Progress on the Chris Craft 18 Foot Utility

Since my last post we have replaced almost all of the frames, chines, part of the keel and have installed the plywood sub bottom on this 18 foot Chris Craft utility runabout.



We are currently getting out the mahogany bottom planking. I used the old planking as patterns to cut out blanks. First we have to re-saw and plane all of the mahogany to the 3/8″ thickness of the planking.


IMG_2238 (1)
Ann old plank sitting on a new piece of mahogany.

I cut them a little big to allow for fitting. We then steam the forward ends of the planks that take a severe twist from the bottom to the stem. Simply trying to bend them on the boat will usually spit them.


You can see how I clamp them to the hull. I can’t use clamps because of the plywood sub bottom so we clamp battens over them and use shims and wedges.


Once the planks cool for a day or two we take them off and fit them. I use a small router with a jig I built to trim them to fit the keel as well as each plank to one another. This is much faster than hand planing each plank and very accurate.

Three streaks installed on the port bottom.

While we are making good progress on this boat the work on the rowing sailing dinghy has been slow at best. This boat is still available. If you are interested in this Catspaw Dinghy its not to late to pick your own colors. Call me at 504-319-1460.

I have room for a boat or two for repainting or restoration over the winter. If you have a boat that needs some work call and reserve your spot now.

till next time,



Making the best of materials!

While restoring the mahogany runabout in the previous post we are trying to reuse any material that is sound. One of the things that we can use and repurpous are the bronze bolts we take out of the boat. Many of them are bent on the end but can be cut to be used in other areas. Many of them are fine to reuse on the new wood where they came from. At about $8.00 to $10.00 per  4 to 6 inch bolt I think they are worth reusing if possible. The screws can’t be reused because they usually twist off when putting them in new wood, even when boring the proper size hole beforehand.

Just a few of the many bolts taken out and re threaded.

They can be re threaded or cut and threaded for other areas needing shorter bolts. I clean up the nuts with a tap as well.

A 1/4 inch bolt being re threaded.

Since this boat has more than 160 bronze bolts in its frames and floors ranging from 2 inches to 6 inches all new bolts would run in the neighbor hood of $1200.00. Reusing as many as possible will save quite a bit of money. The screw on the other hand must be new and will run into the $300 to $400 range.

More to come on this restoration,


1949 Chris Craft Utility

We recently took in a new restoration project. This is the kind of thing I love, giving new life to an old boat. Chris Craft churned out a lot of boats post war and cut a lot of corners in their construction. They were intended to last 5 to 10 years. The scantlings are minimal and the battens for the bottom are only pieces placed between the frames. This is what it will look like when finished.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 11.16.40 AM
A restored 18 foot Utility.

The owner brought the boat to me after taking the boat apart, turning it over and removing the bottom planking.

taking the hull off of the trailer. You can see the sailing dinghy we are building in the background.



Here we have the hull turned over and in the process of supporting her in all of the right places.
The first frame comes off to be replaced.

I will go through the hull replacing frames and floors systematically. Some are ok. I will also add side frames where there should be frames to add strength to the hull. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

If you have an old Chris Craft, Hacker or other runabout in need of re-finishing or restoration don’t hesitate to call us.


Under Construction

We started construction of a 12 foot 8 inch Catspaw Dinghy a few weeks ago. Today we turned the hull over. Here is where we are now.




This boat is for sale and if you would like to have a say in the paint colors now is the time to talk to me about her. She will row and sail nicely. See my previous post on the Catspaw Dinghy.


Performance Rowing Craft

When you mention performance rowing to most people an image of 8 man rowing teams comes to mind rowing to the rhythm of the coxswain calling out the strokes. The modern sport of competitive rowing started with races between professional oarsman on the Thames River in London. These oarsman raced each other in their Thames River Skiffs similar to the one I recently launched and the prizes were given by the Livery companies that they worked for.


To make an advantage the oarsman started to modify their boats by taking out the rear seat back and putting in sliding seats and outriggers to help them keep higher speeds. This developed into a specialized sport with different classes from a single scull up to the coxed eight on boats that resemble a toothpick with outriggers and sliding seats. There are also doubles and teams of four as well.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 8.09.34 AM

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 8.12.06 AM

Four person teams can either be sculling (two oars per person)

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 8.24.46 AM

or rowing (one oar or sweep per person).

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 8.24.01 AM

But for us mere mortals who might want to just get out on the lake or river for an early morning row for exercise, and the beauty of being the only one out on the water while everyone else is sleeping , there are several boat designs that are fairly fast but more user friendly.

It would be hard to find a more beautiful example than Ken Basset’s Liz.


She is built lapstrake with steam bent frames. She also has a radius’d transom which adds to her beauty. She would be varnished throughout and would certainly do 7 knots as long as you push (or rather pull) her. There is a seat in the aft, and her design with the small wineglass transom would quickly add volume to allow for extra weight.  I wouldn’t put someone too heavy back there, though, or her stern will squat while her forefoot rises to the detriment of performance. A dog or a child would make nice company. Or you might just want to bring a pick nick for one along for a long row.

Joel White designed the Bangor Packet with recreational rowing in mind.

Bangor Packet

She is built cold molded and is decked over except where you sit. She is wider than a racing shell and allows you to sit in rather than on her making this boat more user friendly. She will do 8 knots though and won’t swamp in choppy water. This is a very versatile boat for the recreational rower.

Gramme King is well known for his wooden racing shells. He has a gold medal boat from the 1978 Olympics. His Kingfisher rowing shell is a little wider than all out racing shells, but at just 19 inches wide will take experience or patience to develop balance while rowing.



Once you get comfortable with rowing this this boat she will reward you with 10 knots, which seems quite fast being so close to the water. King says she will do 93% of the speed of the best racing shells. The experience rower should be able to row her in anything from smooth water to a 2 foot chop in a large lake. Her Dacron decks will keep her dry.

Whether you are looking for an entry level sliding seat boat or are ready for a really fast one, these are three great choices to consider.




Considering a small sailboat…

I found a lot of conflicting information in researching my electric vs diesel post for part 2. So while I am doing further research I decided to write more about sailing.

I was considering building a sailboat over the winter hoping to find a client by the time it is finished. In weighing the pro’s and con’s of various boats I have decided on a particular type.

I wanted a big boat feel with and outside ballested keel. I also wanted a traditional type and of  course, built of wood. A comfortable cockpit where you actually sit in the boat feeling safe and comfortable and where small children would be safe is also a must.  I wanted to keep her under 2000 lbs. and less than 3 feet of draft to make her easy to trailer. The two boats I came up with were the BB Crowninshield Dark Harbor 12 1/2 half and the Joel White Haven 12 1/2. The 12 1/2 refers to the length of the water line of the boat.

The Dark Harbor would be a very fun boat to sail:

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 1.19.46 PM

Her long overhangs are quite pretty and would effectively make her a longer boat when heeling in a breeze, making her a faster boat. She is said to be fast even in light air and able to take as much punishment in a breeze as her crew would care for. She has a self bailing foot well and won’t be overwhelmed if waves wash over her deck. You should expect to get wet though. Sailing this boat with her long narrow body may be fast and easily driven but will allow you to get splashed as well. She would be fun and exciting to sail.

You can see by the construction plan below she has no real cockpit though as you would sit on her deck with your feet in her self draining footwell.

Dark Harbor 12.5 2

I have actually thought of building this boat for a long time and have gone as far as to lay down the lines on the loft floor. But I think I would prefer a boat with a real cockpit to sit in and to bring my dog Wolfie and any children in safety.

There are larger versions of this boat with comfortable cockpits and a cudy cabin deep enough to sit upright under. The Dark Harbor 17 1/2 and the Camden Class are truly beautiful yachts. Here is a Dark Harbor 17 1/2 illustration. To give some reference to the difference in size, the 12 1/2 is 20′ 2″ long, displaces less than 2000 lbs with 3 ‘2″ of draft and carries 211 square feet of sail while the 17 1/2 bellow is 25’10” long, displaces 3500 lbs with 4’3″ of draft and carries 311 square feet of sail.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 6.11.03 AM

The concept for the Haven 12 1/2 is a wonderful boat designed by Nathanael Herreshoff in 1914 called the Herreshoff 12 1/2 or Buzzards Bay 12 1/2. This was the most popular of all of the Herreshoff built boats and is still very popular today. Joel White took the basic design of the Herreshoff 12 1/2 and modified her slightly to reduce draft by a foot. This allows the Haven 12 1/2 to be more easily trailered as well as to float in less water. Apart from adding a center board instead of a full keel Joel increased her beam by 3″ amidship and and inch and a half at the stern. But once in the water she looks and sails like the Herreshoff 12 1/2. The only noticeable difference is the added centerboard trunk in the cockpit. Here are two illustrations to show the hulls difference. The Herreshoff is on the left  and the Haven is on the right.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 1.05.01 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 1.05.36 PM

I am in the process of pricing the Haven 12 1/2 and considering building her next since she meets my criteria of weighing less than 2000 lbs., easy to trailer and having a safe comfortable cockpit as well as a big boat feel. Bellow are the drawings from the plans.

16 foot Haven 12.5 Class

Her lead ballast keel weighs in at about 585 lbs and and gives her that big boat feel and helps her cary her sails well.

16 foot Haven 12.5 Class 2

The Haven 12 1/2 will be a nice boat to sail alone or with family and friends. She can be rigged with a gaff rig as shown or with a more modern marconi rig. It’s just a matter of preference. Both rigs are self tending for ease of handling. There is a reason this is one of the most popular small sailing boats of all time! If you are interested in this or any other type of wooden boat please don’t hesitate to call me at 504-319-1460.

*The prints in this post were on the internet and had no credit line. I believe they are the artwork of Kathy Bray. She has produced many beautiful color profiles of classic wooden boats. Her website is no longer working.



Sorry I haven’t written in a while! I have been busy with the holidays, a few photo shoots and trying to push to finish this beautiful little Thames River Skiff I am calling Willow. I built boats for a number of years living on the Vermillion Bayou in Lafayette, Louisiana and always took my children out in rowing boats on the bayou. I also read “The Wind and the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame to them. The original illustrations by E.H. Shepard shows Ratty taking Mole out on a boat that looks just like a Thames River Skiff.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 8.01.42 AM

I have always wanted to build such a boat because of the excellent rowing characteristics of the type and their beautiful lines. So I have:

Meet Willow:

In the shop with some of my architectural lighting for effect



We took her out for the first time January 18th on the Black Warrior River. Rhea Williams, the executive director of the Birmingham Chapter of the AIA invited me to take her out at her house on the river. Thanks Rhea!

The Christening


She looks good in the water


It was a warm January day with a bit of wind


It was in the 60’s so the sweaters had to come off


My photo assistant Andrew tries rowing for the first time while Rhea and Ken look on.


Willow050 Willow055

Though she is for sale I wouldn’t be sad if she never does. She rows like a dream, even with Rhea and Ken sitting together in the caned back seat arm in arm enjoying the afternoon with a glass of Champagne.

Next time I’ll continue writing about diesel vs electric.