from Sailing Magazine issue February 1999

Melonseed Skiff Daysailer


As long as I have brought up the subject of bragging rights, we should take a long look at this little gunning skiff right out of the pages of Howard Chapelle's American Small Sailing Craft called the Melonseed. That's right. It's a gunning skiff. It was originally designed to sneak up on ducks and scare them to death, with the aid of a shotgun. Guns aside, it's little boats like the curvaceous Melonseed that can quickly remind you why you sail. The Melonseed is a bona fide lifestyle statement. It's 250 pounds of pure sailing essence.


In the late '80s, a half-built, half-rotted hull was literally dumped on the doorstep of the Crawford Boat Building shop in Marsfield, Massachusetts. Roger Crawford saw more work involved than was justified, so he covered the hull with a tarp and did his best to forget the little hulk. But he kept hearing "Help me! Help me!" coming from under the tarp. He took another look, a long look this time, and discovered a boat of exquisite proportions. In fact, every lookiloo in the neighborhood had remarked what a beautiful hull it was. One thing led to another: Soon the boat was regenerated, a mold was produced, and to make a long story less long, by 1995 Crawford Boat Building had built more than 100 Melonseeds. Owners of Melonseeds call themselves Melonheads.

This is a sprit-rigged skiff with a boom. I had to check my latest edition of Royce's Sailing Illustrated to identify the correct name for this rig. If you don't have a copy of Royce's, you had better run out and get one. It's a wonderful reference and covers just about anything you can think of concerning sailing boats. The Melonseed is a skiff you can sail or row. The builder increased the sail area by 25 square feet to improve performance. The Melonseed loves a good breeze.


I'll tell you what makes this boat special. It is as shapely a little hooker as you will find anywhere. From its hollow entry to its almost heart-shaped transom, this boat is a symphony of shapes. The sheerline is bold and sprung with confidence. Freeboard is minimal. The sectional shape shows a firm turn to the bilge, ensuring excellent stability and a forgiving nature. The barn-door-styled rudder and centerboard or daggerboard (you have the option) make sailing off the beach a breeze.

Aesthetically this boat is pure tradition. It just doesn't look like any new boats. It really doesn't look like any old boats either. We don't even know who the original designer was. I suppose he was a builder back in the late 1800s who carved a half model, sawed it into sections, then lofted the boat. That's the way they did it. The builder's eye was king.


You need to go for a sail. Now. You load your dog into your Melonseed, tuck your flask into your pocket and off you go. It takes a minute and a half to get under way, and you've left every care on the dock. You schoon around the bay looking so good. Hah, there's the new Swan 80 anchored by the cove.


You sail down the side of the big Swan, definitely closer than the crew of the Swan would appreciate. A paid hand is sitting on the foredeck trying to get a spit shine on a pair of alligator-skin topsiders. As you approach the stern you see the owner of the Swan. He's muttering something about "distinctly ordering Mount Gay rum." You smile and wave, sliding silently by in your gunning skiff.


Now who's got bragging rights?


Crawford Boat Building, P.O. Box 486, Humarock, MA 02047. (781) 837-3666, Web site


Shapely daysailer that relishes a stiff breeze.


LOA 13'8"; Beam 4'3"; Draft 2'6" (board down), 18" (board 1/2 down); Displacement 235 lbs.; Sail Area 62 sq. ft.