Old Boats Tell More Stories

pygmy wooden kayaks

Friday morning, November 29th, the day after thanksgiving, my husband and I were eating breakfast and drinking our coffee when the news was reporting on “Black Friday”.  They interviewed people who had been standing outside for hours before the sun rose to get their bargain at a mall or big box store.  I sighed, relieved that we had made plans to go for a paddle (see blog on Circumnavigating Indian Island and Marrowstone Island By Kayak). For the last couple of years we have remained closed for the weekend to allow employees time to spend with their families.  We haven’t had any complaints from customers which makes me think that maybe our customers are like us and would rather go for a paddle then stand in line to go shopping.

That same day Patagonia released its anti-black Friday short movie titled, Worn Wear, “A Party to Celebrate What You Already Own”.  The movie is very well done featuring old pieces of clothing that have been handed down through families, well worn, loved and taken on many adventures. The message is simple: quality lasts and accumulates lasting memories.  Similar thoughts have crossed my mind when folks call up 10 years after they’ve built their boat to tell us how much they love it and how it still looks just as beautiful as the day they bought it.  They often share a memory they’ve had on the water- be it a fishing trip, a wedding day paddle, or an extended camping trip.  I really value the fact that we produce a product that’s meant to last a lifetime and take people outside on memorable adventures.

Over the years we’ve heard some amazing stories about how our kits have touched lives.  Some have said building the boat helped them through hard times, like divorce or chemotherapy.  Others have found meaning on the water and have written to tell us that building the kayak got them outside more, helped them to lose weight, improved their arthritis, or just helped them to live a more active life.  We’ve heard a number of incredible stories and are always touched to be a part of our customer’s lives.  It’s fulfilling work.

As I was catching up after the long holiday, a woman called to inquire when her father had bought a boat kit from us. I looked up the year and found that it was 11 years ago.  “Has it been that long?” she asked, sounding a bit surprised.  I affirmed that it had.  “Well, the boat is still beautiful,” she responded, “I have it now.”  She further went on to explain that her Dad now had dementia but had a moment of lucidity when she flashed one of our old catalogs.  She said that it spurred a memory in him and he proceeded to recall the story of building the boat and then paddling on an extended trip.  It so touched her that the boat could move him to recall despite his dementia, that she decided to give us a call.  Of course we were moved.  The stuff that creates lasting memories is the same stuff that fulfills lives and creates stories. It’s the important stuff.

While our kits are meant to last, they still need some maintenance.  Its certainly not my intention to understate that. Depending on whether it’s stored inside or out and how much it is used will dictate how often it needs varnish, etc. But one of the things I’ve noticed about our boats is that because people build them they are more invested and much more likely to take care of their creation then something they buy prefabricated.  And that’s both a testament to our product quality and our customer quality. It takes a special person to want to build their own kayak.

As we celebrate our 27th birthday we continue to hear from old customers, some who have boats that are the same age as the company.  We encourage the maintenance of our boats and are here to answer your questions.  If you have a maintenance question, or a story to share, we can be reached by email: info@pygmyboats.com or by phone: 360-385-6143

In that spirit, here are some basic notes on the maintenance of a Pygmy boat:

  • Epoxy needs protection from prolonged exposure to ultra-violet rays. After completion, coat your boat with high quality marine spar varnish (with UV inhibitors). We recommend Z-Spar’s “Flagship” or System Three’s Spar Urethane Varnish. Two or three coats do the job.  We typically recommend using a full quart per solo kayak.  Depending on use and storage, re-varnish in 3 to 7 years.
  • Frequently dragging your boat full of camping gear onto rocky shores will cause abrasion along the keel line. (Similarly, fiberglass hulls also wear through their gel coat and into the glass at the sharp ends of the keel line when driven up on beaches.) Our construction manuals direct you to lay a “sacrificial” layer of fiberglass tape OVER the already glassed keel. This protects the hull’s glass job. The tape strip takes all the majority of the wear and tear. Every 2 to 5 years, depending on use, flip your boat over, sand the keel and epoxy on a new sacrificial strip. This quick maintenance keeps your craft in excellent shape.  Additionally, applying epoxy to any scratches that go into the glass will help to protect the wood core from moisture.  This can be done as needed.

Remember, old boats have more stories and memories and with proper maintenance, they can last many lifetimes. For a more detailed post on maintaining your Pygmy Boat, click here.



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