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!