Herpetological Hookie and Tuckahoe Creek

Escaped the desk for quick paddle today: 30 minutes down the James and 45 back. I may have paused 3 minutes at most the entire time. The F-1 kayak is so easy to keep moving.  All along the way, turtles were soaking up the warm day. All were quick to drop from their perch before we got too close. They’ve a keen sense of hearing (or smell? I did shower this morning). Most had shells the size of dinner plates. Eastern River Cooters I think. Not sure where the little ones were. Maybe at school?

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turtles backed up
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snag and kayak

Here’s last week’s journey up the James and into the western end of Tuckahoe Creek. I had hoped to discover the eastern end today, but time didn’t allow. That will have to be  for another day.

Spring Splash: a kayak video

I’ve built kayaks using cedar strips, stitch and glue plywood,  fuselage framed skin-on-frame, and now, steam bent skin-on-frame. I think this last method is my favorite. The translucent skin highlights the ribs and stringers like a japanese lantern. The beauty of line and construction are displayed so openly. With a new lighter western red cedar paddle, this little boat tracks along almost effortlessly. Brian Schulz designed a nice one here. I can tell I’ll use this one a lot. Kabloona!

Cape Falcon’s F1 Kayak (part IV). Done!

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my buddy

DAY 13: (4 hrs)

  • Began covering. I used these 2 videos to help:
    • Cape Falcon video.
    • Skin Boats video. I ordered their skin and coating.
  • Yanking the cover back over the aft stem was a bear. I used the 2.5″ cloth length recommended in the CF video. This worked once I planed off the coating from the aft stem. The coating caused the cloth to stick.
  • Tightened the after deck with tarred twine and then sewed welting into center with nylon string. Note: the staggered stitching as demo’d in the SK video makes a big difference in appearance. I actually sewed this twice as some puckers remained.

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DAY 14: (4 hrs)

  • Sewed front deck up and set the cockpit ring on.
  • The ballistic nylon is quite tight. Some heat shrinking with an iron on “nylon” cinched the last bit of wrinkles out.

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DAYS 15-16 and eventually 18: (11 hrs)

  • Hooped the bottom (3 coats) and a week later, the deck (also 3 coats). Chasing the runs down was not too successful. Using a kerosene heater raised the temp to 65 degrees, but maybe warmer would have helped. Otherwise, I followed Spiritline’s coating videos to a tee. Somewhat dissappointed, I called to report the results. The owner tells me they no longer use the video’s method or the scraper included with the urethane! Instead  they use “hot dog” rollers. Thanks for nothing! Nonetheless the boat stil passes the 6′ rule. I’d love to hang her with lighting in the house when not used. She’s a Japanese lantern of sorts.
  • I added a teaspoon of rare earth pigment to temper the harsher urethane. UV also tends to yellow the coating, but I wanted to accelerate the appearance. I’m happy with the result there.
  • Screwed a 12″ length of teak on the tail for a skid.
  • Bought some latigo leather belt material and cut it into 1/4″ strips for tie-downs and stem handles. Pulling the strips through a 7/32″ hole in a block of wood eases the edges. Will add tie-downs in middle of boat later. Had to get this one in the water.

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This final post took forever. The cold weather hadn’t encouraged completion. However, my youngest boy and I splashed the boat today. Will post video later. This may be my favorite kayak yet. The translucent shell and visible ribs accent the beautiful lines. Despite all the runs and drips, this little kayak has the wonderful look of craftsmanship, the touch of the hand. I love it. A nice light rowboat build could easily use this construction. Hmmm.

Total build hours: 85+/- hrs.

Final all up weight: 28 lbs 4 oz.

Cape Falcon’s F1 Kayak (part III)

DAY 9: (4 hrs)

  • cut, milled, shaped and glued 1/2″ x 1/2″ stringer to gunnel. Dowelled every 18″ for added security.
  • made form for cockpit coaming.
  • cut coaming material from oak. The circumference is +/-7′ so a longer steam box is needed. This one I’ll make from blue foam sitting around.

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DAY 10: (5 hrs)

  • made a foam steam box for larger cockpit coaming pieces.
  • put “boat soup” (equal parts pine tar, turpentine and tung oil) on boat.
  • steamed oak strips for coaming. The sharp forward nose of the coaming kept breaking. Will add a block for this and tie coaming into it.
  • used ringed bronze boat nails to hold rim together.
  • ordered ballistic nylon and 2 part urethane coating.

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DAY 11: (5 hrs)

  • decided to add some floor slats. I wish I had added them in the few SOF fuselage kayaks we’ve built. I don’t want to stretch or distort the skin once applied. This may be particularly a problem where your heels contact the hull. These were thinner than the ribs, but spanning only 6″ between ribs. Lashed in, the floors should provide additional rigidity.
  • also pulled the coaming, drilled skin threading holes every 2″, sanded and coated it.
  • the fabric and goo have arrived. Must wait for the boat soup to dry. Should have added some japan drier. By the time we can get back to the project, all should be dry.

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DAY 12: (4 hrs)

  • decided to remove the outer most floor slats. They will telegraph and distort the bottom, not by much, but I don’t want to increase drag.
  • installed the foot pegs. These are the best of the 3 I’ve now used: Harmony Sidelock Footbrace System. I’ve through bolted them after checking their location by sitting in the kayak. I like the ease at which they can be adjusted and the rounded edges of the pegs themselves. I have also used both Sea-lect and Attwood adjustable pegs, but I prefer the Harmony so far.
  • drilled all the holes in the gunnels for leather tie downs and stem grab holds.
  • added a plastic deck hook under the foredeck for bungee cords to hold a bilge pump, water bottle, thermos or whatever.
  • put on the last coat of “soup”. This time using Japan Drier in the mix. That gets the drying moving.
  • Next up: covering and coating.

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Here is a walk-around video:


Total hours thus far: 66 hrs. One more kayak post and we’re done.

Cape Falcon’s F1 Kayak (part II)

DAY 6(4 hrs)

  • used poster board strip to get correct rib lengths.
  • rough cut rib material from oak.
  • dimensioned ribs through thickness planer and rounded with router.
  • cut ribs to length, eased ends for mortise pockets and set in bath to soak a few days.

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DAY 7: (6 hrs)

  • manufactured a steam “box” from 4″ ABS pipe, plastic hose, towel, tee shirt and kettle on a propane grill burner.
  • placed soaked ribs in sets of 3 in steam. Added a pair after using a limbered up pair. This kept work flow going.
  • Rib 16 splintered. Rib 1 in the bow broke 3 times. I used 1/4″ oak, 3/16″ oak, then bamboo and finally created a “V” shaped rib from previous broken ribs. Pre-soaking the ribs seemed to help prepare the ribs vs. placing the ribs dry into the steam box.
  • Once the ribs were in place, I removed several of the molds. Removal required cutting some in half.
  • I’m glad I had the molds for reference. A 1/4″ difference in proper rib length can distort the hull shape.

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DAY 8(4.5 hrs)

  • drilled and pinned 1/8″ dowels into ribs at mortices.
  • discovered several ribs had cracked or frayed at the keel line. Lacking enough spare material, I milled more, cut it to lengths and steamed to put in place. That rib #2 took 2 tries.
  • removing the molds and flipping the kayak, I lashed the keel first. Then each chine afterwards.
  • I now have a beautiful “basket”.
  • the frame weighs 16 lbs 10 oz.
  • will now order the ballistic nylon and coating.

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Total hours thus far:  48 hrs.

Cape Falcon’s F1 Kayak (part I)

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I never set foot in a canoe or slipped myself into a kayak until maybe 12 years ago. The opportunity just didn’t present itself. Growing up elsewhere, there were always other boats available, and given a choice, you know where I stand with sailing. Paddling up or floating down fresh water had never gotten past the inner tube. However, with canoes and kayaks, access to the water, specifically the James River, has opened up. After living in the Richmond area for now decades, I wonder why I was so late to the party. I have some catching up to do.

My middle son and I built two fuselage framed “skin on frame” (SOF) kayaks and have done numerous day and overnight trips with them. My cedar stripped Outer-Island was the next progression toward bigger and more skilled boat building. She is an entirely different animal, slick, fast with none of the wasted energy absorbed in the previous SOF’s. One drawback to the O-I is she’s not tolerant to raking across occasional rocks. The SOF’s seem to escape damage. No surprise there.

At the Mid Atlantic Small Craft Festival last weekend, a friend allowed me to paddle a kayak I have been eyeing for several years now. It is the Cape Falcon F1. First captured by the beauty of this design in traditional SOF construction, paddling the boat locked actually building one. After reviewing all I could find on the F1, I took the plunge.

After reading the designer Brian Schulz cautions getting the lines just right, I decided, unlike his “eyeball” method to use molds assuring some accuracy. Documentation is largely photographs below. Days are not necessarily consecutive.

F1 Specifications:

  • Length: 14′ 13/4″
  • Beam: 23″
  • Depth to shear: 81/2″
  • Depth overall: 11 11/16″
  • Projected Weight: 29 lbs.

DAY 1: (8 hrs)

  • drafted design lines into AutoCAD.
  • surfaced 3/4″ Western Red Cedar boards, (2) 1×8 x 16′.
  • cut out gunnels, stringers and keel from same.
  • lofted and cut molds.
  • made deck frame lamination jigs and laminated 2 of 3 beams ( 0.1875″ cedar strips) after soaking.

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DAY 2: (6 hrs)

  • cut gunnels to length, marked beam locations and drilled mortices for ribs.
  • set up strong back and mounted molds.
  • began to set gunnels and shape their ends.

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DAY 3: (5.5 hrs)

  • planed aft gunnels to fit flush. Tied together.
  • added aft stem board. May use for drain plug.
  • spent 1 hr finding owner of wayward dog “Riah”.
  • cut aft deck beams, laminated and mortised into gunnels.
  • cut fore and aft stems. Struggled with aft one, but don’t like how it sits. Will review next session.

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DAY 4: (7 hrs)

  • trimmed and lashed stems onto gunnels and keel.
  • planed edges of keel and chines. Sanded same.
  • cut and fitted above. Lashed all onto stems.
  • cut forward deck ridge. Fitted forward stem to receive ridge.
  • took measurements along gunnel to chine to confirm designed dimensions. All is OK.

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DAY 5: (7 hrs)

  • sanded, trimmed and mortised fore deck beams. Pinned beams with cross dowels.
  • mounted and lashed fore deck ridge beam.
  • installed aft deck stringers in oak.
  • stepped back to observe lines. Noticed aft stem was not right. Too much rocker. Measured to find keel was 2″ off. That explains tight bend in keel. Thought I had measure correctly. Think I misread my 1:1 scale print of stem.Cut off old stem, made new one and lashed in. Boat is right now.
  • Sanded overall.
  • now only the two 1/2″ x 1/2″ knuckles remain before installing ribs. Brian prefers using laminated bamboo with vertical grain, but I can’t locate the sheets economically. Will use oak.

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We’re at 33.5 hrs so far. Surprised it has taken that long. Been fun. This is as close to an instant boat as you can get.

The weather has finally changed for the better. Going sailing.