Saturday, July 30, 2011

What's next?

That's right.

What to do after you have finished a boat project?

Even as I awaited the overdue arrival of my Passage Maker kit from CLC late last year, I found myself continuing to peruse the catalog of beautiful other boat designs available from Chesapeake Light Craft.

Have I been bitten by the boat-building bug? You bet!

So when I attended the CLC-sponsored OkoumeFest this past spring, one of my main objectives was to take a look at various kayak options, try them out and determine what my next winter project would be.

I was looking for a project that would build on my stitch and glue experience yet set a few new challenges. The various hybrid options in the kayak designs seemed to be an excellent step up since the strip-planking of the deck is a more intricate building technique.

Paul Plowright's winning Shearwater 17
I had already set my eyes on the 17' hybrid version of the Shearwater design. The kayak has great lines and looks fabulous. It also seem to offer the right mix of stability and performance that I thought would be best for me.

In fact, upon arrival at the OkoumeFest, various builders had brought their hybrid Shearwaters and I was just floored by the beautiful, personal designs.

Several test paddles on Shearwaters reinforced that this was a superb craft that was great fun to paddle and would suit me well.

Testing the Petrel
Dan Thaler's kayak:  Best in Show
I tested a variety of other extremely elegant designs including the 17' Petrel.

What a powerful kayak?!

I was pretty much set on the Shearwater. But then something unexpected happened. I sat in a very narrow and long boat called Night Heron, designed by Nick Schade (who actually designed many of the kayaks that are available as kits through CLC.)

At any rate, at 18 feet of length and with a mere 20" beam, this boat offers an altogether different paddle experience. When I first got into the snug cockpit I was a bit nervous because I thought that this design would simply be too demanding for me.

Click here for slide show of the CLC Night Heron.

After a couple of laps I became more confident and comfortable with the feel and control of the boat. Paddling this sleek, powerful machine was a total thrill! What can I say? I was smitten! Big Time. Sitting in this boat reminded me of the time when I was shopping for a new concert guitar (a classical guitar) and I played the instrument (made by Nicholas Ioannou) where - as soon as I played the first few chords - I knew that THIS WAS IT.

I did switch back and forth between the Shearwater and the Night Heron several more times and my initial infatuation with the Night Heron was reinforced with each test ride.

Detail of the wood grain at transition from loom to blade
I ordered the hybrid Night Heron kit. It arrived recently. I'll probably start in October if I can bear to wait that long. For now I have been reading up on strip-planking kayaks (Nick Schade has written two books on the subject) as well as the instruction booklet.

Then there is the important task of drawing up a deck design. I suspect that I will be able to do a better job once I have a full understanding of all the implications in construction of any particular design. I have three different types of cedar strips to work with - light, medium and dark.

The tip of my paddle is reinforced with a mix of epoxy and wood-flour
In the meantime I have been priming the wood-working pump by building a Greenland paddle.

I found a fabulous 2 by 4 of immaculate Western Red Cedar at a nearby lumber shop. Amazing stuff!

Eric Schade Demonstration at CLC
The inspiration to building this type of paddle came from one of the workshops offered at the above-mentioned OkoumeFest.

Nick Schade's brother Eric gave a demonstration.

In addition, very detailed information on making such a paddle is available online.

If you start with good wood, the paddle becomes an elegant thing of beauty.

Paddling with the Greenland paddle feels very different from the modern power paddles.

It'll be fun to learn using it to best advantage.

I'll be reporting on building the Night Heron on my new blog.