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Speed Skiffs, like the Garvey, are unique as they are both indigenous to New Jersey.  But instead of being of South Jersey origin, the Speed Skiff is from Sea Bright/Long Branch area and evolved from what is known as the Sea Bright Dory.

            In 1925, Harold “Pappy” Seaman put a 25 HP Graymarine engine in a Sea Bright Dory and became known as the “Father of the N.J. Speed Skiffs”.

            Speed Skiffs were first used as fishing and sport boats.  Some early Sea Bright Skiffs were up to 30 feet in length and powered by WWI Liberty Aircraft engines.  These were the boats used during Prohibition as Rum Runners.

            The American Power Boat Association (APBA) later came to recognize the Skiffs as a racing class.  They were known as the “Sports Cars of the Water” because they were used as work and pleasure boats during the week and raced on weekends.

            The first Skiffs were of traditional wood lap strake construction using steam-bent oak ribs and riveted together.  Engines were set in the center and driven from the rear cockpit.  They also had an open cockpit area ahead of the engine compartment.  The Skiffs were required to have a transmission with reverse, and were powered by Flathead Ford V-8’s.

            Some of the early builders of the Wooden Skiffs were Seaman, Russell, Forsberg and Tilton.

            Joe Julian, from the Highlands, built the first fiberglass Skiff somewhere around 1959-60.  Only 304 wooden Skiffs remained racing in the early 1960’s due to the difficulty in maintaining the hulls and breakage.

            In the late 1960’s, there were approximately 18 fiberglass hulled Skiffs racing at an APBA Regatta.  However, many of the Skiff owners preferred to race more locally than the APBA circuit and joined the “Speed Garvey Association” in 1972.  These Skiffs were powered by 327c.i. engines.  In 1980, a new engine was formed making a 300c.i. and 340c.i. racing class choice for the Skiffs.  Also, the Skiffs are no longer required to have transmissions and now run direct drive.  The Skiffs do still run wet exhaust systems through their transoms enabling them to be registered by the state as a pleasure boat during the week and still be eligible for racing on weekends.

            A 350c.i. class of Skiffs was entered into the club late in the 1989 season, making 3 classes registered.  Bud Bender, formerly of Beach Haven West, was the manufacturer of several Skiffs in the club and had remained a member.  He was later awarded a lifetime membership into the club from all our members.

            And now with the current class designations of 315c.i. and 375c.i., the Speed Skiff has undergone another transition.  Both classes must be above the minimum length of 16’ and weight of 1600 pounds.  Despite the minor changes over the years, Skiffs have maintained their traditional lap strake construction and their unique ability to turn completely on their sides.  It is probably this unique feature that makes the Skiff not only exciting to ride in, but also fun to watch.




Main Entry: skiff

Pronunciation: \ˈskif\

Function: noun

Etymology: Middle English skif, from Middle French or Old Italian; Middle French esquif, from Old Italian schifo, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English scip ship

Date: 15th century

: any of various small boats; especially : a flat-bottomed rowboat

Jersey Skiff

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Jersey Skiff is a beach launched boat first appearing around the end of the 1800s. They were first used as fishing boats, to be launched through the surf, sailed to the fishing grounds and then retrieved through the surf.

There were two distinct versions, along the Northern Jersey Shore, The Sea Bright, and the Southern Shore, Jersey Skiff. In the early 1900s Jersey Skiffs were employed by early coast guardsmen and lifeguards. The boats had evolved into wreckage and salvage work as well as fishing uses. The primary difference between the two boats is the addition of a board on the side of the Jersey Skiff for slightly greater freeboard. Also the hull is slightly narrower for better rowing. And the transom of Jersey Skiff is more of a wine glass shape which integrates into the skeg, where as The Sea Bright transom does not. The skeg can be added as an additional board.

The design characteristics of the boat, are a stem that is slightly raked, less than a Dory and more than a Whitehall Rowboat. The stern was in a heart or wine glass shape with a rake toward the center of the boat. This allows the boat to be retrieved through the surf bow first. Although it is reported that in rougher conditions the boat is beached stern first. The boats are of fairly shallow draft and have a narrow flat bottom which is useful for sitting on the beach. Although the sides are generally rounded, without a keel but with a small skeg for tracking.

The boats were generally outfitted with a sprit or lug sailing rig and a small jib. The mast was generally unstayed. Early fisherman used an oar to steer with rather than bring a separate rudder. Modern sailing versions come with a separate rudder. But an oarlock can be mounted on the transom for use with an oar as a steering device.


The boat during prohibition was modified into a speedboat but there are still some builders making traditional boats in fiberglass.

With the start of Prohibition Captain McCoy began to bring rum from Bimini and the Bahamas into south Florida through Government Cut. The Coast Guard soon caught up with him, so they began to bring the illegal goods to just outside of the U.S. territorial waters and let smaller boats and other captains such as Habana Joe take the risk of bringing it into shore. By far the biggest Rum Row was in the New York/Philadelphia area off the New Jersey coast, where as many as 60 ships were seen at one time. One of the most notable New Jersey rum runners was Habana Joe, who could be seen at night running into remote areas in Raritan Bay with his flat-bottom skiff for running up on the beach, making his delivery, and speeding away.


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