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The Redbird That Changed My Life by Randy Pfeifer, Warrenville, IL, USA

  • Why did you decide to build a canoe (or boat)?
I had no intentions or interest in building a canoe initially.  I was deeply immersed in a stressful career and way too busy for something like building a canoe.  I am generally fairly “handy” but  I didn't have an extensive wood shop or a lot of expensive tools.  Just the basics. My son Patrick, and I participated in a wilderness canoe trip to the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario.  We were both deeply impacted by the experience and the solitude offered by such an environment.   Upon return from the trip, I returned to my career but Patrick was hooked on canoeing.  As an avid reader, he stumbled on a book entitled “Canoecraft” by Ted Moores.  This was a turning point in my life (I just didn't know it yet).  Here was a great opportunity to merge his knack for building things with his love of the canoe.  He bugged me for over a year before I became convinced that he wasn't going to give up and we began reading Canoecraft to consider a  project together.  The Redbird on the cover captivated us and it was an easy decision to focus on that wonderful craft.  
    • How challenging was the building process?
Cleaning the garage in which we built the canoe was one of the biggest project barriers.  Following the steps in Canoecraft truly opened the door to the possibility of building something so beautiful and functional as a woodstrip canoe.  Each major new step brought new questions and apprehensions.  But careful attention to detail and commitment to quality at every step led us down the path toward success.  As experienced by most first-time builders, the fiber glassing step was the most worrisome.  Having invested significant amounts of time creating the hull, it was scary to pour epoxy over it (while the clock was ticking).  But, as with all the prior steps well outlined in the book, we emerged from the day a big step closer to launching a beautiful canoe.  Caning the seats was done entirely by Patrick.  Generally, we only worked on the canoe when we were both together.  It truly was a father/son project.  
    • Where have you used your canoe (or boat)? Any tales of adventure?
The Redbird has been paddled many times on local lakes and has been the subject of many flattering comments.  It has also been shown in an art fair with similar results.  When not in the water it hangs from the ceiling of our lake home.  
    • What was special to you about building your Bear Mountain Boat? What does it mean to you?
Below is a note I wrote on the Bear Mountain Boat Builder’s Forum shortly after the Redbird was completed. It captures how special the experience was for me.
I’d like to thank all of you who have been so very helpful over the past 13 months (yeah, it took 13 months even though it was a near obsession throughout – mentally at least).   This project has provided a much needed and welcome distraction from a very stressful job. When things were difficult at work, there was always the refuge of the garage and the Bear Mountain Boat website.   But most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to spend quality time with Patrick knowing that it won’t be all that long before he’ll be on his way to college and on to his own life (he can’t want to spend time with the old man too much longer). Maybe that’s why it took so long to finish (why rush something like this?). Sweeping the garage the other night brought tears to my eyes as I realized that the building experience was nearly over (maybe it was just the dust).   It’s that experience of which I am the most proud and grateful. The canoe itself is a bonus. Building it was Patrick’s inspiration and influence. He saw a possibility that I wouldn't have imagined. He provided the “nagging” to get the project started and never lost interest throughout. Our 2003 trip to the Quetico Provincial Park had a deep influence on both of us but he found a meaningful outlet for that influence.  Building this canoe has drawn us closer and at the same time helped keep alive our memories of that trip while we plan and look forward to another trip next summer.  For that experience, I must thank Patrick first. I’m also very grateful for all of the great advice and friendship we've benefited from on this website. You folks are simply fantastic.  Any corporation in the world would give a lot to have a customer support person like Glen Smith on their staff. With thousands of posts (>14% of all posts on the forum), Glen has dispensed advice to virtually everyone who has a question.  Without Glen’s guidance and help over the many months, I’m confident our project would have not been so satisfying.  Canoecraft has the answers but Glen did (and continues to do) a great job of helping us interpret the written word with specific advice, pictures and encouragement throughout the process. I've never personally met any of the fine people who have given us advice on the BMB website but I feel as though Mike Thompson is a close friend. I deeply appreciate his open, genuine encouragement and support, be it posted on the website, a private message or an email.  He has taken the time to share his expertise and experiences while building a beautiful, jaw dropping Redbird of his own ahead of us.This was also a great opportunity to buy some tools for which I had not previously developed a good enough excuse.  I often said that this project is a great example of applying technology to compensate for my lack of skill. Long live technology!

This project was the beginning of a new long term hobby for me.

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