Renn Tolman - R.I.P.

Renn Tolman Piloting Fithian Jumbo

It's been over 14 years since I discovered Renn Tolman and his wonderful design the Tolman Skiff. Renn has offered to the public the design and building instructions for his Tolman Standard, Widebody, Jumbo and the Tolman Seabright. His last design for the Tolman Trawler was off getting line drawings made as of a few days ago.

In this 14 years I've exchanged many emails with Renn, and watched as hundreds of Tolman Skiffs were being built, modified and used for fishing, and family excursions, and boating on rivers, lakes, and the oceans of the world. Renn's designs have a large following of boat builders and enthusiasts, and I am grateful to have met online and in person a great number of these people from all over the world.

Renn's designs can be found all the the United States, in Europe, including Germany, Italy, England, Iceland, Sweden, and as far away as Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia. I am sure folks have built Tolman's elsewhere, and it's just a matter of time before we get to see them. Sooner or later a Tolman owner or builder shows up to Fishyfish and shares their story, making this big old world seem awfully small. Renn Tolman brought us together.

Obituary – July 9, 2014

Renn Tolman

Homer boatbuilder and musician Renn Tolman passed away peacefully in his tiny beachfront cabin on the afternoon of Saturday, July 5. He was 80.

A celebration of Renn’s life will be held at his boat shop in Homer at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 12.

Renn was well-known in Alaska coastal communities for designing and building the Tolman skiff, a practical dory-style v-bottom boat that found wide use among hardy seafarers on Kachemak Bay and around the world. His two do-it-yourself books, describing an economical “stitch-and-glue” construction process involving plywood and epoxy resin, sold thousands of copies. Tolman skiffs can be found in Germany, Norway, Australia and other countries. An old-school outdoorsman, Renn traveled far across open water on hunting and fishing trips. At his death he had just completed a new design, the Tolman Trawler.

As a flute and pennywhistle player in local bands and a step-dance teacher, Renn played a central role in Homer’s thriving contra dance scene, providing an authentic link to the New England and Cape Breton traditions he treasured. Every New Year’s Eve, his boat shop was thronged for a community dance, sometimes featuring ringer musicians flown in by Renn. He recorded a CD of Cape Breton and New England tunes, due to be released this fall.

Renn Tolman was born February 23, 1934, in Keene, New Hampshire. The Tolmans ran a small four season resort in Nelson, N.H., converted from the family farm, and played an important role in the revival of square and contra dancing. Renn’s father, Newt, a well-known flute player and writer of curmudgeonly Yankee charm, introduced the instrument to his son.

Renn left Tolman Pond for prep school at Vermont Academy, but flopped in his first attempt at college. After a three-year stint in the Army as an intelligence unit radio operator, he returned to graduate from the University of New Hampshire in 1959 with a B.A. in History. He taught in a private school, did graduate work briefly at Harvard, and then moved to the West in 1963. He was a tutor at a dude ranch, a hard rock miner, a carpenter and became a pioneer ski patrolman at Aspen, Colo. and Jackson Hole, Wyo.

He moved to Alaska in 1970, settling in Homer and finding work as a carpenter before moving into boatbuilding and then developing his own skiff, which he considered a practical boat for a working lifestyle.

“It’s not one of these goddamn weekend toy boats and it’s emphatically not one of these goddamn antique boats,” he told a reporter in 1991. “Those are for starry-eyed young dropouts or retired business executives.”

By turns courtly and cantankerous, but always generous, Renn fired off salty opinions in a raspy voice without ever quite shedding his New Hampshire vowels and prep school grammar.

Diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008 and given a poor prognosis, Renn continued to live an active life, hunting and fishing, playing flute, traveling regularly to New Hampshire to visit his girlfriend, skiing each winter in Idaho and Wyoming, and providing a vigorous step-dancing demonstration at his New Year’s dance six months ago.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Newt and Janet Tolman and Beth Barrell, and a sister, Sarah Barrell. He is survived by his late-in-life love, Betsy Street of Nelson, N.H.; his former partner of many years, Mary Griswold of Homer; a sister, Elizabeth Skinner of Mohawk Valley, N.Y.; and, among other relatives, cousins Barry Tolman of Nelson, N.H.; Mary Robinson Shonk of Dublin, N.H.; Susan Woodward Springer formerly of Seldovia; and Colin Tolman of Homer.

Memorial contributions may be directed to Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, 315 Klondike Ave, Homer, AK 99603.

Welcome to Fishyfish. Fishyfish is a gathering place and a resource for like minded folks bent on building their own stitch and glue boat. Most folks who visit here are interested in building or learning more about the Tolman Skiff, a boat with a dory heritage and a huge following.

There are images of many Tolman Skiff projects, Tolman Skiff Adventures, Forums for sharing ideas and experiences and few other things thrown in. Some folks like to fish in their Tolman Skiffs and others just like to explore the water ways of the world. For many reasons folks are attracted to the design of the Tolman Skiff. Roam around to see why.

The Tolman Skiff is a design of iteration by Renn Tolman of Homer, Alaska. He's been designing and building stitch and glue Tolman Skiffs for around thirty years now. There are plans available for four stitch and glue Tolman Skiff models made from Marine Grade Plywood, epoxy and fiberglass. They are the Standard, the Widebody, the Jumbo and now the Tolman Seabright.

How to find stuff on Fishyfish? Roam around by using the main navigation at the of the page, or just above use the search feature and the drop down menus. Or below is a partial index of articles and projects on Fishyfish.

Contribute to Fishyfish by using the Forum or by sending images and words related to your Tolman Skiff or other Boat Building project.

  1. Tom Anderson - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  2. Neil Andrews - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Widebody, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  3. Bruce Armstrong - Tolman Skiff Standard
  4. Kevin Beddoe - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  5. Kevin Beddoe's - Personal Tolman Skiff Website
  6. Jon Berger - Tolman Skiff Standard
  7. Steve Bolton - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  8. Walter Bovich - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  9. Ray Brown - Tolman Skiff Jumbo w/diesel
  10. Doug Buescher - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  11. Nicola Caria - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  12. Bob Casler - Tolman Skiff Standard
  13. Kenneth Chace - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  14. Jim Crawford - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  15. Stephen Dampier - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  16. Brian Dixon - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  17. David Dobler - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  18. Russ Dodd - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  19. Kenneth Dodson - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  20. Aaron Enstad - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  21. Brian Fagan - Tolman Skiff Standard
  22. Craig Floerchinger - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  23. Charlie Gieseker - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  24. Kenneth Grome - Tolman Seabright
  25. Paul Hail - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  26. Curtis Hanson - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  27. Jeff Hazelwood - Tolman Skiff Standard
  28. Doug Huvar - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  29. Jerry Johnson - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  30. Adam Kondrashoff - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  31. Dave Lambert - Tolman Skiff Standard
  32. Bob and Bruce Lanham - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  33. Stephen Mailloux - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  34. Charley Martin-Berry - 26'Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  35. Glenn McLain - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  36. Dave Morgan - Tolman Skiff Standard
  37. Jesse Morgan - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  38. Joe Nelson - Tolman Skiff Standard
  39. Paul Nelson - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  40. David Nolan - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  41. David Nolan - Super Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  42. David O'hara - Tolman Skiff Standard
  43. Jim O'Meara - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  44. John O'neil's - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  45. Fletcher Poole - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  46. Gary Porter - Tolman Skiff Widebody(s)
  47. Todd Powell - Tolman Skiff Standard
  48. Steve Reed - Tolman Skiff Standard-For Sale!
  49. Mike Rudolf - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  50. Neal Schlee - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  51. Bill Schrader - Tolman Skiff Standard
  52. Mike Schlechter - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  53. Richard Seagraves - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  54. Jim Shula - Tolman Skiff Standard
  55. Bob Southwick (Walk-N-Bob) - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  56. Robert Strawbridge - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  57. Robert Strawbridge - Tolman Skiff Jumbo - Personal Site
  58. Ben Stuart - Tolman Skiff Widebody - For Sale!
  59. Russ Taylor - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  60. Renn Tolman
  61. Liam Tovey - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  62. Martin Wagner - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  63. Mike Wagner - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  64. Phil Walker - Tolman Skiff Standard
  65. JIm Ward - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  66. James White - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  67. JIm Wilcox - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  68. Ron Williams - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  69. Dave Witherall - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  70. Dave Wright - Tolman Skiff Standard
  71. Friedhelm Wurfel - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  1. Renn Tolman - Tolman Seabright
  2. Renn Tolman
  1. Anderson Boatyard
  1. Bob Lanham's - Vacuum Packer
  2. Renn Tolman - Becharof Adventure
  3. Bruce Armstrong - Canadian Adventure 2003
  4. Bruce Armstrong - Canadian Adventure 2007
  5. Bruce Armstrong - Alaskan Adventure - Homer Wooden Boat Show
  6. Bruce Armstrong - Alaskan Adventure - Homer Wooden Boat Show Version2
  7. Trailer Boat Magazine: Kevin Bedooe's Tolman Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  8. Tolman Skiff Builder's Shops
  9. How to Build Your Own Boat Trailer - trailer.pdf
  10. Tolman Tips - From the Tolman Group
  11. Suzuki DF140 SetUp_Manual_2.pdf (file download)
  12. Groundfish, a Case Study - groundfish.pdf (file download)
  13. Process Sashimi Grade Tuna - Sashimi.pdf (file download)
  14. Asbury Park Press - Nolan's Ark
  15. Audio Interview of Renn Tolman (halfway through)
  16. Kevin Beddoe Article - Duckworks Magazine
  17. Bruce Armstrong's Review of A Skiff For All Seasons
  18. Bob Southwick's 2005 Trip to Homer
  19. How to Catch Shrimp
  20. How to Rig a Shrimp Trap
  21. San Francisco Bay Coffee Roasters
  22. eTrade is Evil
  23. Curtis Hanson - Tolman Skiff Widebody (for sale!) New!
  24. How to Catch Shrimp
  25. DIY Boat Building
  26. Wooden Boat Building
  27. Stitch and Glue Boat Building
  28. Wooden Boat Plans
  29. Wooden Skiff Plans
  30. Curtis Hanson - Tolman Skiff Widebody New Images (for sale!) New!
  31. Wooden Skiffs For Sale
  32. Protoco Crab Trap
  33. Danielson Crab Trap
  34. Shrimp Recipes
  35. Prawn Recipes
  36. Shrimp are tasty little critters
  37. An Early Example of a flat bottomed Tolman Skiff
  1. Neil Andrews - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Widebody, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  2. Bruce Armstrong - Tolman Skiff Standard
  3. Kevin Beddoe - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  4. Kevin Beddoe's - Personal Tolman Skiff Website
  5. Jon Berger - Tolman Skiff Standard
  6. Bob Casler - Tolman Skiff Standard
  7. Brian Fagan - Tolman Skiff Standard
  8. Jeff Hazelwood - Tolman Skiff Standard
  9. Dave Lambert - Tolman Skiff Standard
  10. Dave Morgan - Tolman Skiff Standard
  11. Joe Nelson - Tolman Skiff Standard
  12. Todd Powell - Tolman Skiff Standard
  13. Steve Reed - Tolman Skiff Standard-For Sale!
  14. Richard Seagraves - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  15. Jim Shula - Tolman Skiff Standard
  16. Renn Tolman
  17. Phil Walker - Tolman Skiff Standard
  18. Dave Wright - Tolman Skiff Standard
  1. Tom Anderson - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  2. Neil Andrews - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Widebody, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  3. Doug Buescher - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  4. Nicola Caria - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  5. Jim Crawford - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  6. David Dobler - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  7. Charlie Gieseker - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  8. Paul Hail - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  9. Curtis Hanson - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  10. Doug Huvar - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  11. Gary Kendall Widebody - For Sale!
  12. Adam Kondrashoff - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  13. Glenn McLain - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  14. David Nolan - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  15. John O'neil's - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  16. Gary Porter - Tolman Skiff Widebody(s)
  17. Mike Schlechter - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  18. Ben Stuart - Tolman Skiff Widebody - For Sale!
  19. Mike Rudolf - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  20. Russ Taylor - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  21. Renn Tolman
  22. Liam Tovey - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  23. James White - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  24. JIm Wilcox - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  25. Ron Williams - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  26. Friedhelm Wurfel - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  1. Neil Andrews - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Widebody, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  2. Kevin Beddoe - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  3. Steve Bolton - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  4. Walter Bovich - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  5. Ray Brown - Tolman Skiff Jumbo w/diesel
  6. Kenneth Chace - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  7. Stephen Dampier - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  8. Brian Dixon - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  9. Russ Dodd - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  10. Kenneth Dodson - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  11. Aaron Enstad - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  12. Craig Floerchinger - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  13. Jerry Johnson - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  14. David Klistoff - Tolman Skiff Jumbo 25'
  15. Bob and Bruce Lanham - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  16. Stephen Mailloux - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  17. Charley Martin-Berry - 26'Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  18. Jesse Morgan - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  19. Paul Nelson - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  20. David Nolan - Super Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  21. Jim O'Meara - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  22. Fletcher Poole - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  23. Neal Schlee - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  24. Richard Seagraves - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  25. Bob Southwick (Walk-N-Bob) - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  26. Robert Strawbridge - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  27. Robert Strawbridge - Tolman Skiff Jumbo - Personal Site
  28. Renn Tolman
  29. Martin Wagner - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  30. Mike Wagner - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  31. JIm Ward - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  32. plywood stitch and glue
  33. stitch and glue (tack and tape) skiff
  34. stitch and glue boat designs
  35. Marine Grade Plywood Test
  1. Build the Tolman Skiff Transom and Saw Horses
  2. Scarfing Bottom Panels and Boat Canopy
  3. Lofting and Heating Up Crystallized Epoxy
  4. Fairing the Shelves (Gunnels)
  5. Stiching and Gluing the Bottom Panels
  6. Scraping Fiberglass and Chine Shelves
  7. Routing Slots for Chine Shelves and Gluing up the Botom
  8. Glassing the Bottom of the Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  9. Finishing Bottom, and Begin the Framing
  10. Installing the Bowstem, and Fitting the Stringers
  11. Fitting the Bottom to the Stringers
  12. Glue Stringers to Transom
  13. Glue Bottom to Stringers
  14. Scarfing Side Panels
  15. Port Side Panel Installed
  16. Starboard Side Panel Installed
  17. Taping Bottom and Sides and Transom
  18. Fiberglass the sides
  19. Catch a 34lb Salmon!!
  20. Sanding and Glassing Bottom
  21. Graphite Epoxy on the Bottom
  22. New Used Escort Trailer
  23. UHMW Strakes on the bottom
  24. Fitting the Trailer
  25. Spray Rail Construction
  26. Spray Rail Installation
  27. Spray Rail Graphite Epoxy
  28. Tolman Jumbo Turning!
  29. Filleting and Fiberglass Taping the Chine
  30. Birth of My First Child!
  31. 30 Gallon Aluminum Fuel Tank
  32. Side Decks or Gunnels
  33. Bowpipe Drilling and Installation
  34. Glassing and Taping the Stringers and Transom
  35. Raise the Stringers, Boat Leveling on the Trailer, Tuna Fishing
  36. Collision Bulkhead
  37. Collision Bulkhead, Forward Cuddy Bulkhead, Bow Deck
  38. Rear Cuddy Bulkhead,
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