Previous month:
March 2006
Next month:
May 2006

Paddling Today...

Weather today: Calm and sunny. The seaweed is starting to grow. As it warms up the water turns green and the beach can get thick with it. There were a lot of people at the beach, including some middle school kids in swim trunks thinking about jumping off the fishing pier. I told them go ahead, the water's fine! Sure it's a little cold, but you'll get used to it. Good thing they didn't believe me. I'd probably get to witness first hand laryngospasm and the mammalian diving reflex. Then I'd get to use the ACLS skills I just practiced during my recertification this weekend. I passed by the way which is good since I didn't study -- I was too busy working on my kayak.


Cedar Strip Kayak Building: Bulkheads and More


Here is a picture of the finished coaming, glossy from a little wet sanding. I think it turned out OK.  Joel said it looks like a bicycle tire, and why didn't I just make one out of wood? Well, because carbon fiber is just so cool!  Actually I choose the composite coaming because other builders told me that it would be easier to make than wood, and lighter. I don't think either of those statements is really true. I think it's possible to make a coaming with a lower profile and wider rim this way though, and that it will grip the sprayskirt better too. 


So the deck is done and ready to be joined to the hull, but the hull still needs some work. I started glassing the bulkheads in. First I squirted a bead of hot glue where the bulkhead meets the center of the hull and two more beads on the sides, then made fillets (pronounced "fill-its") with epoxy thickened with half Cabosil and half sanding dust, extruded through a zip lock sandwich bag with a hole cut in the corner and smoothed over with a finger, then finally covered with a piece of fiberglass cut on the bias. Now I have to wait until it hardens before scraping out the hot glue to do the other side.


Here is a picture of the hull. Most people don't ask to look at kayaks upside down but I like to. This hull looks fairly round. I'm used to hard chines so it will be interesting to see how this one paddles. Yes it's true -- I've never actually paddled a Shooting Star!  Isn't it crazy that I spent all this time, effort and expense building a kayak that I've never tried before? When I ordered the plans I guess I was just looking for a difficult-to-build traditional-looking low-volume exotic design to show off at all the kayak symposia. Yup, she's gonna be a real chick magnet!  :-)


Pic of the Day


Aleut Style: Marc Daniels (far left) of True North Boats and his two baidarkas, at Tribal Journeys 2005, Port Angeles, WA. Funny thing, Marc was also living in a treehouse making baidarkas in California just like George Dyson (no kidding this time!)

I want to make a traditional bentwood hat. But maybe out of carbon fiber? 

Life's Little Victories


I accidently left my cell phone in my pants and sent it through the washing machine yesterday. I took it apart and let it dry overnight. Today I put the battery back in and it still works! And it has a full charge too! Actually, I put the battery in an identical phone I had (the cheap Nokia 6010 that comes free with the service plan) that had gotten wet in a leaky drybag quite a while ago. I rinsed that one off and had it drying ever since but didn't need to try it until now. I always get the cheap phones now because I know these things will happen to me, especially when kayaking.


Cedar Strip Kayak Building: Hatch Lips and More


Today I left work with a list of things to do on my kayak scratched out on the back of next month's call schedule and methodically worked my way through them. Things always take longer than I expect. First thing I did was take the kayak out of the shop and set her down on drop cloths and a long Thermarest pad for a test fit. I dropped the foam seat in and squeezed myself in. Ah, nice fit! No need for any extra foam here: the deck is right up against my thighs. The cockpit opening is the same size as on my skin-on-frame but since it's nearly horizontal it's more difficult to get in. I've been in some Greenland replica boats where I had to take my booties off in order to enter. When you have to do that you know you have a good fit!

Using a Sharpie taped to the end of a long stick I marked on the hull where the footbrace should be.  For simplicity, I'll use the forward bulkhead padded with foam as the footbrace. That will also maximize the forward compartment space.

I worked on the "hatch lips" that I glassed onto the deck last night. I cut out the holes in the middle, sanded them down and applied an epoxy seal coat. I sanded the coaming again and attached it to the deck with a layer of thickened epoxy. I'm going through a lot of blue tape. 

I made templates for the bulkheads and cut them to fit.The rear bulkhead has the moon face design and a little note under the glass that says that Rob Macks of Laughing Loon Kayaks is the designer and I'm the builder. Hmmm, maybe I'll put that moon face on a mug and put it in my Cafe Press store. The note was made by running tissue paper (left over wrapping material, smoothed out with a hot iron) through an ink jet printer. The tissue paper wets out with epoxy and is completely transparent. I should have put the Hull Identification Number there too but I forgot. My arms are starting to itch and I suspect that I'm either developing the dreaded hypersensitivity to epoxy (which I've taken just about every possible measure I could to avoid) or it's the fiberglass. 

I just read on the Kayak Forum that Pete Roszyk drowned on Easter while swimming in Panama.  Interesting that I was just thinking of him last night when I posted that picture of Dick Mahler's three-part Pygmy Arctic Tern 14, which Pete built. I met Pete only once during a Sound Area Wooden Kayakers trip down Hammersley inlet. I recognized him from his strip-built pickup truck canopy (really!) and his Pygmy Coho that shared the same features and excellent craftmanship of Dick Mahler's Tern. It's very sad news.


Boatbuilder's Curse


Dick Mahler's three part Pygmy Arctic Tern 14 built by Pete Roszyk, Ted and Holly Henry's Redfish Silver and Redfish King, at R2K5

Strip builders are all perfectionists. Have you ever been to one of those wooden kayak rendezvous like R2K5?  After they unload their kayaks everyone starts rubbing them down with some kind of automotive polish. Then  they'll discuss the virtues of whatever product they're using. Next topic is oil-based vs water-based polyurethane, or staple vs stapleless construction. I'm no different. For instance, I hereby declare that STAPLELESS CONSTRUCTION is now the new standard! Stripbuilding takes so long that the amount of time you can save by using staples is really insignificant.

One of the reasons I like to take a lot of pictures of kayaks is that I refer to them when I'm building.  It helps to see how other people did things and what the completed project is supposed to look like. But after one gains some experience building one starts to look at the boats differently. I used to see the whole boat in it's polished wooden glory, and now I see all the imperfections  -- a little weave of the fiberglass glinting in the sunlight, the barely noticable seam between the deck and hull, the slight irregularity of the hatch edges. I zoom in on a picture to look closely at the unevenness of a composite coaming. If I could, I would close my eyes and run my fingers lightly over the surface to feel for the bumps and valleys. I can never look at a wooden kayak the same way again. It's the boatbuilder's curse. 


Cedar Strip Kayak Building: Strong Enough?

Take a finished stripwood panel, a hammer, and twelve year old with a license to destroy and see what happens.  The layup is 6 oz fiberglass on both sides with a layer of 6 oz carbon fiber on one side, with a 3/16 in cedar strip core.  We ended up with a couple dents in the wood that didn't penetrate through -- isolated damage that would be easy to repair.  Joel expected the whole panel to break in half. He was sorely disappointed!




Pic of the Day


My favorite grocery store in the San Juans, King's Market, Friday Harbor. It's a great place to pick up a picnic lunch for your day trip or load up on supplies for an overnighter.

When I forgot my tent poles at home on one trip I bought a brand new tent upstairs at King's Marine for $29! (OK, I really only got a couple days use out of it before the poles rusted together, but it's still cheaper than staying at a B&B.)


Balance Brace


Balance brace with my Greenland skin-on-frame, Misterie, Dash Point.

I caught myself rushing today, trying to calculate how much more I can get done on my boat in the few hours I had this evening: stripping the bulkheads, applying more epoxy to the coaming, making hatch lips... As the weather heats up, builders rush to get their kayaks done for the warm paddling season, and to show off their boats at whatever kayak symposium is coming up next (I'm aiming for SSTIKS). Probably not a good idea -- I've seen how rushing the process leads to all kind of mistakes and compromises. So today I just stopped. It was a beautiful day. I turned off the lights in the workshop, walked away, took my qajaq to the beach and played in the water, just for a little while, to remind me why I'm building this new boat.