Portage Cart

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This is an abused and sad jogging stroller, waiting to be recycled. I live a five minute walk from the ocean, so I would like a way to easily schlep the canoe down there without strapping it on my car. I can portage it on my shoulders, but that means setting up the paddles as a yoke and probably making a second trip for all my other gear.

Or I can make a portage cart.

 

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It turns out every jogging stroller has a portage cart inside just waiting to come out. All you need is to strip it bare and give it some angle grinder surgery.

 

And now you just have to put a canoe on it.

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It’s a little bit high still. That makes it nice to push down the road because I’m not stooping down to keep it level. It does make it a bit unstable, but since it’s for road use I think that’ll be OK. I might cut it down later if it proves to be a problem.

As it currently stands, I’ve retained the collapsing mechanism of the jogging stroller so it folds down flat. It’s still too big to fit nicely in the boat. It is also a steel frame, not aluminum so it’ll never be a bush portage cart that I’d take on a trip. More of a town-and-country cart to get me from the parking lot to the lake in areas where that is an arduous portage.

Canada Day Sailing

Wanting to make the most of a mid week day off for Canada’s birthday, we set sail for Prevost Island. Prevost is the island just northwest of Pender, inbetween it and Saltspring. A good chunk of the northern part of the island is in the national park reserve. It has some beautiful anchorages and makes for a great day trip from where we are.

Since it was the first time we’ve taken the boat out in awhile we had a lot of chores to do before getting off the dock. Like putting the mainsail back on, getting new oars set up in the dinghy and re-mounting the depth sounder transducer. So we got away fairly late in the morning. Probably close to 11:00.

 

Not long after getting into Trincomali channel the wind picked up enough for us to cut the motor and deploy sails. A few joyful tacks and we were up to James Inlet.

There’s an old orchard at the top of the inlet which is a delightful place to come ashore.

It also has the greatest outhouse in probably all of Canada’s national parks. Just saying.

From the orchard in James inlet, we hiked up the ridge and over to Selby cove. You can tell the trail doesn’t see much traffic from the amount of eye poking branches and fallen logs on the trail.

We have only had 6mm of rain since the end of April, so everything around here is tinder dry. There was a pretty good carpet of dry Arbutus leaves on parts of the trail which makes it very slippery when it gets steep. Since we almost always go sailing in the summer, I haven’t ever been on Prevost when the conditions were much different. I’m sure in the fall and winter it’s a very different place.

 

 

On this particular adventure, Brie added the word ‘Bushwhacking’ to her vocabulary. Here she is in the process of said new verb.

 

While we were exploring the island, we would occasionally find tufts of long white hair on the underside of logs and near the old remnants of barbed wire fence. This is not unusual as many of the Gulf Islands are or were used for sheep, so there are often feral populations.

On our way home, we were motoring down the inside of Hawkins Island and we saw the culprit. Not at all the sheep we were expecting to see.

 

Check out those crazy horns ! We also sailed past the small oyster farm and dodged a couple of ferries on our way back to Pender Island. All in all it was a great day out and a grand adventure for Canada Day.

 

 

The full gallery of photos is here for those who want to see more.

Thetis Lake

Amanda had to teach a class today and we needed to come over to Victoria tomorrow. So to make the most of the situation I decided that we’d bring the canoe with us, and Brie and I would go for a paddle while Amanda worked.

We got on the early ferry, first in line so we got the un-impeded view of our wake.

After we dropped Amanda off at work, we drove out to Thetis lake. I knew it would be packed on a Saturday that was forecast to be 30 degrees. However it’s close to town, and an interesting lake to paddle with its convoluted topography and islands.

Portaging the canoe down to the beach was alright, but I’m definitely not happy with my yoke. I think I’ll swap it out for a lighter and simpler thwart. After we were done and heading back to the car I lashed paddles on to the thwart and front seat that was much more comfortable. So I’ll probably stick with that system for now.

 

Not long after putting in, Brie saw some water lilies with pink flowers. We had to get a close up look at those.

As we paddled through every group of lily pads we’d stir up a seething mass of giant tadpoles. I assume they are from the invasive bullfrogs.

There were lots of lily pads to paddle through though. Canoeing in the ocean is great fun, but I really love the margins of lakes, creeks and swamps for the aquatic plant life.

 

We cut under the bridge that seperates upper and lower Thetis lake. The upper half of the lake is less busy for sure, and has more nooks and crannies to explore.

After we had poked our bow into most of them, it was time for lunch so we landed on one of the islands in the lake that was unoccupied.

 

Brie insisted we make a table before we could eat. So we collected sticks and she made this. Entirely her own design. We had a delicious lunch and spent a while just poking around our island and seeing what was on it.

There were a few Cascara trees on the low lying part of the island.

Cascara isn’t that common unless you’re around a lot of boggy areas. The tree is known for it’s having a laxative effect, particularly the berries when ripe. It’s conspicuous because of the symmetrically opposite veins on its leaves.

 

This is the ‘dashboard’ of my canoe. I’ve got all our stuff clipped to the thwart for easy access (and security in case of an upset). It’s pretty crowded, but I’ve yet to work out a system of organization for it. I may make up some pouches that I can tie to the scuppers to keep it less cluttered.

 

The beach was even more crowded by the time we came back around 13:30. There were dozens of watercraft on the lake, and hundreds of people at the beach and in the water. Gabrielle really wanted to go swimming so after we got the boat squared away we put on suits and had a dip to cool off. The lake was very warm. Much more so than the ocean swim we had last week…

An evening paddle around Hope Bay

Apologies for the very poor photo quality. All I had was a crappy cell phone. A GoPro is in my future for sure.

 

Some nights Amanda goes out to knit night. Last night was one of those nights so Brie and I went out for a paddle around Hope Bay. The water was calm and the tide was fairly high and still rising. This meant we could go right down to the end of the small estuary.

This bald eagle watched as we paddled right underneath him. The moon was up early so it made for a very aesthetic sight. We saw lots of other marine life scuttling by not half a metre below our boat. Estuary’s are fascinating places.

We also saw a mink running along the shore but didn’t get a photo. He’s a cheeky little fellow and he’s there often so I’ll try and get a picture of him some other time.

 

Brie loves paddling. I made her a small paddle and she was eager to help as soon as she hoped in.

The snow covered peak in the background is Mt. Baker.

 

She also really wanted to stop on an island to explore. This is one of the little islets. It has a small oak tree on it, and lots of small bushes with burr seeds all over. It has a very large tide pool which we saw crabs, hermit crabs, chitons and limpets in. Who doesn’t love a good tide pool ?

We could only stay a brief while because the tide was still rising so our beach was rapidly disappearing. We also had plenty of burrs in our clothing so that was a good motivation to get home as well.

 

Launch Day

My wife asked me a few days ago what I wanted to do for Father’s Day. I said, “Let’s put the canoe in the water”.

It’s not 100% complete, but it’s darn close enough. I need to put more varnish on the seat hangers, and the gunwhales (especially the scuppers). I need to do the canvas for the seats. For now I’ve made some temporary inserts out of scrap plywood. I’m also not happy with the centre thwart. I’ll be redoing that in the future.

I busted my butt this week getting the seat hangers done so that we could take the boat out today. They only have one coat of varnish on them, but they hold the seats up !

Those roof racks are stylin’. Version 2.0 soon to come.

 

So I put the canoe up on the car, and we headed down to Moritmer Spit. It was a great place to put in from, being sandy and sheltered. My parents came along to see the inaugural launch. What better way to spend Father’s day than paddling with my father ? We’ll get to that more later…

 

The canoe was christened with a bottle of Maudite, of course. The varnish I used is beer resistant it turns out.

 

And that’s what it’s all been for. Smiles all around. It was impossible to keep a grin off my face the entire time I was in the canoe.

It handles brilliantly. Glides through the water effortlessly. The boat feels nimble and responsive. Anyone contemplating the Huron Cruiser design, you’ll love it !

After we had a family toodle around Shark Cove and chased a small merganser, my parents took it out for a lap.

 

 

When they got back, I wanted to see how it would handle as a solo boat.

I was ecstatic. Building a boat from a design that you haven’t paddled is risky. You can read all you want about it but it’s still a gamble. This one was a jackpot. It’s exactly what I was hoping for in a canoe. Able to take the family out for day trips and some camping, but still handy to solo. It’s a perfect middle ground.

After my solo romp, I came back to the beach. I asked my Dad if he wanted to go out. I took the bow seat and was reaching for my paddle as he got in. A recurring injury in his knee caused him to lose his balance. So we both went swimming.

 

Scupper make the boat very easy to drain. My Tilley hat floats as advertised. My PFD also does it’s job as expected. Even when it’s almost thirty degrees out, the Pacific ocean is very refreshing.

Brie thought that it was so funny she decided to join me.

 

 

A good time was had by all.

Soon to come, I’ll go through my notebook for the build and my bag of receipts. Then I’ll be able to layout the statistics for the project down to the hour and dollar.

Seat Hangers

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So the seat hangers are like this. Little H shaped brackets that are angled in three dimensions to match the curves of the canoe approximately. The top is bolted to the inwhale with the threaded inserts I installed way back when I made the gunwhales. The seat frame rests on the lower horizontal piece and has two small bolts that go through both parts to hold them in place.

 

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There it is in place. It lines up with my masking tape alignment tool.

 

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Add a seat frame to it…

 

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and install.

 

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I want to have the seats covered with a waxed canvas piece which gets laced underneath. But I want the canoe in the water even more, so I made some plywood covers. These will let me use the canoe now while I figure out how to sew the seat covers I actually want.

They’re just friction fit in place with some blocks of wood on the underside.

Thwart

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A nice clear piece of Douglas fir is going to be my first thwart. I say first, because I have a feeling that this is going to take a few tries to get right. It’ll probably be something that only experience on some portages will tell. Luckily it’s an easy part to swap in and out.

I just drew out the lines for it by guessing what looked right. No idea how this will fit my neck and shoulders.

Kerfs down to the lines allow the waste to be popped out easily with a chisel. If you have a bandsaw, then congratulations. I don’t have a bandsaw, yet.

 

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I start shaping by chamfering the corners. Then I mark out centre lines and go to town with an axe to make the chamfers meet the lines. No photos of the axe fury unfortunately.

 

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But this is where the axe got me to in a matter of minutes. Right tool for the job.

 

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The sloyd knife and spokeshave do a nice job of turning the axed surface into fair curves.

It’s going to take some finagling to get the ends to fit nicely with the curved and angled inwhales. Can’t wait to get rid of that cedar 2×4 that’s been my thwart for almost a year. Soon to come. It’s getting so close I can taste it.

 

Seat frames

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Take that Heath Robinson !

Meet my friend the seat jig. This contraption of clamps and squares is how you figure out exactly how long each section of a square frame needs to be in order to fit perfectly into a space that is curved in all three dimensions. It also lets you figure out how high you want the seats. Too high and the boat gets tippy fast, and the water is far away from you so your paddle doesn’t reach as deeply. If it’s too low than there’s no room for your feet or gear underneath.

For this design and my body I came up with 25cm. Based on some experiments with a plank and some buckets. When I set up the seat jig for this height it looks just right inside the canoe.

 

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The short stretchers get tenons.

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Which fit mortises in the long bearers.

Making the seat frames is good fun. It’s back to woodworking and joinery, and less finishing.

I’m finally getting to use some of that pin cherry I milled up ages ago for the trim. Since it got ixnayed for gunwhales I’m glad I can still make use of it for seats. It’s beautiful wood to work with. Cuts like butter.

The seat parts are joined together with mortise and tenons. I made up each one with the long bearers a few centimetres too long to be trimmed to fit upon installation.

 

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Which comes out looking like this. That is friction fit at this point. The blue tape is the reference layout that I made with the seat jig.

I’ve made a discovery that my inwhale installation has proved to have given me an unforseen hurdle. Because of the tumblehome curving back on itself at the height my seats need to be, I won’t be able to just run long bolts up through blocks into the inwhale like I had planned. The curvature makes it so the bolts would be interfering with the hull.

So I’m going to need to come up with some creative hangers. Which will add a bit more weight I’m afraid.

Varnishing

This past month has seen lots of varnishing. Many coats of varnish getting thinly wiped on, inside and out. Hull and trim. Each scupper painstakingly varnished with a rag wrapped around a popsicle stick.

There are no pictures. The boat is just getting shinier and smoother little by little.

I’m using Varathane water based ‘Diamond Wood Finish’. The outdoor version, and full gloss. It’s very nice to work with as it cleans up nicely with water and doesn’t stink. But it goes on very thin. So many applications are required. It also dries very quick, so you can get a couple applications on in a day.

Decks, again

So, back to that canoe I’m building…

Haven’t posted on it in awhile. Mostly because I haven’t made progress on it for awhile. Not for lack of trying.

I started out with some nice pieces of curly maple which I planned to use as the decks. I messed around with them for ages until I got something I liked. Then one of them developed a check that started spreading. It wasn’t going to be salvageable. Since the decks tie the ends of the boat together they’re pretty important structurally. The eye bolts that go in there take all the strain of the boat being snugged down on top of a vehicle or being lined through rapids. Not a place you want to have a split.

So I scrapped those and got a couple more pieces. Those I messed up in shaping and the fit ended up being too sloppy. Into the wood stove they go.

Having used up my supply of seasoned curly maple, I was in a bit of a pickle. Then I came across some cedar cutoffs that were almost the right shape. I reasoned that if I made them thicker and had the excess go below the inwhales inside the boat I could keep the flush look I wanted, have enough wood to back the bolts and tie the ends together, and save some grams in the process.

So cedar it became.

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Each deck piece had a knot in it, and I tried to make it a feature by centring it and having the flowing grain around them sort of match the lines of the boat. Sort of looks like ripples I think. That’s what I’m telling myself. And you folks reading. It’s ripples.

So after getting them (carefully and slowly this time) fit to their respective recesses, I had to mortise in the shape of the inwhales on the bottoms. The inwhales are half cut away under the decks, to account for the thickness of the original maple decks. So there’s a sort of double step thing happening in the underside of each deck.

I thought I had taken a picture of this, but I can’t find it anywhere. I’ll update this post if I come across it later.

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This is what the top looks like after dry fitting. It’s almost flush. I left it here so that I could sand it all flush after the blobs of epoxy were all over it. No need to sand things twice. Hate sanding, I do.

 

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So¬† I waited a couple weeks after my brass hardware to arrive. Then upon its appearance I made up a router template to cut a mortise which it will fit in exactly. No room for wiggling. That is a piece of scrap that is the same thickness as my decks if you’re wondering. I didn’t use that scabby a piece for the real thing. It took five iterations with additional layers of tape shims on the template to get it dialed in to the point where I had to press the pad eye into its socket.

The hole for the bolt is a slightly loose fit by the way. Only the long oval is snug. The bolt hole needs to be sealed with epoxy during the bedding process so water can’t penetrate the decks that way when the boat is stored upside down.

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Here’s the real deck, with hardware dry fit. You can see the underside of the deck has already been sealed with epoxy. When it gets installed with epoxy, I don’t want to have any nooks or crannies of unsealed wood. The top surface will get sealed after it’s sanded flush with the gunwhales. Then the brass eye will be coated in paste wax and bedded with epoxy as well. Once the epoxy starts to set, the bolt gets pulled out (paste wax lets it release cleanly) so that it’s not a permanent fixture. But the hole is sealed and a perfect fit for the bolt. Water can seep in there and won’t rot the wood. At least not for many decades hopefully.

 

Glued in.

Sealed with epoxy.

Cleaned up.

 

You can see between the last two photos that I got the gunwhales trimmed and rounded off. I put a small triangle of wood in the gap before the stem and brought the radius of the gunwhales to just touch the tip of that triangle.

Having things sanded smooth and clean here now lets you see the end grain of the laminated inner and outer stems. Overmolded decks, which are pretty common would hide those construction details. I’m sure lots prefer that, but I like being able to see the structural elements peeking through.