Forum friends, I've been working on this project for some time now. With a change in jobs it took way too long to finish, but nonetheless, down to the last minute and it appears to be working. Unfortunately, I won't be able to see for myself the first time the two boys take it out (sons of a friend of mine). Admins, let me know if this doesn't meet the DIY section intent and move as appropriate.
Background: I finished building a small sailboat from plywood following the plans from Polysail [http://www.polysail.com/skate.htm
So, moving from there, I thought about developing epoxy and fiberglass skills for the eventual refit of the BaBaLeLe, and looked around for some more plans. I settled on the "Cheap Canoe" from Bateau [http://www.bateau2.com/free/cheapcanoe.htm
]. The US plans are copyrighted, please visit the site for more information. It's a "stitch and glue" boat but with the simple lines and modest bends, taping the seams will be enough without stitching the joints. Their finished product looks like this:
First steps are to scribe the plans on the plywood and then cut the panels, since the plans are symmetrical, I cut both at the same time with faces together to keep the symmetry.
Next was using thickened epoxy to add butt plates at the seam. I thickened the epoxy with wood sawdust, captured from my miter saw. Not necessarily the best option, but the price was pretty good.
After that dries, one folds up the canoe and can tape the seams together. There are a few cross beams that may or may not be needed to keep shape. I had some trouble doing this by myself, and the first duct tape didn't hold as well, so I had to switch tape and used spare rope to keep it all shaped. It's fragile at this point, until you can get a fillet of thickened epoxy along the joints between the bottom and sides. Really thick in the bow and stern as the corner is sharp. These were reinforced with fiberglass tape.
Once that cures, you can remove the duct tape, smooth out the outside joints, fill with thickened epoxy as necessary, and fiberglass those joints. I used wider tape than listed in the plans, but it was on sale which was the driving factor.
Once the hull is complete, you add rub rails. Mine are made from hardwood molding, had to join them in the middle to get the lengths that I needed. Used PVC piping to create the number of clamps needed to hold the epoxy-glued rails to the hull.
Next step was breasthooks, I sketched the shape on paper, cut out from spare plywood, and epoxy glued into place. Final step is a reinforcing seat in the middle, weighted and glued into place. This didn't work out exactly as planned for me, I took the weight off before the epoxy had completely cured so I needed to add bracing later.
In a departure from the plans, I put hardwood runners on the bottom of the boat should it be dragged. I also added two bench seats, which should both reinforce the hull, ensure the shape is held, and provides the boys some height to be able to paddle over the freeboard. The entire hull is covered in epoxy, then painted. Paint isn't necessary, though you need some UV protection for the epoxy. Paint provided this for me, but mostly it helps hide the fiberglassing flaws. Paint will probably be easier for kids to maintain, too. I used a white marine paint for the outer hull, and exterior latex for the inside.
"Sea trials." I was giving it to two small boys... If it held me high and dry, it should do for them.
With no water coming in, it appears like it will work out. The canoe tracks well, was hard to turn (pretty windy), but was maneuverable using backward strokes to spin. It weighs around 50 pounds, so it is easily manhandled and the boys can carry it themselves.
Additional and full size build photos: Building a canoe
So, I know that my fiberglassing skills need a bit of work. Mostly, be patient and ensure you fill all the weave with epoxy. But I also have faith in the process and system; other than the cleats on the breasthooks there are no fasteners in the boat at all. The next project will probably be a kayak of some sort (catching the paddling/rowing bug), and perhaps next winter will see the refit of the CP-16.