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What Makes a Skiff Special

March 12, 2021 in Uncategorized


In my last blog, I discussed the skiff or row boat. All the historic boat builders of Muskoka made their version of this classic boat design. Built using a design method that is as old as boating, the Muskoka skiff is built from cedar and oak. Mahogany may have been used on some boats as gunwale accents.

Cedar is an ideal material for planking. It is light, very strong for its weight and fairly resistant to rot. The frame of a row boat is made out of oak. Oak keel, oak stems and oak ribs. The materials, when assembled can create a general shape that is pointy at both ends, with two seats, a relatively flat keel, plumb stern stem and a curve bow. The belly of the boat is made by the broadening of the planks. When all this took shape in the shops of the boat builders of Muskoka, a specific stylistic pattern evolved.

First, the ribs are square and spaced at 6” intervals on some versions and 4” on others. Obviously the use of more ribs makes a boat stronger, but it is also heavier and takes more material and time to build. Planks are hand fitted, shaved and tapered to create the distinctive belly shape of a Muskoka skiff. The hull profile of row boats from Peterborough are much rounder. The planks join at the stems and are nailed into position. Topping it all off are the cedar decks at either end that complete a triangle and provide another point of strengthening. Inner and outer wales are oak or mahogany on deluxe models. The final product is a lasting classic for the ages!

By Tim Du Vernet

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