Skat click here to read or make an observation about this  article
By Peter Simmons - Minneapolis, Minnesota - USA

When casting about for plans for a sailboat to replace my beloved AF3, Lumberduck, I was taken by Jim Michalek’s Skat design. I loved my AF3, but wanted a boat with a better hull shape for the steep chop we often get here on Minnesota lakes, and Skat’s deep V bottom, combined with her broad beam and large interior volume, seemed just right. Not to mention … the photos published in Duckworks of Tidmarsh Major’s Alabama Skat (see links at end of article - Chuck) were so cool lookin’ I just had to have one. So I sold Lumberduck to a couple of teenaged brothers for about a quarter of what she cost to build and rig, ordered Skat plans and started building 4th of July Weekend in ’05.

click to enlarge

I ordered Skat plans and started building 4th of July Weekend in ’05.

(click images to enlarge)

This boat was going to be different from my previous boats, I vowed. With one exception – a canoe I built for a friend – I had always built with lumberyard materials, but this time I invested most of what I realized from selling Lumberduck in marine plywood. I bought 7 sheets of jequitiba marine ply from Wayne Meier at Midwest Marine Plywood in Eagan, MN. Judging by the company name you’d think this was a big outfit with lots of inventory. Actually Wayne just sells marine ply and some other specialty lumber out of his garage, which does, in fact, contain a surprisingly wide and varied inventory. Wayne’s a great guy, and was very helpful, and the price was right.

In general, the plans were clear, as I’ve found to be the case on all the Michalek plans I’ve seen, and the build was straightforward, with one exception. I joined the side panels together with what I believe is called a “Payson Joint” – basically, thickened epoxy for the edge joining, with fiberglass tape on each side, filled with un-thickened epoxy. I’d done this once before with good results, so didn’t anticipate any problems. After two days everything seemed cured hard and I began gluing and screwing the sides and transom to the frames, using thickened epoxy and SS drywall screws. Got it all together, then watched in horror as the Payson Joints slowly failed on both sides, the pieces hinging inward to the tune of crackling fiberglass. I guess I must have mixed a bad batch of epoxy for the joint. I’d mixed the batch for the thickened epoxy first, then mixed another batch to fill the glass. The second batch cured hard, but underneath the glass the first batch must have stayed soft. There was only one thing to do … panic!

The bad Payson joint

click to enlarge

A less tightly-would builder might have unscrewed the panels from the frame, carefully scraped and wiped off the uncured epoxy, and learned a valuable lesson with no harm done. Sadly, my character is forged of sterner stuff. In my mind I now had to make butt blocks for the joints before the epoxy I’d used to glue the sides to the frames and transom could kick off. I don’t know why I believed this was my only path. This situation reminds me of the time about 20 years ago when my car stalled in a blizzard. I got out and opened up the hood, remembered I knew nothing about engines, then slammed the hood shut, catching a substantial piece of my coat in it. I was trapped. Barring intervention from a convenient Saint Bernard, I would die there in the snow. The only way out was the hood release lever inside the car, which I obviously couldn’t reach. So I ended up tearing my coat nearly in two in order to save my life. A less tightly wound motorist, of course, would have slipped out of his coat, released the hood, then put his coat back on. My point is, I don’t know if emergencies inspire me, or I inspire emergencies.

click to enlarge

Skat on her trailer

With steely, manic precision I cut two pieces of clear pine 1x4 for the butt-blocks, even beveling the lower end for looks. I took my trusty belt sander to the inside face of the failed Payson joint and ground off the fiberglass. Then I slathered some carefully mixed epoxy onto the 1x4 pieces and screwed them on from the outside in--screwed the hell out of them, because it took quite a bit of force to reinvent the fair curve of the side panel.

Incredibly, I got away with all this, except for two small imperfections: there is a small, but noticeable ridge at the port joint, and the butt block on the inside of the port joint is unaccountably crooked. Depending on my mood, I a) don’t notice these flaws, or b) see them as proof of my depravity. So it goes.

Waiting to go sailing

click to enlarge

As for sailing, so far I’ve been out only once. A less tightly wound sailor probably would have waited for a day with milder conditions, but since one reason I built Skat was to be able to brave a wilder set of wind and water I said, What the hey?

It was a thrill a second, with winds around 15 mph and gusts over twenty, but I always felt secure in Skat. She just knifed through the waves, and came about without complaint. Slight weather helm, just like she's supposta, and she de-powers easily by easing the sheet or dropping the tiller. You can't really tell in the pics, but the chop was very steep, and it would have knocked AF3 senseless. After taking the picture of the boat sailing, my friend climbed aboard with me, and the boat was even more stable with the added ballast.

click to enlarge

Skat with a bone in her teeth

All in all Skat feels like a big little boat with the big-hearted temerity to stand up to the most furious of tempests Mother Nature unleashes on the sheltered lakes on which I sail. Anyone looking for a small, solid boat with a great shape under the waterline would do well to choose this design. And if you want to ask me for tips on building … you should have your head examined.

Peter Simmons
Minneapolis, MN

More about Skat: