31 July 2012

Naming that boat

There are very few other things that have evoked "personification" more than a sea going vessel.
Throughout history owners of all kind of boats have been naming her (yep, apparently boats are female... alluding at the changing moods? :-) with captivating, suggestive and exotic names.
Not sure if all paddlers share my attachment to a kayak but I feel being part of "her".
Is it the tight confined space that almost wears my body or is it the medium to deliver so much pure enjoyment that personifies an inanimate object made from fibreglass and resin?
Nevertheless I have named all my kayaks even if our "love" was brief at times.
From "Wet Dream" (a name almost R rated) to Kadzait there have been 14 "girls" in my shed...

I think it's more personal to have a name to refer to, instead of the model that the manufacturer gave her (at one stage I had two of the same model).
I like to display the name of my kayak on the bow, just under the seam line.

Nukilik bow_c

In the past I have come up with the logo for the name myself; using the imagination and electronic tools I would fashion graphics that would work on a sea kayak.
My designs have been so far monochrome; I would cut the logo out of cast vinyl and apply it to the gel coat.
Self adhesive cast vinyl is used for sign making and I would source mine from a local supplier but "flea Bay" seems to be a good source too.
I would trace the logo over the vinyl and with a very sharp hobby knife I would neatly cut out the desired shape. I limit my designs to be rather simple with few pointy edges and no fine lines. A cut-out vinyl sticker needs to have some body if used on the bow of a sea kayak or peeling of the material will occur.

tail surfing_1_c
I used clear vinyl to cover the complex shape of this logo
Recently I have had the urge to spice-up a bit my logos and with the recent purchase of (yet) another kayak I held back for a while. I could design my own logo in full color, maybe even with a drop shadow or something but the quotes I got to print a one-off were rather expensive.
Then I stumbled across Kayak ID, a guy that specializes in making just the very thing I wanted: logos for kayaks in "airbrush" look.
On his website he offers a very simple way to design your own logo in a few different styles.
I asked Bob for a sample and he was happy to supply me one, with exact instructions on how to apply it without messing up.
The decal took a while to make and ship (California based company) but it was delivered in a very protective stiff cardboard envelop to prevent shipping damage.
Cleaned up my kayak as recommended and carefully applied the decal.

kykID decal_1

I think that these graphics look a lot more professional than my amateur efforts.

kayakID decal_Kadzait

29 July 2012

Photo: sunset sailing

Sunset sailing_2

Two weeks off kayaking and I needed a fix of salt water, badly.
Mid afternoon I packed my boat with the essentials for an overnighter and headed to my favorite spot just hours away.
Wind on my back, the crossing to my island was easy. Middle of winter and there wasn't a soul around; all I could hear was the breeze in the trees.
Sleeping under the stars restored my spirit.

24 July 2012

REVIEW: Shred Ready and Nutcase helmets

Undeniably looking goofy, just like bike helmets were on cyclists when they first appeared, helmets for sea kayaking are not very popular in my part of the pond.
A helmet for sea kayaking? really? what will they think of next...
And that’s what I thought when I used to paddle the sheltered waters of the bay.
Admittedly I can’t see much use for a helmet in an sea that has no surf and where the chance of bumping you head is rather remote.
The game changed once I realized that for me the real fun in a sea kayak is in white water and luckily most of the shores in my area where the ocean meats land are sandy with rarely I rock in sight.
While the chance of banging my noggin on a reef is remote, I have made contact with the hull of my kayak, and that of others.
As wise paddlers say: "we are just in between swims", I regard my roll as proficient but not bombproof and, despite all the rolling training and play in the surf zone, I still come out of my boat.
Tossed out of my boat, my head and my kayak sometimes decide to be in the same place at the same time.
Just like I embraced bicycle helmets years ago (way before they became compulsory) I now don a helmet when going out in conditions that might see me contacting the head with something hard.
In sea kayaking the increased risk factor over bicycles is that a knock to the head, that would make me unconscious even for a very short time, would probably spell disaster.
I was lucky to not have drowned a few years ago when crashing my windsurfer I passed out. Maybe wearing a helmet would have prevented me seeing stars even tho not sure if it would have saved me from ending in hospital for shoulder reconstruction.

In my shed I have two helmets for sea kayak surfing: the Shred Ready Shensu carbon and a Nutcase Watermelon.

Shred Ready Shensu Helmet_c

The Shensu is a carbon fibre and Kevlar lid with closed cell foam interior padding. Unlike EPS foam in bicycle helmets this foam has a bit of flex and does not dimple if pressed hard but returns to its original shape. The helmet comes with pads of different thickness that attach to the bottom perimeter of the interior padding with small Velcro tabs. A fully customized fit can be achieved for a perfect feel with no pressure points.

Shred Ready Shensu_c

What sets this brain bucket apart form the rest is the extremely good retention strap system. The typical under-the-chin plastic buckled strap is complemented with HOG occipital lock: a tensioning system that grabs the back of the head and keeps the helmet perfectly in place even during the most head banging spills.
I have seen this type of ratchet system on bicycle helmets and shoes and they have proven to work well.

SR retention system_c

The Shensu fits my large head well. I have struggled to find a helmet that could offer me comfort and security at the same time. Most other helmets I have tried just felt like a bucket on my head often putting pressure on the temples. If however your head is shaped differently Shred Ready offers a more elongated style that fits smaller heads: the more budget-conscious Super Scrappy is injection molded ABS shell that won't break the bank.

The Nutcase has a more conventional helmet look with its shell shape shared with many other sport helmets for skateboarding and bike riding.
What sold me with this helmet was the funky graphics: it's not like I can hide wearing a helmet so I might as well stand out :-0
This water version has an ABS Shell with the same closed cell foam (EVA) lining that cradles the head but doesn't absorb water.

Nutcase melon_1_c

Additional comfort open-cell padding found on top of the head keeps this helmet comfortably seated.
There are removable heat molded foam ear flaps to protect me from lateral light impacts but I found those flaps pressing down on my non-Dumbo ears after a while. With some careful gentle heat-gun action I slightly reshaped the flaps and domed them to create the perfect fit.

Nutcase melon_3_c

Nutcase uses one size shell for their adult helmets but increase the inside EVA padding for the S-M size.
The Nutcase comes with additional small soft pads that can be used for a custom fit but I didn't need them in my L-XL one; the fit is smaller than the Shensu.
Nutcase melon_2_c

Now the question remains: does everybody need a helmet when paddling?
Probably not. The fat chance of banging one's  head while paddling on a Sunday morning millpond condition outing doesn't really warrant one but somehow I feel safer wearing my helmet when the waves get steeper and the surf traffic wanting to share the same space increases.

Zegul surf_5

PS: no shwag and no kick-backs for this review either. Bought the helmets with my own money and no prompts from the manufacturers. 
Heck, I don't even sell or monetise nothing on this website... 
One downside: I receive almost daily offers from totally unrelated Chinese manufactures asking me to become their agent for electronic parts , carbon  fibre or plastic goods. I even had offers from website design managers in USA and India offering me to maximize my "profitability" :-)

17 July 2012

VIDEO: Zipper Zone Futzing

I like it bumpy, always have.
From bicycles pedalled on rocky terrain, motorcycles ridden off road to bushwalking cross country I recognize a passion for the challenging conditions.
Mindless rhythmical power exertion of my body does not interest me and I usually seek locations where skills and balance are more important than muscles. The same goes for sea kayaking: I seek waters that offer a bit of excitement and unpredictability, where I have to use my body and bracing to keep myself upright.

select HD if you have fast Internet connection

 My local paddling location is a sheltered bay away from ocean swell and lacking a rocky coastline I don’t have anywhere to practice my balancing skills in clapotis rebound. Moreton Bay however has a decent tidal flow with 6-7 feet of height variation at spring tides creating shifting banks of sand a few miles from the shore. Power boaters avoid the area and take a different route to travel to the big sandy Moreton Island. I instead seek those locations where tidal flow, residual ocean swell and small wind waves, from the opposite direction, meet over shallow waters of sand banks. The opposing forces of the two waves collide and at the right moment peak high with a great splash. With the confidence offered by the Northern Light Greenland paddle, I play in the area hoping to get caught in the very spot of collision to get tossed high in the air.


12 July 2012

GEAR: sea kayak sail_update

Several years of using sails on my sea kayaks has lead to refining my initial set up.
I no longer sew my sails but I still create my rigging, using custom made carbon masts.
On some narrower kayaks my sail set up was not as bombproof as I would like it to be where in a strong breeze (above 20 knots) the mast would not keep vertical and the little polymer base would deform under the lateral pressure of the wind. In a beam wind I would like to have my mast in a vertical position, making the sail more efficient and increase a bit of speed.
Mick at Flat Earth Kayak Sails has developed a brilliant way to reduce the down pressure on the flexible joint and is now shipping his sail with a new system where the mast contacts directly the removable fitting.
I want to use carbon fibre masts but I have been unable to find an off-the-shelf mast that would replicate Mick's system.
Not wanting to bond aluminum to carbon to create the oversize sleeve for the mast, the only way I could achieve what I wanted was to modify my existing masts to create the sliding foot sleeve.
mast base_sleeved_c
mast uphauled
Instead of having a larger diameter mast running the whole length, I just made a short sleeve out of glass fibre tape wound around a tube of slightly larger diameter than my carbon mast. Once cured I bonded a the sleeve section to the base of the existing mast and covered it with carbon cloth for strength, and looks :-)
The sleeve section slides over a stubby base with the flexible polymer allowing the mast touch the actual hard surface of the red plastic base.
No load is now exerted on the polymer so it will no longer deform when the mast is uphauled and cinched down hard.
mast base sleeve_c
mast lifted for demo purposes
Of course the mast can still be lowered as before and when the sail is folded onto the deck the mast slides back up just enough to allow the flexible polymer do its job.

mast folded_c

To prevent the sliding mast and the stubby base come apart I have used a short piece of shock cord threaded internally holding the two together.

boom junction_c

I have also improved my anchor point for the stays on the mast.
I no longer use a stainless steel ring riveted with a saddle to the carbon tube but I prefer the use of soft Dyneema core line bonded directly to the mast with a section of carbon fibre cloth.
The load is distributed better and there is no risk of cracking the thin carbon tube with the pressure of installing (pulling) a stainless steel rivet.
mast stays junction_c
mast rotated to show the carbon cloth anchor for the Dyneema cord
I have been using the new recessed anchors with great success, locating them right on the seam of the hull/deck to achieve a wider stance and a better load angle.
The stainless steel shackles are now heat shrunk (see warning below) to the Dyneema stays so they don't rotate when the sail is lowered on deck.

anchor and stays_c

The whole assembly, viewed from the bow.
on beach_c

update 04JAN13
Richard Sharp from SEQSK has this to say:
"I had the sail up in 20knots and got hit by a gust which tipped me in. It
was at that point that I noticed the sidestay had snapped. Finding it hard
to believe that this was possible given the breaking point of spectra, I
examined the break closely. It was then that I discovered that where it had
snapped the internal spectra cord was melted together. See the enclosed



It appears that the core has melted while the outer sheet remained OK.
Using a heat gun at close quarters causes the Dyneema/Spectra fibres to fuse and become very weak.
The melting point of Dyneema is much lower than the outer polyester (pictured here black) and no noticeable damage was visible from the outside.
He now prefers to use the heat shrink only over the loose end of the rope, not over the entire knot and apply very gentle heat for longer to allow the tube to shrink.


05 July 2012

VIDEO: sailing to fend off cabin fever

The June long week-end (Australia) proved to be a bit wet and windy for SE Queensland.
My initial plan to spend two nights on Moreton Island had to be changed due to a strong wind warning forecast.
Instead of festing indoors and risk of getting cabin fever myself and Stevatron headed out in a relative sheltered location to experience the fun of sea kayak sailing instead of paddling.
It has been a while since Stevatron had a sail on his kayak and he had forgotten how much fun one could have with just the wind.

select 720p if you have fast Internet connection
It didn't take long to get the feel for the new Flat Earth Sail and despite the gusty conditions there were no capsizes.

Details on the new mast base mount here

02 July 2012

PHOTO: zipper play

The wind was gone and so were the waves. I looked for something to play in and I had to content myself with a small "zipper".

Surf play_3_c

It's when two waves from different directions collide together at a slight angle and form this imaginary zipper that appears to close together. The bay I often paddle has decent tidal flows that create banks of sand miles away from shore. Leaving the fishing folk behind, I played around in the shallow water trying to get caught in the zipper zone.

Surf play_1_c