By Dave Gentry - Boulder, Colorado - USA

My name is Dave Gentry, and I've been asked to write a few words about my latest boat, which is my take on J. Henry Rushton's "Igo" Canadian style canoe.

Dave and his IGO canoe.

Henry Rushton owned a small boat building company back in the late 1800's, and his boats are still revered today for their craftsmanship and beauty. His company offered a variety of different boat styles, including Adirondack Guide Boats, pulling boats, sailing craft and many styles of canoes. Notable among these designs are his Sairy Gamp, Indian Girl, Wee Lassie, Arkansaw Traveller and the Vesper sailing canoe.
Rushton's IGO canoe was one of his "Canadian" canoe designs. Others in that category were the aforementioned Arkansaw Traveller, and his UGO. These three designs have remarkably similar shapes above the waterline, but, underneath, the IGO is the least extreme of them, having very little deadrise and - presumably - being more stable than the other two (the Arkansaw Traveller being reputedly the least stable, but fastest).

Low tech pre-bending the gunwales.

In a roundabout fashion, my desire to build another canoe coincided with a good friend's need for a wedding present for her brother. The newlyweds are mid sized folks, looking simply to mess about. Though my friend wanted one of my Chuckanut 15 tandems for them, I am rarely interested in building a certain design more than once . . . so, I just shook my head "no" and told her to trust me!
The IGO was my choice for several reasons, including historical curiosity, appropriate capacity, looks and also because I had built a Rushton in the past - a Wee Lassie solo canoe.

Rushton Wee Lassie

I picked the IGO over the UGO, and the Arkansaw Traveller, solely because of the hull shape. I chose skin-on-frame because that's the medium I am most adept at, and comfortable with. In any case, there was no way would I ever be able to replicate the detailed craftsmanship of Rushton's builders!

The frame, showing the 3 building forms, with stems attached and ready for ribs. My Yost baidarka hangs in the background.


Not having any plans, or anything other than the most basic measurements to go by, step one was developing a set of offsets for my building forms. Using as many drawings and old photographs as I could find - and there weren't many - I used dividers and an architect's scale to come up with some working drawings for a multi-chine SOF conversion, as well as offsets for the stems and the forms I would use.
Step two called for wood prep. I ripped the chines, wales and keel from Western Red Cedar, and my rib stock from White Ash. The rib stock was set to soaking, in water, until I needed them. The gunwales were thoroughly soaked, as well, then supported at each end, with buckets of water hanging from their centers. Left this way at least overnight, the gunwales develop a permanent bow, which helps retain the shape of the sheer. Straight gunwales would always be fighting to hog the boat.

The inwales, floorboards and trim were to be from Redwood, and I utilized 1/2 inch marine ply for the stems, and doubled 4mm ply for the decks.

The frame with the ribs bent in &

ready for fastening.

My method for building this canoe, as with my earlier Wee Lassie, differs from other SOF construction methods. In both cases, I wanted to create a more or less exact shape, without "winging it" and hoping for the best. So, I built these boats upright, on a strongback, using three building forms - with the stringers placed first and the ribs later bent in to shape. The building forms consisted of a center form, and two others, identical to each other, and placed equidistant from the center form. Since the IGO is a symmetrical design, both halves of the hull are the same.
The next step was to mount the forms to the strongback - merely a straight two by six - and temporarily attach the stringers, with webbing tie downs holding them in place. Then I fit the stems, using stainless steel screws and thickened epoxy. This is the point where it starts to look like a boat!

The "IGO and Ruth" pic - Ruth is my SOF rowing wherry, which we rowed alongside the IGO for pictures and comparisons.

The ribs, thoroughly soaked for a couple of days, were then carefully bent in place, no steaming necessary. Some of the more extreme bends required judicious use of a heat gun to fine tune the fit, and a few ribs broke from grain run out, or - more usually - from my lack of patience. It's always good to have extra rib stock on hand, especially when I'm doing the bending!
I often lash kayak frames together, and did the same for my Wee Lassie, but with the IGO I wanted a different look - and less tedium! Instead, I fastened the ribs to the stringers with silicon bronze ring shank nails. Unfortunately, this was still pretty tedious, but worked well. The occasional dab of thickened epoxy was also added where I felt there was some strain, or the fit wasn't perfect. Hard to imagine that last bit, I know(!), but it's true.

Once the ribs were in place, I added the decks (in a particular style that Rushton offered), removed the building forms, fit the inwales, installed the floorboards, took care of what sanding and trimming needed to be done - too much, as always! - and painted the entire frame with teak oil.
The skin, a very heavy gauge transparent vinyl, was stretched tight and fastened along the upper, outside edge of the gunwales, and to the stems, with many stainless steel staples. The staples along the sheer were then covered by a redwood rubrail, mounted with brass screws. The stems were covered with another layer of vinyl, glued with HH-66 vinyl cement, making for a stronger and totally waterproof seam.
Some temporary seats were whipped up, and we were off to the lake!

I chose to build her 15 feet in length, a good length for two medium sized paddlers, but not too much to solo. She came in at about 36lbs - also not too much for a solo canoeist.
Rushton's Canadian Canoes came in a variety of lengths, but they were consistently only 30 inches wide at 14-16 feet long. This is much narrower than the average canoe being manufactured today, so there was some concern on my part about how stable this boat would be!
A day at the lake put those fears to rest completely, though. Whew!
We launched the boat at scenic Gross reservoir, high in the mountains above our homes in Boulder, Colorado. Gross is a far cry from the typical prairie pond of the Front Range, with zero powerboats or jet skis, and with mountains dropping straight down to the shore. Definitely my favorite place to paddle in Colorado.

The paddling pictures were all taken on Gross Reservoir, near Boulder, Colorado. The paddlers are myself (Dave Gentry) and Catherine and Shayna. Shayna is the blonde.

Both of my test pilots, Catherine and Shayna, were novice boaters, and excited to get up into the high country on a hot summer day. They're quick learners, too, thankfully, and got to repeatedly answer the slews of questions that every person on shore had. I think it was a relief for them to start paddling!
Even though both ladies had never been in a canoe before, they had zero issues with stability. I find that I am not a good judge of this, as my reference, these days, is 18" wide kayaks. It's nice to have unbiased opinions and obvious results! I did paddle the boat myself, as well, both solo and double, and I agreed with them that the boat was reassuringly stable, with nary a nerve wracking moment. Paddling solo, I was able to stand up in her without issue, though the water was pretty darn calm, at that point!

When we somehow got caught in the entirely foreseeable summer storm, the ladies' only concern was getting back to the ramp as fast as possible - not that they were going to capsize in the big gusts and (small) chop. The sun came back out just as we were starting to load up the car, of course, so we all headed back out for another couple of hours. Nice.
You'll likely note the Greenland style kayak paddles, which were the only ones I had lying around. I'm sure she paddles just fine with traditional canoe paddles, as well. Also, it's clear from the pictures that the rear thwart (seat) needs to be moved further forward a bit. The seats are low, but comfortable.

Rushton's IGO, at least in this incarnation, is fast, has good stability, works great with either one or two paddlers, and elicits non-stop interest and comments from everyone who sees her. I heartily recommend the design, and hope to see some more built, in any medium. She's definitely not a whitewater or an expedition sized craft, but just perfect for messing about on protected waters. My version also has zero added floatation, so a bit of care is in order, as well as the bit of care needed for preserving the skin. The skin is very tough, indeed (I did a chin-up on a 4" wide strip of it), but susceptible to sharp objects, of course - personally, I'd try to avoid dragging her across razor blades or barnacles! A puncture wouldn't spread, however, and would hopefully not be disastrous.
All in all, she turned out to be a great looking, unique and distinctive boat that also happens to handle superbly! Her new home will be in the Boston area, so keep an eye out!
Thanks for reading - and feel free to check out some of my other boats here.

Dave Gentry
Boulder, Colorado
Questions or comments?

"Rushton and His Times in American Canoeing" by Atwood Manley.
"Rushton's Rowboats and Canoes: The 1903 Catalog in Perspective" by William Crowley
"Building Classic Small Craft" by John Gardner
"Building Skin-On-Frame Boats" by Robert Morris
"Baidarka: The Kayak" by George Dyson
Tom Yost's
The Adirondack Museum


To comment on Duckworks articles, please visit our forum