Steve and his kayak
So what exactly is Steve DeLacy doing in his semi-retirement? Why, building a kayak, of course! And not just building a kayak, but everything from harvesting the wood to (he estimates) about 700 hours of love-labor! What a beauty she is, too!
According to Steve, about five or six years ago, his buddy Bill Kettlewell saw plans for a cedar strip canoe that Steve had been thinking about for a while. Bill offered Steve some cedar trees from his property in Traverse City, from a cedar swamp. That was the impetus Steve needed and away he went to Traverse City to cut down fifteen cedar trees, which he brought back home and had milled into boards. Steve said he'd originally planned to make a canoe, but about four years ago decided he would rather build a kayak. Something he could manage on his own. He found a plan from a guy on the east coast, made contact with him, and ordered the plan. Two years ago, after he'd cleared out the "man-cave" of other projects he'd had on the go, he started on the kayak. This was about mid-August of 2016, he says. Once the wood was planed down into slats just over a quarter of an inch thick, he sanded them down until they were just under a quarter of an inch thick. How do the slats join together? Steve had a couple of options, and he decided on sanding down the ends so when they overlap together, the thickness stays consistent. The paddle is also hand-crafted. It's about seven hours worth of labor and is made of the same materials as the kayak.
Even though Steve cut all the wood himself (and this includes red and white cedar, black walnut, cherry, and ash!) there was about $2,000 worth of materials besides. He used the best epoxy money can buy (at about $100 per can), urethane finish at $44 per quart, fiberglass, sandpaper, brushes (which needed to be thrown away after each use) and I think I remember Steve buying some paper cups to mix stuff in as well.
The kayak is 18' in length, weighs about 60 pounds. According to Steve, she goes like the wind when she's in the water!
Does Steve have any advice for anyone building a kayak for the first time? Well, first off, he says if you think you're just going to jump in and build one, you're highly mistaken. And if you're not retired, you will be by the time you're done :) However, this labor of love may be available for purchase, as Steve said that with all he learned building this one, he's anxious to put that knowledge to use and build another. In the meantime, you may see him paddling around the Black River, and at the Paddle and Pour in Port Huron Township.