I was planning on being an artist. I took art classes during my last two years of high school, got my bachelor’s degree in art in 1975, and in the years that followed, continued drawing, and sculpted a couple of clay busts. Portraiture was the direction I was headed, but I got sidetracked by backpacking and bicycle touring. I eventually grew tired of lugging a heavy backpack and while on a bike tour from Seattle to Los Angeles and back, I got hit by a car in Salt Lake City and then repeatedly run off the road on California’s Pacific Coast Highway. That left boating—I wouldn’t have to carry anything, and the “roads” would be a lot wider. I read books on boatbuilding by John Gardner and Pete Culler and decided to build a Chamberlain-designed 14′ Marblehead dory skiff to cruise north along the Inside Passage. According to a note I made in a journal I was keeping at the time, I started construction on July 12, 1978.

While the kayak was the first real boat I built and launched, it was just a warm-up to this Marblehead dory skiff. The book resting on the upturned bottom of the boat is a blank book I started in 1973, while an art student on exchange to Smith, an all-women’s college in Massachusetts, and stopped making entries in 1980. In that time my focus had shifted from art to boatbuilding.

I knew that it would take me a while to build a traditional plank-on-frame boat; a skin-on-frame kayak would get afloat faster and give me experience on the water while I was building the skiff. I studied Chapelle’s chapter on Arctic kayaks in Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America, cursorily, and drew a kayak of my own design that was a mishmash of elements I’d picked out of the book. I’d watched my father build a fuselage-frame rowing wherry and designed my kayak for that method, using plywood frames and stems with longitudinals screwed and glued to them. I tacked a canvas skin to the frame and waterproofed it with tan Gacoflex, a liquid neoprene coating.

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