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More Confessions of a Secret Boatbuilder

Even the Bay Gardener doesn’t thrive on vegetables alone

The latest addition to my fleet of boats I’ve built or restored is a 16-foot strip sea kayak. This was a two-winter project requiring some of the skills I learned when building my 16-foot strip canoe. However, this project required having to scarf all strips for added strength and building a deck to fit snugly over the hull. The deck was built on the same form as the hull, but the trick was maintaining the shape so that when attached to the hull, it could be glued and sealed.
    The form was designed according to specification described in The Strip-Built Sea Kayak by Nick Schade and published by Ragged Mountain Press.
    I built my kayak from western white pine and western red cedar. The cone is locally sawed cherry. Since the bow and stern are much narrower than the mid section, each strip had to be tapered and scarfed to form tight joints. All of the strips were glued together using Titebond II glue and fastened to the frame using ceiling staples.
    The laying of the strip for first the hull and then the deck was very time consuming, requiring much hand-planing and fitting. Before the hull could be removed from the frame, it had to be scrapped and sanded smooth, coated with West System epoxy and covered with two layers of fiberglass held in place with the same epoxy. Then I removed the hardened hull from the frame and scraped and sanded the inside smooth prior to fiberglassing.
    With the deck still attached to the frame, the opening for the cone was made and fitted as prescribed, then the deck was scraped and sanded smooth for fiberglass. The deck was then removed from the frame and its inside scraped and sanded smooth for fiberglassing.
    When I went to attach the deck to the hull, I was surprised to find that despite my best efforts at following directions, I had to make two slight adjustments at the stern for them to fit tightly together. The deck was glued to the hull with liberal amounts of West System and the two held tightly together with binding tape for 24 hours. The joint inside the hull was sealed with a two-inch wide strip of fiberglass and West System. Once that dried, I removed the binding tape and sealed the seam outside the hull and deck with a three-inch-wide strip of fiberglass and West System.
    The cone was very difficult to build because of the many angles, which required lots of sanding and fitting.
    My first intention was to operate the kayak by sitting on a cushion. However, the book recommended installing a permanent seat of wood carved to fit my butt. To save time, I installed a metal tractor seat, which I find very comfortable.
    Now that it has four coats of marine varnish, it is ready for launching and its maiden voyage.

Editor’s note: The Bay Gardener last wrote about his avocation on Oct 14, 2010 in Confessions of a Secret Boatbuilder (http://bayweekly.com/articles/people/article/confessions-secret-boatbuilder).