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Thread: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

  1. #1
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    Default Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Hi,

    This is my first post. I want to find out about building without fiberglass or epoxy, and still keeping weight down.

    I'd like to apply this to a current boat boat plan if possible (for example a small Dinghy D5 or an Eastport Pram).

    Any experiences or good ideas?

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Sure. Cedar planks, linseed oil, go boating. Lots of boats built before plastic. Lapstrake is a lightweight method.

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Traditional clinker building. Copper rivets. Pine tar or boiled linseed oil and cotton in the seams. Treat the hull with a mixture of raw linseed oil and a dab of some slightly poisonous commercial treatment. Surprisingly straightforward once you understand the principles. This is the only sort of boatbuilding I know anything about. Look for plans for a traditional Scandinavian pram. They are developed for his building method.
    Amateur living on the western coast of Finland

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    As above, traditional lapstrake. If you're looking at plywood boats, there are other glues like Titebond III.
    Welcome aboard!

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Quote Originally Posted by YukonHarbor View Post
    Hi,

    This is my first post. I want to find out about building without fiberglass or epoxy, and still keeping weight down.

    I'd like to apply this to a current boat boat plan if possible (for example a small Dinghy D5 or an Eastport Pram).

    Any experiences or good ideas?
    crazy talk

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    I've always wanted to try a Norwegian Pram https://www.woodenboatstore.com/prod...d-book-digital

    Similar to what others recommended above. Plans are cheap and there's an instructional disc that comes with them.

    Mike

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Here is a youtube video following the building of a traditional pram in detail.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xG9y1yhj-s
    Amateur living on the western coast of Finland

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Thanks everybody for your positive responses! What are the differences in cost and weight? For example little 8" prams stitch and glued come in at about 60 lbs. and maybe $1,000 to finish. That's kind of a guess of course; but how would that compare to the same built traditionally?

    Lately I've been dreaming about a Dinghy D5. It's something I could easily dolly to the water, brail and stow the spritsail to row under low bridges, sail and beach on local islands for camping and hiking. I'm looking into the feasibility of changing out the centerboard for a leeboard to open up the hull and improve rowing.

    BUT... Something NON PLASTIC, I think, would lend a little more pride and pleasure to the whole endeavor. Designing from scratch would help with that also if one were capable.

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Wow, brings tears of joy to my eyes. Looks like he did some glue lam though--probably inevitable...

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    The cost of building traditionally will vary enormously depending on your luck sourcing appropriate wood. Looks like you live in the right corner of the country to get the good stuff, though. Other members here can direct you to the best sources. Avoiding the cost of epoxy and fiberglass saves a bunch, and good plywood isn't cheap anyway.

    If you know anyone with a baby or expecting one, building a traditional lapstrake boat-cradle is an excellent way to get started on the skills needed. (Just don't try to float the baby in your first try. )

    -Dave

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    I think anyone who builds a cradle like that is bound to wind up with a little pilot intended or not! Aye and whenever the swaddled one (or more) is aboard keep the bow to the North Star!

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Don't get me wrong, I'm 100% in support of the concept. But I'm just going to say that some of us are trying as hard as we can to *keep* our boats from biodegrading!
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    If you live in Port Orchard go across the Hood Canal bridge and visit Port Townsend. Plenty of proof-of-concept there for you to study.

    And Chris above is 100% right about the anti-biodegrading school of thought!
    1942 Salmon Troller F/V Ginevra A

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    Default Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    I will echo both Chrisses above: the longer lived, lower maintenance ( uses modern adhesives etc) boat may last longer and require fewer resources to keep up during ownership. As such, it may net out as more environmentally responsible.

    Kevin


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    Last edited by Breakaway; 03-25-2023 at 10:36 AM.
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    We could debate forever about the longevity of plywood and epoxy boats. They may be very long lasting but we just don't know yet. The only reasonable course is to postpone the debate until the 2060-ies when we will have evidence to go by.

    Traditional clinker built softwood boats in the Nordic countries generally last between 15 and 80 years dependig on build quality, luck, and maintainance. With ordinary maintainance 25-40 years is common. A few are still in use after more than 100 years in extreme cases 150 years but they have usually been trough at least one extensive rebuild. Ordinary maintainance is a new coat of boat soup (a mix of pine tar and linseed oil and turpentine) every spring plus occasional repairs when needs arise.
    After 80-140 years the trees cut down to build the boat have grown back.

    There is no need to use glued laminations if you don't want to. Uproot a few tree stumps and chainsaw out suitable crooks or look for suitable branches and crooked trees. That is how people have been doing for many centuries and many still do today. The tradition that I am dabbling in is unbroken since before the birth of Christ and glue was only introduced within living memory.

    More videos on the subject. Keep in mind that it is a lot easier than it looks. Just trust your eye.

    This is one film in a whole series. He is building with half lap joints in the traditional style of southern ÷sterbotten in Finland. Half lap is way more difficult than ordinary clinker. Though you get an idea:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n4HrAjymNY

    Boatbuilding in northern Uppland, Sweden.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o4Ilg2LICM

    A simple square sterned rowboat being built in Northern Sweden
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCeeJLcrwQE

    A faering being built in Sogn, Norway
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZill--ltbE

    A nordfjord faering being built in Norway
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZQAJyWF6MM
    Amateur living on the western coast of Finland

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Oops. I hope I didn't just start a debate over traditional vs. modern boat building techniques! I think Kevin is right and I think Heimlaga is right, for different reasons, or the same ones, or something. I just meant that I'm dealing with some rot repair on Skookum Maru right now so the phrase "biodegradable" as applied to boats is a little triggering for me.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    I will say that on the two 14 foot, glued plywood lapstrake dinghies I've built, I have had a lot of trash after each gluing session.
    That includes cups, brushes, rags, clean-up sticks and paper towels. Breaks my heart every time.

    I console myself with the fact that our little wooden boat building community is but a drop in the bucket when it comes to trash, fossil-fuel use, etc.
    We're nothing compared to industrial scale extraction, pollution and waste.

    Still, I think trying a traditional build with as little plastic as possible is totally worth doing!!!

    Mike

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    I get a kick from the “pack the boat with salt , it preserves boats”.
    Recon it extended ten year boats to twenty .

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Quote Originally Posted by heimlaga View Post

    There is no need to use glued laminations if you don't want to. Uproot a few tree stumps and chainsaw out suitable crooks or look for suitable branches and crooked trees.
    An admirable notion for sure and romantic as can be. But uprooting tree stumps or even felling a tree is completely out of the range of possibilities for most boat builders, amateur or professional. And many builders do not have ready access to mills or even full service lumber yards. Sourcing materials of any quality is difficult in many places. Sourcing prime planking stock is a thing of dreams.

    Jeff

    Jeff

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Biodegradable is a tricky thing. If you don't want to end up composting poisoned wood your coatings are limited to raw linseed oil (or similar), mineral pigments and beeswax. "Boiled" linseed oil contains heavy metal salts, pine tar is a complex of phenolic poisons, and so on. Don't even think about antifouling paints, if you need worm protection there is copper sheating.

    WRC and AYC have their own poisons, no need to add anything. For very lightweight boats, besides lapstrake there is also batten seam planking.

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatrick View Post
    An admirable notion for sure and romantic as can be. But uprooting tree stumps or even felling a tree is completely out of the range of possibilities for most boat builders, amateur or professional. And many builders do not have ready access to mills or even full service lumber yards. Sourcing materials of any quality is difficult in many places. Sourcing prime planking stock is a thing of dreams.

    Jeff

    Jeff
    Romantic.....I can tell you it is not when I try to carry chain saw and fuel can and felling lever and axe and log tongs and toolbox up a bouldery hillside with snow above my knees occasinally falling down holes deeper than I am tall. It was certainly not romantic when all oil leaked out of the engine of my 50 years old tractor and I had to rebuild it completely. Nor when a storm took down some 100 trees which I had to clear up in my sparetime to salvage the timber. Nor when I uprooted spruce stumps by hand on an island and carried them to my rowboat and rowed them ashore. However that is the reality I live in. Only yesterday I took down a sick pine tree to prevent the disease from spreading and found a suitable grown crook high up in the crown so I immediately roughed it out with the chainsaw.
    Around here there are plenty of smallholders like me with a few hectares of woodland.
    Those who don't own any woodland or don't have suitable trees on theirs usually ask somebody else if they can buy a few suitable trees when they need speciality timber. Isn't that possible in America? Or is it just a cultural barrier?
    Amateur living on the western coast of Finland

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    None of that can happen for most of us in New Zealand.
    Even if you owned land, any trees we have that are suitable for boatbuilding are protected now.
    A kauri fell across the road at my sisters house in Titirangi a few years ago.
    Anything useful was long gone before the council got there to clean it up.

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    However I have seen recent photos of entire hillsides in the Pacific Northwest of USA covered in metre high 12-16 inch diametre tree stumps left by the logging companies whose workers felled at waist level or above to save labour. The soil looked like easily dug gravel so it would be easy to dig out a few stumps by hand after calling the logging company and offering to pay a symbolic sum...... The Finn who had visited there and had taken the photos was apalled by the amount of good timber left to rot in those high stumps which he saw everywhere.
    Just a thought.........
    Amateur living on the western coast of Finland

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    I rekon a pram would be a suitable project to start with for the tread starter. Because of the hull shape no planking stock need to be wider than 9 inches because all planks end up being almost straight. It can be built without crooks if you want though it would be better to put in a sawn frame or two which can be either laminated or grown. There is no stem nor keel which makes building a lot easier.
    An ideal starter project in my books.

    The important part is to always know where you are heading. Study simlilar boats closely until you have a good mental image of the hull shape plank by plank. Then crete that shape using the moulds as guides. You adjust the flare of each plank by lifting or lowering the ends. You plane the lands so that they point in the direction you are heading. If you happen to plane just a wee bit too much bevel on a land you take a few shavings off the mating land as well so the plank angle becomes correct and the seam tight.
    If you put builed linseed oil and cotton between the lands you don't need the saame extreme accuracy as the English need for their dry seams.


    Just to show how things can be done I am posting links to a few more films about clinker boatbuilding.

    Sami men in Northern Norway building a river boat.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmkxdRpI7ak

    A simple square sterned row boat being built in PernŚ southeastern Finland
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yCU9fp9kj0
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbaCdbDkkcs

    A chap in Cornwall, Britain teaching their style of clinker planking
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0yFnF5Dx0s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiZavgG20qA
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiWvhIbB7JU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKr_uljrhdM
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CFTO1oWjCQ

    To me it seems that people in this thread are seeing problems that really don't exist........ just like I tend to do when forced outside my comfort zone and forced to use fiberglass in any form. I have never really aquired the skills to work with it so even a small fiberglass repair is a mayor undertaking for me. While I know that it really should be easy.
    Last edited by heimlaga; 03-26-2023 at 03:25 AM.
    Amateur living on the western coast of Finland

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Quote Originally Posted by heimlaga View Post
    However I have seen recent photos of entire hillsides in the Pacific Northwest of USA covered in metre high 12-16 inch diametre tree stumps left by the logging companies whose workers felled at waist level or above to save labour. The soil looked like easily dug gravel so it would be easy to dig out a few stumps by hand after calling the logging company and offering to pay a symbolic sum...... The Finn who had visited there and had taken the photos was apalled by the amount of good timber left to rot in those high stumps which he saw everywhere.
    Just a thought.........
    The US has a strange relationship with logging. Everyone wants to build, but think loggers are rapers of the earth. Of course, the problem is that some are. There are many places where logging is happening & certainly areas like yours where a person can log their own land. However, that's a small percentage of the country & a very small percentage of the people who would/could. A large number of people believe that, like steaks growing in styrofoam containers at the supermarket, 2x4's grow at Home Depot or Lowes.

    Logging here in the eastern US is very different from the west. We have smaller areas that can be logged & much stricter regulations, while the west has more of a frontier flavor - though it's slowly getting better. 20 years ago, seeing the clearcutting on land too steep to use a skidder create brown deltas miles out to sea from topsoil getting washed away made me really sad.

    In fairness, in many places as much logging is done in the winter as possible to reduce damage to the land & trees cut in 3 feet of snow will leave tall stumps. Going back later to get the wood in the stump is 1) not cost effective & 2) will do the damage that the original winter logging tried to prevent. Stumps are also left on slopes to reduce runoff & slides while replanted trees grow large enough to take over.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    Don't get me wrong, I'm 100% in support of the concept. But I'm just going to say that some of us are trying as hard as we can to *keep* our boats from biodegrading!
    Noted and agree; no accelerated biodegradation intended!

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris-on-the-Boat View Post
    If you live in Port Orchard go across the Hood Canal bridge and visit Port Townsend. Plenty of proof-of-concept there for you to study.

    And Chris above is 100% right about the anti-biodegrading school of thought!
    I'll have to make the trip again in search of less plastic! I drove up there just a couple weeks ago (A very pleasant drive despite the snowstorms) to see some stitch-n-glue boats. But candidly, I dread those multiple layers of epoxy and cloth.

    And I heartily agree with your agreement with Chris above.

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Quote Originally Posted by YukonHarbor View Post
    I'll have to make the trip again in search of less plastic! I drove up there just a couple weeks ago (A very pleasant drive despite the snowstorms) to see some stitch-n-glue boats. But candidly, I dread those multiple layers of epoxy and cloth.

    And I heartily agree with your agreement with Chris above.
    I agree with your agreement as well!

    There is zero need to build with epoxy and fiberglass and there are plenty of traditional construction techniques which don't require that you have access to stand of boatbuilding timber for your knees and crooks. I love nordic boat building porn as much as the next guy but I am never, ever going to be manly enough to carve my own trennels with an axe so I just watch them and marvel. Here in North 'Murica we have a pantheon of techniques that are within reach of an average guy with a few tools (I say this while having never done it myself you understand). But I expect that you could build a cross-planked flatiron skiff from plain lumber in a few days with nothing more than a handsaw and a few other tools. That would be a worthy boat to start with. I still miss the one I had as a boy. Build a dory next, maybe. A little more refined but not much. Plenty of fancier options from there.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Quote Originally Posted by heimlaga View Post
    However I have seen recent photos of entire hillsides in the Pacific Northwest of USA covered in metre high 12-16 inch diametre tree stumps left by the logging companies whose workers felled at waist level or above to save labour. The soil looked like easily dug gravel so it would be easy to dig out a few stumps by hand after calling the logging company and offering to pay a symbolic sum...... The Finn who had visited there and had taken the photos was apalled by the amount of good timber left to rot in those high stumps which he saw everywhere.
    Just a thought.........
    heimlaga, I really appreciate your posting on this thread with lots of good info. Thanks for the videos! I'm lucky to be helping restoration of a Davis (a family of wooden boat builders) 14' boat.

    For the debate, here in the Pacific Northwest there's a lot of logging. What you're seeing in those photos is likely new growth Douglas Fir logging on state land or privately owned forests. Most of the old growth (really huge trees which you might also find in old photos) was strip logged out more than a hundred years past. Whatever old growth that remains is largely on federally protected lands like the Olympic National Park. So I'm pretty sure what you're seeing with the stumps and wood left about is regulated "forest management." It's a progressing science, still wasteful in many ways; but improving in other ways. So of course there's evolving views of responsible vs. irresponsible use of wood and resources. The debates are endless--and should be!

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    "But I expect that you could build a cross-planked flatiron skiff from plain lumber in a few days with nothing more than a handsaw and a few other tools."

    I did just that some years back, using lumberyard pine, galvanized nails and hand tools. No plans, just a midship mold. The stem and transom frame came from a cast off pallet. Took less than a week to build, lasted years with minimal maintenance.

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Quote Originally Posted by johngsandusky View Post
    "But I expect that you could build a cross-planked flatiron skiff from plain lumber in a few days with nothing more than a handsaw and a few other tools."

    I did just that some years back, using lumberyard pine, galvanized nails and hand tools. No plans, just a midship mold. The stem and transom frame came from a cast off pallet. Took less than a week to build, lasted years with minimal maintenance.
    I like that. But well I do want to go light and have specific ideas on what I want to end up with. So to have a little fun with it Letís start with the Kon-Tiki, gradually swamping across the Pacifc. Then letís meander to your suggestion which brings up fond memories offloading to colorful V8 outboards for shore leave. And now to a Humble Bee lapstrake round bilge pram sprit rigged with a leeboard and oars.

    If I only had to drag a boat 10 feet from shore your boat would work. But I have a few blocks, so small and light is important. And gleaned from the enlightening info on this thread, I donít have build a stitch-n-glue epoxy slather job.

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Quote Originally Posted by YukonHarbor View Post
    I like that. But well I do want to go light and have specific ideas on what I want to end up with. So to have a little fun with it Let’s start with the Kon-Tiki, gradually swamping across the Pacifc. Then let’s meander to your suggestion which brings up fond memories offloading to colorful V8 outboards for shore leave. And now to a Humble Bee lapstrake round bilge pram sprit rigged with a leeboard and oars.

    If I only had to drag a boat 10 feet from shore your boat would work. But I have a few blocks, so small and light is important. And gleaned from the enlightening info on this thread, I don’t have build a stitch-n-glue epoxy slather job.
    This is the sort of skiff John and I are talking about.



    (that's me, age twelve or so). You can rig them with a dagger board and a sprit rig easily enough. Much simpler and likely lighter than a round bilge pram of similar length, and quite effective for what they are. There is a lot to be said for simplicity. Traditionally they would have been built around a single mold with no plans, as John did, but Mystic Seaport has plans for quite a pretty little version here.

    https://store.mysticseaport.org/ship...ron-skiff.html

    Something like that with a lightweight dolly would be very easy to move a few blocks from home to shore. People will tell you that flat bottomed boats will pound, and so they will, until you are sailing at any angle of heel, at which point the chine makes a perfectly acceptable v-hull form and they will sail as sweetly as you wish.

    Now I want to build one myself...
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    Hey Yucan, This is a great thread which will give you some encouragement. He hasnít posted for a while though.
    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...ise-With-Flare
    edit to add, there is a bit of epoxy use

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    Default

    Pram? Rolling it a few blocks? Trad Build?

    https://www.harrybryan.com/products






    Kevin




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    Default Re: Biodegradable Boat Building--No Plastic!

    The flat iron skiff I built was for a friend who lived near a large pond. The boat was kept afloat all season, and dragged home for the winter. It was about 14' long, not a cartopper.

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