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Wooden Boat Building and Restoration

Yankee Tender



The “Yankee Tender” is a Wooden Boat Magazine refined design of the original “Thomson skiff-tender”, built from the early 1900’s to about 1935 by Cape Cod boatbuilder  Asa Thomson of New Bedford, MA.  It is known for it’s light weight, elegant lines, rowing ease, and sea worthiness as it was designed to handle the choppy waters of Buzzards Bay in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  It was used both as a skiff to get out on the water and fish out of, as well as being used as yacht tender. 

The original “legendary” design by Asa Thomson was 10’ LOA with 3 strakes.  Asa Thompson was known for his fine craftsmanship and exacting standards.  Maynard Bray, Spencer Lincoln, Joel White and Jon Wilson, all of Wooden Boat magazine, teamed up and refined Thomson’s design and stretched it 12’-4” LOA, added a forth strake, and further raked the transom and the stem resulting in a bigger boat, and more pleasing lines, yet it still rows with ease due to the rocker flat bottom

The boat is built primarily of cedar (strakes, thwarts, sternsheets), with an oak stem, transom, keel, rails and delicately tapered frames.  The strakes are riveted together with copper nails and roves.  All other fasteners and hardware is of silicon bronze.  The chines and seat knees were steam-bent to shape.  The outside is painted and the inside is oiled with a homemade varnish recipe called “boat soup” or “boat sauce”, an old down-east deck coating formula consisting of a mixture of Boiled Linseed Oil, Turpentine, Pine Tar, and Japan Drier.

The boat rows with ease due to its rocker flat bottom which helps to keep the transom bottom out of the water, thus reducing drag.  It will carry three adults.  With one or three persons on board, the normal rowing position is the center thwart.  With 2 persons on board, the rower sits on the forward thwart and the passenger sits on the sternsheets to keep the boat rocker balanced.

In Thomson’s day the 10’ skiff-tender complete with leathered oars cost $140 (not so cheap in those days) and he charged $1.25 per hour for his labor.

Project Scope

This boat was originally built as a class project at a wooden boat building school. It is a traditionally built wooden flat bottom skiff. However, this particular boat was not built to the design plans. Instead, it was built with a single layer planked bottom with the seams caulked with cotton designed to swell up when in the water. It was built in this fashion as an exercise for students to be exposed to the cotton caulking process. It is built with the intention that it gets launched at the beginning of the boating season and stays in the water until the end of the boating season. Once in the water for a day or two the bottom planks and cotton caulking will have swollen up resulting in a watertight bottom. However It will leak water until the swelling process completes as is the characteristic of all traditionally built wooden boats.

The designers of this boat designed it to be built of two thin layers of overlapping bottom planks sandwiching a layer of muslin cotton fabric coated with bedding compound to prevent water leakage.  Since this particular boat will not be in the water all season long and instead will be launched and retrieved from a trailer for occasional day use, it will need to be modified to the original design to prevent water leakage.

So the scope of this project will be modifying the bottom from a single planked bottom to an overlapping double planked bottom as specified in the original building plans.  Bottom paint will have to be stripped, the keel removed, a pair of trim boards along the chine will be added to overlap the first layer of bottom plank edges, a layer of Muslin applied embedded in bedding compound, a second layer of bottom planks laid down, followed by remounting the keel.

Also, a set of Asa Thomas designed oars will be made.