Build the Tango Skiff
The Evolution of the Tango Skiff

In 2003 my wife and I bought a cabin cruiser so we could spend weekends at the coast.  Our marina was surrounded by waterways, islands and beaches to explore.  Our “condo” boat was great for living on but not so good for exploring.  We needed a small boat.  We tried a kayak but a trip to our favorite beach with a 5 year old in tow could take all day, especially when battling wind and tide.  I shopped around and found several small outboards that were light, portable and didn’t require a battery or auxiliary gas tank.  I looked for a small boat that I could car-top and would fit in the slip with our bigger boat.  Most boats I saw were too wide or too heavy.  After reading about stitch-and-glue construction, I decided to build one.
My first boat was a cross between a kayak and a dory - narrow and sleek - it moved along well with a 2hp Honda.  The trip to our favorite beach now took half the time and my daughter could sleep on the way back.  But with its narrow beam and low freeboard, it was very tender and wet when we ran into heavy summertime boat traffic.  The following winter I built a wider, stouter version.  It proved to be drier and more stable.  Building a boat became a wintertime hobby and each year I tried to improve the design.
Over time I became familiar with the weight distribution issues of small boats.  Unlike boats that are rowed where the passenger sits amidship, a boat with a tiller-steered motor requires the passenger to sit near the transom.  Without a second passenger to balance the weight, the stern squats and the bow lifts.  I enjoyed early morning solo cruises but would need to add a significant amount of weight at the bow to keep it down.  Also, my 2hp motor could push the boat along easily at displacement speed but at anything more than half throttle, the stern would dig in and the boat would bog down behind the bow wave.  Understandably for this was a very small motor, it would come close but couldn’t quite get over the hump.  Then one day I discovered that if I moved my weight far enough forward, the boat would jump up on plane.  This was a real surprise.
On my next boat I was determined to overcome the “squat” and the bow wave.  I widened the transom using a tumblehome design to increase displacement at the stern.  The boat squatted less but still bogged down at full throttle.  I increased the horsepower from 2 to 3.5hp, certain that the extra power would push me over the top, but it still required a major weight shift to get up on plane.  I even added a hydro-foil, with little improvement.  It was time for a new design.  The following winter I rebuilt the boat, extending the bottom and sides to create a raked transom.  This added flotation behind the motor and extended the running surface, like built-in trim tabs.  What a difference!  With the 3.5hp motor, the boat now jumped right up on plane and ran 20% faster than before.  I also didn’t need to shift my weight or weigh down the bow when riding solo.  Tango was born.


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