Building a boat, building a dream

Building Salty Dog: 23 ft Wilson Flyer

I commissioned Salty Dog, a 23ft Wilson Flyer, from Brian Wilson in 2010. He was the designer and builder of the original Wilson Flyer, and had over 40 years experience building these vessels. The hull shape is a mixture of a Classic Boston Whaler and a Dell Quay Dory. Brian added his own twist. This boat has over the years proven to be a small-boat work horse for commercial fishermen along the south-coast of England. After Brian’s death in 2011, his son John took over the business of building these crafts.

Featured below are images taken in Brian’s workshop of the new Salty Dog. They show: the hull out of the mold, ribs being glassed in, buoyancy fitted and the final ring deck molded on. After the first year’s chartering, I commissioned another boat builder to install 2 extra watertight seat lockers. These provide ample space for dry storage. 

Why a Wilson Flyer?

The beauty of the Wilson Flyer is that you can adapt the deck layout to suit very specific needs. I needed exactly this: a central-console boat that doubles as a fly-fishing skiff, with a very stable flat bottom. It also acts as a versatile work boat without the constraints of premolded seats and lockers. I didn’t want these to be in the way when I needed clear and open walking space on deck. With a very shallow draft it becomes the perfect tool to fish sandbanks and shingle beds in skinny water.

Chichester harbour offers a variety of different fishing conditions. From fast-flowing tidal water to lumpy sea conditions, which can be challenging when you want to stay sure footed in a rocking boat. The Wilson Flyer allows length to width ratio and usable deck space comes out head above many modern sport-fishing boats.

For the engine, I decided to go with the trusty Yamaha 50 hp long shaft. An excellent durable and incredibly strong engine. It delivers great fuel economy paired with the Wilson Flyer hull.

As far as fishing is concerned

Salty Dog can comfortably fit 3 anglers. Where 2 are fly fishing (1 on the bow and 1 on the stern), and a third that can light spin when the fishing heats up. I have fished on lots of different boats in the past and will always have respect for this south-coast work horse.

Another example of the Wilson Flyer in Chichester harbour perfectly illustrates the versatility of the hull. The local ferry, in operation between Itchenor and Bosham for 30 years. Salty Dog and this ferry were cast from the same mold. I see this as is a true testament to these stable boats. 

Over the years my clients and I have fished in all sea conditions the south coast sea can throw at you, and landed hundreds of fish on the Salty Dog. In the process we created thousands of great memories. Grip-and-grin images that are etched in memory of the perfect day’s fishing, spent with friends.

I hope you can join me on Salty Dog soon!

Paul Haldenwang

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