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Build Your Own Sassafras Canoe

LapStitch™ construction of a 12′ or 16′ lovely, featherlight double-paddle canoe.

Tuition: $900 (partner: $450)


  • 12′ Sassafras: $1,262
  • 16′ Sassafras: $1,537
Sassafras photo

Imagine a boat so light that you can put it on your shoulder and stroll casually down a wooded trail, carry it to a hidden lake or stream, or paddle it with almost no effort. That was the idea behind the original “trapper” or “pack” canoes. Chesapeake Light Craft’s new series of 26-lb Sassafras lapstrake canoes carries on the tradition, but with modern building methods.

Though the Sassafras can be carried, or paddled by a youngster, she’ll hold a 255-lb load. The canoe tracks well, is easy to turn, and is stable enough for fishing and camping. Like many traditional canoes, the Sassafras has a symmetrical bow and stern. This allows a solo paddler to sit facing “backward” on the forward seat for better trim. Her slightly rounded hull offers more speed and responsiveness than many of the plastic or ’glass boats you may have paddled. Her hull is slightly rockered—not for maneuvering in whitewater, but rather to reduce wetted surface area—making her almost effortless to paddle.

Students will build their own canoe using 6mm okoume plywood, trimming it with sapele and Honduras mahogany, and covering it with fiberglass cloth on the bottom. Watertight flotation compartments will be finely fitted at the bow and stern. As the boat nears completion, ash-caned seats and thwarts will be added and final details addressed.

As with all of our courses in which students build their own boat, this week will be a busy one with some evening work being required. But the time spent will be well worth it. As students head down the road for home at week’s end, they’ll each be leaving with a beautiful new creation they’ve built themselves, guaranteed to turn heads and bring years and years of pleasure.