The Goat Island Skiff is a truly beautifully proportioned boat with something terribly classical in its line which attracts attention wherever it is sailed. A few years ago, Michael and I were cruising around the marina in Mooloolaba, where the world Etchell Championships were being held.
We thought we'd check out some pre-race action from the water.
This didn't work out for us quite the way we'd planned, as we became the centre of attraction as we gently cruised between the pens. Hardened international racing sailors downed tools and walked to the ends of their berths to get a better look.
Fascinating that was, and oh so satisfying in a quiet, keep it to yourself and the internet sort of way!!
Because the boat is both very light and has a flat bottom it only requires a very simple trailer. I built mine from lightweight folded steel roofing purlins which I bought for $40 from a wreckers yard. Simple kit trailers available from retailers like Harbor Freight in the US or Super Cheap in Australia will more than suffice, and some have the advantage of being able to fold away. It is feasible to cartop the boat, I say that because I've seen pictures of it being done, but I do think it's on the absolute limit, and you'd need a fit crew to load and unload it.
Remember to include some method of holding the boat down and preventing it sliding forward in the event of a violent stop. I installed a U-bolt in the stem during the construction process and i't's been worth every penny of i't's not very large cost.
Everyone wants to know if we can fit seats along the sides, presumably to make it more comfortable. It really doesn't need to be more comfortable. The gunwhales are a very easy place to perch in calm conditions and make excellent leaning rails in stronger conditions. They seem to be perfectly shaped for a range on posteriors too.
Passengers are accommodated in a number of places, while the seats are fine, my wife's favourite spot is on the floor just aft of the mast. There she can relax with her back against the bulkhead, reading a book while I do my boaty thing.
There is a low bridge between where I live and open sailing water, so I often spend the first kilometre or so of an outing rowing up to and under the bridge.
I built a pair of nine foot oars to Pete Culler's design and simply drilled holes in the gunwhales with a brass bearing set in flush to accommodate the locks.
The boat rows effortlessly, it's very light and very stable directionally (provided one doesn't leave the rudder half down and the tiller cocked to one side!)
I screwed a half-round strip of brass onto the bottom of each skid to provide a little extra protection, as I often launch in areas where the boat ramps are made of concrete, and my boat lives on the floor of our boat shed.
The skids make a terrible crunching sound, and it's worth going down to the ramp specially to see the expressions on bystanders as I pull this beautiful timber boat up the concrete. The noise it makes leaves no doubt in everyone's mind that the bottom will be worn through momentarily, but the brass does its job fantastically.
All small boat sailors should be aware that capsize is a possibility and practise their capsize recovery procedure, so that in the event of an unforeseen mishap in the middle of a lake or an ocean, they are able to recover safely.
The Goat Island Skiff is no harder to right than most dinghy classes, and has the bonus because of its buoyant mast, that it can't invert, or "turn turtle".
Recovery is simply a matter of applying weight to the centreboard, and the boat will right itself quite gently. Because of it's volume, there is a bit of bailing to do, so carry a large plastic bucket or two just in case!
The sides are quite high, which makes re-entry a little difficult unassisted for those of us who are perhaps less agile than we once were, however unless you are single handing it's easy with a bit of assistance from the crew!
In fifteen years, we've had one accidental capsize, and that could have been avoided if I'd been thinking about what I was doing! Let's put it this way: if you are single handing on a nice medium breeze downwind leg, don't leave the helm and go forward to do something at the mast!
The little clip above shows Michael doing some recovery practice!
That's pretty easy in the Goat Island Skiff!