Sandy MacKenzie lives in Gananoque, Ontario, just a few blocks from the banks of the St. Lawrence River. He enjoys fishing from kayaks, but putting his fishing rod down to pick up the paddle began to wear on him. He scouted about, without success, for plans for a canoe or a kayak with pedal or electric power that would leave his hands free for fishing. He had built a few kayaks and felt confident in his boatbuilding abilities, so he decided to take a chance on coming up with a design himself, something quite different from anything he’d seen.
He had always admired the lines of fantail launches and embarked on an experiment to create one as the size of a paddling craft, but with the eye appeal of a launch. The overall dimensions were determined by other existing small boats, which assured him that a 10′ 7″ by 2′ 4″ mini-launch would support his weight and the boat’s outfitting. He “sketched” the boat in three dimensions by constructing a 1:8 scale model, planking it with strips of balsa wood and adjusting the shape as he went. Designing with a model is traditionally done by carving a half hull from a block of wood, but that involves a lot of wood chips, which is okay in the shop, but not in the living room where Sandy could work in more comfort. When he had the model shaped to his satisfaction he derived six stations from it, and scaled them up to make the molds on which he’d build the boat.
Unsure if the finished results of his experiment would be worth keeping, Sandy didn’t buy a new batch of cedar strips, but instead used white-cedar strips he’d culled from the stock used for other kayaks he’d built. Like most fantail launches, the hull of this new boat would be painted anyway, and the worst of the knotty subpar strips would be used where they would be hidden from view in the bright-finished interior.
It took Sandy only two days to strip the hull. Then came a layer of 6-oz fiberglass cloth and a skeg scribed to fit the stern. The seat and backrest, to be finished bright, weren’t so easy to make and consumed countless hours.
Sandy outfitted the hull with a custom “motorwell” to take a Hobie Mirage drive—a pedal-powered device designed for sit-on-top kayaks. Its oscillating pedals power two flexible fins beneath the hull, propelling the boat like penguin wings. Unfortunately, sea trials revealed that the spoon-shaped stern was pulled down when the boat was pedaled up to speed. Moving the seat and the drive-unit receptacle forward might have solved the problem, but there wasn’t enough length in the boat to make that adjustment. Fortunately, Torqeedo makes an electric power unit, the Hobie evolve, designed to fit in receivers for Mirage drives. Sandy could move the seat forward to solve the trim problem and leave the drive mount in the same place.
Sandy christened the boat O’SEA DEE, a nod to the inordinate amount of time and obsessive fussing he had invested in such a small boat. His little launch cruises comfortably at 4 knots and can do 6 at full throttle. The stern still squats at top speed, but not nearly as badly as it did. As for the fishing that O’SEA DEE was designed to accommodate, “trolling with the motor,” he says, “is a dream.” It has a distinct advantage over the pedal drive in that it has reverse, so Sandy has all the maneuverability he needs to pursue fish.
As fall comes to a close, Sandy still takes O’SEA DEE out on the St. Lawrence River exploring the clusters of islands surrounding Gananoque and “jigging for pickerel and small-mouth bass in deep water where there isn’t much boat traffic,” he says. “If I’m not catching anything, I’m thinking about the next design.”
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