North Ferrisburgh, VT 05473, USA
+1 802-425-3926


FAQs About Our Vermont Kayak and Canoe Alternatives

1. Our most frequently asked question is:  “Nice canoe.”   

    Yes, we know, that’s not a question. But it requires an answer. Yes, our kayak and canoe alternatives, in profile, from a distance, to those with an uneducated eye, do look like canoes. However, our boats are rowing boats, not boats to be paddled. Guideboats first appeared in the Adirondacks in the 1830’s. They evolved from crude hunting boats into the graceful, swift, easily-rowed, easily-carried boats they are today.
      Our design begins with J. Henry Rushton’s already highly evolved Saranac Lake Guideboat. Steve Kaulback, our designer and founder, made several changes to Rushton’s design, these changes enhance stability and handling, ease manufacture and produce boats which are more resistant to weather and age. If Rushton were alive today, we think that he’d approve these changes, and probably even make a few of his own. Rushton’s fine entry is still evident, the stems are tumblehome, which lowers the boat’s surface area in a crosswind. Even though this boat is a modern boat, using contemporary tools and adhesives, it still retains the lines, the characteristics and feel of classic guideboats, many of which are being gathered into museums and personal collections.

 2. “That boat is such a work of art, it seems a shame to put it into the water.”  
       And that woman is too beautiful to ask out on a date.
      We have always been perplexed by that thought….too beautiful to use?  We hear it not only in regard to our somewhat expensive wooden boats, but also in regard to our Kevlar boats.  We do think of our boats as works of art. But works of art meant to be used. They are durable and tough, they are seaworthy and strong. They are all the things a boat is supposed to be. And, if the wind is blowing and you’ve got a nice chop, so much the better
     They do require periodic maintenance. But it is not nearly as demanding as most people fear. Our varnished boats should be re-varnished every 5 to 7 years, depending on exposure. Our oiled boats need to be re-oiled perhaps twice per season, more if we’re talking Florida or Texas.
    Part of our boat’s artful heritage comes from the original designs; part comes from Steve’s background as an artist. He has a BFA from Pratt Institute in New York City, where he also served as an instructor. We have been invited to bring our boats to some of the most prestigious art and craft shows in the country, including shows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver. Steve has been awarded the H.I. Chapelle Trophy (a prestigious award among us boatbuilders) at the Antique and Classic Boat Show in Clayton, NY, and it was there that his boats were first described as “the Stradivarius of small craft.”
3. “Do you ever have any used boats?”

     Almost never. Twice we almost had a used boat. In both cases a customer wanted to trade in his 12’ Packboat for a 15’ guideboat. In each case, a wife, and then a girlfriend, stepped in to say, “You’re doing what with my boat?” And in both cases, those families now own two of our boats. But sometimes we do get a used boat as a trade-in or a trade-up. Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), our boats hold their value. That’s good news for the customer selling us or trading in his or her boat. Not such good news for the customer looking to purchase one at a greatly reduced price.


4. “Why oars?  Why not paddles?”
    Efficiency. And ease of motion. Oars use larger muscles and larger muscle groups, not just wrists and arms. A paddle typically has a mechanical advantage of 1 to 1. (Your hand at the end of the paddle is the force, your hand in the middle of the paddle is the fulcrum…if the paddle is 5-ft long and you have one hand in the middle, the mechanical advantage is 1 to 1. Our oars, depending on their length, (which varies with boat size), have a mechanical advantage of 2.5 or 3.5 to 1.  And… as you will be using two of them, your actual mechanical advantage is 5 or 7 to 1. And, this isn’t a theoretical advantage. It’s real. You will feel that advantage on every single stroke as you advance your boat through the water.
    There is another difference between rowed boats and paddled boats. In rowing boats, you and your companion spend your day sitting face-to-face. You aren’t talking to the back of the other person’s head. You aren’t constantly saying, “Huh? What did you say?”   You get to see your companion’s smiles, their reactions to your conversation. And they get to see yours. It’s not a big deal, but it is one of life’s pleasures. And it’s something which doesn’t happen in a canoe or kayak.   
5. “Pretty fast?”
      Yes, pretty and fast.  At the WoodenBoat Show in Mystic Connecticut, David, (the sales half of our partnership) was out on the water, rowing one of our 12-ft packboats on the Mystic River. He was warming up for a day of selling and talking. A man came up from behind in a rubber boat with a 6hp Mercury outboard on it. The man laughed when David challenged him to a race. After 100 yards the man wasn’t laughing, but he was smiling: “I can’t believe you did that to me.”  David said, “Actually, I didn’t do it. My partner did. He’s the one who designed the boat.”

6. “How heavy are your boats?”

    Face-to-face, we’d answer that question by saying, “Lift the end of the boat and see for yourself.”  Then, when the customer lifts the boat, what he or she most often says is, “It weighs nothing.”   While that’s not literally true, it seems true, and that’s what counts.

 7.  “Why have I never heard of these boats before?”

    Adirondack guideboats were regionally specific. They were difficult to build and demanding to repair and maintain. And, even in the old day, they were expensive. Back then, a good guideboat might have cost you $100. But a perfectly good regular boat would have only be $5 or $10.  It was only if you needed a boat like these that you would go to the expense of having one built. Adirondack guides needed these boats. That was how they made their money. The boats had to be efficient so you could spend  8 hours rowing and still have the energy and good humor to set up camp and cook the game and fish that your sport bagged that day.

    Also, the building of an Adirondack guideboat was so specific, and so demanding; you had to have an Adirondack guideboat-builder close at hand if you were going to own one yourself. We will occasionally hear of a skilled boatbuilder (but who builds other boats) who is asked to build or make repairs to an Adirondack guideboat. The good boatbuilders will say, “Nope. Take it to someone who knows what they are doing.”
    And a last reason guideboats didn’t spread to other regions…salt water would have killed a traditional Adirondack guideboat. It doesn’t make any difference to ours.


8. “What’s Kevlar?”

     We used to say,  “We don’t know.”
     We did know that it was an expensive miracle fiber which stops bullets in bulletproof vests and allows us to build tough, light, beautiful boats.
    However, we have since met a variety of people who work for DuPont and they’ve given us some of the missing pieces of Kevlar’s story.
    Kevlar is apparently a molecular cousin of Nylon. It is a long-chain molecule which is very strong and 5 times lighter than steel, given the same strength. It’s first proposed use was in tires fire trucks in the 1940’s. The only trouble was…nobody needed a tire which cost $1,000, (at 1940’s prices) no matter how light and strong it was.  And besides, fire companies replace their tires every other year with 5000 miles on the tire. So…Kevlar sat on the shelf for 25 years. Then the Vietnam War came along and Kevlar was used to make light, tough flak jackets. Now Kevlar  is used in many applications, (boats probably still lead the field), but it is also used in crash helmets and they’ve just installed Kevlar sleeves on the gas tanks of the Concorde so scrap metal sitting on runways will have a tougher time puncturing the gas tanks or tires as the planes take off.
    There….that’s what we know about Kevlar.
    As modern as this technology is, our boats remain the product of a pure boatbuilding eye and sensibility.


9.  “They don’t look like any row boats I’ve ever seen. Why is that?” 

    Most people, when they hear the words, “row boat,” find themselves thinking of boats that are short, clunky, noisy, slow and not much fun. If those are the your images, boy, are you in for a treat.


10.   “Why are the oars so long?”
    Leverage. Long, graceful oars are suited to the shape and use of our guideboats and packboats. Our oars are exceptionally light and flexible. Row with a stiff oar and you’ll discover how little fun rowing can be.
    Guideboat oars are traditionally pinned, and cross past one another at the center of the boat. This inboard length gives better balance and a greater mechanical advantage for less effort on a long trip. Pinned oars leave both hands free to tend a fishing rod or firearm when opportunities arise. To row crossed-armed is a knack easily achieved, and after that, you will marvel that anyone would use short oars. Paddles are traditionally used in guideboats as an aid in steering or for navigating narrow passages.

11.  “Do you guys have dealers?”
    We used to. We’ve found that a key element in growing a business is paying attention to what’s going on. We were very excited to bring 18 dealers on board. Then, over time, we found that this approach didn’t work for our boats. Almost without exception we have remained friends with these various dealers, they wish us well and we wish the same to them.

12. How stable are your boats?”
    That’s a tricky question. If we made a boat that was very stable…..we’d go back and fix it. A very stable boat is hard to move through the water. Our boats have a lively feel. It is a sensation you will quickly get used to and for which you will look in other boats.
    The following proverb was offered to us by a retired Marine from North Carolina. He says it comes from the ancient Phoenicians, “Feast your eyes on a narrow boat;  place your goods in a beamy boat.”  With that, he nodded towards our boat and said, “And you guys have both. Lightly loaded it’s narrow, carrying a load it’s beamy.”  He now owns one of our wooden boats. Built by himself and other students at the WoodenBoat School in Brooklin, Maine.     Sempr Fi
    Now, however, with the introduction of our Vermont Fishing Dory, we’ve made a boat much more stable than our other boats. (Remember….’stable’ and ‘seaworthy’ are different concepts.)  This new boat has both speed, stability and efficiency…..a tricky trio to bring into one boat.

13. “Is rowing good exercise?”

    If you think a runner’s high is high, wait till you try a rower’s high. Rowing is fun, whether in our boats, or in other well-made, well-designed boats. The rowing motion can be gentle or strenuous, depending on your preference. Being on the water is satisfying in itself. If you can also attain health, vigor and weight-loss in the process, what could be better?


14.”Do you offer classes?”

       We have offered classes in the past and have found them to be enjoyable and productive. Many a student approaches us years later saying, “That was one of the best things I’ve ever done.”  We need 8 students to more or less build one of our guideboats in a week’s time… and it’s just been too difficult to get schedules to align. So, unfortunately, we have no plans at this time to again offer classes.
    We have found that those interested in our class are usually thinking about building one of our boats from a kit. Dozens of people build one of our kits each year without benefit of a class. In other words, you can do it. Our support materials, (manual, fiberglassing video, photo CD …along with the telephone and e-mail support)….make it a fun, interesting and satisfying project. You needn’t be a boatbuilder, just some woodworking skills a patient heart.

 15. “Do you sell kits?”  

    Yes, for our wooden boats. The price is $3500 for a 15’ boat. All the wood and metal parts are already made (ribs, stems, strips etc.). Shipping isn’t included.  We also include a manual, a fiberglassing DVD and a CD with 122 photos of the building process.


16. “Do you sell plans for your boats?”

      Sorry. We don’t use plans, just jigs and patterns. The Adirondack Museum and Mystic Seaport Museum both sell guideboat plans. But, fair warning, guideboats are very difficult boats to build.


17.  “Do you deliver?”

      Yes, locally. For longer distances we use a trucking service. Delivery is generally $50 to $900 anywhere in the lower 48, the price varying with boat size, hull material and distance. Another alternative is picking your boat up at the shop. Vermont isn’t a bad place to visit. Click here for delivery options.


18.  “Can these boats go in salt water?”

    Sure.  Paul Neil, a customer of ours, set a course record, and then broke it, in The Blackburn Challenge, a 22 mile open ocean race around Cape Anne, in his 16’ wooden boat. The next year, in his new 17’ wooden boat, conditions were so severe, that he was the only person in his class to complete the race.  The following week a race official said that they would never again let that race happen in such severe conditions. And…then the race official ordered a wooden boat for himself.


19. “Could you put an electric motor on one of these boats?”  

      Yes. They don’t really need a motor….but for those so inclined, sure. Steve has recently designed a maple mount which will allow a small motor to be side-mounted on our boats.. A photo of the motor mount can be found on our Accessories page.


20. How do we get to your place? 

      We are on RT 7 in N. Ferrisburgh VT. (Charlotte is our mailing address.) We are 3.8 miles S of the Vermont Wildflower Farm, 6.2 miles N of the intersection between RT 7 and RT 22A, on the west side of the road. Click here for driving instructions.


21. A word to the wise:

   Order early. Plan ahead. Orders come in seasonal surges. For our wooden boats there is usually a wait of several months to a year. For our Kevlar boats it’s usually a few weeks to a few months. Your name goes on the waiting list when we receive your order (and a 50% deposit.)


22.  Do you ship internationally? 

      Yes, now we do. 


23.  What’s that? 

      That is the only defect to the skincoat process of laying up our boats.  Skin coats are light, strong and require no maintenance. Imperfections in the hull are common. The only solution is…. go out, have some fun and get some scratches on your boat. 

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