Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

From: (William Whalen)

1992 --

Summer: Bill and Ted (father and son) have excellent adventure on Isle Royale, canoeing in our stripper for seven days. Met a sea kayaker, was impressed with sea-worthiness and capacity of the (plastic or f-glass!) craft.

Winter: WOODEN BOAT arrives with a story on building a sea kayak! We get the fever! Let's build two!

1993 --

Spring: Bill joins the Dayton Canoe Club.

July: Another excellent adventure brings us into contact with a kayaker -- this on the Appalachian Trail. Tales of adventure in the 30,000 islands of Georgian Bay!

October: A trip to Washington DC is parlayed into a plywood purchasing jaunt to Harbor Sales in Baltimore. Six sheets cost about $200. Guess it really is marine plywood -- 600 mile trip home in rain doesn't seem to bother it at all. -- Sometime in here Bill and Ted decide that a cruise of the 30,000 islands would be an excellent adventure. We start collecting information from Canadian tourist sources.

November: Purchase a copy of THE KAYAK SHOP in lieu of plans (probably should have got the plans -- but the designer also wrote the book, he gets some money...).

December: Ted has two weeks off over the holidays (he's a junior in high school). We buy some epoxy and tape, another $200.00. We scarf the ripped plywood sheets and epoxy them together. We work in the basement -- temperatures in the usual garage workshop hover around zero. -- We measure the basement windows -- the boat's beam will make it out, but the height misses (hits) by about two inches. -- Off to the lumberyard one afternoon and get two closet poles and clear pine to make some paddles ($28.00). We decide on asymmetrical blades in the same plane. Borrowed two Stanley WorkMates (small work tables with vise-table tops) so that we can lay up both blades at the same time. Works great -- both tables are in the same plane, at same height, with nice handy bench dogs and vise! (We lay in a strip of redwood at the joint to make it look high zoot!) -- Some members of the Dayton Canoe Club begin making noises about canoeing and cruising and repairing canoes -- you can tell it's the middle of winter. A section of the canoe storage room at the club is set aside for those members who are building or repairing boats. The heater there is tested and it works! We ponder on how to get the 16 foot lengths of scarfed plywood down to the club -- if we can, we'll assemble the kayaks there. -- Evenings after supper: the carlins were ripped and glued up (they are layered out of five strips of pine and bent in 24 and 18 inch radii).

1994 --

January: It stays cold, so we get out a Jamestown Supply catalog and window shop for fastenings and assorted equipment. A few evenings are spent working on the second paddle and we also cut out the seats and seat-backs.

February: Work really grinds to a halt. Bill gets rapped around the axle of a canoe refinishing project at the club. The club "inherited" an old stripper flatwater racer with a lot of wear. We spend next few weeks patching glass, putting on new inwales and gunwales, bouyancy chambers fore and aft, new seats and a portaging thwart.

March: toward the middle of the month, the restoration is about done except for the varnishing. So we start working on the kayaks again.

We noted a letter to the editor in WOODENBOAT this month about stich and glue. The writer couldn't understand making holes to stitch, when using duct tape on the outside will work just a well. We decide to investigate this further......

We got all the wood moved to the club, and all the tools, and all the glass and epoxy, etc., etc.,........ It is nice to have a heated space to work on a boat! At the club, however, the distractions are many: it's too easy to pull a canoe out of a locker and into the river, and paddle instead of whatever.... Also there is always somebody standing around asking you questions, offering you beer....

By the third week in March we've got the bottom planks cut out. It was a simple task, took lots of clamps though (remember, we're making two boats, that = four bottom planks).

[An aside about the canoe restoration for the DCC (Dayton Canoe Club): We are about done with it by the last week in March. The club is going to sell 125 raffle tickets at $5 each. Raffle to be held on Memorial Day weekend.]

[Another aside: One day while working on either kayaks or canoe, a visitor dropped by the club and was impressed by my work (not the fact that it was good or anything but the fact that someone had the (lack of) ability to attempt boat work). They asked if we could help out the University of Dayton's fledgeling rowing squad -- they just had their heavy-weight eight fall off a rack and shatter the prow and the splash boards for 6-10 foot down each side. Ted and I spent about 12 hours each on this project. We had to plane some pine (couldn't get fir) down to correct thickness, piece the shattered remains back together (used hot- glue) enough to cut out the replacements, scarfed the boards remaining on the boat to the new boards, and finally fastened the whole shebang onto the boat. It's really interesting working on a 65 foot long boat which has a 25 inch beam.]

[Yet another aside: Ted and I were scarfing the sheer clamps Sunday the 27th and we decided to go get a sandwich. Returning to the club I screwed up a leap over a traffic barrier, landed wrong, and BROKE MY LEG. After Ted stopped laughing at me, he dragged me out of the road, fed me my lunch and a beer, and took me to the emergency room. I'm in a cast to the knee (right leg) for six weeks! What a way to build boats. One interesting thing is that the technician who put the cast on used fiberglass and epoxy! He was a kayaker -- we discussed a wood-strip cast, but decided against it.

APRIL: First week: Well, I'm hobbling around on crutches, but we got the sheer clamps glued on to the sides, and the seat backs glued up too.

Second week: We assembled a kayak -- at least we duct taped one together! Using the duct tape made the job really simple -- we were amazed at how easy it was! I made a mold for the inside of the hull at the point 2 foot back from the bow where the sides and the bottom form the extreme V shape. I backed up a drywall screw with a piece of scrap wood and it pulled into shape nicely.

[CHEAP CLAMP HINT (PLEASE GIVE ME CREDIT FOR THIS ONE!): Take some of that scrap PVC pipe that's laying around and slice 1 inch (or so) rings, cut these rings at one point, and you've got the makings of some of the neatest clamps you'll ever want. It takes a little coordination to open them up and put them on the work. You can use any size pipe -- I've got both 2 and 4 inch, and, by varying the width of the cut you can make them any "strength" too. I just made 24 to use on the sheer clamp of the kayaks for $1.59.] Third and fourth weeks: The assembling of the second boat went real fast, using the duct tape method. I can't imagine drilling all those holes, and worrying

about tightening the wire so much that it rips the thin plywood! The ends were easy to fit -- I used a coping saw and a wood rasp. Gunked up the joints and then taped the seams. I used some of those plastic body putty spreaders to apply the epoxy to the tape -- worked well.

May: First week: Cast comes off this week! Can't stand too long, so kayak building suffers. Did a little cruising on river in canoe -- saw a family of muskrats (1 large, 5 small) crossing river in single file.

Second week: Travel to Boston on business (did I mention that I started a new job the day after I broke my leg?

Third week: The tape comes off the boats and the outer seams are smoothed and taped. We decide to glass the bottom panels completely. I host an open house and ribbon cutting for my new office. Ted takes finals. I don't think we'll make it to the 30,000 islands this spring.

Fourth week: Adding some microbeads to the epoxy mixture and spreading it (as a second coat) on the glassed bottoms makes for a pretty smooth skin.

June: First week: Ted and I head up to Michigan for a week. We canoe the AuSable river (south fork). It was great! Nicely flowing and no portages (nice for me and stupid leg). We only saw two other canoes on the water the entire trip.

Second week: Back to the kayaks and install the deck carlins and bulkheads. We decided to glass in plywood bulkheads to insure extra strength and for watertightness (?).

Another accident on the river. Two rowing doubles have a head-on collision. The sweep of one catches just under the forward splashboards of the other (which was stopped). It was a lucky thing. The oar was traveling fast enough to break! I've been asked to replace the forward deck, the "v" shaped splashboards and about 12 inches of gunwale on both sides of the cockpit. Well, I'll try.

Third week: I go to New England for a wedding while the canoe club goes down to Tennessee for some Class II canoeing. Fourth week: It's been too nice to work on kayaks. There's been sailing canoes out on the river just about every time I've been at the club. I've also been tempted by an Alden ocean shell which has also absorbed a lot of my boatbuilding time.

July: First week: Big 4th of July party at the club. We have about 25 boats out on the water during the fireworks display. I feel real bad about ignoring the kayaks, so I paint the interior of one. sheech! I finish the double shell just in time for the rowing club to use in a race over in Indiana. Not a bad job....I did some filleting around the joints of the splash-boards using very fine sawdust as a filler, it looks real nice.

Boatbuilding goes completely to hell during rest of month -- too much to do on the water. [One Sunday I was out practicing some solo moves in my canoe (I just read Mason's "Path...." again) and I noticed a strange object near a low head dam just south of the club. Closer investigation revealed a body.....been in the water a while, too. I hightailed it back to the club and phoned it in to the cops and fire dept. The first cop who showed up demanded a canoe ride out to the "site." He was impressed enough with the canoe and the canoe club that he joined a few weeks later. What a way to recruit members......]

August: A few members of the club and I take off for 4 days to tour some of the Ohio canoe-able rivers. We spent two days on the Little Beaver (over on the PA border) (I got in a lot of poling practice -- the upper part was really too low), one day on the Little Muskingum (beautiful, covered bridges, no traffic, etc...) and a day on Raccoon Creek (also nice). It was pleasant to get out of town for a few days. At the end of August the club held it's annual homecoming and regatta. War boat races, watermelon and canoe swampings, etc. A few canoes were sold this weekend, some at exceptional prices.

September: Time to get serious once again about the kayaks. I took them out of the storage locker and finished up the bulkheads. The forward carlins were cut and fitted. They are ready for decks! Now I have to get the sheets of 3mm plywood down to the club. It's still nice sailing weather, I keep being tempted.

Work (oh yeah, the real job) has been hectic during September and very little gets done on boats....

October: The first weekend is traditionally the rowing of the Muskingum River in the Jerome K. Jerome Memorial Row. This is a non-event put on by Jim Stephens and the Marietta College Rowing and Cycling Club. The DCC took the trailer and about six boats down. It was a first, in that a sailing canoe took part, and actually sailed most of the way. It was a great weekend on the water!

I got the plywood measured and cut for the decks and gave it a coat of epoxy on the interior surface. Work (#!@!!) is keeping me from working on boats even more this month. Also college visits with Ted (you remember Ted?) take up some weekends.

November: I spend a week and a half in DC visiting the home office. While there I visit the Wood Boat School at the Alexandria Seaport. Boy, are they doing some neat things. I talked to the proprietor (name escapes me now) about Cape Charlies -- they have the designer (who lives nearby) teach some classes there. I also talk about repair of sculls -- the college team has wrecked an eight, putting a gash about 20 feet long in it! Hmmmm, I guess I can fit repairing that in to my boating schedule.

I was in the right place at the right time on Thanksgiving weekend and actually bought a canoe. It's an ancient wood and canvas 17 footer. It needs some restoration -- to include recanvasing. Hmmmm, I guess I can fit that in to the old schedule too.

Let's see, this started out as a kayak building description right? I have done some work the kayaks lately -- I put a couple of coats of epoxy and filler on the hulls. I wanted to get that on before decking so I don't screw up the decks ( and also the hull is more stable upside down without the rounded deck).

December -- Ted and I get the decks put on -- Murphy was there to help. If you've got a 50 percent chance of doing it wrong...... Well, it seems we used the wrong panels on the first boat -- I thought we had a lot of exess hanging over the gunnels. This meant that the two panels left couldn't cover the entire length. We were able to scarf in the extra in the middle of the boat -- on the sides of the cockpit (the panels meet at about the center of the cockpit ) -- instead of a scarf of about 12 inches in the bow. We even had them marked very clearly. Panel A and B on one boat and X and Y on the other. Oh well, we can tell the boats apart now.


January -- Just too cold to think about going down to the basement of the canoe club -- it has a heater, but bringing the area up from about 30 degrees to about 60 takes forever. Can't work on boats? Spend money! We catalog shop for equipment for the 30,000 island trip. We buy a bunch of waterproof stuff sacks, and I get a new sleeping bag. Great excuse to buy new sleeping pads too, because we are going to sacrifice our old closed cell foam ones to line the cockpit and pad the seats of the boats. We also start looking at the charts of Georgian Bay. We do get in a little time on the boats and cut out the hatches. We also bought material for cockpit covers and spray skirts. We took a pattern off some skirts down at the club, and a friend is going to sew them up for us. Materials cost: less than 30 bucks!

February -- Two days of spring-like temperatures, we bring the hulls outside and sand and sand! Watching PBS recently, some series about the human senses, sense of smell supposed to rekindle memories.... wow! does the smell of auto body filler (BONDO!) remind me of my youth! The great god BONDO, forgiver of many sins.....Boy, it works good on these hulls! We head down to the local Sherman Williams discount store and shop for paint. What a deal on INDUSTRIAL GRADE MAINTENANCE ENAMEL! Indoor, outdoor, roof, floor, lathe, 30 ton press, diesel engine, you name it, this'll paint it -- and it's not a bad color either (kind of a light, greenish, grey). We put on three coats in four days. Also assemble and epoxy the hatch covers -- took as many clamps to do that as to assemble the hull! We are going to trim the hatch openings with split rubber tubing, epoxied on. There will be half inch foam tape on the lips of the hatch covers to make the seal.

March -- Spring comes in like a lamb, and boat building takes it in the neck. Ted has many things which keep him >from the boat shop -- school play (he's the director), various competitions, dating..... I have a number of road trips for work -- Chicago, Orlando, etc.... The kayaks nag however, and we do get a little bit done on them. We installed mahogony rub-rails and got the decks ready for the varnish coats. I confess to a canoeing/camping trip one weekend - - a friend and I did the upper reaches of the Great Miami River. It was amazing up there, there are no cottages along the shore for about 12 miles. While we only saw four humans, we saw 4 owls, 8 deer, 1 fox, 1 beaver, 1 muskrat, and 1 mink (and various and sundry other small mammals and birds). We attempt to gain some info on Georgian Bay via the rec.paddle news group. Nothing conclusive about bugs -- I had hoped that we'd squeek in between the mosquito and the black fly seasons. We have also been following the rudder/no rudder arguments -- I guess we'll do without. Real men don't need rudders (especially if real men have procrastinated and now don't have time to install rudders).

April -- We are into the "short list" now! It is getting exciting...... The seats are all in and the closed cell foam is glued all about the inside of the cockpits. We move the boats up to the club ballroom where it is dry and not dusty. After a wipedown or two they get five coats of varnish -- now people stop and stare! The "your're not really gonna put them in the water?" comments are starting.

Ted and I really got daring and took out two of the club's Perception kayaks. We joked around about squeezing in, and doing rolls, and getting wet, and then we actually got on the water in a kayak. I did mention that neither of us had ever been in a kayak before? Well, now we have some experience, at least 20 minutes worth!

We built new racks for the pickup truck. We made cut outs in the thwartships members to the shape of the hulls and lined them with pipe insulation foam. We left the rear rack a little higher (3+ in.) than the front -- for aerodynamics and to let oncoming cars enjoy a view of our handiwork!

For two days Ted and I install all the straps and handles and bungies and hatch combings. We also hang the seat backs. I don't know if if was the fumes from "cauterizing" the nylon straps or what, but we started to do an awful lot of grinning and giggling as we got closer to finishing.

When we were done on the morning of Easter Sunday, April 16th, 1995, we were positively overwhelmed. I turned the last screw (on the stern carrying strap on "my" kayak) as Ted took my picture. Then we shook hands. Then we hugged.

Later that day -- about six o'clock -- we took the boats down to the waterfront. This was to be a real ceremony, with champagne and beer, and a christening by mine and Ted's favorite sponsor (wife and mother, respectively: Lorraine).

We launched the kayaks and watched each other climb in. The camera's clicked as Lorraine poured a bit of bubbly over the bows -- I believe she said something under her breath about seaworthiness. Then an observer grabbed the champagne and with a few shakes, christened the rest of the crowd.

Ted and Bill's first excellent kayak cruise lasted about 45 minutes. The water was exceptionally smooth and we spent a lot of time admiring each other's boat and reflection. They went straight -- no rudders or skegs! We experimented with seat positions, and different paddling strokes, and how to lean, and how quiet it was, and how near the water was, and then I had to go into shore because of face cramps, I was grinning so much my jaws started to ache!

We kept the boats in the water for a while and accepted the congratuations of the assembled throng -- buying them a bunch of Molson's didn't hinder the flow of compliments!

(Two other new boats (Old Town canoes) were launched that day at the club. We assembled for a group picture.)

Read on for Bill and Ted's Excellent trip to Georgian Bay

(William Whalen)

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