Monday, 26 November 2012

Kayak Build pt. 14

Taking her out for a test spin.

Now that the kayak was close-ish to being sea worthy, we wanted to take her out for a quick test paddle. It won’t be fully completed for a while yet, and I didn’t want to wait until next spring to try her out. And the other thing we wanted to see is: do they work for us. Meaning, we chose this design for two big boys to use. Before we go ahead and build a second one, shouldn’t we see that they indeed fit us. Can we get our selves into the cockpit okay, do our legs fit, do our feet fit? I was reasonably sure they would, but for the heck of it, we arranged with Dag to come down on a Sunday afternoon and we walked her down to the water and gave her a quick test spin. 

And another thing is that I have never been in a kayak. Canoes many times, although my experience with soloing them is limited. So I really wanted to get into one and see what it was all about. I was a little bit nervous, but more than anything I was very excited.
When I got there, Hank had shuffled the strongback with the kayak on it over to the side so we would have room to put it on the floor before lowering it out of the window. To offer a little protection from damaging the still unfinished sides, and also to hold the totally unfinished hatches in place, he had applied tuck tape.
Ready for launch.
A few months ago we shoved big honking planks of wood up through the attic window. Now we were lowering what we had made form those planks down from the attic window.
Off we go.
In the water for the first time. Hopefully the first of many, many, many times she is lowered into the water. I opted to wear my wetsuit pants and paddling booties, in case something bad happened and someone had to go in after it. Unlikely, but you never know. Oh and I was also a responsible paddler and wore my PFD.

Getting in was a little freaky, just because it’s an unfamiliar craft, and a sensation I need to get used to. But once I was Very different than a canoe, just because I’m pretty much in the water, rather than sitting a foot above it like in a canoe. 

Okay, I’m in this thing, I haven’t flipped over, hung up inside it, drowning...okay. This is cool. Oh I’m liking this sensation.
Foolishly we had put it in the wrong way around, with the stern towards the open water, so I had to get a long, very fast boat turned around in a small space. Not being used to the length or speed of it was a bit awkward, and I had never used a double bladed paddle either, but within a minute or so I had the hang of it. Played around a little getting a handle on handling it
All right, enough goofing off, let’s take it out into open water. Hank had a wooden paddle up in the attic rafters taht I used, but it is really too short for me. I need to carve some paddles over the winter.
Like I said, an almost 20 foot long kayak is fast. And that sensation of gliding on the water....WOW!
The freakiest part of the whole exercise was getting a grip on how far that bow jutted out in front of me and easy it was for that long boat to move almost effortlessly with one stroke of the paddle and how quickly that would move me towards the dock. I bumped into the dock a few times. Whoops.
Then it was Dag’s turn to give her a whirl.
Being a very experienced paddler (not to mention an Olympic level sailor) he made it turn with no effort at all.
And off he goes.
And he was also very happy with the way it handled. Both of us fit inside of it just fine. And may I just say...damn that kayak looks nice. Those lines are something else.
And no! I didn’t pee myself. With no seats inside of it, the water dripped off the paddle and collected right under my ass.

And then, sadly, we brought it back inside, and hung it up in the rafters to begin the next boat. Lots of fiddly things left to do (bulkheads, hatches, foot braces, seats, stem band, gluing it together, putting on the rub rail, varnishing it), but they will be done over the coming months.

I could have paddled that thing for a few more hours.


  1. That is oh-so-sweet. Looks beautiful and I bet it moves like a shark!

    When it comes to kayak vs. canoe I'm just the opposite. I have my Costco 10-foot canoe that I really enjoy, and have recently acquired a Coleman 13-foot (?) canoe. I'm nervous about learning the differences of the canoe. I'm even thinking about building an outrigger setup with a pontoon from a 'skeeter' boat just so I don't tip over. I've only been in a canoe maybe three times in my life. Looking forward to hauling more gear in it though...

    1. Mmm....not sure you really need it. It would certainly change the handling characteristics a lot. One thing I would suggest is taking it out in a lake or pond on a warm day and try to tip it or flip it. Doing that will give you some more confidence and better understanding of its handling characteristics. They're often surprisingly hard to upend. The only experience I've ever witnessed of someone in canoe ending up in the water, was an empty canoe, one person in it, who leaned back way too far, trying to grab something out of the water. Fully loaded a canoe is really stable. My pal Jay who I usually go on canoe trips with will without any qualms stand up on the gunwales to take photos. And I guess white water would make it far more likely to end up in the wrong position. Oh and a longer canoe 15 to 17 would also handle very differently.

  2. Good point on flipping it over in shallow water on purpose. I will do that. For the future...I do have fantasies of having my camping gear and my lab-mix in the canoe heading off on an adventure. Can't really do that with the kayak I have. That would be pretty cool.