Beaufort News

Bluffton men create kayak for charity

The intricate, handcrafted cedar kayak that Bluffton residents Steve Hickman and Jim Grove have spent nearly 200 hours assembling might never hit the water, but Hickman said he doesn't mind.

The kayak is the second one the two friends have built to auction off to benefit the Bluffton Boys & Girls Club.

Before the auction at the organization's spring gala March 5, the kayak will be displayed at Berkeley Hall, Belfair, Colleton River and other local communities to spur interest in the event.

For now, the kayak, which Hickman and Grove have been building since Thanksgiving with different hues of cedar, remains in Hickman's Palmetto Bluff garage.

Hickman said it needs just one more coat of varnish to be ready for its first display today at Bluffton Oyster Co.

This year's kayak is more complicated and beautiful than the one he built from a kit last year and which fetched $2,800 at the auction, he said.

That project fell into his lap when a resident decided he lacked the expertise to use the kayak kit and donated it to the club. Hickman's wife, Sally, who is on the club's board of directors, volunteered him for the job of putting it together.

That kayak was built using stitch-and-sew assembly -- thin pieces of plywood held together with copper wire that is removed after the joints are coated with fiberglass. This year's version has a deck that is strip-built -- the pieces are glued over a skeleton that is later removed -- to showcase the various shades of wood. It also features an American Indian motif inlay in the front.

Hickman, who called himself "fairly handy," said a Colleton River Plantation resident is interested in buying the boat to use as decor at his son's brew pub in Charlotte.

Grove, whom Hickman met while living at Colleton River Plantation 20 years ago, has been a great partner, he said.

"We've had a wonderful time," Hickman said.

Douglas Barry, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry, said the kayak is a special and unique auction item certain to help the local club.

"The dedication of these individuals is just terrific, spending so many hours to build a product that will raise awareness as it travels around the plantations and also raise funds once it's sold," Barry said.

Hickman was involved with Boys & Girls Clubs in Michigan before he moved to the Lowcountry.

"I think it's a wonderful cause," he said.