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Archive for October, 2010

My name is Bill Wessinger and I would like to welcome you to my blog. As a first post, I thought I would go through a sort of brief introduction of myself, my interest in boats, my experience with boats, and my goals in beginning this blog.

As a kid I was always interested in boats. My interest was sort of an enigma, as my parents didn’t own any boats, and I rarely had the opportunity to spend time on them. A few times my family went sailing with friends of my parents or paddle in kayaks or canoes. I would occasionally travel by ferry in the San Juan Islands or other parts of Puget Sound. Several times I went to summer camps where I would spend several days on the Townshend out of Port Townsend, a boat opperated by the Wooden Boat Foundation, and once I spent a week on the Adventuress, a large and elegant old schooner, but my experiences were few and far apart.

For whatever reason, the practical matter of not spending much time in boats never mattered and my interest was hooked. While I was still in middle school I began building a small lapstrake canoe according to the methods laid out by Thomas Hill in his book Ultralight Boatbuilding. Well, I never got beyond finishing the building jig. I built the jig using plans I became convinced would not be compatible with plywood building and scrapped the project.

Though I scrapped that project, my interest was undiminished. I continued buying issues of Wooden Boat through my high school years and would frequently ask for books related to boat building, boat design, or related subjects for Christmas or my birthday.

Towards the end of high school I started putting my interest in boats aside. It seemed too impractical to try and find a career working with boats. I had spent too little time with them and did not feel I had what I’ll call the ‘street cred’ to make anything significant of it. My only boat building project had been scrapped and it felt like too nerdy or dorky of an interest at the time. Though the aesthetic of  wooden sail or paddled boats still appealed to me, I felt like I had to go into a more impressive or conventional career.

Going into what I felt might be a more impressive or conventional career has not happened, but two years ago I came home one week with a crazy idea. I had been doing field work that summer taking geomorphic data for salmon conservation and was camping 3 or 4 nights a week. I had started thinking about building a boat again and I had the money to start buying tools. My girlfriend had done canoe and kayak guiding on the Wisconsin River, and had expressed an interest in getting back out on the water. I came home that weekend and told her “I’ve got a kinda crazy idea. Lets build some canoes.” Her response: “Ok, when do we begin.”

Our original plan was to build two cedar strip canoes that winter. Naturally, life got in the way, but last spring, after a year and a half, I launched my first boat. Her name is Abigail.

 

I built her using Mac McCarthy’s book Featherweight Boatbuilding, and using his Wee Lassie design, though I departed from some of his building methods toward the end of the project. The seat was built somewhat differently, I built it with what I’ll call a capped gunnel, and the breasthooks were built more like the method proposed by Thomas Hill in his book. I also added a permanent foot stretcher. Using a stick and twine seemed like too much of a careless second thought after so much work. At some point I will go into more depth about my particular building techniques, but suffice it to say that though it is far from perfect, and I could point out a dozen places where things could have been done better, I am very pleased with the results.

I started thinking about the next boats before I even finished varnishing.

 

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