Sunday, June 4, 2017

Smith Island Crab Skiffs

Yesterday we saw this boat making its way through the yard to the launch ramp. The Captain said, "We've got to check that out" so down the ladder we went and learned a little about Smith Island Crab Skiffs.

About 1919 a man named Captain Lawson Tyler designed a narrow, 18' long boat to gather crabs from the grassy beds along the Eastern Shore. He started putting 4-6 horsepower engines in his boats, and soon the watermen were racing them. His design seems to be based on an even older design from the late 1800s, and with modern technology the boats are once again being updated. Utilizing CNC machines to cut the parts and modern materials and adhesives, the hulls have now become ultra light.
The newest boats we saw had 1/4" thick plywood hulls, 1/8" thick plywood ribs, 1/4" thick plywood decks, and 3/8" thick solid coamings. When finished, these weigh about 110 pounds.

Another boat was older and it was all solid wood, traditional construction. It weighed about 200 pounds.

They use 20 HP engines now which weigh about 100 pounds. They aren't supposed to hop up the engines, but what do you suppose they do during the long cold winters when they can't be on the water?

If you'd like more information, you can find Smith Island Crab Skiff Association on Facebook.

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