Covid Canoe and Cruising

July 22, 2020


I have been working on a little strip-planked canoe called a “Nymph” for about a year, but it is pretty complicated process, and I kept getting sidetracked by travel, the big boat, political campaigns, etc. — until now, of course.

With the pandemic and the long process of getting my eyes fixed, I have had plenty of shop time recently and am forging ahead.  What surprised me, though, is that a little boat that supposed to come in at a weight of something like 22 pounds is about as much work as just about any other boat that’s conventionally planked.  Each teensy little plank requires scarphing short, shippable pieces into long planks, shaping them to fit and fastening to one another.

I made the fastening a little harder than it should have been since I decided to try to keep each plank a long, sweeping piece from one end to the other.  Since the boat is very curvy at the ends and has a big round tumblehome at the center, that meant each individual strip had a lot of shape and twist to be tortured around the molds.  In a lot of places I used epoxy to glue the strips together to take the stress, and Ray lent my a pin nailer that could have fastened together steel plates, which also helped.

Fairing has (as always) been a lot of work.  The normal process with a strip planked boat is to basically trowel on a coat of some sort of epoxy/microballoon goop to fill the low spots and small seams between the planks, then sand down until you reach the high spots.  But in the interest of weight reduction, I hand-filled every seam and staple hole, sanding each application after overnight drying sessions. So I have a very ugly (pink regular filler, white fine filler), but very smooth hull ready for glass.

I also got in a little cruise up to a little three-boat hole just north of Old Lyme on the Connecticut River, and to the headwaters of the Niantic River.   I figured that since you really can’t do much safely ashore, I would try to find some very natural surroundings to drop the hook.

Goose Island was great — marsh and ospreys on one side of the boat, beautiful houses lining the River on the other.  But boy does the current run through there.  I though we were far enough out of the channel to reduce it, but woke up in the middle of the night as the boat took off into a big pirouette after slack water.  But the anchor held fine, just giving me a very different view by morning.

Niantic is a nice sort of beach town on Long Island Sound to the east of the Connecticut River with a boardwalk and restaurants and tee-shirts, etc.  But it’s view is dominated by a huge nuclear plant, and there are two bascule bridges leading into the harbor, so I really don’t know anyone that goes there much.  But from Route 1, you can look down the Niantic River to the Sound and I always had it in the back of my mind to go there.  So I braved the bridges and shallow water to sneak up the Niantic River into Kerry Cove.  As huge thunderstorms rolled through, it was totally calm, as we were surrounded by the hills that form the Connecticut River Valley.

So that’s a cruise that I would never have taken without Covid 19, but frankly I’d rather be in Maine eating lobsters and looking at wooden boats.

Jig for scarphing up the strips.

This jig guides a pull saw while you put the angle into the scarphs.

Start of stripping.

Working my way up, stapling and nailing the strips to the molds.

Done. I ran out of cedar strips and had to use a couple walnut.

Improving the view for these Old Lyme residents.

Poor picture, but mama, papa and two fledging ospreys stayed overnight with the Tardis.

Tiny cut off the Connecticut River, I95 in the background.

Niantic River — not my picture since I forgot to take any.



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