My son Patrick has been on a mission for several
months to find the best kayak to take him to those
special fishing spots. Places where only birds, fish
and kayakers go. After months of searching, Patrick,
a 20-year-old junior at the University of Florida,
and I decided to build a Jim Michalak Toto
for his adventures. At the same time I would finish
the Selway-Fisher 13-foot Baby
Raven canoe I started almost a year ago.
It has hung from the rafters of my shop for months.
Both boats are stitch and tape projects we constructed
from lumberyard materials and epoxy.
Both boats are
stitch and tape projects we constructed from
lumberyard materials and epoxy.
Patrick’s Toto was built in two weeks of spare
Michalak is a genius boat designer. The
Toto went together as designed with no tricks. It
is simple, straightforward and goes together quickly.
The Baby Raven was bit more complicated with more
parts and compound curves. However, it was also a
joy to build. We use Home Depot luan at $10 per sheet.
I like epoxy and cloth inside and outside the hull.
This has been a very good building material and process
On a cool, blustery day we pulled both projects from
the back of the pickup truck and baptized them in
the waters of J.N. “Ding” Darling National
Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Fla.
|We pulled both projects
from the back of the pickup truck and baptized
them in the waters of J.N. “Ding”
Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Ding Darling is a spectacular place to canoe and
kayak. Places named Hard Working Bayou, Macintyre
Creek and Tarpon Bay pepper the nearly 7000 acres
of mangrove island refuge that borders Pine Island
Sound along the Gulf of Mexico. This spot is world
renowned for wading birds. I’m not into birds
but we paddled passed groups of albino pelicans, several
hawks, one eagle and a number of day glow-pink birds
I had no idea what they were. They just glowed with
color. “Ding”, as the locals call it,
is a very unique place on this planet. I am told people
from all over the world visit here to see the birds.
It is a pretty cool place to chase fish too.
Both boats performed beyond our expectations. I built
Baby Raven to carry my fat backside. The Selway-Fisher
design moves through the water well and is stable
and comfortable. I use a 240 cm double paddle and
stakeout pole to stick in the muddy bottom to anchor
my Baby Raven in place while I fish. It is a wonderful
fishing platform for me. I can stand up in her and
with a little practice, I will be able to fish standing
up. I built a nice seat that is very comfortable.
I paddled for hours covering several miles with no
Patrick also wanted a boat that was stable, easy
to paddle, swift, attractive and a good fishing platform.
He preferred a kayak rather than canoe and loves to
glide across the shallows in search of Redfish, Trout
and Snook. We read as much as we could on Duckworks
about Michalak’s Toto. Everything we read sounded
like what Patrick wanted. Toto is sleek and sexy.
Both boats weight about 40 pounds each. Not bad.
They are easy to carry around and lift in and out
of the truck.
Both boats weight
about 40 pounds each. Not bad. They are easy
to carry around and lift in and out of the truck.
The staff at the refuge allowed us to park along
the one-way, five-mile long dirt road through the
estuary. A fee of $5 per car gives you access to the
area. They welcome anyone to drop kayaks or canoes
in the water and explore. The only warning we received
was it is easy to get lost. With hundreds of small
mangrove islands, the area becomes a confusing maze.
All landmarks look alike. It is very easy to get turned
around and lost. We were confused several times during
our inaugural adventure.
The fish got the better of us this day. However,
we were more excited about our boats than catching
fish. Fish beware next time.
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