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Peterborough No. 1 by Alick Burt, somewhere in the Lake District in the UK

Posted on March 12 2014

By Alick Burt

My Canoecraft story began some years ago now. At the time I was a cabinetmaker and had my own workshop in a rented building quite some distance from any water. 

One day Peter, a friend of mine appeared in my workshop with a copy of Canoecraft. As a woodworker I was drawn to the fabulous pictures of such beautiful amazing looking boats and a seed was sown.

I was busy with other projects so never seemed to have any spare time to make a boat and what also frustrated me was a lack of money to buy even the small amount of materials needed but every now and again I would leaf through the book and think yes I would like to make one of those beauties one day.

Fast forward several years and I had changed my work situation. I was still woodworking but I had moved to a workshop that was cheaper to rent and was working away from the area a lot on site restoring woodwork in a very large grade one listed mansion.

The pieces of the jigsaw were coming together, my new workshop was near a river and from working away I had enough money for materials to make my first boat. In between working away I began to build my strongback and followed with stems and planking.

As a practiced woodworker many of the tasks were familiar to me but there was one elephant in the room and that was the one thing I knew absolutely nothing about, epoxy resin and glassing! I followed the instructions in Canoecraft and was amazed to see the clarity of the cloth and resin with the grain of the timber showing through underneath in all its glory. The outside went without a hitch but on the inside I had loads of bubbles. A quick post on the builder’s forum and I soon had some answers on how to proceed to eliminate them. I went over the inside of the hull first with a tiny drill bit and then with a syringe filling each bubble and covering the hole with masking tape to keep the resin in. Once they had cured I was able to remove the tape and continue with rubbing down the insides and the rest of my build. Launch day was a quiet affair on a lovely day at the end of May 2009 and I was amazed at how easily my Peterborough glided through the water. My paddling technique was probably poor but it didn’t matter as time seems to stop as soon as you are on the water and I was in no hurry to get anywhere in particular.

During my first few years of paddling I was amazed by the number of people who commented whenever they saw my canoe on how beautiful it looked. I have made many fabulous pieces of furniture over the years but none described with so many positive comments by observers and people who saw me driving around with her on my car. Soon the germ of an idea sprouted in my head. Maybe I should make another one and try and sell it and that is exactly what I did. I now continue to build them between my other cabinetmaking work and in addition to 7 more Peterborough’s have made one Sunnyside Cruiser and a Guillemot 17’ Sea Kayak.

Two found their way to France one is In Norway and one graces the ceiling of a pizza and real ale venue in the heart of London and may not ever see the water.

As to adventures in my Peterborough I have paddled on some of the lakes in our lovely lake district, have paddled the whole of my local river Nene and bits of other rivers and canals wherever I have found an opportunity. Here’s a picture I took on the river Wye where the pillars of this old railway bridge look like something from the lord of the rings.

Whilst working on that mansion I mentioned earlier I was able to paddle up the river Derwent in the evening, go to the local pub have a meal and a few beers and paddle back in twilight with owls hooting In the woods and Bats flying around my head. Making my Canoe has opened up a whole new world to me in terms of the places I have been wildlife I have come into contact with and of course my new canoeing friends and fellow builders.

Happy Paddling!

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