Cape Falcon’s F1 Kayak (part I)


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.


Mid Atlantic Small Craft Festival 2016

For me, a 4 hour drive is a long haul to go sailing with Mobjack only 1 1/2 hours away. However, MASCF is an exception. Almost 100 small boat enthusiasts, many with crew, bring their respective craft to enjoy friends new and old, savor some seafood and get in a bit of boating. Last year’s event was washed out by hurricane threats. This year was just our second attendance in what was the 33rd running. Friday and Saturday were wet and windy. Sunday, still overcast, offered barely a whisper. Regardless, the time in Saint Michaels was fun. My youngest son and I took kayaks we built and left UNA behind. She was missed, but we got rides from our pal Dale to watch Saturday’s race in his Ben Garvey outboard. With an almost 7′ beam, he can set up a tent  in the boat’s floor and still have room to keep his skin-on-frame kayaks aboard. Complimented with a 40hp four-stroke and a folding bimini top, Dale may have found another attractive access to the water.

Dale at the helm

Later in the day we paddled around the harbor to take in the sights. This town has been a regular stopping point over many years of cruising the Bay. The visit never grows old. Though the boutique shops seem to be taking over the main drag, pockets of childhood memories still survive. This is in no small part due to the Maritime Museum there. Now that I have been to Mystic, I can say it reminds me of that fine museum on a smaller scale. In this quaintness, St. Michaels is more approachable. At this festival, one can wander amongst the current builds and renovations. You are welcomed to nose around and we did.

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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.