Badass Skiff – Banana River Skiff Restore

Haven’t done one of these in a while! No better way to bring in a new badass skiff than with this ultra-cool restore project from Central Florida.

Photos and story below!

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From the owner:

The resurrection of a piece of skiff history…

A couple years ago I had a bay boat and though I lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I fished mostly in the marshes of Louisiana and the bay boat had limitations in the super skinny to hunt for monster winter redfish.  A friend had an old skiff sitting in his carport in Port St. Joe, Florida and talked me into taking a look at it with hopes we could work out a trade.  However, he had no pictures and all he could tell me was it was something called a Banana River Skiff…”a what, I said?”  I originally had no interest in driving several hours for some skiff that I had never heard of, but for some reason I said yes, and so began my journey.

Not sure what I was thinking, but I ended up the owner of a 1979 Banana River Skiff.  It had the original trailer from 1979, so it was a puckered up 6-hour trip back to Mississippi.  The skiff had a Yamaha 50 2-stroke with only 10 hours.  Mostly it was the sought-after engine that led me to trade for this carpeted yellow wonder that I expected to fish from until I located a new hull.  I had no idea about the history of the boat, but after some research, determined that this hull was the original Dave Exley designed hull that the Super Skiff/Dolphin 16 and a few variants derived from back in the late 70’s and, as it turns out, was an inspiration for many of the top skiffs on the market today.  After a few trips in the marsh, I began to realize what a cool project skiff this could be and started sketching out my plans.  Shortly after deciding to revive the skiff, I moved to Orlando and decided to take the skiff to Jonathan Glasser, the owner of Glasser Boatworks in Rockledge, Florida. Jonathan is a master at his craft and specializes in shallow water skiffs. After he took a look at the hull and convinced me not to take a chainsaw to it, we agreed that this banana boat would be worth preserving and a great project.  Not sure either of us knew what we were getting ourselves into!  After agreeing on a game plan for the re-build, I began the tedious task of stripping it down to the hull before bringing it back to Glasser Boatworks for the transformation.

In general, my vision was to do something similar to an old school Hell’s Bay Whipray with a core floor, super light, and simple.  The goal was to achieve a sub 6″ draft.  The fabrication and glasswork needed included a new transom, some additional glass to strengthen the hull, custom designed decks with front hatch, walkable gunnels, and a low profile side console.  There was no manual on how to build it, so every step had to be thoughtfully planned out.  Everything was done with composite materials so it would perform for generations to come.  We also added a 20-gallon, powder-coated aluminum fuel tank.  We finished the hull with a monochromatic ice blue Awlgrip with ice blue non-skid while the interior hatch areas were finished off in matterhorn white Awlgrip.  To erase 36 years of wear and bring the skiff to 2016 standards, the Glasser Boatworks team spent many hours of prepping and fairing; the results were worth the extra effort.    Once the hull was done at Glasser Boatworks, she was off to Castaway Customs for SeaDeck under-gunnel and poling platform pads. Then I brought her home to start my first foray into boat rigging, which gave me a chance to take the time to install everything the way I wanted.  While challenging, I’m really happy with how it turned out.

Despite it being a nearly 40-year old design, the boat is amazingly stealthy due to its claim to fame of being the first ever “no slap” hull and is fairly stable for its size due to the 72” wide beam.  With two anglers and gear I am able to pole in 6”-7” of water which was one of my goals for the project.  The boat jumps on plane easily and performs well with the 50 2-stroke.  The side console makes for a roomy cockpit and the deck layout is perfect for the style of fishing I enjoy.  So though it’s been a very involved project, I am loving this skiff and look forward to many drag screaming adventures…

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