The LOON Pirogue
20’ x 3’5”
Design by Zach Garrett

Loon is a fast, safe, large pirogue (or simple canoe) for paddle, oar, or small outboard propulsion. She is low and narrow, which allows her to be easily driven by one or two people, but she still has plenty of carrying capacity for three or more adults plus a trolling motor and battery, or a load of up to 750 lbs. Loon would make an ideal family boat.

With just four inches of draft when normally loaded, Loon is perfect for exploring very shallow marshes, creeks, and rivers. She would be the perfect boat for hunting, fishing, or just messing about on the water. Loon also has serious potential as a craft for long camping trips where it’s necessary (or desirable) to carry a lot of gear.

Unlike many of her kind, this pirogue is very stable. A 150 lb. person can sit on the gunwale and still have six to eight inches of freeboard remaining. Her flaring sides also lend great reserve stability, and the 3’5” beam is a good compromise between initial stability and ease of paddling.

Weight of the prototype was 165 lbs. - light enough to be easily handled by two average-strength people - using heavy Yellow Pine plywood, but it should be possible to cut that by at least 30 lbs. by using lighter woods (such as fir plywood and fir or cedar framing). Also, the heavy construction was designed for longevity and strength, and it could be lightened in several areas without compromising performance.

For a boat this big, she is surprisingly easy for one person to paddle, but two paddlers are much better. She certainly is as easy to paddle as many conventional canoes and is, if anything, more maneuverable because of her bottom rocker. Also, she will be faster because of her longer waterline.

The easily-driven hull also makes her a great rowboat - as the oarsman (or woman) increases power, she responds with little added wake. Many have noted that long, narrow flat-bottomed boats like this often seem to defy the rules of hull speed, and Loon is certainly no exception. This makes her an excellent candidate for an electric trolling motor. Fortunately for the home builder, she is also very attainable.

It’s perfectly possible that a relatively inexperienced builder could complete a Loon in well under 40 hours of part-time work for a total of less than $200. The latter represents the current tab for a quart of epoxy (to seal the hull below the waterline), some linseed oil, glue, screws, paint, 2x4’s and 4 sheets of ¼” exterior plywood - that’s all there is to her. Of course, if you used marine plywood and covered the hull with glass cloth and epoxy the project could potentially take twice as long and cost 3 times as much (or more). Even so, you’d still be far below the cost range of some of the comparable fiberglass boats.

An experienced builder could slap one of these hulls together in a weekend, though finishing would necessarily be spread out over a several-day period to allow time for paint to dry, epoxy to cure, etc.

However, the plans were drawn with the complete novice as well as the experienced craftsman in mind. Both inside and outside chine versions are covered in the plans and instructions, though the inside chine option is not recommended for beginners due to its slight added complexity.

The hull shape is extremely simple - the bottom is the only place where curved cuts need to be made, and even there it isn’t necessary to expand the panel shape - just lay the plywood on the hull and take the shape from the assembly. The straight sides mean that the gunwales and chines fall naturally into place, without any complicated torturing or steaming.

There are no jigs or temporary forms to deal with either - the boat is built around her three permanent bulkheads. The side panels are a constant 16” width for their entire length, and I worked a little twist into the forward and after sections to prevent the bottom rocker from becoming too pronounced. These straight yet slightly torqued panels have the additional advantage of appearing elegant in three dimensions, without revealing their simple shape. Loon is a very pretty boat. No lofting is required, and there are no foreseeable snags for the first-timer in the building process, yet the boat is equally suited to an experienced builder looking for a new project.

Loon’s plans are large-scale drawings on two 24”x 36” sheets, and include 30 pages of notes and instructions, plus several pictures of the prototype. Plans to build one boat are available for $45USD (shipping included in the USA; please add $5USD for international orders) from:

Zach Garrett
P.O. Box 326
Broken Arrow, OK 74013
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