Nic Compton reports on the progress of two Western Skiff builders who have taken advantage of the free boat plans we launched on PBO in 2019


It’s nearly two years since the first Western Skiff Mk2 was launched on the River Dart.

The boat was based on lines for an easy-to-build kit boat drawn by legendary designer Nigel Irens and Ed Burnett in the late 1990s.

Two years ago the concept was relaunched not just as a kit but also as a full-size set of building templates available for free on the PBO website.

The first Mk2 skiff was duly launched in July 2019, just a stone’s throw from where Nigel had launched the original skiff 23 years earlier.

Brand new Western Skiff launched

What a lot has happened since then. First off was Chris Hackshall, who started building his kit in October 2019. His only previous experience was building a 12ft Thames skiff designed by Selway Fisher for some friends in Cornwall.

Watch the video of Lottie P’s maiden voyage

He chose the Western Skiff for his second build partly because its narrower beam allowed him to get it in and out of his garage, but also just because: “I thought it was a cool-looking boat.”

Like many skiff builders, he had trouble getting the garboard planks to “settle in” but eventually, with the help of useful little drawing from Jordan Boats, worked it out.

His conclusion: “The truth is real materials will not behave like a CAD drawings – there will be gaps. My advice to any future builder would be to enjoy the mithering [ie fussing] over aesthetics and don’t rush into anything which involves epoxying.”

Chris launched the finished skiff in April 2021 and named it Lottie P after his daughter.

Frames and stem rigid and fixed to the building frame. Now for planking…

Finding the sweet spot where planking fits and twists enough but not too much at the bow.

Filling and filleting the gaps between the planks is followed by turning the hull over the right way up…

Paint, thwarts, seats, apron, mast partner, centreboard case, stern knees…

All topped off with a fine traditional rig and a black hull coating.


Meanwhile in Schipluiden, near Rotterdam…

Over in Holland, Jelle Joustra used the free plans for start building his boat. Like Chris, he chose the boat because it fitted perfectly in his garden overlooking the canal in Schipluiden, near Rotterdam.

To familiarise himself with the design, he first built a cardboard model by printing the templates onto A4 paper which he stuck onto a sheet of cardboard.

“Building the model taught me a lot,” he says. “It gives you an idea of how everything fits together and where the tricky bits are.”

Making a scale model from cardboard

Working out where exactly the oars could be shipped at an early stage of the build.

Using the full-size templates to cut the thwarts to size

Find out more about the Western Skiff

Watch this space for more skiff building stories or see the Western Skiff Forum on Facebook.

The Western Skiff kit is available from Jordan Boats ( for £1,133 excluding delivery.

Free plans and the full set of articles about building the boat are available at

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