Disclaimer: This is the English avatar (not exactly a translation, though close) of a Spanish-language blog. I am not a native English speaker, so I would ask readers to bear kindly with this attempt (possibly too bold) and the mistakes it will entail and to accept the apologies for them I offer in advance here.

jueves, 31 de diciembre de 2009


A much welcome stint of paddling interrupted for a while the building (I've already returned to it, however, and there's some progress. Ribs and keel stringer installed. Working on the chine stringers. Updates soon).

I went to Gijón, northern coast, to paddle with Xabier (whose beautiful S&G Night Heron accompanies my own Fun Run Sedna in the pic above) and a bunch of other local paddlers. They are forming a sea kayak association (AKDMA, Asociación Kayak de Mar Asturias) somewhat after the example of the neighboring and successful AGKM and ACKM in Galicia and Cantabria, respectively. By the way, a sizeable group of Cantabrian paddlers showed up as well.

Saturday afternoon, however, Xabier and I were on our own. Conditions were interesting. Close to 3 m of steep (7 s period) waves and NE F4-5 winds. We briefly tested the situation out in Gijón Bay and promptly turned back to El Arbeyal, our very protected launch beach for a bit of surfing (rarely possible there). Fun time and some nice rides (mostly Xabier's) that ended up with my swimming when a successful roll after a capsize righted me just in a time for a second wave to play with me. Proof (not that it was needed) that solid back sculling can be very useful and is not just a trick to impress onlookers.

Sunday morning, the air was definitely colder (snow later in the day) and things at sea were, if anything, slightly more interesting. The videos should give an idea, though, as always, it now looks tamer on them than it did when in the middle of it.

We started on the intended route, nonetheless, with sea and wind from the bow. That I found quite manageable, but I worried about a substantial return leg with those same conditions as following, or rear quartering seas, which I always find far less comfortable. Therefore, when after a brief while a small group proposed turning back, I adhered with an inner sigh of relief.

Back at El Arbeyal, it was some more surfing and a bit of rolling and it was fun. Added to the paddling was the time spent with Xabier and his family around Gijón enjoying talk, food and cider. All in all, a great weekend.

Note: As usual, pics and vids not mine. They are here courtesy of Edu, a Cantabrian fellow paddler.

jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2009

Stem plates

A.k.a. breast hooks, transition plates, etc. I went with Morris rather than Cunningham and used thinnish plates. Ash from a scrap at the bow and plywood at the stern.

It is really, a rather minor advance, notwithstanding that it took me quite a while to get the plates in place. So minor it is highly dubious that such small progress merits a blog entry. Well, maybe not by itself. However, the very gentle curve of the ash bow plate was obtained by bending it after 15 minutes in boiling water and that was a first for me. A sort of very, very light introduction to the daunting mysteries of steam bending. Also, installing the plates meant abundant use of the chisel and I have discovered it is a tool I really enjoy utilizing. And the fun didn't end just there. The final shaping was almost exclusively a spokeshave job, probably my favorite tool of all.

But most of all, the finished plates signal that installing the ribs comes next and with it the exciting steam bending, which, of course, has me quite worried.

miércoles, 2 de diciembre de 2009

Stern piece and chines

Well, the stern piece is in place now (as in the previous post, the pic is upside down, to show how it will look in the finished product). It didn't come out as neatly as the bow stem, but I think it will still work.

That's one good thing about SOF building: you can feel great when if you totally nail it, but if you don't, it is likely it will still do and you don't have to fight impulses of setting the whole thing on fire that sheer frustration can elicit.

And one good thing of having those forms I built at the very beginning of the project in place is that you can fool around in many ways instead of doing real work.

For example, I could put the chine stringers (not yet processed) in what will more or less be their positions and check how things look. The hull shape that can be surmised seems, in my opinion, to match well the nautical software prediction of a rather stable boat for its beam. It also seems that the secondary chine will also be present and roughly where it should be, etc...

Mostly, it was fun just watching and imagining.

Bow stem

The pic above (turned upside down for aesthetic purposes, by the way) documents some minor additional progress. The bow stem piece has been installed.

With tolerable success, I dare say, judging from the parallelism test.

sábado, 28 de noviembre de 2009


This photograph (typically, a better version of it) also seems to be a frequent part of the ritual that accompanies the building of traditional qajaqs in the Western world. At times, it seems there would be a vague corpus of prescriptions that if you fail to observe your qajaq won't track true, will be slow and will leak

Edward S. Curtis recorded how in Nunivak Island, during the winter kayaks were built inside the giya, the men's house, amidst abundant ceremony. The event involved the whole community and an elaborate ritual. Participants wore specific clothes or were partially or totally naked, as required at different stages. Prescribed foods carried in particular recipients were consumed and the men whispered their secret hunting songs and sung out their childbirth songs to their new kayaks.

Sometimes, I wonder if posting pictures and keeping blogs is not what we do instead. Ways in which we keep involving a community, somewhat diffuse nowadays, in something that continues to be important for us (not to the same extent, of course. Usually, our livelihood is not linked to the qajaqs we build).

viernes, 27 de noviembre de 2009

Compulsory ribs

I am under the impression that this photo, or some variant of it, is pretty much a major requirement for any semi-respectable qajaq building blog. Therefore, fuzzy and low quality, but here it is.

Wood is American ash (thanks Javier). Sawn quite a while ago and, hence, quite dry. Accordingly they'll be soaking for at least a week, probably more.


I rescued the forms/spreaders from the wood pile and returned them to their original positions along the gunwales. Then, I used them to temporarily set the the keelson in its proper position and, suddenly, the qajaq gained a third dimension.

It became an object with volume and I confess the effect did strike me quite a bit. For a while, I just stood there looking at the arrangements, or, perhaps, rather contemplating what they suggested about the future boat. As far as I can judge, it seemed all quite pleasing, though old doubts about being able to get inside did creep back at times.

The initial plan was having the keelson in place so I could determine its intersection with the end pieces, accordingly finish shaping those, set them up and, then, with end pieces and keelson temporarily in place, estimate rib lengths.

Then, I realized the keelson was already at its, proper intended depth and the end pieces were not actually required to for measuring ribs. This should allow me to cut and prepare the rib stock and set it to soaking while I finish the end pieces, build a bending jig and and get ready the steaming apparatus (thanks for the box, Xabier).

So, I've set to it.