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August 2006
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October 2006

Feel the Creativity

Fair1Some images from the Puyallup Fair this past weekend.  The Fair is a Puget Sound area tradition: lots of farm animals, country music, greasy fried food, huge crowds, and people making a killing selling parking on their lawns. 

Pictured counterclockwise from top left: Elvis quilt; home canned foods; home-made life-size Wizard of Oz mannequins; and cookies displayed like works of art.  [click on pics for a bigger image]  Can you feel the creative energy?  It's overwhelming!  I despair that life is not long enough to learn how to bake, quilt, can and kayak.  But what the hell would anyone do with life-size Wizard of Oz mannequins?

Next pic:  Monster Mouse Rollercoaster; another ride; giant pumpkin carving; and cow milking simulator.  The cow milking simulator looked pretty cool.  I must say though that I think it just reinforces the myth that milk is collected from cows by young girls squeezing it into buckets, instead of by machine

Video Clip of the Day

TritonRolling, rolling, and more rolling.  I'm in the process of cutting the video I took at the 2006 West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium  "Roll Off" featuring Dubside, Leon Sommé, Shawna Franklin and Kathy Miller.  I got a lot of good shots of the announcer's back, and my battery ran down at the end, so I might just end up with a "highlights" video.  Here is a clip of Cathy Miller and Shawna Franklin in the Triton, performing assammik nerfallaallugu

I think the refinement of the skill of rolling is probably the greatest contribution of Greenland Style to mainstream sea kayaking.  By putting the kayak roll in the spotlight, Greenland Style raises awareness of the techniques, raises the standard for sea kayaking skills, and encourages training of those skills.  Do I dare mention that the ability to roll is not required to obtain the BCU 4 Star Sea Award, "provided the rest of a candidates performance is sound?"  And when it is tested "a roll on one side only is required."  I expect that will change, if it hasn't already.  When it does it will prove my point.  I personally believe that even before training in the demanding 4 Star environment a kayaker should have mastered a reliable roll on both sides. 

Greenland Rolling Demonstration by Dubside, SSTIKS 2006

Watch on YouTube

I have republished this video of Dubside's rolling demo at SSTIKS 2006. It was originally published on Google Video years ago, because back then Google did not have a time limit to the videos you could upload, and the time limit on You Tube was 15 min. Google Video was eventually retired and all the videos were moved to YouTube. Originally it was shot in standard video and uploaded to the low quality video format available at the time. I have upscaled it to stunning 1080p HD video and added a few subtitles for the rolls. This required a complete re-editing of the video from the original tape. I recommend watching it on YouTube on the highest quality format on a large screen.

This video is representative of an era when both Greenland Style kayaking and Dubside were growing rapidly in popularity, just before Dubside went on to publish first his ropes video, then his rolling videos. I hope you agree that it merits preservation for its historical value.

May 5, 2013

Sea Trials

Wcsksday2Now that I'm done building boats for the year (yeah, RIGHT) it's time to enjoy and get to know the kayaks I have.  That means more paddling, measuring and getting quantitative with the GPS.  I've learned so much already.  For instance, The Jewel performs a lot better than Moonlight Dancer in the wind.  The wind had been blowing all night before the second day of the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium.  It whipped up the waves enough that they closed the Demo Beach.  A handful of paddlers were messing around that afternoon and a few on-water classes were still going on as the vendors were packing up their tents to escape the rain and go home.  Moonlight Dancer leecocked badly.  It was a struggle to point upwind.  The Jewel however turned around very easily and didn't weathercock at all.  Her upturned bow rides over the waves without punching through them, so despite the flat foredeck she really isn't a wet ride.  She also surfs the waves smoothly, without the bow digging into the water.   She could be a very nice boat for rough conditions.  More study is needed.

SheerlineI've always wondered if the hull shape of a skin-on-frame kayak changes when it's loaded.  We know that the skin gets pushed in when it's on the water, so the surfaces between the keelson and chine stringers are actually concave.  From what I can tell from pictures and video, the kayak is stiff enough so that the rocker does NOT change when a paddler gets in. 

RollsniceAs I expected, The Jewel rolls very easily.  I can balance brace without a paddle, and hand roll both sides. But why?  I knew the hull shape, with it's flat bottom and flared guwales combined with the moderate beam, would provide plenty of initial and secondary stability.  What I didn't know is that the extreme rocker helps lower the center of gravity, and the upturned ends of the bow and stern help to resist capsize and provide buoyancy that assists with the righting motion of the roll (I am reminded of the upturned ends of the NDK Romany). 

Check out this video clip of my handroll.  I'm trying to keep my head on the back deck the whole time, but at the end it gets a little sloppy. 

WCSKS 2006

Wcsks1Wcsks7The year begins and ends with the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium.  It’s where you can assess how much progress you’ve made in skills and how much more you need to learn, and also see how many more kayaking friends you’ve gotten to know, because just about everyone is there. 

This year I showed up early and got a parking spot right on the beach.  I took Moonlight Dancer out for the Early Morning Paddle, weaving among a multitude of brightly colored boats to the front of the group.  It was a fantastically beautiful Saturday morning.  Afterwards I met Dubside and Tom setting up their ropes demonstration by the beach.  While we chatted the instructor coordinator ran up and asked if one of us could start the on-the-water Greenland Paddling course, since the instructor was late.  I said sure, I could say a few words and kill some time until he showed up.  Still in my tuilik, I lifted my new skin-on-frame Chapelle replica on my shoulder, grabbed Beale #127 and headed for the class.  At least I looked the part.

Wcsks4Wcsks3There were four students with varying levels of experience, but all new to the GP.  They picked through a pile of GPs on the picnic table. 

“OK everybody, this is how you hold the Greenland paddle.  Two fingers on the loom and two on the shoulder.  Forward cant about 30 degrees…”

Hey, I’m playing instructor, talking about foils and windage and abdominal crunches as the BCU crowd looks on! 

“The forward stroke is different from the Euroblade… Why do we paddle this way?  Because that's how Maligiaq's grandfather taught him!” 

When the real instructor doesn’t show up, I said, “OK, well… let’s get on the water!”  I helped everyone carry their kayaks to the beach.  “Oh yeah -- everyone here OK with wet exits?” 

Wcsks2When everyone was in the water I slipped into my replica.  By the way, it was the official launch of Chapelle’s Forgotten Jewel (Jewel for short).  Unceremonious, but it felt good and I couldn’t help but break into a big smile as she glided across the water. 

“Allow the paddle to exit way past your hip.  Remember to open your grip on your pushing hand.  Also push with the foot on the side of your stroke.”

We practiced the forward stroke and later ran into Warren in his Arctic Hawk SS.  I gathered everyone around and asked Warren to say a few words about the forward stroke.  He’s been paddling Greenland Style exclusively now for the past five years. 

“Keep your elbows low and shoulders parallel to the paddle.  That keeps you paddling with the big muscles of your torso…”

Wcsks6He doesn’t use the abdominal crunch that I talked about.  Check it out -- the BCU Dropout and me teaching a class!  Neither of us was wearing a PFD by the way, or had a bilge pump, spare paddle, or tow rope.  And to top it off, we weren’t even registered to be at the Symposium!  When I think about the legal implications if something had gone wrong, it’s scary.  I got a free t-shirt out the deal but I think I better stay away from instructing: I may have the skill, but I lack the judgment.

[For more picture of The Jewel see the Photo Album]

Kayak Jewelry

Toggles_1Chapelle 208 is ready for the water.  I installed rub strips yesterday afternoon, long pieces of oak which I glued onto the hull with Marine Goop and pegged into place.  East Greenland Kayak hulls tended to be heavily armored against the ice. One specimen described in Eastern Arctic Kayaks even had a big tin plate over the forefoot. 

Here is a picture of some of the deck toggles (sliders and beads) I carved last night.  I am forever grateful to Woody Woodside for the caribou antler.  It really gives it that authentic look, and is amazing stuff to work with -- so much stronger than wood and lighter than resin.  It has a distinctive odor.  It's like the smell of a dog, the oily smell of burnt hair, burnt flesh.  It's reminds me of being in dog lab or a major orthopedic procedure -- smokey cauterized bone. 

What is the secret to working with antler?  The Dremel Tool, of course!  Just a touch with that high speed bit and the surface vaporizes leaving a cloud of antler dust in your face.  I highly recommend wearing a face shield, respirator, and ear plugs. 

EndknobHere is a pic of the protective end knob on the stern.  It is a single piece of antler with the cancellous (spongy) center hollowed out.  The decorative grooves and pits are not traditional: They are what I could do with the Dremel Tool attachments.  Maybe later I'll try carving some seals or whales like John Petersen, but right now I'm just trying to get the kayak ready for the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium in Port Townsend this weekend.   See you there!

Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

Wbf1PassagemakerIt's back to the normally scheduled weather here in the Pacific Northwest -- partly cloudy with a chance of rain.  That didn't keep us from strolling around the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival though, looking at, among other things, kayaks and little sailing dinghys.  The usual suspects were there: Pygmy, Redfish, Orca Boats, and the Skinboat School.  Something new for me:  Chesapeake Light Craft had a very strong presence with a lot of kayaks, including the Sea Island Sport, a new stitch and glue sit-on-top, as well as their Passagemaker sailing dinghy, which really interested me.   

PygmyPort Townsend is Pygmy's home town, by the way.  I visited their big new showroom for the first time today.  Imagine The Gap for kayaks.  That's what it was like.  Honestly, Pygmy seems dead in the water.  I never paid much attention to Chesapeake Light Craft before but they keep coming out with new designs, and in contrast Pygmy hasn't come out with anything new for a long, long time.   Maybe it's because they have only one designer.  Pygmy started me out in sea kayaking so I have a soft spot in my heart for them.  But they should keep up. They totally missed the sit-on-top market, for instance.   You can't just stop designing and not innovate!  They could use more high performance traditional models like  Greenland style kayaks and baidarkas.  Not to mention racing kayaks, surf boats, canoes, and sailing dinghys.

Wbf2Speaking of baidarkas, Corey Freedman was in the process of building a frame and bending yellow cedar ribs when I walked by the Skin Boat School pavilion.  I asked him about coating his Spirit Line two-part urethane with cheap hardware store one-part urethane and he said, "Why do you want to use that stuff?  It's not industrial.  It will probably flake off in a year.  Use our stuff."  Well, boatbuilders are an independent bunch so I'll just have to try it my way and see if he's right. 

Ladywashingtonwbf2InterceptorFinally, I got on board The Lady Washington.  I've been getting it wrong all these years: the Lady played The Interceptor on Pirates of the Caribbean, not The Black Pearl.  An interesting factoid: the Lady has no wheel, but instead has the biggest tiller I've ever seen.  Of course in the movie they added the wheel in.

[See more pictures of the Wooden Boat Festival here]



FuglyI have to change my standards when I look at a skinboat.   Coated nylon can't compare to a perfectly smooth shiny varnished wood surface, especally when it's held together with a Frankenstein's Monster sewing job.   I'm telling myself to just embrace the ugliness.   (Sorry, no "full body" kayak pictures from now on until it's done.)

CoatedcoamingI've been working hard on "Chapelle 208" but haven't posted in a while because of my frustration trying to get the color and the waterproofing right.  The guy at Spirit Line told me that the dye would darken after it was coated with the urethane, but I didn't expect it to turn from a yellow ochre to a chocolate brown!  The first lesson is that unless you try it on a test strip you can't tell what color it will be when you are done.  Plus every day it seems to change slightly, or maybe I'm just getting used to it.  The second lesson is that two-part urethane is awful stuff.  I will never use it again.  It sags and drips, even several hours after you think it has cured.  It's difficult to sand smooth.  One putative advantage is that is goes on quickly so you can waterproof a boat in two days.  However, it stays tacky for several days afterwards.  This is my third time using it so I can't blame it on not having enough experience with it.  I think the trick is to work the surface smooth continously with a spreader for a couple hours until the urethane has cured enough that it won't move anymore. I'm planning to apply a coat or two of a matte finish oil based polyurethane to smooth out the surface and get rid of the glossy sheen.

Cross Training

Sailing1Check it out-- that's me at the tiller!  Yes it's true: I've been secretly studying the art of sailing under the guidance of my friend Dick, who lives on a boat and has been sailing for the past 50 years.  Most recently I consumed the little book, "The Complete Sailor" which is well-written guide for beginners and very enjoyable to read.  It's the text used by the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle.  Now I know what a boomvang is!  I still need to practice all those knots though.

I must admit that as a kayaker, when I go to blogs and someone posts an article about something other than kayaking, like cycling or sailing, I just tune out.  So to keep you interested here are a few first impressions of sailing from a kayaker:

Sailing2Sailing is very dry.
Forget all that immersion wear -- you can wear cotton.
Sailors know everything there is about rope.
Sailing close hauled is cool!
Sailing can be very slow. 
Sailors really don't have any routes planned out ahead of time.
Sailing all afternoon does not count as a "work out".
If you actually want to get somewhere stick to kayaking.

There are some very important skills that crossover into kayaking, such as reading the wind and waves, piloting and navigation, and of course, everything related to boat design and building.  If you couldn't make those little boats out of wood I probably wouldn't be interested in sailing at all (Am I giving away the next project I'm planning?)

Lazy Sunday Paddle

Alki1What makes this trip a "lazy" one?  Lack of planning for one thing.  I decided at the last minute where I was going to go.  I had the opportunity to actually drive somewhere because my kayak was already on my car from yesterday and my gear was in the trunk.  I found a nice little beach off Harbor Avenue south of Duwamish head in West Seattle to put in.  There is a little kayak rental place there, public bathrooms, and plenty of convenient parking. 

Alki2Alki3I headed northwest around Duwamish Head, the most likely place to find waves big enough to surf (there weren't any), fired off a few rolls to cool down, and then toward Alki Beach.  As I expected on this beautiful Labor Day weekend the beach was really busy -- a perfect time and location for The Experiment.  I stopped and hauled my kayak onto the driftwood and picked out a nice spot to have lunch.  Some guys sat down nearby after their volleyball game and said "nice kayak".  I acknowledged them and continued just lounging in the sand.  And waited.  No chicks.  There was one who stopped as I was packing to go and asked me if she needed to get out of my way, but she didn't smile so I didn't count her.  Plus she was not wearing a bikini.  Therefore I must conclude that Moonlight Dancer is not a chick magnet.  Maybe it was my funny black rubber dress or the seaweed in my hair but so far I haven't been able to replicate the results that others have achieved. 

BUILDING NOTES:  I am in the process of coloring (code name) "Chapelle 208".  The nylon skin is dyed with Jacquard Acid Dye, a powder which came in a little Zip-Lok bag labeled "Eric's Warm Brown Mix".  The instructions say to add 10-15% vinegar but Brian Schulz adds 50% vinegar.  Why can't boatbuilders just follow instructions and not do everything their own way?  I eyeballed it and used 20-25%.  I painted it on with a foam brush, then set it with a heat gun.  Mike Hanks recommended setting it with a steamer.  I tried the steamer and it sputtered sending big drops of boiling water all over which left the skin mottled with waterstains and halos.  So I rinsed the whole thing off with a garden hose.  That smoothed out the color.  A lot of the dye did not set and rinsed off, so after it dried in the sun it was more gold than brown.  So I dyed it again, this time spraying the dye on and setting it with the heat gun, then immediately rinsed it off, and the color is much deeper.  In addition to using a lot of pigment, unset dye may possibly adversely affect the bonding of the urethane to the skin, so I think that the rinse cycle is a good idea, although it is not in the instructions.