Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mattabessett Paddle

Its been a while since I made a blog post about a kayak trip. I should do it more often.
Got today off from work. Set out from Harbor Park in Middletown.
Heading for the Arrigoni Bridge, site of a tragedy, and my vote for Homeliest Bridge In Connecticut. The entrance to the Mattabessett is just beyond the railroad bridge.
The Matt is a slow-moving tidal river. I soon got to a marshy area, and saw a lady in a small kayak. Had a chat, and paddled together. There is another put-in spot further up the river, and we paddled there together, where she took out. 
After a pit stop, I continued up the river, looking for a couple of geocaches. The water level was getting low, and no luck on the caches, so I turned around, this time against the tide. Good paddle for wildlife: saw several Great Blue Herons, ducks, and fish.
I think that this was the longest actual paddle I've ever been on, in both mileage and time. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Re-varnishing The Old Outer Island

Normally, I wouldn't create a post about such a routine task, but this time I decided to try to remove all the old varnish. It was quite a task.
I am learning a lot here. First, I tried the "safer" citrus stripper on the hatch covers. It seems to attack the varnish all right, but it does so unevenly, and dries out quickly.
Back to the "brute force" approach-heavy sanding. You really can tell when you're through the varnish-the sanding dust changes from brown to white. After hand sanding, R.O.S. sanding, 220 grit, 400 grit, powerwashing, steel wool, and more powerwashing, I wish I had applied a heavier coat of epoxy three years ago! I did hit the glass weave in more places than I expected to. In all, I think it would have been better just to sand lightly. There was a not-unpleasant "old varnish patina" that is now gone.
After all that, I applied commercially-available adhesive rub strips to the bow & stern. I think they would look better on New Construction.
I used Epifanes varnish, first coat thinned 50% with the 333 thinner, and second coat 25%. It somehow seems to go on better than the Schooner.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Done and Launched

I decided to break with tradition and try it out at Long Pond instead of the usual spot. It actually stopped raining today!
Weighed in at a svelte 39 lbs, and looked pretty sleek sitting on the grass. I gave it a go around the pond, trying to see if it was biased in either direction, and it doesn't seem  to be. I discovered, to slight embarrassment, that I had no place to attach the paddle leash. 
Interesting: I thought it might be silly to install a skeg on a boat like the Outer Island, but it seems effective, even on this boat.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


I know I skipped a couple of steps: sanding and varnishing. These went routinely. I might have done a better job at these, but after all the builds, and refinishes, I' less fussy than I used to be. I know what it will look like after use, and I know I'll be varnishing it every year.
I decided that the only thing I want to mount on the foredeck is a GPS, so rather than to install deck webbing and contrive a way to hold the GPS, I broke down & bought a deck mount. I found an appropriate piece of foam for a gasket, and bolted it to the deck.
Deck rigging. I happened to put the aft hatch a little farther forward than usual, because I wanted to avoid interfering with the skeg. I was left with just enough room for the deck webbing.
I made the skeg control knob by laminating three pieces of lexan, left over from the skeg.
Toggle. The line isn't really manila.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Cockpit Coaming

Of the three ways that I know to build a cockpit coaming, laid-up plywood seems to be the simplest.
On my last two builds, I used the molded-fiberglass method. It works well, but its tedious, uses lots of epoxy, and the edge of the rim seems to come out kind of sharp, making it more difficult to pull the spray skirt off.
I briefly considered doing the lots-of-cove-and-bead-pieces method again, but I couldn't get psyched for the woodworking, so I went for the plywood. I got a half sheet of okoume, screwed up the cutting, and had to resort to cheaper stuff, but made it right with epoxy & filler.
This will be painted.
Paint job came out o.k. Side braces in place.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Some Details

I glued in the skeg control box. This time, I managed to rout the opening out without hitting the box.
Hatches went as usual. Here, I'm trying some fairing filler:
I gave this a coat of green paint.
And, once again I managed to install the glue-on foot brace studs in the wrong position! Tough work removing them with the heat gun, smoothing the area out, etc. I originally put them in before joining the deck & hull, thinking that it would be very difficult to do by reaching into the cockpit, but it actually made it easier to screw up. It wasn't all that hard to reach through the cockpit, and next time, I'll do it that way.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Back To The Deck

Glassing the bottom of the deck went fairly routinely-I used the dookie-fill technique again, made the usual mess, and had an average number of drips come through to the other side.
I tried the fit of the deck on the hull and was astounded-it almost fit! The difference was only no more than 1/4" at worst. Still, I used spreader sticks to widen the hull a little.

I spot-glued with thickened epoxy, since there are some minor gaps. When the tape is removed, I'll do the whole joint with dookie.
I usually tack a 2" strip of 4 oz. glass to the inside of the joint before tacking the deck on, and saturate the glass later. The main problem with that technique is that it seems to take an enormous quantity of epoxy to saturate the glass down the length of the strip, and then it always wants to form a puddle in the middle. This time, I saturated 2 strips of 9 oz. tape, about 8" long, and applied them to the joints. It looked a very long way to the ends of the boat from the cockpit opening. I can do shorter strips in the bow & stern after the hatches are cut, if I want.
The deck glassed, with my friend The Osprey. I must have improved at fiberglassing, because this seemed faster & easier than ever.
I disassembled the box beam, and made two sawhorses, once again putting my Thule racks into service. The box beam had a tendency to disassemble  itself, since its very heavy, and only nailed together with 4 d nails.
Sanding. It always seems like there is a very thick coating of epoxy everywhere, but I always manage to hit the fiberglass a few times. Figured something out: the 'blotchy" areas are where I'm sanding through multiple coatings of epoxy. They seem to wet out o.k. under varnish, however.
No matter what tools or techniques I use, sanding is still a tedious, messy job! ;)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Hull Exterior

I glassed the exterior of the hull today. I decided not to include a photo, because it wouldn't show much.
I learned a few new things about fiberglassing:
Warming the resin in a hot water bath helps it spread more easily, and it seems to saturate the glass faster.
Instead of struggling to make the glass fit the stern, I cut a "dart" and folded the ends. Makes things much easier, wonder why I hadn't tried this before.
The secret to avoiding ripples! Apply resin in an even coat, and skive off the excess as soon as the glass is saturated.
I gave the roller another try at one point, and gave up on it. I think that it only works well if a saturation coat has been applied to the wood, otherwise it just wants to lift the glass off the boat.
Instead of multiple layers, I decided on two strips of 10 oz. glass at the only places I've ever had a problem with abrasion: the bow & stern. it looks like they're going to need a lot of epoxy to fill.
I put a strip of 4 oz. glass over the 10 oz. to smooth out the job.
The skeg box opened. I think that I did this before glassing the hull last year-this time I did it after glassing the hull, and it seemed to go easier. I cut it a little deeper than I really wanted to, but this time, it looks straight.

I decided to sand the hull down to #220 wet paper before glassing the deck. I figured that it would be work, whether I did it now or later. I tried Nick's technique of using  a doubled sheet of sandpaper, with no block, and it worked rather well. Sand, scrape, R.O.S, repeat, until its done.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Interior Work

Fairing the hull & deck went routinely, as in "tediously". I took a fairly aggressive approach, and a few spots came out rather thin.
I used my usual technique of applying putty to the seams, glass on wet putty, and saturating the glass. I tried applying the clear epoxy with a roller, and didn't like it. The glass saturates, but always seems to want to pull away from the wood. Maybe its because its on the interior, where the glass always wants to pull off anyway. I think it might work better on the exterior, where I can actually pour the resin onto the wood.
I tried gluing up blocks of cedar for the ends, but it proved to be more difficult than I remembered, so I fell back on the microbaloons:
Actually, I don't even know if this is quite necessary when I have internal stems. It is "supposed to" give you something to drill through for the carrying toggles, but it looks like I'd be drilling through the internal stems anyway. I kept it small.

About to glass the hull interior. I made a partition of trash bags to try and keep the heat in and have three heat lamps shining on the hull. Also warming the epoxy in a sink full of hot water.
This "tent" thing didn't really do much to hold the heat in. I'm using a new-to-me brand of epoxy this time: Raka. I was worried that it wasn't curing, but it just cures much slower than the MAS. 
Also made an odd discovery: 100 watt light bulbs actually heat the work up better than 125 watt heat lamps? It doesn't seem to make sense, but I found that the 100 watt bulb will raise the surface temperature from 60 to 70 degrees in an hour, where the heat lamp barely moves it.
Glassing the hull interior went about as usual, some ripples to sand out.
The skeg box in place. This was somehow easier than the last time, and it looks straight.
Foot brace mounting studs. I was stressing a little about the position of these, thought about it a little, and moved them 2" further aft than originally marked. I hope its right.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


I was actually surprised at how nice the deck looked after fairing & sanding. The deck batch of cedar has a nice tan-red look, not exactly what I expected, but nice. 
I decided to go for an inlay, and bought one from CLC. Routing out the recess was "fun" as usual-I even made a jig of Masonite to keep the router bit from plunging too deeply. That went well enough, but I had trouble making the inlay fit the recess precisely.
In any case, I have a nice bird to look at while paddling ;)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Completing The Deck

I (over) bought a new batch of cedar. I also discovered that my new Toyota has absolutely, positively,  no place on which to hook a tie-down at the front or rear of the car! I resorted to making two loops of webbing attached to bolts under the hood & trunk lids. This seems to be the Standard Solution to the problem, but we shall see, come spring...
The second batch of cedar is of a lighter color than the hull batch,  which I hadn't planned on, but I think it will look o.k.
I settled for a couple of narrow basswood strips for accents. I bought a nice veneer inlay for the foredeck.
The Obligatory Whisky Plank Photo-although in this case, its more like a Whiskey Sliver.
Stripping the deck went about as expected-tedious, painstaking work on the half-width strips that make the transition from vertical to horizontal, heat bending strips down to the deck, easy fits on the flatter sections. 
I have also decided to build either a plywood or cove-and-bead cockpit coaming, instead of another molded fiberglass one. I want a plywood rim, because it seems to release the spray skirt more easily.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Starting The Deck

I found it fairly easy to disconnect the forms from their stands and flip the boat over. I hung it up from the ceiling by ropes, as with the Cape Ann, but happily, it wasn't as enormously heavy, without the internal beam. I found some plywood brackets from last years' build to hold it-it seems that my roof rack brackets won't be needed.
After checking the alignment of the forms with a board, I had to make several adjustments to the forms, with the belt sander. I knew that the bow & stern forms would stick out (I think they're about 5% "too big ") but I also had to cut down some of the end forms, and put a shim on one, to achieve a fair, flat stern deck. I remember doing this two years ago, when I also used bow & stern forms from the copy shop. 
Now I have to decide what to actually do with the deck.
This is actually my second start on the deck. I originally ran two strips of basswood lengthwise, about two inches from the sheer, but it promised an array of difficult "whiskey plank" -type fits, and a few of the strips were fit badly, so I pulled it off and started over. 
I also miscalculated the number of strips needed, and had to start a new batch. I'm also now recalling a little of alignment difficulty around forms 11-12. Its taking no fewer than 5 skinny strips to make the transition from vertical to horizontal on the deck.
By way of superstition, two things seem to always have to happen on a good build. First, I get hurt. I managed to cut my thumb on the table saw a few weeks ago, requiring stitches. Second is a False Start. When I can look at some of my work, in this case, the first deck strips, and reject it, I think I'm on the right track.
This time, I'm doing a "Plain Jane" deck, with no contrasting stripes. I think I have a plan for an inlay.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Carrying Toggles

I decided to try a new way of making the carrying toggles. I glued up a turning block of mahogany, and measured/marked/drilled the holes before turning:
This was actually easy & fun. I turned the basic shapes, cut them apart right on the lathe, and finished shaping with sandpaper.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Starting To Strip

I got some basswood, and made a series of thin strips: the keel, the sheer lines, and, since its been long enough to forget what a P.I.T.A. it was, waterline strips. I originally wanted to use Pawlonia for these, but after journeying to New Hampshire, I was disappointed in the quality-all the boards looked like they had been water-stained.
After putting these strips on, the 3/4" thick forms now feel rock-solid. I tried extending the keel strip along the bow & stern forms-I somehow have the feeling it will "help" somehow.
I put up the "outrigger" boards, using three good-sized pine boards across the box beam, giving me a much more solid platform to work the strips on.
At the lumberyard, the cedar boards which had the "look" I wanted happened to be 16 and 19 feet long. I spent a long, hard day resawing and surface planing them outside, ran out of daylight, and finished the job indoors. They are 3/16" thick by 5/8" wide. According to my calculations, I have enough for the job, but they don't look like enough. I may have to get "creative" on the deck.
I decided to work on the stems while the bottom is still being stripped. I found some old pieces of cypress wood, that were provided for sheer clamps in my Shearwater Hybrid kit. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Setting Up

I tried a new thing: actually following someone else's instructions.
Since I followed Rob Mack's instructions for building a box beam, I figured I'd also follow his instructions for setting up forms. They are pretty good. I set up the top alignment string with two strong wooden posts screwed into the box beam, and aligned it with the bottom string, using a plumb bob, just like the illustration. 
 In the past, I had suspended a top string, and snapped a chalk line on the beam to mark center. I aligned the forms to the top string, and used a spirit level to level them. This time, I have two parallel strings, longer than the entire kayak.
Setting up the first form, #9. The mounting brackets are dadoed to allow the string on the box beam to pass through. A strip of wood is stapled to the form along the center line, leaving room for the thickness of the string. When I brought the stick to the strings, and checked one of the horizontal lines, it was level! 
Not, however, that I got it right the first time. When I got to setting up the bow form, I discovered that I had miscalculated the height of the string, and the tip of the form ran into the box beam. I managed to break the bottom string, then had to relocate the top string to a higher position.
The bow form in place. I cut a 3/4" slot in Form #2, and attached it to the  back of the form, so as not to cover the lines. I also made the small fork-shaped bracket next to form #1, to adjust the bow form across the box beam, and keep form #2 at a right angle to the beam. Everything seems correct with a spirit level, and the tip of the form is lined up on the bottom string. 
I did the same with the stern form. I can see how I blew it the last time. Everything straight and  level is a very fine point.
I tried some test strips, and everything came out even & fair, except for form # 10.5, which had to be moved several inches.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Box Beam

In order to prevent another Crooked Kayak Disaster, I looked for a new way to set up a strongback. Rob Macks uses what he calls an "external box beam" for a strongback, so I bought his kayak building plans to get the dimensions & instructions. 
I made it 19' long-two 8' sections, one 3' section, and two "nesting sections" in between. Its so long, I couldn't fit it all in the picture. Rob calls for 1/2" CDX plywood. I almost used "nicey-nice" 3/4" ply, and I'm glad I didn't, because it weighs a lot as it is. I like the idea of the beam being longer than the whole kayak, because now I can align everything to a string, and not have to resort to shenanigans to get the end forms aligned. It was harder to build than I thought it would be-I had to re-do a section to get it to fit together. Here, I'm using a variety of shims to level it on my uneven basement floor.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Another Outer Island

I decided to chicken out from the Kayak Foundry program for now, and just build another, full-length Outer Island.
I still have the forms from when I bought the original plans, but I decided that they were a little flimsy & troublesome,made on 1/2" CDX plywood, so I traced them onto 3/4 Masonite, and solid pine. This all went well enough, but it brought a quandary to my mind: did I have the forms copied at 95%, or did I just reduce the length? I found nothing on any of the forms that was a specific, measured length, and what really made me wonder was that when I had the bow & stern forms printed at Staples, they didn't fit forms 2 and 16 exactly. After racking my brain for a while, I finally asked Jay Babina for help. He sent me a PDF file of form 16, and my width was exactly what it was supposed to be, however, when I printed it, it wasn't that size! I was finally satisfied that my forms are 100%, but we think Staples' printer is off a little. Its only about 1/8", I think I can work around it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Designing A Kayak

After several learning-curve evolutions, I finally managed to download & (somewhat) learn how to use Ross Leidy's Kayak Foundry program. You get a diagram that looks like this:
By moving points around, you change the shape of the kayak. 
It kind of reminds me of when I used to order e-juice from E.C. Blend, put all my preferences in, and get a juice that tasted perfectly lousy. I have the ability to put in all the measurement that I think I want, and also make my own mistakes! "Tiny" changes will make a huge difference in the feel and performance.
Interesting feature: you can print out the forms scaled-down, for example 1/8 size, and make a scale model. I tried printing 1/6 scale, but the forms seemed too tiny to work with.
I also bought Rob Mack's' instruction manual for building his "Panache" kayak. In e-mails, he describes build on a "box beam" strongback, and I had to get the manual to see what he means. It looks like a long box girder made of plywood. I'm also considering, if the self-design becomes too scary, building another full-sized Outer Island. If the box-beam thing turns out to be a sweet & solid way of aligning the strongback, maybe I can avoid another blunder.
One of the cool things you can do with the kayak Foundry program is print the forms out at reduced scale, and build a scale model. I tried printing 1/8 scale, but found the forms to be too small to work with, so I tried 1/4 scale:
Ross did this for his RL-1. He went "all the way" in construction, even fiberglassing the hull, but I don't plan to be that fancy.
Actually, I found it harder to work with strips on a small scale, and I have shelved this project for now.
I tweaked the program around a little, and printed the forms at 1/4 scale. I made a slightly  basic scale model, by milling some thin cedar strips and applying them to the forms. I didn't intend to build a pretty, "showpiece" scale model, like Ross, I just wanted to get a 3-D clue of what it would look like. I also re-posted the design on Kayak Foundry for comments. The comments reflected what I saw in the model. 
My conclusion is that the scale model will look like a nice little kayak, but it doesn't really show much else.
I usually "start" a build by making some detail in advance, such as the carrying toggles. This time, I made the skeg trunk and control box. I had most of the necessary parts left over from the last build.
I was fairly  satisfied with the design on the program, so I started printing forms. You can print them out on legal size paper, but you get a bunch of pieces that need to be taped together using registration marks. I investigated trying to export them somehow to a file that they might print at Staples, but  someone on the message board said something about "distortion", so I thought it better to print at home. I started printing. The forms looked pretty small, and somehow unsatisfactory, so I compared the largest one to the O.I's largest form. The deck height was o.k, but it needed more slope to the sheerline, so back to tweaking.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

On The Blackstone Canal

I so happened, through geocaching,  to find out about a kayak-navigable canal in Rhode Island, The Blackstone Canal. I believe it was dug in the 1820's, when Everyone was trying to Connect All Waterways. Now, there are "canals" on the map, but they always seem to be either dry or closed to boat traffic, so I was slightly excited to find this.
Day started inauspiciously. Forgot my directions, much driving around to find a put-in spot. Actually put in near the northern terminus, an interesting area with historical sites.
From the banks, it looked a little rocky & junky, but the water was deep enough, and I had few problems with snags. There were a few trees to go around. It was like a paddle down a lazy river.
I got skunked on 2/2 caches, which was a disappointment, but at least they got me here. I went about a mile each way. 
A lock, near the Blackstone river. I think it was the type of canal that uses the river's flow to fill the locks.
Once I returned to the put-in spot, I found the area historically interesting. 
An old New-English Mill, being converted into condos. 

Marking the site of an old mill.
There was also the Kelley House museum, by the canal, with a few ranger/curators. The was an old fellow, probably an octogenarian, in a uniform marked "volunteer". He took my picture when I launched the 'yak. 
When I took out, he admired the kayak & complimented my workmanship. When I was loading it onto the car, he said "boy, I envy you!". 
In fact, I envy him.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

New York, and the "Freedom Tower"

Just a "routine" trip to NYC, but this time I took more pictures than usual, and have some observations. A couple of years ago, a friend & I went to the Museum Of Natural History, and Central Park. We agreed that New York didn't seem like New York anymore-some kind of Big Brother Lockdown going on. The "color" of Central Park was gone-no busking musicians, jugglers, weirdos, etc.-just the feeling that everything was being watched.
Checked into The Jane Hotel (google it, its nifty) in the evening, and decided for a walk on The High Line (google that too ;))
This is a little more like it. A performance artist, posing stock-still. The passers-by's reactions were the most fun, they seemed to find it hilarious.
Another view from The Line. Its amazing how different familiar streets look from 2 stories up:

On to the nearby Hudson River Park. Lots of cyclists and joggers. Great evening view of the Financial District:
Lots of walking. Walked around the west Village, looking for a place to eat. Found a funky little pizzeria on 4th St. (?), and had 2 Sicilian slices for $7.
Up early the next morning (for New York). Drove down to the Financial District, and ate breakfast at McDonald's. Too early for The Tower, so checked out Trinity Church, and a very neatly groomed old graveyard.
Back to the WTC area. The area has a very strong police presence these days. Cops in kiosks, cops on the street telling you which sidewalk you can use.

Wow. If they want to close Vesey St. instantly, they can do it.
At the Memorial, the South Pool. I have mixed feelings about this. Its dramatic & beautiful architecture, and the water has a soothing sound. From where you can stand, you can only see the water falling literally, into a Black Hole. This is supposed to symbolize "loss", but I find it negative, as if the victims have disappeared into oblivion & nothingness. I would rather have seen something that symbolizes, regeneration rebirth, something rising perpetually. The "Freedom Tower" is supposed to do that, but after visiting it, it seems to speak more of fear than defiance.
On to the aforementioned.

It looks nice in the morning light. It was just opening, and there were only a few dozen people around. Now, I hadn't been up in a large skyscraper since 9/11, and I seemed to think it would be a matter of passing Security, buying the ticket, and going up, but they control your every move these days. Even without crowds, there seemed to be a lot of waiting in line to pass, for no apparent reason. 
There was a nifty place (they start you out in the basement) where you walk through bedrock, and are informed about the construction process.On to the elevators.
There was a high-tech video display that played on the walls of the elevator, showing the development of New York as you rise, It reaches the "present" when you reach the top. Interesting, but a 100-story elevator ride in 60 seconds is trippy enough without it.
When I got off the elevator, I wanted very badly to walk around and shake off the "land sickness". but we were funneled into another waiting area, where a video was projected onto a curtain. The curtain was raised briefly to give a live view.
Then it got irritating. After being released from this line, The tour guides informed the crowd of an i-phone application that would explain all the sights from a location in the observatory! They even lent out tablets. There are no printed signs about the view. So, I thought that a 100-story view of New York City might actually make people put the darned thing down for a few minutes, but nahhh...
Then it got a little more irritating. Unbeknownst to me, many people had purchased some "photo at the top" type of thing, and again stood in a line. I didn't know what was going on-was it a Mandatory Mug Shot? I said I didn't want a picture, so they told me to "move on". I almost got mouthy, but checked myself-figured that any aberrant behavior might get me tazed or worse. 
Free at last! The view was amazing, and the observatory was more psychologically comfortable that the old WTC's.