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"Today I discovered how much she likes to surf...It was such fun I laughed out loud."

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Here at last are some photos of my 14 foot long "SnowShoe 12". I’m relieved to tell you that it is a superb boat. The hull is so ridged that it feels like a much larger boat, it tracks as if on rails, and is fast enough to keep up with 18 ft. kayaks. Perhaps the light weight helps with the speed.

Don Deese in his Arrow 14

My total weight came in at 19 pounds, even though she’s built like an Airolite icebreaker. We laminated the stems out of white oak, the ribs are white oak, and the stringers are old-growth Douglas fir. The breast hooks are oak, and the thwarts are also old tight grain fir. The floorboards and inwale are sitka spruce. I put a 3/4 inch spruce keel on her, wanting to track more than turn. Even in strong cross-winds, she goes where you point her.

I used a back-strap for back support. This piece of seatbelt webbing is tied to the gunwales and sits on the upper part of my pelvis...very comfortable.

I've been paddling Lighten-Up quite a bit since those photos were taken. She does take wind and waves with ease. The other day I paddled back to shore in a strong westerly breeze. The boat felt solid as could be... until I stepped out. The next wave lifted her, and the wind turned her instantly into a kite. I'm thinking of a tether line for exiting on windy days.

I would suggest you do make a set of drawings for this design. I have looked at the offsets for MacGregor's original "Rob Roy", and they are nearly identical. As you know from the book about Henry Rushton, adding spray skirts to the bow and stern would give you a fair replica of the boat that introduced the world to canoe/kayak cruising 150 years ago.

A lot of people who live on Vancouver Island own kayaks, but they rarely use them because the damn things are so heavy and complicated. I'm out on the water paddling while $3000 kayaks take up space in garages. When I do encounter the odd kayak, I notice that I'm usually traveling faster with less effort. About an hour ago I was watching a man get into his Greenland skin-on-frame kayak at our nearby launching ramp. He needed a shoehorn and a weekly yoga class to get himself jammed into the cockpit. This is worth the trouble if you are a Greenland seal hunter who must paddle in high winds and rough seas. If it had been a Geodesic Airolite kayak, he would have torn the fabric on the barnacles. To get into Lighten-Up, I walk into 8 inches of water, float the boat between my legs, sit down, and paddle away.. When I come to shore, I do the above sequence in reverse. Sometimes I wait for a friendly wave to help lift me to my feet.

PS I haven't had a chance to try paddling Lighten-Up with my wife. I'll let you know how the boat goes as a double. My plan was to simply turn the boat around, hoping I have the thwarts in the right place to give us both back support.

I went for a paddle with my wife in the boat this afternoon. All went well. The little boat seems as happy with two aboard as with one. Paddling on my own recently in high winds, I found that Lighten-Up seems to track well no matter what the wind direction. She rises lightly and surely over waves.

I've been experimenting with turning techniques. It seems more and more that a sculling stroke is the answer. With a European style paddle, the technique for a right turn would be as follows: 1)Move your right hand out to the place where the loom meets the blade. 2)Move your left hand to the center of the loom. 3) Take the necessary number of long sculling strokes on the left side. 4) Re-center the paddle and carry on in your new direction. The sculling stroke is only necessary for tight turns. Anyway, it works effectively with this arrow of a boat.

Maybe that could be the name you are looking for.... The "Snowshoe Arrow".

The more I paddle this thing, the more certain I am that "Arrow" would be a good name for it. I weigh 170 pounds. With me in it, Lighten-Up has between 7 1/4 and 7 1/2 inches of freeboard. Therefore, she draws about 2 1/2 inches of water. No wonder the boat goes so fast.... it's hardly touching the sea. I'm sorry I can't tell you how much she draws with my wife and I in her. We'll try to find out this week. re your note: I would say that anyone thinking of Long Island Sound in November better have a sea kayak, and a good one.

I was out today in 6 to 8 knots of wind, with waves at one foot height, and swells running to two feet. Lighten-Up seemed to think the whole thing was damn good fun, tracking flawlessly on every point. Going directly into the waves, she just rises up and lets them pass. Today I discovered how much she likes to surf. Paddling down the face of two- foot swells, she accelerates into planing mode with two hard pulls on the paddle. Not a hint of a wish to broach. It was such fun I laughed out loud.

Last weekend I had "Lighten-Up" out in strong winds (12 to 20 knots) and waves up to about 2.5 feet. The surfing was very good. I noticed that she is harder to control with wind on the stern quarter than on any other point of travel. On that quarter she wants to slowly turn her beam to the wind. I was able to compensate with stronger paddle strokes on one side than on the other. This is where the boats with a rudder have an advantage.

I'm using my forward thwart as a footbrace. I like having something very solid to push against with my feet. This allows me to produce a strong powerstroke that comes up from the leg, through the torso, and out along the shoulder. Boats with rudders have squishy foot-braces, so they win in easy steering, but lose in ergonomics.

Since it turns out that the boat is such fun in a blow, I've been trying to figure out the best way to install some flotation. I'll send photos when I figure something out. I doubt there is any way to get back aboard if I'm dumped, so the biggest part is probably going to be survival by wetsuit. I may carry flippers and just be sure I can swim ashore.

  I was just out yesterday, paddling on the Courtenay River with two friends. It was one of those soft gray pacific northwest days, very calm. Once again, my Snowshoe Arrow proved she can keep up with longer faster boats, and track her way through swift flowing water. We explored some shallow side-channels, and my shallow draft allowed me to go where even kayaks dare not seek passage.

I'm still trying to figure out how to rescue myself if I should flip the boat. My latest thought is sponsons that can be clipped onto the gunwales. Here's a link to a Canadian who invented a pair that can be inflated: sponsons for canoes and kayaks Contact Tim Ingram (

Don Deese

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