Skin on frame boats are delightful boats that steal the show. Whenever you arrive on shore in one you will be admired, and probably asked a few questions. "What is it made of?" "How light is it?" or maybe just "Wow, cool boat."
Hermit Cove skin on frame boats are uniquely designed to make them incredibly easy to build. They don't require any special construction guides like jigs or molds. These are not craft boats mean to be poured over and lovingly varnished all season long. These are rough and ready boats that want to get out on the water. Let me know if you have any questions about these unusual boats: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We got a nice mention in the Port Townsend Leader, “From computer code to skin-on-frame boats”. The article is mostly correct, though they confuse the weight of the Pacific Loon and the Little Owl.
I wrote a story about a trip Jon and I took in the first two Pacific Loons:
The Owl is a high displacement boat that can easily accomodate several adults. Its thwart runs fore and aft, so you can balance almost any load. Depending on construction options, the boat weighs 30-40 pounds, so light you have to be careful not to let it blow away. It is easy to lift onto your car's roof, and to get in and out of the water. You will find that you go out for a quick row more often. And it is so easily built and affordable that you need not treat it lightly. This is a utility boat, designed to get things done on the water. We use it to fish inland lakes that have no boats ramps, as our sailboat's main dinghy, and to pull crab traps. It is right at home towed behind a boat, kept up on deck, or waiting for its next adventure in your backyard.
For those with smaller boats, the Little Owl shares many of the same design features with it's larger brother, but is wider for its length, to help it carry weight. Two careful adults can use this boat in most weather, and an adult of nearly any size should be able to get this boat to and from the water without any trouble. I've carried heavier sails.
The Little Owl too little? The Big Owl too big? Not to worry. If you need a boat that fits in the range of 6' 7" – 8' long and has a beam of 3' 6" – 4' 2", we've got the boat for you! The custom plan generator takes your measurements and gives you cutting plans in AutoCAD DXF and PDF formats. As with the other Owls, the easiest way to build a boat is to have the parts CNC cut. Custom fabrication shops like Superfab in Portland, OR will be able to use our cutting plans to deliver plywood to you.
The Pacific Loon is designed to be a general purpose row boat, for fishing, crabbing, and seeing the sights. Plenty of rowboats manage those tasks, but the Pacific Loon really shines on multi-day trips. The floor of the boat is several inches off of the skin, and wide enough and long enough to be a comfortable bed. In combination with a cockpit cover (tent plans included), you can choose between making camp on land, or just setting the anchor and calling it a night. All this in a boat that you can carry from the roof of your car down to the waters edge.
Our kits go together like Ikea furniture. Each piece slots into the next, so that no frames or jigs are required to create the boat's shape. Once the plywood frame is snapped together, glued in place, and painted, the stringers (long skinny parts that run from bow to stern) are lashed to the frame to create the hull form. Then it is just a matter of stretching the fabric over the frame, fixing it in place with staples or tacks, and then painting the fabric. Can you imagine a simpler process?
We offer kits, paper plans and pdf plans. The pdf plans include a detailed instruction manual, access to the support forum, and cutting plans in PDF formats. The paper plans are full sized, so that you can cut the shapes out of the plywood using the plans as a template. The kit includes the required plywood parts CNC cut from marine plywood. If you are unsure which to purchase, don't worry: if you first buy the pdf plans and then decide you want other options, the plan price will be credited towards your kit purchase. With the pdf plans, you have a few options for cutting your own plywood, but these are not simple cuts and you will find the job much easier with the paper plans or the kit.
Natives of the far north have had kayaks made from wood frames and animal skins for thousands of years. Unlike those living further south, they had no large trees for things like dugout canoes, so they used their limited wood for the frame only, and then sewed a patchwork of animal skins into a snug and watertight covering. When this ancient design met modern materials, the result was incredibly successful. Kayaks are very compact boats and some designs made of wood and nylon skin are 18 feet long yet weigh less than 30 pounds. Though animal skins can only last so long, nylon boats can live for centuries. Not only are all the materials tough and light, but they take abuse in a fundamentally different way from fibeglass or wooden boats: they move and flex to absorb impact. Kayaks made this way are rightly popular.
Natives also made open boats, called umiaks. These boats were usually around 30 feet long and could carry far more people and gear than kayaks. But though many have modernized skin on frame kayaks, you rarely find modern skin on frame open boats. Which is a shame, because the technique is quite suited to smaller open boats.
Why are open skin on frame boats rare? It could be that people worry if boats built this way are strong enough. It would be good to remember that the skin on frame contruction is also popular for making aircraft. In fact, one prolific designer of skin on frame boats, Platt Monfort, started off building aircraft. If it can handle takeoff, run into debris in the air at high speeds, and then land again, it must be tough. All those world war I biplanes involved in dogfights? Skin on frame. This video from Kudzu Craft shows the kind of abuse that the skins can take. Not only that, in the case of a failure, there are repair options. If a frame cracks, you can make a sandwich of wood to reinforce the cracked location. If the skin tears, you can sew it together again. These are repairs that can be made while far from home. If your fiberglass boat breaks it is likely to delaminate over a large area. Good luck fixing that on some far forgotten shore!