When I first saw WoodenBoat Magazine’s boat design competition to design a modern wooden runabout, I was very excited. I’m sure most of the other competitors in this competition feel the same way. The big mahogany runabouts of yesteryear are some of the nicest pieces of eye candy on the water. I remember when they used to all get together at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle every year for the Wooden Boat Festival, and the docks would be lined with people starring through the massively thick coating of varnish at the beutiful mahogany underneath. It was like a layer of glass had been poured over the boats, giving them an indescribable amount of depth. Of course, with enough varnish, time, and careful brush work, any boat could have that kind of varnish. It was the large relatively flat surfaces that make a mahogany runabout so shiny and attractive. However, these were not the boats that attracted me the most. I prefered, the boats next to the big mahogany runabouts. Boats like the Chris Craft utility boats.
While the double and triple cockpit runabouts looked alluring, I have always had a problem with them. With the exception of some of the largest runabouts, each row of seating was seperated, limiting movement around the boat, and more importantly, limiting interactions with other people on the boat. I enjoy going out on a runabout partialy for the chance at human interaction in an entertaining environment. I always thought the utility boats had potential for the same attractiveness as the more conventional mahogany runabout designs, but they rarely seem to have the same level of finish. When I was in highschool I even built a model Chris Craft Utility, and varnished it up, and I thought it looked great. The more open design of the Utility has it's problems though. Despite having an open layout, the centrally located engine compartment means the boat cockpit isn’t really as open as it could be. More modern boats have much better cockpit layouts, although I can’t imagine why anyone would think a bowrider makes sense.
The boat I designed combines many of the aspects of a classic runabout with the modern understanding of interior layout and planing hull design. For no particular reason, I've always thought that runabouts should be exactly 21′ long, and with that in mind, I started drawing the hull from the keel up. The bottom starts at the bow with a deep convex V and ends in a shallow convex V at the stern. In many ways, this is more similar to the older boats. It should provide comfortable rinde without the ridicoulously high power consumption of modern deep V runabouts. However, unlike the older boats, it was decided early on to place the engine in the stern. Planing boats are simply better balanced and more efficient with more weight in the stern. The length of the boat, the deep V forward, and the position of the person driving the boat should prevent the bow from bouncing around too much. The sides of the boat are well flared towards the bow, and reach vertical about halfway through the length of the boat. Of course, no mahogany runabout would be truly complete without a good deal of tumblehome at the transom.
Most passengers should stay dry, except for someone hanging out in the stern. Those rebels deserve whatever water splashes their way. The transom is completely flat, which eliminates the possibility of inboard/outboards, and besides, who would want to reduce the amount of varnished wood on the transom? Much like the old boats, the deck is close to the water to reduce windage, and provide a greater sensation of speed. In the event of a rougue wave or a sudden rain storm, the cockpit is completely self-bailing. Inside the cockpit, the seats line every opening and provide every opportunity for communicating with other passengers. The pilot and copilot get their own seperate seating in the front of the boat. At the bow, there is enough room underneath the foredeck to put anchors, dockines, lunch or whatever elese. Also, with a curtain, there should be just enough room for a couple to spend the night. The rear cockpit is long enough for any guests to sleep under a tent if so desired. Also, if someone needs to be pulled out of the water after an exciting afternoon of water activities, they can drain off in the self-draining cockpit, and then change clothes underneath the bow. The possibilities for that area are endless. Additional storage could be placed underneath the sole, seats, and inbetween the cockpits. I don’t recommend storing tons of heavy items all over the boat, but there should be room for fenders, lines, etc.
Performance should be entertaining. Any engine under 1200 lb, and that fits in the space, can be placed in the stern with a v-drive. For some strange reason, many four cylinder engines are similar in weight to many V-6 or V-8 engines. However, I should note that the smaller enignes use far less fuel. This is a very light cold-molded hull, and should be easily driven, so it doesn't need a massive V-8 to reach high speeds. I designed the structure of this withstand 55 knots. That should be plenty fast. Go faster at your own peril.
Construction of this boat is conceptually simple, and any dedicated amateur should be able to build this boat. The hull uses as strip-planked first layer and then 2-3 layers of cold-molded veneer over the top. This is not a developable hull, plywood planking is out of the question. The interior structure is made up of plywood bulkheads, and the seats the touch the exterior hull are structural as well. A pair of large engine beds run the length of the boat to distribute the load of the engine. Chine, sheer clamp, and keel can either be radiused with epoxy and fiberglass, or made out of wood.