Otter Creek

~ elegant lightweight cedar strip canoes
hand-crafted to order in Vermont

Otter Creek Smallcraft Logo

Design features

Tilting seats

Level Seat Tilted Seat
Canoe seats are available with a tilt mechanism, allowing the paddler to sit or to kneel. The leading edge of the seat tilts down (the rear edge is hinged to allow this), so the paddler can kneel on the hull, sharing weight between knees and backside. This lowers the centre of gravity, thus offering improved stability in windy conditions and waves. (And some paddlers prefer to kneel anyway.)


Recurve A characteristic feature of my canoe designs is the accentuated recurve: the bow sweeps backwards above the waterline (and is mirrored by the stern). My reasoning is simple: what affects water performance is from waterline down; what affects response to wind is largely above the waterline. For a given waterline length, the greater the recurve, the lower is the area presented to the wind. It's good to know that this design performs well in wind, confirming the theoretical considerations. As with probably all design features, this entails a compromise: the reduced flare at the bow sheds waves less effectively than other shapes.

Scuppered gunwales

Scuppers Scuppered gunwales provide a number of benefits: they allow easy drainage of water fom the canoe; they help keep the weight low whilst sacrificing negligible strength; and they provide a place to tie packs, watch, compass etc, or a tarp to cover packs. The sizes of the scuppers depend on the canoe length as well as on the number and placing of seats. Rounding of the ends of the scuppers complements the smooth curves of the hull design.

Feature strip

Feature strip: 2 & 3 chevrons Every Otter Creek Smallcraft boat includes a feature strip of the illustrated design, a series of chevrons pointing towards the bow, a group three amidships, groups of two fore and aft of this, and single chevrons nearest to bow and stern. The colour may vary because of natural variations in wood tone. Feature strip: central 3 chevrons

Construction information


I use western red cedar for all stripping on account of its excellent strength:weight ratio. Where possible tones are selected to create a visually appealing end result. During ripping of the strips adjacent strips are kept as matched pairs to use left and right, so creating as symmetrical an appearance as natural products allow. The edges of strips are routed with bead and cove finishes so they fit together closely, offering more area for glue, and largely eliminating show-through of light. For especially light construction the strip thickness can be reduced from 1/4" to as low as 1/8".


Gunwales, thwarts, seat frames and seat hangers are all made of native cherry. It has excellent strength and its tones complement those of the red cedar. Decks, which are primarily decorative, are of cedar strip construction.


The inside and outside of the hull are sheathed in 4 oz. fibreglass cloth, using epoxy resin with a clear hardener. The resulting laminate structure has high rigidity (I have yet to have a hull go soft, even with heavy use), and the clarity of the finish allows the wood to show through as if nothing but varnish were coating it. The stems have extra fibreglass reinforcement, especially in the zone that is most likely to strike rocks. All boats are finished with a marine spar varnish to provide UV protection, primarily for the epoxy, and also to give the lustre that all wooden boats deserve.


Canoe seats are hand-caned using 3mm polypropylene "cane". Although this lacks some of the aesthetic appeal of natural cane, it is more resilient to UV light and to moisture, and so lasts longer before re-caning is required. A cane seat moulds itself to the pelvic bones, reducing the incidence of "pressure point" pain for any shape of backside, and also allows air circulation, reducing the sweatiness associated with solid seats.

Otter Creek Smallcraft Lutra

Otter Creek Smallcraft Canoe and Kayak ®
Sole Proprietor: Peter Macfarlane
1379 Mountain Road, Vergennes, VT 05491, USA
Website design & Logo design © Peter Macfarlane