Me and boats: it’s a family thing. I grew up near Detroit, spending a great deal of my childhood swimming in and sailing on Lake St. Clair. My dad, Thaddeus Ketchum, loved boats and built his first boat when I was about 9 years old. It was a heavy, small plywood rowboat, which was painted Interlux green. My brother named it the Sea Dog. It’s still around, although upside down next to my Dad’s boatshop.
Later, my Dad undertook much more ambitious projects. Purchasing lines of classic boats from Mystic Seaport, he built a catboat, a whitehall, and a dory, all in the living room.
I suppose the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I started building boats in my porch and living room when I was about 32 years old, and the tradition continued when I built a pair of East Greenland kayaks in my home in 2016.
There’s something about the long graceful arcs of kayaks that I find stunning. There’s no experience like watching the dry lines on paper come to life in wood at such a scale. It’s a thrill for me. Everyone should build a boat.
And everyone should paddle one, too.