Sep 30, 2010

Classic Jersey Skiff Lands at Sebago.

Chris (at the helm) and Phil Maynard in the new melon seed.
Congratulations are in order for Sebago sailor Chris Bickford who just acquired a Melon Seed Skiff! The melon seed is one of a class of traditional gunning skiffs which evolved on the Jersey Shore around Little Egg Harbor and which also includes the well known Barnegat Bay sneakbox. Noted water craft historian Howard Chapelle, in his book American Small Sailing Craft, speculates that the melon seed was "intended as an improvement" on the sneak box, and that the craft produced was drier, more seaworthy, and better able to cope with the rougher water found in the open bays of the area. Though this notion is disputed by some, the fact remains that the melon seed is an able and quite beautiful boat, a smart sailor, and perfectly suited to her new home on Jamaica Bay.

Lines plan from American Small Sailing Craft by Chapelle.
This particular 'seed was built a few years ago by Phil Maynard of Philadelphia. Phil is a talented boat builder, sailor, and pilot, among other things, and brought to this project a unique take on melon seed construction. Traditionally, these boats were carvel (smooth) planked on steamed frames. Many are now built lapstrake, either cedar on oak or glued lapstrake plywood, with maybe six planks per side. Some are cedar strip planked, and quite a few have been built in 'glass.  Phil built his with three planks per side, in stitch and glue plywood, from lines recorded by Chapelle. The overlaid lines in the body plan drawing show how close Phil was able to come to the molded shape of the original, with an economy of material and effort.  

Red lines overlay the original body plan, and indicate the new plank layout.

The melon seed under construction at Phil's shop.

The melon seed under construction at Phil's shop. 
This boat originally carried a sprit sail, similar to that shown in the Chapelle plan. Phil later changed to a higher aspect bermudan rig, with a wishbone sprit boom (actually a "half-bone" in this case). The sail area is generous, but the sail has two fairly deep reefs, so the boat stays manageable through a broad range of wind conditions. The geometry of the boom, with its upward angle towards the mast from the clew, keeps sail twist under control with no need for a vang.

Phil and Chris rig "half bone" sprit boom before launching.

I'm looking forward to sailing this boat myself, and welcome another traditional small craft to Sebago. Happy sailing Chris! For a full gallery of photos, visit Chris' album.


bonnie said...

Can't wait to see the new arrival!

Iceland Circumnavigation said...

What a beauty.