In a prior post, I stated that SIMPLE IS BETTER. While looking at various designs, I came across the Melonseed Skiff, a native New Jersey folkboat that was used by hunters to sneak up on ducks in the late 1800’s. Thought to be extinct by the 1950’s (the boat, that is), it was cataloged on Page 208 of Howard Chapelle’s American Small Sailing Craft. It’s since enjoyed a resurgence, with differing interpretations drawn by several designers and maritime museums, and has been reproduced by various builders, most successfully by Crawford Boat Building in fiberglass. This boat is the prettiest girl at the dance and an athlete to boot, an able rower that stays out in the rough.
I set out looking for one, but they are $11,000 new and $6,000 used – there goes the cheap criteria. So I contemplated building one in cedar strip and compared boats built by others – Barry Long’s twin Melonseeds are floating artwork – but estimated the materials at $4,000 . . . and the build time would take a couple of years of my life. Surfing craigslist provided no relief, so I evaluated designs from John Welsford, Doug Hylan, Selway-Fisher and others. Many fine designs, but none sufficiently cheap due to requirements for expensive wood. In my search, though, I kept stumbling over boats by Jim Michalak. At first, the boats looked like shoe boxes and coffins, but I soon found they had a strong following. An acquired taste, Jim’s boats are to yachting what the original Volkswagen Beetle is to exotic sports cars.
Originally uninterested, I found that his boats met many of my criteria. They are simple, fast builds and use conventional local lumber, not expensive marine woods. Looking for a Melonseed-sized boat, Machalak’s Mayfly 14 seemed to fit the bill:
- Simple (flat-bottomed, 5 sheets of cheap plywood)
- quickly rigged,
- safe (flotation tanks fore and aft)
An added bonus, the boat can be built with little epoxy, to which I’m allergic.
Good reports abounded and my interest piqued. What cliched it for me was finding that the boat has done well in the Texas 200, an annual 4 or 5 day adventure in the Gulf of Mexico. I now own Michalak’s Book, which contains the plans, and we’re off to the lumberyard . . . as soon as the garaged is cleaned out.
By all reports, the Mayfly should perform well, but with a flat bottom, will be a wet ride to windward.
Here’s a couple of videos of Chuck Pierce’s Mayfly 14, Gamaray in the Texas 200. Enjoy.