Melonseed Skiff


With a profile exceptionally low to the water, the melon seed sailing skiffs were originally used to hunt ducks on the Jersey Bays. Built around Little Egg Harbor in the late 1800s, the Melonseeds proved fast and capable on the choppy waters of the open bays, where they quickly displaced their more sensitive predecessor, the Barnegat Bay sneakbox. They were generally built as thin skinned carvel hulls to reduce noise (lapstrake “chuckles”), and were nearly fully decked to keep out wash and spray for a boat so low to the water. They also had distinctive long hooked dagger boards employed while under sail. Without these the boats draw next to nothing and slid right up on the marsh flats used by the commercial gunners.

I don’t know anyone who hunts from a melonseed today, but I suppose you could, and do a good job of it. Yet the boats are still around and have been gaining in popularity. I think it is because they are beautiful and to put it simply…a heck of a lot of fun to sail! The boat picks up and drives in even the lightest breezes. They are quick and responsive, and sitting on the floorboards with the water sliding by so close you get what we call the go-cart effect, a thrilling sensation of speed. You are likely to get a bit wet from spray if the chop is up, but snug in the cockpit with the full deck and coaming to keep out the real water. When things are calm, with the dagger board up, the melonseed can row quietly into the thinnest of waters, allowing you to explore the creeks, flats and marshes between sails.

Although the boat I build does have a larger cockpit than the originals, its still a small light boat. And really best fit with no more than two adults, or an adult and a couple kids.