Chip Hanauer on the Flipside of Boating

It’s safe to say that Chip Hanauer is one of THE names in unlimited hydroplane racing, which my father called the most dangerous sport on Earth. Bear in mind my dad once owned a Bumblebee Bass boat capable of 110 mph, so what would he know? Chip is an inductee of the International Motorsports Racing Hall of Fame, he has won the APBA Gold Cup 11 times, and he drove the Miss Budweiser in the 1990’s, for goodness sake! In fact, his accolades as a boat pilot are too many to mention. Why would a man who spent his career at the ragged edge of boat performance choose a Devlin Candlefish 16 as a recreational boat?

One could imagine that a man who spent his life on the water, testing the boundaries, would eventually decide that the water itself was enough of an answer, and when it comes to a purist vision of getting out on the waters of the Puget Sound, the Candlefish 16 ‘Stanley’ is a good answer.

I’ve got about 15 hours on Stanley and I absolutely love it!

The Candlefish 16 can carry a heavy load in comfort and stability. In the case of Chip’s boat, she is a simple tiller driven skiff design that carries Chip, his friends, and everyone’s gear in relative performance and safety, all of which is built into a design which takes in to account the safety off all, including the gear. Sam Devlin doesn’t design a boat without considering all the use cases of the design. In the Candlefish 16, as well as most of the rest of Sam’s design catalog, it safe to think of the boat as a platform that can be built in a number of ways, with a vast number of final details. Here’s an example from Chip:

We ran into another Candlefish 16 on Lake Washington. It was a kids sailing school on the east side and it was used as the, committee, safety boat. The young guy waved us over and excitedly asked, “Is that a Devlin Candlefish?” He said he loved theirs as well, but that was envious of our 60 HP engine. Theirs had a center steering station. I’m glad I have just the tiller, as I’m really enjoying the spaciousness and openness of the boat. It makes it very flexible as far as where to put things and where people like to hang out.

One of those details on Stanley is the vertical bar, perfectly positioned for Chip to operate the motor while standing. Here’s what he has to say about it:

The, “stripper bars” are so useful! They are positioned perfectly for stepping up into the boat from the fender step on the trailer. Great for stepping down, into the boat from the dock. Both of us just found ourselves with a hand on it all the time at the tiller. It’s super sweet when you are standing up while operating the boat. I only got about three hours on it today, but I’m telling you, I’m already very much in love with it.

Apparently Chip didn’t completely abandon performance when he stepped down from turbine powered racing boats.

As far as speed goes, faster is right! I’d guess over 40! A friend has a gps app. that should let us know for sure. I can’t leave the throttle open until I get the motor more broken in. But bottom line it’s fast! You were certainly right about going with the 60HP, engine as opposed to something smaller. I had two people in the boat, totaling about 325lbs total and having the horsepower was really nice.

Chip’s own video of his break-in hours on ‘Stanley’ gives a sense of what he is saying.

A lot of thought, discussion, and consideration go into every Devlin-built boat. The result is an elegant balance in a rugged, lifelong boat. You can fish from it, you can hunt from it, and you can simply escape to your yacht or a weekend getaway in a package that melds classic, proven design with the need to ‘just get out there’. A Candlefish 16 will just handle the work you need to do, without fuss, in a smooth-riding platform that allows you to go where you want to go, do what you want to do, and come up smiling at the end of the trip. For a boat company, a smiling Chip Hanauer is a great reward.

But then, Chip says it best.

Sam, in a word, ‘Stanley’ is perfect!” I know there is no boat which is actually perfect, but for my intended use, ‘Stanley’ couldn’t be better! It rides solid and smooth. Both of us could stand at the rail on one side and the boat barely heeled over at all. That’s great for crabbing out of a small boat. It quiet and has a solid sound and feel to it. I couldn’t open the engine up beyond half way, as it’s still in break in mode. But half throttle was plenty and perfect for fast cruising.

Chip’s site is currently down for maintenance, but his Facebook feed is chock full of goodies.

You can find more Chip Hanauer videos on the Youtube Channel.

You can read more about the Candlefish 16 on this page, which links to plans, kits, and Sam’s notes on the design.


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Candlefish 16

The Candlefish 16 is a burdensome fishing skiff. Deep and seaworthy, it is wonderfully suited to life in our changeable weather and strong tides. Deep enough to keep her occupants dry and light enough to launch off the beach, she’s perfect with 10 to 30 hp.

Lockable storage and enclosed flotation augment the factor of safety and add a great deal of rigidity to her 16-foot length. She’s the boating version of a pickup truck. Strong, rugged, and versatile.

Easy to build to a workboat fit and finish, or take as much time as you want to showcase your craftsmanship. The choice is yours, but either way she makes a wonderful utility skiff.


For the detailed thinking behind the Candlefish 16, read Sam’s design notes.

The Candlefish 16 is available as plans or a CNC cut kit.


Candlefish 16 Specifications

Length 15 ft. – 10 7/16 in.
Beam 5 ft. – 9 13/16 in.
Draft 6 in.
Displacement 714 lbs.
Dry Weight 325 lbs.
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Candlefish 16 Design Notes

I am guessing that most designers spend a great deal of time musing about the use of these little boats that we design, and as we mature and our lives change, there seems to be a never-ending string of little boats to dream after, create (first on paper), and then, if we are lucky enough, to build and have the enjoyment of using them in real life and see how our ideas worked.  But they always start out as a simple daydream, done most effectively during some armchair time spent with a beverage and perhaps an aromatic pipe or cigar adding a bit of spice to the scene. The little Candlefish 16 was the by-product of one of those daydreams, the seed no doubt planted on some cold, winter day with a vision of some beach cruising in some warm place, perhaps Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, with the sky an azure blue, the water crystalline clear and clean, and a warm beach waiting to be explored – remote, uninhabited and with treasures galore to be discovered.

Enter the Candlefish 16, an almost perfect size for such explorations with a good, light dry weight, easy to launch by hand off the beach and with performance enough to satisfy the tyro in me.  This is really just a pointed bow open skiff with an outboard on the stern but with some very interesting twists to it.  For power, I picked an outboard motor, tiller steered from 10 to 30 hp., depending on how fast one wants to run and how much load is expected to be carried.  The parallel to the Candlefish 16 in the automotive world is a Toyota Tacoma Pickup and this is really just a marine version of a small truck of a boat with the capability of carrying a good load, some lockable stowage, foam flotation in the ends and deep enough to be seaworthy in just about any sea condition.

Let’s start on this inspection of the boat with a profile (sideways for you landlubbers) look at her – a strong sheered multi-chined hull that looks just about right to my eye.  She is plenty deep, in fact, perhaps just a little bit too deep but that will pay dividends the first time I linger a bit too long beachcombing when the afternoon trades kick in.  That’s the time when I will be happy to have the extra freeboard and it should help greatly to get me off the beach and to keep me dry and safe in all sorts of sea-conditions.  Looking from the plan view (that is the overhead, or top view) at the boat, adjacent to the stern there are two longitudinal seats on each side of the rear of the boat.   I always intended to tiller steer the Candlefish and so with those seats, I can steer left handed or right depending on my daily preference.  There is plenty of leg room in front of the seats for those stiff arthritic knees of mine and forward of the seats is an interesting mid-deck area, a sort of cargo hold.  This is lockable and holds a lot of gear, including a battery box if the electric start outboard I was drooling over was sprung for.  The mid-deck keeps passengers forward and out of my way and is a handy height for re-baiting crab or shrimp traps or to remove our catch if successful. Passengers can sit on the forward edge of the mid-deck and if they have bad backs, I can reach into the cargo hatch and pull out simple, but very efficient, folding padded seats for them to lean back on.  They will have their own leg space forward and a small forward deck (bulwarked by the hull sides and bulkhead #1) to allow the anchor to be chocked down on top of and with the rode stowed in the stowage and flotation space below.  This forward work deck really functions well with my dog occasionally perched on the bowdeck in figurehead position, ears all a-flappin in the wind.

The Candlefish’s hull is planked up from good 5ply,  9mm mahogany marine plywood.   She is built Stitch and Glue style over 4 full bulkheads and is strong and stiff.   With a hull sheathing of Dynel cloth set in epoxy and with her purpleheart keel and bilge keels, she keeps her hull off the bottom when beaching and is strong and easy to maintain.  For my own boat, I am going to shoot a tinted colored truck bed liner on the inside of her in a soft grey and paint the outside topsides of the hull a creamy white with green bottom paint on her to set off her nice lines.  On the gunwales, I will screw on Dacron Gunwale guard all around the perimeter to help keep me off all the lovely boats at anchor that I might visit and it saves carrying around a boatload of fenders to fend me off docks and pilings.

If you are so inclined, with about $1,500 dollars in materials and 200 hours labor, you can dream up your own adventures.  The shop must be warmed up by now with a charge of the scrap wood of yesterday’s efforts already burned down low in the stove and I am off to whittle away on her…

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