The Jersey Speed Skiffs of the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers

October 15, 2018
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Former Rumson resident and maritime historian Ned Lloyd was a featured exhibitor at a recent show at the Long Branch Ice Boat & Yacht Club. The club’s signboard is a cross-section of the flat-bottomed craft known as a Jersey speed skiff, originally developed in the Two River area. Photo by Rick Geffken

By Rick Geffken |

HIGHLANDS – Ned Lloyd spent a lot of time on Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers while growing up in Rumson. That doesn’t make him a whole lot different from thousands of other kids lucky enough to live in and around the Two River peninsula. What distinguishes this current Connecticut resident is that he’s deepened his love for, and encyclopedic knowledge of, the indigenous small crafts of our local waterways, particularly the revered and inimitable Jersey skiff.

Lloyd will be the featured speaker at a meeting of the Navesink Maritime Historical Association (NHMA) scheduled for Wednesday evening, Oct. 17 at Bahrs Landing Restaurant. His discussion and presentation, “The Pound Boats and Beach Fisheries of the Jersey Shore” will start after light refreshments at 7:30 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.

Lloyd recently made the trip from his home in the Nutmeg State back to Monmouth County to participate in the annual Thunder on the Shrewsbury at the Long Branch Ice Boat & Yacht Club just a few weeks ago. “It’s a rendezvous and get-together,” said Lloyd, “for owners, aficionados, and racers of a Jersey speed skiff which is a Jersey-born, 16-foot inboard race boat class with a strong local following.”

These world-renowned Jersey speed skiffs are nothing like the typical fiberglass speedboats running on the Shrewsbury these days, powered by Yamaha or Honda outboards. “Back in the 1960s, they were 50-60 mph wooden-hulled boats, close to the fastest things in the water,” said Lloyd about the local boats he fell in love with as a kid. He noted that an Oceanport resident, Rob Garretano, recently set the American Power Boat Association (APBA) record in Devils Lake, Oregon when his 16-footer hit 85 mph over a quarter-mile run.

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“It’s fairly well established that the first Jersey speed skiff, named PJ, was built by Harold ‘Pappy’ Seaman in the Port-au-Peck section of Oceanport in 1922. She was strictly a pleasure boat. Pappy’s family was building boats as early as the 1840s. “With a name like that you just have to build boats,” said Lloyd. When smaller, more high-powered in-board marine engines became available in the early 1920s, Seaman’s skills easily ported to the development of a new kind of small wooden watercraft.

The story is that J. P. Bowers of Red Bank asked Pappy Seaman to build a little 16-foot boat for his family. “Seaman came up with an unusual deviation, a flat bottom. Previously, Jersey Shore boats had rolled garboard keel bottoms to let them stand upright on the beach, easier to push into the ocean. Those resulting high stern ends also shielded their propellers from damage,” Lloyd said.

At the Long Branch Thunder event, Oceanport’s Charlie Boland consulted with Lloyd on some maintenance and restoration aspects of Charlie’s own Suds, named after a similar sea skiff his father once owned. Jim Janeczko of Belford has also relied on Lloyd’s expertise for years. “I bought back my dad’s old 1965 cigar box (boat) and I’m restoring it now.”

Lloyd displayed his voluminous scrapbooks, notes and other historic maritime pictures during his visit to the Long Branch Ice Boat & Yacht Club Sept. 29. More than a few visitors suggested Lloyd should write a book showcasing his vast knowledge of this intriguing local subject. “If I ever find time,” is his stock answer.

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Lloyd was still in grade school in Rumson when he was first attracted to boats. He remembers going to speed skiff races in Atlantic Highlands as well as to the National Sweepstakes Regatta in Red Bank. Speed skiffs were still racing near Oceanport well into the 1970s and Lloyd’s family would travel by boat to watch the races while they anchored nearby. He smiled as he recalled, “Growing up, if I wasn’t in school, I was either mucking around the saltwater marshes, playing with wooden boats or hanging around boatyards.”

“There were times I’d be at the tip of Sandy Hook at five in the morning but make it back to homeroom in time,” he said. His consistent classroom attendance paid off. Lloyd eventually graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a major in fisheries and marine technologies. From there he spent a short time working in a small shipyard and now designs custom electric wiring and cable for a living. He’s also a frequent contributor to a boat lover’s website, thehulltruth.com.

A pivotal life experience for Lloyd was the 1977 day he got a ramshackle old skiff, long abandoned in Red Bank. It was originally a product of Bill Tallman’s 1930’s-era “Row No More Boats” yard in Fair Haven. Lloyd spent a year and a half restoring Bits ‘N’ Pieces, so called after the driftwood and other jetsam he scavenged. Forty years on, he’s restoring her once again, hoping to have her back in the water next year.

NHMA president Rik van Hemmen said, “Ned Lloyd has one of the best collections of information, memorabilia and pictures of the Jersey Sea Skiff and the local builders.”

To learn more about Ned Lloyd’s local appearances or the NHMA, visit navesinkmaritime.org/events.


This article was first published in the Oct. 11 – Oct. 17, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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