The wooden boat project begins with the impossible task of converting 8 ft plywood into 16 ft boat parts. Perhaps it should have been obvious-plywood only comes in 8 foot sheets. There is a simple process to marry the ends of two boards together.
Scarfing. The joint is called a scarf. Simply, taper the ends of two equal thickness pieces of plywood, and epoxy them together. Simple, kind of... Instructions were very specific about being patient and taking time to perfecting this joint. I should have been more patient, but the weather was very hot, and I was using a friend's, tools and workshop. I wanted to move as quickly as possible. So the joint has aesthetic issues, but it is extremely strong. Perhaps even stronger than the plywood itself. The result are two plywood sheets 15 feet 6 inches long x 4 feet wide. One is about 1/2 inch thick for the bottom and transom, The other is about 3/8 inch thick for the sides.
Lofting. Drawing the basic shape on the bottom was done done easily with a few tricks from my friend, Marcus Parker. The proper term is lofting. This is a pre-CAD method. It is surprisingly effective and inexpensive, and I didn't have to bring my computer to the wood shop...The plans gave a measurement from the centerline at every foot. These marks were quickly drawn onto the 1/2 inch board. Then we put screws into the marks. And we bent a long-thin piece of scrap wood around the screws to easily draw the graceful ark. Once drawn, it was easily cut with a saber saw.
The sides were formed from one very long, straight cut. The Festool system was very effective, and made a perfect 16 foot cut. When the sides were book matched on top of each other, they were within an 1/8 inch of mirror image. Not bad for hand tools! We cut the bow and stern shapes with sides stacked.
You can see a scar on the top side panel (Both are stacked together.) Again, not a functional problem. I'll just call it character mark. At this point, we have a feel for the real size of the boat. Bigger than expected. I transported these parts back to my wood shop.
I was off to a great start, but I had needed a nudge to begin. I had owned the plans for years. I had owned the plywood for 12 months. And screwing up the plywood would be an expensive mistake. If it had not been for Marcus Parker's boat making knowledge and great tools, I would have never started.
If you are an avid fly fishing angler, you have fished from the classic drift boat at least once. It is so much fun, and a wonderful, stable platform. Quiet and peaceful, it is easy for guiding, too. Perhaps that is my main interest.
Captain Craig Crumbliss, of Lake Wales, FL, worked for 'The Store' for several years before taking on a teaching career. He did some guiding from his drift boat. His experience came from drifting the Eagle River in Colorado. And when he returned to Central Florida, he fished some of the small ponds and lakes in his drift boat. He knew that he was onto something. I fished with Craig on the Peace River, and had a great time. His drift boat was a welded plasticore material.
About 5 years ago, I fished with Randy Ratliff in his wooden drift boat on the South Holston River near Johnson City, Tennessee. We did very well. The river was flowing at 3 or 4 times the outflow that was normal. It was unsafe for wade fishing, but good conditions for the drift boat. We caught some trout, but mostly fished for smallmouth bass, and to this day, I love to chase smallmouth bass. Pound for pound they are the toughest fighting fish; and, it's bass fishing-what could be more fun? Randy told me about building his beautiful drift boat and I became intrigued.
As a fly fisher, I have found that catching a fish on a fly that I personally tied is extremely gratifying. Now catching a fish in a boat that I built will be even better. Check this blog regularly for a few photos and updates on the project. Hopefully, we'll have the guide boat in the water this summer.
After a little research, I decided on a set of plans from Montana Boat called the Freestyle Skiff. Drift boats typically have a high rocker, meaning that the bottom is curved instead of flat (like most lake boats are configured.) They do not have a keel (like most lake boats are configured.) This allows the boat to slide sideways which is critical in river current, but it is also important for lake boats too.The casting angle of from the boat, is most critical. This design is a little over 16 feet long and will weigh about 275lbs when done. It will be rowed with oars, but could take a trolling motor on the flat rear transom. Plenty of room for two, plus the oarsman. Wooden boats are very quiet, and stealthy. And they are very durable. And while wood could warp when wet, this boat is wrapped in fiberglass and epoxy. Essentially it is a fiberglass boat with wooden liner. And we can still take this boat to a few trout rivers in North Georgia and the Carolinas.
We plan to use the boat on rivers in the area. River fishing can be great in Central Florida. And there will be certain times of the year we will fish the Peace River, Withlacotchie River, Fisheating Creek, Econoloxahatchee River... But we plan to primarily use the boat in the small ponds and lakes that are difficult to find, and even impossible to launch a motor boat. Having a flat bottom, we will be able to glide over many of the weeded lakes that are inaccessible to power boats. These will be the places that a fish has never heard a boat motor, never seen a hook. I am looking forward to fishing some of these virgin places from this boat.