A Short Paddle

After this past weekend’s trip to St. Michaels, I left the kayaks on the truck’s roof for washing and storage yesterday. That didn’t happen. I thought another paddle might be good. This morning’s breakfast was quick: coffee, boiled egg and toast followed by a long walk for the dog (he’s been acting up. Now he is sleeps at my feet). Our stroll was pleasant with cooler temperatures and early sunshine. That convinced me to drive down to the local park and check out the river. Despite the rains, the conditions were good. My Outer Island kayak at 37 pounds is easily hauled around, especially with the dolly I built. Loading the boat with necessary gear, I wheeled it from the parking lot down to the floating pier.


The water was muddied and current quick. The surface was smooth and the boat moved with little effort.


Maybe 3/4 of a mile up-stream I discovered a Blue Heron resting on a downed tree protruding from the south bank. I’m surprised I can glide in so close and quietly readied my camera. The bird remained frozen, watched this intruder, but in the 15′ range he took flight further up stream. We followed.

bird side eye

Another 150 yards on we found our bird again. This time he was more poised to fly and took off just as we drew in. Crossing the water, the pursued headed up the mouth of an overgrown creek entrance.

ready to fly

At  this point I felt a tinge of guilt in the pursuit, but the beauty of the thing and maybe the “hunt” led me on. Of all the times I’ve passed this creek, I’ve never ventured up it.





A whole other world was in there. The shade was cool. Song birds greeted us (or gave warning of our presence).

winding up the creek











A short distance along, the path got crowded. However, we did find our prey. This time we caught him as he bolted.










I had the shutter speed and aperture all wrong but, this is evidence of the third sighting. Shortly there after, with little room to maneuver, we turned for home.









Not focused on finding Big Bird, I’m struck by the beauty along the way. We will have to return in a few weeks when the colors are full-out.dscn0294














Round trip time was maybe 2 hours total. I decided I need to stop taking this backyard treasure for granted.







One Ocean Kayak’s "Cirrus SLT"


Last September I gave my youngest boy plans to build a kayak. Designed by Vaclav Stejskal of One Ocean Kayaks, the Cirrus SLT is perhaps the best design I’ve seen for a growing 11 yr old boy. Now almost 12, he and I started the stitch and glue boat almost 5 months ago. With part time attention, today marked the boat’s maiden voyage. It was christened “Bob”. We had a fun time paddling up a portion of the James River for lunch and then returned.

Bob and paddler. Happy Birthday (10 months later).

Here’s Vaclav’s description of the kayak. I heartily agree.

“This is a kid’s first dream kayak with serious grow up performance that they will not so easily outgrow. At a mere 28 lb it is just about the lightest kayak of it’s type available, even lighter than genuine racing kayaks. It was designed with great care to inherit all the nice tracking, efficiency and stability behavior from its parent design the Cirrus. The Cirrus SLT could also be the ideal craft in which to introduce your youngest to the joys of paddling in nature and perhaps even some practical woodworking skills in your shop: definitely a memorable building experience for both kids and the “adults”. The size of the kayak makes building possible in the smallest of shops and garages. Even shop teachers and Scouts now have a kayak that is basically dedicated for paddlers from 85 to 145 lbs and under 5’6″ in height”.

I’ll have to say that this site has all the performance data you could possibly want. The rolled plans could not have been better for a scratch build. The full-sized paper templates worked great. We scored the plywood with a utility knife, cut close to the mark with the jig saw, and made the final trimming with a small hand plane. The stitched panels were dead on. Aside from that, the boat’s rolled deck and Pettit Ocean Blue paint look great.

Some construction photos follow here:

Hull wired in cradle with molds.


Deck added.
Close up of deck. Copper wire and hot melt stitches.


Test fit to the user.
Taped edges for clean glass trimming.
Set up for epoxy end pour.

We have maybe $450 in plans and materials. Its all been worth it. The final product beats any roto-molded boat “bottle” by miles. My buddy can really zip along.

Passed a couple crewed shells.

The “Real Feel” temp was 102. Casting along in the shade was significantly cooler. Saw bass, brim, and gar. Water was done and pretty clear. We had a PBJ lunch on the bank before turning around.

We skirted the south shore in the shade.

Finally used my homemade and collapsible dolly. It worked great. A strap (not shown) holds the hull down. Pulled by the nose, now we can load the boat like a wheelbarrow and truck to the water’s edge.

My homemade dolly.
Also ordered some stickers for the name plate.

I loved the grin on my boy as he rolled along. We’re looking forward to some overnight trekking this Fall. Heck, I may have trouble keeping up with this water bug!

One Ocean Kayak’s "Cirrus SLT"

The weather has finally turned for the warmer. We’ll get to sail UNA again in the next week or so in the company of a few buddies. Life is looking up. Winter did droned on here, but some boat projects did allow dreaming of new adventures. Too cold for much of anything, the dinghy “Gigi” was hung in the shed to wait for paint, her spot in the garage was taken up by a different build. This one is a stitch and glue kayak for my youngest boy. Perhaps as a set of rolled plans, it was a bit too abstract to qualify as a birthday gift for an 11 year old at the end of last summer. Though I hadn’t, and still don’t, plan on documenting this project much, yesterday I was struck by some beautiful lines and decided to take a few pics. This little pretty is a 14.5′ boat from One Ocean Kayaks. Gigi is more lapstrake in build than stitch and glue. This new addition is a true edge-to -edge s&g boat. The designer, Vaclav Stejskal, has perhaps the best site I’ve seen sharing detailed performance numbers on kayaks. Much of it is beyond my patience to understand, but I’m glad he has taken the time. His designs are an obvious passion. Honestly, I saw a sweet little boat that appeared well thought out and bought the plans. Vaclav uses his boats, no doubt went through several prototypes, and that care shows in the precision of the full size templates. I frankly was amazed the panel joints could be so tight. 

Stern with hull and moulds.

Half of the fun is figuring out the right method to approach craftsmanship. Jig saw cuts to within 1/32″ of the panel cut lines followed by a light pass of a hand plane delivered much better results than aiming to hit the line precisely. Also, mastering how to snake 18 ga. copper wires between deck panels as you close it up took several “fails” before discovering a crisp fish hook shape or “J” was easiest to knit close panels with needle nose pliers. We’re now ready to glue the seams and order some glass.

Stern with deck.
Fine lines of the bow.

The hull is made of 4mm okoume ply. The deck is a lighter 3mm. In order to keep the 3mm aligned I used hot melt glue that will be scrapped off after the first pass of epoxy gluing the joints. I’m continually surprised at the shapes one can get from flat plywood.

Wires and hot glue dabs

I’m looking forward to tripping up the James River or down the Appomattox for and overnighter with my boy.

Where I Dream …

You can have dreams without work, but they will never come to fruition without work.

Occasional periods of drudgery have risen throughout this build.  A few days ago I hit one of those “bumps” and had to walk away from the boat for a bit. The sanding and faring was getting to me, but what really slapped me was a warped centerboard. It went from a straight and true foil after glassing one side, but the second side glassing created a potato chip. I had added graphite to the epoxy for lubrication purposes and I expect the black heat sink got too much sun when I turned my back. I’m not sure if I can remove the glass to correct it or more quickly just start over. So, we went for a paddle.

Along the James.

The kayak trip restored a better outlook, but I wasn’t ready for the board or more sanding so, I lay the spars and sails in the backyard, studied how to lace and add controls, and finally raised the sails. That sent me dreaming again. Now I can face the drudgery again.

Laying out.


Needs downhaul tension.


Too tight on yard outhaul.


Mizzen lacing. Boomkin not yet installed.


Trailing wake.


A rose.
 While I did not complete the running rigging entirely, I have got it all figured out. The process was an enjoyable puzzle. And, I really love the simplicity of this rig. I believe she will be light, fast, and responsive.  (A decent centerboard will probably help too.)
Lastly, I sold my Penguin dinghy yesterday. Watching the new owner haul her out the driveway was a sad moment. She is a boat that’s beautiful from all sides, but her insides and outs needed a new coat of varnish and fresh black paint. The truth is she hadn’t left the shed for maybe 5 years and deserved to be loved better. The proceeds will provide a new trailer for the new love. Selling a boat and a trailer for a trailer somehow doesn’t sound equitable.
Anyhow, here is to “Tar Baby”. Someone told me you couldn’t have a boat named that nowadays. Really? What is the world coming to? Ignorance for all?
Tar Baby!! Moving on a wisp.


Dolly for a Kayak

While the kayak is light, the added accessories (paddle, life jacket, pump, spray skirt, lunch, etc.) can make the load awkward, if not heavier, and hauling the whole kit any distance can be trying. The solution? a good dolly. I decided to make my own.

I used 17″ plastic wheels, 1/2″x2’x2′ birch plywood, some 1″ PVC with caps, and machine bolt for axles. The ply was cut into 3 pieces and slotted. The heads of the bolts were ground off and holes for cotter pins drilled through the shafts. These were then epoxied into a wood channel. The PVC was cut to length, slotted to slip over the 1/2″ ply and secured with screws. Once the pipe was capped, split pipe insulation was glued onto the pipe.


The entire assembly can be broken down readily for ease of storage. The “lightening” holes really serve to strap the kayak to the dolly and they add a bit of style. After a good sanding I’ll put a few coats of polyurethane on the works. I’m very happy with the results. It is very serviceable.

A Little More and a Little Less

The hard turn of the shear to deck took several 1/4″ strips as I recall.


Sweet lines for such a well behaved boat.

Just a couple pics my daughter ( A Girl Named Leney ) took that I liked of the boat (and some dude with hairy legs).  I continue to make small improvements to the details, but they are slight and I’ve maybe 20+ hours in the boat now.

I recently sold “Chica”, my Classic Moth. Felt like a traitor, but she was really too narrow for my 200 #s. I may build another down the road. Wonderful, light 75# hulls, and responsive open class boats (if it fits in the rule box, its a Moth). Still basically a garage built class, the Moth evolved into a taller rig to become the International Moth. I sailed such as a teen. At 14 I could pick it up from the beach or lawn and walk it to the water solo. They would require your constant hand as they capsized if left alone, but boy were they fast. Those boats grew hydrofoils and now skip across the surface like a water bugs. Anyhow, here are some shots of old Chica:



Forest for the Trees

While I have fiberglassed pieces and repaired parts of boats in my history, none of that quelled the anxiety of fiberglassing a whole boat for the first time. Nonetheless, to finish requires continuing on. Though Spring hadn’t really sprung, this past Saturday did offer temps in the 60 degree range allowing me to use both quartz and kerosene heaters to reach 75+ degrees in the garage.The glassing process sounds simple: have your tools ready (chip brush, stirring sticks, paper mixing cups, foam “hot dog” roller, squeegee, etc.), lay out the glass, smooth it with a soft brush, mix epoxy, pour that onto the boat, and distribute the goo by brush and squeegee. After all the build up, it was time to take the plunge. So, we began on the deck. I had decided a horizontal surface was perhaps the best way to begin. I worked the epoxy around the cockpit and had perhaps 1/3 of the deck surface wetted out before stepping back for a peak.  At 1st glimpse I was happy with the results. I still nervous about the epoxy pot life and having a wet edge to continue with, but the glass was translucent, brush hairs had been captured, and there were no white areas from too little epoxy. None of this concern was really necessary as the Raka material is very patient, and at the temps I was working with, it allowed for plenty finessing. The whole operation was going well. I even began to relax, when to my horror, I saw a faint color difference where I had previously patched nail holes. Had the epoxy not soaked in there? No, I apparently hadn’t sanded the residual epoxy entirely off the boat when filling those holes. As a result there was a slight barrier preventing the fresh epoxy from fully soaking in. I can’t tell you how bummed I was (and still am to some extent). After all the prep and what I thought to be conscientious studying, I had this disappointment. The thought of pulling off the glass and trying to remove the epoxy proved too daunting so, I elected to continue on, all the while kicking myself. I even debated on not posting this report. Strategic photos could hide the screw up. My middle son was quick to say it is hardly noticeable. I don’t know. I see it, and to know it didn’t have to be really irks me, especially after I tried both water and mineral spirits on several of these areas to satisfy myself that the filling could stay as is. Well, bad analysis there. It is done. No structural flaws and the remaining 2 fill coats worked fine. The 3 epoxy coats were separated by 8 hrs hardening time or at least until no longer tacky so that the coats will bond to each other without sanding.On with the show. Here are the photos.

Chica was hauled to the heavens for more ground.

A warmer day, but not warm enough.

12k btu kerosene heater pushes some heat.

Raka’s UV epoxy here. I wanted to make darn sure the pumps stayed with their proper bottles. Also shown is the 12 oz. paper measuring cup for metering the juice. Not my idea, but I don’t recall who to give credit. I worked with 1 cup mixes. Perfect really. After marking 1/3 cup intervals on one cup, it was placed inside another with a window and marks were transferred. Though pumps seemed accurate, this prevents you from forgetting the count.

A template of the cockpit’s inside curve marked the limits of glassing required.

I covered the stem ends from epoxy. These are already glued to the hull.

A chip brush smooths the cloth without snags and avoids oil from handling.

Cockpit opening is cut for better lying of the glass. I did have to cleat the aft of the opening as it had released from the mould there.


Forget the blemishes. Look at the super tight joints!

The horror. residual epoxy telegraphing through. So be it. After 1st coat. The rest was flawless too.

 Final fill coat displayed here. Cardboard prevents drips on floor.


 She’s still pretty even with the pimples. Guess I’ll ever get over it? Geeze (or some expletive)!


Bulkheads got one coat of epoxy & glass for both sides. Ciao!