Dave’s Tandem 66 Canoe “Ursa” – Belfountain, Ontario, Canada

Last summer my wife saw a need for a canoe. In 2008, I built a SOF Sea Kayak for myself and in 2009 a Stitch & Glue recreational kayak for my wife. The Rec boat is perfect for guests… very stable, easy to paddle… BUT we are now short a boat (or two). After borrowing my sister’s canoe last summer to spend time with family on the water, it was decided… we need a canoe! This coincided with a discussion and fellow builder neighbour Matt, we both decided to build a 66 each. Then, talking with a colleague at work, there are now three 66s in the works.

Vital Status:

Length: 16′, Beam: 36″, Centre Depth: 13 5/16, Rocker: 2.5″ (2.25″ actual), Weight 45lbs
Depth to Beam ratio: .37, Rib to Beam ratio: 1.40. Ribs burr oak, stringers and gunwales yellow cedar.

July 15 2021 I stated my month long vacation with plans to start the build in earnest. I have already purchased all the materials and started to process the wood. As I am building a full size tandem, red cedar is out, I found a local supply of Yellow Cedar, a guy who imports wood as a side hustle focusing on boat building types. it was slim pickings but I managed to find enough wood though I will have to scarf. The Burr Oak for my ribs came from a local farmer/hobby wood worker friend who fell & milled the tree two weeks ago! All three of us bought our Oak!

Made the stems, started to rip the gunwales and process the wood this morning.

July 16 2021 – started work in earnest today, ripped the gunwales and stringers today. As I could not get 17′ lumber, I am working with 12 footers. I cut my stems first and the remainder of the board will become stringers & gunwales… I did not want to accidently rip that material. BTW, I am using a table saw I bought 40 something years ago as a present for my dad, they do no make then like they used to!

July 17 2021 – finished the setup of the shop, scarfed the gunwale pieces. I have a 16′ x 32″ work bench, so I chalk lined 3 lines, but down some plastic wrap to prevent gluing the pieces to the bench. Now, onto the keel and stringers!

July 19 2021 – laminated the gunwales, left them overnight and ripped them this afternoon (once my assistant was off work. As I had not in/out tables on my table saw, we found it way easier to rip the gunwales as a hump and not as a “U”. We did a couple dry runs to practice, went really well.

July 20 2021 – cleaned up the gunwales (aka sanded and sanded again), all set to mortis. Worked on carving a paddle as a gift for my nephew… almost done. It is a northwest design made out of Cherry.

July 21 2021 – mortised the gunwales and slick planed the keel & stringers… starting to feel real :-D… Finished the paddle, ready for test paddling tomorrow

July 22 2021 – had a great day on the water with Evan as he tried out his new paddle… HE LOVED IT!!!

July 23 2021 – installed spreaders and symmetry is looking good, amazing how much a shift in the ends effects the symmetry. tied and pinned the ends. I found working on the bench is great… until you get to the 3D curved parts so I made a couple of mini workhorses… they are working really well. I can slide them along the bench as needed, even added a little stop on the ends.

July24 2021 – trimmed the ends, attached the stems and checked symmetry… took some figure’n as the string was a good 1/2″ above the keel, then I followed Bryan’s sage advice and triple checked everything to find I was using the planned shear height and not the actual… fixed my error and everything fell into place. shifting gears to rub rails before ribs.

July 25 2021 – took a day off from canoe building to launch a SOF kayak that my nephew started building in 2008, left it for a bunch of years and asked to complete it just before the pandemic started. Working around the restrictions, progress was slow. Finally the day came and we had a successful launch!

July 26 2021 – Rub rails ripped and scarfed. And made the steam box… got creative and adapted the one of the steam fittings to the box… another great day!

July 31 2021 – TROUBLE! started prepping ribs, followed Brian’s sage advice to do test ribs, #1, #7, #16, #26 & #33… the middle three were perfect, the ends were 1.5″ too short… I have double-triple checked everything and am at a loss for the error. Back at it this AM to sort things out. very glad that I did not cut, prep & bend all of them to have things go so far wrong. I am going to add temp blocks to the Rib #1 so see if adding 3″ (1.5″ x 2) solves the issue. I will report once back on track. In the mean time ripped the rest of the rib stock, all ready to measure, cut and bend.

August 1 2021 – BIG DAY – bending in all the ribs and clamped the stringers. went really well, definitely worth it to get good quality bending stock.

August 2 2021 – lashed in the first two stringers… busy day hiking with friends so not much work on the Canoe. Tomorrow is another day – I did setup a nice rack for varnishing my rub rails, needed to get them off the bench. Added a small triangle block to minimize the contact with the wet material. nice to have it out of the way… 5 coats and counting.

August 6 2021 – took a day off to paddle with nephew Evan, second time out with his new paddle. Frame is almost done, bought seats and portage thwart… need to sleep on it

August 7 2021 – finished the frame, lashed the keel, final tweaks done, just need to trim the ends and add blocks to gunwales for the thwart and seats… tomorrow.

August 8 2021 – added the portage thwart blocks (cherry) and seat supports. I decided to lash a couple rails (left over rib stock) to support the seats. I am planning to make the seats moveable… though I am still working out the details. For now, they will be removeable. If you decide to do this, use 4x the length to give you enough sinew, other wise it worked really well and I am really happy with it. I clamped the rails in place, put the seats in place, it was a really great setup for measuring and marking. I did realize that I needed to just the seats shorter than ordinally planned to have enough room to remove the seats. Also, added a very small deck (cherry) as a little accent on bow and stern. Making a carry handle out of cherry… ran out of day, first thing tomorrow, planning to oil tomorrow… hopefully. AND that cherry is left overs from the paddle I made.

August 10 2021 – finished the frame, oiled and ready for skin. We have a heat wave right now so progress has… slowed 😀

August 11 2021 – stitched the skin (it was a late night) tomorrow will stretch and attach! planning an early morning to try to beat the heat.

August 12 2021 – Today is skinning day! Started early, we are having a heat wave so wanted to work during the cooler part of the day. In Brian’s video, he said “you’ll need a million clamps”, since I only had 500,000 I did one side then the other. I used my timer from the steaming step, REALLY recommend doing so. It was a great day! Letting her dry before cutting the excess fabric. Planning on coating in three days when the heat wave (and humidity) is over. Only last 3/4″ of rocker, everything is looking really great!!!

August 13 2021 – yes, it is Friday 😎, trimmed excess fabric. I was using a friend’s RadioShack soldering gun as my hot knife, it worked but a little crude… I did not want the burn marks that Brian talked about in his video so I decided to try my wood burning tool… OMG it was AMAZING. I set it hot enough to melt the fabric and not quite hot enough to burn the wood. That coupled with a very fine point and I was able to do a really nice job of removing the excess fabric.

Taking little pause for weather and other life commitments… likely coating next week… then LAUNCH!

August 28 2021 – giving it another week for the weather to cooperate. Have tarped her to keep the dust off. Prepping materials and plan, need to re-watch the videos and make my game plan. One element, as recommended by Rory, who also built a 16′, is the drill mixing device that Brian suggests… Rory made his own out of a tin can lid, I followed suit, thanks for the suggestion. Next week, weather forecast looks really promising… in the meantime, a sunrise paddle with my buddy!

September 2, 2021 – Finally the day is here… coating. four done, one to go!….. fifth coat done, tape is off!!

September 3, 2021: 0600 – after a very full day I returned to the shop to install the Kevlar rub strips, a shout out to my lovely wife for suggesting this. I installed Kevlar on her stitch & glue kayak, so in her mind it was a no brainer. This raised the question why not? After a short investigation all agreed there was no reason not to. After finishing the 5 coats and removing the tape at the 5 hour mark (note: it was about five and a half hours and I did get a bit of the nasty strings Brian warned us about).

I then waited 10 hours and came back to install the rub strips, I figured it would be nicer to work with the hull mostly cured. Used two batches of 4:2. (note: I recommend one batch of 6:3, I mixed up 4:2 guessing it would be enough, it was not, so I made a second batch) Wetted out the felt on some saran-wrap stapled to the bench, then transferred the wet strips to the canoe. Word of caution, this is a one chance to get it right, as careful as I was… the stern is a little off-set, I am sure those judgmental fish will be making comments 😉 I am REALLY happy how well it went. After they were on I then used up the rest of the mixed urethane to saturate (super saturate really). I chased drips/runs for an hour and now just have to wait. – next pictures will be on the water!!!

Weigh in: 45lbs!!!

September 5, 2021 – LAUNCHED, OK, actually pre-launch. I have a launch party planned for next weekend. Today was just a quick test, wanted to see how she paddled… happy to report: “GREAT”, though really see the need to get two bodies in this beast. I tried the sit on the back of front seat, the bow rides up out of the water… kneeling in the center I could trim her out nicely. Looking forward to many many paddles.

Photo Credit: Dolores Daly
Photo Credit: Dolores Daly

Video Credit: Dolores Daly

September 7, 2021 – Setting up the racking of the boats. With two kayaks and one canoe, it is a challenge to get them to all fit on the roof rack. This is part of the reason I chose the 66 Canoe system, they nest. The 17′ Sea Kayak (Kia Ora) will go on her regular J racks, the 12 ‘ recreational boat (Leo) will sit flat on the racks with Ursa nesting around him. Now the moment of truth, will they fit!

September 12 2021 – Final detail – the decals. We named the Canoe Ursa. The idea was if I ever built a second canoe, that nests, then we could have Ursa Major and Ursa Minor :-D. My first boat is Kia Ora, a nod to my New Zealand roots, second boat is Leo, a choice by my wife based the fact I am Leo. I have plans and some materials for Aquarius (guess what my wife’s sign is? ;)… so we now have a tradition of celestial names for our boats… no finer place to star gaze than on the open water.

Paddle Safe

Photo Credit: Joni Daly
Photo Credit: Joni Daly

October 18-20 2021 – first backcountry trip with Ursa, she performed wonderfully…. even when we grounded a rock so hard that Evan needed to get out and lift us off… she had a half baseball sized dent in her hull that disappeared over night. It was a great trip to Killarney, Ontario Provincial Park.

April 25 2022 – you know the old expression “up the creek without a paddle?”… now that we had the boat, we need some paddles. I had previously carved a cedar canoe paddle, received a blank from a friend (that will become our spare), needed to carve a paddle for my lovely wife. Using scrap from the boat build, I laminated oak stripes to a yellow cedar shaft, added cherry for the wide part of the blade. Glued with epoxy, first coat was epoxy, two coats of varnish so far, planning on 5 to 10 coats.

After 1 coat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV-OGgiXlRE


View posts by David
Long time Builder, first time Blogger ;) I built my first boat when I was about 10... it was more of a help my older brother as he started building SeaFleas as a small business (the Minimax 8 https://muskokaseaflea.ca/StaticWeb2/?page_id=61). I continued to help my brother as he started a business importing yachts from Taiwan, 30'-50' motor yachts, we were Oceania Yachts, I opened the American office. Fast forward to 2008, I had taken up kayaking and in a phone conversation with my friend Garry who introduced me to the sport, when I asked why he did not own a boat - "I could not do one of those plastic pigs, I would need to build one..." after a quick search I found a skin on frame kayak that used modern materials, in particular aircraft dacron that is heat shrink, the same fabric that was on my airplane... technology that I am familiar with. I started the build with 3 nephews, each building their own boat. 11 months later I launch Kia Ora, my 17' Sea Kayak, a year later, Leo joined the fleet, a 12' Wood Duck Stick and Glue for my wife. One nephew launched in 2014, second is about to (2021) and the third is ready for skin. Last summer, after borrowing my sister's canoe for the summer, we decided we needed our own canoe and I really loved the 66. I am building a full size tandem, 16', 36" beam R/B ratio 1.40 and a D/B ratio of .37. Burr oak for the ribs and yellow cedar for the rest.


  1. Rory
    August 11, 2021

    Looking good David!

  2. Ted
    February 21, 2023

    Kudos to you Dave, for a fine post and a great build.

    We’re thinking about building three nesting 66’s. We already have 3, 16′ canoes and two kayaks.

    The kayaks will be up for sale this Spring. We found them: too confining, unable to pack enough camping gear and too dangerous to get into /out of when paddling northern Georgian Bay. (There are no beaches for easy landings, only rocks, rocks, rocks. Sharp rocks or slippery rocks…

    Dave, how have you found the 66’s? Since they are so lightweight did you find you need extra care when getting in/out in Killarney rock-type situations? Also, you didn’t mention what you coated the nylon with…2 part epoxy? polyurethane? Where did you buy the nylon? Sorry for all the questions.

    Best regards, Ted in Toronto

    1. David
      February 22, 2023

      Ted, thank you for your kind words.

      So far, Ursa has been impervious to rocks. Ran aground solidly on our first trip (Killarney), had to get out to get unstuck. The baseball sized dent disappeared by morning. Our second trip (Massassauga) added a more couple good scratches (aka stories). Even did a day paddle on the Thames near Woodstock late in the season with low water levels… bounced the bottom over some rapids, broke a paddle but not the boat.

      I used the skin Brian recommended from Skin Boats, went with the 840-X-TRA Tuff and their urethane, really happy with the results.

      I am in Belfountain, if you are ever up this way, ping me, you can check her out in person, even take her out for a paddle! She is fast, and a great freight hauler. I tried to paddle her solo couple times, like any canoe her size, she needs weight. I am really happy with balance of maneuverability, stability and speed.

      1. Ted Chabane
        February 22, 2023

        Hi Dave,

        Thanks for the prompt reply.

        So, the 840 X-tuff is the way to go?

        We’d been thinking about the next one down, the 840 junior because it supposedly finishes out so smooth.

        But if the 840X can slowly rebound from a big dent, rather than puncture, it might be wise to use it.

        It’s been a long, long time since I’ve broken a canoe in half.

        Isn’t it weird that even with the $62 shipping charge, it’s still cheaper to get the epoxy from the USA?

        Dave, thanks for the advice. We used to hike up at Belfountain, usually the North fork. It’s probably all built up by now? Or have they protected the area properly?

        1. David
          February 22, 2023

          Fortunately well protected, still lots of great hiking trails 😀

          Interesting the comment about smoothness, the X-Tuff finished very smooth, on the outside. The inside retains a little texture. Safe paddling.


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