I have been working on a new kayak design for months now. I have spent hours
on the computer tweaking and fine-tuning my design. I read everything
on the web I could find about hull design. I learned new software
to analyze the Hydrodynamics. I picked people brains and read
old post on bulletin boards trying to learn from others mistakes.
Finally the time came that there was nothing left I knew to do,
it was time to move from electrons to lumber.
I have been calling this boat ‘Coot’ while I try
to decide on a real name. Coot is built using a fuselage style
frame. This is similar to aircraft construction in that you build
a skeleton frame and cover it with a lightweight fabric. In my
case the frame is cedar and plywood and the skin is nylon fabric.
I had spent the last couple of weeks building the frame for the
boat. It was basically finished and I was just waiting on UPS
to deliver the nylon skin.
As with any new boat there is always concern about the first
paddle. ‘What ifs’ race through your mind. To add
to these concerns I had just removed two frames and remade them
because I didn’t feel they were right. While I had them
out I changed the floor also. With all these changes I was having
second thoughts. Rather than risk a $100 skin and many hours of
sewing and sealing I decided to do a ‘saran wrap’
||The saran wrap test consists of wrapping the
hull in stretch wrap plastic. Some people literally use a
roll of kitchen cling wrap but I had some of the heavier shipping
wrap. So I stretch wrapped the frame with at least 3 layers
of plastic, which by the way is not easy by yourself! With
that done I headed for the lake.
||I chose a area that had an abundance of shallow
water and most importantly it was not used much during the
week. I really didn’t want anyone around just in case
I embarrassed myself. From what I had read 10-15 minutes float
time was about as much time as I could expect before the water
would leak into the boat.
Arriving at the ramp there is only one truck and no one in sight.
Just what I wanted! I donned my drysuit, got my paddle and put
on my PFD. I wanted everything ready before I unloaded the boat.
I had all ready put one hole in the plastic wrap in the shop so
I knew the skin was extremely fragile and I didn’t want
to handle it anymore than I had too.
I waded out into the cold water carrying coot. I sat her in
the water and she floated, somehow that surprised me a little.
I put some weight on her deck and watched for leaks. Not so much
as a drop of water, so far so good!
I straddled the boat and slowly put my weight on the seat and
watched. Still no water coming in so I lifted my feet and put
full weight on her and watched some more. Still no water came
in and I could already see that my fear of the boat not being
stable was unfounded. That alone was almost worth the trip.
I brought my feet aboard and started paddling. I was impressed
but I was more focused looking for leaks than how she paddled.
I went about 75 feet and finally relaxed and started to pay attention
to how the boat paddled, then it happened….
Something didn’t feel right. I looked down and now there
was some water in the boat. OK I knew it would leak. But things
were changing quickly and my mind started to race!
“Captain, we are down by the stern. I think she is taking
“What ??”… confusion set in and brain to raced.
“SIR, WE ARE taking on water and the stern compartment
I realize we have a leak, not just seepage but a leak. This is
a real leak and that funny feeling was the stern sinking due to
the flooding. A quick check confirms water is coming in the cockpit
rather quickly. (In other words I am sitting in water now.)
One of the crew panics and yells, “Abandon
ship we are going down!!” The boat starts to be come
unstable and starts to list to the Port side when I say,
“Belay that order. Throw out a brace with your paddle
and stop this roll now or we are going to loose this ship!”
It works and the ship is back upright. “Now, paddle
her to shore as quickly as you can, man! Were sinking!”
The crew gets their wits about them and concentrates on keeping
the boat upright and moving toward the shore when it happens.
She sinks to the bottom and the Captain goes down with his ship.
There I sat inside my boat in about a foot of water, sitting on
the bottom of Guntersville Lake.
“Any more orders Captain?”
“Yes. Abandon ship and start recovery efforts! And quit
So I pulled myself out of the sunken wreck now sitting firmly
on the bottom and thought “now what?” I managed to
roll the boat over on its side and that allowed a lot of water
to exit by the cockpit opening. Once upside down it was floating
again and enough water was out that I could salvage her and take
her back to the trailer.
A quick survey revealed that there was a
pencil size hole in the skin. I assume I hit something while
paddling and it punctured the skin. Even though she sunk,
I think it was a successful sea trail and I have the confidence
to move forward and finish her up.
Its days like this that makes all the hard work worth it.
Yes I had a ball!
Kudzu Craft Kayaks.