Kayak Building Part 15 – FINAL! The Maiden Voyage!

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This is part 15 of a multipart blog . . . Read Part One here,  Part Two herePart Three herePart Four herePart Five herePart Six herePart Seven herePart Eight herePart Nine herePart Ten herePart Eleven herePart Twelve herePart Thirteen here, Part Fourteen here.

Day 70: 8/31/2012

Originally I didn’t think much about the first ride in my new boat. I guess I just planned to put it in the water right below the lockmaster’s house and paddle around for a bit. The kayak had been staring out that window for months, so it was only fitting that it should finally get to meet the water there.

But – over the life of this project, I got to know Laura at Pygmy Boats. Laura handles the website for Pygmy just as I do for Woodcraft. She also recently completed her boat – she built Pygmy’s newest model, the Murrelet – the same model Dan is building. When she finished her boat, she said her maiden voyage was an 28-mile overnight camp trip. Now that’s a way to launch a boat! She sent me a few pictures, and I realized that she had a champagne christening and decorated her boat with flowering greenery in the deck rigging for a “safe return”. Hmmm, I had to think of something a little better than my original thought of a quick paddle in the Muskinghum River at the end of the dock.

I live about a 20-minute drive down the Ohio River from the lockmaster’s house, so I thought it would be a good idea to paddle my boat home! It was about 15 miles on the river, and Dan said that a slow paced paddle would take about 4 hours. That sounded perfect to me! Dan agreed to join me and so did my husband, Mark!

We were initially planning to launch the boat Saturday, September 1, but that was around the same time that the aftereffects of Hurricane Isaac were headed our way, and the weather didn’t look good for Saturday. Friday, however, looked perfect. Plus, Friday was still August, and an August 31 complete date sounded better than September 1.

Dan suggested we hit the water early, because the wind picks up as the day goes on and it would be harder to paddle. The plan was to launch at 8 am.

Mark and I met Dan at the finish in Belpre, Ohio, so Dan would have a car waiting for him when we completed the journey. I had all of the supplies for a proper mimosa christening!

I played up the official launch, and we really had fun with it! I was greeted at the lockmaster’s house by some family members, Woodcraft employees and members from the Rowing and Cycling club! Bob Etter, the rowing club member that connected me to Dan Jones in 2006, stopped over. Jim Harrold, the editor of Woodcraft Magazine who wrote the kayak article from Dan’s build in 2010, was also there. September and Frank from the Internet department rounded out the Woodcraft crew! Carl, from the rowing club, also stopped over and was happy to hear I finally found that screw! There were also some members that helped with the fiberglassing along the way!

I wasn’t about to crack a bottle of champagne on my new boat, but I did gently pour some over the bow while the boat was still in the house for the last time!  It’s still called “the boat” because I haven’t come up with a good name for it – I’m open to suggestions!


We ceremoniously carried the boat out and down the ramp. The dock was crowded with speed boats, but we found a spot at the end that I could manage to launch. Dan suggested we move to the next ramp down, but I had my heart set at the one we’ve been eyeing all spring and summer.

With one last splash of mimosa on the bow, I paddled away from the small waving crowd with a smile that lasted all weekend!

It floats! Whew!! And it tracked straight! Hurray! And … it doesn’t seem to leak! Woo Hoo!

In order to partake in the festivities, and to document more of the event, Frank Byers, our resident blogger and September Fleming, also from Woodcraft, followed along in the go boat! (The “go boat” was Mark’s recent impulse purchase from a neighbor. The motor boat is so small it looks like a go cart, so we call it the Go Boat.)

Anyway, it was a beautiful day – perfect for a four hour paddle.

Dan, the expert paddler that he is could have easily made the trip in three hours. If he wasn’t pushing us, Mark and I would probably have made it in five hours! Mark was paddling the wooden kayak that Dan made for the Woodcraft Magazine in 2010. That was the Pinguino Sport model, and it’s only 13′ long. That’s 4′ shorter and a bit wider than the 17 1/2′ Coho that Dan and I were paddling. Narrow, longer boats are much faster, so Mark was really at a disadvantage. Fortunately Mark was able to keep up, and got a much better workout out of the deal than we did!

We stopped twice on the way down to stretch our legs a bit. When we got back in, Dan would give us a huge head start, and then quickly catch us. Fortunately he gave us a few technique tips along the way. Most of the time, the water was smooth, and the paddling easy enough. But near the end and times where we had to cross the river, the wind picked up, and it was tougher to make good progress.  Mark took advantage of Frank’s helping hand on the Go Boat before it turned around and headed home!

Much of the landscape was the same, and we couldn’t tell how far along we were. I’ll never forget how happy we were to round the corner and see the first bridge that joins Ohio to West Virginia! We were almost to our finish line. Of course, the last couple miles were the windiest!


We were almost there and saw two people waving from the riverside. Mark’s parents drove down to meet us at the finish. I think his mother, Jean, was more excited than we were! When we got to the finish line, we were also greeted by a reporter from our local newspaper!

After a few more snapshots and a quick interview, we loaded the boats back up and called it a day.

Loading the boat is so much easier for me than it ever was before. I could never manage to put a long boat on top of my minivan and tie it down myself, so I always had to rely on my husband or son to take care of it for me.  But earlier this summer we found the answer. The Hullivator! It’s a hydraulic kayak rack. The rack pulls down over the doors of the vehicle, you set the boat on the rack and secure it with straps while it is still at the lower level. Then, you easily lift the racked boat onto the roof. I can take care of it myself! And for those of you who are making fun of my minivan right now, all I can say I have the coolest one in town! At least when it’s dressed up with my kayak on top!


After a refresh at home, I paraded my boat back to the office. I made sure anyone in that day knew my new kayak was in the parking lot! After all of the help they have given me, I wanted them to know their advice and lessons really worked! I had completed the project! I was thrilled to get a thumbs up – especially on the finish from Woodcraft’s product experts! Peter suggested that I put Rainex on it to prevent the water spots after a paddle. Good idea – anything to keep that shine!

After work I headed back to the lockmaster’s house.  The hand toggles arrived earlier that week, but I didn’t have the chance to put them on before the launch that morning.  I kept the kayak on the hullivator, but lowered it down so I could reach the ends.  I pulled out my Festool Drill and started to drill holes in each end of the boat.  The ends were filled with hardened epoxy from the end pours I did earlier in the week.  I started with small drill bits and worked my way up to the 7/32″ drill bit.  I made the hole just big enough to fit the rope that came with the hand toggle.  Fortunately Dan used epoxy earlier that day, and it was still wet.  I coated the inside of the holes with epoxy.  I cleaned up one last time in the lockmaster’s house while giving the epoxy a few minutes to dry.  I raised the kayak back to the top of the van and headed home.  The next day, I inserted the hand toggles into the newly drilled holes.

Living in a small town has its benefits! The maiden voyage made the front page of the Parkersburg, WV, newspaper the next day!

Thanks again to everyone who helped me with this kayak and for everyone who followed along with the blog. Special thanks to Dan Jones, who generously, offered to help me and anyone else interested to build a kayak. I encourage you to take on a new project or perhaps extend the same offer to someone in your neck of the woods. Share your love of woodworking, and you’ll share in the pride that you instill in others!

I can’t believe it – I really built a kayak!

Here is the Kayak Christening, launch and maiden voyage down the Ohio River,


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