Günter’s West Greenland and F1, Austria

I got Greenland on my mind – Cape Falcon West Greenland and F1 build.

Well, how shall I put it…..
It all started back in last year when I built the F1 on a carbon frame. Due to materials (Nylon and PU) available my boat had never been that smooth and shiny as I would have hoped for, based on the pictures I’ve seen from Brian.

During the summer I had plenty of opportunity to paddle my boat, being absolutely satisfied with the performance, tracks well, turns very good and almost no weathercocking. At some time my wife paddled my boat and liked it very much, although some 25kg lighter than me.

So, one came to another and in the late summer decision was made to build a F1 for her and to re-skin my carbon F1, both using the Nylon on PU of Corey Freedman. She wished her F1 made to her weight and in wood instead of carbon. Challenge accepted! At that point I’ve seen the green bending oak for ribs and coaming as the major problem to get in Austria.

Both boats completed. West Greenland stretched and F1 (size 125lbs)

My wife has quite good relation to agriculture in Austria, so I delegated that to her. It took her incredible 15 minutes to get a first idea, and 2 further days to get a definite answer on that. “White Oak” is a species that is not common in Europe, but there is one species that is almost the same from structural point of view- it is called “Faßeiche” or “Traubeneiche” which translates (literally) into “Cask-Oak” or “Grape-Oak” for obvious reasons. About one week later, it was late August, we got 2 planks of it. Each was about 2” thick, 20” wide and about 15ft long. They were freshly sawn from the log, felled some weeks earlier. Since the build was planned for the wintertime, we stored them covered up in nylon until use to reduce the drying process.

At that point I decided that it would not matter to build one boat or two, especially because we got plenty of oak. The second would be the Cape Falcon West Greenland for myself. Since I was not sure about the size and my weight (80kg, 178cm = 175lbs, 5ft10”) I was seeking advice from Brian. I wanted a classic boat with decent rolling capabilities, but with still good useability and not a dedicated rolling boat (submarine). He has been extremely kind and proposed to choose the “stretched” variant of the WG Kayak.

I would strongly rely on the machinery of a friend of mine who is the senior-owner of a wooden boat shop near Vienna. He is in his 70’s and was into paddling long years ago. He was inspired by my ideas and decided to build a WG-Kayak himself. Not based on Brains designs, but onto the measurements / designs in Books of Harvey Golden. That should give us a nice comparison next summer.

So we ended up in building 3 different boats, partially apart, partially together. Because of the COVID-19 regulations we started separate from each other. He in his shop, me in my sailing club’s boatshed. Always as local Corona-regulations permitted.

The real build started beginning of December with cutting up a Western Red Cedar into the main pieces needed. It was 4” x 8” x 17ft and was sufficient for all parts for all 3 boats. Cutting and planing to dimensions was done in the shop of my friend.

I produced the spreader & capture forms from cheap plywood, the bending jigs for coaming and deck beams I made from old furniture planks.

Furthermore, I made myself the jig for the rigging the router for the angled mortises. It was good that this is the same for both, F1 and WG kayaks as the dimensions and angles of Gunwales are the same.

Combined jig for F1 and WG coamings

With off-cuts of WRCedar I made the curved deck beams for both WG and F1. This was quick and easy with the jigs. The strips of WRCedar could have been thicker for the shallow arch of the WG, but surely not thicker for the F1- else they would break. On my own I started building the deck of my WG. The instructions of Brains courses are very clear, and so it was no problem to build the deck.

After the WG I switched to the F1 and built the deck. Because of the experience of the WG that I did the day before I felt very confident, too confident- as I should experience! Because the tenons of the WG are on the top of the deck beams, whilst they are on the bottom at the F1 I did them wrong. That mistake, together with the spreader forms and measurements for cam straps, led to break a gunwale at deck beam #4 which was the first one I built!

The broken gunwale was scarfed together maintaining the dimensions and bend characteristics by using off-cuts. The scarfs were about 20” on each side, glued with Epoxy. Luckily the glued gunwale held and there was no need to build a new one. Learning from that I finished the F1 deck without any further issue.

Deck of the F1 finally finished

Cutting up the oak into the ribs and pieces for the coamings took several hours! They were cut on a circular saw and then run through the planer. I was surprised how much wood was needed for that tiny pieces!

Although the rib measurements (in cross section) are different for the WG and the F1 I made them all the same (that was already taken into consideration when making the mortises in the WG gunwales). The WG ribs were also cut to a width of 1” (instead of 1 5/16 “). This would give me the possibility to use every rib on both of the kayaks.

After cutting the pieces I scarfed the ends of the coamings and lips. This was done with the circular saw instead of a plane. To keep them moist I bundled all together and anchored them to the bottom of our lake until bending.

Bending was done with the instructions from Brian. The wood was green from the tree, kept wet all the time. The pieces were taken from the water, then put alongside the steambox under a blanket for 5-7 minutes to get them to room temperature with the dispersed heat of the steambox. Then put into the steam.

Although that was done with wood starting with about 4°C (40°F) when coming from the lake, keeping that procedure for all bending I reached steaming times of 8 mins for coaming, 12 mins for lips and 6 mins for the ribs, later.

Bending was done at quite cold room temperature of about 4°C (40°F), leading to the wood cooling down very fast. Nevertheless, I managed the bending of the F1 and 2 WG coamings (one for my friend) without breaking a single piece! I always had only a single piece in the steam, that consumed more time but gave me confidence not to get in a hurry.

All coamings done (lips to come). Instead of a clamp I used a line to secure the shape of the coaming for the F1.

The ribs of the F1 were measured, then I started producing the ribs for the WG and the F1. The ribs were selected with selecting the longest ribs first from the pile. This was done with leaving the better stock and selecting the “least acceptable” wood first. Of course, I did bending tests with off-cuts or wood that has been out of dimension.

WG: A few ribs made at the bending test.

The actual bending was done on two days to have time to finish a hull without hurry. I managed to bend the ribs for the WG breaking 3 ribs, bending the F1 without breaking a single one! Since I had no experience apart of my tests I chose an interval of 2 minutes for feeding / taking out of ribs, steaming time has been 6 minutes.

Tying stems, keel and stringers was straight forward.

WG frame finished (except Masik & foot rest etc). First test sitting in the F1.

On the WG I had the issue that the rocker of the keel was somehow hollow (negative rocker) in the mid of the boat. To get rid of that I glued a false keel of ¼” thickness on the outside to it (without opening the lashings) feathering it into the real one.

The Masik for the WG was made of Yellow Cedar and fitted as per instructions.

The frames were varnished with clear lacquer as I had no oil etc. around and would not want to wait for several days for it to dry either, especially because of the cold temperatures.

F1 varnished.

I had ordered the 840Xtra with the PU form Corey (skinboats.org). The ordering took some conversation back-and-forth with Corey, but after the order was accepted the delivery to Austria was a matter of about 3 weeks, customs was less than expected.

Skinning the boats was an easy task, following Brian’s instructions. Here I found the first obvious deviation to the skin used in my Carbon-F1. The 840 nylon is much stretchable than the one I used last year. They ended up drum-tight.

After sewing was completed I dyed the WG, whilst the F1 should be kept natural white. The dye that was chosen is Brian’s brown. I used distilled vinegar (25%), thinned to the 5% acidity, then mixed with water and boiled. Somehow, after applying the dye to the nylon this appeared as non-uniform changing between a dark olive to brown shades.

Somehow, I had hoped for such a “aged color”, so I called the color immediately “rotten sealskin” instead of brown. Whether that was caused by a mis-application or some other circumstances I don’t know. In any case – to me it is absolutely marvelous and exactly to my hopes.

WG before and during dyeing.

The skin got floppy by dyeing, as well as the white one by wetting it with a sponge. I shrunk them by steam ironing and surprised all others watching that the skin got tight and without the least wrinkles. Although still wet the skin was drum tight again and got even tighter after getting dry. I must admit, that this was probably the most frightening part in the build, but it paid off!

Coating the boats was an easy task following the instructions. The hardest part is to avoid the PU running down the sides because of over-applying. This is somehow a learning curve, I think, since the second boat was much better than the first one.

Smooth and shiny surfaces.

The outfitting was a bit different. The toggles were made from Teak that I had as a left over. This was cut, drilled, sanded but else left raw. The deck lines from leather on my carbon F1 did not satisfy me totally because they stretched too much. So, I chose to go with modern lines for these.

The leather rings on bow and stern on the other hand proved to be very good because they are always standing up, receiving the paddle at any time.

Finally, both boats ended to my satisfaction!

Re-skinning of my carbon-F1 is still to be done, because I did not want to be “without a boat” at any given time 😉

At the very end I want to emphasize that all the instructions from Brian are extremely clear and very helpful. All the small hints and things that he explains. With these the building process was very smooth and easy. There is so much information in the videos that I have viewed most of them twice to get all the information out of them!


First paddle experience:

I just came back from the first real paddle with the WG. The photos shown in that report were taken just for demonstration / photo purpose since at that day it was miserable wet and cold.

Conditions: not too cold, sunny and calm.

I find it surprisingly stable, considering that the boat is feeling narrow in comparison with the F1—but I think there is not that much difference when measuring the waterline. No problem entering and exiting the boat. I was also surprised about that it is turning good upon edging.

Although there was no wind today I have the gutt feeling that it might be more suspect to weathercocking than the F1 since I had the feeling that it does not track that good as the F1. It was not dramatic, but I have to focus more on my paddling to track in a really straight line. Paddling next to someone and having a chat with him might lead to loose track a bit 😉

I realized also that I feel much more connected to the boat than in the F1 and I can hold the paddle deeper because the deck is so much lower than the F1.

Cannot tell anything about rolling since the water temperature was not that well suited (4°C, 40°F).


Weights:

Surprisingly the wood was not that much heavier than the carbon, only about 10% heavier.

F1 (125lb): WRCedar, Oak, 840Xtra, PU. Ready to go: 10,75kg (23,7lbs)

WG-Stretched: WRCedar, Oak, 840Xtra, PU: Ready to go: 10,75kg (23,7lbs)


Comparison:

The WG (stretched) I built is almost the same length and width as the one my friend built from Harvey Golden’s plans. The Cape Falcon has less V in the bottom (flatter) and has a keel with less rocker, while the shear line is almost identical. He used also different materials: gunwales, keel and stringers WRCedar, ribs from Yellow Cedar nailed with clinched copper nails (no lashing). His Masik is about ¾” higher than the CapeFalcon WG.

WG from Harvey Golden: WRCedar, Yellow Cedar, nailed, 840Xtra, PU: Ready to go 11,65kg
(25,7lbs)

Brian Schulz

View posts by Brian Schulz
Hi, I'm Brian Schulz, owner and instructor for Cape Falcon Kayak. I've been teaching skin-on-frame kayak building for the last 14 years. I'm passionate about skin boat design and and helping people learn this amazingly easy and fun boat building system. My other passions include sustainable agriculture, natural building, and off-grid living.

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