As some of you may know, in addition to sail design Patti and I also like to design and build kayaks.
While waiting for our aluminum Kayaksailor parts to arrive, we decided to take a trip to beautiful Anacortes, Washington to visit our friend Corey at his traditional skin boat shop, The Skin Boat School. Patti wanted to reshape her boat by giving it more rocker, adding sheer and taking out some of the volume and I wanted to make mine a little less beamy and also take out some volume. We originally built these high volume boats for extended paddle-sailing trips but as it turns out, we use them mostly for day sailing.
Building a skin-on-frame kayak or “qajaq” is the original, and some consider best, method of kayak building. Many think that this form of boat building has likely been practiced for several thousands of years. Our boats have urethane coated nylon for skin and waxed polyester twine for lashings. The Inuit peoples used seal skin and sinew, but aside from these differences, the basic building technique is remarkably similar.
Skin boats are really cool. The Inuit craftsmen were very skilled and developed these incredibly sophisticated boats with limited resources. Not only was the qajaq an essential tool for the Inuit hunter, enabling them to bring food home in the extremely harsh environment of the far north, but the boats had a spiritual element to them as well. A qajaq is more than a boat. It can be viewed as an animal of sorts with a back bone, ribs and skin. When the paddler, or paddle-sailor in our case, enters their boat, they become the spirit of the animal. Working together as one.
The advantages of skin-on-frame boats are many, but probably one of the most alluring is the weight. A sixteen to seventeen foot boat can weigh as little as twenty five pounds! or about 11.3 Kg. Patti can pick up her boat with one hand. Try doing that with most modern plastic boat! On second thought, don’t try it.
During our stay we lived in the school’s lovely skin-on-frame tree house. It’s a very peaceful and friendly place.
At night we heard Coyotes jibbering and a pack of wolves howling on the distance. Corey says that the wolves belong to a neighbor who breeds them in captivity. He says they all are confined, but I have to say that the sound of a howling wolf pack is a powerful and a hair raising experience. I now understand the level of respect first peoples gave them. We think that we are on top of the food chain, Ha.!
The first order of business was to peel off the skin. We used a heat gun to release the parts of the skin that were stuck to the frame.
Next we cut the lashings and went to work removing and adjusting the ribs, trimming the gunwales, and repositioning the keelson to adjust the rocker. We shape our boats the traditional way, “by eye” and “feel”. I had to cut the deck beams on mine to reduce the boat’s beam.
The frames are pegged and lashed together. No metal fasteners here, just artificial sinew and knots. Lots and lots of knots!
At night it dropped below freezing a few times and Patti dressed our older companion Charlee-girl in her fleece shirt to stay warm. Charlee is looking down the stairs of the tree house trying to figure out a game plan to get down. She can still negotiate those stairs!
Once we finished reshaping the boats, it was time to put on the skin. Knowing when to stop tweaking the design of the frame is always a problem for me. I always want it to be perfect. It’s so easy to make a little adjustment here or there. I’ll just keep adjusting until Patti tells me to stop. We give each other balance.Sewing the skin is simultaneously tedious and therapeutic. It takes some practice to get a nice smooth, tight stitch. The Inuit would wet their seal skins while sewing but luckily we can work our cloth dry.
Patti uses a beautiful more traditional Maligiaq stitch, while I use a rolled cross stitch.
We put our heart and souls into all our creations, And with skin boats, a little blood at times.
These are some of Patti’s cells decorating her bow. It’s always good to keep track of where the pointy end of the needle is. 🙂
We chose to remove the rudder and change the stern shape of our boats. Since she purchased her Squamish, Patti has been getting back into rudderless sailing. I think that I will join her. It takes a little more skill, but that’s good, it’s all fun!
Here the cockpit is waiting for attention.
The coaming is the last thing to be sewn in place. The front rests in the curved masik and the rear rests on the flat deck beam.
After work, we explored some of the shoreline of the Island of Fildago on which Anacortes resides. A glorious full moon illuminated the evening sky. This is a spectacular part of the world, and so many beautiful boats in the harbor! Below are some classic pulling boats we came across. I can’t resist admiring the sweet lines of a well designed hull.
After the sewing was finished, we dyed and urethaned the skin. Here Patti shows her skills spreading the two part urethane “goop” with a spatula. It takes multiple thin coats and a steady hand to get that mirror shine.
Most people use tan color dye to give their boat a traditional skin color. Patti and I like to take the path less traveled. We chose different colors for our boats. Paddle-sailing traditional skin-on-frames isn’t the norm either, but it sure is fun! The mix of the modern with the traditional brings something new. I painted a wavy blue dye design on my boat. It won’t be easy to see on the water but it has a cool organic feel to it.
Patti chose a beautiful blue green. Her boat has feminine curves that are pleasant to the eye. This shot shows the results of Patti’s remarkably smooth urethane finishing job.
I always like the view from inside the cockpit. The white cord seen running fore and aft goes through a primitive pulley in the bow and is used to pull the forward float bag into position. The only metal hardware used in the boat are the stainless screws that hold the adjustable foot pegs in position.
While the urethane cured, we went hiking on a beautiful trail about ten minutes from the shop. The rain forest is a remarkable place to explore. Lots of rain and lots of life! Even in winter the amount and variety of vegetation is warming to the soul.
It’s easy to feel connected to the environment here. The humidity holds the sweet organic aroma in the air.
We need to come back here and sail this coastline. There are so many cool places to explore. Deception pass is just around the corner. Even though the tidal current rips at times, our sails can definitely help fight it in case we miscalculate a tidal change.
The water is very clear and stays at a nearly constant 8.8 to 11.3 degrees Celsius (48-51 Fahrenheit) year round. It’s cold but definitely doable with proper thermal protection.
A short distance away is Rosario beach. A pole sculpture depicts the spirit of Ko-Kwal-alwoot, “The Maiden of Deception Pass”. If you want to learn her story, e-mail me and I will gladly send it to you.
When we arrived back from the hike, the urethane was cured enough for us to strap the boats to our trusty pickup so we could start the five hour drive south to Hood River. We love how the light shines through the hulls giving them a stained glass appearance. In this shot you can see the swedeform shape of my hull with the cockpit positioned aft of center. Also visible is the center foredeck stringer on which the Kayaksailor main body tube will rest.
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In an act of spontaneity, Patti and I took a drive to the coast. Every now and again we need to get our gills wet in the salt water. There is something about the sea that helps us feel connected. Grounded so to speak, except for without the ground. ;D
The Oregon coastline is a notoriously rough place for small craft with few protected bays and harbors to escape the pounding surf. There are a few though. This day we decided to explore a protected place called Netarts Bay. I’s just a few miles south of the town of Tillamook.
What a glorious Autumn day! We arrived and immediately set out to find a good launching spot. One was found just inside the mouth of the bay and since the tide was just beginning to ebb and a strong outbound current was building, we decided to work against the current into the bay instead of heading out to the mouth. Tidal rips can be amazingly strong here in the Pacific Northwest and a thorough respect for them is essential for safe navigation.
We are always hoping for good wind and today looked perfect. But, as luck would have it, as soon as the boats were slid into the water the breeze died off almost completely, Oh well.. We always have the paddle. Actually, we really love paddling, especially when the water is flat calm and has a mirror finish on it. Paddle-sailing just has a special place in our hearts.
The boats glided silently in the clear water. Scallops could be seen on the bottom and occasionally small fish spooked from the gently swaying eel grass beds as we passed overhead. A variety of diving ducks and sea lions performed their disappearing acts around us and all was quiet except for a distant rumble of surf and the occasional call of a gull.
It was truly a delightful afternoon and we are happy to share it with you. Hope you enjoy the video.
Several savvy paddle-sailors are utilizing marine rail mount and accessory mount hardware to attach their Kayaksailors.
Some of the notable features of these mounts are that they can be found in many marine stores, offer a convenient quick release option, and are designed to withstand the rigors of the marine environment.
Here is an example of a Rail/Bimini mount:
Ron Waclawik shares these photos of his Prion touring kayak outfitted with stainless steel rail and bimini mounting hardware. He purchased them online from marinepartsdepot.com
Quick release pins make for easy removal.
The mount raises the rig up for convenient access to the storage hatch.
Here is a view of the mounts without the rig.
Note the safety lanyard for the release pin
Care should always be taken when drilling into the bottom of the main body tube. It’s important to avoid hitting the thru hull pulley or the mast car bungee with the drill bit. The forward mount can often be positioned farther aft to avoid the pulley and a drill bit spacer can be utilized to limit the drill bit penetration.
Below is a good example of a marine accessory mount. These are often used to attach fishing rod holders and electronic equipment to boats.
Trevor Lowe, owner of Yakattack NZ Ltd. in Auckland, New Zealand shares these photos of his personal boat outfitted with marine accessory mounts from Railblaza.
Here is a view of the cross tube mount.
For the front he added an aluminum channel for the main body tube to rest in.
It’s a technical and sophisticated looking mount,
and also has a clean look when removed.
If you have any photos of your own Kayaksailor mount that you would like to share, please send them!
Happy paddle-sailing. 🙂
Having a destination or goal and holding a course to reach it is an essential part of sailing as well as an essential part of navigating our own lives.
Sailing teaches us many important things about life – respect, persistence, and the ability to adapt to changing situations just to name a few. But one of the most important is learning about choosing a destination and understanding the steps necessary to get there. The Roman philosopher Seneca is reported to have said:
If man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable to him.
This quote obviously speaks of the benefits of having goals in life, but part of the significance and power of this eloquence is that it is based on an aspect of sailing reality. If sailors haphazardly change the direction of their craft, the wind always appears to be coming from different angles, and therefore the sails are always in the wrong state of trim. This requires maddening sail trim adjustments and can make it appear to the poor helmsman that the wind is always working against them.
The idea of having a destination and choosing a course to get there is a simple one, but to many novices at the helm, a myriad of distractions make it easy to lose focus of the intended direction of travel. Wind gusts, currents, boat traffic, among others can often be happening simultaneously and require extra focus.
Not only is it important to have a destination goal but one often needs several sub-destination goals to get there. Sailing to a windward destination may require several close reaches on different tacks to reach the desired destination. Each of these tacks requires a different course to be held. An ideal destination or goal should be something fixed, like a house on shore, or an anchored buoy. It’s easier to steer and trim sails while one is traveling towards a non-moving target. Destination goals should also be realistic and within reach, no pun intended.
As in life, courses often need to be adjusted on-the-fly – winds shift, tides change, storms occur, etc. Skilled sailors are able to make smart rapid course adjustment decisions easily. For example, they will instantly recognize a wind shift and use it to their advantage to bring them to a windward destination by either changing tacks or by using the shift to allow them to point closer to their destination. Adapting to change is part of the fun dynamic nature of sailing.
Destinations and courses are important keys to sailing and to living life, but to people who truly enjoy both, the real joy comes not from the reaching of the destination, but from the process of traveling to it. So, keeping that in mind, let’s all get out there, set a course and have some fun!