Known for superlight flatboats built for “skinny” waters, Hell’s Bay Boatworks’ (Titusville, FL, US) previous best was its 5.8m long Glades Skiff, which weighs in at 172 kg fully loaded (engines and fuel) and maneuvers easily, with a draft of 1.2m. But a recent custom project demanded a craft with a draft of only 0.6m.
“This customer fishes in very shallow waters in Texas,” says Hell’s Bay president and owner, Chris Peterson, “so we were already looking at waterjet engines to meet the minimal draft.” But that would only solve part of the problem. “When you run in shallow water, you are more likely to hit things, especially when venturing into new areas,” he explains. So additional impact resistance would be needed, but at less weight.
“Every 8 lb of weight displaces another gallon of water,” says Peterson, “so less weight equals less draft.” Sportfishing often requires pushing the boat quietly with a pole. “We needed to have a hull and deck that could handle … potential impacts but also float well for easy poling. We needed to have a reinforcement and resin system that could do both.”
Peterson teamed with Vectorply (Phenix City, AL, US), Innegra Technologies (Greenville, SC, US) and Scott Bader ATC (Stow, OH, US). “Vectorply came up with a special carbon fiber weave that gives a lot of stiffness with thin laminates,” says Peterson. That noncrimp fabric actually combines carbon, E-glass and Innegra’s S fibers, and integrated a carbon fiber veil as a flow medium. “Vectorply helped to design the laminate architecture as well, so that we used the fewest layers to meet mechanical property and impact requirements,” adds Peterson. The boat features a sandwich construction, with a single-layer, multiaxial faceskin on either side of Corecell (Gurit, Newport, Isle of Wight, UK) foam core.
“We weren’t sure how the Innegra hybrid fabric would work with the Scott Bader infusion resin,” concedes Peterson. “So we tested it and it worked great.” Peterson adds that Scott Bader’s Crestapol 1250LV low-viscosity urethane acrylate’s cured molecular weight is 80% that of epoxy or vinyl ester.
In the end, the boat came out 24% lighter than the company’s standard craft, and it achieved 33 mph vs. the typical 27 mph, using standard engines. “The boat also sat higher in the water,” says Peterson, “which is what we wanted.”