The Lost Coast Chapter of the
Traditional Small Craft Association

Ken Basset's Firefly and
the Piantedosi Row Wing

Firefly is the name given by Ken Basset to his design of an 18' pulling boat. The plans are available from Wooden Boat Magazine. This is the perfect "performance" rowing craft for the builder who wants to build a fast, stable, attractive recreational rowboat. Weighing about 90lbs. with the row frame, it is easy for one person to get on and off of a trailer. It rows well in waters with waves up to one foot, but if one were to deck it over, it could handle open ocean rowing. There is enough capacity to carry gear for several days to a week. more pictures

Here are some pictures of the craft nearly built. 6mm okume marine plywood was used for the panels, with oak and fir gunwales, stacked 3/4" ACX plywood frames and stem, 3/4" ACX plywood transom, and douglas fir chines and keel.

The construction process is similar to a traditional lapstrake boat and the Glouchester Light Dory - upside down on station moulds. The project was completed by this builder in about six weeks. Anyone capable with simple hand tools who can follow plans and, to some degree, instructions can complete this boat. There are excellent resources on the technique, so it will not be dwelt upon here. This builder used lots of clamps and West System epoxy and finished it with penetrating epoxy covered with marine paint.

The plans call for the builder to construct a sliding seat mechanism out of rosewood and outriggers from steel or aluminum tubing. This would be fine for museum display, but for regular use, something more robust is necessary. Enter the Piantedosi Row Wing. Originally designed as a removable rowing frame for a canoe, it has found plenty of use by avid rowers in all sorts of rowing craft. The Firefly is one of them.

It almost seems like the two designers collaborated with each other to make the Row Wing perfectly adapted to the boat. Just four attachment points need to be made, and the Row wing fits into the boat to provide lateral rigidity much like a thwart would, and the attachment of the outrigger to the Firefly's gunnels add bracing to the set-up so that the stays take less stress. This author knows two rowers who use the Piantedosi Row Wing in modified kayaks that do not provide a gunnel attachment, and they are breaking stays or even the stay tower frequently.

The four attachments consist of two attachments on the gunnels and two attachment assemblies in the bottom of the boat. The gunnel attachments are shown here, simply small wedges epoxied onto the gunnels upon which the "captive nut plates" are attached with 2" stainless steel screws.

In the bottom of the boat, small wedges are epoxied on either side of the keel, a 1/4" plywood piece is epoxied on top through which two 1/4" X 20 stanless steel bolts protrude, carefully placed at the distance between the holes on the leveling foot. One each of these assemblies are carefully glued to the bottom where the Row Wing leveling feet are. This builder did the glue-up job with the Row Wing in place.

The Row Wing is assembled according to easy to follow instructions (or, probably, just common sense). When placed in the boat, there a few easy adjustments to be made, and the gunnel clamps are attached to the "captive nut plate" on each gunnel.

Each leveling foot will attach to the bottom assemblies with a minor amount of adjustment, and you are ready to row. It is easy to remove the Row Wing from the boat for long distance transportation or for refinishing. This builder also removes the Row Wing once yearly, and takes it completely appart, cleans the parts, and reassembles it. It looks like new today, and is six years old with probably five thousand miles on her.

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