A Tale of Two Totos  
By Brian Garner - Lancashire, United Kingdom

Last summer my wife and I spent several very pleasant afternoons paddling a Sevylor inflatable around. We managed many miles along the local canal system. Another trip we took the inflatable to Lake Windermere and picnicked on one of the Islands on the lake.

The Sevylor is nice for an inflatable and very handy as it will easily go in the car and can be inflated when required. It takes less than ten minutes to inflate with a foot pump.

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The Sevylor is nice for an inflatable and very handy as it will easily go in the car and can be inflated when required.

I had the desire to build a canoe myself and so I recently purchased the plans for a Toto. A simple design by Jim Michalak, but it is about the longest boat I could build in my shed. The shed measures 13 foot by 8 foot and as you can see from the photos it is pretty cramped. The other boat on the side is a summer breeze which just needs finishing off..

The plans were ordered from Duckworks and arrived quickly. I have purchased a few plans in the past and was surprised that these are a blueprint. A sinlge sheet with plenty of detail on. Also included is a small booklet with instructions on building the boat.

I was soon cutting wood and making plenty of sawdust. I didn’t take many pictures of the build but do have a photo of the early stages of assembly.

I was soon cutting wood and making plenty of sawdust.

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This is a quick boat to build and I was soon at the terrible sanding and painting stage. This always seems to be the longest part of building a boat. Especially waiting for epoxy or paint to dry. It was winter here in the UK so the temperatures were fairly low. My workspace isn’t heated either so this didn’t help.

I decided that I would like a covered foredeck with storage space forward as well as the rear storage area. I also like the idea of the extra floatation if I get swamped.

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I was soon at the terrible sanding and painting stage. This always seems to be the longest part of building a boat.

I made the foredeck from 2 pieces of 6mm ply and joined then with a nice piece of cedar over the center. I didn’t have a single piece of wood large enough to do it in one piece. Its nice to use the offcuts up though. I even built the paddle shown in the plans but I made it an inch larger across the blades. It did look a bit thin but I am sure it would have been adequate.

Dawn (my better half as she tells me) had watched the build and decided that we should have two of these. A his and hers Toto. I should have known. I did read of someone else who finished up building two of these as well.

So this is how I ended up making two of these lovely craft. I wondered where Jim got the Toto name from. It seems very appropriate now. Perhaps he should have called it a twotwo knowing that they would be built in twos.

I did send Jim the extra fee to build the second one. His plans are so reasonably priced anyway.

Dawn had watched the build and decided that we should have two of these. A his and hers Toto. I should have known.

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Here they both are. I have a couple of finishing touches to do. A spot or two of touching up paint and varnish. A wash to remove the dust etc.

The first paddle.

April arrived here and the weather was very pleasant on the Easter weekend so we decided to try Lake Windermere for the initial tests.

Both Totos fitted nicely on the roof rack of my car and we were off.
It wasn’t very long before both boats were resting in the water waiting for the first paddle. I used the inflatable seats from the sevylor and these were quite comfy.

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It wasn’t very long before both boats were resting in the water waiting for the first paddle.

 
I climbed aboard and carefully paddled out into the lake.

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I climbed aboard and carefully paddled out into the lake. The boat felt a bit tippy and tender at first. After a couple of minutes I settled down and began to trust the toto more, I found I could lean quite a way over and it still felt quite stable. I have paddled Kayaks a couple of times but I don’t have the skills to get the best out of a true Kayak. The Toto by comparison feels much more stable. In my opinion anyway. You don’t need the bracing skills Kayakers use. It also doesn’t feel like you may end up inverted at any second and wishing you knew how to roll.

Dawn joined me and we set off. We were cautious at first. It wasn’t long before we were being much more adventurous. Chasing the wakes of passing boats and getting bobbed around like mad.

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Dawn joined me and we set off. We were cautious at first. It wasn’t long before we were being much more adventurous.

We again explored several small islands and went around Belle isle.
There was one point where we were heading into the wind and the waves were against us. It was quite a hard to round the corner of Belle isle and get into calmer waters where we were drifting back towards our launch point.

It was just too much of a challenge not to race. I ended up chasing Dawn along a calm stretch. It was previously quiet but I couldn’t resist the urge to sing the theme tune from Hawiee – Five-O. It's lucky there wasn’t anyone around.

We spent about three hours altogether exploring the lake. These boats are great!!

We spent about three hours altogether exploring the lake. These boats are great!!

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The day was a success with no mishaps or disappointments. Well apart from the small incident of me slipping when getting into the Toto. I fell over the opposite side and managed to get a few inches of water in the boat. This was easily scooped out of the boat but it did take me a bit longer to dry. It certainly amused Dawn. Anyway that’s one mistake that’s better off forgotten. I think we paddled between four and five miles that afternoon. I used Google Earth to estimate the distances.

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The day was a success with no mishaps or disappointments.

A quick word of warning. The following day we both knew we had been paddling hard. The aching muscles were a testament to that. It must be a good way of getting fit though.

I am sure it will not be very long before we are out in these again. They are so much fun.

This is a well designed plan and it goes together very well. Anyone thinking of a small paddling type craft should consider this one carefully.

I do keep looking at both of them and I can’t help thinking,
What about a couple of cross bars at the ends of the cockpit?
A couple of linked rudders and a leeboard?
The mast mounted on the front cross bar?
What sort of sail could I mount there?

I have some wood. I have some Polytarp. Hmmm…………..

Somebody stop me before I go too far.

Brian Garner

You can purchase plans for TOTO here:

http://www.duckworksbbs.com/plans/jim/toto/

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