on February 26, 2012 by admin in Other, Comments Off



Prospector Canoe

A project by Adam Plourde

I had three weeks to get a canoe for a big canoe trip I got invited to. I’ve been planning on building the Prospector for awhile, so this seemed as good a time as any. Three weeks. My friends had a pool going as to whether or not I would finish in time. Only ONE bet on my success. Three weeks. I was told I should rent or buy a canoe. They where right. I didn’t listen. But in Three Weeks I did it.


I had the plans already. They looked straight forward. I lost the instruction sheet which came with them; but no matter. I wasn’t going to let a little thing like that stop me. I had a week of vacation that convieniently scheduled at the beginning of my three week ordeal, so I figured it wouldn’t be any real problem. Turns out I needed not only that week and all of my entire available weekends; but I needed to cut my sleep allotment in half in order to find enough time. How can such a little boat take SO MUCH TIME?


The plans are layed out to use four sheets of plywood, with some notes on how to get away with three. Well, I chose to use 6mm Okoume, and at $70 a sheet, you can be damned certain I made it work on three sheets. It really wasn’t all that difficult, although I did go through the added trouble of cutting the panels out of scrap wood first to use as templates.


I bought the wood, cut the wood, and stitched the panels together midway through the first week. It looked sooo straight I barely had to tweak anything. The molds drawn on the plans fit perfectly. It was, if you don’t mind my bragging a little, an unbelievable work of art. Heck, I figured at this point that the canoe would be practically done by the end of my vacation. Of course, I was building outside, and of course it had to rain sometime. Nothing comes THAT easy.


As well, my filletting took much longer than I anticipated. The temperature was very warm and the epoxy was going off faster than it ever had for me, so I was forced to use small batches. And whoops, even though I remembered to order some glass, I overestimated how much epoxy I had in stock, and underestimated how much I need. And damned if I thought I had more filler available, as well. I used Raka epoxy with the no-blush hardener, btw, which I would strongly recomend to everyone who can get it (USA and Canada only, I’m afraid).


Getting the fillets formed properly in the ends I found very difficult until I came up with a simple technique (probably known to everyone but me, I would imagine). I filled the ends with a bunch of thickend epoxy in approximate fillet shape (man is it hard to shape in there) and laid a strip of glass cloth in it, and used the cloth to form the thickend epoxy. I was nervous doing this the first time as I wasn’t sure if it would work properly, and I was damned sure it would be difficult to clean up if it didn’t work. Well, it did work. Beautifully, in fact. Taping the rest of the seams on the inside went easily; but there are a lot of seams, and it took a long time. I had to cut my own tape from rolls of cloth as I had forgotten to order some, which didn’t help, and probably contributed to the serious mess I had to clean up later. Man, do I hate sanding!


The outside was somewhat easier, in that I just glassed the whole thing. It took two pieces of 5oz (the stuff I had was supposed to be stronger than 6oz) glass cloth, well overlapped over the middle. Wrapping this stuff around the ends was no fun, but in the end it looked great, was probably heavier than it had to be, and could only add to abbrasive protection.


The inwales, outwales, cross bars, and seat dowels are all Douglas Fir which adds some nice blond trim to the darker hull. I found a marvelous bargain on beautiful 16′ d-fir 1×4 at Home Depot in the flooring department. Sometimes even the Despot has what is needed.


Thursday night time was almost up. We where to leave on Friday morning to meet our party in Maine. The hull looks good except for a few epoxy runs, but there is no time to resand and varnish. It will have to wait. I couldn’t figure out the damn sewing machine to sew the mesh (instead of canvas) seats, so I had to satisfy myself with some leftover plywood braced to sit between the seat dowels for the time being. They work fine; but added a decidedly unfinished look to the boat. And as we where loading the trucks I was drilling hole through the breasthooks to install rope handles and a painter. Fortunately I wasn’t driving and had a chance to sleep on the way to Maine.


The Prospector worked fantastically, and really got noticed on the river which was crowded with characterless plastic canoes. I was able to load a ton of supplies, and it cut through the water at least as well as its’ plastic cousins. It seemed to weigh about the same, too, so my excessive use of cloth and epoxy doesn’t seem to have hurt it too bad. Even the plywood seats where reasonably comfortable, although they where more so with a coushin. The Saco River has a lot of debris so I got banged up a bit; but for the most part there was nothing to be concerned with. It even handled the rapids without complaining.


Unfortunately, I did have one bad hit. I ran over a tree that was submerged a few inches below the surface of the river on a fast moving section, and drove right up a branch. I hit very hard and heard a terrible cracking noise. In fact, everyone in my party well up and down the river heard the terrible cracking noise, and the boat stopped dead. I got to admit to being a little worried at this point. With a little rocking and rolling we were able to get the canoe off the tree, and no water was entering the boat, so we continued on. After unloading at our campsite I found a fifteen inch crack along the port side bottom on the inside of the boat between the lower chines. When we turned it over I could find no indication that we had an impact at all. Aparently the top one or two plys of the Plywood cracked (it’s 5 ply), but the rest of the plywood maintained integrity. Hell of a shakedown cruise.


There’s lots more to do to really finish her. I need to extend the outwales up further on each end (I couldn’t get the d-fir to bend properly, so will piece this in), I need to repair the crack from the impact. A good sanding and varnish job is necessary (I was really planning on painting it, so I didn’t take as much care as I should have while assembling it. But she looks so good as is, I can’t bear to cover her up). I need to come up with a permanent solution to the seats. And I think I need to get a shorter paddle for the back, as five feet is just too much to try and get over the baggage when I change sides. All that can wait a little while. It’s time for me to relax and enjoy what I have. Besides, I need some sleep.



On 15 September 2002 this page was entered in the Projects section of Duckworks Magazine. Thanks Chuck!


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