Posts Tagged ‘Abigail’

I found a fun spot to paddle around over the weekend. I parked and launched at the Bernert Landing in Willamette, Oregon, just south of West Linn and Oregon City on the west side of the Willamette river. There were two docks at the landing, so I chose to launch off of the one that sat lower to the water. It was a little over a mile of paddling into the current and the wind to reach some islands I wanted to check out.

As the islands were starting I took what looked like the middle left passage between them. The channel was flanked on each side by hilly islands with fir trees, small oak trees and madrone. There were also patches of moss and grass on rocky parts of the islands. As I got further up the channel the larger islands I had been between gave way to rocky shores and smaller rocky islands with small passages between them. They were fun to explore though I had to be careful. In many spots the passages were shallow and rocks would loom under the surface in front of me. Many of the gaps were simply too shallow to go through, even with how shallow the draft of my canoe is. After winding my way south through a variety of different passages, I reached a place where I could go no further.  I turned around and made my way back through the passages.

After exiting that system of passages, I worked my way up current the main channel for a while. The current in that part of the river was swift, but I reached a spot which was about even with where I had been among the islands. I worked my way back down river in the far right channel, which was very calm and pleasant and headed back to the docks. It was a fun little trip, and I will be interested to go back when the trees have leaves again.


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Happy New Year!

Starting this new year, I found myself considering the year ahead in a different way than I usually have. In the past I have considered goal an occasionally chosen some sort of New Years resolution, but resolutions have never really my style. I tend to come up with goals as I need them throughout the year, and using the new year as a time to come up with a resolution has always felt a little artificial somehow.

This year, however, it seemed like a good milestone to mark, and it was fun for me to consider my goals for the year while visiting Emily’s family on the east coast. Here are my resolutions: Within the next two months I intend to finish the six hour canoe, and to help Joseph finish the Pygmy Coho. When those projects are finished, I want to get to work on a skin-on-frame kayak. A skin on frame kayak is something I have wanted to build for a long time, and the relatively low cost to build also appeals to me as it could help me save for my next project. For Christmas I received the plans to Iain Oughtred’s Whilly Tern, and by next fall I want to begin building it. It is going to be a boat filled year, and I intend to chronicle the progress here.

With the goal of building these boats floating through my head, it only seemed fitting that I should begin the year by going out and paddling the boat I finished last year. I headed out on the Upper Columbia Slough and put in off of NE Airport Way near NE 166th. I began heading up stream, against a slight headwind and in open water. After a few minutes I started encountering some pieces of ice being blown by the wind. I paddled around them and continued on. Pretty soon, there was enough ice in spots that I would point my bow between them and go slowly enough that I would push the pieces to each side. It was pretty enough that I didn’t want to stop. Well, I got far enough that there was so much ice, I decided to stop, and allowed the wind and flow of water to push me back for a while. I watched a nutria for a few minutes while quietly drifting, and then I encountered a spot where the ice had packed in solid where it had been loose before. There was no choice to get back to the car except to push my way through it and break the pieces of ice as I went. Now, none of it was very thick, but it still didn’t make me feel particularly comfortable. I was feeling a little worried about scratching the varnish or possibly even disturbing the fiberglass, but it was still kinda fun and I feel like every so often you have to test your gear to see how it will hold up. I paddled back to the car, and when I arrived at home the boat was dry and I could see it was unharmed. All told, it was a nice adventure to start the new year.

Happy New Year folks, and I hope you will all be able to have as much fun with projects and little adventures as those I intend to have this year!

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Some pictures from early in the build process, in my old garage. These were taken by Joseph and are from late fall or early winter of 2008.

The first strips. The inner stems have already been laminated. The pile of strips, all coved and beaded, can be seen to the right of the strongback.

Emily and I working on gluing the first strips to the inner stems.

Three strips on each side.

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My first round of pictures will be somewhat incomplete, so bare with me as I fill the collection out a bit. As many of you know, it took a while to finish this first boat, and part way through the project I moved into the granny flat I live in now. There will soon be pictures from the old garage, for now we start with the boat on top of Joseph’s car during the somewhat nerve-wracking task of moving it to the new place. Though it is not particularly visible, there is a large football-shaped gap in the planking in the bottom of the boat.

Here we have just wet out the 4 oz fibreglass boat on the boat with epoxy. We did a seal coat before fiberglassing to keep the potential formation of air bubbles to a minimum.

After the fiberglassing we did 4 additional coats of epoxy to fill out the weave of the cloth before sanding the outside smooth. It took a lot of sanding. Once it was smooth we pried it off the molds and got to work on the inside.

Me (right) and Joseph sanding the inside.

What fun! Here sanding and fiberglassing has been completed, and the outer gunwales and bulkheads have been glued in place. I decided early on that I did not want to see the thickness of the fiberglass and epoxy between the rails and the blocks spacing out the inner rails. To do this, I cut what might be best described as a rabbet the length of the rails so that they are actually L shaped in cross section and have a portion covering the top of the planking, and a portion on the outside of the planking. This was not recommended by any book I have seen, but I like how clean it has left the tops of the sides.

Fitting the breasthooks. I glued the breasthooks up from three pieces of wood in the fashion suggested by Tom Hill in Ultralight Boatbuilding. The inner and outer stems were cut down to the top of the planking, so that with the gunwales sitting partially on top of the planking, I was able to fit the breasthooks in with a sharp point at the front. If I had attacted the gunwales flush with the top of the planking, the top of the inner and outer stem would have either been visible or I would have had to build the breasthook on top of the planking and gunwales. I feel like my solution to the problem is strong while also being very clean aesthetically. If that description was not clear enough for anyone who really wants to understand what I am talking about, feel free to e-mail me. I’ll make a diagram.

Breasthooks glued in along with the spacer blocks, inner rails, thwart/ seat back, and seat runner allong the bottom. Here the breasthooks have also been planed and sanded flush with the top of the gunwales. They were glued in so they stood proud, and a certain amount of crown was left in them.

Varnishing the bottom.

On top of my car before launching.

Me with my first boat at the very informal, late evening launching. For those of you familiar with the area, that is the Selwood Bridge behind me, and we are just south of Oaks Park.

Paddling Abigail for the first time.

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Before the varnish had finished drying I began building a “six hour canoe” according to the book by O’Brien/Butz, Montague and Bartoo  so Emily and I could build something she could enjoy helping with as a beginning wood worker. It would also provide us with a second boat so we could get on the water together. Over the previous several months, my twin brother had also made his intentions known that he would like to take over some of my garage to build a Pygmy kayak. Within a few weeks of finishing Abigail, I suddenly had not just my recently completed canoe, but also two other boats in the process of being built. My garage has become a bit cramped, but I can imagine worse problems.

Once again, life has gotten in the way and progress on the current projects in my garage has been slow, but I can’t complain. The six-hour-canoe is almost completed (almost six months later), and my brother is getting back to work on the kayak after a bit of a hiatus.

I am also working on a design for a 14 foot sailing skiff. It is modeled on the 18 foot modified sharpie skiff recorded by Chapelle in American Small Sailing Craft, and which Ruell Parker latter included in The Sharpie Book. My first year in college I spent as a Mechanical Engineering major so I am putting many of the math and physics skills I haven’t dusted off in a while to use.  I am having a great time dreaming about a fun small sailing and rowing boat of my own design. I have the preliminary hull design laid out with the sail plan and location of the centerboard figured out. I am working on figuring out whether the designed center of buoyancy is in the right location. I suspect it may be a bit farther forward that could be called ideal. With a little luck, I would like to begin putting the building jig together in January.

These current projects will likely make up the bulk of my posts for a while. I will sharing my progress and the problems I run into (or that my brother runs into).

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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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