plywood river boat

Gil Cramer

The wooden canoe Shop, Inc.
Having built numerous solo plywood boats, this is only the third 2 passenger river boat that I have built. It was built 6 years ago out of 1/4"exterior plywood. Since my previous river fishing partner had arthritis, and Ohio boat registrations are good for 3 years, this was intended to be a throw away after 3 years.

This boat is basically a 12' Jonboat stretched to 15'9". The front and back(landlubber terms) are narrower than the max 31" bottom at the center. The extra length was for social distancing before it become necessary. If you have fished the river with all its trees and snags you understand.

The boat was built light using whatever material was available. As you can see, it was not made for looks. It was much better on the water than the two previous boats I had built. It is stored under an overhang with one side to the weather. It has had several repairs, which is why it is in the shop now. It is trailered 75 miles each way to the river, and the bow eye was deforming the front. This is a beater and as you can see, absolutely no consideration has been given for cosmetics.


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Looks awesome. You need to post more shots of past plywood boats, im getting the itch to stitch and glue another sailing canoe together.... sometimes the lack of sophistication is strangely appealing.
Andre,I went out to take photos of my solo river boat, but a Carolina wren had built a nest in the end. I could see that the eggs had hatched so I didn't take the boat off the rack. I have no photos of any of the other boats I made.

The other two tandem boats that I built were a stitch and glue "fast punt" model from purchased plans , and a stretched Buffalo river John boat. The fast punt had more rocker than I liked, and the Jon boat was too wide to maneuver easily. Builder error was the main reason for the lack of maneuverability. When I stretched the plans, the temporary forms should have been moved closer to the center. The boat I have now is excellent on the river and weighs under 100 lbs. I use a 5' paddle and control. the anchor from my seat. I fish downstream and use a bicycle for transportation back to the vehicle.

I have built many solo river boats. Most were made with 1/8" Lauan or doorskin with epoxy and 1 oz. cloth on both side of the bottom. Almost all had cedar chines-not stitch and glue. All were lightweight, approx. 40 lbs, but really took a beating. I built many designs from a deep vee to a flat bottom with rocker, which is what I have now. All had 2 pointed ends with flared sides and were made from 2 sheets of plywood. The freeboard is about 9 inches and the max. beam at the gunnel is 32" I use a padded bass boat seat for comfort. This boat probably isn't suitable for a big person, but I'm 5'9" and 160 lbs.


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I have had the pleasure of visiting Gil and his Wooden Canoe Shop several times. This is a specially designed building for his canoe shop. It is always filled with beautiful canoes and small boats showcasing Gil's skill in restoration of classic craft. And then there is the dark side of Gil that he has outed in this post. Plywood boats? From the Wooden CANOE Shop? I stumbled on one of these boats 'out back' of his shop once and promised I would never tell anyone. I am glad you have come clean Gil. -Chuck
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Many of the rivers that I fish are "bushwhacked" rather than canoed,and I don't want to worry about damaging equipment. The canoe or riverboat must be lightweight, repairable, and cheap. Light weight is more important than durability. One river that I tried to "canoe" was so bad that I pulled out and dragged my plywood canoe almost 1/2 mile to the nearest road. That was when I was a LOT younger. A 40 lb canoe is about all I want to load on top of a vehicle after a 2hr drive, 9-10hrs on the river, and a 2-3 mile bike ride.
The Carolina wren has vacated the canoe so it's time for maintenance. Two layers of 6oz fiberglass with epoxy covers the very small triangular stern area where the canoe gets dragged, and two layers of 1 oz. cloth with epoxy goes on the inside where the interior ply shows a crack. Some grey Rustoleum was left over from painting my other boat so that is what goes over the repairs. This canoe is intentionally ugly. I used to make them prettier, but invariably, somebody would offer me money, and I would sell it. Then I would have to build a boat when I should have been fishing.


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A few more photos. The receptacle for the padded boat seat is a flat 2x4 with a hole in it on top of another 2x4. The hole in the stern goes through the stern post and has sanded epoxy on the exterior for the anchor rope. The anchor rope cleat is on the left side, and a rod holder is on the right side.


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