Category Archives: Boat Building

Building Kayaks

Clear Stream Custom Watercraft

I want to make it clear that Dan C. of Clear Stream Custom Watercraft did the majority of the work building Abbie B. Click Link to learn more about Clear Stream Custom Watercraft

I spent hours studying how Greenland Style Kayaks are made, learning a slew of terms, measuring and layout systems and mathematical equations utilizing a lot of coefficients that I don’t care to figure out. I never liked math!  I did my best to sketch something that showed the lines I was looking for in a sea kayak.  The results were pathetic because I can’t draw worth beans, even with graph paper!

I finally met with Dan at his home where I had a ball working out the initial design.  In spite of my awful sketches, Dan recognized a similarity to Kenneth Taylor’s Illorsuit (1959) and the Nordkapp Anas Acuta.   We ended up going with the Illorsuit.

I’ve never experienced CAAD technology before and boy could Dan make changes quickly.  He has a quick mind and knows his stuff.  We had a rough idea of the direction to head in after that first session.  Dan did the rest of the renderings with comparisons to several other kayaks including easy to read spec charts. a sent them to me via e-mail.  We went through three stages of renders to come up with the Matinicus Rock 175 design.  I’ll add here that Dan grew tired of calling it Judy Kayak.  I beat my brains out to find a name.  I’m terrible at decorating and naming something is a lot like decorating.

A friend loaned me Bill Caldwell’s, Islands of Maine which is an excellent read.  The final decision for the design as Matinicus Rock 175 is because I liked the story of Abbie Burgess which is why my kayak is named Abbie B.  Click to see more information
There were discussions and suggestions as to the actual construction of Abbie B. My original plan was to build a Skin On Frame kayak because the cost would be low. I ended up going all out with a hybrid and even adding Kevlar to the hull. Dan’s questions encouraged me to think about future uses of my kayak. A Skin On Frame certainly wouldn’t go the distance. This is why I ended up with a hybrid, wood hull with skin on frame deck. It offered some challenges for hatch placement and rigging but these were easily dealt with. I had to do a lot of extra work and sell some things to pay the extra costs but it was well worth the sacrifice.

Designing and Building Abbie B is in now in my most remarkable experiences history “book”. She is the catalyst for finishing the fulfillment of my dream to build a boat in the future. The plan is to build a Skin On Frame kayak on my own or with a friend without power tools. I’m not certain as to when this will take place but it will be within a few years.

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Building Abbie B Photos

Twenty Days At Sea

The kayak has been a stranger to me for most of my life. which is a long time. I’ve always paddled a canoe and loved it in every respect and more than any other type of boat. This changed several years ago when a friend dressed me in neoprene, sealed me in the cockpit of a small kayak and gave me a push. We paddled across a gentle sea to Richmond Island in Cape Elizabeth Maine.

I enjoyed traipsing all over the island with my friend. Its history was interesting and so was investigating the present state of a very lovely space on this fair earth. But I have to admit that I couldn’t wait to be back in the kayak out on a sliver of the sea. It was rolling into the harbor without a hint of breeze, a life unto itself. The wonder of this new world took a firm hold on my soul. The kayak followed the movement of the water as it was lifted atop a swell, where I would paddle along its spine a bit before sliding down between it and the next one. There was a oneness that intensified the mystique of the kayak and I was smitten with the need to be a part of it.

[I remember that time in every detail and kept its memory to fan the flames from mere embers into a full-fledged fire.]

December of 2013 was when I began to physically create a place for those embers to burn and fire grew until a kayak was built and then placed on the sea for a maiden voyage September 15th 2014. I was asked to write something for the town’s local paper once the kayak was built and before taking her to sea. The following is what I wrote and was printed in Randolph, New Hampshire’s Mountain View.
Building Abbie B

I’ve dreamed of restoring an old boat, or building one, since I was 16 years old. I’d spent a great deal of time on boats that year, especially sailing with my neighbors from Isle La Motte Vermont, where I learned to sail several small boats and took the helm of a much larger vessel. These experiences reinforced that desire.

My Michigan background was surrounded with many lakes and ponds besides the “Great” ones. I often ran my hands over old wooden boats, tracing the ribs of old row boats, and dreaming of getting them back in the water. Old boats are beautiful. I see them as they were and for what they can be.
I sold my Wenonah Jensen 17′ canoe a few years ago and missed being on the water. Fred B. changed this when he put me in a kayak and we paddled out to Richmond Island, Maine. It was my first time in a kayak and only my second time on the ocean. I was hooked.

Marie B. helped me buy a recreational kayak for my birthday last year. I removed pieces and added others to make it as sea worthy as possible and then took her out for almost 3 weeks, traveling among the islands closest to shore in the Casco Bay area of Maine. By the time I returned, I knew what I wanted in a kayak.
Those ideas lay dormant until chatting with Lincoln R. last January. He put me in touch with Dan who is a master designer and builder of kayaks.

And so, began the process and research for understanding and building a kayak. Scrap paper bore out much scribbling and rough drawings as I worked out the lines I was looking for. These many pages became the launching point for the design of what is now Matinicus Rock 175 and the Abbie B. The name comes from Matinicus Rock Lighthouse off the coast of Maine. I adopted this name from the history of Abbie Burgess. She is one of the most famous lighthouse keepers along the Atlantic seaboard. Hence, Abbie B is the name of my kayak.

The process of building has been most amazing. I learned so much about the minutia and art of creating a beautiful boat. I also experienced an idea born out of a childhood fantasy into today’s reality.
I looked forward to the days of early departures, riding from Randolph to West Milan on my bike. Dan lives and builds beautifully functioning kayaks in his basement there. It has been and still is a pleasure to know Dan, to have him work with me, and get to know his family.
Abbie B is a hybrid kayak. Her hull is made from okoume marine plywood, covered with Kevlar and painted white. The skin is made of 4 oz aircraft Dacron, covered with fiberglass and painted “John Deere” yellow. red Cedar makes up the bulkheads, combing for the cockpit, and other miscellaneous part of her fuselage.
I look forward with great anticipation to taking Abbie B out for a three-week vacation. I’ll be exploring the lovely coast of Maine while visiting and sleeping on the many islands that adorn her coastline. I hope to do this each year until I’ve covered the coast from Casco Bay on up to the Bay of Fundy. After that, we will have a chance to go on a long trip of a couple of months, somewhere. But, this is another dream and I must wait until such a time presents itself, just like the Matinicus Rock 175 and Abbie B.

I’ve had dreams since I was young. I’ve listened to their call.
And lived amongst and within them.
They were and are a wonderful place to visit.

Dreams inspire imagination. They call out to the soul.
Saying, I can be more, much more!

I run my hands over Abbie B.  My fingers trace her lines.
I will take to the sea and beyond.
                                                        ~ Judy Owen September 3rd 2014

Abbie B Gallery Photos in next post