Canoe project has dual purpose
A father and son team is building an Australian-designed canoe from scratch and they don’t seem to be arguing about where the pieces fit.
Robert Harper is a dentist and Andrew is a cabinetmaker turned project manager.
They started in early September but 20 minutes into their first session Andrew had to leave.
Robert was quite accepting because Andrew had to take his partner to a hairdressing appointment.
“With blokes we communicate by doing stuff together,” Robert said, and they’re now well into the project, although it could take until Christmas to complete.
They’ve raided the dental practice and improvised with tongue depressers to clean off epoxy resin from the joints.
“I want it to be perfect because my father-in-law and brother-in-law are builders. They’ll judge me and I’m looking for approval,” Robert said.
The pieces have been cut out of marine ply and holes drilled by the Wooden Boat Centre down at North Wharf.
“This is a centre of excellence and industry. We couldn’t do it without them. All of the materials are provided,” Robert said.
The project, which has so far involved connecting the sections with cable ties, is a bit of a showcase for his talents.
“I’m using it to demonstrate my manual dexterity. If I fill a back molar no-one sees my handiwork.”
Robert said that his dad was an electrician, and he inherited his good hands. When Andrew was a kid, they were very active, travelling and camping, and the canoe suits this lifestyle.
“I got off the tools a few years ago,” Robert said. “I’ve got a week off between projects. We stop for lunch, sit out in the sun and watch the world go by.”
Their down-to-earth style is a refreshing counterpoint to the large nautical projects berthed nearby at the wharf with their large budgets.
“Ours is pretty organic. We’ve got the tar, varnish, hemp. It’s all wood, all nature,” Robert said, getting up close to the Alma Doepel to smell the tar and admire the work.
“It’s inspiring,” he said, before returning to the manual for his own small vessel, which is dual purpose in that it has both a sail and paddle. •
Caption: Robert and Andrew Harper on the job at The Wooden Boat Centre.