Building an Adirondack Guideboat- Another launching

You may remember that another reproduction of the Queen Anne guideboat was completed and launched this spring.  Dave Bloom followed the plans in my book and did a marvelous job in crafting his version.

When Dave said that he was coming to the Adirondacks in July, I suggested that we get together.  At the time I thought that the meeting might not happen.  The reason being that the Adirondack Park is so immense.  At six million acres it is greater in size than Yellowstone, the Everglades, Glacier and Grand Canyon Nation Parks combined.  So, depending on just where in the Park Dave was staying, it might take many hours of driving to meet with him.

It turns out that I should’t have worried.  He had rented a camp on Lake Eaton, a lake adjacent to Long Lake.  So he was about 3 miles away as the crow flies.  We got together and here are a couple of photos of his boat.

Dave's guideboat at Lake Eaton.
Dave’s guideboat at Lake Eaton.

The boat is extremely well crafted.  Dave chose to equip his boat with a floor cradle like that used mainly by hotel guides in the late 1800’s.  They would often take the lady hotel guests out for a row.  The women of that era would dress in their finest when venturing out on the water, even to wearing spiked heels.   These would wreak havoc on the thin planking of a guideboat without the protection of the cradle.

Dave felt that his boat was quite stable.  His four year old grandson was entirely comfortable riding about in the stern seat.  Here is Dave beside his boat on Lake Eaton.

Dave with his newly completed guideboat at Lake Eaton.
Dave with his newly completed guideboat at Lake Eaton.

Here are some details of how he went about building his boat.

“I used northern white spruce for the the laminated ribs and stems and quarter sawn white pine for the planking.  I used cherry for the decks and seat frames and mahogany for the gunwales.

I used West System epoxy instead of resorcinol mainly because I was concerned about keeping the temperature warm enough in my shop (for resorcinol to cure properly), and because I had a fair amount of experience using epoxy.

The few changes I made were primarily with the gunwales and stems.  I shaped the gunwales similar to the Grant design with the addition of of a bead on the lower edge.  I like the look of it and I thought I might be able to bend it dry since it tapers near the stems.  However, I ended up steam bending them anyway.

I extended the stems up and rounded them so that the brass stem cap could flare out and wrap over the top…also similar to the Grant stem caps.  I kept the Chase deck design, however.  I think it looks great and since the deck design is sort of a signature of the designer, I didn’t want to change it.”

Great job, Dave!  I hope we can get together again next summer.

Next time, Return of the Wild.

Building an Adirondack Guideboat-Backing out Revisited

As explained earlier, backing out was the old time guideboat builder’s term for hollowing out a plank so that it would fit over the turn of the bilge in the hull.  The turn of the bilge is the region where the hull makes a transition from being nearly horizontal to being nearly vertical.

Accommodating this rather abrupt change is daunting.  It is so daunting, at least for me, that I threw in the towel and went a different route.  Lewis Grant, who took over the guideboat shop his father founded in the 1880’s, put the difficulty of backing out thus, “To concave and convex the siding to 3/16 inch was a piece of work that one of the best house building carpenters in Boonville (where the Grant shop was located) could not learn to do right. He could work to a straight line but not to a true curve on this fine work.”

There are those who have a natural talent for doing such fine work.  Allison, the Adirondack Museum’s Boat Builder-in-Residence, can back out a plank using only her eyes to gauge how much to remove at any point along a plank.  Remember, when backing out a plank, the amount of material to be removed depends on the position at any point of the plank on the hull.  The greatest amount of removal is at the midships with the least amount (or none) as one approaches the stems.

This spring Dave Bloom finished a replica of the Queen Anne guideboat built by Caleb Chase in 1893 for the Pruyn family at Great Camp Santanoni.  He did so using my book “Tales of an Historic Adirondack Guideboat and How to Build one”.  It was gratifying to know that all my hard work climbing all over the original Queen Anne to get every possible measurement paid off.  I did get it right!

Now Dave was not to be dissuaded from backing out planks the old fashioned way.  In his email to me here is how he did it.  The first step was to make templates of the rib curvature at every 3rd rib station or so.  The second step was to mark the stations on the plank and shape the curvature from the template across the plank at each station using a sharp carving gouge.

Proper plank curvature at one station.  Template and gouge used to form the curvature are shown.
Proper plank curvature at one station. Template and gouge used to form the curvature are shown.

The next step was to connect the dots, so to speak, using an an inshave (a curved draw knife).

Using an inshave to back out a plank.
Using an inshave to back out a plank.

The inshave does the “heavy lifting” of backing out.  Dave finished the process using a plane with a curved sole, a shaped card scraper, and sandpaper wrapped around a heavy cardboard roll.

Plane with curved sole.
Plane with curved sole.
Scraper with shaped blade used in final smoothing of the backed out plank.
Scraper with shaped blade used in final smoothing of the backed out plank.

The other side of the hollowed out plank needs to have a convex curve applied to it that is parallel to the inside curve.  Dave marked the final thickness on the ends and edges of the plank and then removed the excess using a smooth or jack plane followed by sanding to the final shape.

Great work, Dave!

Next time we will see his finished guideboat during its visit to the Adirondacks.

Adirondack Guideboats- The last Howard Seaman Memorial Guideboat Race

Last time I wrote I promised to tell about the last Howard Seaman Memorial Guideboat race held in Long Lake and how I actually came in first despite overwhelming  odds against winning.  This race was held every year in Long Lake during July to commemorate the feats of Howard Seaman.  Howard was a Long Lake resident who championed guideboat racing and won many a grueling guideboat race including the 44 miler from Long Lake to Tupper Lake.

Long Lake had established a tradition of holding a boating “regatta”, a combination of races meant for fun as well as more serious canoe and guideboat races.  Some of the fun races were stand-up paddling and hand paddling in canoes as well as singles and doubles canoe races for adults and children.  There was even a tug-of-war between two canoes tethered together.

The regatta is always held at the Long Lake town beach.  The beach is a fine sandy beach that looks north down nine miles of lake to its outlet.

The Long Lake town beach.
The Long Lake town beach.

At one time many guideboats could be seen on Long Lake. But as time passed their popularity waned.  People still enjoy getting out on the lake but they now have other options for venturing out on the lake.  Kayaks are very popular and so are stand-up paddle boards.

The guideboat boat race that I entered was held about 10 years ago.  There were barely enough entrants to call it a race.  I was very hesitant to join in such a competition since in no way did I consider myself a racer.  I just like to plod along at a reasonable pace when out in my boat. However, since I had brought my guideboat to the beach that day it was hard to refuse the entreaties of the race officials to enter the race.

The race course headed straight down the lake to a buoy about one-half mile away.  The racers were to go around to buoy on the starboard side and head across the lake to another buoy.  Here again another turn to the starboard and back to the beach.  It was certainly not a long course, more of a sprint.

A question that immediately came to mind was how was I to stay on the starboard side of the buoys.  When rowing you see what has gone by and not where you are heading.  The best you can do is to snatch some glances out of the corner of your eye from time to time.  I soon found that these glances were not enough to pick up a buoy.

There were three entrants in the guideboat race, another fellow younger than I, and a woman, Mary Beth.  Now at the time I knew that Mary Beth had raced guideboats before so I knew that she would be hard to beat. Fortunately I didn’t know then that she was student of Howard Seaman’s.  When she was younger in the evenings she would row down to Howard’s home on the lake.  As she rowed back forth in front of him, Howard would coach her on her technique.  One day he said to her “You’re going to enter the 44 miler, aren’t you?”  Mary Beth knew this was a real test of endurance the included a one mile “carry” of her 60 pound guideboat around the Raquette River falls.  Knowing that she couldn’t refuse she replied “Well, I guess”.

Mary Beth
Mary Beth

So the three boats line up on the shore and await the starter’s blast on the horn.  I am now looking not for a victory but only not to embarrass myself.  The horn goes off and each of us gives  mighty heave on the oars. Almost simultaneously with the starter’s horn there is a load CRACK.  Out of the corner of my eye I see a large Northern Pike leap out of the water.  Could it be?  (Later, others said they saw it too).  One of my male co-racer’s oars has broken in two. So he is done for the day.  Mary Beth pulls out to an early led, as expected.   She maintains her lead but I don’t fall too far behind.

After the race I am awarded first place for the male racer and Mary Beth first place as the female racer in the Howard Seaman Memorial guideboat race.  Somewhere in the Long Lake archives there is a trophy bearing our names (I think there is).