When Things Go Right

By Steven Lewis

This is the story of an amateur designer, building a prototype boat, using techniques that he has never used before, and getting the darned thing right the first time around!

The design is Fisher10, a 10-ft motor boat designed for fishing. The boat is a relatively simple Stitch and glue skiff, with a mild Vee in the bottom. This is the first Skiff that I had designed that I had attempted to build, and also the first attempt at a Vee bottom. This is back in April of 2002.

I started by marking and cutting the panels for the bottom and sides butt joining the pieces to the correct length. I then stitched the bottom panels together and opened them up. Much to my surprise, I got the shape I was looking for right off the bat. Encouraged by this initial success, I started attaching the side panels and transom to the bottom. After some precarious balancing, I was able to single handedly stitch the sides to the bottom and the bows together and screw the sides and bottom to the transom.

Filleting, taping and smoothing went right by the numbers, with minimal problems. What surprised me the most was how the boat, when the sides were spread to the correct dimensions, looked exactly like it was supposed to. The bows had the short, little hook upward that exactly matched the design drawings. Things like this don’t usually happen to me, at least not this easily!

Using cut to fit methods, I installed the seating, filleting and taping as I went. Round about this time I had to do my 2 weeks Guard Summer Camp, so I took it with me to work on as time allowed. I was able to complete the installation of the seats, install the gunnels and seal interior. I launched the boat in Lake Mitchell the Friday before the end of AT, using a trolling motor to move it around.

The boat languished in my building garage for the next 12 months, until the 1st annual Iowa Messabout at Spirit Lake, in northwestern Iowa. On the way up, the sturdiness of the construction was severely tested, as the boat became airborne and landed on the highway doing about 65. The result was some minor scraping on the keel line and bottom of the transom as the boat skidded along the pavement. A quick check of the boat, a better system of attachment and we made it to the Messabout without further incident.

At the lake, the performance of the boat was mostly as expected. With a 9.5 horsepower Johnson, the boat comes up on plane with as much as 500 lbs. gross weight although it takes a bit of time to get there. It is stable enough to stand in and lean over the edge a bit, without feeling like you are going to turn turtle. It pounds somewhat in chop, due to the shallowness of the Vee, but weight in the front helps to soften the ride. And no leaks as a result of it’s flying lesson.

On the way back from the lake however, things didn’t go quite as expected. The boat went airborne again, but this time landed squarely on the transom-bottom joint, abrading through the fiberglass and into the wood and landed on the bottom, adding more scrapes and scratches. This was relatively easy to patch up, with the repairs almost invisible. This was all the damage done to the boat from two episodes that would have turned most FRP boats into splinters, and loosened the rivets or ripped the skin on the Aluminum ones! This, more than anything else, has convinced me of the soundness of building by Stitch and Glue. I may use other techniques in the future, but if I want a truly bulletproof boat, S&G is the way I’ll go….

I’m sure this little boat and I will be seeing a lot more water together, and have a many more stories to tell in the future.

For anyone interested in building Fisher10, plans and a fairly detailed pictorial build sequence are on my web page: and here at Duckworks Magazine. The plans are free for anyone to use and are in the form of offsets for the panel dimensions. With the offsets and using the pictures as a visual guide, a person could build the boat in about 2-3 weeks working 1-2 hours per day.