Posted on January 14 2016
Last month, Lynnae Loeks sent us an account of how she and her husband Doug built not one but three canoe simultaneously. The feat was all the more impressive because Doug was dealing with health issues at the time. Since it's such a compelling story on multiple fronts, we thought it would be a good one to reproduce here.
"These are a few of the photos from the epoxy process to the end. When we finished, Doug and I looked at each other and felt sad to not have the canoes to work on. So we need a new project. He's looking forward to milling the wood and planking another canoe (or 3). I am pretty sure we are going to try stretching a Ranger to 16 foot. He's looking forward to the challenge.
As the pictures show we started epoxying all three at the same time in our garage. I can't say enough how satisfying and exciting it was to finish the epoxy! We had been so hesitant to start that part until we called Bear Mountain Boats and talked to you last June. You were so calm about knowing amounts for all three canoes and reassured us that all would go well. It did. We felt very successful!
Then we turned them over to sand out the inside. Whew! I learned a lot about sanding and scraping doing that! Because Doug's health is so poor, I took over most of this task while he started machining, gluing and steaming gunwales.
Doug has an unusual condition called Pure Autonomic Neuropathy. Doctors don't know what caused it, it may have been a virus. More likely, it was caused by chemicals from work. The most difficult side effect of this, is the swift and severe drop in his blood pressure every time he stands or does work with his arms, walks, does stairs, or is in heat. The continual low pressure has caused his kidneys to fail. Doctors have inserted nephrostomies through his back to his kidneys to keep them working. He has these replaced at a hospital with a procedure using Interventional Radiology. He'll need this surgical procedure done every eight to twelve weeks for the rest of his life. Unfortunately a side effect of the nephrostomy tubes are many hospital borne infections. He had a nasty bout with sepsis this spring and had an antibiotic pic-line for IV antibiotics until July, further limiting his abilities. Happily he improved steadily this summer and hasn't had any bouts with infection since July.
Our daughter got married in September this year. We wanted her canoe finished for her wedding gift so we had to stop working on the other two and focus on hers when we got to the gunwales and decks. We wanted black walnut for the decks and decorative buttons. My 89-year-old uncle who has a sawmill heard about that and was happy to donate black walnut that he cut last year. He gave us enough for all three canoes making them even more special to our kids.
Finally the day to varnish came. We were so excited! And that's where we recieved another education. We had read about how best to do this but apparently we underestimated the effect dust would have. Putting the varnish on was glorious! We went to bed so happy! But when we woke up and went to look at the canoe we were disappointed to find dust had pitted the whole surface. We ended up sanding it off and starting again. We re-read your book, we watched Nick Offerman's DVD so many times he feels like our own son. (He seems like he would be a handy son!) The next time we varnished, we had much better luck. We held our breath every coat. The seats were purchased from Bear Mountain and were just exactly what we hoped for. We made our own center thwart and carrying thwarts with ash. Finishing the canoe happened just one week before the wedding. Erica and Derek were thrilled with their gift and took it on their honeymoon to Lake Pepin.
These canoes are really so much more than a beautiful craft. Doug was a carpenter for more than 35 years. He loved working. When his health deteriorated to the point he had to quit he needed something to do every day. He had seen a cedar canoe years ago and had always said he would like to make one himself. So for Christmas I gave him your CanoeCraft book and I became the wife that let her husband build three canoes in the family room. I loved watching him build those boats. They made him feel good again. He could still work with wood. What he made was beautiful.
None of us knows when our time is done. But we do know Doug's time is precious. Which makes these canoes for our children priceless. Something built with their father's hands, knowing their father was putting every ounce of strength into them. We maybe should have chosen a more stable canoe. Our kids will never say that. They love them and are excitedly planning some longer trips with them. Doug even went paddling with our granddaughter one beautiful October day. That wooden canoe filled our hearts that day!
I always think boats should be named so that October day, when we were taking the canoe for our granddaughter's family to the lake to try it out, Lexy and I were trying out different names. We stopped at a fast food joint on the way and Lexy and I went in while Doug stayed in the pickup with the canoe on top. Some guys walked past, didn't see Doug, and announced admiringly, "Whoa! That's a bitchin' canoe!" Doug told us when we got back. Lexy and I looked at each other and knew the canoe's new name. 'The Bitch'! It stuck! One of the pictures I'm sending is Doug and our granddaughter, Lexy, on Long Lake, north of Fergus Falls, paddling 'The Bitch'.
Thank you again for your help. Without it we may not have finished.
Lynnae and Doug Loeks