Sharing a love for the water is a fine inspiration to build a boat (or boats) for children and grandchildren. Building boats that will become family heirlooms as well as a means of pursuing that love of water, that’s something three generations of the Hammond family understand very well.

Mike Hammond arrived with his young family in Fort Myers, Florida, a few years back. Having grown up kayaking with his adventurous dad, and landing in a place rich with perfect places to paddle, he quickly got involved as a volunteer with the project that became the Great Calusa Blueway, a watery network of nearly 200 miles of paddling trails along the coastal waterways and inland tributaries of an especially rich, scenic stretch of the Gulf Coast in southwest Florida.

When Mike’s young son Benjamin needed his own kayak, Mike’s dad, Mike Senior, did some research and came down from his home in Pennsylvania to Okoumefest, where he saw a young girl in a Wood Duckling. A whitewater paddler himself, and working for an outdoor company, the elder Hammond had been unimpressed with “heavy, clunky” plastic options. He liked the way the little girl was able to maneuver the Duckling, and decided to build one for his grandson.

Kaya and Ben in the Wood DucklingBen took to the boat immediately, and often could be found carrying his little sister Kaya in the boat in front of him.

As Ben outgrew the Wood Duckling, Kaya enthusiastically took it over, while Granddad Mike built a Stitch-and-Glue Petrel Play for Ben. “When your grandfather built it for you,” the younger Hammond said, “it makes it really special. You have the memories of your father making it, and your kid paddling it.”

Mike’s volunteer work with the Blueway morphed into a career choice. Today he is the Calusa Blueway Coordinator for Lee County’s Parks & Recreation department. And you’ll sometimes find photos of his kids in their beautiful, heirloom-quality boats in the Blueway’s information and promotional materials. After all, these are pretty pictures.

Petrel Play by Mike H

“Everybody stops and looks when we go out,” said Mike of the eyecatching craft.

In the interim, the elder Hammond also built a handsome Kaholo 14. The grandkids like that, too, and seem to be undaunted by the large size.

Now Kaya also will soon outgrow the Duckling. Father and grandfather think they’ll tackle an adult-sized Wood Duck next. This time, they plan to involve the entire family in the building process as well.  “This way Kaya will have another kayak to keep growing into, and my mom can use it when Kaya is not,” Mike said.