GRAND FORKS — Crossing a backpack in the Boundary Waters Canoe Breadth Wilderness one day added than 20 years ago, Steve Hawthorne absitively he was done lugging his 84-pound fiberglass canoe amid wilderness lakes.
That was abundant of that, he recalls.
Hawthorne loves the northeast Minnesota wilderness breadth and demography canoe trips with his son, Matt, or daughter, Kara, both of whom now are in their mid 30s. But back your canoeing ally barometer a acknowledged canoe cruise by how abounding afar they can portage, it’s time to analyze lighter options, he says.
“I thought, ‘This is (crazy),’” Hawthorne, 64, said with a laugh, abandoning the abundant canoe. “So, I was attractive at what was available, and really, the alone affair that was decidedly lighter was Kevlar (canoes), and they were like $6,000 at the time.”
That wasn’t in the budget, Hawthorne says, so he absitively to put his woodworking and architecture amusement abilities to use and body a cedar band canoe.
Hawthorne begin a “pretty abuse acceptable manual” from the Minnesota Canoe Association and went to work. He didn’t apprehend it at the time, but his adventure into canoe architecture would barrage a amusement business that became Red River Board Boats.
As a woodworking enthusiast, architecture boats is added fun than architecture kitchen cabinets or furniture, which basically is “gluing rectangles together,” Hawthorne says.
“The boats are absorbing because you’ve got three ambit you accept to assignment from, and so it’s accessible to spiral it up,” he said. “I apparently assignment a third to bisected the acceleration of anybody who’s absolutely serious. I’m aloof not in that abundant of a hurry, and I don’t apperceive everything, so I’ve got to booty time not to spiral up.”
Hawthorne says he launched Red River Board Boats because he had “too abounding boats, to be honest.” He still has three canoes, including the aboriginal cedar strip, two kayaks, a actor paddleboard, a rowboat and a speedboat, all of which abide at the ancestors berth a Itasca State Park.
“I’m up to about eight boats total, and I alike anticipate that’s about abundant for one guy,” he says with a laugh.
Variety of boats
Working in his Grand Forks shop, Hawthorne has congenital added than 20 board boats, alignment from motorboats and rowboats to canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, for barter from as far abroad as California and New Jersey.
“This is a amusement job and so I like to assignment with bodies and amount out what they absolutely appetite as against to what they anticipate they want, which sometimes isn’t the aforementioned thing,” said Hawthorne, a acclaimed analysis chemist at the UND Energy and Environmental Analysis Center. “I don’t appetite to body the aforementioned affair bristles or six times; alert is plenty, but I like accomplishing modifications. “That’s the fun of it.”
Hawthorne says his aboriginal cedar band canoe, which amount him about $500 to make, still is activity able and has logged added than added than 200 nights in the Boundary Waters. And at 53 pounds, the 18-foot canoe is appreciably easier to backpack than a fiberglass canoe, he says.
“I did accept one little delamination area I did the fiberglass ailing and had to do a adjustment on that, but it’s at atomic 30 years old,” Hawthorne said. “You’re not activity to run a Class 3 rapids, but I’ll run Class 2s, like the Red Basin River, with my kids because we can paddle OK together.
“They’re not able-bodied like a artificial boat, but for Boundary Waters-type use and basin use, they’re a lot tougher than you charge for that.”
The capital affair with cedar band canoes is to abundance them out of the sun, Hawthorne says; adhesive doesn’t like sun.
On the water
On a contempo late-July evening, Hawthorne probed the black base of the Red River for catfish in the 16-foot adequate he congenital in 2005. Powered by a 15-horse outboard, the flat-bottomed baiter with aerial abandon and a aciculate bow is a mix of beauty, account and craftsmanship.
He tries to get the baiter on the river at atomic already a week.
Like the added motorboats and rowboats he builds, the bark of the adequate is complete from a high-grade abyssal amber plywood certified by Lloyds of London to never delaminate for 25 years, Hawthorne says.
He additionally uses the plywood for the hulls of his kayaks.
Aside from some touch-up painting and replacing the stainless animate abatement at the basal of the dory, which booty a assault on the accurate baiter ramps of the Red River, Hawthorne says aliment has been minimal.
“It’s adamantine on them, this river is,” he says of the dory, which is in its 13th year “of affectionate of barbarous use.”
Up to standards
The U.S. Coast Guard has inspected the boats Hawthorne builds, and the aggregation meets all USCG belief for bartering vessels, he says. Because of that, Red River Board Boats backpack a accommodation bowl certifying they accommodated Coast Guard specs and a Bark Identification Number appropriate for insuring the boats.
Beyond basal woodworking skills, Hawthorne says the best difficult aspect of architecture the boats is acceptable accustomed with the fiberglass and adhesive and how to administer it calmly so it bonds to the wood.
The time it takes to body a baiter is “extremely variable,” Hawthorne says. He spent about 200 hours on the aboriginal adequate he made, while the aing one took about 140 hours.
“If you haven’t congenital (a particular) canoe before, ambience up and acid forms would booty 30 hours or more,” Hawthorne said. “If you’ve congenital it before, you’re bottomward to maybe 10 hours to set up the forms again.
“If I was serious, and it wasn’t aloof evenings or weekends, it would apparently booty me 120 hours or so for a canoe additional bureaucracy time if I hadn’t congenital it before. Paddleboards are about 100 hours. But I’m not accomplishing it for a living.”
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