Skin-On-Frame Rowing Wherry

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Project by DustyMark posted 05-25-2019 02:49 PM 2967 views 3 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a Dave Gentry-designed, Ruth, skin-on-frame rowing wherry that was built from plans. The boat is 18’ long, 33” wide, and weighs in at 48 pounds without the rowing rig. Long frame pieces are vertical grain western red cedar obtained by picking through the stack at Home Depot. Ribs are 1/2” Baltic birch plywood. The rub rail is 1/4” ash. The skin is ballistic nylon coated with urethane garage floor sealer.

Long frame pieces are scarfed together with an 8 to 1 ratio scarf joint.

Gunnel pieces are then soaked in water and bent over their length.

The front stem is made of 1/2” Baltic birch plywood and is joined to the keel and first layer of the gunnel. Plywood ribs hold everything in place.

The wineglass transom is made of plywood and makes for a classic wherry shape.

Plywood is used to provide a surface to step into the boat and mount the rowing frame.

Close-up of the step.

The ash skeg is re-installed after the skin is stapled on. The boat tracks straight thanks to the skeg.

The skin is soaked in water and then stapled to the gunnels.

Skin at transom is folded over.

The folds are soaked in epoxy and held down with screws. This joint has remained waterproof.

The bow requires hand stitching.

Trimmed and gathered up.

Clips serve as an extra pair of hands.

Stitching complete.

I launch at some austere sites and put a hole in the skin on the second time I launched it. I added Dynel, soaked in epoxy, along the bow stem and that solved any launch and recovery damage at the bow.

Portrait shots show up sideways, but here’s a shot of my maiden voyage in the Duluth harbor in December!

Skin-on-frame boats are a relatively inexpensive way to build a high performance, lightweight boat. I built this boat for $500. They only require about the same amount of care you’d give a $3,500 kevlar canoe or kayak. This particular shell speeds along at an average of 5 mph for hours on end at an athletic pace. One of my favorite rows is on a local river. I row upstream 4.5 miles, take a short break at the first set of rapids and then return. I have made an average of 5.5 mph on this 9-mile row. That’s not too bad for a human-powered vessel!

-- Mark, Minnesota

5 comments so far

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

8070 posts in 4471 days

#1 posted 05-25-2019 03:41 PM

Fantastic workmanship! Congratulations on you accomplishment! She’s a beauty!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5000 days

#2 posted 05-25-2019 05:42 PM

That is so cool.
I made a canoe years ago so I know the pride you have.

Good job Sir,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View DustyMark's profile


518 posts in 3188 days

#3 posted 05-25-2019 05:52 PM

Thanks for rotating the picture! I’m going out for the first row of the season today.

-- Mark, Minnesota

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

8070 posts in 4471 days

#4 posted 05-25-2019 08:14 PM

Your very welcome Mark. Be proud you earned it! I made a little skiff a while back and I was amazed that I made this simple little boat. Your craft was much more complicated for sure so Kudos to you. Have fun and stay safe on your maiden voyage! Oh! and thank you for your service to our country.

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View Redoak49's profile


5273 posts in 3106 days

#5 posted 05-26-2019 10:33 AM

Very interesting and well done.

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