After a memorable guiding season, in early November I decided to spend the winter building one more drift boat. My first two drift boats were low profile skiffs (Drift Boat Gallery). I held on to the second skiff for my business and sold the first boat. The skiff style boats, with their low sides, make for easy rowing in the relatively slow moving sections of the rivers I float. However, while the skiffs will handle water up to easy class II, the traditional McKenzie style drift boat is the guide’s choice for big water. The elevated bow, increased rocker and high sides compared to the skiff, make the McKenzie style drift boats perfect for the whitewater found in the upper sections of the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers. For now, let’s not talk about the absence of smallmouths in those waters.
I returned to Montana Boatbuilders, Inc. (Montana Boatbuilders) to purchase plans for the Freestone Classic Guide. Jason Cajune’s plans walk the amateur boat builder through each and every step of the build. The building technique for Jason’s boats is called stitch and glue. As boat building techniques are concerned, the stitch and glue technique is considered a relatively easy building technique! You begin with 4 x 8 foot sheets of marine grade plywood. The Freestone Classic calls for two sheets of 1/2″ for the bottom panel and transom and two sheets of 3/8″ for the side panels. To construct anything longer than eight feet, one must join the two sheets of plywood together with overlapping joints called scarf joints. Before the end of November I had successfully glued up the panels for the sides and bottom. Next, I transferred the dimensions from the plans to each 4 x 16 sheet of plywood. Boat builders call this process lofting so I am told.
Last week with the help of a couple of friends, during the course of two stressful hours we wrestled with the panels and eventually stitched, screwed and swore the panels into the shape of a drift boat! Until the joints are secured with thickened epoxy, the entire boat is held together with bailing wire and wood screws. Today I began the process of creating the glued joint between the side panels and the bottom. In the coming weeks and months I’ll provide periodic written and photographic updates to chronicle the boat building process.