home contact videos gallery history meet the artist links assembly
facebook news The Final Voyage specs
Why be put into a box when you can go out in a handcrafted wood strip canoe?
Phoenix Boatworks
Canoe Caskets
The Final Voyage
How this came to be starting with the spark of inspiration.

The Final Voyage:

My sister Gerri smoked cigarettes, got lung cancer and died at the age of 44 after a long drawn out affair in which she withered away to nothing in my mom's home, with all the family around to watch her pass on. It was painful for everyone to watch. Later, while shopping for caskets, and standing next to one of my other family members we were chatting about how she went out. I mentioned that I'd not want to put anyone thru the same extended pain as my sister had, just put me in my canoe with a bundle of dynamite and I'd just push the button myself! Then I thought to myself, no. This would be messy and someone would have to clean up after me and I'd not want to bother someone so, then I thought to just bury me in my canoe and the idea was born right then and there, in the memory of my sister. Out of the ashes rose Phoenix Boatworks on that day.

The idea was born, but it was merely an idea. I didn't know just what I'd have to go thru to come up with the first canoe casket as I started my research. Could I somehow adapt a current boat design or kit? Nope, found out what I wanted I could not find in any design to adapt to make work. I studied many different boat designs of all kinds and melded them into one theory and proceeded to rough out the thought into paper and wood, it took several tries, then several more. I had the vision of the shape of what I wanted and slowly the features needed got worked out. Then I had to figure out just how to build these features, I was not a woodworker or had the tools. The journey continues, each day a new set of problems to work out, many ideas would come and go, and then sometimes come back. Some were easy, some not so, all had to be worked out.

"A problem can have different solutions but sometimes one solution is so good it creates it's own problems".

This is the prototype. It was meant to help me learn what it was that I was going to build. It would demonstrate the techniques I would need for each feature of the process of building it. As I got up to the gunnel I found it difficult to engineer these sections without the rest of the structure firmed up so back down to the keel it went yet again. To develop the shape of the hull it would go back and forth from the keel on up until I had what I was looking for. Now was it's last time and to set everything that was temporary into permanent form, there was no going back from here!

Time again for new discoveries and major innovations as I was about to learn all about what it was to bead and cove the strips for assembly. Originally I was not going to use this method but each step forward is a learning experience, Each day a new set of challenges to overcome. The bead and cove experience would really change things up for me and it required new equipment, welcome the planer. It was a major investment on my shoe string budget, especially considering I wear sandals almost year around! Then there was the router tables. One by one the details got worked out until I was producing strips that had the bead and cove routed into them and then it was back to stripping the boat. Again I developed new techniques not used by others but I adapted what I've learned to fit my needs on this hybrid design.

Once back up to the gunnel the boat was beginning to really take shape, much more than I had thought. It was no longer a collection of ideas and techniques on how I was going to do this, it became well, it started to take life and become something. The collection of parts and techniques had created something without me at first realizing it, it was growing into what it was to become, and from this point on it wasn't only the prototype but the first of it's kind. This was about to become someone else's someday . I would remember things I have done, notice marks in the wood, pencil notes here and there, all this thought, all this engineering, and this part of my life was embodied into this creation. This is way more than just what it is, it has my story in it, it has a piece of my soul in it. This one would be the only one like this, so unique and no other one could claim this originality , it is the genesis for all the others to come.

My hands, they have been over every section over and over and again and again until I found what I wanted to see and feel.

It's a piece of furniture with a nautical flair and has three lives. In one mode it's a set of shelves, a book case, using the bow and stern sections, similar to others that have been made but designed with a few extra features. In the second mode the parts are assembled and the other features employed to which it becomes a canoe casket for the "Final Voyage". In it's third life it becomes the memorial, the shorter bookshelf or stern becomes the memorial. This can hold the urn if you'd like.

The total length is about 11 feet, width about 28 inches, height about 19 inches. Two sections are removable, the bow and stern which leaves the middle section of about 7 feet. The shorter bow section is about a foot long and the longer stern part is about 3 feet.

It's construction is all wood, no metal fastener are used in the finished product. Wooden bolts are used to secure the boat sections and the strips are of the "bead and cove" method of building wood strip canoes. Unlike in typical wood strip core canoes no fiberglas outer layer is used, it's a pure wooden structure. It was designed as a piece of furniture and not as a boat so it's not meant to be floated in water.

Both the bow and stern sections mount to the main body of the boat in the same fashion. There are wooden dowel pins that are put into place at the bottom/back and the smaller section is aligned and mated then secured with the wooden bolts. In the bookshelf mode there are separate designated "feet" to be used that are based on the wooden assembly bolts. There is also another set of breasthooks, the small triangle shaped pieces that can if desired be used instead of the pieces that mate to the top cover. The top cover can also be used as decor and be converted into another set of shelves, or used as is in other artfull ways. When the time comes the top cover is secured using the the smaller 1/2 wooden bolts, the so called nails in the coffin. The storage for the bolt pieces are in the area behind the breasthooks.

When that day comes when the bookshelf function is over it need to be transformed into a casket. Remove the shelves and the contents on them and gently lay the larger almost 8' section onto the floor. Hidden in the floor by the feet are are where the "carry bars" are stored. An elastic string is attached in two places, remove the one end from the pin and slide the pin to the side releasing the catch, then using the string pull out the carry handles. Do this for the other set as well. Now stand back up the boat like it's in the bookshelf mode once again and where the holes are in the back pull out the "landing gear", they will pivot down into place. The carry bars are attached to each other , just twist and unscrew them. The two longer ones get placed thru the holes in the bottom two sets of landing gear, and one of the shorter ones gets put in at the top. Now the bookshelf can be lowered to the floor again. Attach the 3 foot stern section and lower it's landing gear and insert the last carry bar. In the other breasthook storage compartment is the carry handles, 8 of them. They get placed in the notches of the carry bars for the pallbearers . Each pallbearer can keep their handle as a memorial after the cementery service.

If this was an open casket ceremony the pallbearers would help remove the 1/2" wooden bolts, lay on the top cover sections and screw back in the bolts securing the top cover to the casket. On someones mark, all would lift and carry the canoe casket feet first out of the church, building or where ever. Note: the feet are at the narrow end of the bow. Feet first the casket moves to it's next location and transport. At the hurst or other vehicle (if necessary ) the two people holding the stern section would go to the bow and remove that section, the casket being slid into the vehicle as the carry bars are removed and the landing gear swung up and secured into place. Only the stern section remains and that is removed as well. This piece is not to be buried or cremated but can be used as a shrine or memorial later on. The bow section can be used as an urn and can be fitted into the stern section for safe keeping.