Local vessel design is a funny business. Some boats are very specific to one area, but never change, while other designs start somewhere and then are adopted by the rest of the world with little change. Around the Navesink we have a boat design that is almost impossible to describe because it comes in so many versions, but at the same time is a true local design. Besides being a local design it also is famous for being the genesis of the modern powerboat as we know it today. There are not only a lot of varieties of these boats, but also a lot of varieties in spelling Sea Bright Skiff, I figured I'd sprinkle all versions in this page in order not to show any favorites.
The original Sea Bright skiff was a surf launched small fishing craft. It was mostly rowed, but could also be sailed.
The hull shape developed from the early 1800's into a light and agile craft with a plank keel that gave it a flat bottom. While as a working craft it no longer exists, the actual design still exists as the well known surf launched life boat that is still used in lifeguard competitions on New Jersey beaches.
When engines started to become common in small craft, the Sea Bright Skiffs were amongst the first to participate in the powering experiment, and pretty soon thereafter it was discovered that the flat bottom plank keel of the skiffs and a square transom made a pretty good planing hull.
These skiffs then became popular as rumrunners during prohibition, and are sometimes referred to as sea skiffs.
While not that many sea skiffs are being built today, there are still quite a number of sea skiffs out there. The very best were about 28 to 32 feet long and were powered by gasoline engines. The last builders of this type were the Olsens and Pedersens in Keyport.
All the painting and varnishing is a lot of work, but if you want a boat that does everything well and the boat needs to be about 30 feet, it is hard to find a nicer boat than one of those sea skiffs.
NMHA has made structural drawings of Capt. Danny's skiff as part of the NMHA heritage project.
Making these drawings once again showed what a tremendously elegant design the sea bright skiffs are. Their structure was light, strong, stiff, durable, relatively simple to build and easy to maintain.
Capt. Danny's skiff is carvel planked. Some skiffs were lapstrake, but the word on the water is that the carvel skiffs are the better boats, and easier to maintain.
Of all the Sea Bright skiffs the most famous one is the FOX. This skiff was rowed from New York to England by two Jersey shore fishermen in 1897 in 62 days! This record is still undefeated today. The original FOX is lost, but in 1975 the Long Branch Ice Boat & Yacht Club built a replica of the FOX and had their own adventures with this boat. This FOX replica is still with us and was one of the prime exhibits at the 2007 Rendez Vous.
While the FOX has real Sea Bright skiff pedigree she is a little different from the norm in being double ended rather than having a transom.
In 2011 another interesting Seabright Skiff appeared on the river, the “Charles Hankins”, now renamed "River Ranger"
This skiff was built in 1992, but is actually a version of the much earlier small engine powered pound boats that were in use prior to World War II. The “Hankins” was the next to last boat ever built by Charles Hankins and built in 1992. The boat had been in private ownership in the Long Beach area of New Jersey and was bought in partnership by NMHA's Charles Ladoulis, Rik van Hemmen and Danny Schade. This little 18 foot vessel has proven to be a versatile little craft, and while it has a yacht appearance it actually has become a little work boat that gets called on to perform all types of yeoman service on the river. It is fitted with a little 18 Hp Yanmar Diesel engines and toots along with the engine barely running above idle. At full engine speed, the boat makes a huge wake, and semi planes, but does not makes it to full plane. The boat is a living study in the transition from non planing to planing hull design. When running at speed it becomes clear that only a little wider transom would actually make this little boat go on plane with the little 18 Hp engine she is fitted with.
And sure enough builders such as Pappy Seamans, started widening the transoms which ultimately resulted in the speedskiffs.
As far as the most authentic Sea Bright Skiff out there is concerned, we can only look at Bob Brummer's 1928 Seamans outboard skiff, “Sarah Ann”. This skiff is the most original Sea Bright skiff out there and by any standard is a museum quality boat that would be a major attraction even in the small craft collection at Mystic Seaport.
In 2012 it became apparent that the committee boat was nearing the end of its life and Monmouth Boat Club was faced with some momentous decisions. Fortunately, a wonderful solution in the form of the Pedersons family personal boat arrived, and MBC will have a wooden Sea Bright Skiff committee boat for many more years to come.
Over the years, NMHA has had a number of public meeting presentations to celebrate the Sea Bright Skiff. past_meetings
For a nice movie about Sea Bright Skiffs go to: http://www.folkstreams.net/film,41
For a further description of the seabright skiff go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sea_Bright