Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 8:24 PM on Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Boat of the week

Yankee tender: lessons and a prize

By Lindsay Johnson
Staff Writer


Photo by Donna Wells

Instructor Dave Seaman, center, stands with boat-building students, from left, Lindsay Johnson, John Oliver, Hanna Johnson, Richard Jones, Victoria Locklar and Bill Wells outside the Homer High School wood shop on launch day. Students Miles Wiebe and Jordan Dyer are not pictured.

How many college students does it take to build a boat? Eight, in the case of the 12-foot, 4-inch rowing boat built during the 2011 spring Small Boatbuilding I class at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage.

Once or twice a week for 15 weeks, students gathered in the Homer High School wood shop with instructor Dave Seaman to work through a set of plans drawn by the Wooden Boat Magazine Design team for a "Yankee tender."

The 4-foot-4-inch wide, flat-bottomed boat is described in the Wooden Boat/Professional Boatbuilder's Directory of Boat Plans and Kits as a "capacious, seaworthy, flat-bottomed skiff."

The room and seaworthiness of the little vessel is due to the big flare on the sides and rocker on the bottom, features that also lend it to easy towing and pleasing viewing.

"It's a good all-purpose little boat. It's not fast, but it's safe. All the flare in the sides means you can get kids in there rocking around. The farther you lean over, the more bearing it has, the more displacement. It's a good little design," said Seaman, himself a professional boat-builder.

"It's the kind of design that people end up coming up with in various places just because it's simple and effective."

He chose the design for the class because of its size, functionality and the basic skill level necessary to build it.

He made it even more functional and builder-friendly by modifying the plans to use a stitch and glue method of construction. Instead of lapstrake sides and crossplanked bottom nailed and caulked together, the boat is smooth sheets of plywood coated and bound with fiberglass composite and epoxy. The only hardware in the finished product are the removable oarlocks and copper rivets to reinforce the rails on the gunwhale.

Seaman said the stitch-and-glue method is durable, lightweight and needs little maintenance — big selling points in the local market.

The college-constructed vessel was sold before the third coat of paint dried to the Seldovia human-powered fishing derby.

"It's a really sweet little rowing boat. It really handles well," said derby creator and organizer Tim Dillon.

Dillon said the rowboat is true to the contest's objective to get people back out rowing and catching fish. Last year's grand prize winner (drawn from a pool of successful derby fishers) came away with a vessel of the same model, built by Seaman.

After many Monday evenings of cutting, sanding and coating, on May 2 the class tested the tender's seaworthiness in Homer Harbor. The red-trimmed white rower proved its packing ability with weight distributions ranging from one small gal to three large men.

Two modified spoon oars serve as the vessel's power. Students cut the basic oar shape with a band saw from a 10-foot two-by-six, then turned the handles and 4-inch blades by hand.

Seasoned shop workers, the students won't need seven others to make another boat, though it would be fun.

"I wouldn't be shocked if I used these skills in the future, whether it's building a boat of my own or repairing boats," said student Bill Wells.

"The neatest thing was the group effort, how everyone was able to contribute and get to know each other. We made relationships that could very well last for quite awhile. We made a neat boat," Wells said.

The next KPC boatbuilding class will be held in spring 2012 and will focus on restoration. The class textbook, Tolman Alaskan Skiffs, by Renn Tolman, is available at the Homer Bookstore. For more information about Seaman's boats, call him at 399-4986.

Anyone who catches a salmon, halibut or rock bass in Seldovia's human-powered fishing derby over the weekend will be entered in a grand prize drawing for the yankee tender. Show up at the Seldovia Harbormaster office at 8 a.m. Saturday morning or call Dillon at 299-3710 to enter. Entry fee is $35 per rod.

For more photos of the boat being built, visit www.homernews.com.

Linday Johnson is a reporter for the Homer News and was a student in the boatbuilding class. She may be reached at lindsay.johnson@homernews.com.


Model: Yankee tender

Length: 12'4"

Width: 4'4"

Weight: approx. 70 pounds

Displacement: 125-150 pounds

Passengers: 1-4 (up to 1,100 pounds for short, calm distances)

Built: Jan-April 2011

Builders: Dave Seaman, Jordan Dyer, Hanna Johnson, Lindsay Johnson, Richard Jones, Victoria Locklar, Michael Mungoven, John Oliver, Bill Wells, Miles Wiebe

Materials cost: about $1,500 (Epoxy and supplies: 6-700, plywood/lumber 3-400, paint 200, oarstock 25, oarlocks 30-40)

Owner: Winner of Seldovia's human-powered fishing derby

(8 a.m. Saturday- 4 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $35 per rod to enter. Any human-powered vessel, including sailboats without motors, are eligible.)