Thank you for everyone chiming in!
I will for sure try to find a decent pine or red cedar with the proper grain now...will see if any of the smaller lumber yards have any...guess transporting Cedar down here is costly (in South Florida), hence its lack of availability at the big box stores....
As for the painting/finishing question - an pointers?
Rescue / Throw Bags
YakCatcher Rod Holder
Dock & Launch Systems
Wabakimi Canoe Pack
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