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.