Melonseed Skiff

Modern materials transform a classic American gunning skiff into a classy daysailer.

by Dennis Caprio

SMALL BOAT JOURNAL #70 January 1990

Imagine a 13-foot daysailer looks for all the world like a miniature 1920s day-yacht from the drawing board of Nathanael Herreshoff. Imagine, too, that rigging this daysailer takes no more than 5 minutes. On the water, she rewards you by planing on a reach, if the conditions are right, and sailing closer the wind than you think she should.

While her performance dazzle you, this lovely daysailerís remarkable stability, comfortable motion, and dry cockpit win your confidence, and take most of the worry out of being caught in a blow. When the wind dies, just strike the rig, stow it inside the boat, and row home. The boat is a delight under oars, so good that on windless days, you may row it just for fun.

You wouldnít be surprised if our daysailer were the creation of a talented naval architect. But itís not. Instead, she is an evolutionary workboat from the 1880s modeled after the South Jersey beach skiffs but with a lot less freeboard for her length. Melon seed skiff is the typeís name, and whoever developed the first one intended it to be an improvement on the Barnegat Bay sneakbox gunning skiff. Drier and more seaworthy than the sneakbox, the melon seed is better suited for use in the choppy waters of New Jerseyís bays.

Roger Crawford of Crawford Boat Building, Humarock, Massachusetts, has produced a fiberglass version of this handsome little gunning skiff. He calls her the Melonseed Skiff.

Crawford made the hullís mold from a wooden melon seed built from lines in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution. Construction is hand-laminated fiberglass in a matrix of polyester resin. The laminate schedule, doubled in the bottom and stem area, consists of a skin of 1.5-ounce mat, followed by a layer of Fabmat (a combination of 1.5-ounce mat and 24-ounce woven roving), and a layer of 10-ounce cloth. The deck laminate consists of biaxial cloth (a combination of 17-ounce roving and 3/4-ounce mat that yields a high strength-to-weight ratio) and a balsa core.

Crawford joins the hull and deck with Sikaflex adhesive sealant and stainless steel bolts and screws driven through the teak rubrail, deck flange, and hull into a sheer clamp of pressure-treated lumber epoxied to the hullís inside. For additional rigidity, the deck is epoxied to a 3-inch flange around the daggerboard trunk and at the transom. The mast partner is reinforced with 2-by-6-inch pressure-treated lumber. Spars are spruce and fir; trim and floorboards, oiled teak. The sail is tanbark-colored Dacron and has one reef point.