Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sailing/Party Weekend

Could be our last real sailing weekend this year in the Dawn Patrol . It’s the B&B Messabout where we’ll all visit, sail, talk story, party, and camp with the designer (Graham Bynes) and other B&B Yachts builders and their home built sailboats.

Pictures taken by Steve during our Tag Team 200 sailing trip this past June

I’m be bringing the Grand Diva kayak we just finished building, (also a B&B design), and I’ll bring the Explorer with the new Flat Earth Kayak Sail so I can play with it, and figure out the best way to mount it on the Diva.  

It might get too cold for sailboat sailing, but I’ll be kayak sailing through the winter :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Getting Ready with New Kayak Sail

Alan came home yesterday afternoon and he helped me get my new Flat Earth Kayak Sail mounted on my Explorer.  We'll experiment with the mounting before we drill holes in the Diva and get it mounted on her.  There's great instructions to be found on the Flat Earth website, as well as the blog Sea Kayaking with, and on the Gnarly Dog News blog, but,as always, there are different ways to do it.  We tried to make use of existing hardware on the kayak, but nothing seemed to help us much with that (good thing I don't mind drilling holes in my Explorer).

Anyway, I'll take it out this weekend and play with it and see if we need to make further adjustments, then report on the decisions we made, good and bad :)  I've got a nice 3-day weekend trip coming up in a couple weeks and look forward to using the sail.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Weighing the Issues

One of the great advantages (aside from cost) of building a wooden kayak is in getting a lighter weight kayak. Many sized as sea kayaks are completed weighing 45-50 lbs, some as low as 40 lbs. Of course when building your own kayak, you also have opportunity to make changes and customizations, these are usually in opposition to “keeping it light”.

My main goal with the Grand Diva was first and foremost to have a lighter faster kayak. I’m starting to feel old dragging around these heavy kayaks of mine, an NDK Explorer and Kruger Dreamcatcher. But drag them I do, and I now I even have a kayak trailer so I don’t have to lift them on and off the car myself. Both weigh a bit over 65 lbs, the Kruger might be in the 70’s.

Faster was secondary, but I figured lighter would add to that too. My Explorer, which I absolutely love paddling in the rough stuff, is not known as a speedster. I'm a WaterTribe lifer; I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a kayak that’s just a bit faster for those challenges. Don’t we all want a boat that’s just a bit faster? The Grand Diva is not over the top and certainly not a racing kayak. Like many sea kayaks, its 17 ½ feet long, but was designed by Graham Byrnes who’s known to maximizes his designs for speed.

But I’m not a racer, I’m an expedition paddler. So when we started customizing the Diva, I wanted a day hatch, this meant another bulkhead. Graham said that adding fiberglass on the inside of the hull was optional, but I decided necessary (one time the sump pump of my foot pump in the NDK worn a hole through the inside of the hull under the seat). I also insisted on watertight hatches, which meant the heavy rubber hatches (three of them), and I wanted them recessed, so more fiberglass and epoxy to design the wells for them to sit in and attach inside. Then of course I insulted the kayak by adding a rudder, lots of added pounds there.

Paul was quite careful with the glassing and the amount of epoxy and paint. He has enough experience with that to know how it can add unnecessary weight. And he did occasionally question my need for the heavier hatches etc…

So it turns out that in the end, I’ll have another sea kayak, with features I want, but I will not have a lightweight kayak.  She seems to paddle beautifully, and will be strong and sturdy.  But unfortunately all my changes have put it in the 60 lb range with the rest of my sea kayaks.

Isn't it interesting seeing how high it sits on the water (for all it's weight), very different profile than my Explorer when emtpy.

I can always lighten the load a bit with some modifications to self, and take more care in my packing. I know that speed is always more about the motor than the boat anyway, so guess I’ll have to keep up my training and adhere more to the weight training.

But I sure was looking forward to a lighter kayak.  Maybe the next one:)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Camping

As is often the case during the off season, our expected group of 22 dwindled down quickly as the weekend approached. Only Gumby and I were there to camp at the lake Fri night with temps down around 34F. By Sat we were a group of 11 who where there to play (though only 7 stayed and camped). The sun came out strong and we had a beautiful warm afternoon with highs in the 70s.

With the right tent and sleeping bag, camping in fall and even winter can really be a delight. We had the most spectacular full moon at night, and nothing beats sitting around a bonfire in your comfy fleece.

If you’ve got the cold water paddling gear and get out on the water, you often own the coves and creeks and often much of the lake. It’s absolutely my favorite time to paddle.

This weekend was about Greenland. Joe and I opted to spend the warmth of Sat afternoon working on rolls, while most of the other’s had come to paddle, some with new Lumpy’s.  I’ve got a good on-side and off-side standard lay-back roll. But I am out of practice for anything else. Gone are the days I had an easy hand roll, and I’ve never had a forward facing roll. Joe helped me work on my butterfly roll, on and off-side. Not quite but almost.

Saturday night was just fun, a potluck dinner, visiting, planning, dreaming, staying warm by the fire. Sunday I opted to leave a bit early and take care of chores at home. I’d gotten what I’d come for, R&R, and a reality check. Wish I’d remembered the camera.

Pool rolling has started back up every Wed nights at the local community pool. I just added it to my calendar.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sticks Weekend

This weekend will be all about paddling.

My kayak club, the Carolina Kayak Club is having a gathering of Greenland-style paddling enthusiasts.  Low key, it's just a weekend retreat of paddling and camping, and with no real calendar of events, agendas, or formal classes. We’ll just paddle and roll and brace to our hearts content.

Weather looks perfect. We’ve got a group of about 20 paddlers signed up. Should be lots of fun.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Captain of the Day

Sailing last weekend, I was Captain of the Dawn Patrol all day on Sunday.

And I even got to sail Spartina for awhile too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Perfect Weekend - Messing About

"There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."  Often quoted from the children's book 'Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932), and it describes our weekend sailing perfectly.

Picture above of Steve in his beautiful home-built John Welsford Pathfinder "Spartina" on the Pamlico Sound off Goose Creek Island. 

We had an absolutely wonderful weekend, but pictures and stories will have to wait.  Be sure to pay a visit to the 'The Log of Spartina' blog.  Steve's trip logs are well worth the read, and he's just posted quite a nice picture of Paul and I during the trip :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom

My Mom is 80. She’ll likely not be happy to see it so publicly announced, she’s been groaning about it this past year, a really big birthday.

I’m sorry I can’t be with you Mom, so I thought I’d help you celebration with some reminiscing, and bringing some of us together who can't be there for you.  Lucky you, 80 has allowed you very many experiences.  And we have such a wonderful family, you did good!.

Have a wonderful Birthday Mom.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Switching Gears

It’s looking like we’re going to have another beautiful weekend in North Carolina, but certainly a Fall weekend with some cooler comfortable temperatures. We are looking forward to a little sailing vacation.  Just a short weekend sail, but it’ll let us switch gears and have some great R&R on the water.

We’ll be joining our friend Steve who will be out in his home-built boat Spartina; he’s starts his weekends on Wednesday (how does he do that). It was in June that we enjoyed a week of sailing with Steve and Bruce; on the Tag Team 200 trip in each of our sailboats.  Steve keeps a popular sailing blog ‘Log of Spartina’ and has great trip reports and photos from our previous trip (and many others he’s done).

We’ll be starting in Hobucken on Goose Creek Island, I just love that area. We’ll put in at Pate’s Boat Yard , where I hope to get in a quick visit with Shawn (owner) and many of the other locals I’ve met this past year before we try and find Steve. He’ll have his Spot tracking on, we will too.

Our friend Ken, who had lent us his 2.5 hp Honda motor for the Tag Team 200 trip has announced his plans for an upcoming wedding and move to Australia. I’m so excited for him and for us as we will now take ownership of that little motor. I really love the sailing, but the added flexibility having the little motor on board offers, really helps make it fun and less stressful for me. Our rule is no motor unless sailing less than 2 mph.

Steve as always is so totally organized for his trips; he’s been posting about his planning, charting, etc… since he returned from his last trip only a few weeks ago. It’s really worth studying his blog if you’re a trailer or weekend sailor, he’s got it all down to a science. Paul and I have just been so busy these days we’re just going to go with the flow (got the house/pet sitter, but not much else planned yet), excited just to have the opportunity to get out there sailing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It Floats

Paul and I finally took the Grand Diva to the lake Sunday afternoon, first time on the water.

We’d put in the back band, and before gluing down the seat I wanted to make sure we had placed everything right. I also wanted a sense of what other outfitting I’d need, both for fit and comfort. And of course I wanted to make sure it floated :)

The boat has very hard chines; I was curious how it would paddle. The hull has a gentle V, and I was also curious about its stability. During the build I’d occasionally comment that “I hope I like how it paddles”. Paul would remind me that 2 years ago, I paddled this model for about 20 minutes and raved and raved about it, deciding it was the wooden model I wanted. The Grand Diva is 17.5 ft long and 21 in wide, designed by Graham Byrnes of B&B Yachts, the same designer as our Core Sound 20 sailboat.

Well it paddled beautifully. It felt wonderfully stable, certainly as stable as my NDK Explorer (which always surprises me when some say it's a tippy boat), and it balances itself on those chines with no problem.

I even got Paul in it for a few minutes.

I absolutely HATE rudders, but decided to put one on it anyway. I plan to sail it, and thought adding a skeg would be harder than putting on a rudder, hopefully the rudder will help more with the broaching in following seas,. It’s so maneuverable I had to apologize to it for the rudder (quite ugly).

I had little trouble with low sculls, but with the little paddling I had stuffed in it, and nothing glued down, my only attempt at rolling had things moving around too much, and I ended up needing an Eskimo rescue by a friend watching nearby.

What's still unfinished. I now need to get the seat, hip and thigh braces all put in, add some inside-the-cockpit bungees to hold the pump, sponge, and a few other things, varnish the deck and add the deck bungees and deck lines.  My son Alan is working on the Flat Earth Kayak Sail mount for me.

It does need a bit (a lot actually) of decoration, I’m still trying to work on that, though not quite sure what to do. With its black hull, and dark mahogany deck it just looks too much like a guy’s boat, and I need it to be my boat.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Surf's Up

There were just three of us, Robert the owner of WaterSmyth Kayaking, my paddling friend Lee and me off Wrightsville Beach for a surf class Saturday. It was a beautiful day, with 2-3 ft surf.

We’d met at the drawbridge that goes over to the beach, and paddled north cutting through the marsh to Mason’s Inlet.
Mason’s Inlet is a small inlet between the northern end of Wrightsville Beach and the Southern end of Figure-Eight Island. It’s very shallow, only surfers, kayakers, and local fisherman use it. (Masonboro Inlet on the South end of WB is the navigable inlet used by most boat traffic.) 

Once at the inlet we stopped and walked around the point to check the surf on the beach and pick the route that would take us through the shoaling and confused areas created by the outgoing current.

We were on the water a little past 10, it was a long day returning at 5:30. The class included all the practice drills, lots of parallel shore paddling practicing both low and high bracing in the surf break and with lots of side surfing work, then surf launching and landings, and finishing with some fun surfing, working on control with stern rudders and of course more side surfing after the broach.  Pictures below are of Lee playing in the surf.

It had been over a year since I’d actually played in surf, I’ve done lots of paddling over the past year, and in open and rough water, but nothing with a real surf concentration; and it showed. A bit like getting back on a bike after a long time off, I found myself not as confident as usual and a bit wobbly starting off. Three flips (one roll, and 2 swims in the shallows) in the first hour, then once that was over, I was back in my game, working on skills and having fun. 

I’ve always loved my distance paddling, and especially kayak camping and trips. But yesterdays surf session was a lesson and reminder of how important it is to take time to continue to work on important skills, skills that allow the other to continue in a safe way.  And it was so much fun.  I'm already planning another surf day for next month before it gets too cold.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Treasures of the Sea

I was born and raised in Kailua, on the Island of Oahu in Hawaii.  I still have family there, visit as often as I can, and I like to keep up with the local news online.   It was interesting to read about a large piece of a trimaran hull that washed up on shore at Kalama Beach (great body and board surfing location) in Kailua. 

News reports include this and this.  It doesn't look very identifiable, see slide show here, evidently there was still some sailing rigging on it.

One story has it "built in Ireland for two million dollars it came through the Panama Canal came to the Pacific lost its mast off the coast of San Francisco and the crew was rescued and it's been in the water for 12 years since".

A contractor has just removed it from the beach since it was a hazard, but I'm hoping I'll see something in the news about it's real story and how it came to be there.

I remember as a child walking the beaches of Kailua and Lanikai, looking for sea treasure.  We'd stomp out the bubbles on the Portuguese man-of-wars (I still do that), and collecting glass balls, shells, and driftwod pieces that had washed up on shore.  The glass balls were floats used on the fishing nets in Japan, China and Korea, which you could often find in different sizes, shapes and even colors, mostly after a storm.  Glass floats are no long used, and I've not head of any recent finds, but you do see them in antique and other gift shops in Hawaii.   I still have a small collection at home that I cherish.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Finally on the Water

I finally felt well enough to get out on the lake Saturday morning for a short paddle with my friend Joe.  The wind was really blowing creating a nice fun chop (I've got to get that sail mounted).  We paddled an easy 6 miles up to the dam and back.  This past year we've tried to paddle regularly once during the week, early morning before work, paddling fast with some sprints.  

Once we returned we started talking about wooden kayaks, Joe built his own Pygmy kayak, and my Grand Diva will be ready for the water next Sunday so I can start working on customizing the fit inside the cockpit. 

While talking about seats and studying our cockpits, I discovered that the seat of my NDK Explorer had just broken (the fiberglass seat hangs from the cockpit coaming and it appears it has broken off here).  I've heard this is not an unusual thing with these kayaks, though I've not had the problem before, and I've owned NDK kayaks for over 10 years now.   Looks like I'll need to do a quick repair, as I'm planning a day trip to Wilmington on Saturday to assist in a surf class with WaterSmyth Kayaking.

If my new foam seat in the Diva works out well, I might eventually just change out the seat in the Explorer.  Possibly this will help some with my numb toe problem.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Flat Earth Kayak Sails

I first heard about Flat Earth kayak Sails in a blog I regularly follow called GnarlyDog News by Damiano Visocnik.  If you don’t know of this blog, it is well worth a visit.  He’s done a great job of labeling his posts which make it easy to search a topic, like kayak sailing.  I’ve gotten many great ideas regards kayak outfitting, gear, repairs, etc… from reading this blog.

Regards sailing, GnarlyDog has played around with kayak sails for awhile now, has even designed his own. But he has also written a number of posts reviewing Flat Earth Kayak Sails, his most current, posted just a few weeks ago, is a very positive review after playing with the sail for a year.

Here is a great video GnalyDog made sailing with one of these sails:

Of particular interest to me, was how Mick and GnarlyDog mount the sail on the kayak, each does it a bit differently.  Both require mounting a mast using side stays to hold the mast, and a sheet that is attached up the mast and to the front of the deck (in a pully) and then back to the cockpit that functions to hoist the mast and sail and work as a quick release letting it all down onto the deck, then stored under a bungie in front of the kayak.

The picture below clearly show the stays and sheets.  This picture was taken from a posting on the blog Seakayaking with  Written by another kayak sailor using the Flat Earth Kayak Sail, this blog contains a great posing titled Flat Earth Sails Fitting Instructions .  And of course Flat Earth Kayak Sails has some excellent instruction videos as well on it's website.

GnarlyDog prefers his sail lower and closer to the kayak, he says it helps with kayak stability in high winds (though Mick disputes this reason).  Aesthetically, I prefer the lower placed sail.  Below is a picture (I've cropped it a bit) taken from GnarlyDogs blog site that shows his Flat Earth sail mounted with the side stays ½ way up the mast, allowing the sail to be lower.  I'm not sure which method would create more stress.

There is also lots of talk on "The Sea Kayak Forum" regards kayak sailing  and sailing with a Flat Earth Sail.

I'm looking into a different mounting, but it’ll take some experimentation to make it work. I really love the simplicity of our CoreSound20 sailboat with it’s unstayed self-supporting masts. And I think simplicity is always best. So last weekend at the WaterTribe Challenge, I picked the best minds I could think off, people who are both excellent sailors, sailboat and kayak designers and builders; Matt Leyden (Wizard), Graham Brynes (Roo), Vladimir Eremeev (Crazy Russion) and my son both a sailor and engineer, Alan Stewart (SOS). Matt came up with an idea to try to set up a self supporting mast, that also can be easily raised and lowered, using struts, and he drew out a rough idea.  Further conversation with all above had them doing some fine tuning on the idea. Now it’s in Alan’s hands to help me make it happen.

In the meantime, because I’m pretty impatient, I’ll likely mount it Mick’s way (no cutting the sail for the stays), and get it on my NDK Explorer as quickly as possible. While Paul and I get the fittings on the deck of the new kayak, Alan will keep working on the design and implementation of the new mount. Stay tuned for further details.