One of the advantages of living and working in a boatbuilding town is that you’re surrounded by boatbuilders, and boatbuilding suppliers, and boatbuilding surplus. Riches I had only dreamed of, when living in the faraway mountains of California and building Ganymede, are here at my very fingertips. Not only do we have five or six boat hardware stores like West Marine within easy driving distance, there’s as many consignment and used marine goods stores, not to mention the major wholesale distributors of fiberglass, resins, and all other composite construction supplies. While building Ganymede most of my supplies came by mail order, or by dint of a several-hours’ drive if I wanted to avoid shipping. There was no possibility of browsing through piles of used cleats and winches, buying the last few fathoms of line off a spool for peanuts, or dumpster diving at the megayacht yard for the perfectly good gear they always throw away.
Goetz Composites, where I worked over the winter (building boats, of course), is in a building surrounded by other buildings where boat stuff is also being done. Right across from the shop’s front door was the Bristol campus of the International Yacht Restoration School, where they give instruction in boat systems and composites construction. And one of the things they do is teach resin infusion by making canoe hulls in a 10 ½ foot mold. Though the students are allowed to keep these and finish them if they wish, they usually have too much on their plates and the canoes wind up stacked next to the dumpster. I had walked by them scores of times without giving them any thought until this spring, when it became evident that I needed a lightweight one-man boat to get out to Ganymede’s mooring without going through the bother of launching the big dinghy, which is a beast for one person to move around (Danielle contends that it’s a beast for two to move; I may have to build her a carbon fiber one someday).
The hardest part of any conversation is starting it, but the reward of walking into the building and conversing with the instructor about whether it would be helpful to him if one of those canoes were to be disposed of was worth it. He told me that if they All went away it would not “Bum him out.” Five minutes later the cleanest one was in my car being portaged home.
Of course by the time I snagged a canoe shell to finish out, I was no longer working at Goetz, where if I’d thought of it, I could have spent evenings and Saturdays all winter using their facilities and materials at an employee’s cost to trick out the canoe properly. But nevermind, there’s no shortage of options in this town, like I mentioned before, and another friend whom I’d worked with—building boats, predictably—let me use his shop. Turns out he’d built these same canoes in the past, and knew the best way to move forward with it.
After a whole winter of similar work on a much larger scale, it was child’s play to vaccuum-bag a piece of ¼” core foam onto the sole of the canoe. The bag ensured an even clamping pressure, and that the foam would conform exactly to the curved bottom of the canoe. Another layer of fiberglass boat cloth over the entire inside of the canoe, a couple of ‘thwartships braces to stiffen everything up, and I had a very lightweight, easy-to-paddle canoe that I can quickly load onto the roof-racks I bolted to the roof of the car. It’s a bit tippy and won’t carry much cargo, but nothing beats it for a convenient and quick ride out to Ganymede on her mooring, where I’ve been sloshing paint and varnish around lately.
The children, of course, were wild with excitement. A new boat! They were even more wild when they found out that there were more shells by the dumpster; they were dumbfounded that I hadn’t grabbed them all at once! “Why on earth wouldn’t you?” Even Danielle wanted to know. “We could have a canoe each!” “I’m gonna call mine ‘Marshmallow’!”
I had hoped to avoid the cost, effort and bother of finishing THREE canoes, but had to yield to force majure. I secured the last four shells, gave one to my friend as a goodwill offering for letting me use his shop, and am now in the middle of glassing up the second one, this time with enough foam in the ends to keep it afloat in the event of a capsize. The third one will have to wait a few weeks while other necessary projects overwhelm the garage—it’s tiny even for working on one small canoe in there—but before summer’s too far along I expect to have a fleet of canoes following the big rowing dinghy around, like ducklings in the wake of a mother goose.