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Pic of the Day

Warren_breaking_outWarren sent me this pic of him playing at the Skookumchuck tidal race. I'd like to give credit to whomever took the pic. More photos from Warren's trip with the SKSB-NW group can be found at Larry Knell's album here. 

Warren did ask me if I was going on that trip to BC with them but I declined.  In fact, I thought he was crazy -- no way my skills are at that level!  In fact, I haven't even been at Deception Pass for quite a while.  I've been suffering from quite a bit of "been there, done that" feeling about the Pass that keeps me from making the two-hour drive.  With the beautiful summer days coming up though I think I'll make it a priority to spend more time up there. 

Found on YouTube: Glimpses of Greenland

GreenlandI've probably skipped over this short video dozens of times while browsing on YouTube and finally today took a few minutes time to watch it.  I've recently discovered that browsing through all those junk videos trying to find the rare gems becomes much more tolerable if I turn the video sound off and play my own soundtrack on iTunes (typically my favorite internet radio station, Secret Agent on SOMA FM). 

In this video, Irish currach-builder Pádraig Ó Duinnín travels to Greenland to kayak with the Inuit.  After I got to the traditional kayaking scene I had to rewind and listen to it with the sound on. To my surprise, most of the time he wasn't even speaking English, so I really didn't miss anything the first time around.  It has some good shots of modern whale and seal hunting, a meat market in Nuuk, traditional kayaking and rolling among icebergs.  Pádraig Ó Duinnín even dons on a neoprene tuilik and tries innaqatsineq (side sculling) while his coach stands by to spot him.  Classic!

Gratuitous Pic off the Bow

BowNow that the weather has been warming up I shipped my drysuit back to Kokatat yesterday afternoon for repair.  It is a GoreTex Meridian I purchased from George Gronseth's Kayak Academy about 3-4 years ago.  From what I've heard George is a leading drysuit dealer in this area, which doesn't surprise me because his service has always been excellent.  So I asked Kokatat to perform a water test, fix or replace my leaky socks, and evaluate the wrist gaskets and replace them if necessary.  I have replaced two neck gaskets already.  I trimmed the last one a little big so I'm asking Kokatat to go ahead and replace it while they are fixing everything else.  I think one reason my neck gaskets break so often is that I've been storing the suit in a warm, dry furnace room and negligent in applying 303 Protectant regularly -- obviously I didn't read through the care instructions.  Well, the fabric is still a clean brilliant cobalt blue so when it comes back it will be good as new! 

I think most paddlers will agree that getting a good drysuit is probably the single best kayaking-related purchase you could make.  I mean, given how quickly people get tired of their kayaks, a good drysuit will stick around long after you've grown tired of your old boat and want to sell it on Craigslist and get a new one.  For instance, I found a Pintail on Craigslist the other day.  The guy who was selling it also owned a Greenlander Pro, Anas Acuta, Explorer, and Romany.  I'm glad he didn't jump at my low ball offer, because I really don't want to start down that path: once you stop building your own and start buying instead, what's really to stop you?

By the way, give a big warm "thank you" to the Military-Industrial Complex for Kokatat's excellent customer service, fantastic line of products, and ongoing research that have made them leaders in the paddle-sports market. According to Tom and Dubside, who not long ago toured the factory and received some complimentary cool-looking black drysuits, Kokatat makes most of their money from military contracts.

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ROLLING TIP FROM DUBSIDE:  I had to try this out myself before writing about it.  It really works!  Dubside told me that recently he discovered from certain qajaasaarneq manuevers that if you start twisting at the feet and ankles you can't help but twist at the knees and hips as well, which will give you the so-called "hip snap" necessary for rolling.  It is an interesting observation, because it comes directly from doing qajaasaarneq.  So I tried it the other day and it really makes a difference. By concentrating on twisting your feet and ankles first, somehow you get more lower body power into your roll, whether it is a layback or forward recovery, and especially with a tight-fitting kayak.

Belt and Suspenders

QuarterkneeRubrail2Rubrail1The weather was nasty so I spent the day installing rub rails on my Pooduck Skiff.  Sounds easy enough, but it took a few steps to get to the point where I was actually ready to screw them on, including ripping the mahogany stock to size, scarfing the pieces together to get the rail long enough (about 14 ft), and planing the rough edges smooth.  I clamped the rails in place, drilled pilot holes for countersuck screws from the inside every 5 inches, and holes for counterbored screws on the outside at the breasthook and quarterknees.  After screwing everything together, I removed the clamps, unscrewed everything, brushed thickened epoxy on the mating surface of the rail, clamped it back on, then screwed it together again, and removed the clamps.  That 64 screws total for both sides -- quite a bit of screwing!   Lastly I bunged the holes with mahogany pegs after squirting a little bit of epoxy into them.

Anyone with experience building wooden kayaks might think that the "belts and suspenders" approach using silicon bronze screws plus epoxy is overkill.  Why not just put some epoxy on, clamp it together and call it good?  I don't know myself -- I'm just following the plans.  I bet it's because when you put a sail up these boats undergo all kinds of severe twisting stresses that kayaks do not experience.

Puget Sound Sea Kayak Symposium

Pssks1Pssks2Pssks3Pssk4Other than wandering through the vendor booths, showing off my kayak, and chatting with random friends that I run into, I don't do much at kayak symposiums.  This year I paddled to the Puget Sound Kayak Symposium from Thea's Park at the entrace to Thea Foss Waterway.  Despite the rain and a little breeze it was a pleasant trip along the Tacoma waterfront.  It was a good way to avoid fighting for parking at the Symposium which is usually pretty limited. 

When I arrived at the beach they were in the middle of holding a series of races, with divisions ranging from "beginner" to "advanced".  Contestants would run down to the water, jump in their kayaks, paddle around a not-to-distant buoy and an anchored boat and back.  They were knocking paddles together trying to get off the beach and a couple even knocked each other over, unintentionally, I think.  But what a great idea for a race that would be, to have "no holds barred"!  It would certainly be much more interesting than the typical race where only the most seasoned paddlers with surfskis bother to enter.

My friend Rey showed up to try out some boats.  He had been kayaking a few times before and he and his wife were interested in buying a kayak.  We went over to the Impex tent and checked out the Currituck and  Montauk and Force 3.  I really liked the Montauk, which is highly maneuverable and a good size for me.  In comparison I thought the tracking on the Force 3 was stiff, and when I rolled it I fell back over on the other side!  Based on that experience alone I would avoid that boat completely.  Rey fell over and went for a swim, after trying some low braces that I had taught him.  He was only wearing a thin shorty wetsuit, and described the water as "shockingly cold."  The support boat came and picked up him up and that was the end of this kayak experience for the day, hopefully not forever!  I should keep away from instructing -- I just end up doing more harm than good!


There is nothing that gets me more inspired to get back to building than seeing a bunch of little boats up close, feeling the wood and smelling the varnish.  So I got back to work and made the "breasthook", the wooden plate at the bow that attaches to the inner stem.  This is a key component, because it can be difficult to fit, and is prominently displayed at the bow where you will see it everytime you take the boat out, and where everyone can inspect it up close.  So there was no small amount of sitting around visualizing, sketching and planning how I was going to make it.  Instead of following the plans for the Pooduck I used the technique described in the book How to Build Glued-Lapstrake Wooden Boats by John Brooks and Ruth Ann Hill.  It is a bit more complex than the technique described for the Pooduck, but results in a stronger breasthook. 

Breasthook2Breasthook4Breasthook5First I cut out the wood for the two pieces of the blank: 6 in x 1 1/2 in thick clear oak.

The pieces were joined together with a spline (mahogany), so a groove was cut out in the blanks, with some creative use of the tablesaw.

The blanks and spline were glued together with epoxy and clamped tightly.

After positioning the blank on the bow I traced out the final shape.  I brought it to the Bates Boatbuilding Program and used one of their many bandsaws to cut out the shape, with the help of Ricardo. I've never used a bandsaw before! Oh the boats I could build with all the cool tools they have there!

After a little planing around the edges to get a good fit, the breasthook fell nicely into place and was secured with silicon bronze screws and epoxy.  Once the epoxy is fully cured I'll plane it down so that there is a little camber at the top and it joins up smoothly with the sheerstrake.

Three Little Boats

A few pics of boats I saw at the Bates Boatbuilding Program the other day:  A Norwegian pram dinghy, a traditional lapstrake “flatiron skiff”, and an original Salmon Beach dinghy. 

Littleboats4The Norwegian pram is modern plwood-epoxy lap-glued construction, very similar to the way I’m building my Pooduck Skiff, although the craftsmanship is much better than mine (the builder also builds guitars).  It is coated in epoxy/fiberglass in an effort to make it more waterproof.  In comparison I’ve decided not to coat mine with epoxy and fiberglass, primarily to save myself a lot of trouble, but also because there is evidence that it might actually promote rot when water seeps in through the inevitable cracks and can’t escape. 

The flatiron skiff is traditional lapstrake construction with cedar planks, copper rivets and an oiled finish.  Ricardo did a wonderful write up for the boatbuilding program’s benefit auction:

Littleboats3Littleboats1Littleboats2Stuart Little’s Dinghy: built by Aaron Gnirk and Nathan Barbre, Bates Boatbuilding Students

A flatiron skiff, to be sure, is not a boat for the very grand. On the other hand, owning a William Atkins skiff like the one before you puts you in select company – much like owning a Frank Lloyd Wright henhouse. Not only will it take you across the lake, it will also transport you to a time when Billy and his brother, John Atkins, designed a series of power, oar, and sailing craft for Motor Boating and The Rudder in the golden age of the citizen mariner, each boat a gem of purest ray serene for anyone who would undertake to build it. Those were the days when marinas were filled with a variety of sweet smelling and naturally graceful wooden craft like this little skiff, bobbing in that particularly buoyant way that only wooden boats have.

Note the length overall: ten feet, long enough to be able and burdensome, short enough to be slung on deck or the top of a car, a length not dictated by plywood merchants. Note the materials: good clear western red and Alaskan yellow cedar, a bit of white pine, a touch of oak and mahogany, copper rivets and stem head, plugged bronze fastenings where you can’t see them but where they count. Note the construction: planking gains carefully cut at the bow and stern, so that the laps disappear at both the stem and transom, a thwart post landed on its own pad. Note the lines: a cheerfully springy sheer and rocker, ready to float over the next wave.

This is a vessel short on luxury but long on comfort, short on pretense but long on strength, short on promise but long on adventure. Given an annual coat of linseed oil, it will serve generations of owners with its honest and generous character.

Littleboats5Littleboats6Littleboats7Lastly, the Salmon Beach dinghy is an original from the historic Salmon Beach community located just south of Point Defiance along the Narrows.  Ricardo thinks that it could be at least 100 years old, but according to my research the  boathouse wasn’t established on Salmon Beach until Henry Foss towed his family’s two-story boathouse there from Foss Waterway in 1906.  In fact, Salmon Beach didn’t even get it’s name until 1909.  Note the pic of the Boathouse below -- it seemed like the most popular way to get around back then was with a little rowboat.  Of course, building little rowboats was the key to the Foss family fortune.

Roll Off

RolloffBehindneckMore about the WAKE Demo Day:  Of course Dubside gave a rolling demo, but this time they had a “Roll Off” where anyone who wanted to could participate alongside Dubside and do as many of the Greenland Rolls as they could.  Honestly when I showed up I didn’t know anything about it but I happened to have my tuilik and joined in.  Turned out that only the really serious rollers participated, I mean, everyone there who had a tuilik.

Dubside performed some new rolls I’ve never seen or heard of before, such as:

Sculling while lying on the back deck, with the paddle held under your chin.
Sculling while lying on the back deck, with the paddle held behind your head.
Sculling while lying on the back deck, with the paddle held behind your back.
Scullling while tucked forward, with the paddle held behind your head.

Etc., etc…

So, as you might expect, for most of the show we participants were left watching as Dubside continued on and on for well over 50 different rolls both sides.  Apparently he and Maligiaq had worked on the new rolls in Spain together.  Maligiaq even attributed Greenlandic names to them.  One of the rolls I think Maligiaq came up with was sculling on the foredeck while tucked forward with arms crossed.  Dubside is still working on that one.

Thanks to Rodger for the pics!

Demo Day

Wake3The Whatcom Association of Kayak Enthusiasts (WAKE) held their annual Demo Day in Bellingham yesterday.  My friend Dick Mahler talked me into coming along with him, instead of paddling around Lake Union for the Opening Day of boating season at the Seattle Yacht Club.  He wanted to sell some of his old gear and also his unique green wooden kayak Evolution#1 at their swap meet.

Wake1There were quite a number of kayaks for sale, including a couple of meticulously crafted skin-on frame baidarkas and a skin-on-frame Greenland boat by the same builder.  The skins were cotton canvas coated with linseed oil.

Wake5I had an interesting conversation with one of the owners of a kayak outfitting/guide company who was lamenting the pressure to give big discounts on slightly used and even new kayaks.  Apparently people have learned to wait to go to a kayak symposium to buy their kayaks and gear, because they know they can pressure dealers to sell them at a discount.  In fact, they’ll even wait to get all of their on-water kayak instruction at an annual symposium.  In addition, symposia have really expanded here in recent years, so small outfitting/guide/instructor operations are feeling pinched between attending all the events and operating their own business.

Wake4Once in a while I’ll flirt with the idea of buying a “real” boat – you know, a long, fast fiberglass monster I can pack a barbeque grill in for that big expedition, but I keep gravitating to the low volume boats.  The one that caught my eye yesterday was the Ice Kap built and designed by fiberglass guru Sterling Donalson.  It was designed to compete directly with the NDK Romany.  It’s just under 17 ft LOA, has a 20 1/4 in beam, and weighs 38 pounds.  It’s highly maneuverable.  I thought the cockpit opening was big, even for a keyhole cockpit.

According to Donalson, the British manufacturers have some excellent designs and safety features, but their construction process is stuck in the 1970s.  Specifically, their use of fiberglass mat rather than cloth soaks up lots of resin, resulting in a heavy, brittle layup.  Their use of hand layups also results in manufacturing inconsistencies.  In contrast, Sterling Kayaks uses all cloth and a “resin infusion” technique, where a vacuum is created in a closed mold and the resin is then injected into the mold.  This results in a precise resin to fiber ratio, a stronger and more flexible hull, and reliable, consistent construction with finished boats weighing within a pound of each other.  He offers to demonstrate with a 6 pound sledgehammer on any part of the boat. 


A while ago Brian Rhody commented on this blog that Dubside used to be a one-man reggae band in Philly.  Yesterday I was able to get confirmation from Dubside himself: he built a custom electric guitar with three base strings and three guitar strings and controls for a drum machine.  In fact he is having it taken out of storage and shipped from Philly.  Back in his previous life he would play in the corners of small clubs and at frat parties.  He could play for three hours without a break, but according to him the act would get old after about ten minutes.  Those frat guys were too drunk to care anyway.