Chester Yawl

I've been enjoying my peeler skiff now for several years and get compliments on her wherever I go; the brightwork on her is a real head turner.  She performs like a champ and has never disappointed me in the slightest.  I've been intrigued by the Chester Yawl, her lines are so classically beautiful; she looks like she was transported from the early 1900's.  I've been thinking of taking a crack at building her and would like to hear from some of you builders who have already completed the project.  Specifically, I'd like to hear about how she handles, what type of waters she's best suited for and how challenging the build was.

Thanks so much!


7 replies:

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RE: Chester Yawl

   I built a CY in 2020-2021 and launched it late last year, so it has seen only little use so far. My impression is that it rows easily and turns nicely.

Building has been a real pleasure. Here are what I recall as "special" about my build process:

CA glue helps when aligning all the panels at the bow. So when working from the bottom up, you can secure your gains step by step. Or break loose when you discover a mistake.

Also, glassing the aft outside hull, where you cover three panels each side with fiberglass, has been tricky. I had many air bubbles in the joints. (This area, picture by CLC):

I used all the 60 clamps I own for installing a single outwale... 

I sanded mostly by hand...

That's it. So I'd call it moderately challenging. With you experience from building the Peeler, it should be quite enjoyable.


RE: Chester Yawl



I built my CY (2007) kit without alignment tabs, scarf joints/no puzzle joints and gains had to be cut in bow planks. She is absolutely beautiful and is adream to row. I added the scuppered inwales and matching breasthooks, and put three row stations (mid for solo rowing and a stern/bow station for tandem rowing. I also installed the Piantedosi row seat wing with the long oars.

She moves nearly effortlessly with one person or two onboard. With two people, weight and balance (balance, in particular) must be considered. More weight at the stern (as long as the bow is not off the water and in the air) to keep the skeg in the water. She tracks like she is on rails. She turns easily, also and keeps her momentum. In crosswinds, she is easy to keep tracking straight, providing the skeg is in the water as mentioned above, otherwise she is a nightmare (ask me how I found out LOL).

On my third outing, my wife and I both rowed her out and about 1/2 mile from the launch ramp,one of my wife's oarlocks sheared at the shaft (metalurgical defect). We were both rowing at a good clip, the sound of the sudden bronze lock snapping, followed by her oar hitting the hull and the expletives that came out startled me. Her oar blade lifted my port oarlock that (was not secured) and flew in the water. More expletives and I pulled the starboard oralock that also flew into the water. All this to say, I ended up standing in the boat, amidship and using one oar to propel us back to the ramp, alternating stroke sides, SUP style. It was nearly effortless getting back, that way. I have since changed the oarlocks (CLC was quick to send a set to replace the defective originals; Thank you, John Harris!). My oarlocks are now secured instead of free standing. I like the open oarlocks better than the closed ones. It also allows me to rest the blade in the second set of oarlocks, when I am by myslef and want to stop and smell the roses, or fish without having oars clutter the inside.

Her lines are sweet, in my opinion and she definitely turns heads and keeps you busy at the ramp with people asking questions.

Having said all this, I am not a "professional" rower. I like it, but I prefer sailing (I bought the CY for her lines, then realized I prefereed sailing or motoring). I have a Skerry, too. The Skerry rows easily and I actually find it more enjoyable to row (does not perform as well as the CY while rowing, but more room and more comfortable than the little wooden seats of the CY. Since I am not about racing, I would put a thwart in the CY, rather than the tiny movable seats. Floorboards are removable with a toggle on the frames. I find that to be  a pain: there is always water, sand or something getting through the seat cleat holes in the floorboards, so I always end-up having to remove them to clean so water does not pool or dirt that damages the finish. on the one before last coat of varnish, I sprinkled some silica to make it antiskid. I would do that, again as it works great and washes easily. It also looks good (in my opinion), as it contrasts without clashing with the shiny bright finish.

For the row seat, the floorboards have to be fixed, beyond the toggle, so blocks with screws and washers must be added, which (see above) makes removing the floorboards more of a pain, especially given that I use some marine sealeant on the screws and that needs to be re-applied. Bottom line, I enjoyed the row wing for one season and now, it is sitting in my workshop. 

I would buy, build and row the CY, again if I were to pick a CLC boat. The build was not difficult, but took some care. As always with these boats, the level of finish dictates the amount of time and care during the built. I spray painted the outer hull in Hatteras white and varnished the inetrior and rails. I also varnished the top plank on either side of the exterior hull. Name in Gold Leaf on the transom. I did not put any tow ring, or similar in the hull or on the breasthook, which makes securing on the trailer a bit more of a pain, but keep the lines clean. I found that a strap over the row locks, amidship keeps it on the Trailex trailer at any speed, so far. I travel with a CLC custom cover with bungees and that helps, also in transport.

RE: Chester Yawl

   Hey Guys! Thanks so much for the wealth of information you brought me! Nothing like talking to a previous builder to the the inside dope. I'm looking at double knew replacement but when that's over, CY is definitely on the docket. We've moved since building the Peeler; I now have an oversized 2 car garage I've turned into a workshop so it'll be sweet not having to work outside under a canopy in the Florida heat. Once I get going, I'll probably check back with you both with questions. Be Blessed, art smith

RE: Chester Yawl

Really interesting to read the above post from someone with both Chester Yawl and Skerry experience.  In particular this:

"The Skerry rows easily and I actually find it more enjoyable to row (does not perform as well as the CY while rowing, but more room and more comfortable than the little wooden seats of the CY. Since I am not about racing, I would put a thwart in the CY, rather than the tiny movable seats"

Wonder just how much the performance feel difference is between the two boats?

I love the looks and lines of the CY, and this has attracted me to it.  But I now find myself wondering if the skerry would be more practical and stable? The mission is leisure/fitness rowing, maybe an hour or so rowing, stop somewhere sheltered and lounge about in the boat having a snack and a break, before rowing back. By no means an athlete, its about the fun of the row not how long it takes, but would like to be able to comfortably make 3, 3.5 knots for an extended period.

Want the boat to be easily handled and launched solo, but capable enough not to embarass myself if I got caught in a bit of a breeze and chop or a wake.  Looks like the CY is slighly heavier, less beam, and maybe a bit more difficult to build.  But it does look lovely...

Decisions, decisions... 





RE: Chester Yawl

As for lounging about, I imagine it would be hard to beat the thwartless interior of the Chester Yawl.  In fact, it practically begs to be tented in for overnighting (the ultimate lounging about!), which opens up all kinds of possibilities for cruising under oars in places where camping ashore is either impractical or not permitted.  Well, at least it's been begging me since I first became aware of the boat.

One of my favorite daydreams is cruising about the 30,000 Islands of Georgian Bay amongst all that lovely granite and pine trees in a Chester Yawl.  In my own experience, that area can be a real challenge to negotiate under sail.  The place is like rock soup.  A handy pulling boat like that would let you poke about the nooks and crannies and hide out in places where they'd need helicopters to find you and drag you back to work.

Freed from any mission profile which involves carrying sail, a good pulling boat like the Chester Yawl can be better tailored to get the most efficiency out of the fraction of a horsepower available.  While I've not rowed a Chester Yawl, I've had a couple of chances to row similar pure rowing boats.  Couldn't stop smiling, somehow.

Mind you, consider the source here.  I like to row, and for a couple of decades I was my own auxiliary power for my Sea Pearl 21, which I'd often row considerable distances when that seemed like a better way to cover ground verses sailing.  Among my fellow Sea Pearlers, I was thought to be something of a crackpot for not carrying a motor, though it was obvious that hanging motors on the girls was an afterthought which never was going to work really well and which was never part of the design brief for the boats from which they were derived, L. Francis Herreshoff's Carpenter

To me, there is something very appealing about the simplicity, efficiency, and elegance of the Chester Yawl design.  One of these years, I might stop daydreaming and build one.  <;-)


RE: Chester Yawl

 My Chester Yawl build stretched out over a couple of years. A major reason for that was related to family events. It was a learning experience, mainly in terms of epoxy use and interpreting the kit instructions. It became easier when a neighbor assisted. Figuring out a system to get the wired planks to call into place, As well as pulling the bow together were challenges. Part of the beauty of the CY is its complex curves, you that is also part of the challenge.

I am quite pleased with the boat and proud of the work. The lines are nice, it does well, and is pretty stable. It never fails to draw a compliment, though I know it would not win any contests if inspected from 9 feet. 

My 6', 240 lb frame does pretty well in this boat. I can launch from a beach or dock. Getting out of the boat is fine at the dock, less graceful at the beach.  I now carry a spare paddle, in part to use as a stabilizer should I have to get out at a beach. The stool is small, but surprisingly comfortable, I can row for 90 minutes without discomfort. 

The boat rows quite well. It can handle some slop or chop. I usually row on an open bay of a large lake. Yes, I do consult the wind forecast to plan the timing and direction of my row, the boat does have some freeboard (windage). Early on I found myself rowing home against an 8-10 knt breeze, it took some thoughtful rowing but all went well.


RE: Chester Yawl

   Hey Dave! Thanks for your great message; it really blessed me. I'm north of 200lbs and 6'4" so hearing how a non-smurf dude did in the yawl really encouraged me. Reading that it will handle some moderate weather was also good to hear. I purchased a 10' John boat when I was young and lived on Cape Cod. I spent many hours practicing rowing, feathering the oars with each stroke, getting into a graceful rhythm. When I hit my mark, the clunky little John boat would just effortlessly glide across the water. I know that's why I'm so attracted to the Chester Yawl-it just has so much grace built into it; can't wait to engage the building process and come launch day, see that grace set free. Thanks so much. art smith

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