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Picture of Building a Wrong Cedar Dugout Outrigger Concept Canoe

A few years ago I started building a dugout canoe. I had fallen in love with sea kayaking the years before, had already made a seaworthy powertape/pvc kayak, acquired a panoply of multiskills during the years, built up some sound woodworking experience and watched every possible vid about the subject on youtube, twice. So I found myself smokin' hot ready for the real work.

From the start I set myself one rule: 'no rules'.

I chose very soberly not to be sober - the 'no plan' approach, the carpe diem mindset, the enjoy the road mentality - probably the only things I did right first time during the whole process. Plans are restricting, lines are limiting. I had enough experience to know that things never go as they're supposed to - woodworking - and instead of facing a process of backsteps I chose for an organo-creative approach.

I set all sorts of expectations aside. Artists hate borders. If you're following a blueprint you're burning the personal surprise and I just wanted that, that surprise. Creating in a cage ain't creating. Building something you don't have any clue what it'll look like at the end is embracing the joy of a growing project. Using the winds of change instead of fighting them. I knew I started a learning journey anyway, so my best shot was to offer myself maximum chances to fail, and thus to learn.

Guess what. I learned a lot, those four years. In this instructable I'll take you on a journey through the whole process and share with you a few things I've learned and dislearned on the way. It's far from complete, but it's interesting in the way that this boat has become quite a unique vessel.

I named it Souquillou - say 'sooky you', the name south french wine makers give to the small curly vine branches they cut away during the winter. It was in those vineyards the idea appeared. It was there, on those smooth slopes where the continent slides into the medideterranean sea, that the idea riped of building my own boat.

Every adventure starts by staring at the horizon & dreaming what's beyond.

Enjoy the ride.

Step 1: The Botanical Knowledge Gap Illumination

Picture of The Botanical Knowledge Gap Illumination

Initially I wanted to make this dugout out of 'cedar'. I'd been particularly inspired by the Haida people on the Pacific west coast and starting with the 'right' wood sounded like a decent idea.

But, we're living in France. Yep. A friend of mine is in the tree business and I asked him to find me a cedar. At least 5 inch wide, please. Big plans I had in mind. I was thinking about arboretums, private collections, whatever.

A few weeks later Tom called me 'Bartman, I've got your cedar! Ask no questions!'

I didn't. Asking those questions. We drove together to the place, a saturday morning before sunrise, and I admired my canoe with a bit of wood still around.

It's only a few weeks later that I discovered that this wasn't 'the right cedar', in fact. At all. Haida canoes are made from Pacific 'Red' cedar, a cypress species. This was a Lebanon cedar. A pine species. Both are cedars, true, but somewhere someone must have ran out of words to use.

Whatever. I read that more than 2000 years ago these Lebanons were considered premium boat timber and that therefor they were almost wiped out in the Mediterranean bassin.

Those trees have become popular in parks & gardens in western europe by the end of the 19th century because of their structural variety and overall beauty. Not two trees are the same.

So, Lebanon cedar it was.

Kink Jarfold3 months ago
I dove into this Instructable like diving into an epic novel. So well done!
bartworker (author)  Kink Jarfold3 months ago
Thanx a lot. Since this was an off-road project I thought it deserved an off-road write-up. Once in a lifetime. Until the next one ;)
Darr2474 months ago
Since you're throwing in some Cohen, don't forget the 2nd verse of Everybody Knows...

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied

Otherwise, I do wanna see two people carry it to the water, board, and push off.

bartworker (author)  Darr2474 months ago
I'm not aware I cited Cohen, but I liked Ben Howard a lot.

You were the boat that bridged
In the tale of Conrad
We will never be the change
To the weather and the sea and you knew that

A verse I decided to live by during this project. It's only a start. Designing ain't over.
Cohen wrote/recorded First We Take Manhattan before Mr Howard was born. :)
bartworker (author)  Darr2474 months ago
Of course, of course I did!! But to my poor defence, when I think about Manhattan the sound that comes in my head is the voice of Jennifer Warnes. So credits to the master, here's to Cohen! ;)
hawaiiwriter4 months ago
Been there, done that, twice. Took me a year of cutting and chipping and adzing and sanding and gluing to get a paddleable canoe. First one was a lot like this one, and it sank. You may need to make it lots thinner (lighter) and may need to raise the sides (mo`o, in Hawaiian) for more freeboard. As long as the water is flat, it should go. If you have waves, youʻre going to wish you had some rocker in it. Looking forward to hearing about the wetting of the hull.
bartworker (author)  hawaiiwriter4 months ago
It sank?! Which wood did you use? I'm honestly not too much worried about sinking. It'll be gradually craned - somehow - in the water and if the waterline becomes too critical the experiment will be abandoned. Given this wood structure thinning the sides isn't an option - they're already about 4 or 5 cm - so removing material might weaken the whole structure, just to gain one or two kilogram. Making it higher isn't an option in this design, either. My safety plan is to get it higher in the water - if needed - by adding an ultralight - poplar or cedar - keel to it. We may easily gain a few centimeter more with this.
I'm not gonna losing this one, and giving up on ideas isn't my style ;)
You probably know all this, and I apologize for going on.
Any canoe without sufficient buoyancy will swamp. The buoyancy comes from the volume displaced, not the buoyancy of the wood. The weight of the canoe construction plus the weight of the crew can overcome a particular designʻs buoyancy. In my view, adding a little to the freeboard will do far, far more for you than adding a wooden keel.
Hawaiian outrigger racing canoes when made of wood are generally 1.5-2cm rather than 4-5 cm thick. A 40-foot canoe weighs in the neighborhood of 400 pounds, but it can easily carry a 1,200-pound crew in rough water. I have a heavy 20-footer that comes in at 300, and can take it surfing with four people aboard. In the South Pacific, lagoon (flat water) canoes are built very light and with far less freeboard, which is appropriate for the conditions in which they are used.
Itʻs not a battleship. It needs to be as light as you can make it. The number of people the canoe is designed to carry should be able to carry the canoe as well.
I wish you well, congratulations on your project and I look forward to hearing how it goes.
swaweet4 months ago
Your talent with words matches your talent with wood, and that's a compliment. I enjoyed the reading as much as the spectating. Kudos!
bartworker (author)  swaweet4 months ago
One of the most rewarding compliments someone could get, thank you. The writing episode is always part of the project motivation - carrots & donkeys, you know - and it's the only part in fact I enjoyed entirely ;)
Jobar0074 months ago
I've been waiting for this 'ible since you first mentioned it, my friend. I'm very glad to see that your enthusiasm hasn't waned. Something I really liked was the progression of your hair in the pictures. It really helped to convey a passing of time.
bartworker (author)  Jobar0074 months ago
Heartwarming you're still there man, and glad to see you didn't loose your sharp observations - laughing very loud btw!!
GregS2784 months ago
Man that's a great story / canoe and I hope it's a dream in the water! I hope you post a video of Sooky floating and sailing across the open water! I wish I had a place to try and build me one! So I'm waiting for the videos to come...
bartworker (author)  GregS2784 months ago
Thanx a lot, glad you enjoyed all of it!! It's not really a question of 'if it's gonna sail or not' but 'what it's gonna take to make it happen'. So I'm as curious as you ;D
deluges4 months ago
Hey friend. Glad to seee you haven't entirely given up on us in these parts of the internet!
I've been sneakily updating myself on this project, now and then looking at your facebook page and had a general idea of progress but I still can't wait to read this when I get home.
Stay safe on the water, and keep us updated!
bartworker (author)  deluges4 months ago
How could I ever!! ;) Thanx for your support man, I knew I had a solid one-person fanbase!! First test will be in shallow safe waters that only a few pirates will know. Really don't want to embarasse myself ;)
stageroid4 months ago
this is amazing, the makers marks is what make it perfect
bartworker (author)  stageroid4 months ago
Thank you. Inner peace at the end is all that counts, I learned to love that somehow brutal looks ;)
mmmelroy4 months ago
kudo's for sticking to a project unfinished and imperfect for so long.
bartworker (author)  mmmelroy4 months ago
Thanx, right you are!! It's been a long shot but I intentionally gave it the time it needed, glad it payed off at the end ;)
seamster4 months ago
Beautiful, inspired work Bart. I had been wondering what the status of this project was! I took a chunk of time yesterday and really enjoyed reading through this epic build. Can't wait to see how the maiden voyage goes!!

Also, I love this photo from step 42. The lighting, the colors, textures . . you can basically smell the wood through the photo. Ooooh, nice!
bartworker (author)  seamster4 months ago
Thanx a lot sam, glad you're still there!! Thanx for not having forgotten this project, it's been a very long shot but one worth every cup of gunpowder. There've been a lot of setbacks, but every time I entered the shop and enjoyed that first sunlight setting sooky on fire I knew it could only end well. Wood is always rewarding.
imamaddog53.4 months ago
This is the most entertaining and well written instructable I have read. I've been a member since 2009 and this is my first comment.
bartworker (author)  imamaddog53.4 months ago
Thanx a lot man, I feel honoured and I'm inspired when I see the positive feedback on this project. It's been a zigzagging on decision road but I'm glad it turned out the way it is. It's just the beginning ;)
durrdust4 months ago
This is the most beautiful and inspiring instructable I've ever read. Merci Bricobart pour avoir partager cet histoire. Looking forward to hearing about her maiden voyage :)
bartworker (author)  durrdust4 months ago
Thanx for this great compliment, it's been a pleasure to share it with all of you - and a therapy to set the multiple mistakes in a better perspective, also ;) Au plaisir, I'll keep you updated about next episodes!
caitlinsdad4 months ago
It's good to see you are still at it all these years. I think the crotch trunk should have been carved into a Mickey Mouse figurehead making it some kind of Disney Kon-tiki cruiseship. It's hard to find ibles novellas as well crafted as yours. Enjoyable read with a cup of tea.
bartworker (author)  caitlinsdad4 months ago
It's good to see the north didn't forget. It took a while, but this first part of the journey was a journey on itself. Thanx for the heartwarming compliments, so glad you enjoyed it!!