Sunday, September 25, 2011

Where it all began . . .

In the "About Me" section to the right of this post, you'll see that I mention making a skin on frame (SOF) kayak at the age of 13. For years (perhaps 30) this little boat has languished in the crawlspace under my uncle's log house. I knew it was there but never really bothered to look at it - until this weekend.

With the completion of my new SOF, the Disko Bay, I experienced a new desire to see the boat where it all began, i.e., my interest in kayaking and kayak construction. I decided to dig out the old boat and see how I made out with the build.

Before moving onto the pictures, there are a number of things you must take into consideration:

a) I was only thirteen,
b) I had never laid eyes on a real kayak other than in pictures,
c) I built this without any adult help whatsoever. My Dad worked at Horwood Lumber and provided me with the materials but everything else was done solo, 
d) I did not have a workshop. I built in the kitchen at first and later in a makeshift shelter outside and
e) I did not have a plan. I simply drew it up and went from there.

For 30 years in a damp, unheated, dirt-floored crawlspace, the boat has held up remarkably well. There is no rot in the wood and only one section of canvas has shown deterioration.

The boat measures 13' feet long by 21" wide with a foredeck height of 11". Initially the foredeck was flat with a very small opening for the legs. I found this too hard to enter so I raised the foredeck by adding a curved piece onto the existing frame. I then stitched in a new piece of canvas to accommodate the structural changes. This added piece of canvas is the only one showing significant damage.

When I raised the foredeck, I added two pieces of plywood to either side to give the cockpit a more oval shape than the initial fully open rectangle.  I added a backrest but I'm not sure why I made it pointy!?!?!? Not the best boat for doing layback rolls, what??

Cockpit looking fwd.

Showing the raised foredeck.
I'm not sure how I came to know about how to build a SOF but my construction techniques are not a whole lot different than those used on the Disko Bay.

You will notice that I screwed up on the stringer placements. Instead of placing the middle stringers at the chine, I put them in the middle. This resulted in the ribs/frames poking out the canvas. I did not notice this until I had the thing skinned and as the paint dried, it pulled the fabric taut and my mistake became painfully obvious. I always thought that is made the hull look like a starving cow!!

Looking fwd.

Port bow. Can't remember if the rocker was intentional or not.

Certainly not fancy but a good first try for a 13 yr old!!
If you are to paddle, then, obviously, you need a paddle. If you can build a boat, then you can build a paddle, I figured. My Dad gave me a piece of handrail and I fastened two plywood blades - and voila, an unfeathered kayak paddle. I re-found the paddle a couple of years ago in the woods and saved it from the elements by putting it in the shed. This weekend is the first time in 30 years that they've been reunited.

Boat and paddle - reunited and it feels so good.
I'm thinking that I'll put this boat in my basement now. It's dry and free of bugs or any other creatures who'd do it harm. It'll never hit the water again but it will hold it's place with my other boats.

As I was revisiting the past with this old boat, my Disko Bay was close by getting a new coat of paint. While these two boats are world's apart in finesse and craftsmanship, they are basically the same concept. It's just that one was built by a 13 year old boy with no knowledge of kayak design and/or construction. The other was built by a 45 year old man with a wealth of information found on the Internet and in books, with all the necessary tools and a workspace and with firsthand knowledge on how to actually paddle a kayak. All things considered, that 13 year old boy did alright, don't you think?

SOF - the latest iteration.

Hmm, this one doesn't look like a starved cow.

Thanks for dropping by and reliving a little history with me.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A house gives birth and a maiden voyage - yet again!!

Back in April of this year, I launched a new boat and I made a blog entry titled - A house gives and a maiden voyage. Well, now its just over 5 months later and I am making a second blog entry with the same name.

With the exceptions of deck rigging and stem/stern keel strips, my Disko Bay is finished.

Below are some pictures showing the boat leaving the house and of its maiden voyage.

Look familiar??

No snow on the ground this time!!

Disko Bay meeting the rest of the "family"

Hanging out by the pool, i.e, fish pond.

The blunt end!

The pointy end!!

Very nice profile!!

Very nice lines!!

Lean and mean at a mere  28lbs!!

Obligatory standing-on-end shot!

Baffin and Disko ready to hit the water!

I decided to take the boat to the pond for its maiden voyage. I made this decision for a couple of reasons - a) there was a bit of wind on the bay and I was not sure how the boat would handle, b) I was not sure how hard it would be launching from the beach and c) I do not have my flotation bags made yet.

Cheryl and I packed up the car, racked the two boats and hit the pond.

The boat certainly handled a lot better than the last time it was on the pond!!  Freeboard was a bit low, as to be expected, but at least it did not sink (hahahaha)

I'm not sure if the low freeboard is affecting edged turning but it seemed like the boat wanted to turn to the edged side as opposed to away from it. Still experimenting to check this out.

This boat is no pig. It can be brought up to pretty good speed.  Initial stability is a bit low but easily gotten used to!

As was anticipated, this boat rolls very nicely. The total height at the back (including the coaming) is just 6.75" so lay back rolling is a piece of cake. My first roll went so easy that I came flying up like a rocket. My current boat rolls easy but the force required for this one is far less - I guess I used too much power!!  Sculling braces are a breeze and balance bracing will come very easily!

Sittin' pretty!

Just scullin' about!!

Image form a video capture of sculling.
We spent about 1.5 hours puttering around the pond.

I'll admit that I was bit disappointed in how the boat felt and handled. It just seemed pretty much like any other of my boats - with the exception of the rolling and other stationary manoeuvres. I figured (hoped) it was just that it was new to me. We packed everything back up and headed home. On the way home we drove through St. Philips, an area where we often take short paddles. There was a good breeze blowing but the water at the shore was calm. A great chance to take the boat out on the salt water. I'm sure glad I did.

I launched without incident. The low masik on the boat makes my regular entry impossible - one leg followed by the other. This boat requires a lot more balance. Inside the harbour it was pretty calm - a good place to get a feel for the boat. As I moved out around the headland, the wind/waves increased a fair bit. The weather station at the local yacht club was recording winds of 14 knots at the time. Nothing out of the ordinary but at least it gave me a better feel of the new boat. After paddling for a few minutes, I came to a decision that this boat will never touch the pond again!! On the salt water it was a different beast. The movement of the water brought the boat to life. It seemed to turn quicker. It flexed with the waves. I was happy to see that it did not plow through the waves as much as I was expecting. It rode them quite nicely. There was enough wind and wave to create some surf-like conditions as well. I caught a few waves and the boat tracked nicely - it was not pushed off to the side, nor did the bow dig in nor the stern get pushed under. I was impressed given its low volume and my weight (just under 200lbs).

Putting in a St. P. There was a crowd of about 30 people on the beach!
In the end, I'm glad we made the detour to St. Philip's. It showed me the capabilities of this boat. Besides, it is a West Greenland replica, so shouldn't it be more at home on the salt water?  I think I'm going to enjoy seeing what it can do!!

Thanks for dropping by.