My dad built a kayak

Leigh’s 92-year-old dad and a canoe built with love.

AT the beginning of last year, I purchased a holiday house in Augusta. 

A simple 1970’s brick and tile house in largely original condition.

Not long after taking possession of the house my Dad asked if I would like a small boat to use on the Blackwood estuary which the house overlooked. 

I had never been very interested in boats, so I was unsure about a sailboat, but his next suggestion of a kayak sounded more like something that I could see myself using on the calm waters of the Blackwood River.

Wood Duck

Some weeks later Dad said he had discovered the Chesapeake `Wood Duck 14’, a 4.2m, two-person timber kayak, produced in America by Chesapeake Light Craft, which could be ordered 

in kit form from their Australian partners, Denman Marine in Tasmania.

After a few phone calls and emails with Denman Marine, the kit was duly ordered and in early July last year the kayak flat pack kit arrived at Ormond Road in Attadale, after the long trip over from Tasmania, and Dad set to work.

Yes, he was going to make the kayak himself. 

Now this may not sound much of a challenge to some, but Dad turns 93 in a few week’s time!

After studying the instructions and setting up the work area in the garage with trestles and the necessary tools, the project began in earnest. 

The first step begins by joining the plywood hull panels with ‘puzzle-joints’ to reach the 4.2m overall length.  

Then the panels are brought together along their edges with stitches of copper wire, with four bulkheads helping to form the hull shape.  

The seams are reinforced with thickened epoxy, then fibreglass fabric. 

The deck is assembled separately from the hull, then stitched and epoxied in place.

All the copper wire stitches are removed prior to the final sheathing of fibreglass fabric.  

Finally, the cockpit is laminated in place and the front and rear hatches assembled. 

A comfortable seat and foot-braces, included in the kit, are mounted after the hull has received the last coat of several coats of varnish.

It was a demanding and complicated task that ended up taking Dad just over six months to complete. 

Tiring but interesting and rewarding work for anyone, let alone a nonagenarian.

The result is truly amazing, and it will be launched in Augusta in the coming weeks. 

It is sure to turn a few heads on its days out on the water for many years to come.

My parents, Ross and Wendy Robinson, have lived in Attadale since building their first home in Wichmann Road in 1955. 

This was before many of the roads had been bituminised in this new suburb and most of the land between our house and the river was virgin bush. 

The perfect environment for exploring as a young kid in those early years.

A move to Ormond Road and a larger family home followed in 1970, where they have remained to this day, still looking after themselves with only minimal outside assistance. 

They have led a happy and fulfilled life together for almost 68 years. 

Perhaps, a part of their secret to longevity has been to remain interested in all that life has to offer, and to be willing to learn and try new things, no matter your age.

Building a kayak in your 90s would seem an excellent example of that philosophy.

Dad has said that he’s learnt so much through the process of building this kayak, that he’s sure that his next one will be even better and a lot easier.

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