Sam thank you so much for posting our new boat on saltyshores. It means a lot to me to see it there. Here is a small write up from our business partner/designer of this skiff. His name is Dave Exley and he is the originator/builder of the Banana River Skiffs aka Dolphin Super skiff. We have been working on this skiff for over 5 years now and it is almost ready to get going!
Together with a few friends and a lot of help from other marine business professionals, we have spent nearly 5 years developing the Flats Flyer. It is big: 25 feet long with a 7 foot beam. At the start of the project we were wondering if we were crazy and if it could possibly do all the things we hoped it would do. Now we can say, “Yes”. The only thing it doesn’t do is go extremely fast, but that was never on our list of requirements.
A few days ago we activated FlatsFlyer.com and placed a preview video there to give notice that it is coming. My apology to all who had difficulty trying to view the video – that was our fault. The problem has been fixed. Anyone whose computer can display a YouTube video will be able to play the Preview at FlatsFlyer.com.
I would love to tell you everything about the Flats Flyer right now, but for some innovations we will have to wait. I did not think to secure a patent for the level chine design that many flats boats builders use today, but we are protecting the Flats Flyer hull design and must wait for a couple of verifications before we can make those features public. On the positive side, most of the other 30+ innovations in the Flats Flyer will not be design protected, and now we can tell you about some of those. When all are revealed, I think some microskiff builders will adopt some of those for their skiffs.
There has been some debate in this thread about the hull bottom shape. What I can tell you is “Yes, it does look like a flat bottom boat” and “No, it is not flat.” We selected video clips that did not give a good look at the hull bottom. The only other thing I can say about the hull at this time is that the boat has a surprisingly comfortable and dry ride, has superior stability, and I think it is the quietest flats boat ever built. When poling, it has almost zero forward vibration signature.
Another point of debate in this thread is about the value of wood in modern boat building. Production Flats Flyers will be built of inorganic composites – no wood – but I find no fault in using wood for my personal boats and plan to build a wood rowboat for myself in the near future. Wood has a lot of wonderful qualities for boat building, but the Flats Flyer will be built with fibers and pvc foam composites, held together by 100% epoxy, and post cured in a large oven for max strength and impact resistance. PS – select balsa wood is very light and is an outstanding composite core for certain applications.
We expect finished and fully equipped Flats Flyers, including 3 batteries and filled gas and water tanks, will weigh about the same as the bare wood prototype seen in the preview video, or maybe weigh a little less. The boat seen in the video weighs nearly 1,600 lbs. before adding motor, battery, etc. It took 20 healthy guys lifting wood extensions to carry it out of the barn and turn it over; then we trimmed out some excess to bring it down to 1,600. We weighed it on a certified scale.
I’m pretty sure the Flats Flyer has more development time and more innovations than any other flats boat ever built. To back me up, I’ll tell you a little about it: In May 2006, Jesse and Clint Marshall and I began a conversation about building a new flats boat. In August, we decided to build one. In October, we attended the annual IBEX (International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition for marine professionals; about 1,000 exhibitors were there) to see all the latest hardware offerings and make decisions for hardware in our boat. It is a real bummer if you build a boat and then discover you have to get out the chainsaw to get the hardware to fit. From that point, I worked full time for 5 months designing and drawing it.
We started with a blank sheet of paper, not building onto or using anything from a pre-existing boat. We looked at every single piece and part of flats boats and asked “How could this be done better?” In January 2007, I began sending the drawings to Timm Smith of Smith Marine Design who loaded those into his CAD program (created a table of offsets and made 3D drawings). He would send me the CAD files and, with a CAD reader, on my computer screen I could “fly” the boat in all directions and look at it from all angles, zoom in and out, and discuss lines and changes with Timm.
We talked a lot of theory and debated a lot of possibilities. In April, we printed 20 full size cross section drawings on 3×8 foot stabilized blueprint paper (the same used for templating airplane parts), glued those onto sheets of very stable ¾ plywood (I think it is 13 ply), and very carefully cut those out to make sturdy plywood rib cross sections. Jesse and Clint built a nearly perfect building platform (less than 1/32 inch variation on surface height), and we erected the plywood sections on about 14 inch centers and trued them up. Then we bought a pile of #1 white pine in 20’ lengths, many sheets of 3/8 and ½ marine grade plywood, ProSet epoxies and 10 oz fiberglass cloth and began planking and fairing.
The hull was difficult to build, particularly because Jesse is a perfectionist. Then, GET THIS, after nearly 4 labor intensive months of building the hull, we took it for the first test ride and after only 15 semi-satisfying minutes we took the boat back to the shop, turned it over, and cut away more than one third of the bottom and rebuilt it. We rebuilt the hull several times and fine tuned it a lot. That took a few more months. By the way, the finished boat will be a bit lower than the video prototype boat. It still has a builder’s form attached on top of the gunwales (gunnels) to help keep everything true until we cast the hull mold.
You may find this interesting: before we cut the first piece of wood we knew the hull’s center of balance and center of gravity (both 58% back from the bow), its flotation value (2,370 lbs at 6 inch draw) and some other things that I struggle to understand, such as prismatic coefficient. Among other benefits, that knowledge guided us to locate things like batteries and fuel tanks for optimum balance. Most small boats are delivered with empty storage areas. The Flats Flyer will be delivered with every necessary component already installed and placed in the best locations for good access and balance, much like a well designed car. That brings me to a few innovations I can reveal to you:
1. The Flats Flyer has a ballast system. In our preview video, if you look at the first poling clip what you are not shown is the beginning footage of that clip. At the start of that missing footage the bow is slightly out of the water and gradually lowers until the hull is perfectly level. The colored stripes at the waterline fore, mid, and aft, indicate inches of draw at those locations. The lower edge of the red stripes is 6 inches above the keel, so on that video clip you can see the boat is drawing almost 6 inches the full length of its keel. When a hull is at optimum level, it moves through the water easiest and is floating its shallowest. There are other things ballast can do: you can make an unpowered boat point into the wind or point downwind or to points in between. So you don’t have to fight to keep the boat pointed in the direction you want to go. Or another way to think of it: if the boat tracks straight, you get to use most of your poling energy to move the boat forward. The FF hull was designed to respond to ballast. If you try to add a ballast system to most boats you may be fighting against some inherent buoyancy and balance points that don’t want to cooperate. To avoid that, I can tell you about another innovation:
2. A section of the Flats Flyer hull is open to the sea at all times – it has no buoyancy in that section and helps trim the boat with less ballast. That section is securely isolated from the rest of the hull and doubles as a pump room with inlets and outlets for livewell, baitwell, etc. That brings us to another innovation:
3. The main bilge of the Flats Flyer has no thru-hulls. Marine insurers will tell you the majority of boat sinkings are due to drain plug accidents and bilge thru-hull, hose, hose connections and pump failures. Our solution: no drain plug or thru-hulls in the sealed main bilge under the self-bailing cockpit floor. Four more innovations, then I am done for now:
4. The production boat will have internal lockers for two 21’ push poles, stored straight to prevent a curve set. The boat owner can sleep worry-free at night without having to take the pole(s) into his house or a hotel room (very difficult in high-rise hotel elevators.) Why two push poles: What happens to your very special flats fishing trip if you break one? And you can take both a super light and a tougher-but-heavier one for variable conditions.
5. There are no aggravating and guide-damaging rod tip tubes – the Flats Flyer will have completely open, well protected, under-gunwale storage for 8 flyrods up to 10’ long.
6. It will have tight seam hatch lids with precision fit gaskets – so tight fitting that even the smallest fly hook cannot fall into a crack. The seams are so tight they are virtually waterproof, so the Flats Flyer does not need complicated gutter systems and has 100% opening storage areas – no big boxes with small openings. Did you ever have to clean around the underside of a small hatch opening, or wonder what was lurking there? I don’t mind telling you those matched hatches and openings are difficult to build, fit and hinge, but the result is very nice and they are very quiet.
7. Our boat will be offered in two versions: The Grand Class Flats Flyer, Model 1 (M1) and The Essential Flats Flyer, Model 2 (M2). Among the differences, the M-1 will have a yacht quality elongated toilet (head) with odor-free holding tank and pop-up privacy enclosure. It satisfies requirements for no-dumping zones and modesty issues. That, combined with the Flats Flyer’s size, makes the FF “Family Friendly”.
No matter how you get there, I hope all of you experience tight lines and good fishing.