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Tolman Jumbo Skiff - Nelson Builder's Blog

Fuel tank vent

I never posted a photo of my tank vents so here goes. I think they're cool and they work great. CG regs require that if you have a plastic fuel tank, you must vent the compartment. I have two 45 gallon plastic tanks, one on each side of the boat. So I scoop in air via this custom Tolman Ram Air Induction system. The scoop pulls in the air when the boat is moving and keeps the rain out when the boat is still. I didn't want rain water to go right in to the vent tube so I made a small dorade box. In VERY heavy conditions you might get some water into the vent pipe but this would just drain down to the bilge from the tank compartment. The bottom of the dorade box is sloped out and down so that water can't collect inside.

Renn's stingers

Tolman skiff builders are always trying new ways of making the scuppers one-way on their skiffs. The idea is to have them open and draining the aft cockpit area when needed but closed and leak-free when not.

Some builders use flapper valves and ping-pong ball scuppers with mixed success. Here is a photo of what I'm doing which is basically just what Renn describes in his book.


I have a 3" diameter piece of PVC tubing epoxied into place, one on each side of the boat. There is plenty of surface protruding for me to slide the stinger on. Renn suggests using backpack material. It's waterproof and found at most larger fabric stores. The second photo shows how they are made. You just use rubber cement to glue two sheets flat together with just enough open space in the middle to slip over the the PVC. Then you stitch up each side. When there is water in the boat, these will open up and when the boat is dry, they will shut by themselves. You can also pull them up with a small line. I made mine 18" long which is just long enough to pull the end of the stinger up past the splashwell. 

 If for some reason, you want to shut everything up with little fuss, for less than $3 each, you can get plumber plugs that will go into the 3" PVC and seal the scuppers. These can be put in from inside of the boat.

Tolman Skiff - deck drains

scupper photoFolks have been talking about using different kinds of scuppers in their skiffs and finding that they all leak. I did mine the way Renn suggested and found that it works pretty well. He says to put a tube in the transom and make what's called a stinger for it. This is a 2ft, piece of cloth (he suggests backpack, waterproof cloth) that is glued together and slipped on, over the tube. You put a line in the end and simply pull it up to close the scuppers.

Nelson Tolman Skiff - Pilot house III



Here are a couple of photos of my seats on the port side of the boat. These will make the dinette. I had never worked with Formica before so I ordered just enough to do one seat. It turned out great and it was very easy to put it on. It's a good thing I didn't discover this before or I'd have Formica all over the boat. I know that will cause some wooden purists to cringe but this boat is made for fun and for folks to use it. Formica for the seats and galley makes a lot of sense to me. There will be some nice varnished trim on all the corners so it will have a nice nautical look. I'll also have varnished hatch/door covers for the openings.

It's working out well that I can remove the seats by simply unscrewing them from their mounting blocks and take them back out of the cabin. If it ever came to be that I had to cut out my fuel tanks, I could do that without destroying the rest of the interior. The shade of white I got is a perfect match for the paint I'm using for the rest of the interior. As soon as I have all the seats and galley made, and all the mounting blocks in place, it will be time for final sanding, priming and painting then I'll have to make cushions for the seats. It's also time to start running wire for the lights and electronics. One thing always leads to 6 more... ;-) I think it's coming along well.

Nelson Tolman Skiff - Pilot house II

I'm working on my pilot house. I started with this diagram based on a C-Dory 22. My pilot house is longer though and I wanted to have a forward facing seat as well as a dinette. The C-Dory has a sliding seat and I was going to do that but when I got in there with my tape and started looking at how long 6'2" is, I realized I had plenty of room to get a nice sized dinette without having to have the seat slide. All I needed was a backrest that could change from one side of the seat to the other. I'll figure out how to do that next weekend.

Nelson Tolman Skiff - pilot house - seats & bunks

Today begins the beginning of a 4-day working blitz on the boat. My goal is to have the bunks, galley and helmsman seat done and then turn my daughter loose on the painting on Tuesday. It was 3 years ago this weekend that I started my Tolman Skiff.

Before installing the seats and cabinets, I needed to install access plates for the two fuel tanks and their fittings. Isn't it something that before you can do one thing you usually have to do a few others? ;-^) Well in this case, I needed to cut some nice round holes and I couldn't use a jig saw because the gas tanks were underneath the sheet of ply. I also wanted to do something to make cutting perfect round holes easy as there were several access plates I had to install. So I turned my router base into a circle cutting jig by drilling one small hole, exactly 4.5in. from the center. When fitted with a cutting bit and a screw through this single hole, the whole router rotates in a circle and creates a perfect hole for the 10in. access plates I'm installing.

Here's a BEFORE photo of the pilot house. I'll post an AFTER photo later this weekend. That is, if all goes as planned. Things always seem to take longer than they should. It's a great way to spend the weekend though. All of this is still great fun even after three years.

Nelson Tolman Skiff - Priming the pilot house

Today I got the final coat of paint on the inside of the cuddy cabin and I started priming the inside of the pilot house. I started by sanding and rolling on a fresh coat of epoxy. I'll follow that with primer. I'm going to make the roof a darker color so it won't reflect glare from the water. The rest of the pilot house will be off-white.

There is a certain inertia when it comes to doing things on the boat. When you start a project, it seems simple but it quickly breaks down into LOTS of little jobs that have to be done before you actually get to the job you wanted to do. One step at a time and don't cut corners is the right way to keep moving forward.

Nelson Tolman Skiff - Priming the cuddy cabin

We started using our Tolman Skiff just 14 months after starting the build. We started on Memorial day weekend in 2003 and launched the boat in July in 2004. Later in 2004 it got a roof and by the summer of 2005 the outside was painted. The problem with this kind of building schedule is that with all the fun of using the boat, we never got around to finishing the boat. So I'm kicking myself in the pants and making a push to have things finished for this summer's PNW Tolman Owner's Gathering here on the Columbia River in July.

Tolman Skiff, Nelson Jumbo: Day 139 - Door

Today I built the door to the pilot house. I'm still working on it. I used two door skins with framing on the edges and around the window with 1/2" blueboard inside as a core. I really didn't need to put the foam in there but it makes the door stiffer and who knows, some day I may end up ripping that door off as the boat sinks and using it as a paddle board to get me back to shore. [vbg]

I'm putting tape on the sides and will have some UHMW on the top and bottom where it slides. When it closes the window in the door lines up with the window in the aft pilot house bulkhead. The next thing I have to do in the cockpit area of the boat is make some seats.

Tolman Skiff, Nelson Jumbo: Day 138 - Windows

I spent the day cutting and installing windows. I will have to take them out again and remount with silicone but at least they are cut and the mounting holes drilled. These are 3/16", just what Renn specifies. They are very light and I can see why he says that this is the way to go. They are very clear (at least for now), unbreakable and the Lexan is easy to work with.

I made a costly mistake on the center window up front. I had purchased 5 pieces of Lexan from ebay for about $25 +$20 in shipping. This was enough to do all three front windows and two of the side windows. When I cut out the window openings, I saved the blanks to use as templates. This worked well for the side windows as I could easily trace around the template and add an inch or so and get a perfect shape. The problem came with the center window template. When I first cut it out, for some reason I made it an inch smaller than it should have been. Having corrected this by making the opening larger, the template was still one inch too small. Did I remember this one year later when it came to cut the Lexan for that window? No. Did I measure twice and cut once? No. Did I ruin a perfectly good piece of Lexan and have to go buy one locally for $40? Yes. Duh... I hate making mistakes like that. $40 down the tube, just like that. Arrrrrr...

The side window slides in a track, opening as much as two feet. I took a detail shot of the track to show how it slides over the other stationary window. The lip next to the track is 1/4" thick and the track itself is 1/4" thick. The 3/16" Lexan for the fixed window nestles right above the lip. I had to counter sink the screws holding it in. They are secured through the window opening by lock nuts on the other side. I think it works pretty well.

Best Marine Epoxy

My favorite epoxy? Progressive Basic No-Blush Epoxy

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