May 2017

Reader Built Boat

A Tenacious Tween

Hannah sealed the Okoume transom with epoxy before a layer of glass is added for protection. Transom was cut to fit the long-shaft outboard available at the time.

Hannah sealed the okoume transom with epoxy before a layer of glass is added for protection. Transom was cut to fit the long-shaft outboard available at the time.

Hannah Dumser, at the age of 10, passed her Michigan boating license test on her first try. It was quite an achievement, as the state’s boater education course covers some 61 topics, ranging from tying knots to dealing with an onboard fire.

Younger sister Kyla was drafted into the effort to fill the screw holes left from attaching the Atlantic white cedar strips. She is now hooked and will start building her own boat this summer.

Younger sister Kyla was drafted to fill the screw holes left after attaching the Atlantic white-cedar strips. She is now hooked and will start building her own boat this summer.

Having earned her boating safety certificate for the waters near her family’s summer home, she was qualified to operate a boat powered by a motor up to 35 hp as long as she took along someone over the age of 16. Her father, Jim, happened to have an old 25-hp Honda four-stroke outboard languishing in the garage at home in Davidson, North Carolina. Now all Hannah needed was a boat.

Hannah removed the drywall screws and washers that temporarily clamped the strips in place until thickened epoxy set up. Strips were glued with Jamestown Distributors “Thixo” dispensed from a caulking gun.

Hannah removed the drywall screws and washers that temporarily clamped the strips in place until the thickened epoxy set up. Strips were glued with Jamestown Distributors’ “Thixo,” dispensed from a caulking gun.

She leafed through well-worn copies of WoodenBoat looking for a small skiff she could build with a little help from Dad, a teacher (and at one time the Wood Arts instructor) at Community School of Davidson, the Dumsers’ home-town high school. She soon took a shine to the Jericho skiff, and when she saw the video The Road to Jericho, her mind was made up. For her 11th birthday she was given plans for the Jericho Bay Lobster Skiff.

Hannah enlisted Kyla’s help in filling all those screw holes on the interior. This team effort really sped up the process and working with a buddy is always more fun.

Hannah enlisted Kyla’s help in filling all those screw holes in the interior. The team effort really sped up the process, and working with a buddy is always more fun.

Hannah and her father made the nearly four-hour drive from Davidson to Wilmington where they picked up 98 strips of Atlantic white cedar, known locally as juniper. Some of the early work on the project took place at the school shop where, in 2015, Jim and four seniors had previously built a 22′ St. Ayles skiff. When it came time for Hannah to set up a ladder frame for the molds and put the pieces together, they moved the project into the garage workshop at home.

The vacuum really got a work out. Orbital sanding and long-board fairing produced prodigious amounts of dust to collect.

The vacuum really got a work out. Orbital sanding and long-board fairing produced prodigious amounts of dust to collect.

Hannah worked on the strip-built hull for several months. For Christmas she got a no-feedback steering system; when her 12th birthday rolled around she got epoxy. She took a few breaks to attend wooden boat festivals like the one in Wilmington put on by the Cape Fear Community College. She picked up ideas here and there to customize her boat to suit her tastes. The design for the steering console, for example, was inspired by a boat she saw on one of the family field trips.

Hannah Dumser was just 10 years old when she decided to build a boat. At 13 she was the master of her own Jericho Bay lobster skiff.

Hannah Dumser was just 10 years old when she decided to build a boat. At 13 she was the master of her own Jericho Bay lobster skiff.

Hannah hadn’t finished the boat by the end of the 2016 school year, so they trailered the boat up to the family summer home in Cedarville, on the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She spent the first week of summer vacation attending to the last details and then launched the boat, christened JUNIPER, at the end of June. “It was hard, frustrating, even boring at some parts, like sanding,” says Hannah, “but in the end it was worth it when we put it into the water together.”

Hannah Dumser, boatbuilder.

Hannah Dumser, boatbuilder.

The skiff was quickly pressed into service, with Hannah at the helm, for runs to town with cousins and friends for ice cream and visits to the library, conveniently located right across the street from the dock. Hannah and family also cruise the Les Cheneaux Islands, the archipelago that protects the waters surrounding Cedarville. Hannah’s younger sister, Kyla, also caught the Dumser boat bug; for Christmas she got plans for a Glen-L Zip.

Have you recently launched a boat? Please email us. We’d like to hear about it and share your story with other Small Boats Monthly readers.

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24 Comments

  • Dale McKinnon says:

    You’ve built a beautiful boat, Hannah Dumser! Congratulations. I suspect that by the time you are 19 you’ll have your 100-ton license. Or maybe we will soon hear about Dumser-sisters-built boats?

    • Hannah says:

      Thanks for the nice comment. I don’t know if I could work with my sister. 🙂

    • Jeff Sandling says:

      “Dumser-Sisters-Boat Works”! Let’s all pray and hope so! I’d make the trip from Texas for that. Absolutely stunning boat Hannah! My daughter—Hannah— and I started a SOF kayak a few years ago, been hanging 80% complete for a year now. You’ve just inspired me so much to finish her! Keep up the awesome work and keep sharing your passion with the world!

  • Vince says:

    A fantastic effort and a beautiful job. Well done.

  • Barry Taylor says:

    WOW! The Jericho Bay Lobster Skiff is a design I admire,(who doesn’t?), but even given Dad’s very well-equipped shop the tenacity to complete such an undertaking starting at age ten is pretty much unheard of these days. Totally awesome. Hannah, with attitude like yours the world’s your oyster. I hope you have a well deserved and wonderful summer.

  • Larry Harkness says:

    Hannah, you are a remarkable young lady. Congratulations on completing your boat. Say hey to your dad for me.

  • Alex Zimmerman says:

    Well done! Congratulations on your first boat!

    • Hannah says:

      Thank you, but this is really our second. We built a little pram the year before for practice. “Sweet Carolime” (It’s lime green)

  • John Florance says:

    That is sooooo cool, Hannah! Congratulations. I wish I had done that at your age! It took me until I was 50 to get the boatbuilding bug! Keep going!

  • Richard says:

    Way cool. You go girl.

  • Morgenstern Daniel says:

    Tremendous accomplishment! Looks great!

  • Sarah Unfried says:

    Congratulations! What a beautiful boat! Proud of you,
    Thatcher the kayaker’s mom
    (see last month’s Reader Built Boat)

  • Stephen P Upham III says:

    I am thoroughly impressed! Job well done Hannah! Congratulations! I’m looking forward to seeing you and JUNIPER at The Ice Cream Shoppe this summer!

  • Al Dennis says:

    What a great story! Many kids that age would not have had the patience for such a project. Kudos to you. I have a daughter named Kyla, believe it or not, and we built a SOF kayak together. That was a delightful project too. Hopefully your sister has the great success you have had.

  • John Adamson says:

    Hi Hannah
    What a beautiful job you have made of your JBLS.
    I have also built one and can sympathize with the tedium of sanding, but its all worthwhile in the long run as you have experienced.
    John Adamson (in Australia)

  • Michael Colfer says:

    Wonderful, Hannah! You have done something that many, many people dream of doing and never actually accomplish. Congratulations, and welcome to the club!

  • Jim Sandison says:

    Ah ha! The Michigan T-shirt. Somebody looks like an outstanding candidate for U of M School of Naval Architecture. Also attendance at WoodenBoat School would impress the heck out of all us ole geezers. Wonderful job, Hannah

  • Gordon says:

    I am about to start on my own Jericho Bay. You gave me a a lot of hope for me to build it. I hope it will look as great as yours. GOOD JOB!

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