Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Here on the Oregon coast the huckleberry grows abundantly. The native precursor to the blueberry, it's a bitter sweet fruit, which once saved Doryman's life when lost and deprived of food in the Olympic Mountain Range of northwestern Washington State (but that's a story for another day...). The bateau Huckleberry is a tribute to this forgotten food, once very popular with the indigenous people of this coast.

Based on the early bateau of the southeastern U.S., but also reminiscent of native canoes, what more fitting name than a tasty berry that might garnish a meal of salmon and oysters fresh from the Yaquina River? There are huckleberry bushes leafing with spring foliage outside my window right now.

The bateau Huckleberry was launched for the first time last Friday. Indeed an auspicious day... She Floated!

You laugh. But for a designer and boat builder that's the proof. Did I design the water-line correctly? Yes. It's always a relief, to find it so.

floats high. Maybe she's lighter than I thought, but she draws two inches empty, maybe less.

She's tender!

Stay trimmed...

On the first trial she floated easily with little effort. Later, she proved her lineage by accelerating like a water bug, efficient use of the quarter horsepower capability of the human body.

While launching Huckleberry I made the acquaintance of a travel journalist named Foster Church who took pictures the following day of Doryman cutting capers with his new canoe. Who knows? We may, one day, be famous!

As is always the case, the design indicates it's shortcomings within moments. Next time this bateau will have a inch or so more bottom rocker. The nearly flat bottom (two inches of camber) makes tracking easy, but turning is sluggish. Since Huckleberry was built primarily for running with the current down tidal rivers, this aspect will be of little consequence. But improving on a design is an excuse to build another boat!

It's simple and easy to build a boat of this type. I would recommend the
Peace Canoe, by John Harris of Chesapeake Light Craft. If you've never built a boat before, this is a good place to start.

In a few uncomplicated weeks, you can have a craft that will give you many hours of simple, healthy enjoyment.

More proof that functional beauty is not complicated or expensive.

(Also pictured: the incomparable skiff Paku.)

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