Sweet Gherkin

A decked-over 13-foot canoe

I built this little vessel as a 1-man duckboat for our freshwater marshes and beaver ponds where hiding is important but heavy seas are rarely (never) encountered.  I based it on the well-known and widely admired 13′ Grumman canoe.   I am a sucker, too, for the tumblehome along its sides and at her stems.   The hull of the new craft is molded ‘glass and its decks are plywood.

Sweet Gherkin - 2010

I began by borrowing a friend’s Grumman.  Because it had been campaigned hard over many years, the hull sported many dents, lumps and wrinkles.  So, I got a tub of joint compound – yes, the same thing you’d use for your sheetrock walls – and filled everything I could.   And, I filled either side of the keel because the aluminum keel is narrow (T-stock) and would not lend itself to being replicated in ‘glass.  Next, I faired everything smooth with 80 grit.

To keep the resin from sticking to the hull I next rolled molten wax onto the hull.  Then, I coated it with PVA (polyvinyl alcohol).  During the actual lamination, extra hands are always helpful.  I was aided by 3 friends who catalyzed the resin, handed me the 1 -1/2 ounce chopped strand matt (CSM) and the 18 ounce woven roving as needed, and helped saturate the 3 layers with un-waxed polyester resin.  Finally, I covered the hull with a coat of waxed resin (to enable the full cure) to which I added some colloidal silica (Cabosil) to prevent sagging of the finish coat.  Unfortunately, it did not cure to the self-leveled satin finish I had anticipated.  Instead, the Cabosil never fully mixed with the resin and it went on with lumps that dried to a dimpled finish.  Thus, the name Sweet Gherkin leapt to mind.

I first ‘glassed a plywood floorboard into the hull.  Then, the deck was framed with cypress and sheathed with 1/4″ plywood.  After epoxying a very light cloth to the decks, I added grass rails (also cypress) and coamings (yellow poplar).  Note that there is no coaming on the aft end of the cockpit because I sit on the rear deck when paddling.  I added a light half-round moulding for rubrails.  The bow handle  is a sleeping Broadbill carved from Phillipine mahogany.  Finally, I built it to receive a light mast – I thought a small spritsail might be fun off the wind – but I have yet to make the rig.

Sweet Gherkin - bow handle

The boat has been a pleasure on all counts.  It paddles and poles beautifully and hides very well.  Oh, I did complete the project by scouring my friend’s hull and returning it – in time for the season – with a fresh coat of paint.

LOGO Butterball - small

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