The Ella and Light Trow

Design by Gavin Atkin - London, England

This is new release of the sailing version of the Ella skiff, and the Mk2 version of the Light Trow.

Gavin has released new versions of both of these boats and if you downloaded either or both in the past, you will want the new versions.

Light Trow

Length - 15' 4" Beam - 4' 4"

Free Plans!
Click HERE to download

It's cheeky, really, to call this a trow. Along the South Coast of England, a trow is either a heavy barge, or a heavily-built rocker-less flat-bottomed rowing boat traditionally used on the Fleet, the protected stretch of water behind Chesil bank.

This lightly-built rowing/sailing skiff is not very much like either of these, but its shape does owe something to the Fleet trow. Drawings of the traditional Fleet trow seen in the classic text 'Working Boats of England' by Eric McKee provided the inspiration for a craft formed of flat panel materials that would be almost double-ended, but for a small triangular-shaped transom, as seen in some trows.

The intention here is a light and elegant rowing craft with the advantages of a fairly long and narrow waterline. However, the hull flares to the knuckle sufficiently to allow it to stand up to a small sail, albeit at a fairly steep heel.

The lower part of the hull is designed to be built in the same way as a conventional flat-bottomed; builders might even consider external chine logs, but the upper part is intended to be assembled by tack and tape. I haven't seen this composite approach anywhere else, but I can't see much against it.

Another fairly novel idea is that extra removable thwarts may be used for camping purposes. The principle is that the thwarts are stowed in the bilges and held in place using elastic cords. Incidentally, the thwarts are intended to be supported by an inwale fastened to the upper edge of the lower chine and planed flat to accommodate them before the upper chine is assembled into place.

At least two versions are envisaged: an open rowing skiff, and a half-decked version for sailing, much like a sailing canoe. I'm also contemplating drawing up a smaller version for people with small areas for boat building, such as the typical British garage.

A free a zip file containing all the drawings and a table of offsets can be found here additionally, there is a zipped file of sailing rig details here. I should warn potential builders that, although I forsee no particular difficulties in building this boat, to my knowledge no-one has built it yet. If any of you do build it, however, do please let me know how you got on with it and send me a picture!


Ella Skiff Sailing Version

Free Plans!
Click HERE to download

12ft length overall by 4ft beam, by 400lbs displacement, designed for stitch and glue construction using 1/4in or 3/8in 4ft by 8ft plywood

If you build this boat PLEASE send me a report about how the project went and how it works on the water, together with photos! I'm at, and will usually be available to  provide online advice.

At last I've managed to find a few hours to make up a plans package! I hope it was worth the wait. In a mass of material like this there will no doubt be an error or two, so if you find any, please let me know and I'll put them right.

For previous posts on the development of this little boat, click here and here.

From the notes:

The Ella skiff as laid out in these plans is a lightweight general purpose stitch and glue flattie skiff for use in sheltered waters with no strong currents or tides. It is not suitable for use on the sea or in hazardous waters.

It is meant to be a simple and quick stitch and glue building job of a size that is convenient for building in domestic garages made to take a small to medium-sized car, which probably describes the building area available to most people.

The boat is designed with rowing primarily in mind, though it could also be used with a VERY small outboard of NO MORE than 2hp. Too many accidents take place because outboards of the wrong size have been used, and far too many of these are fatal. If a small outboard is to be used, the transom should be doubled to ensure it can support the weight of the engine.

The name came from my daughter, who has taken rather a shine to the boat –

Compared with the Julie skiff, the form of a boat like this must be strongly influenced by the need to work in a decent amount of displacement into a shorter hull, as anyone who compares the lines drawings of the two boats will quickly see. The Ella skiff is therefore a more curvy boat than her big sister, but I hope that her more jaunty sheerline lends a certain cuteness people will like. The stem is angled somewhat in order to turn splashes and ripples downward, for I know that dryness is an important part of comfort in small craft, especially for those unused to boating.

Sailing enthusiasts will note that I have not drawn any details for a sailing version of this boat and I would prefer that no builder should add a sailing rig to this bare design. Boats like this should not be converted for sailing without serious thought about the safety and construction issues.

However, my daughter has asked me to develop a sailing version for her, and at some point I intend to do so. The design for this boat will feature a good amount of built-in bouyancy for safety, will be half-decked, and will probably have a balanced lug rig for ease of sailing.

My daughter Ella has made her own model Ella skiff and told me that she’d like to build the real thing some day. That sounds like a really nice project, even if we already own too many small boats and she lives hundreds of miles away…

For more photos of models of the easy to build 12ft Ella skiff click here. If you make one, please send photos for my collection to!

For plans drawings for use in making models of the Ella skiff, click here and for more on my Ella skiff design project click here. However, if you’re looking for something longer and with a bit more performance, try this.

This boat has been designed by an amateur with no qualifications in boat design or boatbuilding and should be regarded as experimental. The designer accepts no liability for any loss or accident that may result from following these instructions or plans or from any loss or accident that may follow from using this boat.

Click here to download the latest version of the free Ella skiff plans.

PS If you're looking for a longer, sleeker but equally easy to build rowing skiff, click here.

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