July 22, 2001 marked the first anniversary of my Cabin Skiff’s – Therapy - maiden voyage. As I look back it has been an interesting year. I have to say that after my first few outings in Therapy I had some doubts. On plane it seem to ride very bow high and to wander a little when trimmed for best speed. Also, the performance was not what quite what I had hoped for. Overall it wasn’t what I would call bad but rather a little disappointing.
If you have read the rest of the construction story you know the majority of problem was the result of an error in the hull bottom near the transom. Once fixed Therapy became a different boat. Although I incorporated quite a few modifications, the basic hull design is still Glen-L’s and stands as a testimonial to the functionality of the design. Since completing the project I have looked at many designs of similar craft. I have yet to find one that can match Therapy’s performance. I am still amazed at how well it does on only 50 HP.
But as you can imagine after 12 months that has yielded over 3600
miles and 225 hours in Therapy, there are naturally a few items that have
come to light that other builders may find of interest. This page is just
a collection of thoughts and observations that have accumulated during
the past year. The order is of no significance – just as things come to
Therapy is a trailered boat and spends the majority of its time in a storage building by my home. Its time on the water is normally limited to 24 to 48 hours but I knew there would be times when its stay on the water would be longer. There was a big question as to the durability of the Easypoxy (used above the waterline) and the Polypoxy (used on hull below the water line) when exposed to continuous submersion. The paint’s manufacturer stated it would blister after a while but I received conflicting opinions o how long it would take.
I had been watching he paint and had noticed no problems. But when
I removed the outboard for my bottom fix I noticed that there were small
blisters (1/8" max) in the
The longest I have had the hull on the water continuously is 5 days. When I pulled it out I crawled all over under it looking for blisters but found none. But recently I have discovered a situation that I have no easy answer for.
When setting on the trailer all the exposed bottom surfaces are blister free but a few weeks ago I was cooling off with a swim in the river and decided to feel around on the bottom. I could feel small blisters in the paint. I was surprised, as I hadn’t seen any before so when I loaded it on the trailer I crawled under and took a closer look – no blisters! What’s gong on….. Suddenly the answer dawned on me – the blisters are under the carpet covered bunks. My guess is that the carpet holds the water long enough before they dry out to cause the paint to blister.
I guess one way around this is to install rollers instead of bunks. But honestly I worry that rollers will concentrate stress in smaller areas at the point of contact and cause the 3/8” plywood to eventually distort. I may be off base with this but I would hate to take the chance.
Other than this the Polypoxy seems to be doing its job and it is incredibly durable. The down side of using it is that Pettie states that it will chalk if exposed to a lot of direct sun (this is why I used it only on the bottom of the hull). Also the color is not pure white as there is a yellow cast to it. The Easypoxy has an incredible gloss finish but my experience is it is a softer finish and easier to damage.
But the bottom line is that if I were doing it over I would use the
same paints - I am pleased with the results but I may have to rethink the
Accommodations and livability
The five-day trip I made to Chattanooga was done solo. For many the Cabin Skiff maybe quite Spartan but for me it works out just fine. I am willing to give up some of the comforts for the increased performance - mpg and speed. Being able to cruise at 26 MPH and still make over 9 MPG makes long trips fast and affordable.
The weather for the trip provided mild temperatures but it was wet as I had some rain everyday but one. The CS does a good job of keeping me dry and as result the precipitation didn't slow me down at all. Being out of the weather in the enclosed cockpit is a big plus.
Ventilation in Therapy’s cockpit is quite acceptable but this is only because the windshields open. If not for that fact it would get quite warm when the thermometer rises. Recently it was in the upper 90's when we were out on a run and as long as we were moving it was no problem. I also have a couple of small 12v fans that plug into cigarette lighter jacks I have on each side on the cabin. When sitting still on low wind days or in no wake areas we plug these in for some artificial breeze. Also, if there is some breeze and we are just sitting I often use a rear cleat to attach the anchor. This way the breeze blows in the open aft end of the cabin.
Normally though if we are going to sit very long I have two folding chairs that we set just outside the cabin facing aft. We then can prop feet up on the rear seat/storage lids and relax. This is a great way to watch the sunset or the stars drift by above. My biggest problem sitting there is staying awake! (The chairs are the newer style collapsing type camping chairs with aluminum frames and cloth seats that store in a long tube like bag.)
The berth works great for one person but will sleep two quite comfortably. What's nice with just one person is that there is still room to allow gear to stay on one side of the berth while sleeping on the other. If two of us are planning to sleep in the berth we usually move the gear we want to keep dry out and set it on the seats or the floor in front of the seats. Dropping down the aft curtain I had made to enclose the rear of the cabin does a good job of keeping out any dew so the entire cabin stays dry.
Also usually at night with the curtain dropped I slide the
portapotty out and have it sitting against the curtain facing forward.
This makes it easy to stumble out in the dark and use the facilities if
needed - a feature my wife greatly appreciates. In fact, it works nice
for this during the day. If she needs to use the potty we just drop
the curtain and slid it out. Since you are sitting low on the thing
and the windows are all high it provides all
Although the berth looks small it will comfortably accommodate two
adults. There is ample headroom for me to sit up (I am 5'8"). I often
use pillows to cushion my back against the bulkhead and sit in a semi reclined
position and read. With screens on the doors and hatch there is good
ventilation in he berth while keeping the bugs and mosquitoes out (always
present on rivers during the summer nights). Sure, it would be nice if
there were more room but like I said at the beginning I am willing to trade
off some of the open space for the speed and economy.
I covered the sole from the transom to the berth’s rear bulkhead
with one continuous piece of carpet. If doing it again I would cut the
carpet across the sole at the back of the cabin and leave a small gap possibly
covering with trim of some sort. The reason for this is I have found
that although I had no water blow or drip into the cabin the entire floor
ended up wet. The rain falling on the open rear sole "leached" up
through the carpet all the way to my feet while sitting at the helm. Plus,
since I had carpeted the sole first and then placed the seat/storage boxes
on top of it the carpet inside the boxes were also wet and had to be emptied
out and dried when I returned home. If the carpet had a break in
it I believe the wicking action would be stopped and cabin floor and boxes
would have remained dry.
There have been a few areas on the cabin were small cracks have developed.
None of these are serious and once they appeared they have not continued
to grow. There are two along the decks where it is attached to the
bulwalks and the worst one at the junction of the forward berth BULKHEAD
and berth top. I attribute these to over zealous sanding of the fiberglass
tapes on the seams. While trying to feather these in for a reasonably
smooth finish. Iit is easy to get carried away.
On several non-structural items like the seat/storage box lids on
each side of the splashwell, I chose not to encapsulate with epoxy. This
was done because of my allergic reaction to the epoxy – the less contact
with the stuff the better. And although they have all held up well
I have found that they have “grown” a little. This creates a problem
here and there where I made them fit fairly tight. Not a big deal
but I do need to remove a couple of lids and trim them a little.
Speaking of my reaction to the epoxy - I didn't mention it in the Tennessee River story but one night while I wandered around one of the towns I took out the screen inserts in the berth doors and replaced them with the solid panels (I keep them stored under the berth mattress). With these in place it at least gives the berth the appearance of being secure since I left my digital camera, GPS, etc. inside.
When I returned to spend the night I just left the solid panels in
and since it was cool I had the hatch closed. This is the first time
I had slept in the berth with limited ventilation. Guess what?
When I woke the next morning I had a light case of the epoxy rash on my
forehead and right wrist. I couldn’t believe it! It has been over
a year since any epoxy was added to the berth area but it still got me.
The next night I but the screens back in and had no more problems.
Having built a couple of airplanes I know what it is to try to build
“light.” When constructing Therapy I was aware of weight being added but
not real concerned. This was a mistake. Every pound of extra weight
added WILL affect the performance. Remember this is an 18’ (or 16’ by the
plans) boat powered by only 50 horsepower outboard. How many 18’ runabouts
do you see with 50s hanging on the transom? Why? Because most
fiberglass boats are heavy and if you try to add 3 or 4 passengers a 50
won’t push it around. I guess is, if I was building it over I could easily
shave off 100 lbs. This is more than the weight of fuel in my full tanks.
When knocking around I usually just carry 10 gallons because it just planes
better when there are two people onboard. Think light! You will be
glad you did. The boat will run faster on less fuel.
When ordering the instruments for Therapy I thought I may have let my love for electronic gadgets cloud my judgment. Did I really need a digital speedometer with built-in mileage log functions AND a fuel flow gauge on an 18’ 50 HP boat? Couldn’t I have gotten by without them? Yes, but I’m sure glad I have them. If you are just cruising around the local area and make an occasional longer trip - save the $400. But as I have mentioned before, once you run an airplane out of gas and find yourself in a soybean field, upside down hanging from the seat belt you develop a very strong desire to not run out of fuel again. It’s not a pleasant experience.
Running a boat dry while on the lake is not a big deal but if I have a choice between running a plane in flight out of gas OR a boat out on the river with a huge barge bearing down on me I’ll take the airplane every time!
Plus you have to remember I built the Cabin Skiff to make long trips where fuel availability maybe very limited. I need to be able to predict with some certainty how far I can get on a tank of gas. Once calibrated the two instruments are very accurate. On a long trip my normal procedure is to carefully fill both tanks with 15 gallons, then run one until dry and then switch to the other (no Einstein moment here!). The fuel flow meter will normal read within 1/10 of a gallon of being correct when the 15 gallons is exhausted.
The digital speedometer has a log function that will record both
trip and total mileage. I was amazed when checking it against my
GPS while on the almost 900 mile Tennessee River trip they read within
a 2 miles of each other. Not too shabby. With this combo I can usually
predict with in ONE MILE my actual range at any given point. Naturally
load will cause the MPG to vary and experience has taught me to compensate
accordingly. Also, current can be a factor that must be considered.
For me the two gauges were well worth the money. I’m out there to
have fun and trips are much more enjoyable when not worrying about fuel.
I am also quite pleased with the trailer built from Glen-L’s plans.
It tows straight with no tendency to sway at speed up to 75 mph.
Considering I taught myself to MIG weld while building the trailer it has
been amazingly trouble free. Also, one of the items I spent the extra
bucks on were all sealed lights. At the time I questioned if they
were worth the additional cost but again I am happy I made the choice.
On my other boat trailers lights seem to always be a problem – corroded
bulb bases, broken bulbs, forgetting to unplug the lights when backing
in the water (more blown bulbs), etc. The sealed units have been
great. Not a single problem yet and I never unplug the lights when
loading or unloading (at night it looks kind of neat with the trailer lights
shining underwater!). Sealed units are the way to go. The only down
side is that since I use Therapy most of the time when I back one of my
other boats in I usually forget to unplug – more blown bulbs…….
For now that is about all that’s comes to mind. I still enjoy every moment I spend on Therapy and try to get out at least twice a week. Usually I just run 30 or 40 miles and log some quality lawn chair time along the way. Last weekend my wife and I made a 170 mile round trip with an overnight spent on board. Weather was perfect, stopped at restaurants along the way for lunches and dinner. Spending time doing something you love with someone you love – it just doesn’t get much better than that!
The end of this month (8/01) I have another major trip planned. A friend and I are having our wives haul us to Chicago. We will spend Saturday and part of Sunday knocking around the Windy City and then we will drop the boat in on Lake Michigan. They will drive home with the trailer and we will wander down the Illinois River to the Mississippi and follow it south to the Kaskaskia River and make out way back to our home port. The trip will cover about 440 miles and see us pass through 11 locks. The plan is to make it in 4 days or less if the lock gods smile on us. I’ll add a story on the trip to the main page when time allows.
See you on the river!