La Vida e Bella

In Festival Boats 2022

“La Vita e Bella” is a glued lap, epoxy saturated ply, 13.5 ft Melonseed Skiff. She was built by John Barto, himself; who redrew Chamberlain’s historic lines drawings, to make them more available for amateur construction, and advertised than in Woodenboat Magazine. John at that time was an instructor at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland. She reportedly took John only 3 months time to complete! John also did a flawless job of steam bending her tiny oak frames and gluing them in place, without fastenings, and glassing the outside of her bottom, just up to her high waterline.
He also built her a matching solid cockpit cover, to entirely protect her from rainwater, when she’s stored on her trailer. The result of his gifted work is that “Bella” still today, has all her original frames and planking in nearly new condition, despite being trailered across the US and dry stored for 27 years now!
Melonseed Skiffs were invented in the 1800s on the eastern shore of Virginia and Maryland. Sailing “Bella” is like sailing a masterfully built and equally gorgeous violin, floating on its side, low, but very stably in the water. She is entirely relaxed and comfortably predictable and requires little or no hiking out in winds up to about 18-20 mph. In those winds, she occasionally pushes past 6-7 kts, and can start to surf and plane above that. Her 81 sq. ft, single spritsl. can be reefed easily, or brailed up for rowing or running in a gale, but this can only be done on the beach, as her mast is stepped too far forward to do so underway safely.
She also carries beautiful “Shawn and Tenney” tapered and spoon-bladed oars! She rows like an ocean shell. She’s entirely relaxed and reassuring in all these conditions. With two snuggled fore and aft in her comfortable rounded cockpit. And surprisingly, she’s several times ghosted circles around the local racing teens in their Lasers, when the wind has dropped below 2kts.