Sunday, July 20, 2014

A wet exit

It's been a while since I've posted here. It's also been a while since the kayak was last in the water. My step-daughter has recently discovered she loves kayaking and has been going out for a paddle with friends in our Q-Kayaks double. So, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to tag a long with them. I had to go anyway to help them get the kayak off the roof of the Subaru and didn't feel like sitting in the car waiting for them to get back.

The kayak is very tippy, or I am, it's also a tight squeeze, so my step-daughter was told by her mum to keep an eye on me, in case I capsized and couldn't get out.

Here's the result.


I was in the water for about fifteen minutes after the capsize, there was no way I would have been able to get back in the boat. It never once occurred to me at the time that Tingalpa Creek is known for Bull Sharks.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The weigh-in

I finally got around to weighing the boat today, sort of.

The easiest way for a home builder to weigh their creation is to stand on the bathroom scales, pick up the boat, then subtract their weight from the total. The trouble is, once I picked up the boat, I couldn't see the scales. I tried a few different holds and postures and sort of got a decent look at the scales, kind of. Even when I could see them, the boat was blocking the light, so it was a challenge.

I'd originally figured the end product would be somewhere under 15kg, going by the weight of the frame which I could see through back then, then adding the weight of the final ingredients. Going by today's effort, my kayak is somewhere between 17 and 20kg. It doesn't feel like 20kg, in fact having put lots of cartons of frozen chips into the freezer at work, it doesn't feel like over 12kg. I suspect I might have to re-weigh with Donna eyeballing the scales. The scales were the cheapest I could find too, which might explain why my body weight seems to vary depending on the weather.

Even if it's 20kg, it's still easy to put on the roof of the Subaru with one hand, which means it's either not 20kg, or I don't know my own strength.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It floats

When I got up this morning and saw it was a nice sunny day, I knew there wasn't going to be any postponement of the launch.

There was a minor problem when I put the kayak on top of the car. Because it's a lot narrower than the other kayaks we use, it doesn't really fit the Thule Hullaport Pro carrier. It didn't feel secure enough for me, so I turned the kayak upside-down and layed it flat on the roof-rack. It actually works out well, since it means we can carry two kayaks on the roof.

Because I neglected to put any kind of handle on the stern of the kayak, there was nowhere to hang a safety flag, so I just put it up back-to-front and hung the flag (a red lanyard from the UNE zoology department) from the paddle strap on the bow.

Note the blatant plug for Redlands Kayak Tours on the sticker.

When we arrived at Thompson's Beach we were actually surprised at how high the tide was. Until I got out of the car, I was a bit worried there wasn't going to be enough beach for me to take any photos. The last time I paddled there, a couple of weeks ago, we had to carry or drag the kayaks about fifty metres to the water.

Photo shoot over, I didn't waste much time in donning my skirt and PFD and getting the boat into the water. As you can see in the next photo, I used my paddle as an outrigger to stabilise the boat as I got in. Luckily the batteries in the video camera needed charging, so there's no footage of the boat tipping the other way as I was half way in and nearly depositing me in the water.

Finally, I was afloat and in water deep enough to paddle properly. As you can see from the next picture, she sits pretty high in the water, higher than I'd expected, mainly because my 60kg weight doesn't push it down much.

What these pictures don't show is just how tippy the boat is. Let's just say it was an exciting first paddle. I've heard a lot of people say, and I agree with them, that you can get a nice stable kayak and grow out of it with experience, or get one that's a challenge to paddle, and grow into it. I'm looking forward to growing into this one, because she zips along in the water and, being so light, is pretty maneuverable as well. I don't know if that maneuverability means it won't track well, I didn't paddle it for long enough in a straight line. I do know I'm going to have fun getting used to it.

Experienced kayakers will probably look at the next photo and assume I'm turning to starboard by edging the kayak and using the paddle as a stern rudder. They'd be right about the stern rudder, but the lean to the left is my hips getting a great workout as I wobbled from side to side.

This is the first kayak I've ever paddled that I could actually pick up with one hand. When Donna put this photo on Facebook, she made me delete my comment about having the "weirdest boner right now". I can't help thinking my shadow looks like a well known statue near Newcastle in England.

Now that it's a real kayak and it's had its bum wet, it qualifies to come out of the shed and live in the garage with Tony's Nantucket.

Next time I take it out, I'll be putting a sheet of closed cell foam inside to make it easier for me to slide in and out. It'll also make it a bit easier on my ankles, since the ribs won't be sticking into them like they did today. I also need to work out how to stop the dye rubbing off onto my shirt from the inside of the coaming. It might just be a case of giving it a bit of a wash to get rid of any dye that's left. If I had any goop left I'd give it a coating of that, but I used it all up finishing the deck.

Monday, August 29, 2011


I fitted the decklines today, so there's nothing else I can do now but put the boat in the water and take it for a paddle. The deck hasn't completely dried yet, it's still a little tacky, but I figured it's dry enough to fit the decklines and get it outside for some pictures.

It's sitting in the shed now with a piece of rib stock slid under the lines and over the coaming to keep them clear of the deck so they don't stick.

I've always thought I was pretty good at tying knots. I proved it today by tying off the decklines behind the cockpit one-handed. I also couldn't see what I was doing, so had to do it by feel. The ones in front of the cockpit weren't so bad, since I had enough room to get both hands in there.

The decklines took a little longer to do than I'd thought, but not much. The problem was, I had trouble locating the holes I'd predrilled in the frame for the line on the bow. I ended up having to refer to some photos I'd taken before skinning, then I shone a torch from the other side once I knew roughly where they were.

If you look closely in the top right corner of the next picture, you can see my neighbour Mike, admiring my handiwork.

So, would I do it again? Hell yeah! There's a few things I'd do differently though.

For a start, I'd save a bit of money on materials by ripping the gunwales and stringers, etc, myself, rather than buying them cut to order. Cunningham's book has an explanation on how to rip timber using a normal circular saw, rather than a bench saw. The reason I didn't do it last time was I didn't have a bench saw, nor Cunningham's book.

Mick, from Flat Earth Kayak Sails, recommended bamboo for the ribs. Not only would it be cheaper than the oak I used, but it's a lot easier to bend, so would save me a lot of time and frustration.

Although I had no problems with the brickie's twine I used for lashing, I'd use the artificial sinew next time. It sits a lot flatter than the twine and results in less bumps in the skin. Cutting notches in the gunwales isn't really enough to overcome that.

I think I'd prefer to try the methods in Cunningham's book as far as shaping the gunwales, etc. Using windlasses and cutting deckbeams to a certain angle, hoping they would fit right once you tighten everything, is a bit hit and miss. Using forms to hold the gunwales then cutting the beams to fit looks a lot better. I think bending and fitting the ribs before fitting the keelson will result in a lot less shims.

Lastly, I'd give myself a lot more time to finish off the skin, now that I've got the hang of applying the goop. I'd be tempted to leave the skin undyed too. If you do a decent job on the frame it's a shame to cover it up too much. Oh, and I'd round off the edges of deckbeams 5 and 6, the ones just in front of the cockpit a bit more. They aren't a problem now the boat is finished, but they were like speed bumps when I was applying the goop.

If you've been following this blog and thinking about building a kayak yourself, go for it. It can be frustrating at times, but overall it's a very rewarding experience. It's also a bit addictive. I can highly recommend checking out some of the links in my sidebar too. There's lots of helpful advice and inspiration from other people that have built their own kayaks.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's finished! or day 24

We ended up not going to the boat show. As Donna said, there's no kayak stuff, it's all boats and engines. So we spent a bit of time putting the roof on a flight aviary for the wild lorikeets we rehabilitate, then I got stuck into gooping the deck.

I'd highly recommend you mix small batches of Corey's Goop and take your time applying it. The results will be much better. In hindsight, the hull doesn't look crap, it just has an excess of character. I must admit too, I've never actually seen anyone else's home built skin-on-frame kayak up close, so I don't really know what they're supposed to look like. I've seen plenty of pictures of them, and it's easy to make them look perfect in a photo.

Anyway, here's a few pictures of mine looking pretty close to perfect (although those ribs look pretty wonky).

There's a few drips on the deck from when I did the hull yesterday. I can't help thinking they'd look really cool if I could get someone to paint bear paws around them.

To avoid any more runs, Donna and I sat in the shed for a while and babysat the boat with a Merlot and, in my case, cigar.

These pics were taken by Donna and they're the first ones where there's actually been a person in them to give it a bit of scale.

Looks pretty sleek doesn't it?

The reason for the silly expression in the next photo was, I was trying to decide whether to have the wine up to my lips, or the cigar when Donna took the photo, she caught me doing neither.

Aah! All done. I still have to fit the decklines, but they aren't necessary. Once the goop has dried it's ready for launch. At the moment, that'll be on Wednesday, since Donna is off work then. High tide is around 11am, so I can launch off a nice soft, sandy beach. Actually, at low tide I could launch off a nice, soft muddy beach, but I don't want too much yucky stuff in my new boat just yet.

When I started building the kayak, I'd always put on some shoes to protect my feet. A couple of weeks ago I was looking at some photos online of a kayak building school in Norway. One thing that stood out was the number of people wearing sandles with socks. Apart from the fact you wouldn't be caught dead like that in Australia, you wouldn't be allowed into a class without proper enclosed foot-ware either. After a while though, I got sick of putting shoes on to go and work in the shed, so I did most of the work dressed as I am in the above pictures. I should mention that I did manage to drop something heavy on my big toe a couple of weeks ago that resulted in my second lot of blood-letting during the build.

I think that was another 2 hours today, taking the total to 80 1/2. The deck lines will take about 10 or 15 minutes to fit. If anyone asks, it took me about 80 hours to build, but you could do it in about 60.

The only timing I'm doing now is the countdown to launch.

Day 23, Goop

I put the goop on the hull yesterday and I've got to say, I'm a bit disappointed. If you look at the next three pictures, it doesn't look too bad. There's some cloudy patches where I've put it on a bit too thick, but they're actually the better spots.

It's not a problem with the product I used, more I think the fact that I chose to apply it on a humid (rainy) day and didn't give myself enough time. You really need to babysit the boat after you've applied the goop, to get rid of the inevitable runs. I had to go to work, so I couldn't do that and there are runs aplenty. As far as the integrity of the hull is concerned, I don't think there'll be a problem, it should be waterproof. I just looks crap.

That said, most people will see the deck more than the hull, especially when it's in the water. I'm thinking the deck will be a lot easier to do and I can take a lot more care with it.

If you look closely at the right of this next picture, you can see the finish isn't as smooth as it should be. Most of the hull is like that. The cloudy bits are caused by carbon dioxide bubbles forming as a part of the chemical reaction in the goop. If the goop is only thin, then the bubbles can escape to the surface, if not they stay. I actually think it doesn't look too bad where it's cloudy, at least the finish is smoother there.

It actually looks quite good in this next picture.

This is what a lot of the hull looks like though. It's as though it needs another coat to make it smooth, except there are already three coats on it. If I have enough goop left after doing the deck, I may apply another coat on the hull in some of the rougher spots. It won't bond as well when you apply it to a dry coat. When you put it on wet-on-wet it chemically bonds, if it goes onto a dry coat it's only a physical bond, so it won't be as strong. It might still improve the looks though. I'm wondering how a coating of surfboard wax would go once it's finished too.

I'll hopefully do the deck tomorrow, the hull is still a bit tacky at the moment, so I'll give it more time to dry before I turn it over. The Brisbane boat show is on today, so we're off to that soon.

That was about 2 hours of work yesterday, taking the total to 78 1/2.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 22, so close to finishing

I must admit, dyeing the boat was a bit more nerve wracking than I'd expected.

After reading the instructions a couple of times, where it says to mix a litre of water with an ounce of the powder, I weighed the powder I had and found there was only half an ounce of it. The website where I ordered it said there should be enough to dye a boat the size of mine (about 16 feet), but I thought I'd make sure before I mixed it.

I emailed Elroy who has just finished building the same kind of boat and got his nylon and dye from the same place, and he confirmed that half an ounce, mixed with half a litre of water is indeed enough for the whole boat.

So this morning I got everything ready, put on an apron and some pink rubber gloves and started dyeing. The reason I found it nerve wracking was that by the time I got past the cockpit, about two thirds of the boat, it was starting to look like I was going to run out of dye after all. Well I did have enough, but only just. I suspect the towel I was using as a brush may have soaked a lot of it up and a foam brush, or smaller piece of towel might have been better. There's also a few drops of it on the ground and on the saw horses too. The shed looks like someone's been bleeding in there, which is a bit of a worry since there was a police car and an ambulance parked across the road for a while this morning. I have no idea why.

The colour I chose was russet, which is a kind of reddish-brown. It looks almost maroon at the moment, but that should change once it's dried and the poly-urethane has been applied. It'll probably fade a bit and look more weathered after a while too. I'm told the Goop tends to yellow a bit after a while.

Once the dyeing was finished, I used an old iron to shrink the fabric. The instructions on the skinboat school website say to just shrink the deck and only do the hull if you feel it needs it. I decided to do the hull as well. There are a couple of patches where the iron was in one spot for a bit longer than it maybe should have been, but I think that gives it a more authentic look than it would if the whole thing was completely even.

The dyeing and ironing only took me about an hour and there's nothing else I can do on the boat now until the dye has dried properly. I'll probably leave it till Saturday before I tackle the next step. That way I can get Donna to help out and I'll be sure the dye is dry.

That's 76 1/2 hours. I wonder if I can finish it in under 80.