River Skiff, Atlas

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There are several large rivers out here in the west, most with lots of whitewater sections that attract kayaks and rafts to run the rapids.  The Arkansas, Colorado, Green, Dolores, Yampa, and Rio Grande are a few that run from Colorado.  There are also a few that feature long stretches of flat water (Class I water in river lingo) that are more conducive to relaxed float trips.  Although I can't argue with the utility of rafts for this purpose, I don't care for their shape or feel, and wanted a wooden boat to make a few of these float trips.  I originally thought of building a true drift boat, like those used on the Colorado river in the Grand Canyon.  Those boats take on the most fearsome rapids around, and have lots of stowage built in to keep the camping gear dry.  They are also very large, heavy, complicated boats.  What we needed was something that could be paddled, rowed, sculled, or poled, would carry a big load to support a week-long trip, and wouldn't take too large an outlay in time and resources too build.

In response to this set of requirements, I designed my own boat for float camping.  It has the dead flat bottom and parallel sided midsection, with strongly upturned ends seen in the Colorado and Rogue River drift boats, but is much narrower for its length to allow paddling and rowing with typical 7-foot oars.  

I drew the design at 1/4 scale on a sheet of whitewashed MDF, and went from there.   My calculations called for a payload of over 800 lbs., so we decided to name the boat Atlas, who carries the weight of the world, or at least our camping gear, on his shoulders.

The sides panels are made from scarfed, straight-cut 1/4" ply.  I glassed them before assembly on the molds.


There are two permanent bulkheads at either end of the 15' long open section of the boat.  To hold the shape of the hull while building, four temporary molds were used.  The transom was framed to take a small outboard if ever desired in the future.  This photo also shows the chine and gunwale stock ready to scarf.


The sides were laid over the molds and the stem and transom attached.


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