|Having grown up in the Midwest within a stones throw of the water I've always felt an attraction to the sea
(even if during my childhood it was always a freshwater sea). I spent as much time as possible on,
at, or in the water from childhood through my teen years. Thinking back to one particular summer I
remember spending many warm spring days at a remote sandy beach where several small sailboats and
paddle/oared craft were stored. It was a quiet, private place where you could let your mind wander the
universe on all kinds of adventures. I have very fond memories of one particular day at this lazy little
retreat. While walking the beach studying the different boats resting on the sand I started noticing
the various debris that had washed up on the beach. The debris included pieces of fishing line, driftwood,
styrofoam, pieces of plastic bags, etc., etc. all the makings of a really fine miniature Robinson Caruso
sailing adventure. My sea to sail was lapping gently at my feet and my imagination was really getting up to
speed. I immediately set to work scrounging the beach for the materials to build my little sea going craft.
Upon completion of my tiny stick raft, complete with plastic bag sail, I set the beauty to sea. The
offshore breeze filled the tiny little sail and the raft started it's 7.5 mile voyage across the my
freshwater sea. I sat on the dock and watched with joy as my little craft sailed off to adventure, gradually
disappearing on the horizon. I enjoyed this day's experience so much that I came back to repeat it
several days in a row. It sure was great being a kid.
I recently moved to Florida's Gulf coast to begin the
sea side chapter of my life. Upon arriving in my new paradise I immediately purchased an 18-foot center
console with outboard and outfitted it for scuba diving. This particular boat was designed for short
offshore forays in small seas. It has served us well during many days of fishing and diving. The one area
that this vessel is lacking is in it's ability to navigate the shallow oyster and sand bars (without
running aground) that are so prevalent in the bays and harbors in our area. I decided that I needed a
shallower draft boat so that I could enjoy the beautiful mangrove areas along with the birds,
wildlife, and fish that they attract. The thought of dropping a few thousand bucks to acquire and maintain
a second boat was not that appealing at this point. Public boat launches can be a hassle here and are
usually very full and not all that handy to some of the best shallow water areas. I decided I wanted
something rowable, light weight, pretty, easy and quick to transport. The "Tupperware" boats available
at my local marine stores were unappealing. I turned my search to the internet. I started coming across web
sites about building small, beautiful, lightweight boats (stitch and glue) from epoxy, fiberglass, and
plywood. Wow! This was perfect! I got myself some free 3D modeling software and began my adventure. The
little boat that I came up with was a cross between a pram and the beautiful sweeping lines of a dory. I had
come back to those lazy childhood days of building little boats from available materials. This time my
boat was going to be large enough to take me with her.
We used standard stitch and tape method in building
our little boat. We used one-quarter inch Luan plywood for the hull panels and Douglas fir for the seats and
gunwales. I decided to add a skeg to improve its directional stability (made from a piece of black
walnut that I had left from another project). I put one layer of 7-ounce fiberglass cloth on the bottom
for protection from the oyster bars.
We completed the little boat in three weeks and put it to sea for its maiden voyage. At only 8 feet long (47"
max beam- 32" at the waterline) it's stability took a bit of getting used to. This is not a vessel that I
would recommend for accommodating two adults. It is a lot of fun for one person though! It rowed well and
with so much freeboard makes you feel secure even in small chop. In just a couple of minutes I can fit this
65 pound boat in the back of my van and then I'm off to fish or explore the hidden treasures of Southwest
Florida's creeks and mangrove shorelines. What an adventure life can be!