7 July 2016

The advantages of Clinker-hulled Lymans

It should come as no surprise that hull design affects boats’ handling characteristics significantly. The 23’ Lyman pictured here cruises comfortably at 18 knots, with a cushioned, supple and level ride. Its even ride results from a sharp forefoot that easily splits waves and handles chop without drama. And its wood “clinker-built” construction gives slightly, allowing for movement in the water and contrasting sharply with riding on plane in a fiberglass, hard chine boat.

Clinker-built refers to the wood planking, wherein each board edge overlaps the top of the prior plank’s edge and is then clinch-nailed to the ribs (as well as screwed to the frames). As a result, the lower edge of each plank is visible and appears as a series of horizontal lines, distinguishing the Lyman from a carvel-type hull (where each plank is butted and fastened edge-to-edge to the adjacent plank). Most believe carvel planking is stronger than clinker-built and therefore less flexible. However, clinker-built construction allows for some wiggle between the planks, making these boats more adaptable to wave and weather conditions.

According to Bill Lyman, son of the company’s founder, “lapstrake or clinker-built hulls date back to the Scandinavian voyagers… This type of construction had very definite advantages then, which still hold today.”

Other wooden boat companies that produced clinker-built boats are Chris-Craft, Hubert L. Johnson and Luhrs and Hutchinson. While all their clinkers overlapped planks, one over the next towards the keel’s center, Chris-Craft used a different mastic and fastening system than Lyman. Furthermore, Chris-Craft constructed a separate yard to build its clinker models, and created a new division called Chris-Craft Sea Skiffs distinguishing this very different boating experience from its runabout line-up.

The new division was a result of dealer feedback. At the time, Chris-Craft was just a family business relying on independent dealers to generate sales and report on their market conditions. Many reported that Lyman was gaining customers and encouraged Chris-Craft to produce a similar boat to meet emerging customer demand. So Chris-Craft bought some Lyman boats and analyzed them for ride, handling and construction.

Their research yielded the Sea Skiffs. Chris-Craft ultimately built 1670 boats with its competitive 22’ Sea Skiff hull, compared with Lyman’s production of 892 boats in its 23’ model.

Lymans tend to be “user boats” and many Lyman boaters enjoy their boats on all sorts of excursions, from day-trips to simple dinner excursions. The boat is often an integral part of their family and is included in weekend activities.

Additionally, during classic boat shows, where many all-mahogany boats take a break from storage to be displayed on land, classic Lymans are more often found displayed in-water rather than atop a trailer. Why? Because their enthusiastic owners frequently drop lines for a ride or cruise. Give a Lyman owner any excuse it seems, and he’ll offer a ride just as an excuse to get on the water.

Lyman’s wooden boat production ended in 1973, when the company switched to making fiberglass boats exclusively. That effort was short-lived, though, and the meaningful production of new boats ended around 1980. From then through ’87, a small crew kept up a wood Lyman parts business to support owners.

Since then one Lyman restorer, Tom Koroknay, has filled the gap. “I purchased the original factory tooling from the Lyman Boat Works over twenty years ago to supplement my Lyman restoration business and have been making factory-specification parts ever since then.”

11 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Russ Pennsylvania July 13, 2016 at 19:15
    Besides Lyman, there were several other manufacturers of clinker built (a/k/a lapstrake) boats, some, like some Lymans, being outboard motor powered. They included such revered names as Barbour, Penn Yan, Cruisers, Chris Craft, Century and Thompson. Like classic cars, a lot of the survivors have been restored, maintained and look as good as when they were new.
  • 2
    Jim 85260 wishing I was in 92118 visiting 49654 soon July 13, 2016 at 20:08
    Our family had a 16 foot Lyman outboard, I think it was sold to someone in the Leelanau county area in the early 70's, great boat
  • 3
    Andy Hojl Lake George NU July 13, 2016 at 20:35
    This is very true, we have a 23 Lyman and it is smooth as glass in almost all water conditions
  • 4
    Dan Bickley Galena, Ohio July 13, 2016 at 21:57
    I had the privilege to grow up in Sandusky, Ohio. I lived on Venetian Drive off First Street, just down from the Lyman Boat Works. My Dad owned several Lyman's over the years. The first was a 16 footer, then an 18 and finally a 23 foot Lyman Islander. They were outstanding boats for cruising, fishing and water skiing on Sandusky Bay. Many wonderful memories.
  • 5
    c Howgate Maine July 14, 2016 at 12:13
    I remember Lyman as the lapstrake of choice on Lake George in upstate New York during my youth. Old Town also built a lapstrake. I currently have a 1960 16' runabout. Old Town is located adjacent to Bangor, Maine..
  • 6
    Lawrence B LaBarbera New York July 18, 2016 at 00:37
    Which was the better boat, the Lyman,or Cris Craft?
  • 7
    Mark McDonough MA September 9, 2016 at 13:14
    Ventnor out of NJ and Grady White out of NC were also big builders of this type. I had a 22 Lyman and can attest that at 50 years of age it would take on any seas but I do love the GW 17 that I now own and think it is very well built and equal to any task.
  • 8
    Brian Cassier Lake George, NY and LA, CA September 20, 2016 at 22:49
    I have a 1940 21' Lyman. Fantastic boat that handles any kind of water. I am happy to have one of the rare pre-war Lymans on LG.
  • 9
    Andrew Pollok Fredonia. NY September 20, 2016 at 12:10
    My wife are the current owners of a 16-and-a-half foot runabout bought brand new by her Grandfather in 1959. It's mostly original and powered by the 1959 35 HP Evinrude Lark he bought to go with it.
  • 10
    Andrew J Kubicsko Jr Geneva Lake Wisconsin September 22, 2016 at 12:11
    I'm the proud owner of a 1966 28' Lyman Sportsman Hardtop hull #jo1189 which makes it the last 28' Lyman ever made. Living on a lake rich with wood boat history there is nothing like cruising with friends on a Lyman.
  • 11
    William (casey) curtis Clearlake ca. September 26, 2016 at 19:21
    Our 1958 19ft Lyman is all original and the greymarine 109 is still running like new. We enjoy the this boat more every time we take it out.

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