June 14, 2024


Exercise makes us healthy

Building the Half Moon Kayak

When I was ten years old I had to do a project for my grammar school class. I always wanted to build a boat, so the plans for my first kayak took form in my imagination. There were several criteria that this project had to meet to be successful. The first was cost, as my budget at ten years of age was non-existent. Second it had to be of a modest size as it would be brought to school when finished. The materials had to be something that was not too difficult to find lying around the apartment house where we lived. I found round bottom wooden barrels that varied in size. I cut out a portion of the round barrels following the outer radius to form the ribs, or more precisely, the frames. Using the largest barrel at the center and progressively using the smaller bottoms toward each end, the boat would taper toward each end. To tie these frames together, I would need some kind of long, strong, flexible material. Back in those days, rug cleaners rolled the rugs on long bamboo poles that were later discarded. I found several of these and, with my father’s help, we found we could split these poles down the center and fasten them with screws to the barrel bottoms.

This made the horizontal structure we would use to stretch a heavy canvas cover over the entire boat. At each end, we made sharp wedge shaped pieces of old 2″x 12″ construction lumber forming a shaped bow and stern piece. The long pieces of bamboo were fastened to these bow and stern blocks. When this was completed, my father invested in some heavy canvas and a liquid that would saturate the canvas making it water-tight. I can still smell the pungent odor of that liquid to this day. We installed narrow pieces of wood on the inside to sit on. Finally, we painted the hull blue with two half moons at bow and stern, christening her the Half Moon. The boat was finished.

I was anxious to launch this marvelous craft, but it was March and the small stream near our house still had some ice on it. No problem. With the great consternation of my Norwegian grandmother, we brought the boat to the river. I got in while my father stabilized her, and off I went. The first thing I noticed while paddling was the Half Moon was very tippy as her hull shape was virtually semi-circular. A fact, I would remember to pay attention to in my later boatbuilding projects. I managed to paddle a short distance down the river and made landfall without tipping over. So, if kayaking interests you, take the plunge and get out on the water.