For many years, decades really, I've made an October pilgrimage to Annapolis, Maryland to wander the United States Sailboat Show. In all honesty most of the boats on display have never interested me too much. Either they are way out of reach and too encumbering or are simply living rooms with a stick. However, the promise of finding the ideal boat and the scene of a harbor full of boats has kept me returning. On one such occasion a modest bateau, a New Jersey gunning skiff (the Melonseed), stood out from the otherwise brash carnival. She was simple, beautiful in form, and to this day represents sailing in its purest form to me. A fellow named Roger Crawford resurrected the 19th century design from extinction. He builds her in glass to this day and a strong and loyal following has resulted. They call themselves, "Melonheads". Loads of info on the boat is now out there. Perhaps I'll offer some links later. In any event Roger's display has always been on the "must visit" list for the show. Every year the boat is the same with hardly a change and every visit is more gorgeous than the last. Why I don't have one, I can't figure, but perhaps the stable needs to be thinned first. So, kudos to Crawford Boatworks.
Others to thank for enabling the plunge:
- Ross Lillistone of Bayside Wooden Boats: He's an Aussie who's cat ketch "Periwinkle" re-ignited my small boat interest to the point of seriously considering building (3 yrs ago!). His designs are wonderful and very well thought out. With immense patience he answered countless emails and started my collection of proper tools for the "yak" task here begun. Perhaps there's a clinker ply boat in my future still.
- Barry Long: He is the craftsman and dare I say artist of 2 of the most beautiful Melonseeds I'm ever likely to see. I venture to say there is no better documentation on the journey of creating a small vessel as his blog Eye In Hand/ Marginalia. He too has endured many an inquiry and shares in the blame for encouraging my slip from reality here. If this kayak adventure proves as rewarding as I expect, it will be the prelude to a Melonseed build.
- Ross Leidy: like Barry, he's an artisan whose site Blue Heron Kayaks shows his prolific kayak builds of which his Outer Island is one of the prettiest out there. I've poured over his site to get a good understanding of the build.
Aside from these 2 skin-on-frame kayaks (below) one of my sons and I built last year as an introduction, I'm no boat builder. I aspire to gain the craftsmanship to pull this new work off.
|The "bones" of a slightly altered (deck 3/4" higher) Sea Tour 17 Explorer. SOF #1.|
|The ST 17 with skin on frame. All up = 37 pounds.|
Pictured is the "japanese lantern" before painting.
Here is the captain in the painted (3 coats of Rustoleum) boat on her maiden trip.
|SOF #2: A Siskiwit Bay 17. All up at 34 lbs.|
Without further ado, what follows will be the pieces and parts of an actual build. I hope it proves helpful (remember, you can always learn from another's mistakes).