Inside the Little Yellow Shack
Poly on Frame
Early Sea Kayaker Magazine Cover
Feathercraft began in the mid-70's and
stopped production December 2016.
founder, owner, designer
I had a dream of a light-weight, portable craft.
Kayaking was just beginning on the West Coast and many like-minded young, adventurous
kayak designers were exploring their imaginations and the coast lines. Timing can be everything. Kayaking as a sport began to grow.
Feathercraft kayak designs evolved over the decades, but the focus remained the same - beauty of design, purpose and function; to maintain the highest standards of quality.
We are proud to have been part of the rich heritage of skin on frame kayak design.
The organic behavior of a skin on frame responds actively to the changing sea conditions, taking care of you. Wave energy is absorbed, and the skin kayak flows through surges and swells, protecting you. A paddler experiences the surrounding fluid environment.
You are no longer separate from the water, but joined.
The Beginning: A Feathercraft Retrospective
by Doug Simpson
I got the idea for Feathercraft while still in university, about 1970. Most summers I went up to Yellowknife (NWT) or Whitehorse (Yukon) and worked as a prospector for small mineral exploration companies. We were looking for gold, copper, zinc, uranium, etc. We flew in small, single engine bush planes on floats and landed on small lakes. Frank Moyle, a Northern pioneer, was my partner at the time. Usually, we set up bush camps for a few weeks and prospected the area. The idea of a small, light-weight boat that could be carried on our back seemed like a good one. He suggested an open canoe. I already liked kayaks. When I was only 7 or 8 years old, my family spent two summers staying in a cottage on a small island near Vancouver. The old lady next door had two small wood frame, canvas skin kayaks. I got to paddle them around the bay. They were very light and responsive. This is one of my best memories.
When I graduated from university in 1972 with a Bachelor of Commerce, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I went back to the bush, prospecting. I also worked on oil rigs before taking an administrative job in Edmonton working for an oil company. I hated the job but while I was there, I obtained my commercial pilots licence. I didn’t fly air planes long though. Too noisy. Eventually, I quit everything. I decided to forget about the career and do something I wanted to do. I rented a small car garage and started designing a kayak.
As for the name, I let my thoughts drift and came upon “feather”. A feather is very strong for its weight. The vane is hollow. The aluminum tubes I was considering were hollow. Remember, this was at a time when no one had made folding kayaks with aluminum tubes. The word “craft” can mean boat, or made by hand, and my kayak was both. After living with the name for a while, it seemed like a good choice.
Original Little Yellow Shack on Granville Island
Early on in the process, I decided on 6061 T6 aluminum alloy for the frame material. This material was used in the small airplanes that I had been flying. It is very strong, light and resistant to saltwater. By 1977, I had obtained a patent.
I worked occasionally to pay my rent and to eat. I moved from the car garage and squatted in an abandoned building on what would become Granville Island in Vancouver. Development of the area began around that same time, and I was discovered. I was offered a small, derelict shack in the area and became the first tenant of this now popular area. The shack was 19’3″ in length. That dictated the length of the first double kayak. To work on the opposite side of the kayak, it would have to be carried outside and turned around. The place was heated by a small wood burning pot-bellied stove. In winter, I’d scavenge building sites for wood to heat the place. Sometimes there was more time spent scavenging for wood than building kayaks.
I worked at Mountain Equipment Co-op as commercial sales manager for a couple of years; did some climbing, arctic skiing and some long kayak trips. I also made greenhouses to help pay the rent. In 1979, the first K-l was completed. During my time working at MEC, I met Larry Zecchel and in 1981, he became my first business partner. The first Feathercraft K1’s were sold later that same year. To pay for materials to build more kayaks, Larry often took prospecting jobs in the bush during summer and winter. I joined him in winter. We staked claims near Dawson City in the winter at -40 degrees Celsius. Good wages. It took about four years before we could both work at Feathercraft full time. In 1985, we moved from the “little yellow shack” to the large shop on Cartwright Street, Granville Island.
Doug with sister, Mo. Kayak christening at Spanish Banks, Vancouver
The First K2
Paddling with his new son, Evan