In June 2017, I bought a canoe on Craigslist. Living just a relatively short walking distance from the magnificent Lake Sammamish, it seemed silly not to have any floating vehicles.
We used it half a dozen times. I built a PVC pipe dolly to take the boat walking. It was fun! We paddled (I paddled) on Sammamish river, collected tennis balls from the adjacent off-leashed dog park, picnicked on the opposite shores of the lake. Weathered some light winds and motorboats’ wake and felt like I was crossing Drake’s channel. I floated around the remains of the long-gone Campbell Lumber Co., an old timber facility that continues to rot away after a hundred years. It was great.
And then one day, the canoe was gone. In more than 15 years of living in this area, I’ve never had anything stolen. Maybe I got too confident. Maybe (as my wife suggests), someone thought that is was “free” as I left it in my driveway. I don’t buy it, I think it was stolen, I reported it to the police and such, but it is gone.
After my initial shock with the news, (and some sadness for the loss), I figured it was the best thing that could have happened, because now that I had no boat, and having the great experience that we had, I found renewed energy for a much more ambitious project: building a boat. A wooden boat. A beautifully crafted, head-turning, elegant, awesome boat.
Choosing the boat
Long-time ago I bumped into Chesapeake Light Craft. I loved their designs and the stitch & glue building method looks approachable. Especially for someone that has never done it before. And they have great tutorials and content.
After looking through their catalog, I finally settled on the Sassafras 16. They call it a “canoe”, but it kind of looks like a boat. And the shape is just beautiful.
From their website:
The lapstrake canoe is an ancient craft. In its recreational form it had already reached a very high pitch of refinement by the 1880’s, in the hands of artisans like J. Henry Rushton. Something about the combination of lightweight utility and easy, graceful lines makes the lapstrake canoe a very desirable creature, indeed.
Chesapeake Light Craft first introduced the lapstrake Sassafras canoes in the late 1990’s. Named after a placid and scenic river on the upper Chesapeake, these handsome canoes are at home in rivers, lakes, and bays, able enough to surmount wind chop and powerboat wakes, and to carry a good load.
Lapstrake canoes built the way Rushton did it require extremely sophisticated skills and equipment. Using CLC’s exclusive LapStitch™ process, assembly is accessible to beginners. There’s no mold, no lofting, no spiling, no tricky joinery.
That sounded really inspiring, so I bought the kit … in February 2018. Today it is November 2019, and I am still building it. Not CLC’s fault. The kit is just great. I’ve been busy and I can only spend a few hours every other weekend or so. So my progress has been … well… slow.
But I am getting there. It’s now looking like a boat:
And I am confident that by next Summer (2020), I will be able to launch it and float once again through Lake Sammamish. I fantasize about taking it downstream through Sammamish River, all the way to Lake Washington.
My previous canoe didn’t have a name. It was just “the boat”. But this one will have one. I thought about naming it “Prinz Eugen”, but I settled for “Pul” which is a name that honors my wife who not only gave me encouragement but actively contributed to the project (and all other projects I started in muy life).