Terrapin Skiff DragonFly™
Captain Dave Sutton of On The Flats Charters is known for two things: his signature Palmas Puro Cigars and landing big fish. Now from under his wide-brimmed hat he has added another line in his bio: skiff builder.
Captain Sutton, a finishing woodworker by trade, started building handmade strip canoes over twenty years ago. Using that experience he undertook a four-year long journey to design a skiff that met his demanding requirements where others came up short. He wanted a skiff for running the tight twisty creeks of Hell’s, Lane and Pearl Bays and taking on the chop of Biscayne Bay while keeping his customers dry and comfortable. It also needed to be affordable, user friendly and, just for good measure, pole and float in 4” of water.
The four-year journey has collimated in Terrapin Skiff’s DragonFly™. Captain Sutton describes his boat as a hybrid skiff. With a length over all of 18’5”, beam at the waterline of 50”, forward casting deck dimensions 89” and a maximum rated 30HP it certainly has all the dimensional specifications to be a microskiff. However, with features like a one-piece liner that includes fore and aft hatch interiors and cockpit. Locking forward and rear hatches with deep drains and watertight seals the Dragon Fly has the makings of a full size flats skiff.
The day started early with Captain Sutton and Ashley from Don’s Bait and Tackle arriving with two skiffs for the days review. Captain Sutton’s ride sported a side console, Wang Anchor, 30 hp four stroke Honda and a Carbon Marine front casting and the first ever rear poling platform made completely out of Carbon Fiber. The poling platform is amazingly solid and had a surprising amount of lateral rigidity.
Ashley’s DragonFly™ was rigged with the same 30hp Honda but in a tiller version and a trick crustacean well at the forward bulk head and a Wang Anchor. Both skiffs have a huge 7’5” cockpit with fore and aft rod storage. Balance is essential to small skiffs so in an effort to properly balance the DragonFly™ an 8-gallon fuel cell is built into the nose of the skiff.
I was welcomed onboard Captain Sutton’s skiff first thing in the morning. We ran a short distance from the ramp allowing me a quick opportunity to take advantage of the morning light for pictures then we set up our poling. Captain Sutton, stogie in mouth, put me on a beautiful hard charging 20lb Biscayne Bay Permit right off the bat. He knows his fish and “sticks,” but what about skiffs?
The DragonFly comes in two basic models. The entry model starting at just under $17,000 is a simple solid built skiff that is meant to get the angler to the skinniest of waters. This skiff is the no frills model that comes with a solid set of standard features. The second model is a side console model just under $22,500 with tons of custom options to make the skiff your personal poling platform.
Both models performed extremely well under a myriad of conditions the Bay threw at us. However the two benchmarks that were most on my mind were testing the claims of draft and handling.
Draft is the Holy Grail for any poling skiff. Manufactures throw so many numbers at the purchasing public that draft claims are about as accurate as the MPG sticker of hybrid vehicles. I put the claim of 4” to the test. With my law stick in hand I pole the side console model up onto the shoreline until the skiff just kissed the sand. I could have pushed harder to fudge the number, but I also wanted to be able to push the skiff back off the sand then spin it 180 to see if the bow or stern would draw equally or not. With a combined weight of over 700 lbs anglers, motor, tackle, portable crustacean well and the all-important stogies I dipped the law stick in the water. The magic number for the day: 4.75 HONEST MEASURED inches. I was impressed, but not satisfied. I spun the skiff 180 and put the stern right where the bow was, she was still floating. It is refreshing to see the draft numbers matched so closely with two… well, let’s say above-average anglers.
Handling and performance was the next order of the day. First I made speed runs with and against the wind and averaged the differences. Captain Sutton’s Honda was sporting a prop with more pitch and won the speed battle by less than 3mph. With one person both skiffs ran WOT both skiffs ran just at or slightly over 30mph. I would like to see the skiff rated for a 40hp and redo the performance numbers.
To tackle the twists and turns of some of the creeks that Captain Sutton likes to run, the hull was massaged over it’s development process. I took each skiff through a battery of wide sweeping high-speed turns down to radical full throttle 180’s and 360’s. I enjoyed doing this test in with the tiller model more than the console as I could ‘surf’ the turns and shift my body weight and center of gravity to ride the skiff right down to the rub rail. I would not suggest everyone go out and jump on a boat to try this. It did give me a great feel for the hull under my feet. The skiffs will turn very predictably with little or no slide once they are leaned into or out of a turn. Proper use of throttle and motor trim will make the skiff do what you want when you want it.
The final check out in my books for the skiff was chop. The Bay was all too kind to offer up a little taste of her fury. I feel the single best testament to the skiff’s ability to handle chop is the fact that Captain Sutton uses the skiff in his own back yard with his clients. Biscayne Bay can be very unpredictable. What starts out as glass in the morning can transform into a raging bull by afternoon.
The skiff is built solid and weighs in a bit more that some of its competition. This solid build thought has the added advantage of helping the skiff to cut through rough conditions without completely dislodging the passengers’ fillings. Like with any small skiff you have to watch your conditions and be prepared to execute “Plan B”. But the DragonFly was comfortable and dry for a small lightweight skiff even in a quartering chop.
I feel the only thing missing from the package is an intergraded coffin box. You can get a Fringed Ridged Cooler with a custom-built grab rail, which is sweet, but a coffin box offers up more storage and the ability to center the wiring and battery weight. Like with any narrow beam skiff, storage is always at a premium.
The DragonFly is a complete package priced for a complete angler. You can have it as simple or tricked out as you want. Don’t let this Dragon Fly away.
Terrapin Skiff Boat Company Inc.
617 W. 46th Street
Miami Beach, Florida 33140
SPECIFICATIONS AS SUPPLIED BY MANUFACTURER
Waterline Beam 50”
Overall Beam 59.5”
Bow Rise 20”
FWD Casting Deck Dimensions 89”
Cockpit Dimensions 89.5” FWD to AFT
Overall Finished boat weight 605 lbs. Ready to fish. Weighed w/full
fuel tank, Yamaha 25 Two Stroke, Poling Platform and Hatches.
Fuel Capacity 7 US Gallons
Draft is an honest 4” with two average 190 lb.
Construction Materials are High Quality Polyester Resins and Air-
Cell Polyester Foam Coring.
A one-piece liner that includes FWD and AFT hatch interiors and
the cockpit. Liner is then fully Core-Bonded to hull making a one-piece
hull/liner combination for superior strength.
Standard Features for DragonFly™ Package @ $16,995.00
DragonFly Skiff at 18’5” w/Yamaha 15HP Two-Stroke and Custom Galvanized Trailer.
-100% Hand Laid & Foam Cored Hull, Deck, Liner and Hatches.
- High Quality Resins and Gelcoats. Package boat is white.
- Coast Guard Approved 128% Flotation.
- Liner is One Piece, Consisting of Cockpit, fore and Aft Storage areas.
- All Interior Storage Areas and Hatch Lid Finishes in Gelcoat from the Mold.
- All interior Hatch Floors Have a Non-Skid Finish.
- Stainless Steel Hardware Throughout.
- Hatch Lids Installed with FULL LENGTH Stainless Steel Piano Hinges.
- Reinforced Backing Installed on Every Facet of Attachment.
- One Piece Heavy Duty Seamless Rubrail.
- 7 Gallon Aluminum Fuel Cell Fully Foamed and Fiberglassed in is Standard.
- Fully Flush Mounted Stainless Steel Hatch Latches.
- Ultra Quiet and Dry Hatch Seals Provide a Full Water Tight Seal.
- Massive Gutter System under Hatch Lids to Allow Proper Drainage Overboard.
- 84” X 59” Bow Area for your Casting Comfort.
- Cockpit is 7’5” from Forward to Aft Bulkheads for Easy Rod Storage.
- 4 Rod Tubes Running Forward To Accommodate 9’6” Fly Rods.
- Custom Poling Platform w/ Aft Rail for safety.
- Custom Galvanized 4 Bunk Trailer w/ Tongue Jack, Carpeted Side Guides, 13” Galvanized Wheels & Bearing Protectors.
- Massive Integrated Spray Rails Built into Hull Mold.
- Pop-up Fuel Cap with Integrated Drainage System.
- Custom Aluminum Transom Cover to Protect your Gelcoat When Removing and Installing your Motor During Entry into No-Motor-Zone Areas.
- Easy Clean Non-Skid Surfaces on Top Deck, Cockpit Sole and in Storage Areas.
- Low Profile Design Allows You to Fish Windy Days Without Interference.
- Absolute Silence When Poling in ANY Direction during Windy Conditions.
- Unparalleled Cornering Ability for Running Creeks and Rivers.
- Stiffy Push Pole Holders with Bungee.
- Three Piece Mold System Core Bonded Together To Make A One Piece Boat.
MSRP: Starting at $16,995.00 - DragonFly Skiff at 18’5” w/Yamaha 15HP Two-Stroke and Custom Galvanized Trailer.
DragonFly™ Side Console Version Starting at $23,495.00 - Side Console model consists of a colored hull and deck, Aluminum Poling Tower,
Remote Honda 30HP Four Stroke Motor and a Custom Continental Trailer.
Prices As Tested $24,200.00 - Side Console
Prices As Tested $19,300.00 - Tiller W/ upgraded 30HP Honda and Power Coating on all aluminum.