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Lodro Dawa and Super Secret Kayak Project X

Lodru20Lodru22Lodru21Dick has commissioned a kayak from Lodro Dawa of Monkcraft Kayaks.  This isn't just any old Greenland skin-on-frame though.  The design is really going to be unique.  Lodro happens to be the only builder Dick approached who was willing to take on the project.  He grew up around boats and has been building things all his life.  Before he became a Buddhist monk in the Tibetan tradition, he did some professional design work making AK-47s kill more efficiently or something of that nature*.  So he's up to the challenge.  By the way, Dick doesn't want me to give away even the slightest clue as to what the secret design might be.  Let's just say for now that this experiment pushes the limits of skin-on-frame technology and is going to make a big splash when it finally hits the water at SSTIKS 2008!

Lodro is relatively new to the traditional kayaking scene.  Even though he started in this business only a couple years ago he's completed about 40 kayaks, each one custom fit to the individual paddler.  That's a lot of boats in a short amount of time, so I suspect he's got the formula down. 

The Monkcraft shop is located in the heart of Portland, just across the bridge from the commercial center and a few blocks from the Willamette River. It's actually a corner in a large community shop where all kinds of crafts people and artists rent workspace.  On street level is a coffee shop where some of the artists have items for sale -- sculpture, paintings and jewelry. Downstairs in the shop there is an amazing amount of activity going on.  The air is electric with creative energy!  Lodru says the trick to making this place work has been to price the rent high enough so that people can't afford to let projects sit idle.

He takes three kayaks down from the ceiling for Dick to try and takes measurements.  They discuss fit and dimensions and construction in painstaking detail. Lodro's choice of nontraditional features (keyhole cockpits, stitching along the side of the gunwale, elastic bungees) might offend the sensibilities of those ubertraditional graybeard types who prefer tight cockpits, Frankenstein's monster stitching down the center and leather deck lines.  Minor details. Lodro builds for real people -- not ghosts of the Inuit.  Besides, his woodwork is too polished to look like it was hewn out of driftwood on a desolate arctic beach.






When it finally comes time to try out the kayaks on the water, we take them to the car, drive a few blocks, then carry them down a steep ramp to a public dock on the Willamette.  We start losing sunlight rapidly as I get into Lodro's personal boat, a sporty, low volume model with a twisty pig tail, and paddle away.  It feels remarkably comfortable -- not common for a skin-on-frame that was made for someone else (there's usually a rib or deckbeam pressing in a tender spot).  It tracks well and turns easily.  It rolls easily too (damn that's cold!)  An all-around good boat.  Well, that's about all I can say after trying it out for five minutes anyway.

*[ADDENDUM:   Lodro recently clarified the details regarding his work in the rifle accessory business.  He took that job right out of college. All he did was design the sales brochure and a few drawings.  His work before he became a monk could be more accurately described as designing and building water monitoring systems and customizing river gauges.]

Thwarts/Centerboard Trunk

TwartsandtrunkTrunkcloseupI installed the centerboard trunk last night.  It involved squeezing a generous bead of 3M 5200 adhesive on the bottom of the trunk logs and pounding it into the slot, then screwing it in from the bottom.  It's desireable to get a good "squeeze-out" of 3M 5200 from the bottom of the logs.  I've been told that 3M 5200 gives you a permanent but flexible and waterproof bond -- perfect for centerboard trunks which tend to be a common source of leaks in wooden boats.  It will take at least a week to cure and is impossible to remove. 

The thwarts (midship thwart and mast partner) were also screwed into place to help keep the trunk in position.  The thwarts and seats will be held in place only with screws so that they can be removed easily if they need another coat of varnish, or if the interior of the boat needs a fresh coat of paint.

The centerboard has actually not been installed inside the trunk, and the trunk cap has not been fixed to the trunk yet (it's on just for show). 

The last pic shows the floorboards for the cockpit.  They are 3/8th inch thick western red cedar boards that will be secured to cross pieces made out of wood I salvaged from an old patio umbrella (some kind of tropical hardwood).  They will be pegged and glued together with epoxy, then cut to fit the cockpit floor, sanded and coated with an oil finish.


Do You Know Your Lights?

I finally read the Navigation Rules ("Rules of the Road") today.  The Rules don't really apply to small human-powered boats like kayaks, except for Rule 13:


(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Rules of part B, Sections I and II any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.

and Rule 25 (d)(ii) referring to lights at night:

A vessel under oars may exhibit the lights prescribed in this Rule for sailing vessels, but if she does not, she shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.

So that's it. If you are in a kayak just stay out of everyone's way!  You are never the stand-on vessel, except when someone is overtaking you.  And seaplanes and WIGs have to stay clear of you.  That's my take on it.  If you've found something else in the Rules worth mentioning regarding human-powered craft please let me know.

Also be sure to memorize Rule 37 (Distress Signals).

When talking about the Rules I think it is important to quote them verbatim.  They can easily get misinterpreted when paraphrased or condensed.  If you really want to learn them correctly I say go to the original source.  The Navigation Rules are available online, but I recommend paying a little for the book.  That way you can carry it with you everywhere and read it in the bathroom or whatever.  When you go through them you'll want to thumb back and forth to cross reference rules and diagrams.  It's the only way to learn them. 

Now for a little quiz.  Can you identify these vessels by their running lights?  (Answers below)


The diagram comes from a USCG Masters License Examination review I found online.


Diagram 48 (upper left):  Power Driven Vessel towing Astern, viewed from behind with stern light of tow visible.

Diagram 49: (upper right) Vessel Not Under Command and Underway, viewed from the starboard side.

Diagram 50: (lower left)  Power-driven Vessel Underway, with masthead light forward and aft, viewed from the port side.

Diagram 51: (lower right) Power-driven Vessel Underway, masthead light forward and aft, viewed from the starboard side.

Pics from Bates Boatbuilding

Ricardo sends these inspirational pics from the Bates Boatbuilding program:

"Some of us build authentic replicas of 100 year old skiffs (Dan Mason). And some of us build models of what we're going to row next summer (Alex Bakhtin). And some of us build tables (me, remaining photo). I'm hoping the table will float.

Speramus fluitet (motto of Bates boatbuilding dep't.: We hope it floats)"

At the bottom is a pics of Ricardo next to his skiff, a replica of Howard Chapelle's Farmer's Daughter, which he brought into the shop for a fresh coat of paint.

Well, I guess it's time to clean out the workshop and start painting my own skiff again.  I had some repairs done on the basement so I ended up using the workshop as storage space and actually piling all my kayaking and camping gear in the boat.  It can sure hold a lot of stuff!