Having grown out of a skin-on-frame kayak we made several years ago, and suffering from prolonged Covid lockdown boredom, my 14 year old son decided to go for it again. This time the key objectives were to go for a kayak with good handling and durability. We spend a lot of time researching all the available resources and were really impressed with the F1 specification and the quality of the resources available on the Cape Falcon website. So we tried to make room in the overcrowded shed, lined up our materials and got going…..
We had a nice length of western red cedar form a previous (unsuccessful) strip built kayak project, to which we added some American white oak from a local supplier. We took Brian’s advice and prepared just about everything we could beforehand. The downside was that this was not very exciting, so the younger members of the team lost at bit of interest for a while….
The coaming was the only challenge during the preparation process. Having never steamed anything we were not aware of the importance of the stock. While the main 3/8″ coaming steamed and bent nicely, we eventually gave up on the 1/2″ after three unsuccessful attempts; the wood was just too brittle and split despite trying several different steaming durations. I’m guessing it was too well seasoned. We solved it by bending two 1/4″ laminates. Laminating the deck beams was a big hit though, particularly cleaning them up and planing them down; very satisfying.
After routing the mortices we finally got down to making the boat proper. Again, the only real difficulty was steaming the oak ribs. We learned that our stock was unforgiving and that we should have been more particular about getting the grain parallel to the rib faces. Luckily, we had about 10 spare ribs; we needed them! Live and learn.
Adding the secondary stringers, deck stringers and tidying up the bow and stern stems all went pretty smoothly. After checking for symmetry and doing the final dimensional checks, we oiled the frame, which brought out the character of the wood nicely.
We used Ballistic-Nylon (850den, 310g/m2) from extremtextil.de to cover the frame and spent a few hours stitching her up and inserting the coaming. We dyed the fabric with 2 parts Brown and 1 part Aztec Gold Jacquard dyes. This dried to fainter, more insipid colour than Ruadhán was hoping for, but all ended well (see more below).
It proved difficult to find any of the coatings recommended either by Brian (no response from skinboats.org) or by other builders in Europe (UK suppliers were unwilling to post to Ireland). After some searching I acquired a 2-part clear coat polyurethane acrylic with a flexibility additive (15%) which is normally used for car bumpers. After dyeing the fabric we first applied an adhesion promoter; the following day we applied the two part coating without any major problems, except some small bubbles, some of which were not possible to remove, but which are not really noticeable. (I think the problem was that I applied the coatings too quickly on top of one another – about 15 minutes apart – and this trapped evaporating solvent.) The brown dye coating, which was a bit insipid before the coating, took on a nice deep tone – we were very pleased with the final look.
After this, we installed deck lines and elasticated cord and made a back band. And then it was all over! Nothing more to do than to launch her and bring her on her maiden voyage.
We launched the boat on a cold April morning at Bull Island, near Dublin city centre. Ruadhán had no difficulty and confidently paddled the boat in light winds and a small chop. He was really happy with her – she looked beautiful and the admiring comments from passersby added to his general satisfaction! I tried her out and first impressions were that she tracks well and is quite manoeuvrable (compared to my plastic sea kayak in any event). The centre of gravity is much lower than I am used to, the primary stability is a little tippy (just a matter of getting used to), but secondary stability is absolutely solid. Some water got in through the cockpit when entering/exiting which we had to empty through the aft bung (very handy); when tipping the boat during draining, we noticed that the stitched seam and lashing stiches were very permeable! So we’ll need to do a bit of aquasealing to finally finish the job.