recently showed me the drawing of a kayak he plans to build. It’s one of many boats he has designed using a 3D modeling program called Rhino
: a West Greenland style kayak, intended for “stitch−and−glue” construction. Using Rhino
, Warren is able to develop a 3D model from a 2D lines drawing of a kayak, and then expand the panels to produce a “.dxf” file which can be plugged into a CNC router to produce panels in plywood. He has arranged all the parts of the kayak (bottom and side panels, deck, coaming and lip, hatches, bulkheads, and temporary station forms) so that they will fit onto three 4x8 plywood sheets.
In his workshop Warren showed me the resulting plywood parts, precisely cut out of 4mm BS 1088 Joubert/French marine plywood, just like in the drawings. This is the good stuff
he said, not like the plywood that comes from China, which is also rated BS 1088 but has a more fragile face veneer. The owner and CEO of Chesepeake Light Craft
, John Harris
, agreed to cut and ship these panels for him for a small fee. The panels look remarkably thin and they all fit in a flat cardboard box. I am amazed how little lumber is needed for this kayak. I can tell it’s going to be sleek, low volume, and high performance.
An experienced boatbuilder and graduate of the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding
, Warren has planned this project out to the last detail. I hope to follow the construction of his kayak closely as it progresses.
Warren and I spent the afternoon playing in the ebb at Deception Pass. The kayak he used, an Arctic Hawk SS, was designed and meticulously hand-crafted by Mark Rogers of Superior Kayaks. Although it looks like a plywood stitch−and−glue kayak I can’t really call it that because Rogers uses “stitchless” construction. He omits the wires that are used to hold the plywood panels in place while they are joined together with fiberglass and epoxy. The result is that the Arctic Hawk SS has none of the visible holes that are the artifact of typical stitch−and glue−construction. There is not one blemish that distracts from the gorgeous bright−finished wood.
When the current reached it max (around 6.8 knots) Warren showed me a spot at the Whidbey Island side of the Pass where a submerged rock kicked the water up into a small wave. In my skin−on−frame East Greenland kayak, I struggled to get on and surf the wave. The current tended to catch my bow and wash me away. After a few attempts I learned to lean back to be able to more easily swing my bow right into the current, and then lean forward to stay on the wave. I worked on getting a feel for surfing, and for slicing my paddle into the water by my stern to act as a rudder. I suppressed the instinct to keep slapping the surface to brace. When perfectly tuned, you can stay in one spot as the water rushes underneath you, without even touching the water with the paddle.
As the current died down to half max in Deception Pass, we paddled to Canoe Pass and joined a group of paddlers from NWOC
. Surprisingly, the waves were bigger there than they were earlier at max. Warren said that can be the case when the wind blows from the west. At its maximum, the current is so strong that it flattens out the waves. As it slows down, an opposing wind and swell kick them up again.
Conditions were perfect for riding waves. I would slide down them and shoot upstream, do a few rolls, let the current wash me backwards, and then work my way back upstream, weaving among the half−dozen or so kayakers riding the waves along the way.
I’ve recently subscribed to Warren’s minimalism when it comes to gear: no pfd, no helmet. Just a tuilik. I enjoy a much greater freedom of movement. It seems to help me summon the playfulness of a rolling session in conditions that really call for it.
VIDEO: Warren riding the wave at Deception Pass, then performing kingup apummaatigut “behind−the−back” roll
Warren Williamson: Behind the Back Roll from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.