Introducing the Toledo Flyer
July 27, 2011

A couple months ago, the Port of Toledo contacted me and asked if I could do them a favor. They wanted to add an attraction to the Toledo Wooden Boat Show in which children - toddlers and such - could be on land yet fish from a boat. The idea was to have magnetic fish, a boat on wheels, and fishing poles with magnets. The kids could be pushed/pulled around and have fun gathering a day's catch.

There were no specifics. The boat did not have to have sails, it didn't need to look like a gill netter or a salmon trawler, it just needed to look like a boat.

My utilitarian brain kicked in: I needed something low to the ground, because little kids have no sense of trim or loading. It needed easy egress - no stairs or overheads, because toddlers suck at spatial relationships and often bang their tender little gourds. It needed to be sturdy, because babies have no experience and are essentially landsmen - no concept of where to step or stand. And above all, because, like Popeye, I am who I am, it needed to be cheap and easy to build.

Ladies and gentlemen, Let me introduce you to the Toledo Flyer:

It's a One-Sheet-Skiff with just a couple tiny modifications. The stern is nearly flat and in the final version, it will have four ribs instead of one frame. This is so the boat can be stood on end and used as shelving when not on the water.

I way over built her. I used 3/8 plywood, 1x2s for the chines, and Grip-Rite Deck Screws throughout. The planking is fake - drawn on with a Sharpie - but you have to get within about 10 feet to see it.

The gussets are excessive - just like the ply and the framing - but where I really went crazy was on the finishing. I had some extra epoxy laying around, so I gave her a good three coats.

This picture tells a lot. First of all, "Toldeo Flyer" comes from the idea that the boat will be pulled around like a kid's wagon - a Radio Flyer. Next comes the observation that epoxy interacts with Sharpies, causing the ink to liquefy and run. I'd drawn the lines with a real Sharpie brand Sharpie (permanent on most surfaces) yet it still ran. Finally, this picture shows that I should NOT be allowed to do finish work. A drunken monkey could have placed these letters better.

I was all set to deliver this boat to have wheels attached and it never to touch the water - then my human side kicked in. Boats gotta be usable on the water, even if someone puts wheels on 'em. So I rooted through my stuff and found a pair of oarlocks my friend, Pat P. had made for our Teal experiment. These oarlocks are dead simple: a block of wood and a metal strip, attached together and a hole drilled through.

This had been so cheap and so easy, I needed to test it out. Look how small she is - hardly worth the effort of strapping down.

I needed a cameraman, so I enlisted my neighbor, Lyle. He's been observing my shenanigans for nearly 20 years now, and while he is used to my ways, he is beginning to show his age.

We took her to the local scum pond and dropped her in She floats lie a cork.

and she rows shockingly well. Here's a video of me taking her for a spin.

I was about to put her away and head home when this urchin showed up and said "Mister, I sure wish I could row your boat." I said "Really? Get in."

What I didn't realize was when he said he'd 'wished he could row the boat' he wasn't asking for permission - he was really wishing he could row. He couldn't, and it is painfully obvious in this video.

Rather than kick the kid out, take my boat, and go home, I enlisted his sister, Rebecca, to come along and act as crew/ballast.

They used the oars as paddles and wanted to show off, so they paddled out to their older sister, Vanessa . . . .

. . . . who promptly overturned the boat.(lucky it was a sister - my brothers would have held me under water until I cried "Uncle.")

Without airboxes, a Toledo Flyer is pretty much unrecoverable. That's not a knock against the design - only an idiot would use one of these boats in an unsafe area.