 1/8 inch on the plans and model equals 1-1/2 inches life size. This allows meaningful modifications to the models for planning purposes.

So there you have it, the story of the Lutz Skiff, my "perfect boat". Ahhh ... but not quite! At about 75 lbs, she is a little heavy for me to handle on and off a cartop. In my younger days maybe, but not now that I'm an old geezer. I'd like to do some rowing on the lower Hillsboropugh River where the Univ of Tampa crew trains regularly, and crews from several northern schools train during the winter. I will not trailer a boat anymore, so I'll need a lighter boat for cartopping. Yes, plans are drawn for the Lutz Dory, a 15', boat designed to come in at about 45lbs, but she'll have wait until I'm finished with my current project, a 16' rowing catamaran and a sliding rigger built specifically for her. If you're interested, I'll fill you in wen they are completed.