Barry Jensen built his first boat, a Sabot sailing dinghy, 55 years ago, when he was just 14 years old. As an adult, working as a librarian in Victoria, British Columbia, he built more boats: a 14′ plywood Petrel sailboat and a couple of cedar-strip kayaks, to name a few. And, while it was in him to retire after a 34-year career doing work that actually put food on the table, he hasn’t been able to shake his habit as a serial boatbuilder.
It would then come as no surprise that when he flew across Canada to see the sights of the country’s Atlantic seaboard, he came home with one lasting impression: lobsterboats. He turned, instinctively perhaps, to his home library and eventually found his way among the neatly ordered volumes to call number 623.8202 GAR V.2, Building Classic Small Craft, Volume 2, by John Gardner, and landed on chapter 7, page 91: “Down East Workboat.” The boat there was developed in Maine’s Washington County, right across the border from the Canadian province of New Brunswick, and was similar in form to the Canadian Cape Island lobsterboat, native to Cape Sable Island on the south coast of Nova Scotia.
While the provenance of the design appealed to Barry, the carvel planking did not—it was not a method he had tried—so he decided on cedar strip, a method he had used on his kayaks, a 7′ pram, and a hull to turn his soft-bottomed inflatable into a RIB.
He bought 20′ 1×6 cedar boards from a local lumberyard, cut his own 1/2″ strips, set up the molds, and went to work. His son, Junichi, lives close by and is a good man to have on the job, not only because he works for the B.C. provincial government on building and safety standards, but also because he is a fine anecdotal argument for serial boatbuilding as a genetic condition. Junichi’s first boat, a 13′ strip-built peapod, was featured in a Disney movie filmed in British Columbia. More recently he rebuilt a 14’ cedar Peterborough runabout and converted a 16′ Atkin-designed rowboat that he’d built into a 12′ runabout.
Barry and Junichi gave the fully planked workboat hull two layers of 6-oz ’glass and epoxy, and when the time came to flip the hull upright, Junichi arrived with an old mattress. Then father and son, with the help of several neighbors, rolled it from strongback to cradle.
After Barry ’glassed the interior, installed two 2×6 stringers, foam flotation, and the cockpit sole, he began to design the forecabin and pilothouse. He had read that there were many compelling arguments why he should not add a cabin and wheelhouse to an open boat, but he had one compelling argument why he could: “It’s my boat.” He set the length of the cabin at 6′ 6″, long enough for a comfortable berth, then mocked-up the pilothouse with 2x2s. When the roofs and walls were in place, Barry installed a solid door with a lock, sliding windows, seats, and the controls at the helm.
Launch day started with a celebration at the house, attended by family and neighbors, and then moved to the launch ramp at Brentwood Bay, a handful of miles (plus a few more digits in kilometers) north of Victoria. The boat was christened C H K, after the first initials of his three grandkids. A borrowed 20-hp two-stroke was the boat’s first outboard, and when Barry decided that wasn’t enough power, he bought a new 20-hp four-stroke.
Barry and C H K are in the heart of beautiful cruising grounds. The summer before the pandemic, he cruised the B.C. coast north some 150 miles to Desolation Sound, and then kept closer to home last summer and meandered through the Gulf Islands. This coming summer, he hopes to travel farther, vaccinations permitting—and if he can put off building his next boat.
Do you have a boat with an interesting story? Please email us. We’d like to hear about it and share it with other Small Boats Magazine readers.