Campskiff - Final Report
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by Bob Chamberland - Suttons Bay, Michigan - USA

I think it has been almost a year since you’ve heard the latest on my Campskiff project. Right after the last correspondence I launched Campskiff. The launch was not a spectacular success. To the amusement of the assembled throng “Campskiff” would not agree to be steered. There was absolutely no steering control. Fortunately I was able to get back to the launch ramp without messing up any of the fine boats that were nearby.

I spent a week or so consulting with local “experts”, others on the internet sites and in general just working over the situation in my mind. The consensus of opinion boiled down to the following possibilities:

1. The twin skegs were interfering. The solutions proposed were: use a long shaft engine; cut off the skegs.

2. Because of the light construction the boat did not float to its lines and thus had no “bite” in the water so the front just slewed around. The solution: ballast. The boat weighed in dry at 890#. I had calculated a weight of 1800# from the drawings. “Redwing”, I believe, weighs in at around 900# dry. It was suggested that a shallow keel might help.

3. I needed more power.

I tried simple solutions first. I installed an 8' long by 2" deep keel from the stem back. I launched at the marina and was managing to get out of the harbor but when I got out in the breeze I could not steer. I was ignominiously towed back in by a friend.

I had written Robb White over the winter and his conclusion was that it HAD to be the twin keels.

(click images to enlarge)

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The next few trials were with varying amounts of ballast to bring the boat to its lines. This time I went to a remote fisherman’s ramp where I would have no audience and where I could take the time I needed. This time, with 300# or so of bricks and sandbags I did have some steering control forward but reverse was dicey. I motored out into the bay and tried out various maneuvers. The upshot was that the boat would steer but a full circle turn required a turning diameter of 100 feet (30m) or so. With that I decided to finish some other projects and park “Campskiff” until 2006.

Over the winter I corresponded with builders and owners of “Redwing 18s" and “Campskiffs”. No one identified with my problem however I was told in a couple of instances that turning “required a bit of room”. I think most of those I reached were using the hi-thrust 9.9 engines.

Early this spring we had a tolerably warm day so I loaded ballast and tried again. Same bad results. So I went home to brood. I had written Robb White over the winter and his conclusion was that it HAD to be the twin keels. Well I decided to bite the bullet and start cutting. I cut out the horizontal portions of the twin keels aft of the transom, loaded the ballast and went to my fisherman’s ramp. Results were better but not much.

The skegs lopped off

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My conclusion was that the twin keels are interfering and also that the front of the boat just slides where it wants. I noticed on Mr Bolger’s proa, published in “Messing About in Boats”, that he had a small skeg or keel like structure fore and aft. I’m not sure if it’s a skeg or keel or perhaps both since there is one fore and one aft. They are both keel and skeg depending on which way the boat is sailing. Any way I decided to add a small “keel” forward. So the next trial was with the horizontal members of the twin skegs cut out, the ballast redistributed and the small keel forward. Reverse was still not too good but when I got out into the bay to try out my mods I was amazed. To port, the boat turned on a dime. Starboard turns were more limited because the tiller arm was stopped by the side of the engine well.

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I decided to add a small “keel” forward.

So the boat can turn.

Today I decided on another trial. A process of elimination was necessary to determine just what was required of all these various modifications. Earlier on I had added temporary sections of plywood back in where I had removed the horizontal bits of the twin skegs. The ballast from the last trial was left in place and I launched. There was a bit of breeze but I had no trouble backing and hawing to head out the channel and continue out into deep water.

In deep water I tried out the combination. Turning to port was OK but not as impressive as when the horizontal bits of the twin skegs had been removed. Turning to starboard was even less impressive and I also had problems with cavitation. I returned to the ramp to remove the plywood from the skegs and try again. I could not get the port piece unscrewed but I did remove the insert on the starboard skeg. It was almost amazing the difference in performance. Port turns on a dime. Of course no change in starboard turns since there was no change in the configuration. For the next trial I took the boat out of the water and removed the insert on the port side skeg, removed some of the ballast forward and adjusted the remaining ballast farther aft but still forward of the CG. Slow speed turns were impressive. In reverse turning was best at idle speeds, goosing it just sloshed water over the transom. Turns at higher speeds were not as good as at slow speed but very good, probably should be considered normal. With the change in the ballast there was some squatting at full speed. There was no cavitation.

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For the next trial I removed some of the ballast forward and adjusted the remaining ballast farther aft but still forward of the CG.

So what’s the conclusion. Cut off the twin skegs but first try out a long shaft engine. The cavitation, I believe, was caused by the unbalanced ballast. The stern was high since there was an untoward amount of weight forward. An extra passenger in the cockpit would probably remedy that but the permanent solution is to balance out the ballast. The real key is that little “keel” forward. I believe the remnants of the twin skegs hanging off the transom are still interfering but mostly with the higher speed turns.

The boat could use more power but mostly to get a little more speed at less than wide open throttle. I think the prevailing use of the 9.9 hi thrust engines in other “Campskiffs” and “Redwing 18s” is the way to go.

Ultimately I think there are a couple of combinations that will work. First, a long shaft engine, restored skegs, balanced ballast and retained forward “keel”. The “keel” should be trimmed progressively until it doesn’t work anymore then install the previous version. Alternatively, remove the twin skegs completely aft of the forward edge of the engine, balance the ballast, and trim the forward “keel” as detailed above. Several years ago “Duckworks” ran an article about an Australian “Redwing” which had the motor well eliminated and the engine hanging off the “true” transom. I noticed in the photos that this boat did not float on her lines either except with passengers and crew. I’m sure this engine arrangement works better than the well.

Any adjustments are for someone else. “Campskiff” is for sale (without engine). Now I know that the boat will work properly I’ll let someone else do the final modifications with a good conscience..

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