I’m currently building 3 Cape Falcon Kayak ’66 Canoe’ boats. They are full-size, solo, single-blade-style canoes, with recurved stems which will nest together. Measurements are the same as the M, L & XL size single-blade solos in the “Sample Canoe Sizing” plans (13′-8″, 14′-8″, 15′-8″), except widths are 27″, 29″ & 31″, respectively.
I’ve been a ‘maker’ of many things all my life. I’ve made several telescopes, created workbenches, toolboxes and ‘fine’ furniture, done minor brazing on bicycles, and built my own roof rack, among other things.
As far as boats, I previously built a Guillemot Kayak’s ‘microBootlegger’ in the winter of 2009-2010.
I built a Yostwerks ‘Sea Pup’ kayak for my daughter in the spring of 2016.
WHY CAPE FALCON KAYAKS 66 CANOE?
The microBootlegger is a beautiful canoe, is fast, and is ‘comfortable’ as a solo, sitting ‘pack canoe’ style on a seat no more that 2-4″ off the bottom of the hull. Taking small children is pretty easy, but with two adults it becomes uncomfortably tippy. It is also ~50 lbs empty, and while that’s still light compared to plastic or aluminum canoes, it’s not insignificant putting onto a roof rack.
In addition, both of my youngest daughters were becoming more and more hesitant to go out in the Sea Pup, because it was cramped and very tippy.
Lastly, I have a small hatchback vehicle, and would like to keep it that way, for ease of loading/unloading. Being able to transport THREE canoes easily on my existing vehicle/roof-rack, rather than purchase/build a trailer is a HUGE benefit.
In summary, the comfort of regular canoes over small kayaks fits our easy-going, relaxed paddling style in our local rivers and lakes. The light weight of skin-on-frame construction allows my daughters to each load/unload and handle their own boat independently. Lastly, the option to catamaran all three and sail together is so exciting, all of us can’t wait to try it!
Jan 8 – Mar 6:
I began purchasing materials late Dec 2020, and began building in Jan 2021. I hadn’t originally planned to create a blog, so didn’t take ton’s of pictures early.
Putting together the decks goes fairly quickly. Steaming ribs and lashing stringers on one canoe takes a whole Saturday (~6-8 hrs). I ribbed and lashed the XL canoe Feb 20, ribbed and lashed the L canoe Feb 27, and finally ribbed and lashed the M canoe Mar 6th.
Here are a few pictures from my Instagram account:
Mar 7 – Mar 14:
During this time, I’ve completed more minor tasks, like installing seat-mounting blocks, sheer risers, trimming, gluing and lashing keels, etc.
— Half-Lap built-up stems —
Rather than use a wide board for the stems, I chose to build them out of two pieces, glued with a half-lap joint. This is pretty simple, provides better grain orientation, but doesn’t take as much effort as a bent-lamination. The series of photos below shows one of the stems pretty well, This particular piece of cedar has color gradations that makes the joint slightly easier to see:
Some other miscellaneous photos of progress during this time:
— Seat Mounting Blocks —
I chose to put hickory seat mounting blocks on my XL canoe, because I thought the color blended well with the cedar. Both my daughters chose a dark wood, whose species I’m not even certain of (just had it in my miscellaneous wood bin):
— Symetry ??? —
As I’ve taken some photos, I’ve begun to notice some lack of symmetry on some of the stringers, and even that my two stems in this one boat are not quite parallel. I’m not too concerned about this….I doubt it has significant impact on performance, and will not even be noticeable once the boat is skinned.
I’ve spent each evening cleaning up glue lines from the sheer mounting blocks, and plugging the screw holes. Honestly, this is taking quite a bit of time, but is my own fault.
First, the sheer blocks are slightly narrower than the gunwales because I cut the gunwales on the table saw at a full 3/4″ wide. However, I made the sheer blocks from a single 1×6 cedar board. For some reason these boards come at exactly 11/16″, not 3/4″, so there’s a little ledge on each side that needs planing, sanding, etc.
Second, the screw holes really don’t NEED to be filled. I’m just doing it for my own pickyness. And even at that, they had drywall screw in them, so the through hole is 1/8″, easily plugged with a 1/8″ dowel….but the countersink divot in the board is much wider. I thought of getting a plug cutter and cutting 1/4″ plugs. In hindsight, it would have been much less work, that mixing up epoxy, and filling the gaps with pure epoxy that didn’t harden flat, and I had to make a second application.
Anyway, I’ve also been ordering and collecting the parts and materials for the masts, sails, and associated hardware:
–Seat Mount modification —
So, I really, REALLY wanted to use button-head bolts for the seat mounting…however, it seems that they just don’t make partially-threaded button-head bolts. The only bolts with a solid shank and partial threads at the end are the hex-head, or socket-head cap screws. Anyway, I figured that a fully-threaded bolt would probably chew up the inside of the seat mouting holes, so I drilled them out a little larger, and epoxied in brass tubing inserts. In hindsight this is probably overkill, and I may not choose to do this on the other two. I don’t have any pics yet of the installed brass inserts, but here is the mounted seat, with 4″ long bolts, and 1 1/4″ seat-drop blocks:
— Sheer Riser-Blocks —
I shaped the sheer riser blocks with a block plane, spokeshave and sandpaper. It really helped to brace the canoe against a wall or workbench, to keep it from sliding away from me.
I made my rub-strips 3/4″ wide, instead of 1/2″ wide. In some photos I saw Brian had a dark brown 66Canoe with a bright white ash rub strip. I just liked the high-contrast and thought I would maximize that just a bit. It wasn’t until after I cut and rounded the rub-strips that I realized that it might prove difficult to bend those rub strips up the sharper curve of the sheer blocks.
So I clamped them to the gunwales, and used the curve of the rub strip to mark the sheer blocks, and shaved it down to that. Below are photos of an unshaped sheer-block, marking the curve with the rub-strip, and a final shaped sheer-block:
— Widened Stringer —
At one point Brian suggested I might want to widen one set of stringers to add a little more secondary stability. This was because I had already bent all the ribs.
I decided to give this a try, and removed the second stringer down from the gunwale, and laminated on a 5 foot section of cedar that was tapered in thickness toward the ends. The resulting maximum cross section of this stringer was now about 5/8″ x 5/8″, instead of the usual 7/16″ x 5/8″.
The finished XL frame, ready for oil:
— Finalize Frames & Oiling —
This past weekend, I finished up small details and oiled all three frames.
This consisted of finishing the sheer block shaping, adding the mast mounts, fixing a wobbly stringer and my bow shaping and sanding the top and inside gunwale surfaces.
It wasn’t immediately obvious in the plans or videos where the mast mounts go with recurved stems. I found one video where a brief mention was made that on recurve stems the mounts go lower. I wish I would have caught this earlier, and not curved the inside of the stems. It would have made the mast mounts easier. Instead, in order to allow the masts to end up nicely vertical, I had to cut the lashing on a stringer, slightly modify the stem, and glue in a mounting block. It was fairly easy and quick work (compared to oiling and wiping!)
Here are some poor pictures of the mounts. I always work on the XL canoe first (mine), so I can learn from any mistakes and do better on my girls’ canoes. I first mounted it on the flat vertical part, but then revisited the videos and caught the brief mention of the mount being lower. I could have cut the first one off, but figured it might be useful for something later on (sorry, I’ll rotate these properly later):
I had originally thought of shaping both bow and stern symmetrically, and using the approach Brian recommends for the stern of pack canoes at the bow as well. That is, have a more abrupt transition between keel and stem. But after consulting with Brian, he convinced me that the bow really needs a continuously curved shape. So I made that modification. Now that I think about it (after oiling)….I may really want to do that in the stern as well. It’s still not too late, I guess.
–Sanding & Oiling–
I sanded the top and inside surfaces of the gunwales, and made sure the inside corner was nice and round and smooth.
Oiling is a pain…I used Corey Freedman’s Pine Tar Boat Sauce, but it is tedious, messy and smelly, even with all the basement windows open. It was too cold to do it outside. Wiping the frames is equally tedious. It took between 3 – 4 hrs for each frame.
On Monday, the weather was warmer, and I let them sit outside in the sun to dry further. They’ve got a week to dry, while I prep the rub rails, and prepare for skinning next weekend.
May 27 – Apr 3
This week, I spent sanding and varnishing the rub rails multiple times in preparation for skinning. Because I’ve also built one skin-on-frame kayak in the past, I knew I could use some practice sewing to get a nice aesthetically pleasing seam. So I took some of the extra fabric I still had from my kayak build like 10 years ago, and mocked up a stem covering with it. I practiced cutting the fabric with the hot-cutter, and sewing to get the pleasing, pillowy, even seam….with Brian right next to me!
My first one was not so great, very small, tight seam in places, uneven width, etc……
So in the next one, I gave myself a little extra fabric. I actually cut the fabric with varying overhangs along the stem. First the 1/4″ Brian recommends, then 3/8″, then 1/2″. I ultimately went with about 3/8″ overhang.
I also noticed, while sewing up the first practice end, that the fabric would tug against all of the pins along the edge of the stem, and make little ‘creases’ there. So, instead, I chose to pin the fabric along the keel, and along the gunwales, as shown below:
This allowed the seam to pull evenly all along the stem, and didn’t cause any creases or ‘bulges’ of fabric.
I stopped short of the tip of the stem by 1/2″, as Brian recommends, and did shift the skin 2.5″ forward when sewing up the other end. I don’t know if it was my pinning and sewing method, or the fact that I’m using recurved stems, but when I went to stretch the fabric, it was VERY tight. I could not get the second seam pulled all the way to the tip of the stem. I ended up pinning it where it was and finished sewing the seam. In the end, it turned out all right. Here are the two ends after finishing the rest of the skinning process (sorry about picture quality….it’s late, and I should take better pics with my SLR and better lighting):
Here’s the end result of the first boat being skinned:
Apr 5th – Skin TWO canoes
I had off work today as a holiday, and set out to get the other two canoes skinned, which I did.
I also made a few really cool time lapse videos of the process.
–Layout of fabric, and sew-up of one end —
— Sewing the other end —
— Soaking the fabric, stretch and staple–
— Clamping and screwing rub rails —
Here are a few still shots I captured today:
All I did this day was trim off the fabric above the rub rails and sew up the tips on the M & L canoes…take a bunch of pictures, and weigh the canoes.
Here are the weights of the three canoes empty (no seats), and with the skin, but without any coating yet:
Medium canoe (13′ 8″ x 27″): 22.7 lbs
Large canoe (14′ 8″ x 29″): 25.5 lbs
XLarge canoe (15′ 8″ x 31″): 27.9 lbs
This week, I dyed two of the canoes. I wanted a ‘brown’ one, my older daughter wanted Brian’s Chestnut+Russet, which she insisted was ‘pink’, and my youngest daughter wanted to keep hers white.
Not knowing exactly what colors we would end up choosing, I actually purchased 1/2 oz jars of Brian’s 4 recommended ‘primary’ colors: Aztec Gold, Brown, Chestnut & Russet.
On Tue and Wed, I made a series of test swatches, in exactly 1/8th proportions of Brian’s recommended recipe.
After making the test colors, I chose what Brian calls “Chocolate”, and my oldest daughter decided she wanted the color Brian calls “Sweet Potato”:
To keep the dye as hot as possible throughout the process, I made a “jug cozy” out of a towel and duct tape, and ‘preheated’ the jug with boiling water while I prepared the actual dye. I was really surprised that the jug was putting out steam for over 10 minutes while the vinegar solution was being prepared.