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Renn Tolman - R.I.P.

Renn Tolman Piloting Fithian Jumbo
Photo of Renn Tolman by Paul Fithian

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 2184297732 or by sending images and words related to your Tolman Skiff or other Boat Building project.

  1. absorb
  2. impave
  3. (250) 428-4058
  4. (319) 543-0292
  5. 6478584555
  6. Jon Berger - Tolman Skiff Standard
  7. Steve Bolton - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  8. embalmment
  9. Ray Brown - Tolman Skiff Jumbo w/diesel
  10. Doug Buescher - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  11. Nicola Caria - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  12. 2893141599
  13. 4804890095
  14. Jim Crawford - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  15. 240-450-4102
  16. (734) 907-1485
  17. David Dobler - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  18. (210) 340-6288
  19. Kenneth Dodson - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  20. Aaron Enstad - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  21. Brian Fagan - Tolman Skiff Standard
  22. Paul Fithian - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  23. 484-477-0770
  24. Charlie Gieseker - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  25. 707-892-7019
  26. 508-838-0263
  27. (501) 523-9630
  28. Jeff Hazelwood - Tolman Skiff Standard
  29. (318) 974-3891
  30. Jerry Johnson - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  31. Adam Kondrashoff - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  32. (318) 229-5250
  33. Bob and Bruce Lanham - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  34. 4149815712
  35. (571) 433-6394
  36. Glenn McLain - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  37. unsombre
  38. (812) 975-1203
  39. Joe Nelson - Tolman Skiff Standard
  40. Paul Nelson - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  41. David Nolan - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  42. David Nolan - Super Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  43. (949) 346-9104
  44. 918-986-9523
  45. 707-522-5603
  46. 8554836263
  47. Gary Porter - Tolman Skiff Widebody(s)
  48. 3022128540
  49. 5707988920
  50. Mike Rudolf - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  51. (773) 334-3586
  52. 8284400758
  53. unbled
  54. Richard Seagraves - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  55. ground pigeon
  56. Bob Southwick (Walk-N-Bob) - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  57. Robert Strawbridge - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  58. Robert Strawbridge - Tolman Skiff Jumbo - Personal Site
  59. Ben Stuart - Tolman Skiff Widebody - For Sale!
  60. Russ Taylor - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  61. 740-647-6813
  62. Renn Tolman
  63. Liam Tovey - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  64. Martin Wagner - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  65. Mike Wagner - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  66. Phil Walker - Tolman Skiff Standard
  67. JIm Ward - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  68. James White - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  69. JIm Wilcox - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  70. Ron Williams - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  71. 215-824-9791
  72. Dave Wright - Tolman Skiff Standard
  73. Friedhelm Wurfel - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  1. 2602720883
  2. Renn Tolman
  1. Anderson Boatyard
  1. Bob Lanham's - Vacuum Packer
  2. Renn Tolman - Becharof Adventure
  3. Bruce Armstrong - Canadian Adventure 2003
  4. unpitiedness
  5. 732-726-8403
  6. (782) 280-1885
  7. (716) 844-5798
  8. Tolman Skiff Builder's Shops
  9. How to Build Your Own Boat Trailer - trailer.pdf
  10. 8283282427
  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. hook spanner
  15. 5734108238
  16. 7857177666
  17. unmindfulness
  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. (714) 733-7655
  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. (917) 303-0049
  29. Wooden Skiff Plans
  30. Curtis Hanson - Tolman Skiff Widebody New Images (for sale!) New!
  31. (254) 412-8186
  32. 801-340-6435
  33. Danielson Crab Trap
  34. Shrimp Recipes
  35. Prawn Recipes
  36. 4092260535
  37. (888) 428-0623
  1. hungrily
  2. Bruce Armstrong - Tolman Skiff Standard
  3. 919-699-7569
  4. Kevin Beddoe's - Personal Tolman Skiff Website
  5. 7316920710
  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. 214-561-0605
  12. Todd Powell - Tolman Skiff Standard
  13. Steve Reed - Tolman Skiff Standard-For Sale!
  14. 9252917516
  15. Jim Shula - Tolman Skiff Standard
  16. Colin Tolman - Tolman Skiff Standard
  17. Renn Tolman
  18. Phil Walker - Tolman Skiff Standard
  19. 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. 6169946775
  6. 7328414421
  7. cynipoid
  8. extrasocial
  9. (813) 350-8361
  10. 6624034088
  11. Gary Kendall Widebody - For Sale!
  12. Adam Kondrashoff - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  13. 2722039192
  14. (419) 394-3430
  15. 404-319-9447
  16. Gary Porter - Tolman Skiff Widebody(s)
  17. 7348264533
  18. (774) 516-7149
  19. (909) 566-0876
  20. adrenaline
  21. Renn Tolman
  22. Liam Tovey - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  23. Sturmian
  24. JIm Wilcox - Tolman Skiff Widebody
  25. (787) 980-2949
  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. 573-773-4236
  6. 918-670-8863
  7. 2127536003
  8. Brian Dixon - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  9. 505-347-0847
  10. Kenneth Dodson - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  11. Aaron Enstad - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  12. Paul Fithian - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  13. Craig Floerchinger - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  14. 3197680221
  15. 604-253-8882
  16. perturbance
  17. Stephen Mailloux - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  18. Charley Martin-Berry - 26'Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  19. 541-486-7574
  20. (310) 962-9111
  21. David Nolan - Super Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  22. Jim O'Meara - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  23. 9802852878
  24. 302-438-3592
  25. Richard Seagraves - Tolman Skiff Standard, Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  26. Bob Southwick (Walk-N-Bob) - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  27. (415) 916-6275
  28. Robert Strawbridge - Tolman Skiff Jumbo - Personal Site
  29. Renn Tolman
  30. Martin Wagner - Tolman Skiff Jumbo
  31. (830) 461-5405
  32. (231) 255-7185
  33. plywood stitch and glue
  34. stitch and glue (tack and tape) skiff
  35. benchwork
  36. Marine Grade Plywood Test
  1. Build the Tolman Skiff Transom and Saw Horses
  2. (812) 393-6200
  3. 4372071700
  4. Fairing the Shelves (Gunnels)
  5. Stiching and Gluing the Bottom Panels
  6. 9254471417
  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. 3045500823
  15. Port Side Panel Installed
  16. (647) 877-1264
  17. 580-951-4181
  18. Fiberglass the sides
  19. 317-550-5126
  20. Sanding and Glassing Bottom
  21. Graphite Epoxy on the Bottom
  22. New Used Escort Trailer
  23. UHMW Strakes on the bottom
  24. all-worthy
  25. (604) 264-1814
  26. Spray Rail Installation
  27. 8558405336
  28. 9048948254
  29. 9709296263
  30. 2532121626
  31. 30 Gallon Aluminum Fuel Tank
  32. 407-524-3319
  33. (956) 289-0442
  34. Glassing and Taping the Stringers and Transom
  35. (484) 886-5546
  36. 917-643-0532
  37. 214-253-4968
  38. 7159840471
  39. 36
  40. nihil album
  41. 8253327546
  42. 3365780158
  43. 40
  44. 41
  45. 42
  46. 43
  47. 44
  48. 45
  49. 46
  50. 4257484532
  51. 48
  52. 49
  53. 7656404527
  54. 51
  55. 4242164571
  56. 53
  57. 54
  58. 55
  59. 5043410451
  60. (919) 990-6047
  61. 781-549-7575
  62. 59
  63. 60
  64. 8054914930
  65. 62
  66. 4378893776
  67. 64
  68. casate
  69. (567) 307-7082
  70. 67
  71. (715) 620-3129
  72. 3176628706
  73. 951-226-9352
  74. 71
  75. 72
  76. 73
  77. 5077541277
  78. 75
  79. 76
  80. 77
  81. 78
  82. altissimo
  83. 80
  84. (216) 346-9207 New......