As has happened several times before, i ran across a story about someone who built a really neat personal boat and thought to myself, “Hey, I can do that…it would be a fun winter project. Such an inspiration came when i was researching places to go kayaking on the Texas Gulf coast and came across Kayak Foundry, a free website with software on how to design and build a custom kayak.
Looking over the various kinds of kayak available with the software, I settled on a sea kayak, specifically an Inuit design that has evolved from centuries of pratical use by the Inuits who used the craft to fish and hunt in the dangerous waters of the Bering Sea.
The kayak software had provisions to design for a preferred length and payload and given a designated length and payload, options to compromise the design between speed (long and narrow for low drag) and stability (wide or narrow),
I opted for single larger cockpit for a 500# payload, assuming two people and some gear. Two people would have called for double cockpits but after completing the top and bottom, I decided to go with a single, wider cockpit with a higher coaming to keep the ocean out. Construction was to be with narrow strips of four kinds of wood, Canadian white oak for the keel, deck center and the two chines and alternating strips of western red cedar, Canadian white cedar and American bald cypress. The different colors of the woods were chosen to accentuate the flowing lines of the kayak.
Once the design (17′ long x 28″ wide) was finalized (18 versions), the software provided for my printing full scale, collated work patterns for the 16 bulkheads plus stem and transom patterns on 12″ spacing. Construction involved gluing the patterns to a sheet of MDF (multi-directional fiberboard) and band sawing them out. The pattern design provided for a 2″x4″ cutout for a nominal 2″x4″x16′ rectangular aluminum tube which became the construction strongback, both supporting and accurately positioning the patterns.
To do the bottom first, I placed the patterns bottom up on the aluminum strongback at 12″ intervals and using narrow strips of four kinds of wood started laying them on the patterns using a small nail gun and waterproof glue.
Once the bottom was stripped and glued, the whole arrangement was flipped to repeat the process for the deck.
With the deck and bottom woods in place, the next step was a small power planer followed by orbital sanding to smooth and fair the strips into its final flowing shape.
Next a single layer of 1/2 ounce (1/2 ounce per square yard) twill (multi-directional weave) glass cloth was fiberglassed to the deck and bottom. The fiberglass would eventually be orbital sanded completely smooth followed by many coats of hand rubbed marine grade gloss polyurethane.
With the top and bottom finished, the deck will be very carefully separated from the bottom and the aluminum strongback and MDF patterns removed from the hull. The deck is then reattached to the bottom with internally applied fiberglass tape and the holes for the cockpit located and cut.
The cockpit location is determined by taking the almost complete kayak to the water and sitting on the deck like a fat frog (I’m 6′2″ and weigh 215#), while moving forwards and backwards until a desired balance is achieved and chalked on the deck. Only then is the cockpit hole cut into the deck.