The 20 knot home build canoe from our friends at Wooden Boat magazine…
I started out looking at high performance sailing and feeling horrible about exhorting my friends to blow the cost of a new Subaru on a new IC. It just wasn’t right. There had to be a better way to grow the sport. So I went after the cost and built a tortured plywood IC in a jig with a host of CNC cut bulkheads inside and thought about making the final product more affordable that way. I named her Dance Commander and got fifth overall at world’s in her. I was in position to snag the bronze by the last race when my halyard blew up. The boat went like a bat out of hell and held up to 20+ knots in San Francisco bay for two weeks of total war without complaint. As I was driving back across the country, though, I realized that what I had really proven was the ongoing relevance of wood. With cheap okume and white pine, I’d built myself a weapon that could lead a fleet almost entirely dominated by carbon boats. It’s important to note at this point that I’m no genius builder. My dad is a great designer and I did an acceptable job of assembling the boat. So with the right design anybody could do what I did. “Awesome!” I thought “Let’s make it happen”.
When I got back East, my dad went back to the drawing board and I got back to peering over his shoulder urging “Pointier! Scarier! Meaner! Sharper!” There were two criteria: fast to sail, easy of build. I was very wary in protecting ease of build. It’s common for a career boatbuilder to begin sentences with “It’s not that hard to….” and that’s a dangerous path to tread in kit building. What came out the other end is Machete, the most aggressive looking canoe I’ve ever sailed and by far the easiest build. I constructed the hull in a shed in Ithaca over the winter, using nothing but hand tools. It went together like cookies and milk. It’s a miracle of CNC cutting and good designers how these complex shapes break down into a set of tinker toys for grown-ups. I really have to thank my dad for designing such a beautiful and intricate craft. It was an indescribable pleasure bringing it from a box of cut-outs to a three dimensional real hull.
Part of the Machete kit concept is the notion that the truly rewarding part of building a boat is building the hull. The hull is the true “boat” part of the boat. It’s the part you name, paint, fare, talk to. The other stuff just gets in the way of getting on the water and sailing the wonderful boat you’ve just built. With that in mind, all the other parts can come prefab, enabling you to stick to the good part and not be driven up the wall making foils while your beautiful hull sits in your shop looking on expectantly. So, I came back to Rhode Island with my finished hull and took the foils, seat carriage and seat etc, for which we have good reliable tooling, out of stock and rigged her up. Great. Hull done. Time to sail.
Machete weighed in finished at 50kg all up, the minimum weight for the class. We’ve been doing sea trials in the last week and the thing goes like a missile. She will go up against a good group of other IC’s in Oriental, NC this coming weekend and I’m certain that she will do nicely. In many ways its feels like a vindication of a hunch my dad and I have had for years; that you can get to the front of a high performance development class with wood and clever geometry as opposed to the wholesale application of exotics. For me, the machete project has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and I am preparing kits with the hope that other people can have that experience too.”