Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Petrel Progress (4) - finally completed

Yep - I'm ready to launch the Petrel - finally!  

Slight correction: I HAVE in fact launched my Petrel!

And as you may already have noticed, this build turned out to be a lot more than my previous "winter projects".

It was not only that a strip-plank build simply takes a bit longer than a hybrid.

The stems, the skeg and the cockpit coaming all took extra time. Mostly though there were a number of interruptions and distractions which got me "out of the boat-building rhythm" - the flow - if you will.

So, once I had stopped, it took a while to get back into the groove.

The layers of varnish actually went on quite nicely and without much disruptions. However one of the hang-ups came when I needed to decide on the exact location of the rigging points. This had to happen prior to the varnishing. 
I used the drill-fill-drill method (drill a somewhat larger hole, fill with epoxy and then drill the smaller hole to fit the screw for the fitting). The drill-fill came before the varnishing, and the second drill happened after the varnish had cured sufficiently. 

I put the Petrel on the roof rack of my car before installing the fittings. In fact, becoming rather impatient to give the boat a test-drive, I launched the boat before installing the deck fittings. I did not glue in the seat and knee braces either until having tested in the water for the best location...


This is the skeg control box - located on the port side - in easy reach from the cockpit. Below is the skeg in deployed position.

For the deck fittings I happily resorted to using the default method recommended by Nick Schade and so beautifully executed by Dan Thaler from Moonlight Marine on so many of his builds. 

The advantage of this method is that it is straight forward, requires only very small holes and makes for easy maintenance anytime you want to refinish the boat. 

Initially, I was playing around with the idea of maroske fittings which my FB friend Etienne Muller demonstrated so beautifully and which my kayak guru / friend Joey employed on his Wooden Boat Show best-in-show award-winning Petrel. Alas I did not get to the point of sufficient confidence with this method and Nick Schade's concept became increasingly convincing. 

After an initial launch without deck fittings at Moraine State Park, I took the Petrel for a ride on the Ohio and Allegheny past downtown Pittsburgh.

The Petrel paddles like a dream.  
I don't think that I'll be using the skeg all that much. 

I am amazed at the difference of how the Petrel handles in comparison to the Night Heron. Certainly you cannot say that one is a better design than the other. They were designed for entirely different purposes. The Night Heron slices through waves like a samurai sword and with its long chines it tracks like a rocket. The Petrel on the other hand rides over the top of the waves, is amazingly nimble for its length and rolls with supreme ease. 

Maneuvering the Petrel by canting the hull is so different from the Night Heron. I love it. On the Petrel is pays to lean forward when you want to harness its chine for an easy turn. Not so on the Night Heron. 

After two intensive seasons with the Night Heron,  I suspect that the Petrel will be my "go-to" boat for quite some time in order to really get to know this amazing design. 

Lucky me! Now I have one of each. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Petrel - Progress Report 3

It seems as though time has been running through my fingers like water... without all that much Petrel building progress to show for it. Sure, I've had some excuses and interruptions but in any case, this is my first boat building project that is proving to be more than a simple "winter project".

Before the otherwise finished hull and deck could be joined, there were a number of details which were much easier to take care of while the two halves were still apart.

Without a doubt these tasks took me a lot longer than would be required for someone already familiar with the procedures.

First there was the cockpit riser...

Then the cockpit coaming...

 Oh yeah, and then the matter of cutting the hatches and then creating a spacer and sill.

While not essential, the Petrel works well with a retractable skeg. Aside from the skeg itself you have to build the skeg box into which the skeg can retract.

The control of the skeg is relayed via a cable to the recessed control box which is installed in easy reach from the cockpit.

Finally it was time to bring hull and deck together. This proved to be a rather arduous task since the hull had become quite a bit wider during the interim separation from the forms.Simply taping top and bottom together as called for and then installing the fiber glass tape along the inner sheer was a lot easier said than done.

Eventually the task was accomplished with a generous helping of expletives and various forms of libation and of course the eventual use of the aforementioned fiber glass tape along the inner seam.

The next step was another task previously unfamiliar to me... the installation of the outer bow and stern stems.   

The outer stems will still need to be covered by several layers of fiber glass. Similarly, the outer seam will be glassed for protection and strength. Then - finally - I can start the business of varnishing and then rigging the boat.

I can't wait when I can pick up my Petrel the way I pickup my friend Dan Thaler's immaculate Petrel... what a ride!!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Petrel - Progress Report 2

Hull First
So, as promised here is an update on my first all-strip build: Nick Schade's incomparable Petrel.

I'll try to steer clear of boring you with a blow-by-blow account of my "lessons learned".

For the most part the pictures tell the tale.

The hull comes first...
Rolling Bevel on the Lighter Chine Strip

Rest assured though that a strip-built kayak is a lot more involved than the two hybrid builds I had done previously. Anyway, I was ready for a new challenge and indeed, that is what I got with the Petrel.

Trust me, I have already fathered a fine flock of Petrel bloopers all hatched in an array of (shall we say) somewhat unprofessional discourse.

But that's how it goes: you make mistakes and say to yourself: On my next build I won't do THAT again!  - Right!

So - there will have to be a next build.

Each time you make a mistake you have to ask yourself if it can be corrected, and/or if it is worth correcting or possibly be made into a "feature" or instead chalking it up to experience, and just moving ahead already...

ah, such decisions!

This hull won't float just yet
Ready for a Whiskey Plank

Hull is ready for Fiber Glass

Glass still "Green"

Glass on hull cleaned up - would now float

 Oh well, no worries there!

In paddling as much as in the kayak building department I am still very much a learner - albeit an enthusiastic and persistent one - and I fully expect that the Petrel will be a great kayak to help upgrade my paddling skills - regardless to final finish.

And on to the deck...

Give me the cockpit recess, please
Covering cockpit recess with carbon fiber
Now the tricky part: fit in the recess
Inching myself to a fit
Recess all glued in
Giving the deck a rest - preparing the skeg
Deck ready for glass
Glassed over

Coming up:

Cockpit riser and coaming and hatches!
Then comes the skeg installation.
Also, I much prefer to put in the foot braces before putting deck and hull together.

Preparations for the eventual deck rigging.
I still have to consult with my expert friends a bit more before I decide what type of rigging I'll do. Right now I am thinking to go with the standard CLC solution. Nick Schade recently made some persuasive comments on this subject on the Kayak Forum. Maroske fittings would be great and I already purchased fiber glass tubing as well as carbon fiber tubing to do the job but... I have played around making a couple of test maroske fittings on some glassed mock-up cedar scrap pieces and so far I am not happy with my efforts. My new expert kayak-building friend Etienne made this look oh so deceptively easy in his little video.

Sometimes I wonder just how many guitars a talented novice luthier has to build before he or she actually ends up with a concert-level master piece? One that a top-drawer performer would choose to play on... just saying...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dreams of Rolling

At the beginning of this past season I had resolved to learn the technique perfected long ago by the Inuit people and Greenlanders known as Eskimo Roll. In part it seemed to be a most useful component of a sea kayaker's safety tool box and in part the beauty, elegance and logic of the kayak roll was compelling in and of itself.

And then there was my confessed inclination to disprove the tired adage about old dogs and new tricks... learning a new trick makes this old doggy feel a tad younger - at least in the heart - where it matters.

Not having had the benefit of an instructor as of now, I instead watched over and over again a DVD video called "This is the ROLL" with Chery Perry and Turner Wilson and superb under-water filming by Justine Curgenven... not to mention countless other rolling videos on youTube and elsewhere. Here is a great one by Qajaq Rolls. After each outing I would go back to the Perry/Wilson DVD and review where I still had to fine-tune the moves. With or without instructor, I suspect that this DVD would be useful to anyone wishing to learn this skill.

Anyway, there are a great variety of rolls to be learned. For the time being I have concentrated on becoming completely comfortable and proficient with the traditional lay-back roll. This coming season I will work on the storm roll and bracing. Also, I am seriously thinking of going to the BLAST offered by RiverWindKayak (and highly recommended by my kayak building guru, Joey Schott) perhaps even to obtain the ACA L3 certification. If not this season it'll definitely be on my agenda for the following one.

No, that's not me on the right - but I too still have A LOT to learn.
In the meantime, while repeatedly watching the DVD, I was fascinated not only by their rolling technique, philosophy and superb tips but also by the special garment they were wearing. It is called a tuilik and it connects paddler and kayak into one continuous form acting as hood, dry top and spray-skirt all in one. This elegant solution is based on the sealskin garments which the Inuit people made for themselves in order to safely protect from arctic waters and to literally seal themselves into their kayaks.

After resolving not to hunt down an unsuspecting seal - and with some research into the various modern tuilik designs and options on the market - I concluded that my best bet would be a tuilik custom-made by Paulo Ouellet at Comfort Paddling out in Vancouver. I received the tuilik a few weeks ago and am very excited to try it out as soon as the ice melts. It is exceedingly well made with breathable fabric and will provide a water proof seal around the cockpit coaming while giving the body unencumbered range of motion.

My second GP
With the purchase of a tuilik I followed my urge to connect with the roots of kayaking. Similarly I had bought an exquisite piece of western red cedar and then carved it into a traditional Greenland paddle. CLC as well as many other companies offer a great selection of beautifully hand-crafted Greenland Paddles, so you don't have to make one yourself. Anyway,  here are the building instructions I used if you want to make your own.

Paddling with a Greenland "stick" has increased immensely my appreciation of the tradition of sea kayaking. I love the feel and sound of the light-weight wooden blades which - much like an airplane wing - generate a powerful lift rather than "shoveling" through water with standard blades. Of course I do realize that the new Euro blades also generate lift and offer a great variety of highly efficient paddling options. No quarrel there!

But... a Greenland paddle for a sea kayaker is akin to a set of gut strings for a lute player. (Sorry, I simply couldn't resist the comparison)  Sure, you can use Euro-blades and sure you can tune up modern nylon strings and yes, these are designed to work well and indeed, they do - but... (wistful sigh!) then there is that velvety touch, the elegant efficiency and the silvery sound of the Inuit way... 

Paddling Garth's SOF kayak
You might ask: "So what's next, SOF (skin on frame)?". Well, I love my wooden kayaks and I love working with cedar strips. The Inuit did not have access to those materials. Who knows what Inuit kayaks would have looked like if they had had cedar to work with? Even so, SOF certainly has crossed my mind... especially after watching my friend Garth Jones building his beautiful SOF kayak.

I am sufficiently curious for the above mentioned reason to consider building one at some point. But first I have a few other winter projects in the mental pipeline. In the meantime, I am thinking of the wooden strip kayaks as a new form of SOF: the difference being that the inner frames (or forms) are removed and replaced by two skins of fiberglass sandwiching the cedar.

Here is a nice SOF blog to water your imagination.

I hasten to point out that the Kokatat drysuit I purchased last year has been keeping me dry and safe paddling in colder water. I love it and the particular design also works well when sailing so to me it was an excellent investment. Together with a hood and spray skirt I did my last set of rolls in 37 degree water. I don't know yet whether or not my tuilik will replace the dry suit altogether.

Since the tuilik is tailor made not only to your own physical measurements but also for a specific cockpit dimension, I will only be able to use it on the Night Heron and Petrel (luckily both have the exact same cockpit measurements).

Next time an update on my Petrel build - stripping completed - now on to lots of fun and finicky jobs.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

New Lesson in Woods

The first waves of winter have swept over Western, PA - prematurely if you ask me. On my last paddle in early December I noticed that all of the smaller coves on Lake Arthur were already closed for business i.e. covered with ice. While we had a short reprieve from winter with a day in the 50's, the water temperature had already plummeted to 37 degrees F.  A good dry suit is essential safety gear in those conditions.

While it was sort of fun paddling right along the edge of the ice and Eskimo rolling in what I can only imagine to simulate Greenland water conditions, I did face up to the fact that this would probably be my last paddle of the season - lest I follow the migratory birds for southern climes - not a bad idea!

Dan Thaler's award-winning feather-light Petrel
But here I am settling in to a new winter project. The 17' Petrel is another Nick Schade kayak designed for agility and big water but versatile enough to do lots of other things very well. I won't repeat here descriptions of this fabulous boat as already described on Nick's own page as well as in the on-line Chesapeake Light Craft catalog.

Paddling Dan Thaler's Petrel at the 2013 O-Fest

I had been attracted to this gorgeous design a long time ago - both in appearance and in paddling characteristics - but felt inadequately prepared to build a complete cedar strip boat... as opposed to the two hybrid boats which had okoume plywood hulls and a cedar deck. Even now I look at some of my boat-building friends and their perfect craftsmanship and down-right artistry and wonder whether I am ready.

At the last OkoumeFest I had the good fortune to paddle the Petrel built by my friend Dan Thaler of Moonlight Marine. I then resolved that it was indeed time to muster my courage and build my own Petrel. At first glance the Petrel may look very similar to the Night Heron but this really is quite a different boat. A foot shorter, a lot more rocker and a fuller bow and stern sections... you'd recognize the difference as soon as you start paddling.

Strong-back and forms are in place. Ready to strip!
Good craftsmanship is gained by experience and what is experience if not lessons in what works and what does not. So, off to another lesson "in the woods".

Those who have followed my previous two kayak builds will have noticed that I used some creative quasi-decorative techniques which in a way superimposed themselves onto the basic shape of the boat... artistic embellishments so to speak.

Fitting the bevel of the sheer strip

In contrast to my previous builds, I did not map out a master plan for what exactly I will do with the Petrel strips. However I have resolved to focus on the natural contours of the shell and lines of the wood.

The sheer and first couple of strips are in place.

If I am successful, the beautiful shape of the Petrel will speak for itself.

Think of it like a musician playing a piece of music by another composer.

He will be most successful if he is able to let the music simply flow through his performance - enhanced yet uninhibited.

Easier said than done!