View Full Version : First and Last Paddle

Dave Hadfield
11-14-2002, 10:43 PM
Last summer I asked whether anyone had used Home Depot's 4-ply underlayment for boatbuilding.

Well I did. I wanted a simple, flat-bottomed canoe to use on the local river, the Nottawasega, which is so full of boulder gardens that I cringe when I take my stripper Prospector on it for a run.

So I used the Plyboats program, the experience I gained building a 6-Hour Canoe, and designed and built a 15ft x 3ft sharpie canoe. (It differs from the former by not being restricted to construction from a 4'x16' panel. I scarfed 2 panels and cut the boat out from that.) Quite simple construction -- chine logs, boat nails, construction adhesive, and floor paint. I did tape the outside chines, for impact resistance, but that's the only epoxy on the whole boat.

So today was bright and clear and unseasonably warm. Way above freezing! I abandoned ny responsibilities and went for a late-season paddle. Lovely!

I'm so pleased. I think I put just the right amount of rocker in. She takes a bit of a "J" stroke to go straight, but less if she's paddled heeled. And the rocker allows her to be slithered sideways in the many small rapids. I back-ferried here and there and all over the place. Only once did I crunch a rock, and even then it was a non-event -- just a weight shift and off I went again.

The flat bottom was a lovely novelty. It's very comfortable and warm on the knees. That plus the flare meant lots of stability. Paddling solo, she draws so little that I got through places where I was sure I'd have to step out and wade.

No one else was on the water of course, not on Nov 14. So I saw lots of wild river-life. Don't think I'm anti-social -- I like company -- but being solo kept me quiet, and as a result I shared the river with many residents that didn't hide from my approach.

First I caught a salmon, about an 8-pounder. With my bare hands. True, he was exhausted after defending his spawning-place for several weeks, but I glided by him, spied his shape, reached down and plucked him up by the tail. Poor thing. He looked so battered and beaten by the ordeal that I set him back in the water again and wished him the better luck next year.

Then I surprised an otter. He was perched on a driftwood log eating the front half of a lovely 4lb speckled trout. Sleek, black, graceful and shortsighted, I got my bow within 6ft of him before he dove away. They are unusual here. I rejoice to see them, because it means the river isn't entirely unhealthy.

Next I saw a great horned owl. It was perched in a tree 30ft back from the shore watching a squirrel gethering Manitoba Maple keys on an overhanging limb -- waiting for a clear shot. The bird didn't move as I went by, but when I reversed and paddled upstream for a 2nd look (they're rare to see in daylight), it bowed to discretion and launched off the branch into the forest. Great, soft, sloughing wing-beats....

The next great natural sight was the Township Dump, but as I paddled quickly by I saw a raccoon climbing up out of the water. He'd crossed after lunching on well-seasoned refuse, I imagine. Again somewhat short-sighted, he didn't run. Just looked over at me, wondering what sort of creature I was. (The trick in this situation is don't raise the paddle, and don't veer the canoe. Just keep the same picture in the animal's view. If you get larger in its sight as you near, chances are it won't clue in.) I spoke to him, asking if he'd just devoured the ham we'd thrown out the previous day, but got only a quizzical look in response.

All that and either 25 blue herons, or one particularly unintelligent one that I chased down the river for 10 miles.

Lovely, lovely day. What a bonus to have at this time of year.

There's nothing like messing around in little boats, sure, but nothing, absolutley nothing like messing around in a little boat that you conceived, designed, hammered together and launched for the first time on a hidden-away river. Unforgettable.

John B
11-14-2002, 10:54 PM
Good on you Dave!
I thought you were going to wrassle a bar as well for a minute there. LOL.

11-14-2002, 10:55 PM
The mixture of natural solitude and personal accomplishment makes for a rather heady draught. Savour the flavour, it's never the same twice. Glad you had a good day.

On Vacation
11-15-2002, 12:43 AM
You got it Dave. I do the very same this time of year with my old junkie wooden canoe. Hunt ducks and fish trout in the sawgrass.

Dave Hadfield
12-15-2002, 11:56 AM

Robin was going to take some magnificent photos of this first launch, photos of the highest quality; entirely suitable as records of this majestic and momentous occasion, but the camera ran out of film after one exposure.

So here is the boatbuilder in all his glory, recorded for posterity, while adjusting his chinstrap.

Oh well.... you can see the general idea of the boat anyway.

John Shin
12-16-2002, 04:20 PM
Nice! ;) We have thin rivers here too for most of the year, and that flat bottom looks right for such a place. I have often wondered if a bateau would do as well or better under such conditions than the typical shallow-vee canoe seen around here. Have you tried poleing it?

Wayne Jeffers
12-16-2002, 04:52 PM

Somehow I missed seeing this thread last month. :confused:

Nice looking canoe! :cool: She illustrates well the beauty and practicality that is possible from humble materials. She seems well suited for her intended purpose.

Thanks for sharing the story of your first journey with her. :D


Bruce Taylor
12-16-2002, 05:45 PM
I missed it too. Delightful story, and a fine boat!

I've never paddled one of these flat-bottomed canoes. How does it compare it to soloing a good round-bilged boat? How much rocker did you put in? When you say stability is good, I assume you mean initial stability. Did you test for the "point of no return"? What's the weight? What are your plans for the plans?

Wild Dingo
12-16-2002, 10:40 PM
What they said!! How I missed it I dont know!!

I reckon one of the greatest things about this forum is the yarns from around the world... Bonzer! :cool:

Take it easy

Dave Hadfield
12-17-2002, 11:10 AM
Bruce, I gave it enough rocker so that myself and 30lbs or so of gear (or 2 youngish teens on their own) would weigh the stems down to about a half-inch above the water line. This is a considerable amount, so that flat-water straight line paddling requires a bit more of a J stroke than a regular canoe. But not too too much. For lake paddling I'd give it a keel.

Its initial stability is indeed high, but its secondary stability is still reasonable. I paddled it heeled most of the day. I tried really heeling it over and its over-and-gone point was at a pretty severe angle.

I used a portable bench-seat, so that I could move forward and unweight the stern when wigggling through the rapids. And because you can make one in minutes.

Yes, you could pole in it. I was thinking of that while on the river. I did spend a fair amount of time up on my knees looking forward, sorting out a route. It's initial stability is high enough that you could even stand to do it, but frankly that technique would work better in a canoe 2ft longer, and building at that length involves much more work. This boat is built to common lumber dimensions.

Its weight is a bit high -- 63 lbs. Using these mahogany-like plywoods results in a heavier boat, period. But this stuff was nice to work with. The scarf joint was a pleasure to make. As I said, it was a 4ply 1/4" Brazilian product sold as underlayment, quite different from their regular, low-grade stuff. Still, it's well within an acceptable weight range for portaging and car-topping.

As for plans Bruce, I hadn't thought about it. You're busy with your new project, I think, but if you want to put one of these together I'll just send you the offsets. I'd be curious to find out what you think of it.

I'll tweak the sheer-line. For some reason I ended up with less than the plyboats sketch promised. Needs an inch or 2 more at the ends.

Bruce Taylor
12-17-2002, 12:21 PM
Thanks for the answers, Dave. It sounds like a great little river boat. I'm quite interested in seeing the offsets. When I'm finished with my current project --that camping boat, now named "Blackfly" -- I might take you up on your offer.