After travelling out to Spokane last summer to pick up my first Almarco pram, I fell in love with the innovative design, smooth lines and ultra-lightweightness of the this handcrafted pram. The owner had this boat for many years and after hearing about the history of the boats, I was intrigued even more and decided to do a little write up of my own.
Since I became a stillwater fisherman, I’ve been on the search for the ultimate way to spend hours on the water while enjoying the ride. My first pram was a Springcreek Hopper 2 which was nice, but had limitations. The high sides, heavy weight, and weak transom had some things to be desired. I was never really happy with how the glass was laid on the floatation, I tried, even owning two more of them in the classic series. They all had problems with delamination of the transom glass as I believe is a flaw in the design. I then went with Smith Brothers pram which is made by Fred Smith and his son in law near Camano Island. Beautiful hand built mahoghany, but thats what it was, beautiful. I couldn’t store it outside, had to re-varnish and sand, and would cringe when it was dinged and or scratched. I loved the lightness of the marine grade mahoghany and how Fred put his craftsmanship into the boat. I owned three of these too, 1 10′ and two 8’s which just became a space issue with a two car garage and a bunch of fishing and outdoor gear, even my truck doesn’t get a place inside!
I also should mention the Kofflers’ which by any means is a great boat, but requires a trailer to haul, not good for ferry crossings or trying to dolly into lakes such as Lenice or Nunnally. I wanted to have a light, and durable boat suitable for use in the saltwater, lakes, class 1 or 2 rivers and something I could fish hard and put away wet. I found my first boat, the Rogue 8′, which I should have posted some photos from previous build outs and more recently my Almarco which I found in Spokane. Even though it was a 4 hour drive, it was worth it, as I found this boat to be all that I was looking for. Its light, maybe 60 lbs, has built in floatation under the bench seat, compartment trays, built in grab handles, permanently raised oar locks, double stern anchor locations, reinforced transom for use with a small kicker motor. The boat has the right amount of rocker for optimum rowing as it glides across the water surface.
I about fell over when I found this ‘new’ boat in Sacramento. Here is the ad: “The “Little Drifter” is a rip off design of larger tested wooden drift boat models that factor the dimensions to get the same stability and quality in smaller boats. The secret is the design of wooden drift boats that now use welded aluminum, cut to fit the 8’ pattern. The 8’ design has proven to function in North Pacific coastal waters w’ safety and efficiency as the “aluminum welds” hold up under tough “ drift boat” conditions and take less, almost none, maintenance. The size, weight and stability of the “little drifter” allows easy access and regress from streams and still waters. Safety and stability while fly casting are strong factors that make this boat a popular choice for fly fisherman.
The boat weighs 70 lbs. and comes with two anchor releases on the stern and one removable anchor release on the bow. The seat stores floatation and the high oar locks allow speedy control in moving waters. I have wrapped some sleeping pads around the seat for comfort. However, the seat provides a sturdy place for an “installed seat”. I have used several type seats w’ folding backs for long days on the water
1. Two coats of TAP [COAT-IT] epoxy coating on bottom, improve rowing energies.
2. Outdoor carpet installed on floor, reduce noise while fly fishing.”
Bill K. whom is a retired teacher lovingly used this boat for many years and I assured him that it would be going to an equal loving home. Some guys are collectors of fine fly reels that might bring in $1000 of dollars each, while its nice to admire the Hardy Perfects and also own a few, its tough to think of fishing such a reel. I guess I have a love affair with these little welded aluminum prams, because I know they are so durable, and will likely hold up for another 20 years with little to no maintenance required. Bill shared with me some information on the guy who built these prams, a guy by the name of Don Nuss. Don ran a successful welding business for over 30 years in Crescent City California. A few years ago he got into some trouble with the law, which I had heard from other guys like Carl Blackledge. I did some Google searching and found this article:
Crescent City man gets prison term for machine gun sales
Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 10/30/2009 01:21:12 AM PDT
A federal judge sentenced a 69-year-old Crescent City man this week to serve 18 months in prison for illegally dealing machine guns.
According to a press release from the United States Attorney’s San Francisco office, Donald E. Nuss pleaded guilty in June to illegally dealing in firearms, admitting selling five machine guns over a one-year period. According to the release, Nuss also admitted to converting two semi-automatic rifles into machine guns for a government informant during the same time period and to possessing 10 more machine guns in a safe at his workplace in Crescent City.
According to the plea agreement, the machine guns that Nuss manufactured, refurbished and sold included an AK-47, Sten machine guns, Suomi machine guns, Skorpion machine pistols and a Thompson machine gun, as well as high-capacity magazines.
Nuss was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2008, and charged with illegally possessing and dealing in machine guns.
In a document filed with the court last week, Nuss’ lawyer David Michael urged the court to issue a light sentence, saying a sentence of five months in prison and five months supervised release would be appropriate.
”When reading the indictment in this matter and reviewing the list of weapons seized, one could conclude that Mr. Nuss is a ‘gun toting arms dealer,’” Michael wrote. “To the contrary, Mr. Nuss has been a collector of antique firearms for many years. …”
goes on to write that all of the weapons seized are either pre-World War II or World War II weapons, and that Mr. Nuss was simply a collector. Nuss also enjoyed the challenge of working on the weapons, according to the document.
”Mr. Nuss is a ‘tinkerer’ who never declined a challenge to modify an object to bring it to its full potential or make it work better,” Michael wrote.
The document goes on to state that the offense should be viewed in its proper context, and points out that Nuss did not seek out the illegal conduct or search out a market for the illegal firearms.
”Rather, he was approached by an individual who was a paid government informant to engage in the illegal conduct,” Michael wrote. “Mr. Nuss received a total of $5,950 from the sale of the firearms. Mr. Nuss was not motivated by money. He has always been interested in helping and pleasing others and understands that he crossed a line and there is no question that he should have declined to participate in this activity.”
Michael also urged the court to take into account Nuss’ lack of a criminal record and his standing in the community when considering his sentence. According to the document filed with the court, Nuss has lived in Crescent City for nearly 48 years, operated a successful business for 40 years and has volunteered many hours of community service, including building a trailer for the Easter Seals Society, volunteering at the Del Norte County Veteran’s Association and refurbishing the Del Norte County Historical Society’s 1907 three-inch cannon.
In the end, U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton handed down the 18-month sentence to Nuss on Wednesday, and also sentenced Nuss to a three-year period of supervised release after the conclusion of his prison sentence. In addition to the prison term, which he is slated to begin serving in January 2010, Nuss was ordered to pay a $6,000 fine and $5,950 in restitution.
The conviction was the result of a two-year investigation by the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”
Quite the story of a boat builder. Apparently, Don isn’t a fisherman, but some fishermen brought some plans to him and with his welding skills put this thing together. You wont find a bead of weld on any of the chines as all those have been seamlessly stitched and flat ground down. This keeps the weight down, but keeps the whole thing structurally tough with no flex to the oar locks, gunnels, or the transom under heavy load. I was impressed when I kicker tested both prams, my Rogue, which uses heavier gauge aluminum and the Almarco and found that there was almost no flex with the thinner sheet metal from the Almarco. I picked up the phone to see if Don was out of jail and surprisingly he picked up the phone and chuckled a little when I told him the nature of my call. He said that over the 20 year period that he made the Little Drifter, that he only produced 600 of these guys and they’ve become very collectable. He said that “if you can find one, buy it, as most folks who bought them, keep them…” When I asked the original price of the boats, the 10′ model sold for $920 back in 2009, and the 8′ was $720. With the cost of aluminum and inflation, I’m sure that figure pushes over $1000 for the 8′ boat now. I definitely paid a premium for the boat, but to me its a passion that all things should work well together when it comes to stillwater fishing. I want to have the best possible gear which gets the job done and provides a high level of safety, comfortable and reliability. Welcome to the family “Little Drifter II”
The first photo is the new drifter, the second is my 8′ Rogue, and the last is my Drifter #1.
I found a great shipping option through UShip.com which is a site that helps connect independant shippers with customers. A fellow who specializes in motorcycle transport would be picking up the Almarco next week and will be here in time for me to prep as a second stillwater boat for my dad or friends to use.
As an update I had some issues with the seller of this pram as he promised more than what he could deliver so the pram is no longer coming to WA. I am sad to see it go but there will be other boats that come up.