Searching for the plan

The reason for selling my canoe just after my teens escapes me now but, with children of my own, the memories of paddling along a tranquil canal with only the noise of the local wildlife and paddles breaking the mirror like water to crashing through shore waves with the canoe pointing to the sky have spurred me to make that canoe again so they and I can enjoy the calms, thrills and variety of canoeing.

The canoe in question is the Blanford designed PBK20, 15ft 6ins in length by 3ft berth with a 7 ft open cockpit for 2 adults, masses of space for storage and very stable, ideal for placid water or canal touring it can also accommodate a sail rig which I have chosen not to do.

A lengthy search, the plans located and purchased, my wife at this stage had no idea of what was to follow for the next few weeks, I set about getting the various pieces of wood and other materials together for the construction all of which were listed down to the last screw.

After the frame templates transferred onto ply and cut out the first challenge came, fitting the strengtheners, being only small they had a tendency to slip so I used panel pins to keep them in place until the glue dried, at least 12 hours even with modern glues. This was followed by the lengthy process of sanding which had to be done using ever finer grades of paper to ensure no rough pieces were left on the frames.

My first weekend saw the frames attached to the hog and stringers all of which had the edges taken off with a surform, which was to see plenty of use during the project. All joints were glued and screwed using a resin based glue and 200 brass screws. Fixing the stringers to the stem and stern required them to be twisted so brute force and g-clamps were utilised for this along with more glue and screws.

At this stage I wondered about just buying a plastic canoe, however I know what the finished boat would look and handle like plus my garden now resembled a wood yard. Once all the parts had been put together and the glue set it was time to start paintwork, a job I dislike at the best of times however this could not be rushed and was extremely important for the final look of the boat.

In all 2 coats of primer and then 3 coats of good quality gloss were applied to the framework, in between each coat a light sanding was done to keep everything smooth, over a 2 week period. I then made the removable seats and flooring plus shaped the back rests again painting them as above.

Skinning and fitting out
With all the framework completed I had to get it covered, several fabrics were available, canvas, which would require several coats of paint and sealant to make it waterproof, or my choice, pvc covered polyester, very tough, durable and is available in several different colours.

I phoned several different companies for prices and settled with for a local company who gave me a competitive price and the colours I wanted.
The only drawback with this material is that it has very little give so is fairly stiff to work with especially when cold. I attached it to the frames using copper tacks and then cut shaped glued and tacked the stem and stern making sure there was plenty of sealant at the joints.

Final stages
I fitted the cockpit coaming, slatted seats and floorboards, rubbing strips and keel plus cleats bow and stern, at last the canoe was finished.

Testing & Launch
Just before putting it in the water on the Mon Brecon canal all sorts of thing went through my mind like did I do a good job on sealing the bow and stem? and had I got the balance right? I needn’t have worried as it floated perfectly and not a drop of water got inside, then everyone who had come for the big event wanted to have a go, so a great afternoon was spent paddling back and for the stretch between Cwmbran and Pontypool basin, in all 9 people were introduced to canoeing that day and the canoe really turned heads as we passed people walking on the towpath.

The first trip in full I did with my son was the next day when we went from Cwmbran to Goytre wharf it did however end in disaster when we got caught in a thunder storm and ended up sheltering under a bridge half way through our planned trip. We did complete it a few weeks later.