Bugbite is a 17 ft traditional was built in 2019 by Kevin Fitzke to the original and much-loved 1935 design by A.A. Apel. The plans for Apel’s design were first published in the 1935 February issue of Motor Boating Magazine, then again in the 1936 Motor Boating Ideal Series Vol. 17 book.
It’s not known how many were built in the 1930s and ’40s but it is known there were a significant number, with only very few originals now remaining. This A.A. Apel runabout was designed for racing, it could accommodate either a 135 cu.in. or a 225 cu.in. engine – the two most popular engine classes at the time for this size boat.
Kevin Fitzke is a 36 year old Minneapolis-based craftsman with a lot of experience working with wood for marine applications. He’s always been drawn to racing boats and aircraft of the 1920s and ’30s, and the Bugbite is his first 100% handmade vessel made using plans.
Unlike the original A.A. Apel 17 ft racing boats, Kevin’s is built using the latest modern technologies for adhesives, cold-molding, two part urethane paints/primers, and two part urethane varnishes. Modern wooden boats can now be built to be far more durable and less maintenance intensive thanks to technologies like cold-moulding and modern epoxy resins.
In building Bugbite he used only hand-selected Lloyds Registered marine grade mahogany, with first class white oak were used for frame components and planking. Structural fasteners are marine-grade silicon bronze and chrome plated brass.
This project started with nothing but full size sheet plans, Kevin cut every rib, spar, and plank before fitting them all together. He did all the varnishing, gold leafing and lettering, the engine rebuilding and mechanical installations, and he hand-formed the aluminum windshield All hardware is either original 1930’s period or inspired by the era.
The Bugbite is powered by a comprehensively rebuilt GM 283 cubic inch flywheel forward engine with a Borg/Warner hydraulic manual transmission. The engine produces approximately 190 hp in its current configuration, considerably more than the engines that were fitted back in the 1930s.
The name Bugbite is from the classic saying “Once you’re bitten by the boat bug you’re hooked”, it also references the small nature of the boat. The racing letter “F” signifies the 225 cu. in. class in which this boat would have raced in, and the number “36” is Kevin Fitzke’s age at the time of completion.
Kevin Fitzke is building a limited production of Bugbites that are available for commission.
If you’d like to read more about the Bugbite or order your own you can click here to visit the official website, or you can follow the social media channels below.
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