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Launching and Hunting

On November 15, 1998 the Scaup was launched for her maiden voyage. Ironically this was supposed to be the opening day of duck season had it not been pushed back by Senator Trent Lott. The project started exactly four months earlier. After 400 man-hours and $2500 worth of materials she was ready for a test run. The anticipation was unbearable.

Before I go any further I must recognize the people who made November 15 a reality. First and foremost is my wife, Michelle. I don't think she knew what she got into when she agreed to let me build a boat, but she took it all pretty well. Both Jeff Smith and my mother-in-law, Clarese, were a huge help. Jeff gave me advice and hands-on help the whole way and Clarese spent many Saturday afternoons watching Andrew while I was out in the garage epoxying away. Others that deserve recognition for their contributions include, George Smith, Alan McElyea, Jon Ivy, Jim Kirkpatrick, Phillip Sommers, Jim Patterson, and Herbert Smith. Finally, I want to thank Sam Devlin and Joel Mill for designing the Scaup for me and providing technical assistance.

The first thing I noticed when I got the boat in the water was how stable it is. I can walk around on the outside decking and she barely tilts. As I idled out of the harbor I made up my mind that as soon as the idle speed only area was cleared I would gun the motor to see what she would do. No pussy-footing around, I wanted to put her through the ringer. As I twisted the throttle she jumped up on plane and took off. The 40 hp was plenty adequate. Immediately after getting up on plane "Houston, we have a problem." Water was gushing over the top of the transom.

The fluid dynamics in the motor well are a bit more complicated than those of a motor mounted on the transom. Aware of this fact I was prepared to adjust the motor height. I placed a 3/4" shim under the motor mount to raise the engine. This almost completely stopped the water from coming in. The last adjustment was to move the motor pin one higher. Incidentally, with the motor in the well you cannot remove the pin without removing the motor so I swapped out the pin with nuts and bolts. With these two adjustments everything was perfect. The final fine tuning was to put a tach on the motor and check the rpms. This revealed that the motor was over-revving. I swapped out my prop for one with more pitch, putting the rpms in the correct range.

Testing the performance was quite fun. Immediately I noticed differences between my Scaup and the jon boat I just sold. The Scaup turns very well at all speeds. Running wide open I can turn the motor all the way and the boat digs in, no skipping and sliding to the outside. I would never attempt that in my jon boat. Another big difference between the Scaup and my jon is the ride. The Scaup provides a much softer ride and is very quiet. Top speed is around 38 mph, plenty fast for a duck boat. Fully loaded the top end only drops two or three mph. Tests for seaworthiness are ongoing. This past hunting season I never faced anything worse than about 2 1/2 foot whitecaps. Running wide open in them wasn't a problem. I doubt 3-4 foot waves would present too much difficulty as long as I slow down and use good judgement. The draft of the boat in water seems to be around 6". Motoring slowly through water 16" deep can be done by tilting the motor. I wasn't able to weigh the boat but will hazard to guess the weight is around 300 - 325 pounds. With the motor, battery, and gas tank the total weight is somewhere around 600 pounds. I won't be dragging the boat over beaver dams or across mudflats, but most owners of 16 foot boats don't.

When hunting season started I was ready. I had storage bin covers made from 1000 Denier Cordura Mossy Oak Break-up. The covers have a bungee cord on the top and hook to eye bolts on each side. I either stretch them open or I unhook them for big stuff. They are secured at the bottom with a cord than runs the length of the cockpit. I drilled small holes at the base of the bulkheads and knees for the cord to pass through. The storage bins hold 14 standard decoys each. This means I can store seven dozen decoys in the side compartments and not even utilize the front and rear storage areas. Overall the boat will hold ten dozen decoys below the decks, more than I want to fool with.

Jim Kirkpatrick and I enjoy a hunt on the Paint Rock River

Camouflaging the boat is accomplished by shoving wild cane (bamboo) under the grass rails. Once in place it remains there for the season. Trailering doesn't present any problems. In addition to the cane under the grass rails I keep a bundle in the boat. When I set up this is shoved under the grass rails forming a wall around the cockpit. Vegetation from the surrounding area is gathered and piled on. The boat just about disappears.

Alan McElyea and I going after Guntersville Gadwall

Well that about does it. I hope you have enjoyed reading about the construction of Devlin's Scaup. I found this project to be one of the most rewarding things I have ever undertaken. If you have the desire and time to build a boat then find a way to do it. It is a very worthwhile way to spend your leisure time and enhance your overall waterfowling experience.

Fruits of my labors