Classic Boat: A 26-foot wooden Lyman

Classic Boat: A 26-foot wooden Lyman

A wooden Lyman is known for its ride. They feature a “clinker-built” hull planking that in a wooden boat model works with any chop in such a way that it cuts through the chop, delivering a ride that is sublimely softer than a hard-chine fiberglass boat. The same hull shape done in fiberglass rides differently than the same model with a wooden hull. The very slight movement of the individual planks definitely allows for a softer ride in the wooden-hulled boat than in the fiberglass model. 

The author took a ride in a 26-foot wooden Lyman at CBMM’s Antique and Classic Boat Festival in St. Michaels.

I sea-trialed both fiberglass and wooden-hulled models this past summer, and I’m now sharing my personal observations with you.

The fiberglass Lyman hull in this case is a clone of the wooden version. A wooden hull was always used to mold the fiberglass hulls; thus the shape was the same. Plank edges and all the minor details were copied and/or replicated to create the two hulls. 

All the fiberglass hulls came from the same mold at Lyman Boat Works using the equivalent wooden model. The 26-foot length only required a single hull mold. Layup only required a conventional chopper gun and some hand work. 

Chopper gun refers to the process where the resin is mixed in the air with fiberglass that is in a string form. It’s then sliced or chopped in a specialized “chopper” handheld spray gun. The resin and “string” mix in the air and splat against the mold for whatever size fiberglass part is needed. The air-rich mixture is then rolled or squeegeed into a tight mix of fiberglass, facilitated by a catalyst. That final mixture turns into a solid section of fiberglass after the liquid-string mixture exits the gun and hardens. 

It is this solid nature of a fiberglass boat that doesn’t allow the slight wiggle enjoyed by a wooden clinker-built planked boat as it moves through the water. Yes, it’s subtle, but I felt a noticeable difference. The smaller the chop, the easier it is to discern. Large waves and wakes simply have too much action to allow the small wiggle room to be noticed.

Note that fiberglass and wooden Lymans have a round chine. Each plank is laid proud such that they both ride differently than a hard-chine carvel smooth-planked Chris-Craft runabout or cuddy cabin boat. 

Lymans are what one would call “sea kindly” boats. Folks enjoy riding in them at a good clip on rivers, lakes, and even the Chesapeake Bay. Figure on a 2800-rpm cruising speed with a mid-20s boat speed. This is provided by a single V-8 straight shaft inboard drive. 

Both fiberglass and wood hulled 26-foot Lymans use the same shape and dimension wood or fiberglass side decks, foredecks, and metal windshields. Each has a sturdier look to them. Think classic skiff styling. Rather aggressive in look and feel.

She is a 26-foot, two-inch-long, by a nine-foot, one-inch-wide beam cuddy cabin cruiser. That makes it wider than the standard trailerable width. The boat sleeps two in a vee berth up in the bow. There is room for a porta potty along with storage space for boat gear down there. A “sleeper” model makes a good overnighter for a couple who wants to cruise the Bay in an economical fuel-sipping cruiser.

A dinette sits four or it can convert to sleep two in the partially covered cockpit. A full rear bench seat provides lots of walk-around room in the cockpit. She completes the cockpit with sideboards and space to hang boat gear. 

Lyman built about 60,000 boats with wood hulls of all kinds and sizes from 1875 through 1973 and then changed over to fiberglass—mostly for open bays, lakes, and rivers. 

By the way, an excellent book on all Lymans is “Lyman Boats, Legend of the Lakes” by Tom Koroknay.

I rode in a 26-foot Lyman “sleeper” at the ACBS Chesapeake Bay Chapter’s three-day Antique and Classic Boat Show during Father’s Day weekend. Bruce Ogden owns the boat and was in command during a great, fun-filled river ride. Bruce loves old boats and owns three other classics besides this Lyman. Did I mention that he loves old boats? 

By Chris “Seabuddy” Brown

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