A skipjack is a flat bottom boat and when up to speed skims on top of the water. They are much faster when the water has slight choppy waves from a light wind. Most skipjacks are eight or ten feet long and four feet wide. They are about ten to twelve inches deep and the front part of the bottom has a taper which makes the nose only about six inches thick. These boats are light and very fast with a small outboard motor on the back. They are also notorious for having a mind of their own when turning or entering the wake from another boat. You have to kneel on the floor and steer with the handle on the outboard motor. The throttle is built into the steering handle and is operated by rotating it. Here’s the picture: You’re on your knees, your left hand controls steering and throttle, and your right hand is holding on for dear life to keep you stable. The skipjack reacts to every move you make. Sometimes not in your favor. This adventure took place on the Niagara River with a neighbors skipjack.
It was a real nice evening along the river. Not too warm and enough of a breeze to keep the bugs away. Our neighbor was my age and owned the boat. We each weighed about eighty pounds which was perfect for the skipjack. My younger brother Preston was with us. We always ran upriver a half mile or so and made a wide sweeping turn at full throttle to return. It was starting to get dark when the neighbor decided to show Preston how to operate the boat. They rode together as he explained how to work the steering and throttle. When they came in he decided to let Preston go a short distance alone. Preston probably weighed fifty pounds soaking wet.
Preston made some slow circles in close. The neighbor told him to make one more run and go further and faster. Big mistake. Preston made a slow pass and started to turn upstream in front of us. When he got into the turn he hit the throttle. It looked like the skipjack was going to shoot out from under him as he zigzagged back and forth at full throttle. He was holding on for dear life and couldn’t relax enough to let off the throttle. He over reacted every time he tried to correct the steering. Finally the gas can got tipped over. The motor sucked air and died. Preston’s eyes were the size of baseballs and he just sat holding on with both hands. We convinced him to dig the paddle out of the front and paddle in before the current carried him away.
Preston learned skipjacks are a lot of fun………………until you lose control.