I needed a good rowing and sailing dinghy as a shore boat for our 25′ Rosborough motor cruiser. I picked up this Chesapeake Light Craft Skerry used, after much consideration of different designs. The boat is 15′, with a 4’6″ beam, very lightweight, and it fit my needs. While most motor boaters use a deflatable with an outboard as a dinghy, I much prefer a good rowing boat. Many folks have never experienced the ease and speed of a well designed rowing craft, and once you have you realize there is little need for a dinghy motor. Besides, rowing is fun. And since I am dominantly a sailor I also wanted a boat to sail around at anchorages. A smaller dinghy would have worked. But I wanted one ocean worthy enough to explore a good distance away from the mothership. John Harris designed the boat with inspiration from “traditional working craft of the British Isles and Scandinavia, with a little bit of American Swampscott Dory thrown in.” So she is a remarkably capable little boat.
At first glance, having a 15′ dinghy for a 25′ boat may seem silly, particularly since the plan was to store it on the roof during passages. But the CLC Skerry bare hull only weighs around 100 pounds. And the Rosborough, with a hard cockpit cover, offers a very long flat cabin top. So besides a little extra windage up high, the Skerry would pose no problem for our 8,000 pound mothership. The picture shows the Skerry (mocked up on a computer) on a sister ship to my Ros.
When I acquired the Skerry I was in one of those phases where I was determined to get a handle on my boat buying habit. Not long before I had returned from the desert and went a little crazy buying boats. So the Skerry was going to be the last sailboat I bought for a long time. This was pure self-deception, but it did give me the justification to go hog wild on the new all carbon rig and balance lug sail. After all, it was going to be my last sailboat for a long time.
The boat was purchased used from a young man in the U.S. Coast Guard. He actually used the boat in the first stage of the inaugural Race To Alaska, from Port Townsend to Victoria, BC, a daunting stretch of water. He ran into trouble in the strong tidal currents and, I am sure to his chagrin, had to be rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard. After acquiring the boat and looking it over, I could only shake my head at that attempt. The rig was poorly setup and not reefable, the oars were a foot too short, with horrible loose oarlocks, and the inside of the hull was slicker than snot when wet. It was in no way suited to going into those waters.
Fortunately the boat had been well built from a kit, with nice clean lines. Unfortunately someone had done a horrible job of putting on some extremely good paint. So what I thought was going to be a fairly simple repainting job ended up being a long job getting all the original paint off that was full of runs and pin holes. It may have actually taken less time to build a new hull from a kit, and cost about the same, particularly since I did not keep the original rig, and the oars were too short. In retrospect I should have done less sanding, and more heat and scraping.
New Rig & Rudder & Other Items
As mentioned, I designed and built a new balanced lug rig with all carbon spars for the Skerry, with the help of the brilliant Michael Storer, of Really Simple Sails. I switched to a standard tiller handle and built a new NACA foil section rudder. I moved the pintles & gudgeons up so I did not have to lean so far over the back to put the rudder on. Non-slip padding was added to the interior for my comfort, and so that my dog would not hurt herself jumping in on slippery surfaces. I added a bunch of tie down points to keep gear from going everywhere in case of a capsize. And I strapped in some beach rollers for added buoyancy. I also added a drain plug to the hull to make it easy to clean it out. I will write more about a bunch of these modifications in the future as many of them have turned out to be successful and unique.
The funny thing is that I now plan on selling the big Rosborough motorboat, and will not be using the Skerry for its intended purpose.
The CLC Skerry is quick under sail and oar, and I have had a great time in it out on Port Townsend Bay, and on a number of other adventures around the area. A buddy and I even floated it for forty miles in one day down the Skagit River. I have it on a Trailex aluminum trailer and can be out sailing within about 15 minutes of leaving my house. It is just a great little dinghy, that I doubt I will sell anytime soon. I even intended to use it for the first Salish 100, but sickness prevented me from attending.
As a fun day boat, it is great. But for longer stints it has its problems. As mentioned it is very lightweight and tender. So when sailing you really need to keep your weight low with your butt planted on the floor. It takes a bit of wind to even be able to lean my weight out against the side, so I end up on my knees. That is fine for an evening sail for a few hours. But when I am in the boat for 4-7 hours it is hard on my body. My knees really don’t like it. It is also great for rowing with a passenger, but the forward passenger position when sailing is not very comfortable.
Pushing Its Design Envelope With Big Modifications
I really like the boat and even though it is a bit silly I have decided to modify it to make it a more capable little overnight cruiser, so that I can use it for the 2021 Salish 100, the Palooza Crooza, and a few other events. A bigger boat would be more appropriate, but it is the boat I own, and it’s a fun challenge.
I will be adding sealed end decks, and will be off-centering the dagger board so that I can sleep on the floor, along with a number of other changes.
I rapidly completed the modifications mentioned above. Learn more here.
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