The following is a letter from Chuck Phelps of Rochester, NY, who has now built his second and third cedar strip canoes, with the latest being a stretched Mattawa built from Green Valley plans. Here's what he had to say about his latest project...
Dear Canadian Canoe Friends (Martin Step, John Winter, Peter Schultz):
We're back in business, having finished canoes Number 2 (a stretched Mattawa) and 3 (a Chestnut Prospector, shown at left). We're actually getting to be old hands at this! We wanted to write and let you know (once again) that we were just delighted with the excellent service and products you provided to us. (The Prospector, made for another couple, used the Bear Mountain plans.) We got the wood for both boats from Peter Schultz at Classic Boat Kits. In the Mattawa, it's red cedar with very white Sitka Fir as the contrast wood. In the Prospector, it's red and white cedar. In both boats, the gunwales, decks, etc. are cherry. This makes for very light boats -- both weigh in at 55 - 56 pounds (the Mattawa having been stretched to 16'6" and the Prospector at 16'4"). Both have sliding front seats, the frames coming from Swift Canoe (cherry laminates); we replaced the canvas webbing on the seats with plastic caning. Both boats were finished with System 3 Clearcoat to wet out and then System 3 standard resin for the final coats. This time we bought the forms from Peter for both boats, and they are just impeccable! Both boats (as was #1, Rosie the Kipawa) were made with the no-staple system described by Martin on his web pages. And finally, a personal thanks to John for his prompt and helpful response to our inquires about stretching the Mattawa -- not only telling us how to do it, but running the design through his software to make sure that the resulting boat would perform well.
We particularly want to comment on the wood Peter provided for us for the Mattawa; all but the center "eye" came from a single remarkable plank of red cedar, 20 feet long, a nice cinnamon-brown in color (hence her name, "Cinnamon"). It's the most beautiful wood we've ever seen in any cedarstrip canoe, with remarkable clarity and uniformity of color and grain. You'll notice the "zigzag" contrast strip in Cinnamon, just as we did in Rosie (but reversed in light/dark).
John and Martin, the Mattawa is a wonderful boat, but you really ought to think about providing plans for the stretched version we did (with your help in spacing the forms - many thanks!). With a little fiddling of the forms with John's advice in hand (13" on center and then playing with the stem forms a bit), we got it fine, but it's such a wonderful boat that you should think about it as a regular product (and possibly even for Swift Canoe, John). Compared with our Kipawa ("Rosie"), the stretched Mattawa is perhaps slightly slower (but not much, if any!), but doesn't have the slight twitchiness of the Kipawa. Obvioiusly it has more weight-bearing capacity than the regular-length Mattawa, which we need since we're "large to extra-large, not "regular" shirt sizes. We both feel at home fly fishing off the stretched Mattawa with no concerns about paying attention to balance or anything, where we felt like we had to pay a bit of attention in the Kipawa. We tell people that the Kipawa is a thoroughbred, and the Mattawa (in our stretched version) is more like an Arabian - almost as fast, doesn't demand quite the attention, and more sure-footed. We love both, but our style probably will have us relying on Cinnamon for most of our personal canoeing. (Know anybody who might be interested in a Kipawa made of red cedar and Padouk?) Like the Kipawa, the Mattawa is incredibly quiet in the water, moving like a ghost even at pretty high speed.
What's next? We're thinking of a kayak as a next project. Stay tuned!
Note: in a follow up e-mail, Chuck hastens to say "You really should give credit to Dale (his wife) too in the building; it's a joint project. Dale does as much of the stripping and epoxying as I do; I just do most of the grunt work (sanding). " Gee, I'll bet that there are a lot us us that wish we were that lucky, Chuck!
Chuck and Dale Phelps
Pittsford, NY 14534
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Charles E. Phelps, Provost
University of Rochester
Chuck and Dale Phelps