Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Bolger Skimmer

Not for everyone.  Admission? Well, you know what the admission is...

Home ] Cajun Pirogue ] Rav Skiff ] [ Bolger Skimmer ] Michalak's  AF4 ] AF4 Build Photos 1 ] AF4 Build Photos 2 ] AF4 In Action Photos ] Camping ] Purposes ]

Late in the Summer of 2000, fearing that the season would pass entirely without properly testing my new craft, I managed to coax my spouse into assisting me in getting the craft into the truck and to the water.  I dubbed the craft "dp" after my high school friend DP. DP & I have long enjoyed an intense yet rocky friendship--our basic incompatibilities being overcome only by our personal history, common interests, and just fondness and admiration for each other.  I thought it fitting, as the craft was of somewhat offbeat and awkward in appearance, yet as it grew in my shed it also grew pleasing in the fondness of my eye.  Somehow the dp's blunt squarness, became an endearing rather than offputting quality.  And of the three boats I had built so far, I knew that the dp would be the one I would keep, abuse, and spend the most time puttering about in the creek with.  The dp, for those who are not familiar, is a Phil Bolger design named Skimmer.  I used the plans from the book, Build The New Instant Boats by Dynamite Payson.  It cost me between $75 and $100 and a month of weekends. Unlike my first two boats, I did not take pictures during construction.  It was by far the easiest to build of all my boat projects.

Pausing at the store to purchase petrol, I stepped out to snap this shot of the boat in the bed of my pickup.  It was taken with a camera purchased at the Harris Neck Volunteer Fire Dept. yard sale for $1.00.  Apparently there was some sort of light leak which affected all of these pictures to some degree.  This one especially.  As you can see, the boat did not truly fit between the wheel wells (humps) in the bed and therefore had to be tilted upward and slid over them.  This resulted in the boat having to be tied in, so as to avoid it sliding out onto the road.

It was a truly beautiful day.  Imagine how I might have wowed the old farts at Shellman General Store had I pulled up, my beautiful square craft displayed nicely on a proper boat trailer.  This is something I must achieve soon, so that I may go fishing without so much struggle and having to have someone accompany me to the boat ramp, just to get the boat in the water. But on this day, I was just happy to be beginning my adventure.

At the White Chimney boat ramp we got the boat unloaded, and with minimum scraping and dragging, we got her into the typically scummy flotsam trashed shallows of the ramp.  I snapped this one returning from parking the truck.  My woman and my boat.  I pause for a manly Tim Allen-style grunt, and a sense of amazement at my dumb luck..


The motor, an 8hp Johnson, had been dormant for over a year, but a few weeks before I had cranked her in a barrel and run her for about 15 minutes, and she seemed as good as ever.  I set out with high hopes, passed the camera to Lovely and boarded.

Well the dp took my weight with little strain, unlike my previous boat, there was very little tippiness from side to side.  If I were careful, I could stand in this boat, but I decided that standing and throwing my cast net while possible, would not be a good practice while fishing alone. 

Once in the channel I started the motor.

As the motor roars to life the boat immediately leaps "on plane." This is the state where the bow of the boat rises and gets ahead of the bow wave.  This is something I had never experienced in a boat I was personally piloting.  First the bow tilts up and the motor digs in and the boat begins to pick up speed.  Then as the bow wave approaches the midpoint of the boat, and the motor is still increasing the speed of the boat, the boat begins to level out and skim on the surface of the water. At this point there is very little friction, and very little extra throttle from the motor causes extreme increases in speed.  This second stage of planing is what I achieved seconds after this shot was taken.  It happened so quickly that Lovely failed to photograph it, and I was caught off guard.  In fact I found myself, seconds later, narrowly avoiding wiping out on the bend nearly 1/8 of a mile up the creek.  I cut the motor and got my wits together.  Then I started the motor at low throttle and idled slowly back to the dock.  At this point I coaxed "The Lovely One" into the boat, to see if our combined weights would be affect the performance, and to share with her the thrill of the boat planing up the creek.  With her on board the boat was just as stable and was not more than one inch lower in the water.  I was more careful, and the boat progressed to a plane, slowly and gently this time.  In fact, we leveled out just yards before I had to throttle down to make the turn at the bend.  As I throttled down, the motor shut off prematurely.  It cranked right up again, but shut off two more times at low throttle as I delivered the passenger back to the dock.  Something was wrong.  Determined not to let my creek trials end, I returned to the bend under more generous throttle.  As long as the throttle was mostly open, the motor was fine.  But at low speeds it choked out as if it were not getting fuel.  So I started back to the dock at 3/4 full throttle and Lovely snapped this series of pix.

I'm guessing about 25 mph, but I really don't know.  Too damn fast for comfort though.  Just hitting the remnants of my own wake, made me bounce on the surface and nearly wet my pants. This is 400 ASA film.

At this point I am already starting to decelerate to avoid overshooting the dock (and wetting my pants as mentioned before).  You can see the stray leftovers of my wake from my trip out just to the left of me in the picture.  I had already hit a few of these and had just begun to ease off when this shot was snapped.

Woahhh, nelly.  I slowed to idle.  Notice the waterline.  It almost perfectly matches the painted waterline, when the boat is in full displacement (not planing) mode.  I was worried that my weight would strain the limits of the design, but not even close.  Actually I was more limited by seating space than by displacement weight.  Lovely sat on a cushion right in front of me, and I leaned my weight more aft. It was comfortable for us both.  I got to thinking about putting the second passenger on a small cooler immediately in front of the seat, although the 4 foot width allows two people to comfortably share side by side on the seat.  However when one is SO much heavier than the other, the heavy has to sit more to the center.  Thus the advantage of sitting the second passenger forward.  I wish I had a picture of the two of us in the boat, it was not as crowded as it looks like it might be from looking at the profile picture above.  Remember despite being stubby, this boat is 4 ft wide at the waterline, which is 1 to 1.5 feet wider than your average aluminum jon boat.  Right after this picture was taken, the motor shut off again and had to be restarted.  Lovely spared me the embarrasment of taking my picture pulling the crank cord for the umpteenth time.

Just before getting swept downstream, I cranked her and jetted at full throttle (so she wouldn't cut off again) at the ramp.  I wound up scraping the bottom paint on the concrete ramp a little, but a little touch up back in the shed with the cheap latex exterior paint, and the dp's as good as new.  The motor continued to act up in many barrel trails thereafter.  I have yet to have it fixed.  But as the days once again begin to grow longer, I find my thoughts turning to my plan for dp and I.  It goes like this.

  1. Find a street legal used boat trailer for sale, buy it, and modify it as necessary to fit the dp.
  2. Take motor to local boat shop and have it "fixed."
  3. At the first sign of warm weather, FISH, FISH, FISH. Catfish, Shrimp, Mullet, Whiting, Trout, Flounder, Redfish, hell even crabs and Croaker.  Whatever, just lots of fish in the freezer this year.

I have decided not to spend my whole Spring and Summer building the "Next Boat".  Last Spring and Summer I spent mostly building the CrowToe, with meticulous care.  The dp however I slapped together in about 5 weekends.  I launched the CrowToe three times (only fishing once), I put the dp in the water twice (the first time the 3hp motor seized up and refused to work, and I was nearly swept downstream as my inadequate rowing was unable to overcome the current and wind.  Lovely saved me by catching the bow line and hauling me in. And while there were onlookers, there were no pictures). I have yet to really fish in the dp, but it promises to be really great for getting from one fishing hole to another.  The CrowToe was not a planing hull, and would only go about twice rowing speed, no matter now much horsepower you put on her.  With a 3hp at half throttle, she would go at top speed.  At full throttle, she would churn a lot more, vibrate, and not travel a bit faster.  I typically spend as much time traveling from one fishing spot to another as I do fishing.  Hopefully dp's superior speed and handling will optimize my actual fishing time. 

Tune in next Spring for future updates.

I read where someone said that the skimmer planed with a 5hp, but I don't remember if they mentioned their weight. When I get the coil replaced on my Sears 3hp, I plan on trying it out. It takes about 2/3 throttle to plane with the 8hp and then I can ease down to about 1/2 and maintain it. So, if speculating, I would say around 5hp would be the dividing line. However, all hp ratings are not equal, and I am heaaaavy.

I built it from 1/4" inch ext Luaun. I bought the stuff for the previous boat, but the more I looked at it, the more I couldn't believe such flimsy looking stuff could be good boatbuilding. So I bought and used AC Fir instead. I spent a lot of time filling in knotholes. I traded that one, and suddenly I didn't have a fishing boat for the rest of the summer, so I looked at my copy of Build the New Instant Boats, and walked out there and looked at the Luaun, and thought, what the hell.

I haven't weighed it, but I am sure it is less than 80 lbs. I guess between 60 and 70. On one hand, after using the boat extensively this spring, the luaun seems plenty strong enough. I have had no problems so far with checking, punctures, or delamination. I coated the entire boat inside and out with epoxy resin, and just taped the outside seams (the inside seams having chine logs for strength). The luaun veneer, though thin, looked a lot better and not a single knothole or football to fiddle with. It flexes very little with pounding in a chop. I have become much less worried about the luaun after using the boat (I have used it nearly every weekend since mid-march). On the other hand, I enjoy this boat so much, I want it to last forever. And I can't help wonder if the combination of speed and luaun is a bad idea. Every time I am "skimming" along at high speed, I imagine a crabtrap/sandbar/log, and I remember how easily the hammer crunched a hole in that test piece of luaun. Since I am trialering, and weight is not that much of an issue, I wish I had used AC fir. Fir is not THAT heavy and it just seems so much more substantial.


Here are some photos of a recent solo trip.  I love this boat.  I use it every chance I get..

I built the trailer myself using 1 X lumber (mistake #1).  But it is adequate to it's purpose.  I have less than 1/4 mile of mostly deserted blacktop between me and the launch.  It's not technically legal, but I am careful, and get the heck off the road when traffic overtakes. 

I had to make a pit stop.  Thank goodness it was low tide and it was possible to get a little privacy in the creek bed.

Purty, ain't it?

Hit Counter   Visitors

Copyright 2001.
For problems or questions regarding this web contact [].
Last updated: June 08, 2007.