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A Kayak Trio - Phil Winch's "Baby Photos"

A kayaker sits in a wooden kayak watching mist drift across a bay

Builder Stories is a feature where we share photos and stories from builders in their words. This post tells the story of how Phil Winch found no less than three wooden kayaks in partial states of completion, and finished or restored them all.

"Baby Photos" by Phil Winch

Sorry for the cryptic subject but in the Navy that’s what we used to call things that our colleagues would bore us with ad nauseam. So, here I am inflicting myself on you. This is my story about my kayaks.

I had been a paddler of plastic kayaks for years. As I was facing retirement, I thought building a cedar strip kayak would keep me entertained. I saw a Craigslist add for a “partial” Endeavour kit and went to look at it. It was basically Kayakcraft, plans and a bundle of badly handled strips. It took a while to gather the remaining bits and to soak up your instructions and tips but it seemed like I was ready to start. The shelter went up and the neighbours gathered to kibbutz. You have to appreciate that this was all happening on Marine Drive in White Rock, BC so I was not short of people offering advice. After the hull was complete, I got carried away and decided to do a walnut and yellow cedar inlay deck (à la fancy wooden yachts).

Detail of a walnut and yellow cedar inlay deck on a partially finished wooden kayak

This delayed completion but luckily didn’t hinder the functional design. The launching was successful and I enjoyed many trips with it. My partner had a plastic kayak she was very happy with, but then another opportunity came up to finish a “Venture.” A gentleman had passed away leaving a bare hull and partially completed deck. I convinced my partner that since I was so happy with my “woodie" she would also appreciate one. The glass work needed some significant removal and replacing but it all worked out in the end and she too fell in love with her “woodie.” She was, however, experiencing some difficulty keeping up with our younger (low 70s) friends on longer paddles in the Broken Group and Desolation Sound.

A kayaker sits in a wooden kayak looking at mists drift across a bay

At this point, I thought: "Ah ha! I’ll build a Reliance." I wrote to you about getting plans and forms but when I did a project budget, it didn’t make economic sense. We ended up buying a used Delta 20T. A good boat, reasonably fast and stable and it met our needs quite well. Then one day while renewing the varnish on the Endeavour, a fellow walked up to me and said: “Hey, I’ve got one like that in my garage that I’ve never got around to fixing.” It turns out that he had purchased a Reliance that had very small cockpits, no bulkhead and no hatches. After 10 years in his ownership, it had acquired a lot of dust and some pretty significant hanger rash. We made a deal and I started to entertain my neighbours again. There was absolutely no way I was going to fit into the cockpit openings (I’ve shrunk in my old age but I still couldn’t fit my 6’ frame into those holes). I thought about taking the deck off if I was going to be doing cockpits, hatches and bulkheads but ended up working topside for all of them. The end result is a very functional double and although it is a little wider and heavier than I would have liked, is still a great boat.

To wrap it all up, I now have three boats which never fail to garner attention and which have given me a great deal of pleasure both in working on them and playing in them. Thank you and please pass on my appreciation to Steve Killing for his designs.

Phil Winch in White Rock, BC.

A trio of wooden kayaks propped up near a body of water


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