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By Doug Beatty - Delaware - USA

A roundabout and tortured explanation of how the boat building bug can attack.

Unlike most mid-life-crisis-having-boat-building types, this man had good reason to get into boat building. Bigfoot made me do it. A provocative statement like that demands an explanation, which follows:

Winter 2007 found your humble respondent engaged in important work related research. My boss had flaked out early (AGAIN) and the joint was dead. So I was web surfing in a futile attempt to stay awake.

The BFRO, or Bigfoot Research Organization has a website that is a clearinghouse for Sasquatch sightings. Their researchers include investigators with law enforcement backgrounds. Said investigators use interview techniques on persons who claim to have seen, or found evidence, of large undocumented primates all over America. If the investigator is satisfied that the person reporting is sincere the report becomes a class "A" event.

Imagine my surprise when my tiny home state of Delaware yielded two class "A" sightings, both around 2004. Since there was a construction boom at the time it would make sense that any animals in the areas of the sightings would be getting displaced by encroachment.

On the other hand, a large primate requiring 5000 calories per day would seem impossible to hide in Delaware. There are only very small patches of woods and very few of those not on or bordered by public hunting lands.

Looking at Google earth it was apparent that the only area that would support the animals reported to have been seen was the headwaters of the Nanticoke River, Tyndall Branch flowing into Concord Pond. The Pond itself is ringed by what passes for upscale homes hereabouts.

That leaves the "ditch" or creek feeding the pond. A few problems here, there is a large tract of state owned land open for hunting. The creek itself is a canoe trail. Both sightings were near creeks or ditches that run into this area.

Where's a Bigfoot to hide? This was the perfect chance to vindicate the George Lucas theory. Bigfoot is an alien - just like Chewbacca! I mean, like who didn't see Star Wars? Duh! I had to get up that creek, but was lacking a paddle. Didn't have a boat either.

My first yacht was an inflatable kayak. Several trips up the creek in question were made, equipped with camera and digital recorder. The soft mud along the creek captured footprints of every creature in the area. Miles of creek bank were checked, and it looked like Bigfoot did not live there.

Some strange sounds consistent with large primate activity were heard, but all were explainable by local fauna. AHA! Bigfoot was an alien. There were also UFO sightings from unrelated folks near both of the bigfoot sightings occurring around the same time and reported on entirely different websites.

So fairly early in the season, my hypothesis was well on it's way to becoming a theory. Fame and recognition loomed on the horizon. But there was this kayak that had been paid for. My type 2 diabetes was apparently greatly abated by paddling for an hour or two after work.

The summer of 2008 was an endless good time paddling. Fishing was discovered.

During the course of the summer longer and longer outings became the norm. Field research proved that attending to a full bladder whilst seated in an inflatable kayak could tend to be a less than graceful evolution.

The kayak had demonstrated that it was happy living in the trunk of the car and springing to action on a whim. Selling it for a bigger boat was not an option. The fleet would have to be expanded.

There was no way to further vindicate Mr. Lucas without spending some long days on the water up that creek and on other local waters.

There were inflatable boats that would fit the bill, but unemployment sucks and makes money tight.

Somehow the endless web surfing (serious research) led to the discovery of "Instant Boats", Duckworks, Messrs Bolger, Payson, Michalak, and the cult of boat builders.

Some of these boat building types were clearly not on my frequency, like the crew whose site was pimping a kit for a nutshell pram at the low low price of $1600USD. There were experts everywhere in one forum, snorting at plywood construction and casting dispersions on anybody who slept under a boom tent.

But the places and people mentioned specifically seemed to be of a philosophical bent compatible with my own. Boating should not be reserved for the wealthy and in fact, has been the realm of the poor working stiff for eons.

Houston did need to be notified of a problem though.... I have nearly zero skills with wood or tools.

On the one hand, there was a good inventory of tools on hand. Circular saws, reciprocating saws, jigsaws, miter saws, a table saw, router and table. At one point in life, I had taken a stab at being a carpenter's helper strictly to learn.

I learned that I was the worst carpenter's helper in the First State. The saws had not been touched in five years. That inflatable boat with the marine ply deck was looking better.

Then the committee of little voices in my head pointed out a few facts:

  • There were too many accounts of people who had never built anything making Bolger boxes and having a grand old time on the water.
  • Folks with a few builds under their belts were turning out some really nice boats.
  • Couples were making floating homes and cruisers.
  • Too much reward not to try.

Having designed and built an extremely sturdy laundry table, a stool/short stepladder, and a goofy looking but highly effective self bow - it was time to take the chance.

I drove all the way upstate (which will set you back an hour or so in Delaware) to buy a copy of "Instant Boat Building with Dynamite Payson". The book and anything that looked remotely relevant on the net was absorbed feverishly.

The Bolger Big Tortoise finally got approval from the design committee of little voices in my head. My kayaking had gotten me into fishing and a small rowboat makes a primo fish stalker on ponds that are no wake zones. A roof rack was screwed into the roof of my trusty Sonata and plywood was lashed to it.

It took me a full month to do what most could do in a week(end) or two. Procrastination brought on by anxiety of exactly how to do something had the project locked down for long periods. Finally, I decided to "just do it". Ironically, when I bought my next book directly from Dynamite his autograph contained exactly those same words.

The result was the Mary Margaret. She is the prettiest rowboat I have ever seen. Entirely pond worthy, and on still water has carried her supersized skipper and another fool of similar dimensions. That comprises a load north of six hundred pounds. There was plenty of free board for rowing on a still pond.

In order to gain experience her bottom hull was covered in polyester resin and 6 oz fiberglass cloth. The remaining resin on hand was soaked into the outer hull sides and transoms. Gorilla Glue, PL concrete crack sealer, and PL premium were all employed in a perhaps less then workman like fashion to mitigate leaks. The effort has proven successful. Her bailing bucket has never left the holster.

The glassing of the bottom hull had the effect of eliminating the dreaded flexing many complain of with the 1/4 BC exterior ply.

Much of my missing knowledge was filled in by reading Duckworks, and the Instant Boats message board.

All of the drywall screws were backed out and replaced with bamboo dowels and expanding glue in the best PuddleDucker fashion. There is no seating drawn for the Big Tortoise in the plans so I got to do my own. There ain't no sail plans either, maybe next year.

Here are some pictures of the basic building sequence.

Sides and transoms were cut, chine and framing sticks screwed and glued into place.

The fifty two degree cut on the bottom of the bow transom resulted in some discussion on the Instant Boats message board. Here is the method I used, it was close but not perfect as seen in the picture of the resulting gap.

Blade set at 38 degrees, cut made as shown.
The resulting gap, filled with PL concrete crack sealant, covered in poly resin, drywall mesh tape and PL premium. It didn't leak when the boat was overloaded and dragging stern and bow transoms.
The bottom hull was attached at the stern, then weighted down and left sit to take the curve.
After assembling the hull, the decision to remove the drywall screws and fill the holes with bamboo skewers and Gorilla Glue was made.
The bottom was glassed with six ounce cloth and polyester resin. Remaining resin on hand was used to coat exterior of boat.
Seating arrangements were roughed out.
Decided to go with rear gussets for ease of sculling and possibly future trolling motor use if the boat changes hands.
Prime, Paint, Festoon, and launch!
She came home dry with NO signs of leakage.
Lashed to the roof rack.

Now I am the proud owner of my second Bigfoot research vessel. Still narrow enough to get up the creek and even run down tiny cuts with the sculling oarlock over the transom in play. Suitable for day long outings in the name of science and vindication of George Lucas. There could be some fishing too......

To be safe, you can't have too many research vessels. Bigfoot could not be anywhere! Fish are rumored to be in diverse locations as well.

Plans for Bolger's CarTopper have been purchased from Dynamite, and a model has been made.

The Piccup Squared plans from Jim Michalak were ordered from Duckworks and the mail carrier faces certain interrogation if'n he don't come off of them soon. Dreams of the OBX130 are becoming hard to suppress. ( Hey, you never know - Bigfoot could not be there too.....)

I can still hold my head up and distance myself from the mid life crisis crowd because, clearly, Bigfoot made me do it. That is my story and I am sticking to it. May the rest of you find your own alternative explanation in good cheer.

****

BIO: Doug Beatty is a Philanthropist, Thief, and Archer (That means unemployed) living in central Delaware. Doug fills the void between job searches with boat building, fishing, paddling, yard work, cooking, reading, and writing. In addition to letters to the editor being published from the Cape Gazette in Delaware to the Jerusalem Post online, he has written a good deal of web content and advertising copy over the years. His blog can be seen at http://www.doublebad.net.

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