My Wooden Baby [59]

By David Baskett

She says:

It seemed like the obvious time and place to build a wooden kayak. Major home renovations. First baby on the way. A tiny narrow inner city terrace with a backyard 4m deep. Why not!? It’s all about the journey, he said. All about the process of just working with beautiful wood. Not a race to the finish. It won’t take me away from you and the new baby.

And it won’t cost much. Cheaper than buying the single kayak that was now a necessity after pregnancy made the double kayak a frustration more than a freedom vessel.

So just how many hours and how many dollars did it take in the end?

I’ll let Dave tell you the details. But I want to say that this is a very, very beautiful boat. And that it’s been built by a guy who’s never built a boat before makes it doubly impressive. Sure, I found it frustrating at the time, but I’m now really proud of this magnificent boat that David built.

He says:

During idle moments I’d been looking at websites showing these fabulous shiny sleek boats built in people’s basements. About the time that we were two thirds of our way through a renovation, with our first baby on the way (well, about to arrive), the desire to build one for myself crystallised into a plan. I had successfully completed the pencil case and the drill bit holder during year 9 high school woodwork, done a bit of research online, found some plans that I liked, felt pretty comfortable with the overall process and I wasn’t going to let the fact that I had no fibreglassing skills stop me. Nor was the fact that I had nowhere to build a 5.5m long boat.

I chose a design call the Outer Island from designer Jay Babina in the US. It is based on West Greenland kayak designs modified for larger European paddlers.

Luckily my employer agreed to let me use the delivery dock at work as my workshop over summer “as long as I kept the dust out of the server room”.

So I ordered the plans and got to work. I hunted around in speciality timber suppliers all over NSW for decent lengths of western red cedar and ended up finding two good sticks frm the timber merchant in the next suburb. I bought a 5.1m and 6m length, 300mm wide and 24mm thick with the grain running int eh direction specified in Nick Schade’s book The Strip-Built Sea Kayak. No knots and straight grain – perfect.

I took the planks downstairs to the sawmill and asked the guys to cut them into 6mm strips. At first they offered incredulous looks and a flat refusal and suggested I buy some less impressive pieces if I was going to cut them into tiny pieces. They took some reassurance that I’d be using this beautiful timber for something extraordinary. Later that week I got a call from the guy on the machine just to reconfirm that he really was cutting this timber into 6mm strips. They take timber seriously. A few days later a truck pulled up and my workshop was filled with the beautiful aroma of freshly cut Western Red Cedar.

By this stage the workshop was looking pretty good as it also contained our lounge room furniture, rug, stereo, and occasionally, dog, from home (renovations in full swing by this stage).

I had decided that I would try and make this boat as well as I could. That meant I wouldn’t rush and since I really had no idea what I was doing I had no idea when I would finish. This was not something I felt I needed to share with my employer. It was to be an example of what can be accomplished with myself as the client and deadlines are not pressing. To some extent it was also about taking personal responsibility as a paddler-if something goes wrong on a boat you built yourself who are you going to blame?.

There’s a fair bit of work to do before you actually start building the boat. I built some trestles from recycled timber and a strongback (the spine) from salvaged MDF. Finally I cut out the forms themselves and arranged them along the strongback in accordance with the plans. I was impatient to get going with sticking the strips onto the forms, but it’s essential to get the forms aligned correctly and fair as it will determine the shape of the boat you end up with.

First I laid out the gunwale strips and then, strip by strip, laid up the hull. I glued the strips together edge to edge and pinned them to the forms. When the hull was stripped I removed the forms from the strongback, turned it over, rested it in cradles on the trestles, and started on the deck. Once the deck was finished, I removed all the pins, replaced them with toothpicks (to fill the holes), creating a pretty bizarre spiky boat. It looked like an echidna art installation.

I trimmed the spikes and brought the boat home to sand, propping it up on $15 camp chairs wedged up the little walkway up the side of the house. After sanding it was back to the loading dock for fibreglassing. By this time our baby son Archie had been born and it was getting harder to schedule time for the tasks required to finish the boat. Luckily I had 24 hour access to work, which I utilised.

This was especially useful during the glassing process. The process goes something along these lines:lay the glass fabric on the boat, pour resin over it, brush / squeegee the resin into the fibre cloth, and 45 minutes later you remove the excess resin with a squeegee. Eight hours later you pour on a fill coat to give a smooth finish. 45 minutes later you squeegee off the excess. Repeat for hull, deck, inside and outside. The point is, once you start, you are committed to a 10 hour period of work plus clean up. In my case I had to fit this period in between work hours and walking the streets at night with the baby strapped to my chest trying to get him to sleep. The other important thing about fibreglassing is that you ideally shoud have a temperature- controlled environment that is also dust-free. Luckily that’s what I had been offered, together with good lighting.

It must have been interesting for my colleagues to arrive at work to see the development of this installation in the loading dock overnight. While they’d been sleeping (like most people except our son) I’d been fibreglassing and cleaning up.

By this stage the boat under construction in the basement had become one of the stops made by visitors and clients on tours of the building

After an eternity of fibreglassing and sanding I was finally ready to cut out the cockpit and form a coaming. I followed the instructions on Ross Leidy’s website (www.blueheronayaks. com) and built a carbon fibre coaming.

Then it’s joining the hull to the deck. Along with sanding the outside to a smooth surface, taping the inside seams is one of the least rewarding tasks in the whole building process. Basically you have to unroll an epoxy soaked roll of fibreglass tape using a variety of improvised tools, none of which you’re aware you are going to need until you try, along the deck to hull seam.

Sounds easy enough until you take into account that you are wedged into the epoxy thickened atmosphere inside the cockpit, wearing a respirator, with a torch and fan much more likely to end up in the rapidly rising pool of epoxy than any of the tape which is stuck everywhere except where it’s supposed to be.

The day arrived when I could put the boat in the water for the first time. I was relieved that it tracked straight, and surprised at how low in the water it sat. I realised I would need to get myself a reliable roll as it was very tippy to re-enter compared to our Dusky Bay double. In hindsight I really do not know why this came as a surprise. It also exhibited one of its undocumented attributes: the capacity to attract crusty old yachties for a yarn.

It’s easy to underestimate how long outfitting the raw hull to a seaworthy standard can take.18 months later the hatches still haven’t met that standard. 4 different seal materials and methods later I’m ready to abandon my quest for flush timber hatches and install VCP hatches front and rear. This would have been much easier before the hull and deck were joined. Come to think of it the year 9 pencil case lid didn’t shut properly either.

The majority of the building work took about 14 months of intermittent work with a couple of pretty solid weekends in there. Almost all the work was extremely satisfying and enjoyable, after a short time becoming the thing I wanted most to be doing. I would encourage anyone with the desire to build their own wooden boat to go for it. For me it was one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve undertaken.

For the record the baby survived, the marriage survived, we’re even going back for seconds. Babies, that is, and building work at home, not wooden kayaks at this stage.. Although I have got that feeling again but this time I’ve decided the freedom machine is a motorcycle. Anyone know of any websites showing how to build a bike from scratch in your shed? Maybe I should just buy one this time.

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A Great Weekend [59]

By David Hipsley

Who could have asked for a better weekend! Great weather, fantastic venue, and a programme to suit everyone with a minimal amount of cooking.

From the moment you arrived, you knew what you were in for – an entertaining and fun 3 days, starting with a night paddle over to Nelson Bay with fish jumping into your lap and the dilemma of trying to work out your orientation on the return trip.

Saturday’s choice of paddles made it a hard, but a trip to Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay with time to renew old friendships was the way to go with an interesting crossing across Tomaree Head.

The afternoon and evening was spent relaxing and hearing some of our speakers talk about expedition paddling, what to bring and how to pack it etc. – some food for thought here! And slide presentations of actual trips.

For all those that discovered the marine park at Nelson Bay what fun it was to swim with the hundreds of fish. A truly magnificent sight – you could almost think you were on a tropical island.

A few fun activities on the beach and a handicap kayak race in the afternoon, with the reality that if you need to carry an injured person on the back of your boat, it is hard work, even for a short distance.

For those of us who were able to stay for the Monday there was an impressive trip out to Fingal Island to end Rock and Roll.

Huge thanks to the organisers for a truly fun 3 days with plenty of positive feedback. It was great to see so many paddlers of all abilities having fun on and off the water. Also a special thanks to Rotary for providing an excellent meal service for the weekend.

A Simple, Strong, Economical Tow Line [59]

By Scott Harris

There are a number of systems used for tow lines. I have seen a few and none looked really good. As usual life is a compromise.

Background

Firstly I was told Venetian blind cord was just the thing, very strong, compact and a little stretchy to absorb the shock of the tow as the line loads and unloads with the action of the sea. Then the next instructor complained that my tow line didn’t float and could tangle rock or weed. The problem is that Venetian blind cord doesn’t float and the thin, cord is prone to tangle. It is made of nylon, which has a specific gravity (SG) of about 1.14 (water is 1.0).

Technical Stuff

We need a cord that is thin and floats (SG less than 1.0). A check of materials on the net quickly narrows the field to polypropylene and polyethylene (don’t laugh, if the polymers are aligned, polyethylene is one of the strongest plastics). But nothing is anywhere near as “stretchy” as nylon.

There are high tech (high cost) materials such as Kevlar, Spectra and Vectran of which, Spectra (High modulus polyethylene) will float but has been developed for low stretch so will have almost no give as load takes up and drops off in a bit of a sea.

Polypropylene is a low cost, low strength, rope making material and therefore a little frowned upon, but it is much used in low tech marine applications especially for tow lines due to its buoyancy.

Finding a suitable source of small diameter floating cord was not so simple, the only readily available product was water ski rope (usually polypropylene but sometimes polyethylene) which is about 9 mm and makes for a bulky tow line. I am told an elite K4 can pull a water skier but the power you or I are likely to develop towing another kayak should allow a lighter gauge.

Solution

I use clothes line cord from the supermarket as a general purpose cord around the house and camping because it is cheap and easy to work with. The cord is 4mm polypropylene and sold in 15 metre lengths. Perfect – the club has standardised on 15 metres for tow lines.

Splicing a loop

The cord is 8 strand diamond hollow braid, the same construction as water ski tow rope. A loop (or eye splice) can be made easily. Just thread the line through the snap hook then on the standing part of the line at a point 1cm up the chord from the hook compress the cord lengthwise to loosen the weave and expand the strands, now insert the loose end of the line into the gap in the weave and up the centre 3 to 5 cm. This is easy with water ski rope but a little more difficult with this 4mm polypropylene. It just doesn’t expand to the same degree. If the end of the cord is melted and smoothed as you would to stop the end fraying, you can use a copper electrical wire to push the sealed end up the inside of the cord.. The result is a very neat, very strong buried eye splice. Remember – pass the cord through the eye of the snap hook first.

The Tow Line in Use

The first one I made, I attached floats on the ends to counter the weight of the snap hooks. The first time I used it, one of the floats fell off. No problems, the cord itself has more than enough buoyancy, only the last few metres of the line sank as I retrieved it. An alternative is to thread the line through a small float before you thread the snap hook.

The 4mm polypropylene braid is supple, easy to handle, and doesn’t tangle nearly as easily as nylon cord. With a little care, I have never had a tangle. I roll it around my hand loosely and progressively and place it into small bag

One word of caution though, polypropylene has very poor UV resistance. Don’t leave it lying around in the sun for long periods between paddles. Keeping it in bag should make it last a lifetime, although replacing it occasionally is no big deal.

Materials

  • 2 stainless snap hooks (50mm) from Whitworth’s $4.99 each.
  • 1 Clothes line (15m) from Woolworths $3.69, Total cost $13.67
Common Rope Making Materials
Material Specific Gravity Other Characteristics
Nylon 1.14 10-15% wet strength loss. Poor wet internal abrasion resistance. Moderate creep.
Polyester 1.38 Good wet internal abrasion resistance.
Polypropylene 0.91 Lighter than water, moderate creep, lower strength, low water absorption

Surf Kayak Odyssey [59]

By Tracy Garner

A few weeks ago some friends and I swapped sea kayaks for surf kayaks and packed up the Subaru with as much camping gear and equipment as humanly possible and headed to Crescent Head for the ultimate surf kayaking holiday. A large rolling point break was the promise. With everything in walking distance of the caravan park it was the quiet season for what is a small town in a sensational location. The beach extends for miles from the park with a crystal clear river running to it surrounded by awesome sand dunes. It was a picture postcard.

Our arrival saw a beautiful day for pitching tents with only a breath of wind. However the swell on that first day was a little disappointing, but that was all about to change dramatically.

We were aware of the forecasted change but were hoping it would be downgraded. An east coast low was centered off the central coast and was predicted to throw our way huge seas of up to 6metres and howling winds in excess of 40knts but when you have been planning a holiday for months, a couple of bad weather days are not enough to trample the dream to relax & play. We ordered a trailer load of firewood from a rather dodgy looking fellow named Bud and equipped with the ultimate fire drum (the inside of an 8kg washing machine) we enjoyed a few quiet beverages and as the night wore on, the forecasted time for the low to hit came and went and we thought, “Yeh, it won’t be that bad”.

We woke the next morning to physically see a huge cloud mass front fast approaching. As we raced against time to add extra tent pegs to our humble establishment and with the offers pouring in from the retired caravaners across from us to go to the hardware for extra rope, we knew we were in for a hammering. So we settled in and waited. It came through like a freight train and although it was only 10:00am we were left with no choice but to grab a bourbon, lean hard into the tent walls during the gusts and contemplate our fate.

Although it made for an interesting few days, the resulting swell in the storms aftermath was exactly what we had all dreamed about. Huge, green faces, full and fast long rides – perfect for the Dagger and Pyranha whitewater slash surf kayaks we had as our weapons of choice. Fantastic practice for sea kayak skills like bracing and rolling in anger and learning how to read the surf, but with freedom of so much maneuverability. The specifically designed surf kayaks caused quiet a stir amongst the Mal hardened long board riders in the line up. We, as a group of 6 made sure we followed all the appropriate surf etiquette and after a very short time had earned their respect and was comfortably mixing it up. The Crescent Head locals are a great bunch and were quietly impressed by our level of control in the surf zone.

One of our guys had gotten his hands-on a new purpose built surf kayak that really shone above the rest and was a favorite amongst the surfers keen to cross over to the other side. What a machine this thing turned out to be. Built in the UK by Mega kayaks the XRAY had unmatched speed and carving ability. This kayak and those similar like the Mega Prowler have featured with huge success taking the top placing at the last couple of surf kayak world championships. With the option for up to three fins and a surfboard like shape with hard rails, it is easy to see why. Its ultra light Kevlar construction had us all in awe as it rode these beautifully long left handers carving up and down the face and performing vertical moves off the lip. He could stay on the same wave well after we had lost the pace needed to keep in front of the foam pile. We were all left thinking that it might be time to trade up from our plastic fantastics to this new beast which added so much more dimension to real surfing capabilities.

Over the next week or so the residual swell treated us to the best conditions we have surfed in for a very long time. The campsite by the river overlooking the beach made for an easy daily portage, great for those hung over days. Paddle out and paddle home, what could be easier and as with most trips, my favourite time was at night around the fire as stories of the ultimate ride grew and outgrew. Such was the nature of our most eventful and inspirational surfing odyssey.

Surf, Managing Groups in Surf, Risk Management [59]

By Mark Sundin

Surf, Surfing, Beaches.

Surfing for fun vs. surfing to survive.

In the Sydney region, there are two spots, in my humble opinion, on their day, which are suitable for enjoyable surfing in a sea kayak – Box Head & Bundeena. This has to do with the long, gently sloping, sandy ocean floor in these two locations, & their exposure to & behavior under the influence of ocean swells. On virtually every other beach from Palm Beach to Cronulla, surfing is something best avoided. If you consistently surf your sea kayak on ocean beaches, you will end up hurting yourself.

So, there is a distinct difference between surfing for fun – catching waves, carving faces etc, and surfing to land & survive. One involves intentionally trying to ride the green face of a wave, the other involves riding in on the back of the wave, in an attempt to avoid the soup completely.

Physical factors to consider in planning a trip with surf landing/launching likely.

  1. Beach type – steep, sloping ocean floor (Maroubra, South Bondi), or gentle sloping (Bundeena, The Pass)?
  2. Swell & sea direction & influence on the beach topography – the predominant swell direction on the NSW coast is southerly, the southern corners of most beaches will be safest in most conditions, but there are exceptions (North Maroubra, North Bondi). Where possible, seek local knowledge.
  3. Tide – an exposed sand bank at low tide will produce dangerous barreling surf, at high tide it might be no more than a peaked green wave. Consider effects of tide on exposed rocks or hazards, which may be hidden just below the surface at high tide.
  4. Wavelength – A 1m swell combined with a 12 second wavelength will produce far more testing surf than a 2m swell with a 7 second wavelength. Wavelength data can be checked at http://marlin.mhl.nsw.gov.au/htbin/wave_data_plot.com?Location=Sydney

Reading the beach

  1. When landing, determine the wave size & type – barreling or spilling. From a seaward vantage, if you see spray coming off the top of the breaking wave, it is probably barreling. A strong onshore wind will muffle the spray, so factor this in when making your judgment. For size you can safely double the size of the back of the wave, to calculate the face height.
  2. Pre-plan the safest corner of the beach in the predominant conditions – the end of the beach most protected from the swell:
  3. Check for hazards – rocks, logs, swimmers, surfers.
  4. Look for rips – these can be useful in moderate surf, but these present a potential hazard in larger surf, as you may end up out of your boat caught in a powerful seaward or sideways current.
  5. Watch the set pattern – get a feel for the rhythm of the larger sets & their frequency
  6. Look for gutters – these are helpful rest points on the way in & out, areas where waves will not often break, in between the shore dump & outside breaks. Beware of gutters with strong side rips – you don’t want to find yourself slipping into the break zone while resting between sets.

Other factors to consider in planning a trip with likely surf landing/launching.

  • Is the group capable?
  • Do they all have a reliable roll, and surfing experience?
  • Are they confident about a surf landing in the conditions set to prevail?
  • On grade 2 trips, surf landings are to be discouraged if the landing is preplanned, however the need may arise if conditions unexpectedly change during the trip. Do you have a strategy to avoid the landing if the beach is dangerous (an example on a trip, might include factoring in a landing at the Coaldale boat ramp, rather than a pre-planned landing at Stanwell Park)?
  • It is important to remember that many club paddlers do the bare minimum in the surf to attain their sea skills and often have neglected surf skills over forward paddle etc.

Note on Bracing

This is the most important support stroke in the surf, but one most often done incorrectly. It is important to reinforce to your group the need to high brace correctly – hands stretched above the head expose the shoulder to injury. Even on a large wave, correct use of edges & a tight brace with the paddle thrust into the face of the wave will avoid a capsize. Emphasise commitment to the stroke over involvement – like bacon & eggs, the chicken was involved, but the pig, the pig was committed!!

Managing Groups in Surf.

Surf Landing

On-water briefing – outline the beach characteristics, areas to avoid, allocate the order for each paddler to land & time separation (at least a minute), make sure everyone has a helmet & all deck gear is stowed or properly tethered, allocate beach-master (your best surfer), reinforce signaling & commitment to bracing

Psychology – in a rough landing, send in paddlers alternating between strong & not-so strong surfers. This builds confidence as the weaker paddler invariably sees the preceding paddler go through unscathed. Always encourage; never play up the dangers. On a more challenging landing, it can be a good idea to have the beach-master land, and then break out again, to let the leader know the full story of the conditions. This will raise the confidence of hesitant group members. It is also helpful if the leader & beach-master have a pre-agreed signal for a no-go.

Rescue – make sure all members are aware that in a wet-exit situation in the surf zone, the paddler is on his or her own. When in doubt, swim – the boat & gear will invariably wash onto the shore. The beach-master may be able to assist the swimmer, but this can’t always be guaranteed.

Keep waiting paddlers out of the break zone – 50 or 60 metres is sufficient distance to ensure a freak set doesn’t wash everyone through at once.

Guard against sea sickness among those waiting – point boats into the conditions & discourage map reading, looking down onto the deck to adjust gear etc.

Remind paddlers to stay on the ocean side of their boat when exiting the boat onshore, emphasise the perils of the shore break – better not to get turned turtle onto the hard shore sand.

Surf Launching

Check wave size, patterns etc, look for changed beach properties (high/low tide), between when you land, & when you intend to depart. Determine a route through the break, brief group on the rendezvous point beyond the break (further rather than closer). A rip can be useful, however as with the landings, this should only be an option where these is little likelihood of a wet exit.

Have an experienced paddler (probably not your beach-master coming in) lead out & follow the best route. Alternate paddlers by skill once again, to build confidence. Secure each paddler in their boat, pop on the skirt & steady them in the shallows. Wait for a lull, tell them to paddle hard & tuck into an impact (remember to emphasise the paddle position to the side, rather than over/in front of the face in an impact). Remind them you will be on the beach to fish them out in the event of a mishap. The leader should try to be out among the first few paddlers, to ensure any on-water incidents during the wait are attended to. The last paddler off the beach should be a strong & capable surfer.

The triangle of death is an area approximately 45 degrees to either side of the rhumb line of a landing route. The broad area will be more likely to come into play in accordance with swell size, wave type & currents, and should always be considered in assessing the risks associated with any beach landing.

A typical risk assessment
Hazard Risk Likelihood Consequences Control Measures
Dumping Shorebreak Broken boat Unlikely Walk out for paddler (minor). Land between prominent areas of shorebreak.
Concussion or spinal injury from capsize in shorebreak. Likely Loss of confidence for paddler, serious injury or hospitalization (minor to extreme). Helmets, pre-landing reminder of shore dump danger, land between areas of prominent shorebreak. Find another place to land.
Lost Gear. Likely Minor Tether or stow all deck gear.
Rocks Broken boat or bones Unlikely As above Land between prominent areas of shorebreak
Surfers Injury to swimmer, possible insurance claim Unlikely Loss of confidence for paddler, injury or hospitalization (minor to extreme) Land between prominent areas of shorebreak.
Swimmers Injury to swimmer, possible insurance claim Unlikely Loss of confidence for paddler, injury, or hospitalization (minor to extreme) Land between prominent areas of shorebreak.
Paddler caught between beach & boat. Leg injury to paddler. Likely Multiple impact injuries from constant collisions in the surf zone. Pre-landing briefing on this particular danger.
Collision with another boat. Concussion, spinal injury, bruise, drowning. Unlikely Loss of confidence for paddler, injury, drowning or hospitalization (minor to extreme). Clear landings – rather than landing every 30 seconds, or to some set time span, wait for each paddler to get to the beach before the next run.
Group member expressing panic or distress about landing. Spread of panic through the group, paddlers worrying about the distressed paddler rather than their own game. Unlikely Loss of confidence in leader, possibility of spiraling problems. Find another landing spot.
Seasickness while waiting to land. Sick & distressed paddlers, unable to concentrate on the demands of a landing. Likely Dangerous lack of concentration, balance. Point boats into the wind & sea, keep everyone chatting & focused, discourage any map reading etc.

Rock’n’Roll Statistics [59]

By Claudia Schremmer

Weather

Weather forecast for the RnR week-end, taken from BOM, Hunter Coastal Waters,Seal Rocks to Broken Bay and 60nm seawards:

  • Friday until midnight: Wind: E/SE 10/15 knots tending NE 10/15 knots in the afternoon. Sea: 1 metre. Swell: S/SE 1.5 metres.
  • Saturday: Wind: NE 10/15 knots freshening to 15/20 knots in the afternoon.Sea: 1 metre rising to 1.5 metres in the afternoon, Swell: S/SE 1.5 metres.
  • Sunday Outlook: Wind: NE 10/20 knots.
  • Monday Outlook: Wind: NE 15/20 knots.

Paddlers

  • Number of happy paddlers : 107
  • Number of Grade 1: 10
  • Number of Grade 2: 64
  • Number of Grade 3: 16
  • Number of trip leaders = 17
  • Number of trip instructors = 4
  • Number of trainee trip leaders = 4
  • Number of trips = 31
  • Average number of participants per trip = 7
  • Number of total individual paddles: 217
  • Number of trips per paddler: 2.028
  • Total number of destinations = 12
  • Number of participants in rolling contest = 6
  • Number of participants in handicap race = 26
  • Number of participants in tug-o-war = 14
  • Total distance of someone being towed = 20km (Good on you, Mark B.!)

Wildlife sighted

  • 97 Dolphin sightings
  • 1,284 Fish
  • 1 Dugong

Catering

Number of dinners with the Rotary Club = 118 (including 3 vegetarian)

Other Items

  • 1 Cappuccino Cruise
  • 1 person who took three attempts to circumnavigate Fingal Island and never really got there
  • Number of Rock’n’Roll-related emails that Claudia deleted on 18th March 2005 = 1348.
Rock & Roll Boat Survey (by Richard McNeall)
Mirage 530 F/G 20
Mirage 580 F/G 20
Nadgee F/G 13
Dagger Apostle Plastic 7
Pittarak F/G 7
Penguin Plastic 4
Storm Plastic 3
Greenlander F/G 2
Fibreglass Double F/G 1
Freedom F/G 1
Inuit F/G 1
Kodiak Plastic 1
Mermaid F/G 1
Mirage 19 F/G 1
Orca F/G 1
Osprey F/G 1
Pittarak Double F/G 1
Plastic Single Plastic 1
Puffin Plastic 1
Raider X F/G 1
Rosco Double F/G 1
Southern Raider F/G 1
Southern Skua F/G 1
Squall Plastic 1
Tasman 19 F/G 1
Wooden Singles Wood 4
Wooden Double Wood 1
Total No. Kayaks 98

Retro Fitting a Skeg to my Nadgee [59]

By Kim Vandyke

I ordered a skeg kit from David Winkworth to retro fit to my Nadgee. The kayak actually tracks very well but I wanted the skeg just in case. I believe the skeg design is such that it could fit any kayak. Importantly, the quality of the product is first rate. David supplies detailed instructions on how to fit the kayak however I was looking for a fast installation. The following is how I did it. If you are thinking about a skeg, it will all make sense. If you aren’t – move on to the next article.

I supported the kayak keel up on two saw horses above the floor, marked the spot for the skeg then masked the area. I used a surform to flatten out the keel till a few mm’s wide then drew a pencil line down the centre and again marked the slot length. I used a hand drill to make a slot for a jig saw blade (metal cutting) to cut a thin slot. I kept surforming / filing / sanding down the keel ever so slowly until the slot was the correct size to accept the skeg box firmly when inserted from inside the hull.

I turned the kayak right side up and made sure it was sitting squarely on the supports. I used a level across the cockpit to check it was level port/starboard. I locked the kayak in place using my Thule racks and straps. I passed the skeg through the rear hatch and positioned it in the slot. David supplies a “keeper” for the skeg box to ensure it does not contract when glassing. The skeg was now in place with its opening facing down to the floor. I inserted another piece of timber (same thickness) but about 2 feet long at 90 deg to the skeg / keel line when viewed side on. This meant I had a long protrusion hanging down that I could eyeball and check for vertical positioning of the skeg (as the skeg is inside the kayak it’s a bit hard to see if it is vertical). Remember, I had the timber pointing down from the skeg toward the floor. I used my carpenter’s level to create a level timber beam on the concrete floor of the garage at right angles to the keel line. I used my carpenter’s right angle square to check that the angle between the skeg protusion pointing down to the floor and the beam on the floor was 90 degrees. I did all of this to make sure the alignment was correct before sloshing the gelcoat in around the skeg – it went off nicely and locked the skeg in. On reflection I think I would use 5 minute epoxy next time just to locate the skeg and then mask & brush gelcoat on from the outside to cover up for later wet rubbing.

Having experienced how tricky it was to work a brush with gelcoat around the skeg down inside the back of the kayak, I was clearly going to have some fun with glass and resin notwithstanding the curves etc of the keel. I had purchased the resin and glass etc but thought a bit more about it.

What I did was resort to some marine epoxy and ephispheres (super light filler) which I had in my box of tricks. I used gaffa tape (strong) to create a dam about 10 mm from each end of the skeg. I mixed up a super light porridge of epoxy and ephispheres and poured it into the dam. It went off – very effective.

Now for the slider that lives on the deck. I placed it on the right side of the boat. I made a cardboard template of the underneath of the slider. I masked this to the deck then cut the hole. Then I masked the deck area before sanding the gel coat – I used 5 minute epoxy to attach the slider with flange onto the deck – I held it while it went off – I pulled the tape off while the epoxy was still “green” – again it worked well.

I have layers of foam for my knees under the deck which took some time to put in and I didn’t want to remove them for the skeg cable so I simply pushed a 6mm steel rod through the foam where I wanted the cable to run – couldn’t have been easier.

The skeg cable is housed in a plastic tube, the cable and tube run from the box in the hatch, through the slider and toward the front bulkhead, along this run the tube is separated by the slider. Both exposed ends of tubing in the slider need to be fluted; I achieved this by heating it lightly with a ciggy lighter and then inserting a Phillips head screwdriver. The tubing is now threaded into the slider, one aft to the skeg – the other forward. To prevent the short forward tubing moving back and forth as the cable moved I put an oversize piece of hose (held with zip ties) on the tube up against the forward face of the slider under the deck. To give myself friction on the cable, I placed some gaffa tape on the cable (short end toward bow) before I threaded the cable into the tube.

In hindsight the skeg was easy to install – I took the long weekend to do mine but the next one will be a cinch.