Custom Search
   boat plans
   gift certificates
Join Duckworks
Get free newsletter
on this site
by Bill Whalen - Crystal River, Florida - USA

Around 1900, commercial fish houses in the Crystal River, Florida area used mullet skiffs (also called ice boats). These were about 36 feet long and 8 wide and were powered by 10 horsepower "make-break" engines.

These skiffs would tow a number of smaller boats out the river to the fishing grounds and leave them for a tide or two. Then they would go back out to collect the catch (and put it on ice) or tow the smaller boats back up the river.

The Crystal River Boat Builders (CRBB) are building a replica (at 24 ft by 6ft) of a mullet skiff. This involved them in a number of collateral projects.

They were unable to find a table of offsets for one of these boats. A small plan and profile was found and a 1/6 model was lofted from some pretty raw data. The frames were lifted from the lofting and the model was built over a month or two.

The model shows the ice chest aft of the engine box. Steering was done from the starboard side near the engine using a wheel or vertical tiller. Lofting for the full size boat will be started by a group of students in a "Lofting Class" now being taught at the CRBB. Besides learning the fundamentals of lofting, the class will take the 1/6 lofting of a 36ft boat and scale it to a ¼ lofting of 24 ft boat. Then the ¼ lofting will be scaled up to full size. No electrons were harmed by any computers in this class!

Mullet skiff, 1/6 scale.
Frame for model, note chine beginning to lift.
Students beginning the lofting of 24ft skiff.

Many leads on "make-break" engines were explored. Running engines were found - most have been restored to immaculate condition and carried sky high prices. "Basket case" engines were also found - these would lead to death by nickles and dimes.

The CRBB acquired two basket case Atomic 4 engines. An attempt was made to build one from the two. A benefactor appeared with the gift of a Yanmar 10hp diesel. Turning their back on the Atomics, the engineers soon had the diesel running. It will be a perfect engine for the mullet skiff!

The original information on the skiff said that cypress knees were used for the frames. Even in the midst of the coastal forest which the CRBB calls home such knees are scarce (or illegal to cut). The frames will be made from pressure treated pine and the planking will be cypress.

For weekly updates on this project visit (and LIKE) the CRBB facebook page:

10hp Yanmar will turn a 14 to 16 inch prop.

Crystal River Builders

To comment on Duckworks articles, please visit one of the following:

our Yahoo forum our Facebook page