BY BLAIR WILLIAMS
It wasn't a love of boating or woodworking that got Mark Vore, 64, into building boats; he has an innate sense of adventure and curiosity. After retiring from 30 years with the Idaho Panhandle National Forest fire service, Vore and his wife, Mary Lynn, taught themselves to sail on Lake Pend Oreille. They worked up to a 33-foot sailboat and spent three years cruising West Coast waters, did the Baja Ha-Ha rally to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and sailed to the Marquesas Islands. When they returned to Idaho, Vore had a new fascination: building boats. Vore now spends 10 months building the strikingly handsome and fully functional 16-foot kayaks in his Lake Havasu, Arizona home, then summers in north Idaho, where he sells his kayaks through The Art Spirit Gallery in Coeur d'Alene.
Growing up in the prime boating area of Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, what was your first boat?
It was a little 12-foot aluminum rowboat, Alumacraft. It wasn't a very pretty boat—I was probably 12 years old—but it was a very durable boat. You couldn't hardly hurt it. Shortly after that I started canoeing with an aluminum canoe. I graduated to a 16-foot canvas over wood, a Penn Yan. It was just a beautiful craft, excellent workmanship.
As a kid, the cedar-strip canoes always fascinated me. While I was researching them, I stumbled on the cedar-strip kayak and I felt that was a much, much more beautiful craft.
How has your process evolved?
For the first one I took the class and modified certain things and came up with my own design. I'm not a lifelong woodworker. One of the great things about retirement is that you can try new things you have never done before.
How important is the wood in the building process?
Mostly I use western cedar and some Alaskan yellow cedar. It's a challenge to find good, what they call clear cedar — no knots in it — and long enough that I can use full length strips on the kayaks, which I think is prettier and also adds some strength. We use a bead and cove joint and you get a good, tight glue joint. Once you get all the strips laid out and you get it sanded all down, that's when they really get pretty. You fiberglass them, sand them all down again to make it nice and smooth.
You've built six kayaks since 2006. What's next?
The ones I've been building are for an advanced kayaker, long and narrow, around 35-40 pounds. They're real fast and track real straight. Now I'm building one that's about two feet shorter than the other ones. I felt most of the people who have enough money to buy a kayak like that are probably a little older and wanted one that was a little shorter, a little easier to maneuver. And I'm making them a little wider now so it's a little more stable.
Your kayaks are designed for lake and ocean but they're sold through an art gallery. Are they for display or paddling?
It actually makes me feel pretty good that someone thinks they're pretty enough, they're beautiful enough that someone just wants to look at them. About half the people that buy them hang them on the wall as artwork.
–Have a canoe or kayak you love? Be in RIDES or recommend a friend! Contact Katie McKy at firstname.lastname@example.org with "RIDES profile" in the subject line.. Photos are provided by the paddlers.