A George Putz Walrus

The construction of the frame was straightforward and didn’t bog Richard down, but deciding what material to use for the fabric covering did. He was set on keeping the expenses to a minimum and steered away from canvas, even if it were easy to come by. Back in 1990, Putz himself acknowledged that a suitable piece of 10-oz canvas would be pricey—about $130. Richard settled on a fiber-reinforced polyethylene tarp as the source of his covering material. “It looks magnificent,” he notes, but admits in hindsight “that this choice was a bad one as it is not as strong as it should be.” It stretched over the frame easily enough and with bright-finished sheer guards covering the material’s edges and the staples anchoring them, the semi-transparent skin looks quite hi-tech.

The Kingfisher Elective

Glenn’s class at JPII is now among the most popular electives, and he has twice as many students as he had at home. That’s 10 students, a healthy percentage of the school’s 120-student population. They come from a broad spectrum of backgrounds; some have never used power tools or been aboard a boat and very few have even seen a wooden boat. As the boatshop got up and running, students built a Rubens Nymph, a 7′9″ pram designed by Bolger and a 13′ Payson’s Pirogue designed by “Dynamite” Payson. The Kingfisher 18, built to plans from Glen-L, is the first big boat to emerge from the shop. To power the deep-V plywood hull the school acquired a rebuilt 90-hp Johnson outboard.


Phil Boyer started work on a cedar-strip Wee Lassie II in 2005 and only got as far as setting up the molds when he discovered that canoes could be built quite quickly as skin-on-frame boats. He decided to switch techniques while using the same molds. Western red cedar, salvaged from a deck he had demolished, supplied much of the wood he needed. He skinned the frame with ballistic nylon, dyed it green, and waterproofed it with two-part urethane.


Neither Claudia nor Jacob came into that class with much experience in marine design beyond scanning online videos and blogs. For guidance on construction they studied Nick Schade’s The Strip-Built Sea Kayak. While pondering the practical elements of kayak construction, they also considered the artistic possibilities offered by wood strips. For the deck, they sought to bend accent strips of exotic hardwoods to mimic the rhythm of waves and ripples and “guide the eyes of the viewer through a vibrant path of beautiful colors and intricate forms.”


In 2015, doctors discovered James had a vocal-cord cancer. Glottic cancers respond well to radiation treatment and are almost always curable, but the health scare was a wake-up call for James. During his radiation treatments, his thoughts were drawn to his teenage years and the time he spent paddling the Wee Lassie on Little Moose Lake. The memories were his refuge during a difficult time, and after a few rounds of radiation he decided to bring a Wee Lassie back into his life—he’d build his own.


Young Henry saw his grand plan through to a successful completion.

Whenever Henry came up with an idea for something to build, he’d tell his grandfather about it and at some point announce: “We need a blueprint, Grampy.” He would climb up on Mark’s drafting table and start to draw. Armed with the “blueprint,” grandson and grandfather would head for the shop. One day, Henry decided he’d like to go fishing, and when Mark pointed out they didn’t have a boat, naturally Henry said, “Well, let’s build one.”


In profile, CHIPS bears a strong resemblance to a Herreshoff 12 1/2, one of the boats that inspired Carl's Block Island 19 design

Although Carl Kaufmann made his career in journalism, his education was in naval architecture and marine engineering. So, he drew up his Block Island 19, a centerboarder with an overall length of 19′, a waterline length of 15′, a beam of over 7′, and a draft of just 2′ with the board up. An 1,100-lb lead keel would bring the boat weight up to 2,500 lbs, “an extremely light boat,” he notes, for its type, more substantial than a 12½ but substantially lighter than the Fish Boat or Pisces. For the rig he drew a generous gaff mainsail and a small self-tending jib on a traveler.

Craftsmanship and Courage

With JIM crewed by his friends, Peter takes JIM's helm for her first sail.

As 2015 drew to a close, Peter had nearly finished the build, but the project was brought to a sudden halt. Peter was given a diagnosis of an aggressive brain cancer in its final stage. He had surgery on the tumor, but not all of it could be removed. Peter received a dose of chemotherapy and radiation, but his prognosis was grim. He was given six months to live.

Flat-Bottomed Skiff HERON

HERON kept busy with family and friends on a vacation stay on the shores of an Arkansas lake.

Nick set his sights on a larger version of OTTER, long and slender, easily driven, capable of cruising at 10 knots while carrying 600 lbs. He enlisted his father, who had many more boats to his credit, to help design HERON, as the new boat would be called. The two spent the summer of 2017 studying flat-bottomed skiff designs for inspiration and borrowed elements from Pete Culler’s Long John and William Atkin’s Ration and XLNC. With the shape they wanted in mind, Nick and Daniel got to work, starting with a quarter-scale lofting of what would be a 20′ 6″ skiff.

A Boat of His Own

Jon followed the advice of Spring River Boatworks and installed folding outrigger rowlocks. They each add 4" to the span, allowing the use of longer oars for a more comfortable stroke.

He upped the ante considerably by deciding to build a wood-and-canvas canoe in the traditional manner. If you like to build things, it’s a good way to go: you get to double your fun (not to mention the time and expense) by building the form required and the canoe. Jon got his plans from Stewart River Boatworks in Knife River, Minnesota. The Fishdance model he chose is listed as a 15′6″ Sportboat. Named after a lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota, it’s a square-stern canoe with a beam of 43″, so it’s meant for rowing and motoring rather than paddling. With the bigger boat Jon would be better able to manage the wider waters of Green Bay in his backyard.

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