How did you get started paddling? I took up kayaking after I broke my hip in 1967 and was on crutches for eight years. I had been a wilderness freak, and to get back in to the wild while on crutches, I decided to solo kayak 900 miles down the Yukon River. In 1972 I spent 13 months touring and camping from a kayak in the Queen Charlotte Islands, where I designed and built my first stitch-and-glue kayak. I needed a durable kayak that was still light enough to drag behind me while on crutches.
Describe your design philosophy. All my early kayaks were designed for wilderness touring and recreational kayaking.
What’s your favorite Pygmy design? The Murrelet 4PD. Even at age 71 I can paddle it at its hull speed for extended periods of time. It’s a great touring kayak which I’ve taken on numerous camping trips.
How have you influenced kayak design? In 1985 I wrote the first commercially available plate expansion software. I used it to produce Pygmy kayaks, but it was sold primarily to big shipyards to computer cut steel plate for ocean-going hulls. In 1986, I became the first CAD/CAM stitch-and-glue boat manufacturer in North America. Our kayaks are known for handling wind and waves well, and paddling well without a rudder. Pygmy’s design and manufacturing innovations opened the door for lightweight, wooden, stitch-and-glue kits to become more sophisticated and widespread.
Describe your design process. All my boats are computer-designed with extensive computer modeling of design alternatives and their hydrostatics. Full-sized prototypes are then built and on-water tested. Some designs go through as many as three or four prototypes before being released.
Paddling background. I spent two and a half years on the Queen Charlotte Islands, living out of my kayak every summer. In total I’ve spent 17 summers, from one to four months, paddling and gathering most of the food I ate. Mother Nature took care of me. Last summer, at age 70, I went back to Great Slave lake for the seventh time and paddled solo for a month, fishing and living simply by kayak. I hope to keep paddling as long as I can.
What’s your favorite thing about designing boats? Using them!