What makes a great skiff? The feedback below is based upon our own personal experiences and feedback from people who use their skiffs daily.
SAFE – STABLE – DRY – HULLFORM – DURABILITY – TOWING – HANDLING – WEIGHT
The Bluewater Baby/Lady skiffs have USCG-ABYC recommended flotation foam between the inner and outer hull. The molded fiberglass interior liner of our boat is also fully capable of supporting the occupant load (see the picture below). The boat design should also comply with the voluntary ABYC safety standards. Most inflatables have multiple air chambers but are exempt from compliance with US Coast Guard regulations for flotation foam (see footnote 1). Non-skid, flat deck and gunwale surfaces allow safe passage even when wet, which inflatables don’t provide.
The cathedral hull design of the Bluewater Baby/Lady provides excellent stability. A person can step onto the wide gunwales or bow of the boat for boarding. Taking a pet to the dock or beach is also simplified with a stable hard body boat.
The design of a skiff should not be putting water spray onto the occupants. The shape of an inflatable tube and some brands of dingy is not optimized for redirecting spray. The cathedral hull design coupled with built in spray deflection on the bow and sides of the Bluewater Baby/Lady provide an extremely dry ride. You will be more comfortable exploring new areas and more likely to use the boat overall if you will not get soaked on the ride.
No naval architect would start the design of a boat skiff with long, wide tubes. The inflatable tubes move the boat away from the boarding passengers and also seriously restrict the interior space on the boat. Many 12-13’ long inflatable skiffs have the interior space of a 7’ hard dingy. The Bluewater Baby has approximately 30 sq. f.t of deck space and the Bluewater Lady has over 40 sq. ft. of deck space. The water drag on a hull is dependent on the hull shape. On a tube shape there is no clean release point for the water and it will take more horsepower to achieve the same speed as the cathedral hull on a Bluewater Baby/Lady. The inflatable tubes going past the transom are needed for buoyancy and to reduce squatting but this feature creates more drag and takes extra horsepower to plane. The solid fiberglass cathedral hull will also give a better ride than a flexing inflatable boat. The forward exit out of a Bluewater Baby/Lady to a dock is also simplified and easy rather than stepping over a 17” inflatable tube.
The typical use for a skiff includes exploring, going to beaches, tying up to piers and docks, fishing, and water sports. All of these uses may subject the boat to underwater obstacles, barnacles, nails, etc. Rather than ruin the day and force a change of plans a hard dingy can take abuse that would put an inflatable at risk. Cosmetic or other fiberglass repairs can easily be undertaken anywhere in the world with readily available materials. The long term durability of the Bluewater Baby is proven with boats being used in all cruising environments throughout the world. The HK Research premium gelcoat being used on the Bluewater Baby/Lady is specially rated for long term sun exposure in the tropics and will not deteriorate like an inflatable. “Most Inflatables have an expected life of 5-10 years. If left in sun, or roughly treated then life expectancy goes down.” (2) With a Bluewater Baby/Lady you don’t have to pump up the air chambers everyday too. The use of a special barrier coat under the gelcoat on the Bluewater Baby is also extra protection against blistering that may happen over time with other boats being left in the water. The stainless hardware on the boat is also yacht quality. The navigation lights are long-lived LEDs.
Towable and Towing
A great skiff should be able to be towed at speed when changing anchorages. There are Bluewater Baby/Lady users who regularly tow their skiff at 35 knots. The stable hull form rides very well, tracks straight, and has minimal drag at speed. If your ideal size skiff would not readily fit the available storage space on your yacht you could always tow a Bluewater Baby/Lady. The light weight of the Bluewater Baby/Lady allow them to be towed behind a compact car. On a trailer it could be readily stored in a small garage in the off season too. Should the need arise, the low draft Bluewater Baby/Lady is also available for possible towing or un-grounding of the mother ship.
Inflatables and some flat bottom boats have terrible low speed handling characteristics. The cathedral hull with keel on Bluewater Baby/Lady helps low speed maneuvering and directional stability. With the Bluewater Baby/Lady non-marring vinyl rubrail and good handling there is no concern docking up to your yacht or around other vessels. The first hand rough water handling reports for the Bluewater Baby/Lady have been more favorable than we personally care to experience but it is good to know that you can make it back to your yacht or dock if the weather situation deteriorates.
The weight of a skiff with motor should be low enough to permit easy handling. An inflatable boat that needs a higher horsepower and heavier motor to get it on plane with four people would also be more of a chore to drag off a beach or launch and retrieve on a crane or davits. Heavier boats may be too heavy for some davits and their deck foundations and create stability issues on some yachts when stored high on deck. Skiffs by nature need some physical handling so lighter is better. Fuel economy comes into play too with both the hull form and weight. Boats that require higher horsepower to get on plane or have a flexible hull form with high drag will use more fuel. A light, clean running hull surface design like the Bluewater Baby/Lady will use less fuel to cover the same distance.
The Bluewater Baby/Lady can be readily customized to fit your needs. This may include diving, fishing, bow fishing, crabbing, cruising/exploring or other recreational uses. We can match the hull color of the host yacht or any other special requests. Your boat should look great and work well. The boats are designed with clean decks and gunwales to optimize safe boarding but fishing related or other special uses could see the addition of extra railings for rod holders, cleats, or other equipment. We look forward to making the boat to fit your exact needs.
The fourteen foot long Bluewater Lady CHASER is made to service the needs of aquatics programs like rowing and sailing. This heavy duty adaptation of the Bluewater Lady is made to hold up to the demands of a service vessel. The boat is balanced and rigged to run flat and make no wake while keeping up with the program vessels. This is done with minimal, inexpensive horsepower (20 HP) and still retaining the ability to get onto fast plane for emergencies.
1) “The main problem of inflatables is punctures and tears and UV damage. To avoid catastrophic deflation while underway good boats will have baffles or separate air compartments. With use the air chambers can be punctured. Saturn warns of possible puncture by fish pectoral fins which can be sharp and strong. Other manufacturers warn users about glass shards in shoe soles or sharp edges such as screws on docks and boats. Fish hooks and tools are also potential hazards. Scraping against sharp rocks, coral or oysters can also damage the boats.”
Footnotes number 1 & 2 (above) excerpted from