Frequently Asked Questions

Custom Made Adirondack Guideboats

1. Our most frequently heard comment is: “Nice canoe.”

Yes, we know, that’s not a question, but it requires an answer. Yes, our double ended boats look like canoes from a distance to those with an uneducated eye. However, our Adirondack Guideboats are rowing boats, not boats to be paddled. Guideboats first appeared in the Adirondacks in the 1830s. They evolved from crude hunting boats into the graceful, swift, easily-rowed, easily-carried boats that we build today.

Our design begins with J. Henry Rushton’s already highly evolved Saranac Lake Guideboat. Steve Kaulback, our designer and founder, adapted the Rushton’s design enhancing the stability and handling. This produced a boat that is easier to manufacture and 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, built with contemporary tools and adhesives, it retains the lines, the characteristics and feel of the classic Adirondack 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 think of our boats as works of art—handcrafted marine art that is meant to be used. We have always been perplexed by that thought….too beautiful to use? We hear it about our somewhat expensive wooden boats, and we hear it about our more affordable Kevlar composite boats. They are durable and tough, 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.
All boats require periodic maintenance. But ours are 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 you live in 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 boat builders) 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, our boats are pretty and fast. A few years ago, at the WoodenBoat Show in Mystic, Connecticut, David Rosen, (the now retired president and sales half of our company) was out on the water rowing one of our 12-ft Vermont Packboats on the Mystic River. 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—Steve Kaulback 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.

Boat Specs

Boat Stem Depth at Carrying
Beam Height center Capacity Wt

12’2” Vermont Packboat, Kevlar/glass

36 ½”
19” 12″
300 lbs

14’1″ Vermont Fishing Dory, Kevlar/glass

700 lbs

15’ Adirondack Guideboat, Kevlar/glass

39 ½”
12 ¾”
550 lbs

15’ Cedar Guideboat

40 ½”
550 lbs

Specs on wooden boats (13’–19’) are available on request.

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 been $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 eight 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?”

It was an expensive miracle fiber which stops bullets in bulletproof vests and allows us to build tough, light, beautiful boats.
We have 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 five times lighter than steel, given the same strength. It’s first proposed use was in tires fire trucks in the 1940s. The only trouble was…nobody needed a tire which cost $1,000, (at 1940s 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 even 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 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 listening and paying attention to what’s going on. We build boats to order and our customers want to talk to the craftsmen who are building their boat.

12. “How stable are your boats?”

That’s a tricky question and it depends on the boat. Our boats have a lively feel. It is a sensation you will quickly come to love.
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 from a kit with other students at the WoodenBoat School in Brooklin, Maine. Sempr Fi
With the introduction of our Vermont Fishing Dory, we’ve made a boat that is 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 eight 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 and 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. “Do any hotels or resorts have your boat?”

Yep, The Point, on Upper Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks has a pair of our guideboats. As does The Mohonk Mountain House near New Paltz, NY. If you click here you will go to a letter from Emily Sinnott about her experience of our boats at Mohonk. The photo below is our boats at Mohonk, the second is the boathouse at The Point. If you’d like to take a look at these wonderful hotels, click the links below:

19 “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.

20. “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.

21. “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.

22. 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.)

23. “Do you ship internationally?”

Yes, now we do. Call us to learn more.

24. “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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