The Hagarty Is Back

After a couple of weeks in the shop, Buddy Melge’s old A Skeeter is ready for the ice. She has been bought by two new CIBC members, Chris Biggert and David Jones, who many might recognize as the nice guy who offers us access to Lake Megunticook at Bailey’s Cove. He competed against Buddy at the ’72 Olympics, so this boat has special significance for him. Not to mention that it’s a totally cool boat in it’s own right. Built in 1962 by Francis Hagarty of Cohassett, MA, the fuselage appears to be built of one layer of 1/8″ fir plywood, covered with a diagonal layer of the same thickness. But how Hagarty got the first layer to conform to all that shape is a mystery to me. The boat was designed by Ray Rouge, about whom we’d like to know more.

Chris Biggert checking the tell tales. His hair is already in full wind blown mode. The hollow plank, featured in some previous posts, worked out very well. It actually came out a little stiff, so we knocked a bit off the top out towards the ends. The next plank could be built with 5/8″ stock for a boat this size.

Thanks to Warren Nethercote for sending this skeeter our way, to his buddy Alex Watters for caring for it so well for so many years, and Tom Nichols and Deb Whitehorse for helping with the historical research. Her second lease on life begins now!

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New Whizzes

The plural of Whizz should probably be just Whizz, but then how would you know that there are so many new ones? What’s great is that we need to worry about how to pluralize the name for a class which didn’t even exist a few years ago. Jeff Knapp of Rye, NH is completing #14 in time for the coming season, and Denis Guertin in Quebec continues to make good progress on the pair he’s building. His sailing buddy Frank, for whom he’s building the second boat, has dismantled their DN trailer and is rebuilding it to fit the new boats as well as the DN’s. In Maine, Bart Chapin got a great start on the fuselage before leaving for his annual summer cruise. Bill Bernhard in New York and Carl Jelleme on Nantucket are done building theirs and are now just waiting for ice. Well, maybe they’re doing other interesting things with their summer but surely in the back of their mind while messing about on the water with summer boats a small voice is wondering about all this soft water and mightn’t it be nice if it were a bit harder…?
Jeff Knapp’s #14 Whizz-Bang. Jeff’s planning to build a bright finished strip plank mast, and by the looks of the workmanship here, he’ll be varnishing the fuselage, too.

One of Denis’s pair getting fit for the springboard. He’s nicely mirrored the elliptical shape of the nose block in the tip of the springboard. He reports that the bottoms are on, steering installed, with the sides ready to go. We’re only assuming that there is a stern back there…

Bart made a very strong strong-back for his set-up, and managed to get a lovely sweep down at the stern. It looks like he’s going for a very fine point back there.

He has decades of interesting lumber in his shop, saved from all kinds of projects over the years. We all have those special boards that get saved, moved from here to there, too nice to actually use because then we wouldn’t be able to imbue them with possibilities. But Bart’s tough. He’s gone to the heart of the pile, picked out the best stuff, and is milling mercilessly. What better use for a special piece of wood then in an iceboat? The quantity isn’t much, the quality is important, and then that wood becomes a part of one of your most fabulous passions. It grants you flight; a weightless peel off at the windward mark. It whisks you to remote coves deep in the North Woods and by some miracle of its strength brings you home. I do love those special boards, but a life as an iceboat sure beats gathering dust on some lumber rack.

The guy that started it all when he was searching for a small skeeter design and discovered the Whizz, Doug Sharp, had a stroke this past spring. I’m sure I speak for the entire iceboating community we all wish him the best of recoveries. We look forward to seeing you on the ice, Doug!

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Strip Built Runner Plank, part ll

There’s less guess work in setting up the second half. I used the first part (the bottom) along with the old plank flipped over to establish the shape. A shim or a shingle here and there brought the two halves to a very nice fit, allowing for the bottom’s slight springback. Then the planking proceeds pretty much as before. I decided to use staples this time as the fir was a bit too hard for easy nailing. Staples are much harder to pull than nails, though, even with stapling through a piece of rope which, when you yank on it, theoretically helps get the staple started.

The other downside with the string & staple system is that I couldn’t add the centerline stringer at the same time. But the staples all came out, the stringer and the blocking at the ends for the chocks went in, and the sharp plane worked it’s magic.

The bottom can be seen on the bench at the left. The two halves fit beautifully, and there was no struggle in gluing them together. Like all runner plank laminations, it’s a clamp intensive job.

Because of the large radius, fairing was very easy once the gobs of glue were knocked back. The big shock was how stiff and light it is. After fairing it weighs 59#. And it feels great in the hand with the thin edge. Lifting a thick plank of the same weight takes a bit more finger power. I had expected to add some uni directional glass to the top and bottom to gain stiffness, and It still might need it, but preliminary flexing shows it’s just a bit more flexible than the old one. I have yet to set the boat on it, but would never have imagined it being so close. In the photo below, the little section on top is from a Monotype plank, which was the inspiration for this project. Imagine the weight they saved by going hollow! The plank still needs blocking on the bottom for the chocks.

According to THINK ICE, Spring Constants for DN planks fall between about 90 and 120. Without correcting for length, skeeter planks have a much lower number. They need to travel further to get to flat because of their higher crown. So we can’t really compare planks of different lengths using the Spring Constant of weight divided by deflection (in inches). We need a math pro to find some sort of cosign or something to level the playing field. But I did discover something interesting about crown to length ratios: every plank I checked, all of varying lengths, fell between .3 and .37. The new plank and my DN plank are both .37. What does this mean? Beats me, but it’s fun trying to figure it out. If anyone has a nice Renegade plank, I’d love to know what its deflection, weight and length/crown ratio is.

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Building the Strip-Plank Hollow Runner Plank

A very interesting boat showed up here at Iceboat Central last month in desperate need of a new plank. She came down from Nova Scotia, and in classic Novi style the plank was made with maple and birch. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: H.M.S. Bounty, built in Lunenberg in 1962 for the movie, was built of the same stuff. And during a re-fit on the old ship a few years ago I found chunks of birch in fine condition with the bark still on. But glue joints on the plank were failing and it weighed 110#. The old A Skeeter was built in the early 60’s by Hagarty, in Cohasset, Mass. The unique design might be from Ray Ruge, but we’re still investigating that. Buddy Melges owned the boat for a while, and there were a few more built to the same design for guys on Lake George but their whereabouts are unknown.

She looks more like an early hydroplane than what we are used to seeing on the ice, but the melonseed shape reminded me of the hollow plank that I learned how to build in Estonia. The sectional shape of the plank is very sympathetic to this particular fuselage. I believe this strip plank system would work for other large skeeters, but I don’t know about the Whizz, for example. The plank needs a certain amount of thickness for the strip planking to make sense. On the other hand, it’s often challenging to find the nice wide boards needed for building the plank so we’re gluing strips together anyway. But maybe the strips can be thinner for a smaller plank. I don’t know. The whole thing is a bit of an un-known and I’m just making it up as I go along. So we’ll build the plank and add stiffness to taste.

The old plank has a nice shape, if a bit un-fair, so I used it for a form. The building mold is set up on 1/2″ ply, and draped nicely over the old plank. I followed the Renegade thickness: 2 1/2 to 1 1/4. The chocks are twelve inches wide, same as the plank aperture in the fuselage, so there’s could be no taper in width. (Sorry, Lloyd.) The mold sections are all sections of an arc. A simple lofting yielded the arc for each station, 10″ on center.
The choice of wood is always interesting: a combination of what you want and what you can get. I wanted Doug Fir on top for it’s compression strength, and spruce for the bottom for lightness. But our local lumberyard sells a clear grade of Port Orford Cedar for decking which comes a full inch by 5 1/2. It’s actually more like a spruce than a cedar, with some physical properties right up there with Sitka spruce, but for about a third the cost. And to get it in smooth, milled boards saves a lot of millwork. Unfortunately they were out of stock on the sixteen footers so I scavenged the local boatyards for Sitka rippings and came up with just enough.

The first plank it set very carefully to an accurate centerline marked on the mold. The planks are all 3/4 x 1″milled with an 1.5 degree, which averages out nicely over the changing radius. Epoxy takes care of the rest!
Stack four or five planks together on the bench on edge and apply epoxy to all of them at once. If your mixture isn’t too thick there’s no need to wet out the other edge. I used finish nails to hold them in, and did all the planks in one session, along with the centerline stringer. The stringer isn’t part of the original design, but I though it would be a good idea.

The outside planks are just one plank ripped diagonally as most of this part will be planed away.

A couple of hours of pleasant work planing it down to the centerline and the bottom half is done. Now the whole set-up is dismantled and the old plank flipped over so we can make the new top on the old bottom. There was only 3/4″ of spring-back when the nails were pulled, and the part was surprisingly stiff. I became hopeful that the whole thing might actually work.

Stand by for part two!

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Yellow Bird is for sale, $2500


Yellow Bird is a small skeeter, 16 feet long (including the spring board) and uses a DN rig and sail. Built as a 7/8 scale North Easter, she is light, responsive, well balanced and easy to sail. A spruce mast and fir boom carry a Shore wide range medium sail which is trimmed by Harken blocks. The ten foot airfoil shape spruce plank has nice cast aluminum chocks and oak-body tee runners with a runner carrying box and sharpening jig. The cockpit is snug and comfortable with an upholstered seat and wheel steering.Yellow bird is complete and ready to sail. Located in Arrowsic, Maine. Call Scott: 207 446 3918

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Bed Frame Steel for Cheapskate

I just received a shipment of bed frames from the local dump. I asked them to keep eye out for them, they did and called me! I now have enough steel for 8-10 sets of runners for Cheapskate. This stuff seems to be good quality, tough but sawable. Price $0 of course, FOB 140 Porter St., Rockport, ME. Call 207 596-2095 or e mail me or talk to your dump and save the freight.
Start your build now to be ready for early ice. Doug Raymond is pushing for Cheapskate races this winter. We see the slippery slope of go fast mods looming over the pressure ridge now, start saving for the $5000 cheapskate.

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Wooden Boat Show Ticket Discount

Here’s some late breaking news from Commodore T at the NEIYA:

For those of you who have an interest in classic yachts of all types be sure to check out the WoodenBoat Show at Mystic Seaport from June 27-29. There will be enough slick woodwork there to make anyone drool….

Your commodore will be there fawning over the mighty NEITH, the newly restored 1907 Herreshoff sloop I look after- come and say hello- wear your helmet so I’ll recognize you!

We have arranged a discount on tickets for NEIYA and CIBC members. This was John Stanton’s idea (buy him a cold one sometime) and made possible by the shop that did the refit on NEITH; a great shop called Taylor & Snediker Woodworking.

If you want to attend and want a discounted ticket email me at

and I’ll send you the secret instructions…. Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Website here:

The WoodenBoat Show at Mystic Seaport

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