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