It was a bluebird day, yet Marco Costiglio was determined to hunt ducks. A friend invited him to hunt an area where he had seen a few green-winged teal. It was Nov. 28, 2019 and he was anxious to test his sneak boat. While launching a converted sailboat directly into the Atlantic would seem a fool’s mission, accompanied by his pal in a kayak, he sliced safely along the shoreline and ducked into an inlet. The inlet gave way to a small creek with trees closing in so tightly he saw a deer.
“We set some decoys and teal started ripping in,” Costiglio said. “The water was only 18 inches deep, so no one else was around.”
When the shooting was over, they had bagged three teal. It was a great maiden voyage of the “Water Sword.”
Costiglio lives in Freeport, New York, on Long Island. He hunts Merrick Bay, Hudson Canal and other nearby hotspots. A steam fitter, he is 42 years old and began hunting with a friend whose father is a guide.
“When I was young, I never had to do anything related to a duck hunt myself, but eventually began to learn about hunting ducks on my own,” he said. “I really began taking it seriously when I started hunting three or four times a week rather than three or four times a year. I became immersed in the tradition of hunting from sneak boats like those originating on Great South Bay.”
His main focus is sea ducks, which he hunts in the bays from a 17-foot Boston Whaler and in the Atlantic from a 31-foot BHM tuna boat. He wanted a sneak boat for smaller waters, but it turned out to work great for all types of hunting. Trying it for sea ducks, he took two long-tailed drakes during one of its initial hunts. He sets Tanglefree and Hardcore puddle duck decoys and makes his own diving duck and sea duck decoys from wood and corrugated plastic.
“I found a Mossberg Mallard, made by the Mossberg firearms company in the 1960s, for sale,” he said. “I paid $300 for the boat, two 5-horsepower Evinrude outboards and some decoys. The guy was going to turn it into a duck boat, but lost interest.”
The Mossberg is 13 feet long and 42 inches wide. Using an oscillating saw, he enlarged the cockpit, reshaping the opening roughly parallel to the gunwales and 30 inches wide by 72 inches long. He also cut out the centerboard.
Voids were filled with two-part expandable foam. A 1-inch PVC conduit laid along the centerline allowed installation of wiring for navigation lights, bow mounted spotlights and a phone charger. The switch panel is located on the starboard bow wall of the cockpit and electric power is supplied by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Foam board was used as backing for the cockpit walls, with aluminum foil glued to the foam board to protect it from deterioration by resin. On top of the aluminum, he laid three layers of fiberglass mat. The fiberglass and resin is about ¼-inch thick, with a coarse texture.
Two round inspection ports with watertight covers were installed in the forward and aft decks. He installed a 1/8”x4”x6” aluminum plate to reinforce the transom. Another ¼-inch aluminum plate on the outside of the stern extends 5 inches above the transom. To this is bolted a piece of 2” treated lumber that provides a 9-inch high motor mount. The aluminum plates are bolted together through the transom.
The next step was attaching two teak grab rails bought at a yard sale. Then he painted the boat with Parker duck boat paint. Camo patterns were added with aerosol paints.
The spray dodger consists of fabric from an old boat cover with a hoop of PEX plumbing pipe sewn into a hem. The hem has holes that correspond to eyehooks in the bow deck. An elastic cord in the hem attaches to the eyebolts, making the dodger easy to attach or detach. Two elastic cords tied to the grab rails and the top of the dodger hold it erect and it hinges on two Bimini swivels.
Most of the camo grass is held in place with a truck bed cargo net. He attached the net to the boat with the supplied hooks, cut out the cockpit opening and wove grass into the netting. Grass bundles are also attached along the edge of the dodger with spring clamps.
During a hunt, he sits on a small plastic cooler with a cushion. Shells and other gear are kept dry inside.
While initially the boat was powered with a 55-pound thrust Minnkota trolling motor, it now makes way at 10 knots with an Evinrude with a camouflaged cowl. The fuel supply is a 3-gallon remote tank and it takes less than a gallon to motor four miles to a favorite hunting spot and return.
The entire boat without the engine weighs approximately 100 pounds. For transportation, he simply slides the rig into the bed of a pickup. Most of the time, though, he uses a winch to haul the boat out of the water and onto a floating dock.
“Hunting so low to the water makes it feel a lot more intimate,” he said. “Once I accidentally knocked a bufflehead decoy from beneath the dodger without seeing it. The next thing I knew, three buffleheads were sitting right next to the boat beside the decoy. The whole time I was building the sneak boat, the rap song, “Liquid Swords,” kept running through my head. That seemed the appropriate name for such a sharp little sneak boat.”