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 Two Book Reviews

By Gary Blankenship - Tallahassee, Florida - USA

So what is it with musicians and sailing?

Accomplished performer and instrument builder David Beede is well known for his design of the simple and capable Summer Wind, a 12-foot skiff-sailboat. (One of David's mountain dulcimers has a boat hull shape.)

Gavin Atkin in England is an avid fan and performer of traditional music, aside from being well-known in the boating world for his Mouse boats and advocacy of super-simple boat building.

Herb Payson was a professional musician before, in the '70s, becoming a full-time cruiser and turning out two of the finest books about cruising, Blown Away and You Can't Blow Home Again.

And the redoubtable Rob Rhode-Szudy is a reputed amateur musician as well as accomplished boat tinkerer.

Now we have Sam Rizzetta. Rizzetta is known as one of the finest hammer dulcimer players in the country, as well as a first-rate designer and builder of those instruments.

When Chuck Leinweber of Duckworks sent me the book, Canoe and Kayak Building the Light and Easy Way, I did a double take when I saw it was written by Sam Rizzetta. A quick check of the book revealed it was the same musical Sam. In fact, he's sprinkles some of his original and boat-related tunes throughout the book.

But while the others mentioned above have tended to focus on the do-it-yourself and inexpensive modes of boating, the subtitle of Rizzetta's tome reveals a different focus: How to Build Tough, Super-Safe Boats in Kevlar, Carbon, or Fiberglass.

A while ago, I was doing some mental gymnastics on the coast of building a small sail/rowing boat to fit on top of our popup camper. Quarter-inch ply and epoxy/fiberglass was the obvious, well proven and reasonably light weight construction. But a nagging question persisted, could it be lighter with a foam/carbon fiber/epoxy composite construction. My rough mental numbers came out that it would cost in the range of $40 to $50 for every pound saved - not worth it in my opinion.

Rizzetta's craft are not strictly comparable as they could not be easily duplicated out of plywood. But he does make the case that while more expensive, the extra cost would not be what I had calculated. For example, it's possible to build a Jim Michalak Toto or Trilars kayak for $200 to $300 using local lumberyard materials but also fiberglass and epoxy. Rizzetta estimates his high-tech craft are going to consume $600 to $700 of materials.

And while a 13-foot Toto will weigh in a 45 to 50 pounds, the 11' 7.5"

Dragonfly in Rizzetta's book will come at between 12 and 22 pounds. The nearly 15-foot Wasp (which is wasp shaped) will be 28 to 36 pounds.

Light stuff indeed. The nice thing about the book is while the materials may be high tech, the construction isn't. Basically a form is built, similar to the framing for a skin on frame kayak or one of Platt Montford's lightweight fabric-covered craft. Then it's covered with Peel-Ply, which doesn't stick to epoxy. That's followed by a layup of your choice of materials: Kevlar, carbon fiber, and fiberglass. Rizzetta notes it is possible to build without any Kevlar or carbon, but more fiberglass and epoxy will be needed, which does reduce the savings by not using the high-tech fabrics.

Once the hull is laid up, the framing and Peel-Ply are removed, bulkheads added as needed, the deck and other reinforcings added and any coamings constructed. That in a nutshell is the process.

The book also gives instructions for using an existing canoe as a form to lay up a lightweight hull, although Rizzetta notes, "I do not advocate copying a canoe without permission if the design is someone else's intellectual property. When in doubt, ask the designer or manufacturer for permission." But the technique, the author adds, will work on an old craft that otherwise is not longer available or a builder can use an existing craft, add modifications to his own specifications and needs and make it his own design.

That's a quick summary. The book is very detailed about the process, from setting up the molds and stringers to glassing in frames to making small parts needed to finish the kayak or canoe. Chapters cover setting up forms, handling Kevlar, carbon fiber, and fiberglass, finishing hulls, and even making a model. Two chapters on outfitting a kayak or canoe, covering such things as seats (including a seat that also converts into a portage yoke) and footrests, and floatation and safety apply to any paddling craft, not just those in the book. There are lots of nice tips here, including how to make tie downs and other necessary bits and pieces.

There is information to build three different boats, two kayaks and a canoe (that sorta looks like a kayak) in the boat. But the information can be used to build any boat if you have the offsets.

The writing is straightforward and clear, and there are plenty of pictures (black and white) and drawings to illustrate what's being described. This book should get anyone who has thought about ultra light building for paddling craft through his or her first project. It would also be valuable for those who have thought about using carbon fiber or Kevlar for other boating projects.

And who knows, with the scores included in the book, you just might catch that music bug that seems to infect so many other interesting boating people.

This kayak/canoe stand was built according to the instructions in Canoe and Kayak Building the Light and Easy Way, by Sam Rizetta. It's much better than a sawhorse for supporting a canoe or kayak that doesn't have a flat deck or bottom.

Any book by Dynamite Payson is cause for celebration. His latest volume, Instant Boatbuilding with Dynamite Payson, happily is no exception.

Payson is well known for his long collaboration with Phil Bolger that produced an extensive line of instant boats, both those with hard chines build traditionally with nails and glue and the newer multi-chine tack-and-tape boats. Dozens of the plans are still available from Payson at his website,

For those familiar with Payson's other books, this one will have a familiar form. There are introductory chapters with general information about boats, materials, tools and how to read plans. For newcomers, you won't find a better, more concise explanation about plywood, glues, paints, varnishes, tools and the like than those Payson provides. Even if you've read earlier Payson books with chapters on those topics, he always provides something new. This latest book has good tips on buying used tools and a rant against on plastic, instead of rubber, power cords on hand tools. Plastic cords become "congealed tentacles" in cold weather, Payson observes.

There's a detailed chapter on making a model, which can be done for the fun of it, to have a display worthy replica of a boat, to see what a new design looks like, or to practice for the full-size project. As Payson writes, "The techniques for this type of model making are virtually the same as for full-sized boatbuilding, and the satisfactions are every bit as high. If you make a mistake . . . so what? Better to make your mistakes on the model while you improve your skills for the real thing."

But of course the real reasons for this book are the boats and now we get to those. The next three chapters are devoted to detailed instructions for building three specific designs. In this case, is the 13 - foot Pirogue, the 11-foot, 6-inch Cartopper, and the 15-foot Sweat Pea. Pirogue is a paddling craft, the other two are sailing and rowing models, with Sweat Pea having a unique removable keel.

The next dozen chapters are devoted to shorter directions for 12 more boats, including the multi-chine Reuben's Nymph ( 7-feet, 9-inches row and sail)), the lovely Auray Punt (9-feet, 9-inches row), Diablo Grande (18-foot power) Clamskiff (18-foot and 15-foot, 6-inch versions for power), the stylish Sneakeasy (26-feet, 6-inch power) and two small sailboats, with cabins or cuddies, the 15-foot, 1-inch Catfish and the popular 19- foot, 8-inch Chebacco.

There's plenty of explanation on the special considerations for each boat, along with a materials list. There are scaled down plans, but at least for the larger boats I'd order the full size plans for Payson - it's a small additional expense that will give a great comfort if questions arise during construction. All of the designs are by Bolger, except for a 12 foot power skiff boat that's based on boats common in Payson's Maine home.

The final two chapters cover building oars and moorings, and there are appendixes with sources for plans and materials, along with a glossary of boating terms.'

Payson's writing is, as always, straightforward and direct. His great strength is being able to explain the obscure so it's simple and plain (his Go Build Your Own Boat probably has the easiest to understand explanation of plank-on-frame boatbuilding you'll find anywhere). And touches of his Maine humor bubble up here and there to provide additional pleasure. Whether you planning to build or just looking to spend some pleasant hours ruminating and dreaming about boats, Instant Boatbuilding with Dynamite Payson will enjoyably meet your needs.


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