Originally created 05/14/00

Inspiration came from unexpected source

Literary classics like The Maine Woods by Henry David Thoreau influence different people in vastly different ways.

For C.B. Stephens of Martinez, it provided inspiration to build a Maine style guide boat, or "batteau," as the vessels were referred to by Thoreau.

"I drew the plans, basically, in my head," the 59-year-old Augusta Newsprint employee said. "I was trying to build what Thoreau described."

The 19th century author became fascinated with the boats after visiting the "manufactory" in Oldtown, Maine, in the mid-1800s.

"They are light and shapely vessels, calculated for rapid and rocky streams, and to be carried over long portages on men's shoulders," he wrote of the handmade "white man's canoe."

Stephens envisioned a utilitarian fishing boat and began stocking wood and tools in a shed behind his home. The project took several months.

The end result was a 14-foot batteau, with mahogany trim, cedar rails, oak cleats, and the balance fashioned from Arkansas "sugar pine."

Stephens tested the vessel in the Keg Creek arm of Thurmond Lake. "It paddles real good," he said. "There were jet skis buzzing all around and we bobbed up and down like a cork."

The boat is designed to accommodate a guide in the narrow back -- which actually looks like the front. The center seat is wide and stable to serve a single angler, even a flyfisherman.

"The idea is for the fisherman to be in the middle, and have plenty of room to move and cast, and the guide can paddle from the back," he said.

The shallow-draft boat displaces 2' inches of water, making it easy to creep silently into shallow creeks and hard-to-reach areas.

Stephens hopes to build more boats in the future, possibly developing the experience into a hobby to entertain him during retirement.

His neighbor, Freddie Williams, has observed the project unfold during the last few months. "This thing's gonna sink next time you take it out," he joked.

He doesn't buy Stephens' characterization of vessel as a batteau, either. "When you look up that word on the Internet, you wind up in France."

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.


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