Building a Cajun Pirogue Wooden Boat Kit............
The Adventures of Mike

I first met Mike thru email when he requested information about my Cajun Pirogue Boat Kit. Mike and I met face to face at a wooden boat show in Biloxi, Mississippi. What follows are the emails and photos I have received from Mike, he  has captured the spirit and adventure of building your own boat.
Uncle John

Cajun Pirogue boat kit with sail rig

Updated 9/4/98


Hi there John!
I bought one of your pirogue kits at the  Biloxi wooden boat show last November.   I wanted to get back to you earlier but you know, time flies when you're havin' fun.  In fact at my age it flies even when you're not havin' fun! I built the boat on the second story porch of our apartment on Eastern Lake overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.   It went together real easy.  I used the 1/8" luan and built it as cheaply as possible. 
(Although a number of individuals have  used 1/8" to build ultra-light, I really don't  recommend it . 1/4"  works well and will give you a sturdier boat. Uncle John) No stainless screws.  My scarf joints were terrible, thank God for fiberglass and resin to cover the outside of the seam!  I approached the building of my first boat as an experiment.  I wasn't trying to build a Stradivarius.  I was trying to learn.  Well, I have been very content with the results.  I paddle it with a double paddle made from two five foot Wal-Mart wooden paddles. And this weekend I built the sail rig.  I am a sailing fan.  A poly tarp sail plywood yard, cut down 2x4 boom, and a twelve foot 1.25" dowel for a mast.  .5" plywood mast partner (thwart) and a dagger board salvaged from a destroyed Alpha Cat.  I steer with an oar.  It's great fun, in light wind. Thanx for all the fun in building a simple first boat.  I am off to build my next one.  My wife and daughter want another one of the pirogues built a bit more stoutly, .25" bottom. 3/8" sides and real epoxy covering.



Thanks for the quick reply to my email.   Yes, I will send you a photo of the completed pirogue.  In the meantime I am enclosing two email addresses I used to get info for the sail rig.  I considered two types.  The Sprit and the Balanced Lug.  I decided on the balanced lug.  I like the idea of having a boom to help the foot of the sail flap less.  I try to raise the sail high enough so the boom clears my head.  I use a very simple down haul attached to the mast partner.  I used the simplest and sail attachment pirogue boat kitcheapest sail rig I could devise.   The yard is two pieces of 3/8" plywood tacked together with the sail sandwiched in between.  There are no grommets to pull out of the poly tarp sail.  I screwed another piece of plywood to the yard receive the halyard so I wouldnıt have to drill holes through the yard and possibly rip the sail.   I used the grommets that came installed on the tarp to attach the sail to the boom.

leeboard pirogue boat kitThe leeboard is again very simple.   Since I did not know where to place the leeboard I just used two C-clamps to attach a leeboard slot to the rub rail.  The leeboard is left over from an old Aqua Cat.   I just shove it down in the slot when the water is deep enough and pull it up when approaching shore.  I did manage to get it stuck in the soft sand bottom of our lake.   Instead of panicking I just let the wind back us out of the embarrassing situation.   There didnıt seem to be any damage done to the rub rail.  When tacking I just left the leeboard on the same side.  I didnıt change sides and found no noticeable difference in sailing.  There may be some difference and Iım sure a more picky skipper would want to change it.  I will probably change the leeboard to pivot.   That way I donıt have to worry about grounding.  When I do that I may put one board on each side. The other change I will make is to attach a tiller and rudder arrangement.  This may use foot peddles rather than a hand operated tiller.  I enjoy sailing the boat while lying down on the bottom.  It's very relaxing. And lastly I will probably add two small jam cleats for the mainsheet.  I know this is dangerous on boats this small and which are not self bailing.  However, I am a safe but lazy sailor and am trying to achieve effortless sailing.  I want to set the sail, steer with my feet, and lay back and take in the scenery.  You know, read a book, talk to the dolphins, pray, etc. I took the boat into the Gulf one day when the wind was offshore.  There were no waves, no ripples, just a slow barely noticeable swell.   Very tippy.  Donıt try this at home.  Iım not trying to make the boat do something beyond itıs design criteria.  Iım just havin fun messing around.



Sure I would look forward to building the next boat.  But please remember I am not a craftsman.  I am a guy who likes to putter with wood and screws and glue and boats.  My craftsman's ability rating is just above that of Red Green, and no we're not related. I consider myself a successful putterer because I have fooled around with wood, various saws, routers, and drills for years without losing any of my original set of fingers!   But I have difficulty cutting a straight line and measuring the same distance down two sides of the same sheet of plywood.  And if OSHA ever saw my work area, well, they would probably send notices to Scotty's, Lowes, and Home Depot warning them not to sell me anything! One more thing abut the pirogue that may be helpful.  I am a big guy, 230lbs.  So to avoid cracking the bottom of the boat getting in and out, I cut a 3/8" floor that extends from the stern frame to the bow frame.  Itıs removable, not nailed down. seat.JPG (24998 bytes)

I also have a seat made for it.  I bolted one of those plastic john boat seats to a 3/4" piece of plywood.  Itıs great for long distance paddling.   I can sail the boat with it installed too.

I painted the outside of the boat with Wal-Mart's cheapest white
exterior latex.  The inside I painted with a light brown (cedar) deck sealant.   It's kind of pretty.

Cost of building the boat is as follows (approximates)
Uncle John's Boat Kit $42.00
2 sheets 1/8" luan @ $10.00 ea.
1 box of 1/2" wood screws $2.00
1 box of 7/8" wood screws $2.00 (plenty left over)
1 16' 1x4 for rub rail 3.00
1 roll of 4' fiberglass tape $10.00
1 quart of polyester resin $10.00
1 can of wood putty $4.00
1 gallon white paint $6.00 (used about a quart on three coats)
1 gallon wood sealer $10.00
Sail Rig
1 1.25" 12 foot dowel $9.00
left over 2x4  ripped for boom 0.00
left over plywood for yard      0.00
used polytarp for sail       0.00
left over plywood for mast partner 0.00
1 discarded dagger board   0.00
20' of 1/4" line for halyard  $3.00
1 small block for halyard  $3.00
          total              $114.00
labor was not really labor.  It was fun. Building the boat was simple, easy, and probably required no more than twenty hours, not counting drying time of resin and paint.

Building the sail rig was a couple hours



Just a short update on my messin about with the pirogue.   I have done the unthinkable.  Yep, I patched a leak at the chine with duct tape.  I had this little bitty seeping leak that wasn't enough to cause any concern.   But, I knew it was allowing the wood to get wet, and that means rot and that spells disaster.  You know, wood rot in boats is like plaque on teeth, you don't notice the damage until it's too far gone.  It's a clandestine operation. 

Well, when I inspected the the chine to ascertain the location of the covert mission I found that the fiberglass was peeling away from the wood.  Several experienced boat builders have warned us novices that polyester resin doesn't like to bond with wood. Of course I didn't want to use the more expensive epoxy, and since this is a learning experience for me, I wanted to see if the experts were right or if they were just trying to sell epoxy.  You never know.  But, they were right. 
(I spoke with a company that manufactures polyester resin, they said "rough up the wood using 60 or 80 grit sandpaper, to aid the resin in penetrating plywood add one tablespoon of acetone per ounce of resin before adding the hardener. Wet the wood with resin, place dry cloth in place, then add more resin using a squeegee or rubber roller, " Uncle John) Well, I was facing my first repair project.  And because I tend to be impulsive I wanted a quick fix.  I didn't like the idea of mixing up another batch of resin just to make a small repair.  And besides, the weather, being either rainy or humid, was not conducive to resin work. Remember my work shop is either the porch or the yard.  No climate controlled room here.  But I did want to use the boat so I had to fix the leak using the simplest method.

It was then that I remembered the handy man's miracle tool. Duct Tape!  After removing the loose fiberglass and allowing the chine to bake in the sun all day, hoping to dry out the wood, I applied two layers of the tape as smoothly as possible.  No mixing, no brush or roller, no sanding, just peel and stick.  Total cost, about fifty cents worth of tape.  Total labor, five minutes.  And straight in to the water.   That was more than a week ago.  I use the boat daily as I am still testing the sail rig.  The leak has been stopped and disaster has been averted.  At least for the time being.

The next bit of news concerns my ingenius (or lucky) choice of material for the yard.   Yard is a salty term for the wooden stick that one attaches to the top part of the sail in a lug rig.  I used two pieces of 3/8" plywood and sandwiched the sail between them.  Well I am glad that I didn't use a heavier piece of lumber!  You see, it fell on my head while coming about.  The culprit was the small piece of 3/16" line I used to attach the halyard (haul yard) block to the top of the mast.   Yeh, my square knot  untied itself, and down came the boom and the yard, bang, right on my head!  It didn't hurt anything but my reputation as a sailor man in the lake front community.  I am happy to report though that a repair was made sitting in the boat in the middle of the lake and we were sailing again in less than ten minutes.

I sure am having fun with this boat!  Most people who speak to me on the water have favorable comments.  This evening just before sunset I was lying down in it letting the boat do it's relaxing "round up into the wind, go into irons, fall off, and round up again routine," when I heard and smelled!, a party barge approaching at idle speed.  As the oily smoke belching monstrosity came alongside the Captain at the helm, hollered, "Hey, is that one of those home built boats?"  I couldn't hear him very well over the noise of his motor so I said, "Pardon me?"  He repeated himself more loudly over the gurgling of his two stroke oil burner and I answered, "Well, yes I built it myself."  He chuckled uncomfortably.  Then he revved his 80 horsepower gas guzzler and as he sped off I just imagined that he was probably thinking, "Poor guy, he probably can't afford a real boat, like mine, with upholstered chairs, and carpet and a stereo."  He roared away in a cloud of blue smoke sending the Great Blue Heron into the air, while his wife recorded the whole show on her video camera.  About a minute later he had run aground in the creek.  But heck, he just put that monster in reverse and dug himself a way out. 
Like I said, I sure do enjoy this boat. 

Thanks again, John.



More Pirogue News:
The boat sails very well and the more time I spend with it the more comfortable I have become with it.  The placement of one's weight affects trim considerably.  On the wind weight should be toward the center of the boat.  Off the wind further back.   I have the leeboard positioned so I can steer easily with a short canoe paddle.   The boat has a weather helm and will round up fairly quickly if overpowered or if you move your weight forward when on the wind.  Sailing is best (easiest) in light air, up to 12-15 mph.  Over that and going to weather is touchy.   We had some fairly good gusts this week, so I got to really put her through her paces.  I have buried the lee rail and had water pour over it.  I guess narrow craft are safer with side decks.  I know sharpies should have them to keep the water out of the boat.   Down wind she flies like a bird!  I sit way back and let her go.  I came in the other day after an exhilarating session and my wife said, "Boy, you were really flying!"  Down wind is cool.  But in our narrow lake, it costs you to run down wind.  Yeh?  The beat back up the lake.  Ten minutes down, thirty minutes slugging it out to windward.  Although, the boat will point fairly high.  I'm not sure of the reason for this  but if you're not in a hurry, you can get her to point.  The best of all though is just laying back and letting her do her fall off and round up routine.  I did this for about an hour Sunday and I'd swear she was making progress to windward! 

Changes coming?  I need to design and rig a tiller/rudder.  It would make long tacks less stressful.  As it is now for the most part, I have to hang onto the paddle to steer.  I know there are sailing peapods that don't use rudders.  And this boat can be steered in light air just by shifting one's weight.  I may try more of this. But I would love to be able to lash a tiller and sail along without touching sheet or tiller.  I might even cover the bow and stern with decks and bulkhead the bow and stern frames to make for buoyancy in case of shipping too much water.  I'd feel less anxious about putting her into the Gulf on a quiet day.  We get lots of those in the summer. 

All in all the little thing is fun. Diminutive but fun!  Thanx again for the plan.


Oh and by the way; I meant to tell you the boat really flies along under double paddle. Seems I am fixated on sailing. But I do paddle it quite a bit. Especially at night when there is no wind. Tonight was magnificent! Mr. Moon came up just before nine, dressed in an orange suit. He looked like he was on his way to a party. You could just barely see his smile, you had to look close. The stars numbered in the billions, and some of them were not content to just hang and twinkle for me. They had to streak across the sky trailing their phosphorescent tails behind them.trees.JPG (28388 bytes) Out in the middle of the lake the water was black as asphalt and smooth as glass. The grunts were croaking and the mullet were jumping. I'll tell ya, it was grand. I laid on my back in the bottom of the boat and just stared. The stars danced around in a lazy circle as the boat drifted slowly. Background soundtrack was provided by the dying swell in the Gulf. It played it's rustling symphony in G major. On nights like this it's hard to get serious enough about life on land to want to come in. But, come in I do. Reluctantly.

Next I'm going to add oar locks and row this little pirogue.



I had a close encounter at the beach yesterday.   Yep, sunk the boat. I had been sailing in the Gulf.  Returning to the beach through the surf line I messed up.  I surfed the first swell okay but was pooped by the one following me.  Oh well, the only harm done was to my ego, but the tourists loved it!  I was in about two feet of water at the time, so recovery was quick and easy.

Of course I was not content to leave well enough alone. 
sailing.JPG (36543 bytes) So this morning, I made my wife's day by sinking it again trying to punch through the shorebreak.  She laughed till I thought she'd die!  I'm glad she didn't. I love her.  Again I supplied the tourists with a little levity. Funny thing was, on both days, I received compliments from bystanders about the boat.  I don't know if they were just trying to make me feel better.  One guy said he would like to build one too.



Well, it happened.  My little boat and I finally went to work!  We didn't seek it, it found us.  We did not want to have this kind of relationship.  Our original intention was to share a purely pleasure-oriented affair. Recreation and relaxation was our theme.  But yesterday we were called to lay down our self indulgent lethargy and pick up social responsibility.  It happened like this;

I was out on the lake unwinding after a stressful day "at the office."  I had put her through her paces just to see if I could.  First,  I tacked her nose through the wind.  No problem with this most basic maneuver. Next, I very carefully jybed her tail through the wind, for fun, no harm done.  I put her in irons just to watch her sail herself with slackened sheet.  She is
truly a delight in light air.   Effortless sailing, to be sure.  The more time I spend with her, the more impressed I am with the simplicity of our relationship.  Put the board up, or leave it down.  It's okay.  Shift your weight to tack or use the oar.  Your choice.   As she was dancing around the lake I was laying in the bottom looking at the sky above the masthead.  I noticed I had carelessly hanked the halyard around the mast in a most unsalty manner.  So, after thirty minutes contemplating the pros and cons of interrupting our dance to fix it, I aimed her for a remote stretch of the beach to make repairs.  We made our landfall so quietly that we did not even disturb the mud minnows.  The bow just barely nudged the beach as the board pivoted itself to the up position.  It was such a delightful landing that I forgot the purpose for it and instead of climbing out to straighten the halyard I just laid there smiling contentedly, thinking  "can unwinding after a hard day really be this simple?"  I felt like I was nine years old again.  You know, when you're nine and you're playing around the water in your little fantasy, all is right with the world.  I wish "techno-progress" hadn't taken away our children's desire to "make believe."  I was reveling in my reverie when I heard the voices of two small boys.  They were behind me and talking excitedly about some important subject.  As I listened, their voices grew more excited and appeared to be getting closer to me.  So, I sat up and looked around.  There they were, age four and five walking through waist deep water near the shore and pointing out into the lake.   Then I saw the subject of their jabbering.   A large green sea serpent was swimming away from them.  The monster had to be at least five feet long and it's fire breathing head rose menacingly high above the surface of the lake.  The father of the boys looked forlornly in my direction with that "please help me kind sir" expression on his face.  Figuring the runaway serpent was from their stable I asked if I could assist them in any way.  "Yes!" was the emphatic and unanimous cry. So, off we went, my little boat and I, to lasso our first sea serpent.  He was heading downwind at a steady gallop.  Of course, down wind is one of our fastest points of sail, so it was only a minute or two before we had overtaken the ferocious beast.  I expected a fight to get the lasso around it's curved green tail, but the hard swimming needed to outrun my little boat had taken it's toll on the beast.  It was a simple matter of untying the downhaul from the mast partner and clove hitching the serpent to our stern.  Sailing to windward towing a monster almost as big as the boat, in a dying evening breeze was the toughest part of the adventure.  I imagined myself to be Hemingway's old Cuban fisherman, Santiago, hauling my enormous catch back to the beach.  It was tedious work keeping the sharks at bay and coaxing every possible knot out of my little craft.  The oar helped. Soon, we were back alongside the boys who were jumping up and down with delight.  Their father simply smiled with gratitude as he untied the serpent, and as I tried not to run over him with my boat.  The rescue was considered a success by all those witnessing it.  I was exhausted more from the anxiety of having my heroics witnessed by the throng that had gathered to view the exciting event, than I was from sailing my boat!  But my efforts were successful and that's the main thing. Our hard work finished, I turned her bow for home.  As we ghosted along in the fading light of late evening I heard a Kingfisher rattle approval from his perch in a pine tree and a school of menhaden shattered the quiet water in front of the bow.  I remembered the lines from the pen of Rabindraneth Tagore.

I slept and dreamed that life was joy.
I awoke and saw life was duty.
I acted and behold duty was joy.

I never would have thought of my little boat as a work boat, but rescue is such noble work maybe it's not work at all.



Hey there John
Well, summer is here!  Boy, is it hot.  On yesterday's evening sail, I saw a fish sweating!  Yeh, it's hot.  If it keeps this up, by August we'll be begging for winter. Hey, guess what?  I'm considering naming the boat.  It's kinda
scary though.  I always equate naming something with taking responsibility for it.   Especially if it can't take responsibility for itself.  Like Adam did when he named the animals.  Yeh, there's something safely impersonal about strays.  Take a stray cat for instance.  We had one once.  Kept showing up around here late in the evening or first thing in the morning.  It was cute but it didn't make any demands.  It took what you gave it and seemed to be happy with it.  My daughter's cat is not a bit like that stray.  He's allowed us to live with him for the past three years.  He's real nice to us.  Let's us feed him and trim his claws, clean his litter box.  Nice cat.  But doggone if you don't get attached to the things.  Speaking of my daughter, she's the reason I'm thinking about naming the boat.  I took her sailing the other day.  She loved it.  The boat handled the two of us just fine.  We were in quiet water and the breeze was just a zephyr.  As we sailed, I answered her questions about port and starboard, tacking, and why we can't just go in a straight line to our destination.  She understood it.   But I kept refering to the boat as, "the boat."  Finally she corrected me and said, "you mean, Lilly."  I had mentioned years ago that if I had a small boat I would call it Lilly because it would be pretty, and dainty, and would spend it's days decorating the lake.  She reminded me that her name is "Lilly."  She said when I build her boat she will give it a graceful name.

But I don't know. Do I want to
domesticate the boat?  Do I really want to personify it?  Won't I get attached to it?  And what will happen if I don't take care of it?  My wife just reminded me that I went out in the midst of a thunderstorm at 2:30am a couple days ago to check on the boat.  So maybe I have already become emotionally attached.  Oh well, I guess it was inevitable.  I'll let you know what I decide.



Hey there, John

Here's the latest in the adventures of me and my boat.  Let me share the latest incident from the pirogue rescue log.  Yeh, my boat and I were involved in another rescue.  Unlike the last time, this time there was a real life in danger.     His name is Sam.  He is my neighbor here on the lake.  He's been here a lot longer than me.  His family has owned property here for close to a hundred years.  I can only imagine how beautiful this place was so long ago.  I mean, it's breath taking now, especially in the early morning when the sun is just starting to peek it's smiling face over the eastern shore. But boy to have been the only person here.  Can you spell, peaceful?  Any way, Sam's family has been enjoying the lake for quite a while.  And Sam is certainly keeping the tradition.  He's about the only one who beats me out there in the morning.  I see him from my deck. He sometimes sits motionless and stares at the water for hours.  I guess he is drinking it all in.  And probably recalling days he hunted or fished
with his pals.  He swims real well too.  Even though he's getting on in years he still romps with the young pups, splashing and chasing.  Even though he's not a busy body and seems to pick his friends carefully, during my year and a half here on the lake, I've gotten to know him and to savor our casual camaraderie.  Oh yeh, I was going to tell you about the rescue. Well, Sam has had family in for the holiday, as is his custom.   You know, everybody wants to visit you if you live on the water.  And usually there are several in laws that show up at his place on holidays.  They all like to water ski.  So does Sam.  He doesn't actually go so far as to get on the skis, but he uses any excuse necessary to get out on the water in a boat. Well, the other day, late in the day, as the breeze was getting toward supper time, a couple of his friends went out in one of the boats while he was having his afternoon nap.  I know because I was out in my pirogue trying to safely
negotiate their three foot wake every time they zoomed by! When Sam woke up he must have decided to join them.  And being the adventuring fella he is, he just jumped in the lake to swim out to where they were terrorizing me.  He's a pretty good swimmer for one his age.  You know, slow and steady.  Well, they didn't see him swimming to them and they sped away down toward the far end of the lake.  Now, Sam's eyesight has been better than it is now and he must have confused his friend's boat with another one of the same color because he started swimming after it.  I watched and was more concerned as he got further from shore.   By the time he got to the middle of the lake he was running out of steam.   Having been trained as an ocean lifeguard I know well the signs of an exhausted swimmer.  So, I turned the boat downwind and headed for him.  I could tell he was getting confused because his friend's were not coming back for him. The people in the other boat appeared ignorant of his plight. They just pointed at his bobbing head and exchanged quizzical looks with each other. As I got within ear shot of him, I called, "Sam, over here!"  He turned and saw me sailing toward him.  The expression on his troubled face said, "I'm pooped pal."  I rounded up and let him swim over to the boat.  I greeted him again, "Hey, buddy, c'mon, I got ya."  He didn't say a word.  He just wagged his tail and clambered aboard over the rail. He stood there looking at me and panting.  And I noticed how gray his muzzle was getting.  He didn't make a sound but his deep brown eyes spoke volumes.   I imagined him to say something like, "Boy, that was not fun, thanks for being there."  We sailed home on the gentle evening breeze.  My daughter greeted us at the dock with applause.  "C'mon, Sam." she called.  And he jumped over the rail and shook the water from his black and tan coat.  Then in typical Sam nonchalance, he smiled and loped off toward home. As I reflected on what had transpired I wondered what might have happened if the pirogue and I hadn't been there.   I don't want to think about it.

Thanks John.  Your boat is a real life saver!




Hey John

I thought it might be a good idea to bring you up to date on the condition of the pirogue. It was last November that the boat was birthed on my upstairs porch and it has been in the water on more days than it has been on shore.  For me, the most important thing to consider in determining a wood boat's practicality is it's
serviceability.  And considering I built my boat out of 1/8" luan door skins I am very happy with her condition after nine months of constant use.  Remember also I have a "sailing" pirogue.  That means her seams and joints have been stressed much more than could ever happen when paddling or rowing.  I have also had the unfortunate, but fun, experience of sinking her twice!  Yep, totally submerged and filled to the gunnel with salt water.  Consider too, I am a big guy, just under six feet tall and over two hundred pounds!  I can stress her seams and joints just getting in and out of the boat. So far the joints are still strong and dry. Remember, my scarf joints were embarrassing.  It was the first time I tried scarfing and doing it with 1/8" luan required more finesse than I could muster at the time. But even though they look crude, they have held up well.  The non stainless screws I used are starting to rust.  This isn't surprising.  I knew they would but I wanted to build as economically as I could.  Some folks might be put off by rust stains on their boat.  But the rust stains on the white hull of my boat take me back to a time when I first began noticing boats.  It was on the docks at the old Port of Palm Beach which was located on the border between West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach.  My grandfather owned a small tavern right at the end of the road, where you could catch the auto ferry to Havana, Cuba.  My family would visit him and I would drink Grapette or Orange Crush and listen to the sailors, both American and Cuban, tell their stories. And I would walk the docks with my siblings, smelling the pungent aroma of salt water and the rocks at low tide and listening to the song of the creaking mooring lines against the big wooden pilings.  Seagulls would wheel and cry out for bits of bread. Pelicans would stand around the fish cleaning sinks hoping for a handout. I loved to watch the Coast Guard launches motor over from Peanut Island.  It was great!  I was totally taken with the whole salty scene.  But, I digress.  So the screws are staining the hull. The inside of the hull is virtually as good as when I finished it.  The reason is that I use a 1/2" floor when sailing, and a 5/8" floor when sitting in my paddling seat. The rubrail is certainly rubbed1  But again, thats what it's for and it isn't any less serviceable.

All this service for such little
maintenance.  I might add, the boat is stored outside, bottom side up, on a rack I built from old 2x4's. The sailing gear, paddles, seats, etc., have their own rack beneath the boat, so they're protected from the sun and bird droppings! I would guess the boat is used at least twenty days a month. And this time of year it is sailed every time it's used. Nothing has broken, or been replaced for any reason. So, I guess the boat is holding up very well.  Remember, I have less than 150.00 invested!  That means, if the boat stays servicable for three more months it will have cost me 12.50 per month!  C'mon, what can you do, where can you go, to have this much fun for 12.50 a month?  Robinson Crusoe said, "abused prosperity is very often the means of  our greatest adversity."  I reckon you could spend more, but I really do not think you could have this much fun for so little money. I know folks who spend thousands every year to go on vacation.  They return from their trip exhausted from all the fun they had traveling to and from "Magic Land." And they spend the next year paying off the credit cards, and planning their next vacation.  Do you think they'd be interested in renting my boat, John?  Probably not.

Thanx again for your little boat, John!


Lily's Log

Hurricane Earl (shouldn't it be Earline?) slammed into our quaint coastal community last night disrupting our summer time routine and creating some anxious moments for Lily's skipper.  It was Lily's first encounter with the brutal reality of howling 70 mph winds and driving sheets of rain.  I was pretty nervous tying her to her mooring stand in the yard.  I considered carrying her into the living room, but my wife was filling that up with all manner of potted plants from the porch.  For a few moments while I pondered the best way to lash Lily to the stand, I
practiced a heart felt monologue designed to stir my wife's compassion.  However, I knew in my heart of hearts it was all for naught.  Boats belong outside.  And they are designed to get wet.  So, I finished lashing her down for a long dangerous night and threw my pleading words into the increasing wail of the wind. 

Throughout the evening hours the wind increased steadily.  The waves on the lake built rapidly and took on the appearance of  knife edged
corduroy trimmed with white lace.  The bamboo flag pole at the dock bent further by the hour until I thought it might just give up and lay down on the rain soaked lawn.  The Stars and Stripes held fast.   The water level in the lake increased minute by minute and was past the stately old pine tree by ten pm. 

The waves in the Gulf were whipped into an insane frenzy by the banshee wind.  They threatened to free themselves from their shoreline fetters and erase the dunes with their maniacal raving.  There is a surreal beauty displayed by the power of nature gone mad.  It's frightening and overwhelming.  Yet it's enjoyable to witness this awesome impersonal force.  It rebukes the clever power of mankind's technology.   He seems so small and insignificant compared to the scream of wind and exploding waves.  How sickeningly puny he becomes when the nature goes on a rampage.

This particular storm was really only half of a storm.  The real fury was limited to the north and east of the center.  So, when the center finally overtook our position the wind began to abate quickly.  It was as if we were entering into the eye of the storm.  The quieting of the wind was welcomed but not trusted.  Having previously experienced several hurricanes I knew the quiet of the eye was usually short lived.  But thankfully, Earl was different.  And almost too soon, he had pressed on ahead leaving us to pick up the pieces left in his wake.  I relaxed slowly but
twitched every time the wind gusted again.

By dawn's early light I could see the familiar shape of Lily's streamlined hull.  She was still there, right where I left her.  The beach was littered with tree limbs and pine straw, plastic cups, and beer bottles, an old frisbee, and sections of dune fence.   But there was no damage to Lily.  She had survived her biggest challenge.   Hurricane Earl.  I slipped into my rubber boots and hurried down to free my dainty little friend.  As the breeze was still a bit too fresh I selected the paddling seat and double paddle rather than the sail rig.  Lifting her off her mooring stand I slipped her into the lake.  We glided silently across the lake to the creek and drifted down the creek to the raging Gulf. Except for the pounding waves, it was a peaceful morning.  The calm after the storm.  The air had been rinsed by the rain and smelled fresh and clean.  The anxiety of the night had been washed away too.   Peace had returned.  I was glad it was over.  And thankful that it hadn't been worse.



Hi there John

I had some fun with Lilly this weekend.  Saturday it was too cold to apply more epoxy to Guppie's bottom so Lilly beckoned and we went for a sail.  Well, it was more like a death defying test of my somewhat questionable helmsmanship.  The main problem was the blustery compass swinging wind.  At one point I was hoping the mast would break so I could slow the little craft!  I believe I could have pulled a skier!  And on one beam reach I could not keep the lee rail above the surface of the lake.  The solution was simple. I had to bail the water out faster than it came in.  I envisioned the little girl filling up with water and going straight down.  I kept imagining Lilly sitting on the bottom of the lake with nothing but the top of her mast sticking up,
ensign waving bravely in the breeze.  I finally gave in and did the smart thing.  Brought her home.  Whew!  But I will say for a plywood boat that has spent 15 months outside in the elements, she is holding up remarkable well.   And I know I have said it before but I don't' mind saying it again. For the money, I don't think one can do any better.

Sunday was different.  The wind had slowed to a very gentle breeze.  As we left the dock, it was continuing to dwindle.  But the sun was out and radiant, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, or a boat on the lake.  It was glorious.  Lilly loved it!  As I rounded the bend in the northwest shore a small motor boat put out from the shore.  The guy at the helm was trolling in the shallows casting a light line. After 30 minutes or so we crossed courses and he spoke.  "Great day, huh?" "You betcha." I replied.  "Did you build it?" he asked nodding in Lilly's direction.  "Yep." I returned.  "A friend of mine just bought a kit and is going to build one."  "Oh yeh?  Where'd he get the kit?"  "Off the internet I think.  Although I don't remember the name of the manufacturer."  "Uncle Johns?"  "Yeh, thats it.   Uncle Johns."  To which I just smiled.  "Hey," he
continued, "is that one of those boats."  "Yep."   "Wow, I'll tell him."  By then we had drifted apart and he resumed casting and I just laid back in the sun and smiled.  UncleJohns' gettin' popular.

Later, after the wind died completely, I returned to the dock and removed the sail rig.   I grabbed my double paddle and headed into the quietest part of the lake up past the last house.  The lake  begins as a stream about a mile from my house.   It gets shallow and narrow as it winds and twists through the saw grass.   There are spots where the water is no more than three or four inches deep. Lilly is light enough to handle it though.  Back in there the world is different.  And today it was incredible!  It was as if the whole of nature had stopped.  There wasn't a ripple, not a scratch, on the surface of the lake.  The pine trees that line the bank were motionless.  Even the very tips of their needles refused to move.   It was like moving across an artist's painting.  I was the only object that had motion.  For a moment I felt awkwardly intrusive and out of place.  Like I
intruding on a very special meeting between the trees, grass, and water.  Before I could cover my embarrassment by making a silent retreat, all of the participants noticed me.  But rather than scolding me for interrupting them, they smiled and invited me in.   I felt very privileged.  And I said nothing, not wanting to risk spoiling the magic of the moment.  Lilly smiled too as if she knew all along where we were going.  Just for a second I wondered if maybe she had been invited and just needed me to get her there. As we crept carefully around the twisting path through the shallows not a living thing was seen or heard.  At one point the stream turned sharply to the right and I saw hundreds of mosquitoes skating on the surface of the water.   As we moved through them they didn't seem to notice but kept skating and and jumping up off the water.  I watched them jump up and then fly their zigzag patterns and then land again.  They were so weightless they didn't disturb the mirroed surface of the stream.  I was  but inches from them and watched with fascination as their lithe little bodies, fragile legs and transparent wings were reflected on the surface of the water.  Amazing.  Oh, the incredible variety of life that surrounds us.  I let Lilly glide to full stop.  Together we sat there on the water and joined the painting.  The silence was shattered by the whining bark of what might have been a small bear cub.  At first it sounded like the squawk of a Great Blue Heron.  But as I listened more closely and my ears adjusted to the noise, it sounded more and more like a bear cub. It bawled intermittently for several minutes.  The only sound in the otherwise deafening silence.  Then as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped. And once again the silence settled in.  The sun was moving slowly lower over the tree tops.  The air was beginning to get chilly.  I dipped my paddle back into the water, disturbing some water bugs, and turned Lilly around.  We moved slowly and silently back toward the hum of humanity.

I reflected as I paddled.  As busy as life can get, there still is time for quiet.   We just have to take it.  And there are still places to go that don't cost money, aren't hard to get to, and don't include crowds of participants or spectators.   And, for me, at those times and in those places, as brief as the encounter must be, there is peace.  That peace is the glue that holds life together and gives it meaning.  I see that I am involved in a much bigger world.  A world that was designed and created by someone
infinitely more creative and powerful than me.  It's not the world that is "out there" as seen on TV, that's man's world.  It is the world of nature seen up close.  And to enjoy it, I must go there and immerse myself in it.  It is then that I see myself as a part of it.  And it is good.   Very good.



"Thanx again for the pirogue.  I cannot adequately express my delight.  Simplicity is the essential yet often missing element of having fun.  And life without fun is what kills most folks early.  We mustn't take it all so seriously that we don't enjoy it.  It's over too quickly."


Mike's adventures will continue.
When we receive more, it will be posted.....Uncle John

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