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It Started With a Book by Paul Shay, CT, USA

Posted on January 10 2014

By Paul B. Shay

It was Christmas of 2005 that Sister Kathy gave me a book on canoe construction. I remember thumbing through it with interest but put it aside for future reference. It got stashed in out bookcase. At the time I was focused on other things. I’m still running my own business.

In June of the next year, while looking through the Garrett Wade catalog, I found a Strip Canoe Model kit and ordered it. Delivery came from a place called Bear Mountain Boats. In it was a flyer for the Wooden Boat School in Brooklin, Maine. I was familiar with the magazine back in the 80s’ but hadn’t read one since then. Low and behold WBS had a cedar strip canoe building course the following September. Kim Patten told me the class was full and put me on a waiting list. In August I received a phone call from Kim telling me there’d been a cancelation and would I like to come to the class. Without hesitation I said yes, you bet.

On the Sunday morning of my drive up to Brooklin, I was in my office doing some last minute things. I was prepared with all the recommended tools and such but planned to get any suggested books on the subject at the Wooden Boat Store when I arrived. I suddenly remembered the canoe construction book Sister Kathy had given me. I called my wife, Robin, and asked her to check the book case for the book. And what do ya know – it’s Ted Moores’ CanoeCraft. Up to that point I hadn’t put it together. The same gentleman that’s going to teach the class also wrote the book on the subject, given to me by my Sister nine months before. (Filson is right: Might as well have the best) The dots are starting to connect.

That Sunday evening, while reviewing the class, Ted wanted to know somethings about us and what we would like to get out of the class. when it came around to me, I told Ted that I was just supposed to be there.

Well we built a beautiful Ranger. The crew working on our boat seemed to work very well together. It was my first visit to WBS resulting in a very good experience. I didn’t win the drawing but was please to have participated in the build. Ted Moores is a great teacher, gentleman and craftsman. I learned much from him – enough to think seriously about building one myself at home.

On at least one subsequent visit to WBS I had the pleasure of being there the same time as Ted. I believe he was one of WBSs’ most prized instructors.

Why did I decide to build a canoe?

My boat building inspiration came from my Grandfather, my Mother’s Father. When I was very young I saw a picture of him with the Snipe he built back in the 30s’. I still have that picture. I’ve been a bit of a woodworker most of my adult life and the idea of building something as complex as a boat seemed challenging.

How challenging was the process?

After Ted’s instruction an a set of his plans, I don’t believe the process was too difficult. Couldn’t have done it without my wife Robins. She was a huge help, a fresh pair of eyes with useful suggestions. She got more enthusiastic as progress was made. With the benefit of several other classes at WBS, we were prepared. Having just purchased a new home with an available 1000 sq. ft. workshop made it all the more enjoyable.

What I wanted was a cedar strip canoe without staples holes. I had seen a few techniques but decided to try our own with clamps, dowels, Painters’ tape and tie-down straps at station molds. The method is slow. You can only do about 3 strips a day. At that rate it takes about 5 weeks to strip. But, the result speaks for itself. The plans we used were for the Huron Cruiser from Bear Mountain Boats.

A couple of innovations (experiments really) were the accent stripe and the half ribs. accent stripes were easy but the mahogany half rids were a bear to fit. We’ll use Spanish Cedar on the next one.

What’s special about all this is the satisfaction of building something with wood. It’s the beauty of the wood, the shape of the boat and the utility, just to name a few. Can’t wait to try it again. We’re going to try Bobs’ Special. We need a fatter boat.

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