Sunday, April 27, 2008

Skinning Begins

Last Thursday the girls & I got started on skinning the hull of their Sea Flea. Below, they cut 18 ounce PVC fabric to the correct width to cover the kayak hull (bottom).
With her sister at school, my younger daughter checks out the fabric draped over the hull.
The hull has been stapled into place. As more staples were added, it was pulled ever tighter. I would pull out the original staples as I went along, replacing them with ones that pulled the fabric more tightly.
Most of these wrinkles worked themselves out.
However, I did have wrinkles at the stern keel that I could not work out. The waves along the side are not my main concern but the ridges right over top of the keel I think is not great. I tried every which way to minimize them, including warming up the PVC in hopes of getting some stretch to get rid of the wrinkles but they remained.
I could have probably left them, but I opted to slice the fabric along the keel about 18" allowing the fabric to spread follow the hull without the wrinkles. I then placed a patch over this area to rejoin and seal the hull.
I'll add pictures of the completed hull including the stern stem patch later this week, probably as a new post. I'll add a couple pictures of the bow and stern float bags I made to keep the kayak afloat when swamped.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nice Day For a Swim!

I went up to PA with a group of three friends today to run the Garden River, a small runoff river which flows into the North Saskatchewan River. Here in Saskatoon it snowed overnight last night, but we decided to head North anyway. Along the highway there was up to 8 inches of wet snow, but beyond Duck Lake the snow tapered off and by the time we reached Prince Albert there was none. We had arranged to meet a local kayaker, Doug, at the put-in and he joined us for the day's paddle. Our crew consisted of me & Steve in a tandem canoe, Mark paddling a solo canoe, with Jimmy and Doug in whitewater kayaks.

It was cloudy when we started but shortly afterwards the clouds started to break up and by the time we finished, it was full sun.
There was a lot of good whitewater on this short stretch of river. There were a few small surf waves to play with as well as some big waves to ensure I got periodically doused as we ran through. The river is small and winding with many trees overhanging the river and quite a few sweepers, though none were particularly dangerous. Our only mishap of the day happened about half way down when Steve & I, focused on avoiding a tree overhanging the river, slipped across a sharp eddy line. The resulting change in water direction under the canoe gave the boat a sharp twist which we were ill-prepared for and we were very quickly dumped. The water was shallow and our self-rescue basically involved us just standing up and stepping to shore. That water was COLD! A couple degrees above freezing at most and it left me breathless. That is the first time I've experienced the effects of a sudden dumping in very cold water and I was surprised (but not at all panicked) by my inability to take anything other than a shallow breath. Unfortunately, I was not wearing a wet suit (or even better a dry suit like Jimmy was wearing), even though I bought one this week for just such a purpose. It seems I left it at home. I had multiple layers of clothes with me so I threw back on a couple of the layers I had stripped off earlier and paddled out the rest of the afternoon like that. The thick wool socks I wore inside my paddling booties were not entirely effective in keeping my feet warm and they were pretty thoroughly chilled by the time we were done. Also, after my dumping I took off the "Atlas" rubberized gloves I had been wearing and replaced them with some neoprene gloves from Cdn Tire. I must remember that these latter gloves suck when wet; I was much better off with my original gloves (interesting - a quick google search found the same gloves sold as "sailing gloves", I get mine at Peavey Mart for a couple bucks/pair and I'm pretty sure they don't sell a lot of sailing stuff).

I just realised Mark beat me to posting on his blog so I suggest you check out his posting for pictures and his account of this beautiful and fun little river. Mark's unusual title for this post is a reference to my complaint to him that many of his posts receive the same title preventing me from readily distinguishing them when using the rss feed to check for updates.

One thing Mark doesn't mention is the unusual and interesting effects of the ice clinging to the overhanging branches about a foot off the water. They were created when the water was running a foot or two above where it currently is and ice collects on the branches. With the dropped water level, many of these bell shaped ice sculptures are suspended over the water. We were just passing a particularly spectacular display when the aforementioned mishap occurred.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Yet another beautiful Saskatchewan day. The above picture was taken about 8:15 am. The snow abated then started up again by the time I was off to work by bike 45 minutes later. The snow in the face and ice on the roads & paths weren't as bad as the 50km/hr gusts of headwind combined with the -9C temperatures.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I painted the frame of the kayak yesterday and today with Tremclad paint. I used the stuff because it stands up well to moisture and didn't require any priming, plus it's glossy. However, it really stinks! It's an oil-based paint in a strong-smelling Varsol-type solvent. My timing on this was really poor as we've just been hit with snow storms and a cold spell (my bike ride to work this morning was miserable!). Not only do I need to run my heater more now to keep the garage a decent temperature, but I can't even open up the doors to air things out properly. If I had realised how much this paint stinks, I probably would have just given the frame a coat of varnish using the good stuff (high solids, less solvent) left over from the guillemot and only painted the coaming. However, once I started, I was pretty much committed to going with the yellow paint.

Below is one of the floor boards from the cockpit, supported by 4 finishing nails through a scrap of wood. This allows me to get a coat of paint onto each side of the piece and the nails leave only small marks in the paint (and they'll be underneath anyway).

Tomorrow night I think I'll give the frame a final coat of paint in the areas that are visible, or could use the additional protection (the plywood edges). Then maybe, just maybe, I'll be ready to start skinning on Wednesday.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

23 Degrees and Gorgeous

What a beautiful day! Today was our warmest of '08 by far and a little wind (gusts to 37 km/h) couldn't spoil it. My older daughter got a new bike yesterday thanks to a trade with Jordan & Sean so this morning we were out at the park where she could practice on wide expanses of grass, her first time without training wheels. After a snack picnic on the grass she was on the bike and with a little help just to get started was motoring rapidly way from us. She progressed very rapidly and it was exciting to see her having so much fun on her new used bike. This afternoon there was another short practice session on the sidewalk which ended in some road rash on the hands. This evening we were back at the park, with cycling gloves on, to further advance those skills.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Test Fit of a Sea Flea Skeleton

With the frame now fully epoxied, the girls tried the Sea Flea on for size.

My older daughter (still in pajamas) gets first crack, hence the long face on the younger daughter.
Now she's happy! With imaginary paddle in hand.

It seems like a nice day today to try it out on the water for the first time.

Looks like I'm going to have to build a couple of kid-sized paddles to go with the kayak.

Today I was home from work so the floor was constructed of 1/2" sanded pine plywood (about 7/16" actual thickness) and some angle aluminum and is ready to install. I also need to build a coaming and apply a finish to at least the cockpit area (do I need to apply a finish to the entire frame since I coated the whole thing in epoxy?) before I move to skinning.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Northern Saskatchewan Canoe Country

Robin and Arlene Karpan's new book, Northern Saskatchewan Canoe Country, is due out in just a few weeks. Quoted from the press release:

Northern Saskatchewan Canoe Country, a new book by writers and photographers Robin and Arlene Karpan, takes you on a visual journey along the north’s most spectacular rivers and lakes. The hardcover coffee-table book features 230 stunning images of the northern wilderness, complemented by stories on the rich history, the tremendous diversity of landscapes, and the Karpans’ personal experiences in canoeing and travelling the north.
I'm looking forward to seeing this one, and not just because my wife & I are in some of the photos! Robin and Arlene are friends of ours that we first came to know through serving on the executive of the Saskatoon Canoe Club. In addition to paddling some day trips, my wife and I did a fly-in canoe trip a few years ago with Robin and Arlene, Dave and John Bober, Ralph Zaffran, and Lloyd Beazely. We flew in to Hickson Lake then made our way to the Paull River and on down to the Churchill River and finished at Missinipe. A map of the whole route can be seen here at this link and a partial write-up can be seen here at my other site for the time being (eventually, I will move that stuff either here to, or over to I gather that this trip was the source of some of the material used for the book chapter "Rock Art to Rock Trout: Hickson Lake & Paull River."

The Karpan's own Parkland Publishing and have published numerous books of local interest, often featuring their remarkable photography. A book launch is currently being planned for May, possibly in conjunction with a Saskatoon Canoe Club event (once details have been established, and announcement will likely be made on the SCC web site).

Frame Nearly Complete

Last week I prepared the frame for permanent assembly, checked final fit and sanded things smooth. I held it all together with zip-ties.

The view through the forms, looking from the stern towards the bow.
The bow stem:

The stern stem was trimmed back some more from what is shown in the photo below. I took another 1.5" or so off of the stem.
Once I was satisfied with the fit of everything, I used thickened epoxy (West System 105 resin, 207 hardener, 406 colloidal silica thickener) to glue the whole lot together. I did this last week. Tonight I moved to the next step and sealed the frame in epoxy. The plywood edges will receive a second coat after the frame is removed from the supports that hold it onto the strongback. At that time I'll flip it over and coat the undersides of the stringers and those areas I could not reach easily as long as it was attached to the strongback supports. There will be rough edges that I'll need to sand down later as a rough wood edge coated in epoxy will cut like a serrated knife.

The photos below are from this evening. Note the new hairstyle. Between the bald head and the coveralls, my wife says I look like an inmate in the photos. (She should know.)

Monday, April 07, 2008


As I get closer to being ready to skin my daughter's kayak, I've been thinking about how the kayak should be decorated. The PVC fabric used to skin the kayak is available in several bright colours, and she picked red for her kayak. When purchasing the fabric, I also purchased some extra yellow PVC and Denham Awning Makers threw in some blue scraps for me to use.

My daughter saw, and loved, the sun that Anton Olsen used on the Yost-designed Sea Pup kayak he built. So of course, a bright yellow sun on her kayak is exactly what she wants. As good as Anton's kayak looks, I'm inclined to try something else rather than to copy his.

I was thinking perhaps an orca would be a good pick, and I'm pretty sure my daughter would agree. I found the following graphic via a google image search and it seems to be a pretty close fit to what I was looking for.
Plus, according to the info in the readme file at the index for the graphic, it's free and available to use. I used Microsoft Paint to change the colours to match what I want to use and came up with the following colourful version.

The tail looks a little odd to me, so I'll maybe fix that a bit and reduce the angular look of the whale overall before using it. To actually use this, I would cut the whole whale shape out of blue, then cut out the yellow patches and glue that over top of the blue, all of which will be glued onto the red fabric on the kayak deck. I will either use a black marker or a bit of black scrap from Mark for the eye.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Membership Renewal Time!

It's membership drive time at CFCR 90.5 FM, Saskatoon's Community radio station. CFCR plays a highly varied and often eclectic mixture of music and cultural programming. My favourite shows include the weekday morning roots program, So Many Roads, the Monday evening blues program, Rollin' & Tumblin', and the Thursday evening awesome music program, Pirate Radio. Fantastic boatbuilding music!

The Community Radio Society of Saskatoon runs the radio station, and membership yields discounts at various local retailers, entry in the membership drive draw, as well as monthly random member draws. Members are also eligible to call in to win frequent on-air giveaways. I have gotten my money's worth over the years. Just last month I won two free tickets to see the incredible Harry Manx at the Broadway Theatre. It was an awesome show and it only cost us the babysitter fee.

p.s. I'm now member #0051.

Cool New Tool!

I love it whenever Lee Valley introduces a new tool, and once a year they really seem to break the mold for conventional tools. Today's offering is the Veritas® Full-Round Spokeshave.
I can already think of a myriad of uses for such a tool in my shop, not the least of which would be for shaping paddle shafts such as the one I will need to build for my daughter so she can use her Sea Flea.

Be sure to check the LV description for this item, as well as the supplementary information page.