After much agonizing (“so many boats, so little time”) and indecision, I finally decided on building the Simmons Sea Skiff 20 as a first project. I first saw this boat back in 1994 in WoodenBoat magazine’s issue #121 “Launchings” column (see picture on right). I was immediately struck with its salty lines. Note that this is a picture of the 18' version... I will be building the much larger 20' version. There are also plans available for an even larger 22' version. I had finished building my first boat project the prior year, an 18’ cedar strip canoe for paddling in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area (BWCA), and was looking for a bigger boat project that was both practical and affordable... something I could be proud of and use for fishing on the big lakes of Northern, MN. “This was the just ticket” I immediately thought.
Other boats that I seriously considered were the John Atkin's Ninigret, Harry Bryan's Handy Billy, Joel White's Haven 12½, and John Brooks's Somes Sound 12½. I remain very keen on all of these boats for future projects.
My perspective in making the decision to build a boat on speculation is that it is a necessary risk for someone new to the business of building wooden boats. I don't believe that I can realistically expect to be commissioned to build a boat until I have proven my craftsmanship. I felt it was imperative to decide on a boat design that would not only show the quality of my craftsmanship and reflect the philosophy of Timeless Boat Works, but also would also be an affordable design that I could expect a local client would likely purchase for use in local waters.
Although the Simmons Sea Skiff is not built true to traditional plank on frame methods, instead borrowing from shell construction techniques, everything else about this boat shouts “traditional!" Since this boat design was my first real inspiration to build a boat, with its economical performance, salty good looks, inexpensive building cost, excellent reputation for sea-worthiness, and with me wanting to finish something I started long ago, I concluded that its only appropriate to make this my first project as a professional boatwright despite it not being a plank on frame design.
I will be building this boat with a composite bottom (Okume plywood, epoxy, and fiberglass cloth sheathing) and glued lapstrakes, closely following Ellis Rowe's 3-part article in WoodenBoat magazine issues #186, #187 and #188, as well as taking direction from John's Brook's book "How to Build Glued-Lapstrake Wooden Boats".