William Atkin's "Scandal"  
By Pat Patteson - Molalla, Oregon - USA

I’ve built quite a few boats over the years, but most of them have been of the “Instant Boat” variety. Like many of us, I am starting to get more boats than I know what to do with. Not that “Instant Boats” are Bad. But, I didn’t Need just another Instant Boat, I needed a little more Boat Building Challenge.

Although I used to think differently, I’m more a Boat “Builder” than boat User. I thought a simple, lap strake skiff might be fun to build (and maybe even Use). One of my last boats was a multi-chined, plywood kayak built using frames from an old Folbot “Sporty” as patterns. From that experience I learned a little about “Lining Out” and “Spiling” planks. That is, cutting and fitting planks so they Look nice.

For some time John Kohnen had been trying to get someone in our Western Oregon Messabouts Group of “Ol’ Coots” to build an Atkin designed boat.

John loaned me a copy of William Atkin’s “The Small Boat Book” and suggested I build one of William Atkin’s designs, the 14’ 7” X 3’ 9”, “Fast Low Powered Outboard Skiff”, “Scandal”.

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John suggested I build William Atkin’s “Scandal”.

John is a long time fan of Atkins’ boats and has recently been working with Mrs. John Atkin to better organize some of the Atkins many designs. The Atkins, father William, and son, John designed hundreds of boats, large and small, but unfortunately many of their plans were lost in an unexpected New England hurricane in 1938.

William began designing boats around 1906 and John joined him after WW II. Even with the loss, John Kohnen and Pat (Mrs. John Atkin) have put together a Catalogue of more than 300 small boat designs. “Boat Designs For Unregimented Yachtsmen” by William & John Atkin. Better known as “The New Catalogue”. Both “The Small Boat Book” and “The New Catalogue” are available from Atkin & Co. Just request the “New Catalogue”.

“The Small Boat Book” at only $20 is a real bargain and contains working plans for “Scandal” and 9 other “Small Row and Outboard Engined Boats”. Plans for other Atkin boats can be ordered from “The New Catalogue”, also available from the Atkinboatplans.com page. The New Catalogue, only $15, is worth every penny even if you never order a plan or build a boat. The New Catalogue contains descriptions, and line drawings of row, sail and power, boats, from the 6’, pram, “Tiny Ripple” to the 46’ Schooner Rigger Motor Sailor, “Magpie”. Included in the catalogue are “Rescue Minor” (not the only “Tunnel Stern” Boat in the catalogue) and the 32’ Colin Archer Type Double-Ended Ketch “Eric”, “The Best Boat for the Worst Weather”, an article on the history of the Atkins and several other articles by and about the Atkins. The building plans are very reasonably priced. Plans for many of the smaller boats are only $45 and Robb White’s Famous (Or Infamous) “Rescue Minor” Plans are only $75.

I like the idea of “Fast, Low Power” boats. I tried building another “Fast, Low Power” boat a couple of years ago based on Jim Michalak’s AF4 design. The AF4 Is a Fast, Low Power boat, but after I added “All the comforts of Home”, the boat I call my ‘PK-20” is way overweight and is no longer fast, with low power. My “PK-20” is Still a very nice “Couple’s Cruiser”, but does Not have the low HP performance I had hoped. Check it out HERE and HERE

I vowed to keep “Scandal” very light. In fact, my “Scandal” is probably lighter than one that would have been built in 1924, when the plans were drawn. The plans call for 3/8” cedar plank sides and a 1/2” cross-planked cedar bottom. I used 4MM Luanne plywood for the side planking and 3/8” plywood for the bottom and transom.

Unlike my usual “Instant Boats”, “Scandal” is built over building a frame consisting of a set of 5 forms, the transom and stem. Although the sides are straight, they have 3 plywood lapped strakes. Many of the Atkin’s flat bottom skiff types can probably be planked with single plywood sheet sides, but I wanted to try Glued Plywood Lapstrake construction.

Some of the V bottom boats in The Catalogue are designed for Plywood construction, including one Very Nice 22ft Schooner, “Florence Oakland”. Please let me know if anybody decides to build that sweet little boat.

I think the laps add much to the looks of what would be just another flat bottom skiff. The strakes also strengthen and stiffen the boat. The laps are nearly 1/2” thick and amount to 1/2”, full-length stringers.

I built the forms, and transom from full sized drawings made from the offsets found in the “Small Boat Book”. The plans for Scandal in the “Small Boat Book” do not include a developed transom, so I had to develop my own. Pretty straight forward with this little boat. Again, kinda fun and another Leaning experience.

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I built the forms, and transom from full sized drawings made from the offsets found in the “Small Boat Book”.

I got the building frames, transom and stem set up and attached the chines. When I ripped the chines on my table saw I also cut the bevels rough, so I only had to clean them up to get the garboards and bottom to fit. Many of the Atkin boats have narrow bottoms, especially toward the bow, so the chines went on pretty easily. The narrow bottom at the bow helps eliminate much of the pounding associated with many flat bottom skiffs.

But, when I tried attaching the gunwales, the flare at the bow surprised me. The gunwales not only bend in two dimensions, but twist as well. The 3D boat looks quite different from what appears to be a “Simple, Flat Bottom Skiff” in the drawings. I was able to get the chines and gunwales on in one piece but had to laminate the inwales to install those. The flare to the sides and bow gives reserve buoyancy and helps knock down waves. Even with the low freeboard, “Scandal” is still a very dry boat and I feel quite comfortable in moderate waves.

Although I built My Scandal as light as I possibly could and still have it seaworthy, it turned out too heavy to be easily loaded on top of a car, so I’ve been using my old Hobie 16 trailer. This old trailer has been my “Universal Small Boat Trailer” for many years.

I estimate the weight of my Scandal to be about 125 pounds. Scandal may be Light enough, but at nearly 15 feet long and 4 feet wide, is too unwieldy for one or even two people to lift on top of a car.

Had I built this boat the way I usually do, with sheet plywood sides, I would have been nearly done then. But I wanted the lap strakes, so I first had to “Line Out” the strakes. This was challenging but fun. Lining out strakes can make or break a boat.

I measured the strakes from the drawings in the plans, but found the profile drawings give a foreshortened view of the planks, so I couldn’t take measurements from those. I spent a lot of time with long, thin, battens, tweaking them a little here and a little there until I felt I finally had them “Right”.

It wouldn’t be ‘till I got the boat in the water that I would know for sure. I was building in my shop and couldn’t stand back far enough back to get a real, good, look. Apparently, I did Something right and was a little lucky, because I think the strakes look pretty good.

When I finally got the lining battens where I though they should be I was able to use those lines to draw and cut the shapes of the individual planks. “Spiling”

The planks are less than 16 feet long so I only had to make one scarf joint in each. And, there is enough difference in plank length that I was able to stagger the scarfs slightly so they do not all line up and weaken the boat.

I had read and tried all kinds of “Scarfing” methods, but ended up just clamping the strakes to my worktable and used my belt sander to sand a 2” (8-1) scarf on each strake. It seems to have worked well enough because I have a tough time finding the joint on the edge of the top stake.

I now had all the planks ready to attach, but still had to cut the “Gains” in the strakes at the bow and transom. Having never built a lap stake boat, “Gains” were something new to me. I knew the theory. In order for the planks to not overlap, double thickness at the stem and transom, the thickness of planks, at those ends has to be reduced so the laps join the stem and transom with the thickness of a single plank.

There are two basic ways of cutting these “Gains”. One is to cut a “Rabbet” or “Rebate” the same width as the lap along the lapping portion of the plank near the stem and transom, starting at zero depth about 18” from the ends of the planks and increasing in depth to half the thickness of the plank. The planks overlap at the increasing rabbet and end up a single thickness at the ends.

I don’t have a Rabbet Plane and have never been very good with a plane anyway, so I decided to use the other method.

The second method is to cut (or sand) a bevel along the lapping parts of the planks near the ends, starting with a Flat, bevel (?) about 18” from the end, increasing the bevel to where the bevel makes a feather edge at the outer edge of the plank.

Again, I used my trusty belt sander and 80 grit sandpaper I cut that changing bevel, “Gain”, freehand. It worked pretty well and I think this method is a lot easier than cutting a “Rebate”.

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You can just see the ends of the beveled gains in the transom photo

I’m sure some will ask, “What are those Black Spots on the transom?" Those are the results of my using a lighter to soften the epoxy around some screws I needed to remove. The lighter flame did soften the epoxy, but nearly set the transom ablaze. Another “Learning Experience” ? I have since discovered the Ten Dollar Harbor Freight Heat Gun for softening and removing unwanted epoxy. One of The Best Tools I have found for working with unwanted, hardened epoxy.
I had a Lot of epoxy globs and the heat gun and a scraper or chisel made quick work of removing most of “Oopses”. Far quicker and easier than scraping cold or sanding. I just have to be careful Not to heat the epoxy where I Do want it to stick. For the first heat gun, I bought the whole kit, including assorted useful scrapers, but will buy only the cheopo heat gun when this gun burns out.

The stem has too much curve to easily get out of a single piece, so I had to glue it up for two pieces of Doug Fir. Using the “Lining Battens” I was able to find and cut the bevels for the stem and transom.

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The stem has too much curve to easily get out of a single piece, so I had to glue it up for two pieces of Doug Fir.

I didn’t have enough “Deep Throat” clamps to clamp all the laps as I put the strakes on, so used temporary sheet metal screws to hold them in place, “‘till the epoxy set”. I left in place most of the screws that hold the planks to the stem and transom, but removed all those along the laps. That meant Way too much extra work to fill all those screw holes. I Will Make some deep plywood clamps to hold the laps together for my for my Next Lapstrake boat.

This boat is light enough that my wife and I were able to easily flip it over to put on the bottom. Attaching the bottom was unremarkable and uneventful. Just like “Instant Boats”, with a “Payson Joint” where the two bottom sheets of plywood butt. After building my 20’ “PK”cruiser, I really Do appreciate building small boats that I can just flip around while building.

We flipped the boat back upright so I could finish the insides. I pulled out all the building forms, replacing each one with a simple tapered “Frame” attached perpendicularly to the sides. Fewer bevels to cut that way.

I cut limbers at the bottom of the new frames to fit around the inside chines. These frames are supposed to be cut to fit closely around each lap, but a friend of mine built a similar size and type lapstrake boat and didn’t cut the frames to fit tightly at each lap, but cut them so there is a little gap between frame and plank, above each lap. “That’s to let water run through.”, he said, but we both know it was to make it a lot easier to fit the frames. Thanks, Dick. There are no frames across the bottom of the boat. I think they are left out to save weight and bottom is so narrow the boat really doesn’t seem to need them. The keel and skegs give some support.

I used Dick’s method of making the Breast Hook too. The breast hook is made of two pieces joined with a bevel at the middle so it meets sides at more or less 90 degrees and doesn’t require a bevel cut on the sides of the breast hook. That made it easier to fit the breast hook to the flared sides. Quarter knees took a little figuring to get them to fit between the sides and the inwalls, but not too bad.

As I said, the inwalls needed to be laminated from two 3/8” pieces in order to bend and twist and fit inside the beast hook, quarter knees and frames. Even then, they were a tight bend.

I put little spacers between the inwalls and gunwales. I liked the looks of some spacers with coved ends I had seen on other boats, so set up my drill press with a 1” hole saw to cut the coved ends. That worked pretty slick and each spacer has the exact cove at the ends.

I attached a “False Stem” to cover the ends of the plywood at the bow. I drilled one 5/8” hole crossways though the stem for a strong rope attachment point. I also drilled a second hole through the stem, front to back. I had done the same thing on a “Bolger Gull” I built. I found that fore and aft hole makes a handy place to run a “Painter” or other line. I can run a line through that hole and attach an anchor, making it possible to carry, raise and lower an anchor from the middle of the boat.

In order to keep the weight down, I glassed only the bottom, transom and stem. I attached a 1-1/4” wide x 3/4” “Keel”, laid flat, that is blended in to the stem and runs down the middle of the bottom, stopping about 2 feet from the transom. I figured stopping the keel short of the transom would allow a better flow of water to the prop.
I added two short, shallow skegs to the bottom, spaced about 18” apart, figuring they would give good directional control and might funnel some water to the prop. I Did glass both “Keel” and skegs.

Some simple clear oiled, 1x12 pine boards resting on full-length seat risers serve as seats. They are already darkening nicely with age. I added a strong knee, and Oak motor board to the transom and a couple of blocks between inwale and garboard about a foot aft of the center seat to accommodate a set of Chuck’s nice Bronze Top Mount Oarlock Sockets and Bronze Ribbed Horn Oarlocks. Although designed for Outboard power, a pair of 6-1/2 ft. oars moves the shallow boat easily with motor raised.

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With the help of several of my “Ol’ Coot” buddies, “Scandal” got an unceremonious launching at the Fall, 2006 Toledo (OR) Wooden Boat Festival.

I’m very happy with the way my “Scandal” looks. Much nicer in 3D than it looks in the drawings. I’ve had many positive comments on the boat, especially the curves and flare at the bow. As for performance, I am also very happy. William Atkin said the boat should get 9MPH with a 3 HP outboard. He shows the boat with an old, “Ruddered Outboard”. They were different Horses in 1924.

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William Atkin said the boat should get 9MPH with a 3 HP outboard. He shows the boat with an old, “Ruddered Outboard”.

This boat was built to use with my 1969 Evinrude 4HP “Yacht Twin”. After figuring out this boat goes fastest when trimmed flat, I was able to get nearly 12MPH. See photo below for improper initial trim. The second shows the boat moving better with my weight forward. I’ve found that it does even Better with my weight even further forward.
It seems, the Flatter the faster.

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improper initial trim

There is little if any “Hump” transition getting “On Plane”. The little boat just seems to Levitate and leaves very little wake at speed. My Scandal performs even Better than “Billy’s” promise. And the little 4 pushes “Scandal” to over 9MPH with my wife, Kay and me Both aboard.

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Kay and me Both aboard.

Like I said, the boat likes to run flat, so Kay sits in the furthest forward seat and I sit next to the motor. We tried having Kay move further back but as she did, the boat slowed down. Even with Kay sitting far forward, the boat is still dry, those flaring bows parting the waves. The boat is long enough to bridge short waves and with the narrow bottom forward and flaring bows, makes a very nice little “Cruiser” for the two of us.

John Kohnen displayed my “Scandal” at The Port Townsend Wooden Boat show with a 1929 Johnson Model A Opposed Twin Outboard Motor attached. The Old Johnson belongs to Charlie Vadar, another friend and “Ol’ Coot”. Even that old motor is a little newer than the “Ruddered Motor” shown in the drawings and a couple of years newer than the Scandal Plans, but gives an Idea of the kind of motor Scandal was designed for. I haven’t had a chance to actually use Charlie’s old Johnson on Scandal yet, but will next summer. Photos, maybe if the boat can be seen through the cloud of blue smoke.

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John Kohnen displayed my “Scandal” at The Port Townsend Wooden Boat show with a 1929 Johnson Model A Opposed Twin Outboard Motor attached.

Scandal’s fuel economy is fantastic. I can easily get 10 MPH and the little 4 uses about 1/2 Gallon of gas per hour. That works out to 20 Miles per Gallon. If the cost of fuel and oil are $3.00 per gallon, it costs me less that Seven Cents per Mile, and I can run 120 miles on a 6-gallon fuel tank. Now, That’s what a “Fast Low Powered Outboard Skiff” is All about.

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I can easily get 10 MPH and the little 4 uses about 1/2 Gallon of gas per hour.

Since I have to sit so far forward to properly trim the boat I’ve added “Remote Controls” to the motor. I added a simple wrap around rope steering system. The rope attaches to an eyebolt in a PVC pipe cap on the end of a short PVC tiller extension handle. A couple of Chuck’s steering cable springs keep the rope tight, but allow the cap to be pulled off quickly for better Close quarters maneuvering. The steering rope runs though some “Dog Tie Out Pulleys” attached along the inwalls, making it possible to steer the boat from any place in the boat. (Sorry Chuck. Your pulleys are a little small for the diameter of the rope I am using.)

My little 28 pound 4HP motor has no gears, only “Pull and go”, so quick, easy tiller steering is important. Another piece of PVC pipe with a flexible plastic “Universal Joint” attaches to the upright Throttle and makes it possible to control the speed of the motor while seated in the middle seat of the boat. That “U-Joint” attachment is also a “Quick Release” for better tight quarters engine control. I’ve found for gentle turns a simple weight shift will steer the boat nicely. (Lean Away from the direction you want to turn.)

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A piece of PVC pipe with a flexible plastic “Universal Joint” makes it possible to control the speed of the motor while seated in the middle seat of the boat.

These Atkin Boats are not “Instant Boats”, but many are what I like to call “Simple Boats”. They do take a little more time and skill to build than do the Instant boat types, but now, I Am looking for a little more Challenge when building a boat. There is nothing too challenging for most of us, but just enough challenge to have to Think a little and make building Fun again. The resulting boats don’t Look like many of the “Instant Boxes” either. Those “Atkin Boys” sure knew what they were doing and they have designs for any need and skill level. For those of you also starting to have Too Many Boats and are looking to build something other than just another “Instant Boat”, I would highly recommend checking out an Atkin Design.

Next time You are thinking about “Your Next Boat”, take a look at the Atkins’ boats. Any of their designs you choose, you Won’t be disappointed.

Good Luck and Have Fun.

Pat Patteson
Molalla, Oregon

Many photos compliments of John Kohnen.
Thanks for Everything, John.

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