Jun 4 2009

First Float a Success!

Expectations were exceeded on the first float and test run of the Pro 7. From computer screen, to CNC cutter, to the fab shop floor, and now on the water, the Pro 7’s first bath went off without a hitch.

Duckworth Pro 7 ETEC

Duckworth Pro 7 ETEC

The dock looked like the front row of an NBA finals games with seconds to go. The crew stood anxiously as water hit the hull for the first time. A big sigh of relief when the motor fired up on the first crank. A second big sigh once the Pro 7 left the support of the trailer and floated level with just one person in the back.

Level floatation, buoyancy and balance were the primary tests for the first run. The 42-gallon, in-floor fuel take had 20 gallons of fuel or about 160 pounds. The tank was not permanently secured so that it could be moved forward or aft to achieve the desired weight distribution.

The Pro 7 was run with a single driver, then two passengers and then three passengers. Weight was shifted from port to starboard at rest and on plane. Even with all three people on one side, the wide 7-foot bottom performed exactly as designed, leaning very little.

Duckworth Pro 7 on plane with bow load

Duckworth Pro 7 on plane with bow load

To simulate different loads, two battery boxes full of lead we’re placed far forward, on one side and completely aft. Regardless of where the weight was positioned, the Pro 7 came out of the hole with ease. In fact, the difference in bow rise with the added weight all the way forward and all the aft was negligible. We were all pleasantly surprised that a boat of this size with a 150 E-Tec outboard mated to a jetdrive would come on to plane in about a boat length and a half.  Equally surprising was how well it accelerated and easily it ran with what would generally be considered “moderate horsepower” for a ride of this size. The lack of bow rise means this boat will be able to tempt shallow tailouts and beat feet without hitting bottom. Can’t wait until our river trial.

The boat was put through a series of turns at various speeds to measure tracking and handling. The addition of six proprietary solid extruded cupped planning strakes gave the “ride on rails” performance we expected. Not even the slightest sliding or skip was detected even in the sharpest high speed turns. I wasn’t too sure what to expect with this new straking system Duckworth’s developed but now I’m honestly impressed with what is no doubt a real innovation in welded aluminum boating.

With all the measurements in hand, the Pro 7 returned to shop for a few final tweaks and securing of the fuel tank at midship. On the next test run we go looking for swifter current and shallow water to see how the Pro 7 handles in her native environment.


Mar 25 2009

Duckworth Has Done It All Before. Can They Do It Again?

If you’ve been a hard-core angler for more than 30 years this will come as no surprise. If you’re not, it likely will be.

Duckworth has manufactured open-style boats since the late 1960’s. No doubt many of them are still on the water today bonking their fair share of fish. The heydays of the open boat excitement began in the mid 80’s when the Pro-Steelheader models first emerged.

The Pro-Steelheader was custom built for the largest independent dealer of the times, Nixon’s Marine. In fact, most of the earliest models did not even have the signature Duckworth logo on the side. The model was offered in an open tiller style, center console and windshield versions. The quality was exceptional and years ahead of competitors. Unique angling features, designed by several prominent guides of the times, drove sales in a one-way direction—up and up. For many years, demand outpaced production and scores of orders awaited their place in the assembly line.
This version of the Pro-Steelheader built by Duckworth was the original namesake. The name was trademarked at the time but has since expired and is now being used by several other manufactures. (Unfortunate, but true.)
In the 1990’s, production capabilities at Duckworth grew and another equally capable open boat was designed, first and foremost to suit the demands of Alaska’s most prominent fishery on the Kenai River. Aptly named the Kenai model, it was offered in lengths of 16, 17 and 18 feet with a 66” bottom and 26” sides.
dw-1997-18-kenai-wolfe

dw-1991-16-kenai-honl

During the mid 1990’s, you would have been awestruck by the number of boats competing for the world’s largest salmon. Amongst the rowboats, jon boats, bathtubs and flat bottom sleds, undoubtedly you would have seen dozens of Duckworth Kenai models. The same would also be true on most popular rivers in the west coast.
The Kenai model was created to run the Kenai River which had horsepower limitations for the outboard motors of 35hp. All tolled, Duckworth built approximately 250 open boats. The last open Kenai was produced in 1999 and the last windshield Kenai rolled off the line in 2000.

Duckworth Kenai Tiller Duckworth Kenai Center console

During the same period, Duckworth also built a Pro I, Pro II and Pro III series of boats – the Pro I was the open version, the Pro II was center console, and Pro III was a windshield version. These models were available in 17, 18, and 19 feet versions. A handful were custom designed for professional guides and carried the “Silverwing Guide” moniker. The Pro series was later renamed the Discovery Series. In 2001 the Discovery Series was replaced by the very successful Advantage series of boats that continues on today, but in windshield versions only.