By Mike Marsh
Kenu "Ken" Turk’s 14-foot boat was absolutely loaded to the max with decoys and four hunters. After dropping off Gator Hibrant and his son, Noah, Ken and his son, Kenu II, set up nearby.
“We were hunting T.M. Goodwin WMA near Melbourne in Florida’s Central Coast area,” Turk said. “Four people can hunt on a permit there and Gator had drawn the permit. We set up and put out our decoys. In 15 minutes, we were limited out. We shot ringers, blue-winged teal and black-bellied whistling ducks. It wasn’t an unusual day for the first week of January. It was fairly clear and wasn’t windy, with temperatures in the mid-30s to low 40s. The ducks wanted to be in that spot and the boat hid us so well, they never saw us until they were cupping their wings over decoys.”
Turk, age 50, lives in Olustee Florida. He operates a flooring company, The Floor King, and an exotic bird rescue business, Bird World. He loads his Remington Versa Max with Winchester No. 2 steel shot and hunts over Game Winner and Avian-X coot and diver decoys. The boat carries up to 120 decoys with the bags that won’t fit inside the hull Bungeed to tiedown eyelets on the exterior hull. He hunts coastal areas of northeastern and central Florida and a few lakes.
While he had built several boats and sold a couple, Turk wanted to get away from fiberglass-over-wood construction. The fiberglass leaked and the wood rotted.
“The problem was that wood and fiberglass separate from abrasion,” he said. “When I built the new boat, I did not want that problem. I did not base it on any particular design, but looked at other hunters’ sneak boats. I changed each boat as I built them.”
The 300-pound boat is 14 feet long and 40 inches wide across the bottom. The positive-displacement hull’s gunwales flare to 50 inches at the outer edges, which is the approximate water line of the heavily loaded boat at a draft of 5 inches. The outward flare keeps the boat from casting shadows during a layout hunt. The top of the 2-inch high cockpit coaming is 18 inches above the floor. The two floatation pods on the transom are 12 inches long, 12 inches thick and 15 inches wide. The engine mounting holes are sealed with Marine 5200.
At four seasons old, the boat has been powered by four different surface drive engines. Due to the flotation pods limiting steering, Turk found it easiest to steer with a 22 hp Beaver Dam Thai Long-tail kit engine, but it has a 22-hp short-tail Mud Walker Surface drive engine in these photos. The boat cost $1,000 to build.
First, Turk built an interior mold or “plug” from Luan and 1/4” plywood. The plug was covered waxed paper and sprayed with Pam cooking oil as a release agent. It took a week to build the plug.
The plug was cut into top and bottom halves along the flared outer edge. Each half was placed on a plywood table built for the purpose and covered with high-strength, puncture resistant biaxial fiberglass cloth. Four fabric layers were applied to the bottom and other areas requiring reinforcement.
The mating edges of the seam were trimmed and sanded with an angle grinder before joining. The interior of the seam was filled with three increasingly wide layers of chopped strand mat. A layer of 6-ounce fiberglass fabric finished the top of the gunwale joint as well as the entire boat hull to create a smooth surface so little final sanding was required. Ratchet straps held the upper and lower halves together while the joint was covered with fiberglass and fabric.
To reinforce the transom, two layers of ½-inch thick Star Board plastic were entirely encapsulated within the fiberglass because the resin does not stick to Star Board. The cockpit coaming void was also filled with two layers of Star Board cut to size. Star Board was also installed beneath the forward top deck. Foam board was installed beneath the coaming and top deck to hold the Star Board in place. The foam board was encapsulated with fiberglass cloth and resin. Fabric and resin were also added inside the coaming void to completely fill it.
Bonding the two layers of Star Board at the transom and the cockpit coaming was Loctite PL Premium Contractor Adhesive and stainless-steel screws. The forward deck, two bow handles and two flotation pod-mounted handles were also backed with Star Board. The forward deck also has an air flotation cell compartment. Two hunters can stand on the edges and not capsize the boat and it floats high and upright when filled with water!
A piece of 2-inch PVC with two 45-degree bends glassed-in along the port gunwale joint serves as the wiring conduit for the driving and navigation lights. Two gunracks are built into the same side. Hunters sit on three-legged seats with backs.
Hand winches lift and lower the bow and stern mushroom anchors. Two, aluminum T-handled poles thrust into the bottom and held in place with Bungee cords hold the boat during shallow water hunts.
Three PVC pipe tubes attached to the cockpit coaming on each side hold the legs of a blind made of green plastic garden fencing. When erect, the fencing and covering drape over the hull. Artificial grass, palm leaves or other materials zip-tied to the fencing complete the camouflage. The boat is also painted in camouflage patterns. Several different blinds with varying camouflage materials assure hunters can hide under all conditions. After a hunt, the blind is simply rolled up, wrapped with Bungee cords and stowed in the bottom of the boat.
“If I could change anything, I would switch the pods to a hunt deck or monopod,” he said. “Then I could run it equally well with a short-tail or long-tail mud motor. In fact, I am going to do that on the new boat I am building. Of course, it’s longer and wider, too!”