Saturday, 7 December 2013

It's You

Who are the builders? Who can build a boat? The short answer is most anyone can build a boat particularly the small boats that we specialize in. Much of the time in developing plans today is the process of simplifying the process as much as can be done using the modern tools we have at our disposal.

In years past it seemed that the assumption was that any one could do so and many seemed willing to try, today it seems that the assumptions is exactly the opposite many seem to assume that they are not capable. I have some ideas on how that has changed over the years but do not believe that those in the past where more able to undertake this type of task than anyone is today. When you see some of the plan sets (set is a generous word as most where a couple of drawings and a table of offsets) that where offered in the past to amateur boat builders you some times have to wonder how any boats where built at all, this by the way also could serve as a warning for those of you considering some of the plans that are offered today on the internet that are reprints of designs offered in magazines over the years. These plans are more often than not a few photocopied pages from a magazine with limited or no information and no back up.

Plans today are much more comprehensive with drawings, illustrations, pictures building notes often in book form this alone helps to increase the number of people able to complete a project such as a boat particularly a small one such as a canoe or kayak. Many parts come with full size patterns or the boat parts can be cut using a computer controlled router. The number of people with exposure to the use of power tools and there use may not be as large today as in the past but the use of kits has eliminated the need for most of these. Should you be wary of using tools many community colleges offer introductory wood working classes, my wife took one that was for women only put on by the local carpenters union.

Something else that has changed over the years is that today we are convinced that we must have a vast assortment of tools to and they must be of the most modern design and the best quality to be able to complete or even contemplate such an undertaking. I recently was given a copy of a compilation of articles from Popular Mechanics published in 1931 on boat building the illustrations are of people with hand tools and a table saw turning their dreams into reality. In this book the building of a rowboat covers six pages as does the building of a small outboard boat, a small sailboat gets a dozen pages.
The process of building small boats has undergone many changes over the years in addition to the technology mentioned previously; plywood has made things simpler especially when combined with modern epoxy resins.

Soon the weather will begin to warm again and it will be time to get on the water why not it do in a boat you have built.

You are the builder.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Dream On

It is more than likely that it is the season that has turned my thoughts to the dreams that we have all had in our lives, those things that we have wanted to pursue. These stand in opposition to the now dreams we have like the kids of sugar plums dancing in their heads, the ones that fuel this past Fridays frenzy. I am thinking of the dreams that lead us to make the life choices we all have to make, the ones that lead us down the life path we have followed those which have caused us to arrive at place we now inhabit. Many of us start out with the common dreams of childhood of being a fireman or similar, as time passes these initial dreams morph into new pursuits or simple refinements of the original as we discover more of the world and of that which interests and motivates us.

For me my life has been spent around and on the water from trips with my parents as a child to a toddler tossing toys off the break wall in the backyard into the river to see what would float. My first real dream of time on the water was as a pre-teen my parents, mainly Dad set about to plan a trip south under sail, that was the first dream that I really remembering embracing. It was also the time of my first love and she was a beauty at least that is how I recall her now, 52 feet on deck, ketch rigged, powerful and able I kept a picture of her as a marker in my text books at school and dreamt. She still lives in my dreams, more I imagine as she was intended to be than as she really was but she still sails there and she is a thing of beauty powering forward under full press of sail. For reasons I have never known that dream died though I still remember her and how close it came to reality with the boxes of books for our schooling stacked in the garage set and ready to go.

That was followed a few years later by my first boat purchase at the end of my teen years and sailing at every opportunity that could be had, it was also accompanied by the need to pay for time on the water and so came that ‘safe’ job. This was followed by the other choices life is filled with I met the ‘one’ and not a boat this time a real live woman, then that decision that shapes the rest of your life. In one hand a quote for the building of a new boat, on the other a wife, the search for a house, the new boat lost, and so eventually did bigger boats a decision I don’t regret for it led to a life with a great woman and two awesome kids now out pursuing their dreams.

 This leads to now , the ‘safe’ completely unfulfilling job wasn't safe and is long gone replaced by the pursuit of old dreams, tempered by life’s other demands. There is now a diploma in yacht design, a few years experience building boats, time working in both commercial and pleasure boat design offices and here I am. Designing boats for people who still dream, whether dream is an old one revived or one just born, who want to spend time afloat, and can with some guidance build their own boats.

Dream on, and we will see you on the water.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Price Points and Memories

Not that long ago I read in a magazine where the writer had commented on how he (I think the writer was male) was no longer paddling  as it had been cut back to pay for all those things that come with getting older and settled. This has lead to me thinking about how we have gone from the point where all we needed to get on the water was a boat shaped object to the point where even sports with few equipment requirements have become too expensive to participate in?  Have we bought so fully into the idea that to fully enjoy the outdoors we must have the latest gear, have we fallen into the same mentality that has people lining up for half the night at electronic outlets to buy the latest piece of marginally changed gear to replace the one which we have just begun to figure out how to use all the features of.

It is easy to make a sport too expensive to participate in but in this case it is just as easy to make it affordable, you may have to paddle a boat that is a few pounds heavier and your gear may look like it has few miles on it, but you will be outside and not in the office trying to make an extra dime so you can afford the gear you want. I know that what gets me outside and what lead me out there in the first place, it had and has nothing to do with the equipment being used; it is place where I’m using it. One of my memories from when I was younger was sailing with my uncle and a friend of his the boat was an old plywood boat, and my purpose on board was to bail as it was a leaky old tub, the memories of that day have nothing to do with the quality of the equipment. When it comes to canoeing the memories are of paddling the flood waters behind our house in a beat up boat with a couple of friends. When you think through your memories of outdoor adventures what are they made up of, my guess is that they are not fond recollections of equipment but of people, places and experiences both good and bad.

I think that carbon paddles and super light Kevlar canoes are cool, have you seen the ad with the guy holding the boat in one hand over his head?  That’s nice but I don’t usually use my boats like that I prefer them in the water, and portaging with the boat in one hand seems impractical. When the gear that we use becomes as important as or even more important than the experience of the outdoors have we not already lost much of what we chasing in the first place.

Let's get outside.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Give Thanks And Lead On

As the summer/fall seasons winds down and as the skiers start to anticipate the beginning of their season my thoughts have turned to how I have come to enjoy the outdoors and what has led me to where I am at today. How did you end up outside? What is it that first led you to spend time outdoors?

 My guess is that it was not some video game that had an ultra realistic depiction of the sport or sports that you now partake in or some awesome background rendering in that game of a forest.  For most of us it will be the result of interaction with others, whether it is family or friends more likely than not someone enticed us outside with stories of the joys they have found through their experiences, or as a child was dragged along by parents. Whether those experiences involved backpacking, boating, camping, biking or any other activity, or for that matter inactivity as you may just like to sit in your favourite camp chair and watch the sun rise or set. No matter the activity that you like to participate in someone led you outside and showed you the joys to be found there.

You may like me have been doing this pretty much all your life, my parents had me outside well before I have any memory of being there,  born in the late fall by the next summer only a few months old I was in Algonquin Park, a couple of years later a tour on the St. Lawrence River. That has been followed over the years by countless camping trips, many thousands of miles boating under sail and power, and more recently using paddle power. Visiting my grandparents in the summer often involved a drive to one of their favourite parks as that is where they spent as much of their summers as possible. As you can see I started early and am still heading out, my children’s stories will be similar though their days outdoors started in sailboats then camping with us and now on their own.

These thoughts lead me to the following questions, have you ever thanked the people who led you to enjoy these great pastimes?  Secondly are you passing the love on, leading others whether family or friend to an appreciation of the natural world with which we are surrounded?  Caring for and preserving it for future generations will depend on this. Many live surrounded by urban sprawl, both upward and outward and have never seen the beauty of a sunset or sunrise over anything but a towering apartment complex, never having seen a night sky that has not been diffused by light pollution.  Having no connection to or feeling for the places outside the cities they will have no reason or compulsion to help preserve it.

Give thanks and lead on. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Playing The Outdoors Game

Over the last while I have noticed what seems to be an increasing number of rescues of those who have managed to get into situations that in many cases never should have come about in the first place. There are those who have a high, even arrogant opinion of their abilities (many of these do have a very high degree of skill) and will head off into areas that may be closed for the season or into areas that are known to be extremely risky for any number of reasons though they know they should not be there they are ‘good enough’ to handle anything that may arise. In addition to these we now have the adventure tourists, people who pay at times what are extraordinary fees for the ‘right’ to attempt what only the few, rare extremely skilled experts in the field of endeavour they are entering would ever attempt. Then in some cases they then proceed to ignore the advice of those experts because they have paid for the adventure they are going to see it through even when warned that it is for whatever reason no longer safe to proceed. Then of course there are those with no skills or any idea of what they are doing other that partaking something they always thought it might be nice to try, they saw the video and it looks simple.

Once upon a time there was the expectation that one needed to be able to get themselves out of trouble and that the knowledge that yes once you got out there, wherever that place may be, that you where on your own. With that came the knowledge that if things went wrong you may not come home so you had better be ready for all eventualities. A couple of years ago I was talking to a scout leader who had recently taken an advanced first aid course which included scenarios that involved life and death decisions he said that they made him consider things he had never thought of before and that he came close to no longer leading the kids on trips.

 Now when asked if they are ready for any emergencies that may arise while they are pursuing their particular adventure, many will proudly show off their sat phone, and locator device and that is often the extent of the planning. How about a first aid kit and the skills to use it? What at one time took weeks or months of meticulous training and planning in addition to the time spent in the acquisition of the appropriate skills has been replaced with these devices, and the attendant expectation that when you hit the button someone will come running and do so in a timely fashion, timely being defined by the person with the problem. This is what I refer to as the gamer mentality, all you need to do is hit reset and you get out of the situation that you have found yourself in with no real consequences. That mythical creature the taxpayer gets the bill and on you go to try again next year, reset complete.

The other thing that has come with this is the lowering of what defines in many minds what an emergency is, people who feel that sending out a rescue chopper for them because the weather is going to hold them up and they may be late for work so it is only reasonable as far as they are concerned.

For those who may interested our normal practise even for something as simple as a day paddle,  we carry a ditch bag (I will admit that this may not happen in areas where we are paddling close to shore in a well populated area) it contains a couple of space blankets, a water filter, matches, compass, a few emergency munchies and whatever other supplies are appropriate for the situation. What that means is that if I paddle a half day into a park or any other area and something goes wrong I will not even be real hungry until the second day of my one day paddle.  These things are kept in a dry bag so when we head out all you have to do is add some food (today’s lunch doesn't count) and the first aid kit and you are on your way. It also means that I don’t have to depend on cell phone reception or someone else to get me out of what is not an emergency but an uncomfortable inconvenience. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

A wilderness state of mind

Many of us go out seeking for some experience of wilderness, though what makes up wilderness varies from person to person, you may dispute this, but it all depends where you start. My dictionary states that the word is derived from the middle English word wilderne or wild place and what seems wild to one may seem tame to another if your life experience takes in only large cities you will not have to get too far outside of one to consider yourself in a wild place. On the other hand some of us who have little use for life in large cities consider ourselves in a wild place when entering one, as wilderness is  also defined as a large, confused mass or tangle of persons or things, there may be some validity to that point of view. Like many what I define as wilderness is those wild places where we like to roam, those places where you seldom see others apart from those who you have chosen to travel with, places which are not always easily or readily accessible.   

I was recently reading a story where an experienced wilderness traveller had taken a couple of kids paddling. The adventure took place between a couple of large cities and was not what many would call a wilderness experience at all but a simple day paddle , there was no remote river involved, no camping, and dinner was in a restaurant on the way home. He was chuckling to himself as the kids told the waitress about their wilderness adventure, as many of us would. As I was thinking about this I could only see good here, these kids had enjoyed a new experience in the outdoors that had left them thrilled enough to share it with others.  They had an experience that that they would take with them as they moved forward in their lives,  hopefully it will lead to them seeking  more opportunities to see and experience wilderness and maybe even a little of what many would see as true wilderness. There may come a day at some point in the future when they laugh at this their first experience of wilderness, but I hope none of us laugh out loud when we hear these stories as the hope for preserving the wild places will one day be theirs and others who may get started making those wilderness treks in their backyards. For many of us it would likely be a great experience to when the opportunity arises  take some kids out to experience the wilderness in their backyard, and maybe have the chance ourselves to get a fresh perspective on our/their wilderness.

One last note as I wrote this I also looked at the meaning of wild which was defined as living or growing in its original, natural state; not domesticated or cultivated, taking this to its literal extreme is there any real wilderness left? Is there any place that has not been affected by man whether he has travelled there previously or not, while you think about that and I hope you will, what it really proves is that no matter how far you go to experience wilderness it is in reality a state of mind. 

Saturday, 24 August 2013


Modelling- we are not talking about some latent desire I may have to grace the cover of a magazine, those of you who know me and those who have surmised that the overly paunchy guy with the bald head that you see in some of the boat pictures is the guy on the other side of the key board you will no doubt be relieved.  If the thought or picture of such an occurrence is now planted in your head, I’m sorry.

What I am talking about is making models of boats, in particular new designs that we are working on, I do not do this often, and usually I rely on the fact that the boats are all modelled in 3D in the computer. Now that we have modelled a number of boats this way and in particular a substantial number of canoes and kayaks there is usually little reason to do so, simply looking at the model will tell us if the wood will bend to make the shape we desire. This judgement call is important in particular with the plywood boats as there is often a degree of compounding of the plywood in the ends of the panels that form the hull and sometimes the deck. Compounding is simply trying to bend the plywood in two directions at the same time; plywood will only do this to a very limited extent.

The boat that is being modelled now is the small trimaran that appears in rendered form on the home page of our web site, there are a couple of reasons that I have decided to model this boat to scale. First,  at the present time the plan is for the outer hulls to be stress formed that is two panels will be joined along the centreline and then bent into the desired shape and I want to make sure the final shape that is chosen will work using this method even before the prototype is built. The second reason is simply a practical one, a trimaran even a small one takes up a lot of space, show space is expensive it is much cheaper to sit an 18 x 12 inch [457 x 305 mm] model on a table than to rent the required space, it is also a lot easier to ship leaving room to take other boats which can be displayed more economically to shows.

 The above leads me to touch on part of the philosophy behind our designs, the expense of keeping a boat in a marina and particularly a wide body one is becoming prohibitive for many, one that can be taken home or disassembled and the taken home avoids that expense. Additionally making each section of the boat light enough that it can be carried piece by piece to the launch area will allow access to places you could not otherwise reach.

I do plan to continue with my modelling career even if only sporadically, but I do promise that I will model only boats, and that I myself will only appear when wrapped in one.  

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Memory and Change

We have just returned from just short of two weeks in Algonquin Park, it is the first time in a number of years that we have been able to get away for that long a period of time. It was as it usually is a relaxing and enjoyable time, what struck me most about this year was how camping and the camping experience has changed over the years. I have been going camping for, I am afraid to admit this but over fifty years; my first visits are outside my recollection as they occurred before I was able to process such things. The first being just a few short months after I was born with a trip to Algonquin Park, there have been many trips over the years to parks in both Canada and the US, and the odd farmers field on the edge of whatever body of water was being paddled, all this is just to say that I have been doing this long enough to notice that things have changed and seem to be doing so even more quickly of late.

Those of you who have seen my facebook page will know that I was bemoaning the slow internet connection while in the park and my inability to upload pictures in a timely fashion to inform those who may be interested in what was happening.  I am becoming more convinced that the ability to do things such as get on the internet and in particular to have high speed access is not necessarily such a great thing, it is wonderful to be able to keep in touch and to make sure that everything is OK at home but do we really need to post pictures and messages now? Camping was once upon a time a rather social happening focused on what you where doing now and you talked to those who where there taking part in the same experience, most often those path crossings remained just that brief encounters with an interesting cross section of people you would never have otherwise met. On occasion these encounters could lead to lasting friendships, my grandparents made some friends that became very close to over the years; they met in Pinery Provincial Park. The relationship continued for many years with invitations to birthdays, anniversaries and holiday visits to each others homes, at one point in time my younger brother dated one of their granddaughters.

Today rather than a group of people who have gathered in the same place, to share a common interest and are happy to meet others who have come to do the same, the parks seem to be a set of site designated individual enclaves. Some come to the park and set their sites up in the camping equivalent of the old west’s circling the wagons to keep out intruders, the tents or trailer are used to block any view of the site from the road and a vehicle used to close off the path to the encampment when the residents are in. Not everyone goes that far, the more common creatures now are the ones who set up, get the fire going and since most car camping is done in areas with cell service they park themselves by the fire and start making phone calls, texting and informing their online ‘friends’ of what is happening on their camping trip, practicing the modern version of being social, no human contact required.

There are of course exceptions, the people who say hello as you walk by and strike up a quick if passing conversation, and those who allow their kids to do what I remember wandering about the park in the area prescribed by them, under their protective eyes but with enough leash so to speak to feel some sense of freedom. It is fun to watch these kids, excited as they run about or ride their bikes to explore their new surroundings, this is how this past week I was able to meet a nice young man and his family, he is about eight years old and while wandering as far from his parents as allowed came by with a series of questions about our kayaks and comments on how he has always really wanted to go kayaking. After meeting his parents as they passed by our site we arranged to get him and his mom into a boat so he could have that experience.   

When he gets home and he goes back to school and writes about what he did on his summer holidays and on into the future, I hope that is what he remembers about camping, that he met someone that was outside his families’ normal experience and that he had fun. I know it is what I remember, campfires and people lots of people gathered around them sharing a common joy and each others company whether it is a passing thing or leads to a lifelong friendship it certainly makes memories.

Friday, 9 August 2013


Last time I wrote about the difficulty of getting on the water, now here I am fresh off the water, my last post ended with a comment on how it is no longer possible to really separate time on the water from business. This is the one small downside to making your passion your business, while you may get to be part of it on a day to day basis you can never  leave it behind entirely; when  I can I paddle our new boat models they don’t always fit me so this is not always possible, this year it is. 

The things that happen when I am on the water are all the things that happen to everyone a sense of getting away, of freedom, peacefulness, enjoyment of the outdoors.  The other things that happen are not necessarily the normal ones that happen to people when they are out enjoying a day on the water. When the boats are first being used I want to see what can be improved, what will be changed between the prototype stage and the stage when the plans and kits are ready. This starts right at the beginning whether getting in and out of the boat or where the foot braces are placed many of these things are similar from boat to boat so the question is how these parts come together as far as being comfortable in the boat. Part of the process is watching and feeling how the boat moves through the water, how easily is it paddled, does it meet the goals that where set during the design stage?  How does the boat interact with the waves how does it respond to the increase of wind that comes with the waves? I also spend time watching the water flow around the hull; this is naturally true more of the boats that I can see than of the one I am in. On the water I also watch to see what you are paddling and what you are asking the boat that you are paddling to do, and how you use the boats that you have.

Reading this you may think that there can’t be any joy to be had out on the water that is far from the truth; hey I’m still out on the water. Yes I may miss the odd bit of wildlife because I was watching the water flow around your hull, remember it’s my passion for being out here and the boats used to get here that led to this and the business, in the end they are simply two inseparable parts of the same experience.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Paddle Time!

Well we have finally reached that longed for part of summer, paddle time. From the outside looking at the lives of those employed in the boating industry may seem to be the ideal life, the opportunity to pursue your passion as an occupation. The problem with this stems from the fact that while many of us entered this field as a result of a passion for the outdoors and in particular spending time on the water, the passion resulted in a business that needs to be run. What this means in practical terms is that there are weekends spent at boat shows, there are people who want to go paddling in the boats on weekends when they are free, then there are of course the normal events that happen in life, weddings to attend, those regular family obligations that come up and are often planned for summer weekends. While taking people out paddling may sound like a fun filled task it ends in the reality of loading and unloading boats and helping new paddlers in and out of the boats and never leaving the shore. These things make even getting weekends away to simply paddle at times difficult, but that is not specific to this industry many I know struggle with this or a variation of it.

To those who I have taken paddling this is not a complaint, there is a certain enjoyment that comes form sharing the experience of being out on the water, to seeing people out in a kayak for the first time and discovering that despite all the talk of rolling kayaks that you don’t instantly end up looking up at the water’s surface when you enter one. That by the way seems to be an impression that quite a number of people have of this sport, while rolling has its place as a rescue which is its intended purpose, sometimes you get the impression from some that getting on the water and rolling is the reason kayaks exist. There are a lot of people out there paddling many of them for the shear joy of being on the water on a nice day they are never going to push the limits of anything except the strength of their sun block, and short of doing something thoughtless or being on the receiving end of such an act are highly unlikely to end up wet.  This is not to discount the  need be able to self rescue I hope to do some practicing while away when I can find a nice quiet spot to do so, far enough away that no one will call 911 to report on a kayak being attacked by some large ungainly creature that seems intent on causing harm.

To get somewhat back on track as this post did not go in the direction intended at the start, while it is sometimes difficult to get out on the water the time spent there is important from more than one perspective. For me it is a chance to relax, no phone, no Internet, no extraneous noise, just nature, a chance to do something that I enjoy for the sheer joy of it. Even though there will be paddling for the sake of paddling, the business part that can no longer be separated entirely from time on the water, because my passion is also my business.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Just scratch it already!

For the most part we and our customers build boats that we want to shine; I’m not talking about the way in which they fulfill their intended tasks. Though we do want them to shine in that way, what I am talking about is that wonderful look you get with a boat that is built of wood and covered in coats of carefully applied varnish, giving them that warmth that you only get with wood. I have said more than once when we are at shows that if we just charged a dollar a picture we would always make back the money we have invested. This tells me that many of you feel the same way about wood and wooden boats as we do.

The problem that this glossy finish brings to the fore is that first scratch, at shows we are often asked if we paddle the boats, or if they are just for display. Yes we do paddle them, as often as we can and like everyone who enjoys getting out on the water not nearly as often as we want to. Those who pass through our display booth will follow that question up with, aren't you worried about damaging the boats? The answer I usually give is that the cure for that worry is to go out the first day and just get it over with, scratch the boat.  This answer is given somewhat tongue in cheek as it does seem to me to some small degree a sort of sacrilege and I have scratched many boats.

The fact is that the answer really is yes, like any boat owner you do not want to damage your boat but damage and scratches are not the same thing.  A scratch just means that you use your boat, all boats get scratches some are more visible than others due to the fact that some colours and materials simply make them more obvious than others. Some are more obvious because well you have hit something a little harder. These  wood and epoxy  boats are amazingly tough but like any boat they where designed for a purpose, you would not run rapids in a sea kayak and neither would you do so in one of ours its not what they where made for. That’s what playboats are made for and they use materials that are appropriate to the use when they build them.

Varnished boats actually have a distinct advantage over the average fiberglass boat when it comes to those inevitable scratches. The varnished boat can go home and into the garage and with a couple hours of work the next day comes out looking like new.  Not many people are equipped to repair gel coat but most everyone can handle a paint brush and a little varnish. So get out there and use them it he reason they where designed and built.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Some days this design thing is just like work

After a few weeks of fun, launching new boats and getting out on the water for their first trials, the fun part of designing for home .builders has come to an abrupt end. Now instead of sitting in one of the boats on a  lake or a river  or even parked in front  of the computer or at the drafting table mulling over a new design it is time to put together the plans and construction notes.  As much as I enjoy the process of designing and building boats at times like these it seems just like a job, it needs to be done, so on with the task.

This plans building process is simply hours of sitting in front of the computer going through the construction process in your head and getting it all down on paper. It also involves running out to the boat shed taking more pictures, taking measurements of those parts that were either modified during construction, had their final location set or an aspect of the design that was finalized during construction.  This running back and forth to the boat makes me thankful for the digital camera and the ability to quickly and directly download pictures, and to take as many as needed quickly and efficiently.

With the first draft done next is trying to compile it all in a way that makes sense, not just to me but to those who will often only ever seen a picture of the boat online or in a brochure, until the plans arrive in the mail or the truck with the kit shows up at the door.  This may also be their first project of any size; they may have limited experience working with wood and more likely limited experience with epoxy resin systems.  While it is easy to write this line it is more difficult in practice not to make any jumps that may seem to not be of any significance to me but may stop the first time builder or even worse cause them some degree of confusion that could lead to mistakes.

Now that I have completed writing what seems to be in part a reminder to self about what I am doing spending these hours sitting in front of the computer, it is time to go back to getting the plans together.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Launching 1,2,3

Over the last few weeks we have had the fun of launching two new designs; as a designer and builder launchings come in three parts, first is that day when the boat is loaded up and its time to head off to the water. From a builders point of view this is a great time the build is complete, the boat is as pretty as it will likely ever be the paint and varnish are new and fresh all the hardware and fittings are spotless. It is time to play, to get out on the water and enjoy the joy and freedom that comes with time outdoors in a vessel you have crafted. I looked forward to these two most recent boats in particular because they are boats that I can paddle, often new designs are too small for me to paddle and I end up on shore with the camera while others get to go play. Those times when there is no way that I will ever get to paddle the boat can make this a time that feels somewhat anti-climatic.

That brings me to the second look at launching, the first put in for a new design from the designer’s point of view. The launch can cause a designer anxiety, from a builder’s point of view you know the boat will float, from the designer’s point of view the question is not will the boat  float but will it float as intended, does it sit in the water the way it was envisioned? Does the boat paddle as easily as hoped, does it handle in the water as planned, and will it do the job it was intended to do? This is when most of the questions that concern you as a designer get the final answers, you can be pretty confident that the design will do as intended and that you made the right choices but this is the confirmation.

No boat can do every thing; those who aim for a craft that can do a wide array of disparate tasks usually end up with one that does nothing really well. When you prowl through the various on line forums you often come across criticisms, I often find they are done with no though given to the boats intended purpose, but rather are based on a preconceived notion of what it ought to do or what that individual would like it to do. That does not mean that criticisms and commentary are not a good thing, we like to hear from our clients and others it is one of the ways that we are able to improve our boats and the plans for building them. The idea being that we want the boats to better meet the original design goals, not to try to head off in a direction the design was never intended to go.

The third launch is when the boat meets the public; these days this usually happens first on the internet through our web site where renderings of the preliminary design have been posted for weeks or even months as the design and then building process took place. When the boat is finished it takes place in parking lots, at boat launches and beaches as we head out and put a few miles under the keels and of course it happens at boat shows. Shows are great in that you get to introduce people to your work and get a chance to gauge the level of acceptance that the boats are receiving; the only draw back is that there are not many shows with a set up that allows for paddling leaving only discussion. Shows also allow for a chance to meet up with builders who you may not have heard from since the plans or kits were shipped.

That’s it for launching 1, 2, 3, tomorrows a paddling day, maybe we will see you on the beach.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Miracle Fibre W

Spent the past weekend at the ACBS (Antique and Classic Boat Society) show in Gravenhurst, Ontario, we of course where there with our line of kayaks as many of those who have gathered there are people with a love of both the water and in spending time on the water in wooden boats. While I do not get to spend much time looking around at the boats due to having to man the booth, I did get a few moments to sneak over to the shore and watch a few of the boats run (we have posted a few pictures over on our facebook page). This was made easier by the fact that often when a new group of boats came out and went thundering past most everyone headed for the waterfront no matter what they had been doing
Some of the boats that where gathered there where famous such as Miss Canada or Miss Supertest, there where others such as the Sea Fleas that belonged to people who just want to go out and play on the water, but at a much faster pace then some of us are looking for. In addition to the race boats there where many others that are beautiful examples of the many different models that where built in the Muskoka’s over the years.

These boats may all be constructed using different techniques, they may all have very different purposes but they all have one thing in common they all are made of what has been referred to as the original miracle fibre, wood.  We may all get on the water for different reasons, but there is nothing like doing it in a craft constructed of the miracle fibre.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Patient Anticipation

The new boat is well on its way, at this point it has been sanded and is having varnish applied to the hull, when that is completed, at least three coats  it will be turned over and the deck varnished. When the deck has been varnished then the deck can be outfitted, the seat and foot braces installed.  None of these steps whether it is a coat of varnish or the installation of the boats outfit take much time, but the varnish has to cure between coats, which means that no matter how strong the desire is to just get the boat in the water you are not likely to be able to apply more than two coats of varnish a day. Working part time you are more likely to be applying one coat a day which means that it will take a week to varnish and install deck rigging, seat, foot braces, and hatch closures.

This is the time of patient anticipation, you need to take the time to finish the boat off right and while it is very possible to take the boat out for a paddle without its finish applied it is much easier to apply the finish without the outfit installed. The Aulavik 18 which is the boat in the shop now is one that I really want to get on the water it was designed to fit me which does not usually happen, most boat series begin based on a place in the market or requests and suggestions from customers. This boat began as a discussion with a paddler looking for a particular boat style, nothing ever developed from those talks as far as a boat for that particular individual, but the idea stuck and the Aulavik 18 was developed. The computer tells me this boat will be easily paddled, but it cannot tell me how the boat will handle, that can be guessed at or surmised from previous designs but the reality will only be known when the hull hits the water.

I sit here at the computer looking out the office door at the upturned hull waiting on the varnish so the next coat can be applied, exercising my not so patient anticipation, filling my head with thoughts of miles to be covered, lakes to explore, of natures beauty, solitude and silence.  Come on varnish dry!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Strip Decks and Stress

This weekend I am doing what I believe is one of the most stressful parts of building a hybrid stitch & glue kayak glassing the strip deck. There are many parts of the process that are simple, that allow for change or adjustment particularly when you are constructing a one off or the first of any design, most of the time what I am building is a prototype with generally only small changes that most would not notice being made to the final product as a result of this first build. These things are expected and don’t cause too much stress, you just make the modification and move on.
The changes are usually as mentioned simple, and may not even have anything to do with the boat as it will be seen. An example is the Aulavik 18 which is the boat nearing completion in the shop and is having its deck covered in fiberglass today up until this point in the construction process things have gone along well  with the boat coming together pretty much as expected. The changes that are being made are to the building method in order to help ensure a consistent final product no matter who it is that is building the boat.  The change is that we will add more forms to be used when constructing the hull to give more control over its shape until the time comes to install the deck.
Getting back to where I was headed when I began to write this, this is the point in the construction process where what you will see as the final product will be locked in under a coat of resin and glass cloth, any spots missed in the preparation of the deck will now quickly become apparent. Not only will they be in all likelihood glaringly apparent but they will also be difficult to remedy, this does not change whether the boat is a prototype or a later version built from the plans or a kit. If you have problems and decide to paint in order to hide any flaws that are driving you crazy many people will guess why the deck is painted not many would take the time to install a strip deck so they could hide their work under a coat of paint. If it where a hull built of plywood that was painted no one would ever guess that you had not planned to paint it in the first place.

Time to head back into the shop and see how the epoxy is curing and if it needs one last coat before we let it cure then move on with getting the boat finished and on the water. It does look like it will turn out alright in spite of today’s other stressing factors heat and humidity.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Boatbuilding and Boat Shows

When I decided to start a blog I made myself a promise it  would not go more than a week without a new post, as is obvious post two is already more than a week after post one. I am blaming this on that seemingly inevitable part of boats and boa tbuilding, promotion and in particular boat shows a designer I worked for in the past often talked about shameless self promotion as a large part of the business something I have never been comfortable with. I am coming to grips with the need to be out there promoting those boats we have to offer and the fact that as the designer and builder they are to a certain extent a reflection of me. Even if you happen to have a better mousetrap if you’re the only one who knows about it there will be only one. So it is off to the shows we go hope to see you there.
 We try to exhibit at a few shows each summer , they are usually smaller ones and we tend to favour shows that feature wooden boats as we are most likely  to find like minded people there, those who seek not only to get on the water but want to do so in a wooden boat. This year we started off on a different tack with the Boat, Cottage and Outdoor Show, in Orillia unfortunately the weather only saw fit to co-operate on one of the three days, tainting rather significantly our experiment in this type of show exhibition. While the third day was enjoyable at 20 degrees C and sunny the rest of the weekend was a sullen gray 14 with a cool wind off the water.

We do need to thank those hardy souls who made their way down to the show and we did appreciate your comments and feedback on our newest design the Steel River 12 which is aimed at the kayak fisherman, the local CTV news channel also deserves a mention and thanks as they used shots of our exhibit in their coverage of the show and it did drive some people down to the show specifically to look at our boats.  Our next try will be in Gravenhurst on the 6th and 7th of July at the ACBS show, if you love wooden boats it is a great place to be as there many gather there.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

First post

Welcome to our blog which we hope will be a place where we can share our passion for the outdoors in general and for getting out on the water in particular, it will also be in part about boat building and design.  Where we can share a bit about the boats that are still just paper dreams, those that have to some degree be committed to drafting vellum as sketches or are in some preliminary way being worked out in CAD.  It will be also a place where we can share the joys and some of the not so joyful moments that come in boat building and in particular when working out the details of a new boat.

Should you go to our website you will see that w e have been focusing mainly on kayaks but as illustrated by the small trimaran though we are branching out a little the focus still is backyard boats. That is boats that may not only be kept in the backyard but in many cases will also be built there. Sailing is where I started and have cruised and raced around the Great Lakes from Montreal to Mackinaw and now with the canoes and kayaks many of the rivers and lakes between those two points. The other two Great Lakes are calling as is the endless list of lakes and rivers yet to be explored I do hope we will see you out there somewhere.

To give you a bit more history I have spent about ten years working for a builder of fiberglass boats, worked in the drafting department of a commercial boat builder for a short time then spent a couple of years working in a design office where the focus was at the time on custom boats, with some production and semi-production work thrown in for good measure. Somewhere in the midst of this I also completed the Westlawn course on yacht design.