John Gardner 14′ Skiff

This all-purpose sharpie is a hopped-up version of Gardner’s “Riverfront Recapture Skiff.” In his book, Classic Small Craft You Can Build, Gardner reminds us that “Boats of this general type have been present in large numbers and considerable variety on New England shores for as far back as anyone can remember, and of course much farther back than that.” Faded black and white photographs show my own grandfather in just such a boat fishing with friends on northern lakes.

I know this particular boat well. It was the hard-working tender for a Piscataqua River Gundalow, a sailing barge I crewed for years. This skiff moved literally thousands of elementary school students, six at a time, the short distance between rocky shore and choppy anchorage. She was our paint float, our caulking platform, our on-deck catch all. She came apart here and there and we fixed her enough to get through another season. Years later, after more than a decade of hard service and minimal attention, she was finally cast aside, and given to me.

Between jobs and against my better judgement, I brought her inside the shop.  I ended up replacing four bottom-planks,  the inner and outer keel battens, breasthook, inner and outer gunwhale pieces, and added quarter-knees, a skeg, and epoxy-glassed the chines. Then I painted her.

If this rugged little skiff survived what she was put to before, in her previous condition,  just imagine how long she’ll serve now, put right and living the good life.

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