How to Build a Beautiful Skiff, Part 1 – An Idea is Born With Eric Blake

June 22, 2016

In this first video, Eric introduces the skiff building project for local Brooklin kids that he and Havilah Hawkins are launching this summer. Get the picture here and then go along for the ride as the series gets underway.

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The plans are now available, and you can purchase them here.


Related Videos:  Check out the new feature just under the video up to the right... see the Related Videos?

Havilah Hawkin's Guide Page


Over many years, WoodenBoat magazine has published a great many articles on skiffs. Some are planked with sheet plywood and others use real wood like cedar, with bottoms that are either cross-planked or laid fore-and-aft. Our favorites are the Asa Thomson Skiff and its near-sister called the Yankee Tender, Bob Baker’s depiction of the Westport Skiff, Maynard Bray’s Lumber Yard Skiff, and Harry Bryan’s Daisy.

For more, just visit the WoodenBoat Index and search on “skiff.”

Until how-to-build drawings for the Hawkins skiff become available, here are a couple of alternatives: The WoodenBoat Store sells plans for the plywood Babson Island 14 for $90 (or kits for around $2,000). Building instructions from WoodenBoat magazine's "Getting Started" series are available as a 2-part digital download (part 1 & part 2)  for $1.95 each from the WoodenBoat Store. Maynard Bray (PO Box 52, Brooklin, ME 04616) can furnish drawings for his Lumberyard Skiff design (pictured below) for $35. Building instructions for the Lumberyard Skiff from WoodenBoat magazine’s “Getting Started in Boats” series are available as a digital download for $1.95.

Young student rows the beautiful completed Off Center skiff.


R.D. Culler’s book Skiffs and Schooners, Howard Chapelle’s American Small Sailing Craft, and Mystic Seaport Watercraft also have sections devoted to skiffs.

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– [Narrator] The first time that I ever sat in a boat that I had built myself changed my life. It was an experience unlike anything that you can really describe. I came to boats through building and through getting out on the water and taking voyages a little further afield each time and kind of learning as I went and it was more the adventure side and the idea of a vessel that could take you places that was my appeal to boats. Having worked on waterfronts for the last 20 years, I have two toddlers and a 10 year old. Introducing my kids to the water in a meaningful way is something that is weighing on my mind heavily these days. I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming about what might be the ultimate youth waterfront program. My focus was to create a place, an incredible waterfront facility that would foster this kind of program. And the more time that I spent over coffee break with Havella Hawkins. He talked me into the idea that it’s not a place that you need. What you need is a project. While Havella’s focus seems to be on big gaff rig vessels, his real passion lies in the flat bottom skiffs that you see him towing behind Veila using to get kids on and off these islands. Havella has taken the last 10 years to pair the design elements and the construction details of these skiffs down to their bare elements in a way that anyone can put one of these together and get out on the water and learn the basics. And to build something that is beautiful and useful, something that can take you places, giving them the skills they needed to eventuate, is magical. I feel like it’s all come together. We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna build one of Havella’s great little cedar skiffs with local kids and make a full video series about it so lots of other people can see exactly how to build one too. This is a real, salty, seaworthy boat that will appeal to people of all ages. We’re gonna show you that with a group of 10 year olds. This is important to me and it’s important to everyone here at Off Center Harbor. I have no idea how this is gonna turn out. I think it’s gonna be a blast, I’m incredibly excited to get to spend some time with Haddy and some local kids putting together something special and I hope you enjoy following along with us.

– [Male Voice] I solemnly swear

– [Children] I solemnly swear

– [Male Voice] To have a really good time.

– [Children] To have a really good time.

– [Male Voice] And if I fall in sitting on the bow

– [Children] And if I fall in sitting on the bow

– [Male Voice] I will not complain.

– [Children] I will not complain.

– [Male Voice] I will smile and laugh.


29 Responses So Far to “How to Build a Beautiful Skiff, Part 1 – An Idea is Born With Eric Blake”:

  1. Avatar Wayne McCallum says:

    Good on you Eric and Havilah. You are not just teaching these young people how to build a boat, but how to live their lives. They won’t forget this summer, or the lessons. ‘Tis a worthy thing you do. Enjoy. Wayne

  2. Avatar Taran Card says:

    Great Idea,
    Just curious as to whether there will be a model kit version of the Beautiful Skiff like your model of the Bevin skiff. I find the idea of plank-building and caulked-seams intriguing but have to wonder if a little epoxy at the stems and transom might not be worth the “goo”?.

  3. Avatar neil massey says:

    Hi guys, firstly I just want to say how much I love this site and community.
    My question is I would like to build the OCH Skiff with my daughters class at school, I am wondering how many children did you have working on the skiff you built, what would be a good number so they get to participate. Also what would be the average building hours the the skiff!?

  4. Avatar neil massey says:


    what would be an average build time for the skiff?

    thank you and great work!


  5. Avatar Jerry Readinger says:

    Have any plans for the skiff in a sailing version been developed?
    I purchased the original plans but a sailing version would be a great upgrade.

    Jerry Readinger

  6. Avatar John Bukowsky says:

    I am ready to build one. It will be red. Just like my first boat that I obtained at the age of 5 for 3 sticks of Beemans gum. It was similar design but as I recall – mine was very heavy. Seaweed was the packing gland of choice – all that I could find as it leaked – a lot. Our German Shepard was the power supply when I could row no longer. Thanks for taking on the project Eric.

  7. Avatar Jerry Oram says:

    Hi I lived in Bermuda for 5 years my free time was always talking and looking around the shipyard . My Dad took me to the waterfront when I was young in Hamilton Ontario and it still has a special spot in my heart . My buying wooden boat or good ol boat or even classic boat magazine is my escape from my usual job as a car/truck/bus/forklift mechanic . Finding your site makes me feel like a kid at Christmas . Thank You ( I hope to visit some of the boat building yards in the near future ) Jerry

  8. Avatar Albert Foley says:

    Thank you Eric for a very inspiring idea and “people building” project. The work you do with folks of all ages, especially children, and sharing the simple beauty of boats and water is a blessing! Thank you to all the people involved at OCH.

    The first time I rowed a small wooden boat, one that my father had built when he was a boy, changed my life forever. We lost that boat during a terrible storm on Lake Erie many years ago. Although the boat is gone, the fine memory of that little vessel lives forever in all the boats that I’ve been on and/or owned since. My dad will be 83 years young this Spring. I just ordered a set of plans tonight and I’m hoping he can help build an Off Center Harbor skiff with my son Jacob. Share the dream – pass it on. Thanks again Eric!

  9. Avatar Bill Merrick says:

    Eric, You do a great job with the kids and for us, your audience. Your lessons are clear and complete and have got me going to build a similar boat, a smaller dory skiff.

    Many thanks, Bill

  10. Avatar David Canales says:

    I love your Idea of teaching and sharing your knowledge of boatbuilding with young people. I am very interested in starting a program at my school in Central Texas where I am a Naval Science Instructor. We have plenty of water in the area to explore.

    Thank You

  11. Avatar Ann Flannery says:

    What is the length of the “Beautiful Skiff”?
    And do you think it could accept a small motor?
    Thanks, Ann

  12. Avatar james reid says:

    Wish I had grown up in the Brooklyn Boatyard instead of Brooklyn Mew York in the 1950s. Back then no adults thought programs such as yours mattered. They were wrong. I envy the young folks in your program just for being around adults who know it matters and that the program, will indeed, change their change lives.

  13. Avatar Rick Pratt says:

    i too, remember the first time i sat in a boat of my own making. Unforgettable and indescribable. John Gardner was one of my teachers. That too was quite an experience.

    At the Farley Boat Works in Port Aransas, Texas we have just completed three classes for 10-12 yer old kids. 6 kids, 6 boats. We also do a family boat building program twice a year using our own skiff design.

    It works. The kids and the families are transformed by the experience. As are we!

    If you have it digitized, please send me the lines of the Havilah Hawkins skiff.


    Rick Pratt
    port Aransas Museum and Farley Boat Works

  14. Avatar William Nimke says:


    Looking forward to the rest of the video series and can’t wait for the plans to be available. Since 2013, All Hands Boatworks has taught and mentored more than 850 urban kids in Milwaukee to build more than 30 Bevins Skiffs. Along the way, we help kids re-imagine their expectations of themselves, build something real and beautiful, and instill hopefulness for their futures. We share your passion and could not agree more with your words in the opening video. Many thanks to you and the OCH crew for sharing this work with us!


  15. Avatar Captain Nemo says:

    Wonderful! Just what so many of this generation need to get their minds off of those idiotic hand-held devices, and into the things that really matter. It isn’t the TYPE of boat that’s important, or the size — its the fact that they built it themselves! And that they solved problems encountered along the way through the use of good old fashioned know-how, ingenuity and trial and error. And if their end product doesn’t sit perfectly right in the water, or if they realize later how they might design the next boat just a bit better, then that’s the point, and they will have learned far more than how to build “a beautiful skiff”.

    Bravo for you and the team at OCH!

  16. Avatar Vince Bobrosky says:

    Good for you Eric!

    The impact that such a project can have on a young person is a wonderful thing. Imagine the ripple effect that this could create, not just short term, but throughout their life and the life of their children. I share your sentiment and will stay closely tuned in on your project.

    Thank You for taking us along on your journey!

  17. Avatar Peter Brackenbury says:

    Yay!!! This is exactly what I would like to do! Just did an overnight with my Grade 5 class at the Canadian Canoe Museum carving paddles. They loved it!!! I am cranked to see what you do with these children and what I might be able to do as I learn along with you. Thanks so much!

  18. Avatar Rick Pratt says:


    We are just finishing our second youth Boat Building Camp here at Farley Boat Works on
    Mustang sland, Port Aransas, Texas. or Farley Boat Works on Facebook)

    We have had to add another class to handle the demand.

    there is no way you can lose with this idea.



    Rick pratt

  19. Avatar David Sinclair says:

    I second John S’ sentiments!

  20. Avatar John Simpkins says:

    Tool shed is done. Weather is right. I’m ready.

  21. Avatar Jim Gallagher says:

    There is a Proverb that says..” train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it..” That is exactly what you guys will be doing for these kids; you are giving them a gift that will stick with them throughout their whole life…and they will thank you for it later on. Good on ya for it!

  22. Avatar paul muller says:

    I agree with Charles L! When will the next video appear? If I seem anxious it’s because I’m in the process of building a FIS and can use some assurance I’m doing it correctly!
    Paul Muller

  23. Avatar Donald Jones says:

    Why not shorten one a little and make a Butthead Skiff, so I can keep it at my Marina’s dinghy dock.

  24. Avatar David Ray says:

    Looking FWD to this.

  25. Avatar Robin Van Auken says:

    Everyone’s motto, “If a 10-year-old can do it, so can I.” Thanks for taking us along.

  26. Avatar John Wujack says:

    Good for you. I hope that your project is everything you want it to be and more.

  27. Avatar Charles Lammers says:

    Can’t wait!

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