St. Lawrence River Skiffs

An Historical Skiff

The St. Lawrence River Skiff (SLRS) is a 

guide's boat indigenous 

to the Thousand Islands Region of NY, emerging on both sides of the river around Clayton and Alexandria Bay, NY in the late 1800s. Its hull form evolved and became the standard river boat of its time. Guides had to row, all day, paying clients who wanted to productively fish the River. A guide might row 20-30 miles in a single day! The boats had to be stable, easy to row, and able to take all the conditions thrown at it in a day on the river. They were

A guide with clients circa 1900 glass plate. Photo from

A typical St. Lawrence River Skiff at the boathouse/livery. Photo from

Today, families still row their Skiffs on the River for pleasure, picnics, and fitness. The easy-pulling nature of the Skiff even at maximum 


 makes them perfect for bringing the family out on a cruise or to an island picnic. The flat, plank keel make them easy to beach and sit up right at the boat house. 

Tad Clarke and family of Comfort Island still row their original


built in Alex Bay by Hunt sometime before 1905.

Some Skiffs could be sailed and some of the boats specifically carried a centerboard, but the


does not have a centerboard and shouldn't. Bobby will 

excel at sailing downwind much like the


Rowboat. The other models could also sail downwind with a small lug or spritsail. Resist the urge to use a leeboard or centerboard. These add slot drag and complication. Row upwind; sail down.

The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton houses a fleet of Skiffs and holds the plans for a half dozen Skiffs, several of which were drawn by fixed-seat rowing guru, Andrew Steever. The ABM exhibit documents the emergence of the craft and evolution from utility to pleasure boat to racing boat.

The SLRS collection at Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY. Photo ABM.

Some SLRS models were developed to race and were raced by expert helmsman. They were sailed rudderless, steered by shifting weight fore and aft to tack the boat. Photo ABM.

Modeling the Hulls

I collaborated with small craft guru and engineer David Cockey to model the hulls. We took the Steever plans from ABM input the offests into Rhino, a 3D CAD program. The hull surface is modeled to a high degree of fairness and accuracy. One of the intricacies of the Skiffs we "fussed" with is the hollow in the garboards in way of the keel and the notable hollow in the waterlines fore and aft. The Skiffs all feature a slightly finer waterline in the stern than in the bow. It is believed that this is feature that came from the Birch Bark Canoes which may have strongly influenced the Skiff form. At speed, a finer hull aft trims the boat down at the stern and helps the boat track straighter.

Then the hull is sliced and diced into horizontal and vertical slices called waterlines, buttocks, and station sections. The station sections become the shapes that are used to cut the molds. The shapes are flattened onto a 2D plane and then "dropped" into a 4x8' recatangle representing the sheet of 3/4" MDF or plywood. At the CNC machine shop, the operator programs the machine to cut to the geometry I give them in the form of a nesting file. Their cut file gives the machine the x-, y-, and z- coordinates for every point along the curve. The result is a mold cut to within 0.003" (three thousandths of an inch!) tolerance. These cut files are the keys for the mold kits to each Skiffs.



modeled in Rhino 3D. Photo C. Chase.

An example of a nesting file 


Skiff) used by CNC machinist to cut a kit. Photo C. Chase

The Skiff kits were cut at Hewes & Co. in Blue Hill and built at WoodenBoat School by my students in the Strip-Composite course that I teach. Over a single week, students set up the molds, strip planked the hull, and sheathed the hull in fiberglass. The kits are available for those who want to make their own strip-built boat. I hope to have plywood lapstrake kits also available.



Skiff being stripped. Photo C. Chase.



at the end of a class. Photo C. Chase.

The Skiff Kits

Currently, lapstrake plywood kits are not available. These kits are specialized for strip-composite construction. But a builder can use the molds, avoid the lofting, and line off their hull for lapstrake planking.


is the longest of the bunch and symmetrical fore and aft. For tandem rowing and camping along the Maine Island Trail, for example, this model would be the best because of the capacity (Bobby can safely carry up to 720 lbs) it has and waterline length it features. Yet, the boat is light enough and easy gliding for one rower. She is the one I kept for my fleet.


was built many times by Keith Quarrier in Alstead, NH. Keith ran for awhile, building a number of Annies. He grew up visiting the Thousand Islands Region and has built and fixed up many SLRS's. The Annie pictured is one of his own. Annie is stable and fast, having one the Blackburn Challenge and finished in the top places against Adirondack Guideboat rowers. Annie can safely take two other adults aboard with a maximum capacity of about 425 lbs.



Skiff is the smallest and is offered as the ultralight, cartopper of the bunch. She is ideal as far as offering good performance in a shorter boat...any longer and cartopping is tough; any shorter and you really lose the glide in your rowing stroke. The Frye can safely carry another adult with a maximum capacity of about 325 lbs. She features a beautiful shape in the stern that will provide absolute pleasure when rowing.

The Bobby-Lynn (a.k.a 'Bobby')

The original 



Comfort Island

 on the St. Lawrence R. Photo courtesy of Tad Clarke.

Bobby-Lynn Kit (CNC cut molds) $895

freight not included.

Bobby-Lynn Specs

LOA 20' 5"

Beam (max) 42"

Waterline length 19' 2" 

Waterline beam 33 1/2"

Draft (dwl) 4 1/2"

Depth amidships 13 7/8"

Dry hull weight 125lbs

Christmas 2013: Clint purchases boat from WoodenBoat School to finish for himself and two kids. Currently at The Landing School being finished for launching in 2014 before snow flies again. Photo CBChase


The Annie

Photo courtesy of Keith Quarrier, Quarrier Boats, Alstead, NH

Annie Kit (CNC cut molds) $825

freight not included.

Annie Specs

LOA 17' 6"

Beam (max) 39"

Waterline length 15'8"

Waterline beam 32"

Draft 4" at dwl

Depth amidships 13"

Dry hull weight 100lbs


The Megan (a.k.a. the Fry Skiff)

The 1st Fry built at WoodenBoat School. Photo C. Chase.

Kit for Megan (CNC cut molds) $750

freight not included.

Frye Specs

LOA 15'3"

Beam (max) 39"

Waterline length 13'4"

Waterline beam 27"

Draft 3 3/4" max

Depth amidships 13"

Dry hull weight 75 lbs


Learn More

St. Lawrence River Skiff goes beyond

, Thousand

About the Skiff

, Thousand

Native to the Thousand Islands

by Andrew Steever in WoodenBoat back issues:

Part 1 #20 Jan/Feb, 1978 pp 48-51

Part 2 #21 Mar/Apr, 1978 pp 26-29

Ordering Plans & Kits

Email me with your zip code and whether you are residential or business (indicate loading dock or not) so I can give you a kit quote with freight included. The Skiff kits to date are specifically for strip-composite hull. The kit is all the molds CNC cut. Strips, fiberglass, solid wood, and epoxy would need to be bought separately, but I can furnish lists to make this easy. The plans need to be ordered separately from Antique Boat Museum. A molds set up plan is included with my kit.