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.