Chesapeake Light Craft, the 21-year-old boat kit specialist, has broadened its range beyond the previous scope of more than 80 kayaks, canoes, dinghies, and sailcraft to include an outboard skiff.
Designed by John C. Harris, this light but sturdy fishing and utility skiff -- a “crab skiff,” as they’re known on the Chesapeake Bay -- has been dubbed the “Peeler” after the Chesapeake slang for a local delicacy, soft-shell crabs. “There are so many small outboard skiffs, you have to ask yourself, ‘What’s the point of designing another one?’” Harris says. “For me, the point was to create a really solid, good-looking skiff that you can build quickly and cheaply in your garage.”
The Peeler is intended for smaller outboards, 8hp to 15hp. With capacity for four adults, plenty of stability, and a big, open interior, it’s ideal for crabbing, fishing, exploring, or just knocking around. The thick, flat bottom provides a stable platform for casting or working trap. A 15hp yielded 23 knots on the GPS in flat water, but the Peeler is happiest at half-throttle or with a smaller outboard. The boat’s “sweet spot” is 11-12 knots with a full load of passengers or gear, burning scarcely any fuel.
The Peeler Skiff is within reach of first-time boatbuilders who have a little experience with epoxy. Although it’s a bigger project than Chesapeake Light Craft’s famously popular kayaks and dinghies, there’s not much woodworking. The computer-cut kit features intricate slot-and-tab features that will remind builders of the super-easy “flat pack” furniture. The kit includes a 112-page shop manual with hundreds of photos and drawings illustrating every step.
Heavy coatings of epoxy and fiberglass stiffen the plywood structure and create surfaces that require no more maintenance than a solid fiberglass boat. Foam-filled flotation tanks fore and aft are part of the hull structure and provide over 1200 pounds of positive flotation.
The Peeler Skiff underwent a long and very careful period of development, including multiple prototypes and extensive certification tests performed by the Coast Guard -- unusual for a boat kit. Click here to see the full details on the testing.
“Flat-bottomed power skiffs go back a hundred years, and they will always bring you home if the skipper has any common sense,” says Harris. “The boat can be kept on a plane in the typical wind chop found in the lakes, bays, and rivers that are its natural habitat. The Peeler Skiff is comfortable and safe in big waves, if the operator backs off on the throttle.”
Twenty of the Peeler Skiff kits were sold immediately, which Harris says is a startling introduction in the small niche of the build-your-own-boat kit. The complete kit costs $2499, which includes everything but the paint, varnish, and motor. Shipping in the Lower 48 averages around $200. Many builders have opted to simply buy the plans and manual ($199) and build from scratch.