On January 3, we announced that this spring we’d be introducing a new boat to our model line — The new 17′ Salish Voyager. Our first new addition to the fleet since the 12′ Scamp in 2013, the Salish Voyager is an expedition-worthy rowing/sailing boat that can be configured with tandem rowing seats and includes numerous dry storage compartments for all the food and gear you need for a multi-day adventure.

A first look at the new 17′ Salish Voyager under construction.

In the coming weeks leading up to our official reveal of the completed vessel (hopefully about a month from now), we’ll be sharing a look behind the scenes at what goes into creating a new boat based on traditional working sail designs, yet adapted for the needs of modern adventurers.

Why build the new Salish Voyager? A brief history.

To give some context, let’s give a brief history of how our current model line came to be. When we first started building boats in the mid 1980s, we primarily made yacht tenders – smaller rowing and sailing dinghies used as ship-to-shore vessels. But big yachts aren’t for everyone, and as years went by more and more people wanted slightly bigger standalone rowing and sailing boats. Fun to row and sail, easy to store and maintain, and lightweight enough that they could be driven primarily by wind and human power.

So we’ve been offering adventure-ready boats for years now. Our first was the 17’ Jersey Skiff, which is big enough to carry a decent amount of gear and two to three people, and sturdy enough for exploration. We’ve been all kinds of happy with the performance of the Skiff – it is easily moved with a pair of oars, responsive under sail, shallow draft, good tracking, and just plain fun.

The 17′ Jersey Skiff

From there, we developed the 16′ Melonseed. Based on the Jersey Skiff hull, the Melonseed brings tandem sliding seats to our lineup, and our first balanced lug sail plan. As a rowboat the Melonseed offers increased capacity over the Whitehall – and of course a second seat – and as a sailboat the balanced lug was more convenient and the hull design more “dunk proof” than the sloop-rigged Jersey Skiff. (See how the Melonseed and Jersey Skiff compare here.)

The 16′ Melonseed

Unfortunately the compromises forced by the combination of lower freeboard and sliding seats meant that the Melonseed sailboat has a very limited carrying capacity. It works very well as a daysailer, but isn’t a great choice for longer trips.

Then came the 12′ Scamp microcruiser. It approaches small-boat cruising from a completely different direction. Here is a tiny 12’ boat with enough room for two plus a pile of gear, options for sleeping on board, a fantastic lug rig sail plan, and astounding handling in rough weather. And sailing it is just so dang fun! But the tradeoff is that it lacks good rowing performance—it will get you there, just not in a hurry. And while the pugnacious snub nose is eye-catching, its unconventional look is not for everyone.

The 12′ Scamp Microcruiser
(photo by Debra Colvin for Small Craft Advisor)

We’ve been offering these three boats for several years now and the feedback we’ve been getting from our customers has been consistent. Each of these boats is suited to at least one particular thing that it does very well, but we don’t have one boat that can do everything. We’ve taken the lessons learned from these boats to heart, and incorporated them into the design of the new 17′ Salish Voyager. In this sneak peek walkaround video here from the build in progress, you can spot commonalities with both the Jersey Skiff and the Melonseed.

How do you design a new boat?

Essentially, you start with the hull, and work up. The groundwork for the Salish Voyager was actually laid two years ago, when we reworked the Jersey Skiff hull. We faired in the lapstrakes on the bottom of the boat, leaving the hull smooth. This improved performance slightly, but the big advantage is that the smooth hull is easier to beach, with fewer corners to snag on rocks. It also allows us more leeway when constructing the hull – we can take advantage of different materials to improve strength and lightness which would have been impossible with the old design.

The new Salish Voyager is based on the same hull as the Jersey Skiff, taking advantage of all the proven performance of this hull design. With that new mold to build from, the big push came this fall when we felt that the time was right to put the the pieces together and put our ideas to the test.

We wanted to incorporate the tandem sliding seat of the Melonseed, without giving up the capacity of the Jersey Skiff. Having the ergonomics of the Melonseed with the higher gunwales of the Jersey Skiff meant that the seat height would have to be raised. This also gave us the opportunity to put in a raised floor, allowing for a self-bailing cockpit. The raised floor left us room for a ballast tank, to improve sailing performance when the boat was lightly loaded. And we tweaked the dimensions to make sure there was enough room to unroll a sleeping bag, since camping aboard was high on our customers’ priority list. The boat would be powered by the more sophisticated rig of the Scamp, and we would incorporate a huge volume of dry storage tanks for gear.

A sneak peek behind the scenes

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we take you behind the scenes into the process of developing this new boat and how we got it to this point! Here’s a snippet from the shop this week, where the hull and deck are temporarily sandwiched together while still in the mold as all the final details are set:

Remember, time is running out to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime chance to get an incredible $2,000 pre-order discount on this new Salish Voyager. Once we unveil the completed prototype (likely in about a month), that discount is gone forever!

We’re currently looking at mid-summer delivery, so if you act fast you could have your boat for plenty of summer adventures. Contact Us or create a Custom Quote now to get your name on our list!