By Peter M. Leenhouts - Port Ludlow, Washington - USA

Jim, a friend of mine who lives in southeastern Wisconsin, built this beautiful Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC) Passagemaker design during 2009. This is his first boat.

Proud owner with his new Chesapeake Light Craft Passagemaker on the ramp before launching

The CLC Passagemaker is a Norwegian-style pram that is built from a stitch and glue kit. Prams have transoms fore and aft. This design is 11 feet 7 inches long, 56 inches wide, and weighs in at 90 pounds. It is designed to carry three people and gear, for a total combined weight of 650 pounds, and can be motored or sailed.

A practical, beautiful small craft

Jim picked the CLC Passagemaker because he already had a canoe and really didn’t want to build a kayak. His intention was to look for something that was "different", a boat that was something not routinely seen inland around southeastern Wisconsin.

“The sailing aspect of this boat is what really captured my imagination!” he states, emphatically. “I wanted a boat that I could share with my spouse as well as the rest of the family. I knew I could always go out in my solo canoe but I really wanted something that would be fun to do solo or with family and friends.”

Jim takes his Passagemaker out for a row

Jim is fortunate that the Rock River Canoe Company, run by owner Kim Grunow, is located nearby on Main Street in Fort Atkinson WI.

After some preliminary discussion about his skill level and the type of boat he wanted, Kim suggested that he consider the wide range of Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC) designs. .

Jim looked over the various CLC boats and kayaks and fell hard for the Passagemaker, saying “There is nothing else out there like this boat. It was love at first sight and I really can't rationally explain why this was THE boat. It just fit all the criteria that I had hoped for in a boat. Within days I ordered the kit and was off on a wonderful experience.”

Jim had the CLC kit shipped to the Rock River Canoe Company and waited impatiently until shop space became available.

Cheapeake Light Craft says “Stitch-and-glue construction, along with the development of epoxy and modern mahogany marine plywood, has revolutionized and revitalized wooden boat building. This method of building is not only stronger, lighter, and faster than traditional wooden boat building, but it also takes far less skill. With stitch-and-glue construction, no strongbacks, forms, or temporary frames are required to build the boats.”

“Although I was a novice woodworker”, Jim said, “I found the kit and instructions very doable. Kim Grunow really didn’t help too much other than providing the shop space and being a constant source of encouragement. Things just really fell together well as a result of a very well put-together kit. In addition to the excellent instruction manual, there is an online bulletin board at the CLC website where others have documented their experiences while constructing the Passagemaker. Knowing that others had overcome the various problems I encountered was an empowering experience. I knew, even with my minimal experience, that what I was going through was no different than what anyone would during the course of construction.”

Jim’s Passagemaker under construction at the Rock River Canoe Company

Stitch and glue kit boats from CLC come with all material, including epoxy, needed to build the boat, Jim says. “The kit, states CLC, “consists of Okoume marine plywood panels - computer cut for accuracy, mahogany trim, and all of the epoxy, fiberglass and hardware” required.

The plywood hull panels are coated with epoxy before the boat is assembled. Jim says he put three coats of epoxy on each panel, and sanded in between coats.

Then, essentially, the plywood hull panels are stitched together with copper wire, the joints filled with thickened epoxy, and the bottom covered with fiberglass cloth set in an additional two coats of epoxy inside and outside the boat. Mahogany rails add strength to the hull, while the seats add rigidity and form airtight tanks for flotation safety. A skeg and bottom skids protect the bottom against rough and sandy beaches. The hull is coated in several layers of clear epoxy for durability and low maintenance, then sanded, painted and varnished for UV resistance.

With the exception of occasional help maneuvering the panels into place and some bits of advice from Kim or boatbuilding friends, Jim did most of the work by himself. He estimates it took six months of occasional work to have the boat ready for launch, not a stressful schedule at all, which included perhaps as much as 100 hours of shop time. The only hard parts, he says, were waiting to begin, and waiting for the varnish to dry so he could get the boat wet!

“I had my ‘moments’ applying the marine varnish, says Jim. “I was really looking forward to the completion of the boat and had much of the initial varnish run on the inside of the boat. It was a bit frustrating to have to sand off those parts of the boat and revarnish. Imagine applying water to vertical surfaces and trying to get it so that it doesn't run. Eventually I got the hang of it but I do not rule out another sanding and revarnishing of the inside, though I am probably the only one who notices this problem.”

Jim bought a trailer from Northern Tool for use with the pram, wiring the trailer lights himself. While the trailer worked quite well right out of the box, he can already see a few slight modifications to make it an even better fit for his boat.

CLC Passagemaker, Northern Tool trailer

Jim launched his Passagemaker pram into a lake near Whitewater WI in late November 2009. He was thoroughly impressed with the boat, and enjoyed the opportunity to row it around the lake before the snow flew.

In particular, the 90-pound boat seemed to float like a leaf in the calm water, and was a delight to row, being very responsive under oars.

The Passagemaker floats like a leaf

Jim will build the mast and dagger board over the winter of 2009-2010, and bought the sail and rigging from Chesapeake Light Craft. In the meantime, until they’re built, he will use an old trolling motor with the boat. “Spring”, he says, “can’t come soon enough for a first sail.”

Jim is enthusiastic about his experience. “I can only say great things about the kit”, he says. “EVERYTHING went just as the plans and instructions stated. CLC did an outstanding job on delivering exactly what I wanted, and Kim Grunow of the Rock River Canoe Company provided excellent support and encouragement. I can say without hesitation that I would buy another plan or kit from CLC, indeed they would be the very first place that I would consider!”

Spring can’t come soon enough as the Passagemaker heads for the barn for the wnter!




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