Previous month:
December 2006
Next month:
February 2007

Google's Earth

LakeunionHave you ever played with Google Earth?  I like to use the satellite feature on Google Maps to explore the areas I plan to paddle in.  If I put it on maximum magnification and crawl around the shoreline I can imagine I'm already there, paddling on a sunny day.  Google Earth even let's you zoom in and tilt the camera angle to ground level to get a look at what the landscape would look like if you were standing there.  I imagine a time in the near future when this technology renders images so accurate there would be no reason to leave your computer.  Here are a few pics I took:

1) Boats and kayaks on Lake Union in Seattle.  In his book, Kayaking: Puget Sound, the San Juans, and Gulf Islands Randel Washburne writes, "Lake Union has perhaps the highest year-round density of sea kayaks, perhaps nation- or even worlwide."  So it was a good bet that I would find some kayaks there.

Wollochetbay2) The public boat lauch at Wollochet Bay -- compare it to the picture of Moonlight Dancer in my Fox Island Circumnavigation post.  Pretty cool, huh?  All that's missing is the kayak.

Narrowsfloatingbridge3)  The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, or should I say, the Tacoma Narrows floating bridge.  Obviously, Mt Rainier is missing from the background.  It must be too distant for Google Earth to bother rendering it.  In real life it's hard to miss. 

4)  If you move a little closer, Mt Rainier comes into view.

5)  Deception Pass, as seen if you were to paddle around Deception Island and face east into the Pass.  Again, the bridge is rendered as a floating road. MtrainierDeceptionpass

Stems, Off the Form

Stem1Stem2Stem3Stem4Stem5I am still impressed by the scale of this small boat.  A simple thing as laminating the stem blank required 32 strips and buckets of epoxy.  I think it took me two hours just to apply the epoxy on each strip and clamp the thing together. 

Well, the epoxy cured and the stem blank came off the form easily with a few taps with a hammer.  I planed the surfaces smooth and also got to use my new toy, my very own spokeshave.  I never thought I needed one before.  It works very well and is a real pleasure to use.  I used it to smooth out the inner surface of the stem.  I ordered it from The Wooden Boat Store, where you can find the tools you need at more reasonable prices than, for instance, Lie Nielsen.  I'm just trying to get a boat done anyway, not collect heirloom tools to pass onto my grandchildren!

Once the surfaces were smoothed and scraped clear of epoxy a tap with the hammer separated the inner and outer stem blanks, which were prevented from being glued together by a strip of plastic tape. 

ExpandedpanelLastly, I transferred the measurements of the three side panels (garboard, middle and sheerstrake) to plywood.  It required measuring up from a baseline every foot along the length of the plywood sheet, hammering in nails at the points and fairing the curves between the points with a batten.  Once the batten was nailed in place I drew the curves and removed the batten and nails.  The next step will be to cut the three panels out, then use them as patterns to make identical panels from the other 14 ft sheet of plywood. 

Fox Island Circumnavigation

Foxisland6Foxisland5One thing I really like about the Pacific Northwest is the mild climate.  For instance, we're enjoying unusually sunny weather this weekend and it is predicted to last all week.  There are days during the winter when it can feel like spring.  On the other hand, I remember paddling during the middle of August when it was so cold I could have used another layer of fleece.  Once in a while I'll lose my sense of the seasons entirely and forget whether it is supposed to be getting warmer or cooler and if the days are getting longer or shorter. 

Today I paddled around Fox Island.  There are so many little islands around Puget Sound I thought I might as well start working my way down the list.  It will help me from getting stuck in a routine paddling my usual familiar routes.  There might be something interesting out there -- I'll never know unless I see for myself.

Foxisland1Foxisland2Foxisland3One thing I learned was that it's important to get your bearings before shoving off.  I figured I wouldn't need a chart -- how hard can it be to paddle around an island?  Well, there are quite a few little channels and inlets here so it is possible to get lost, especially when remote landmarks are obscured by a little fog like we had this morning.  When I got to the put-in I got a little disoriented because the fog made everything look farther away than it normally would.  So what I thought was the channel I needed to cross to the island turned out to be a little inlet and I ended up circumnavigating the island anticlockwise instead of clockwise as I had planned.  (Actually, I did have the chart in the car -- I just didn't look at it.)  After about a mile I figured it out anyway, because I ran into a bridge that I didn't expect to be there.  It turned out for the best, because I got to the west entrance to Hale Passage before the current I was paddling against reached its max.  So much for all my careful trip planning!

Later in the day the fog cleared up.  There's still a lot of undeveloped shoreline on the southern side  of Fox Island, unlike the more protected northern shore, which is occupied by some very impressive waterside mansions.  Trip distance was 12 nm.

Lastly, here is a pic I took on the drive home of the Narrows Bridge, both the old and new.  Apologies to those of you who see this every morning on the way to work!


Scarfs and Stems

PanelscarfStemstripsStemlaminationBack to boatbuilding again.  I haven't been showing much because it's a slow process, and also because I'm just trying to get all the pieces cut out first to make the best use of space I have.  During these preparatory steps it's not very interesting and won't look like a boat for a long time yet. 

One thing that really made me anxious was scarfing the plywood sheets together, because it can be difficult to get a good fit by planing the joints by hand.  Well, hand planing turned out to be not too time consuming and the joints look OK -- not "invisible" but probably good enough to be bright finished (on the inside anyway).  The 3/4 in plywood that makes up the bottom is joined with thickened epoxy over a 6 in scarf and the 3/8ths in plywood that makes up the side panels is joined over a 3 in scarf.  The resulting panels are 14 ft long, so they take up most of the workshop floor.  I'm having to work a lot on my knees (having comfortable knee pads is essential) and step carefully around the room so I don't mar the wood.  I built a frame just to lift the panels off the floor and glue them together.  I fixed a caul (clamping board) over the joint with drywall screws to clamp the panels together tightly.  Parchment paper keeps the panels from sticking to the caul and to each other.

I used up some more yellow cedar to make 1/8 th in strips to laminate the inner and outer stem.  I actually used a handheld circular saw equipped with a homemade "fence" to cut out the strips, and because the blade wasn't deep enough it required two passes.  It did an even better job than my cheap table saw!

Here is a pic of dryfitting of the strips on the form.  Both the inner stem and outer step are laminated during the same step on the form: a strip of plastic packing tape placed in the middle will allow the inner half of strips to separate from the outer half.

Camera Roll

CamerarollDeliriousHere's a neat trick I saw Dubside do at the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium: take a waterproof camera with the video function on and hold it in one hand while you capsize, recovering with a handroll and still pointing the camera at yourself.  In my version, I try to hold my breath as long as possible.  You can see the clip here.  I think I started to get a little delirious with hypoxia!  ;-)


LighthouseBrownspoint_1Sealions_2LogsSoftsandJust wandering on this not particularly pretty day... to the lighthouse, around Browns Point, past sea lions on the barges and Tyee Marina, through an area reserved for logs (oops!) and onto a unusually soft and dark sandy beach (must be the stuff they dredged up from that Superfund site), ending at a ship wreck before heading back.  I salvaged a cool red and white float for my collection of flotsam.Wreck

The Next Step

BettiepageLet’s face it:  If G-Style is going to grow it has to become more commercialized.  That means mass produced off-the-shelf standard-sized GPs and kayaks for the masses.  Forget about making things by hand!  For one thing, it takes too much time to make things to order and to get the fit of a kayak or paddle just right.  For another, there are too few commercial builders out there for them to develop a meaningful relationship with every person who wants a Greenland style kayak.

I'm sure most of us first started Greenland style by purchasing or carving a simple wooden GP.  Yet you can't just go to your local kayak shop and pick one up.  The last kayak shop I stepped into, located in the heart of Seattle, had dozens of carbon crankshaft Werner paddles but only one GP, a clunky laminated wooden Mitchell.  How hard it is to stock a few standard-sized cedar GPs?  They didn’t even have a copy of Dubside’s video for sale.  By the way, if you haven’t noticed already, the video doesn’t have an ISBN or UPC code --  which makes it impossible to sell in bookstores. 

It seems that the spread of G-style is inhibited by the resistance of its own members to growth and commercialization.  For example, a lot of G-Style instructors do not charge, or feel that it is not appropriate to charge, for paddling and rolling instruction.  The unfortunate result is a scarcity of G-Style instruction outside of the symposium setting.  Another example: attendance at the  South South Traditional Inuit Kayak Symposium reached a little over 100 in 2006. The Qajaq USA regional advisor told me that 100 people is about as many people as the symposium can really handle, given the venue.  In other words, they would like to keep it small and really don’t want a lot more people attending.  Then there was the interesting suggestion to adjust the registration fee according to income and ability to pay.  Am I wrong in sensing some anti-capitalist tendencies here?

In any case, interest in G-Style continues to grow, maybe despite the nonefforts of it's hard core participants.  So there's lots of untapped commercial potential here!  The next logical step following the commodification of traditional kayaking of course is the sexualization of G-Style.  That's right.  In fact it's already started.  A recommendation for Dubside: follow the lead of the black rubber-clad Goddess of G-Style and get some corporate endorsements.  Contact Feathercraft or another manufacturer who is willing to build you a low-volume roller.  Then sell it in ads that feature you half-clothed and surrounded by girls in bikinis like an Abercrombie and Fitch commercial (G-Style desperately needs more girls in bikinis, like they have in the hot rod and power yacht magazines).  Then again, the sex appeal of Dubside to all the old guys that make up the vast majority of the G-Style crowd is probably pretty limited...

I also have a recommendation for the rest of us: whenever you post pictures of your new skin-on-frame kayak, display it with a girl in a bikini in the picture.  Never mind that the water is cold and they risk hypothermia.  Nearly naked girls really set off the rugged masculinity of these hunting craft.  It will show G-Style as the cool, fun, sexy, youth-oriented sport it aspires to be!

Cross Deck Bow Jam

CfjI've been off the water for so long I've nearly forgotten how much I like my kayak.  I put it away to dry because I planned to repair some deck rigging and add more lines, plus the antler piece fell off the bow last time I took it to the pool and I wanted to repair that, but somehow I lost it.  But it was so nice out today that I had to take it out.  I'd also forgotten how little the water temp changes around here even when it's freezing outside.

BowjambHere is a little video clip of the "cross deck bow jam" that I mentioned in November.  In review:  pick up some speed, sweep and edge to initiate the turn, then place the inside end of the paddle on the outside of the turn (that's where the "cross-deck" comes in).  Place it by the bow and angle the blade so the leading edge is touching the kayak and the trailing edge is angled away.  I know it's just another way to turn a kayak, but I find it easier than a bow rudder with a Greenland paddle, because you can lever the paddle off the gunwale.   In fact the water "jams" it into the gunwale. With a bow rudder it takes more effort to pull the paddle against the bow.  I don't know how it performs in the wind though.

The Big Rib

FinishedframeNails1In skin-on-frame kayaks these pieces are called "ribs" but in other boats they are known as "frames".  I finished the laminated midship frame today.  It's amazing how many steps it takes to get this far: construction of a form according to a pattern, milling the strips, coating the strips with epoxy, bending and clamping the strips around the form, cutting the frame according to the pattern and then planing smooth.  Good thing there is only one frame in this boat. 

HNails2ere is a classic trick to transfer lines from a drawing to wood.  The first trick is to place the pattern over the wood and punch through the lines with an awl (described a couple times previously).  The other trick is to lay common nails with their heads along the lines, hammer them into the pattern, then carefully lay the wood over the pattern and hammer the wood against the nail heads.  The heads will make an impression of the pattern onto the wood and will even stick in the wood. Then you just connect the dots and cut along the lines.  I use a jigsaw. The blade of the jigsaw tends to wander sideways to I have to leave a little extra when I cut, and then carve down to the lines with a plane.  Yesterday my friend Ricardo said that they have some really good power tools at the Bates boat building program I could use if I wanted to take some of my work there.  They have a table saw that  is accurate to 1/64 th of an inch.  The problem is my work is here and not there.

Todays lesson is that a really motivated boat builder with simple hand tools can do in only a few hours what someone with good power tools will take several minutes to accomplish.