Wooden Boards – To Tow or Stow
My hunting for a Canadian-worthy touring paddleboard started with the popular models offered by the industry’s best known shapers: Joe Bark and Mike Eaton. Although I knew that I wanted to find reliable board that could handle open-ocean paddling, I also knew that I wanted a setup that would allow me to carry all my own gear for wilderness camping in the temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest.
I began sketching ideas for a method of towing gear behind my new board (having read of similar attempts by other paddlers). However, my tow systems began getting wildly complex as I struggled to find the right solution. Keep it simple, I thought. Why not just combine the efficiency and storage offered by a hollow-expedition sea kayak with the performance of a paddleboard?
Gray Whale Paddle to the rescue. I’d actually debated building my own wooden board early in the hunt but had hastily decided against the idea since I had zero experience at detailed carpentry. Not to mention that some paddlers, including Bark, had suggested that wooden boards were more works of art than performance watercrafts.
Lucky for me, Larry from Gray Whale was immediately game to hear of my lofty ideas. I was skeptical about the real benefits of how much gear I’d be able to put below deck but he quickly offered to help modify the design of his biggest board (16ft) so it could have a flat deck allowing me to put full size hatches fore and aft. It had never been tried before and many people said it couldn’t be done. Screw it, I thought. The boards looked like they had nice lines to handle good seas, Larry was keen and Eaton suggested the boards were all-around good performers. I placed my order and waited.
The instruction manual suggested it would take 40 to 60 hours. I came closer to 80 hours with the help of Dave, friends, beer and an email thread with Larry that was sixty messages deep. The more the board progressed the more I realized I’d made the right decision. The storage capacity looked ideal. I told my wife that in the worst case scenario, I could use it as a future coffin. Before I knew it, the boat was finished and I had just created the world’s first touring paddleboard with full storage capacity below deck.
My blind weiner dog took care of the final inspection before giving us the green light to cork some bubbly and watch her float for the first time. Blind Weiner was alive.