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Howard Shepherd's Y2K Canoe: A Bob's Special 21 Years in the Making

A woman sits by the shore sipping a drink, with a wooden canoe to her right

Some builders are eager to get started as soon as their kit arrives; others savour having a long-term project to chip away at. Sometimes life intervenes, and a canoe build has to be moved to the backburner for awhile. That was the case for Howard Shepherd, who ordered a kit in 2000. His Bob's Special was finished and launched 21 years later, completing a decades-long dream. The canoe was a continual source of inspiration, and we're grateful to Howard for sharing his story. Read on to hear it in his words. 


In the year 2000, I took the money I got from the settlement of my grandmother’s estate and bought a Bob Special canoe kit from you. At the time, I was a high school teacher and had only limited time to work on the project.

I had built the strongback and had bent the stems and laid out the sheer line when, in April of 2002, I broke my leg skiing.

A few years went by before I could get back to the canoe. Finally I did; I managed to get all of the cedar strips installed and the basic shell done - and a friend helped me fiberglass the outer hull. Then, in 2015, I broke the femur of my other leg (and two vertebrae) in a bicycling accident. The project languished.

In July of 2020, I retired as a teacher. Finally I had time to give my full attention to the boat. Last month, after 21 years, I finally finished it and put it in the water. She’s named Pearl, after my grandmother (Charlie Pearl Shepherd).

I wanted you to know how much this project meant to me, and how inspired I was by Ted’s book (and the YouTube videos that appeared in the 20 years since I started). Pearl tracks very well, and is a delight to be in on the water. I’ve only done calm lake canoeing so far because I’m still working on my water balance; but I hope to take her on the French Broad River here in Asheville sometime soon.

About ten or fifteen years ago, when the teaching gig was particularly tough, I taped a sign on my school computer that said “Build the Canoe.” That got me through some tough days. Thanks for giving me a project to focus on for two decades.

Howard Shepherd

Asheville, NC

A Bob's Special wooden canoe sits in a workshop

A Bob's Special wooden canoe seen in profile in front of an outbuilding

A Bob's Special wooden canoe on top of a white car

Deck detail on a Bob's Special wooden canoe

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