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!


Friday, October 4, 2013

Paddling in Pittsburgh 2


Paddling on the Three Rivers around Pittsburgh can be entirely delightful. And this past summer I have had plenty of opportunities to do so. Of course, before launching you have to pay attention of the flow speed. Beyond a certain speed it can become rather dicey as I found out on one occasion.

Though the flow of the Ohio seemed mighty fast as I launched I decided to give it a try and made decent progress until I reached the first bridge on the Allegheny. The water turbulence and vortices all around and behind the bridge foundations were a lot more than I felt comfortable with on a solo paddle. Not surprisingly the Kayak Pittsburgh Rental was closed for the day.

When in doubt I now check on-line before I head out. Recently I purchased a water proof camera and found that it also takes some decent short video clips when properly mounted on the front deck.

Paddling on the Allegheny down river toward town offers some excitement when power boats zoom past you leaving significant waves in their wake. For me cheap thrills is what I calls them :-)



As you get closer to town, the waves typically are more confused and agitated while they ricochet from the sides of the gradually narrowing river. Obviously, it pays to remain alert in an 18 foot long and 20 inch wide kayak, it makes for fast and fun paddling. So, don't get distracted by the roaring of power boats or the rumbling of the train crossing the bridge.



As you zoom past Pittsburgh's skyline you can already see the fountain at the point where the Allegheny joins the Monongahela to become the Ohio.



Once on the Ohio, a glance back toward town is a must. Here I paddle back toward the point, right along the line where Monongahela and Allegheny meet.


On September 27th 2013, Pittsburgh became the welcoming host of a very peculiar migratory fowl, a rubber duckling - about 40 feet tall. The critter will be here for a while and the town is abuzz! Needless to say, we had to meet this visitor in a fly-by greeting.


And we did  along Iris' rubber ducky and great crowds of duck-admiring 'burghers.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Co-opted

When I started this blog it was for the simple purpose of documenting the trials and tribulations of constructing the Nick Schade designed Night Heron Hybrid.

As my night-time boat building reality is unfolding, it seems more fitting to co-opt these pages to become my general kayaking blog - building and repairing, paddling, learning related skills and perhaps a little adventure here and there.

First I have to share some not-so-new news.

This past May, I brought my most recent winter project, the Shearwater Sport Hybrid, to the 2013 OkoumeFest. There were many amazing entries.To my surprise and delight, my boat received the "Best in Show" award.

My friend Dan Thaler from Moonlight Marine had received this award two years before for his fabulous Shearwater 16 Hybrid which he had built for his wife. This year his new magnificent and featherlight Petrel earned the "Best Kayak" award. Illustrious company indeed!



So, Iris has enjoyed paddling her new 'yak and we have done a number of outings. We also joined the "outcast paddlers", an informal group of experienced sea kayakers here in the Western PA area.


In order to join them on some river runs (in potentially shallow water) I purchased a used 16' rotomolded kayak. Hey, you can't blame me now... these guy don't bring their kevlar composite babies on these outings either!

I must confess that my paddling passion has sneakily impinged on my sailing time. I would never have believed that to be possible. But here I am, happily practicing my braces and more recently rolls. I am also working on my endurance paddling... all the while winds are beckoning all around me. There is much I still have to learn.

Last winter I purchased a dry suit after much belly-aching over the shocking price of such gear... and I have come to realize that aside from marrying my wife, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Okay, I can now safely and comfortably extend my paddling season by two months - moreover, without a doubt, the water temperatures in early April or late November would be a lot more shocking - if not fatal.

After paddling my Night Heron for two seasons now I am gaining skills and understanding which make for safer kayaking. At the same time the old truism still applies: the more you know that more you realize how much you don't yet know. To that extent I have become a (card carrying) member the American Canoe Association which provides an excellent reference and guide to further develop paddling skills and experience.

Along those lines I have come to the conclusion that the ability to roll a kayak is an essential element of kayaking safety. Even if you have an unsuccessful roll after an unexpected dump, you will develop a more confident relationship with all of the elements involved.


Finally, I am sorry to announce that after several years of using my small digital camera near water, it finally decided to get wet and - alas - cease to function. Since I do not see fit to use my phone camera on the water, I finally succumbed and acquired a waterproof camera.

In my next blog I will share a few sample clips of an outing on the "Three Rivers".

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What's Next?

So, over this past spring and summer I have been musing and debating (okay, I'll admit to obsessing) what boat to build next. Truthfully, I have quite a list of boats I want to build. Give me a Petrel, please! - But hey,  first things first: The most important criterion for my next build is that my wife will be happy, comfortable and safe paddling in it. 

Nick Schade's Solo microBootlegger - the ultimate leisure kayak
Initially, after studying the catalog and Nick Schade's on-line information, I had pretty much determined that I would probably want to build the Solo micoBootlegger, another drop-dead beautiful design by Nick Schade, a complete strip build. The 14' Solo version is a recent adaptation for single paddlers of the 17' microBootlegger which is best paddled by two in tandem.  I liked the appearance, the performance specs as well as the fact that it required the next step up in terms of construction from my hybrid Night Heron

Unfortunately, there was not a single microBootlegger in attendance at the most recent OkoumeFest and CLC did not have any microBootlegger demo-boats either. Bummer!

Note to CLC: consider adding a microBootlegger to your demo fleet.

Paddling Dan Thaler's Great Auk 14
On the other hand, my friend Dan Thaler brought his newly-built, award-winning 14 foot Great Auk to the OkoumeFest. While the basic design of the boat did not have the old-world elegance of the microBootlegger, the Auk has a very practical, straight-lined kayak shape.

Dan let me test paddle his boat and without question, the Auk performed exceedingly well in terms of tracking, maneuverability and stability. It was just fun to paddle. So, clearly, this was a boat I should be considering.

Even so, I was still leaning toward the microBootlegger (simply smitten with the design!) even though I had not seen or tested an actual specimen. I did however have a chance to chat with Nick Schade during the OkoumeFest about this design.

Unexpectedly, a third design appeared on my kayak radar screen. Earlier this summer, Joey Schott from CLC had had an opportunity to paddle together with Nick Schade off Jamestown, RI at Ft. Wetherhill. Nick suggested to Joey to use the 14' 6" Shearwater Sport designed by his brother Eric Schade.

When I described to Joey what type of boat I was looking to build for Iris, he suggested that I include the Shearwater Sport on my short list. I was hesitant at first simply because I was really hoping to build an all-strip boat. However, after reading the details about this exceedingly versatile kayak design, I came to the conclusion that this boat might indeed be the most suitable match for Iris.

Moreover, based on Joey's description, I realized that the boat might occasionally also be very useful to me such as when I have a chance to learn paddling in big water, or simply for a leisurely bird-watching paddle.

This is my new SWS getting wet for the first time
Building another hybrid kayak certainly won't hurt me. I have lots to learn and the hybrid offers plenty of opportunities to hone my skills.  I also like the idea of building one of Eric Schade's boats.

After a couple of weeks of  further 'yak-trospection, I went ahead and ordered the Shearwater Sport Hybrid kit which had been sitting in my garage, patiently awaiting the arrival of fall.

In the meantime, back to the drawing board - doodling with possible deck designs!

Iris is fond of Navajo designs and I was hoping to somehow invoke that First Nations spirit. The stylized "thunderbird" motif used by CLC on the front deck of one of their demo Shearwaters seemed perfect for that purpose and hard to improve on. So I decided to start with that and then develop my own counterpoint for the back deck. 

Here the SWS is finished - ready to go to sea

Monday, July 23, 2012

River Paddling - Herons Here

Okay, I am not talking about rapids and white water paddling. That is an altogether different subject, one I know nothing about.

But even the generally more stately flow of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers needs to be reckoned with when planning a paddling route on flowing water.

As a newbie, I expected the up-river paddle to be invariably more arduous then the down-river run. Well, I've paddled this venue often enough to learn that this ain't necessarily so.

My flat-water paddling experience had already taught me the importance of wind direction. As a long-time sailor this was a no-brainer! When it comes to smooth-flow river paddling a building breeze may quickly have an overriding effect. When the wind blows down river, the ride will be all the faster. When the wind blows against the current, watch out! 

There is an easy way to find out which is stronger. Simply launch into the river and then don't paddle but instead see which way you drift. Strong winds against the river current will make for steeper, choppier waves and may actually allow you to surf upstream. When you don't paddle you will actually drift upstream.  That's fine going upstream but expect rough going paddling down stream.

From my house, I can be on the Ohio near the Point downtown Pittsburgh in 15-20 minutes. Without question for me this is the quickest access to paddling water.

She will have her own Shearwater Sport next season - promise!
I would love to have ready access to ocean swells and bigger water but in absence of that I definitely prefer the exploration of pastoral settings, backwaters, gunk-holes, swampy boggs and undulating, rural rivers to urban paddling.

YET, Pittsburgh paddling is very attractive all the same. Besides, while the abundance of power boaters don't replicated ocean swells,  they do provide a certain quota of choppy conditions. Near downtown, big powerboat wakes bounce off the walls and ricochet in ways that can be quite exciting on a sea kayak.

When one of those monstrous river chariots roars by from behind, I try to position my boat so that I can surf the wake. In on-coming situations I try to bisect the wake and then catch and surf the ricochet to propel me on.

Surfing in an 18 foot knife (as it were) is definitely an acquired taste and involves nimble paddling, some bracing as well as heeling the hull one way or the other in order to stay on track. Without question, there is an addictive aspect to this exercise. Though I have not yet had the pleasure of big surf, I imaging big water paddling to be like that - only a lot more so!

Anyway! On Saturday I set out for a nice afternoon river paddle accompanied by an ominous forecast and threatening clouds. I figured, worst case scenario: I get wet. Big deal! That might be a welcome relief from the high humidity.

So here I was merrily paddling along going upstream on the Allegheny when I hear the swoosh of paddles coming up from behind me. Gosh, I was not expecting someone to be catching up with me... not on those little recreational yellow mellows, anyway.

So as I turned my head I immediately recognized what it was... it was a S&G Night Heron, energetically paddled by its builder, Jim Noel.

Imagine that: two Night Herons on the Allegheny, skimming the waters side by side!

What a delight!. As we paddled we talked shop and enjoyed the sight of these two elegant birds rustling their feathers.

Jim had build his Stitch and Glue version of the Night Heron in the traditional method, staining various segments of the plywood in contrasting colors thereby providing an artistic high-light to his boat.  Obviously, the boat was built for serious battle, reinforced with Kevlar bow and stern runners and a graphite bottom.

Frankly, I was having trouble keeping up with Jim. Clearly he had been working on his stroke and stamina quite a bit already. Actually, he was preparing for upcoming week's Presque Isle paddle event which involves an all day paddle of 20+ miles around the peninsula.

Yea, I'd say that I have my work cut out for me if I want to go paddle together with Jim for any distance.  I have no doubt that it'll be worth the effort.

Jim Noel's S&G Night Heron

My birding report: Herons are here in Western PA.