Plan Study: Sid Skiff

Word reached us that something special was coming down the ways at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Port Hadlock, Washington. Turns out they were launching one of instructor Ray Speck's sweet looking Sid Skiffs this one a 16-foot version.

Ever the professional small-boat journalists, we dropped what we were doing and raced to the scene just in time to sip champagne with the new owners, Gerald and Margaret Bowles, at the ceremonial launching. Always careful to maintain our balance, we stopped drinking, voluntarily, after the second glass of bubbly.

Visually, the Sid Skiff is intoxicating enough. Western Red Cedar planks are fastened to steam-bent oak frames with copper rivets. Stem, transom, rails, knees, breast hook, and oarlock pads are

Sapele (a type of African Mahogany). Spars, thwarts, inwale, thwart risers and floor board margins are Sitka Spruce. All these different hues and grains are slathered with the boat school's favorite "boat sauce" a proprietary mixture of oil, varnish and pine tar.

It's a design with an enigmatic history. Years ago while living on a houseboat in Sausalito, California, Speck would watch Harbormaster, Sid Foster, row a capable 12' 5" lapstrake skiff called Jayne up and down Richardson Bay. Speck was so impressed with Jayne that he borrowed the 100-year-old workboat to use as a template. Soon Speck was offering a 13-foot version he called Sid Skiff. Only later did he discover the boat probably originated in the Puget Sound area, when he came across a faded black and white photo of her unmistakable lines floating amongst the yachts at Seattle's Lake Union. Since the original 13-footer, Speck has skillfully adapted the design to expanded versions all the way to 18 feet.

The sixteen footer offers two rowing stations and moves well under oar power something her pre-outboard working boat heritage would have demanded. Owners have also used 1-horse outboards successfully. Her fine entry should allow her to slice through chop like a whitehall or wherry, but the Sid's wider transom and fuller hull sections add initial stability. As a result she's able to stand up to her 90 square-feet of sail quite well.
Somewhere in the fog of pipe smoke and fanfare surrounding the maiden voyage, the new owners offered us the keys to the new ride. Sailing with expert sailmaker and instructor Sean Rankins, we ran her through her paces sailing on all points. The Skiff felt trim, fast and weatherly pointing higher than we'd anticipated. The Sid's sprit rig no boom to contend with and noticeably forward mast placement, make her more comfortable for crew than some similar designs.

At 175 pounds, the versatile 16-foot Sid makes an intriguing raid boat choice. With her shallow rudder and kickup 50-pound centerboard she draws only nine inches. The 18-foot version would be all the more capable as a camp cruiser.

If you're interested in building your own Sid Skiff, designer Ray Speck offers both study plans and complete plans for the 13-footer, and an 11" x 19" addendum sheet with details for building the 16 footer. The homebuilder should be prepared to steam bend frames which Speck says will take five or six hours with an assistant. The other option would be to laminate frames, which could take five or six days.

If you'd like to commission a Sid Skiff, in either size, the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding would be happy to accommodate you. At $13,250 for the 16, they aren't inexpensive, but then the final product is likely to become a family heirloom. And how often do you get a chance to sail your new boat with her designer and sailmaker?