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Photograph by Roger McKee
My name is Hilary Russell, and I am the director and primary instructor, and designer of most of our boats. My love of canoeing has taken me across waters from the boundary waters of northern Minnesota to the Adirondacks, and throughout inland and coastal New England.

I began building skin-on-frame canoes in 1998, after paddling a 10 ½’ Kevlar double paddle canoe for several years. Built by Peter Hornbeck in his shop in the Adirondacks, the boat’s low seat made it stable, and its 17 pound weight and compact size, made it easy to portage, car-top, load, unload.

After a time, however, I wanted a longer boat that would track better and hold more weight, so during a sabbatical from my teaching job, I built a couple of stitch and glue, double paddle canoes — or low seat canoes, as I prefer to call them, since I use both single and double bladed paddles. Both boats — Bob Sparks’ Swamp Yankee canoe and Marc Pettingill’s Sweet Dream — worked out well, so well that when I returned to teaching, I offered boat building as an afternoon activity. The first year my students turned out 12 boats.

The following summer, taking a class at the WoodenBoat School, I was struck by the beauty and the strength-through-flexibility of the skin-on-frame kayaks being built in Bruce Lemon’s baidarka class. I asked myself, why not build skin-on-frame double paddle canoes that will be strong and also show off all of the beautiful lashing?
In the fall of ’98, I began teaching high school students and adults how to build skin-on-frame canoes. Today, with over 100 canoes, kayaks and rowing boats behind me, I’m still finding new, interesting ways to build skin-on-frame with cedar and spruce but also with willow and red osier dogwood ribs, stringers, and a double helix weave running fore and aft. Look for about willow boats in “What’s New” and in the Photo Galleries.
Today we teach classes here in Sheffield as well as at other sites in New York and Vermont. Look in “Boats, Courses, and Finances” and in “Classes and Events” for details about the plans, courses, and accommodations.