Speed Skiffs, like the Garvey, are unique as they are both indigenous to New Jersey. But instead of being of South Jersey origin, the Speed Skiff is from Sea Bright/Long Branch area and evolved from what is known as the Sea Bright Dory.
In 1925, Harold “Pappy” Seaman put a 25 HP Graymarine engine in a Sea Bright Dory and became known as the “Father of the N.J. Speed Skiffs”.
Speed Skiffs were first used as fishing and sport boats. Some early Sea Bright Skiffs were up to 30 feet in length and powered by WWI Liberty Aircraft engines. These were the boats used during Prohibition as Rum Runners.
The American Power Boat Association (APBA) later came to recognize the Skiffs as a racing class. They were known as the “Sports Cars of the Water” because they were used as work and pleasure boats during the week and raced on weekends.
The first Skiffs were of traditional wood lap strake construction using steam-bent oak ribs and riveted together. Engines were set in the center and driven from the rear cockpit. They also had an open cockpit area ahead of the engine compartment. The Skiffs were required to have a transmission with reverse, and were powered by Flathead Ford V-8’s.
Some of the early builders of the Wooden Skiffs were Seaman, Russell, Forsberg and Tilton.
Joe Julian, from the Highlands, built the first fiberglass Skiff somewhere around 1959-60. Only 304 wooden Skiffs remained racing in the early 1960’s due to the difficulty in maintaining the hulls and breakage.
In the late 1960’s, there were approximately 18 fiberglass hulled Skiffs racing at an APBA Regatta. However, many of the Skiff owners preferred to race more locally than the APBA circuit and joined the “Speed Garvey Association” in 1972. These Skiffs were powered by 327c.i. engines. In 1980, a new engine was formed making a 300c.i. and 340c.i. racing class choice for the Skiffs. Also, the Skiffs are no longer required to have transmissions and now run direct drive. The Skiffs do still run wet exhaust systems through their transoms enabling them to be registered by the state as a pleasure boat during the week and still be eligible for racing on weekends.
A 350c.i. class of Skiffs was entered into the club late in the 1989 season, making 3 classes registered. Bud Bender, formerly of Beach Haven West, was the manufacturer of several Skiffs in the club and had remained a member. He was later awarded a lifetime membership into the club from all our members.
And now with the current class designations of 315c.i. and 375c.i., the Speed Skiff has undergone another transition. Both classes must be above the minimum length of 16’ and weight of 1600 pounds. Despite the minor changes over the years, Skiffs have maintained their traditional lap strake construction and their unique ability to turn completely on their sides. It is probably this unique feature that makes the Skiff not only exciting to ride in, but also fun to watch.