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Dream Boat - '79 Banana River Skiff Restoration

LAmarshLAmarsh Posts: 33 Deckhand
I'm about 85% done with my skiff rebuild, but I thought I would share. It's taken over a year, so I'll post this as I have time because there are quite a few pics.

A couple years ago I had a bay boat and fished mostly in the marshes of Louisiana but I wanted a poling skiff that could get very skinny to hunt for those monster winter redfish. I've been on most of the poling skiffs out there so I had a good idea of what I wanted, but because this was going to be a second boat I was on a budget. A friend had an old skiff sitting in his carport in Port St. Joe and wanted to trade, so I ended up getting this 1979 Banana River Skiff. It had the original trailer so it was a puckered up 6 hour trip back home to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

I had no idea about the history of this boat, but after some research determined that this hull was the original hull that the Super Skiff/Dolphin 16 was developed from back in the 80's and as it turns out was an inspiration for many of the top skiffs on the market today. After some debate, I decided that this hull had all the right stuff to be a cool project skiff.



In my research I also came across some info from Dave Exley, who developed the Banana River Skiff in the late 70's and some info from some of the early skiff industry guys who referenced this skiff and it's impact on the design and development of many of the skiffs that followed.

From Dave:
The Mitchell skiff of this thread is a good little boat and part of it was incorporated in my small Banana River Skiff and Super Skiffs. Seeing deerfly's photos reminds me of all the fun I've had building small skiffs, and it also makes me itch all under.

About 1976, my wife and I were tent camping at Sandsprit Park in Stuart and I saw an identical 14' Mitchell being hauled out at the boat ramp. I really liked the forward side flare and generous bow deck. The owner (wish I could remember his name) generously agreed to let me to make a mold off his boat. Not wanting to cross Russ Mitchell, I gave him a call and asked permission to splash part of the 14' Mitchell skiff. Russ laughed and said "Sure, but I don't know who to refer you to because I splashed it off another boat sometime ago and we do so much of that back and forth that I can't remember where that one came from." So I took that as permission and the fiberglass guys at Stuart Angler in Port Salerno gelcoated and chopped the Mitchell's sides and partway under the rolled chine for me. So the sides and about 4 inches below the spray rail of the Mitchell became part of the Banana and Super Skiffs. Starting with that that I extended the sides at the back to about 15'6" to 15'10", depending on the iteration, and created the indented transom which formed aft boxes like the Hewes Bonefisher and my bigger 17'10" Super Skiff.

Over the next few years, we squared up the rolled chine, made a version with a 4' wide bottom and another with a 5' wide bottom. Deep Water Cay Club bought a few of those 5 wides with a balsa cored bottom, then I added the V-bottom to have a more comfortable ride from DWCC to their permit flats, about 10 miles away across an open sound. A standard forefoot would more easily bury in the sand, so I made the V with a cutaway forefoot and flat shoe so the boat could go in shallower water, then kept the chine level to help with bouyancy. An unexpected benefit was that level chine stayed underwater when an angler was on the bow and thus eliminated chine slap, creating the silent stalking flats boats seen everywhere today. I should have patented that. It was almost 10 years before anyone figured it out, then Scott Deal of Maverick asked for permission to incorporate the level chine design in a new boat he called the Mirage and afterwards others copied it too. I still respect Scott for asking for permission.

My little company went out of business in the recession of the early 80's (my own fault -- always spending on R&D and not enough $$ cushion.) I leased the V-bottom molds to my friend Jack Broyl of Dolphin Boats and he eventually bought them from me. I had been building some custom flat bottom Banana River Skiffs for an aquatic weed control company in Ft Lauderdale and they bought those molds so they could keep making them for their growing business. Every now and then I still see those little boats with spray tanks installed going down the highway. With those flotation boxes and a tiny outboard on the indented transom, those are ideal for launching off a steep pond bank without flooding the boat.

That's how I remember it and that's enough for now. Whatever you do, have fun (even when working with fiberglass you can always find something to laugh about!)

From Chris Morejohn's blog (Hell's Bay co-founder and designer of the HB Whipray):

The Super Skiff hulls incorporated all my previous knowledge of core building and were finely detailed. During this time Steve Huff came to my shop to hire me to help him lay up his own hull in Homestead. By this time Super Skiff did not want the mold out of their sight. The boat that Scott Deal learned about pressure waves, in the late eighties, was this boat.

Steve Huff finished his boat just the way I like my own personal boats - strong, simple and to the point. I believe the interior detailing, hatch channels and over-all looks of both the 17’s and Super Skiffs played a role in Scott Deal’s push with flats boats marketing. What he and others did not pay attention to was in the details of construction. Light-weight, mass produced boats designed and styled for multiple sales do not lend itself to long term boat life if not built right. Scott took the Super Skiff idea and tweaked it into the Mirage. From the time he bought Hewes Maverick I do not believe he designed a boat from scratch. That would all change much later when HELLS BAY BOATWORKS and the “Whipray” came on the scene. Then he was forced to. I am getting ahead of the story. http://chrismorejohn.blogspot.com/2014_06_01_archive.html

Banana River Hull

Current Dolphin Renegade Hull

She had a funky deck layout and been modified a few times but really needed a total rebuild to be practical. The friend I got it from told me it was a throwaway hull. It had some old school carpet (which my wife made fun of on every trip) covering resin over marine plywood. The '97 2-smoke yam 50 was the main reason I traded for the boat because it only had 10 hours and ran perfect. So I figured I would add a few things and fish the heck out of it until I could get another hull so I added: new alum trailer, tabs, and a poling platform.

After a few mods and upgrades, I realized that she fished pretty well and I really started to appreciate the possibility of rebuilding this skiff to be a shallow water machine reminiscent of the original HB Whipray. In my head I started to plan out a super light, simple and skinny dream skiff...thus the adventure began!



I was always concerned that it would not make it back the dock in one piece due to the hull flex, blisters and rotten wood transom. So, in the summer of 2014 I decided to take her out of service and take a chainsaw to her...what was I thinking. Wow was this itchy!




Shortly after deciding to redo the skiff, I moved to Orlando and no longer had a bay boat so I decided to take this project to a higher level of fit and finish since this was my only boat and would need to serve as the family cruiser at times. I decided to take the skiff to Glasser Boatworks in Rockledge. Jonathan is a master at his craft and specializes in shallow water skiffs. After he took a look at the hull, he also agreed that this would be worth preserving and a great project so we agreed that after I stripped it down to the hull I would bring it to his shop for the rebuild.

Generally looking to do something similar to a old school HB Whip or Devil Ray layout, with a core floor. Super light, simple and sub 6" on draft.
-New transom
-New deck with front hatch and walkable side gunnels
-Low profile side console like old Whipray
-Alum fuel tank
-Hydraulic Steering
-Ice blue hull and deck and non skid
-Aluminum rub rail
-I like the blacked out look, but I'm staying with polished hardware for long term durability
-Seadeck or similar on the poling platform and new casting platform
-All new wiring and electronics

Off to Glasser Boatworks...

She needed some additional prep work and glass added to fix thin spots and strengthen the hull.






Build bulkheads and a new transom, used all composite Corecell and Penske so there would be no wood in the hull.




Rear compartment and motor well done, time for gelcoat and flotation foam in the sponsons.





Now with the rear compartment Awlgrip done, I went to Glasser's shop to start some wiring.







Now for deck layout, rod holders and side console support.







Gelcoated the interior cockpit and front locker and then lots of sanding prior to the finish coats of Awlgrip. Ice blue in the cockpit and Matterhorn White in the lockers.







Rod rack tubes and new, powder coated 20 gal fuel tank.





Now time to flip the hull and the real fun begins, lots of prep, sanding, blocking, etc. The old school hull was very wavy and Glasser spent the time to get it right.





And then the first glimpse of life after ole yellow hull!





To be continued...


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