Sea kayak with no hatches

I’ve owned quite a few boats and maintained quite a few more, and I’ve never had a bulkhead that leaked. OTOH, minor hatch leaks are not uncommon, but they’re easy to deal with. Mold and mildew are only issues for boats that are paddled in fresh water, or rinsed with it after use and not allowed sufficient time to dry.

On one of my Pygmys I wasn’t sure what/if hatches I wanted.
I installed deck plates in the bulkheads for access while I decided…
Eventually I installed a rear flush hatch with an internal release. The release was accessible using the deck plate in the rear bulkhead.
Not very practical but sure looked custom. See #52


Can you post a picture again? I’ve seen it before but it is just so beautiful…

I had more photos but most are backed up on thumb drives rather than on my laptop but I have this one from the Lake Michigan Ferry from when I crossed the lake to buy the boat from the original owner in Milwaukee 12 years ago. This is nice because it shows the skeg built into the keel and also how translucent the skin is. Also one shot of the interior and one of it near the dock at Qajag Camp in Michigan. The foot peg assembly is the only part of the boat that uses metal fasteners. Everything else is tied or stitched using artificial sinew cordage.


Wow your boat is beautiful. The green is a good color for it.

It does seem like a SOF is the best and most cost effective way to get what I want. But i have a couple questions.

First, the site doesn’t work for me. It says the domain is for sale.

Second, how often do you have to re-skin the boat?

And last, what are my other wood options to use for building the boat? I have some hard and soft wood lumber from my property that has air dried for years. The ones I can think of that might work for this are tamarack (larch), and possibly ash. I know the larch is very rot resistant (my dad uses it for dock posts).

I’ll of course keep a look out for other interesting boats I can get locally. I’ve been watching a Kevlar Necky Arluk 1.9 on FBM. While I think it’s probably a step up from my Sealution, it still has hatches :slight_smile:

My plastic Squall - that era had minicell shaped bulkheads - developed a slight leak around the bulkheads into its second season. My info at the time was that it was a to-be-expected result of useage and strapping it down. So did the other plastic boat purchased at the same time.

A bit of lexel fixed it. Did not regard it as a flaw in the boat, just proof of use.

Never had a leak in the fiberglass kayaks thru had use. But those bulkheads are not malleable.

Sorry - that is, not .com.

My boat is mostly western red cedar and douglas fir.

There is another useful site for home made boats (free instructions – check out the “gallery” for kayaks various ordinary folks have built, including one by a nurse who used discarded aluminum crutches to make a collapsible frame!

By the way, the Yostwerks site also has full visual instructions for making your own flotation bags (getting back to the original discussion).

Best way to start on SOF’s is to buy this book, always plentiful and cheap on Amazon, Ebay and used book sites:

Thanks. There are some pretty cool boats on the yostwerks site too. The ones wrapped in clear vinyl are cool, though I don’t know if I’d want one for long term use. Kinda freaky to see what’s below you all the time.

I like the boat frame made out of old crutches.

"And last, what are my other wood options to use for building the boat? "

For ribs, coaming parts and other pieces that will be steam-bent, you need a hardwood that bends well, like ash or oak (red or white). For the rest of the boat, softwoods can be used. I’ve used yellow pine, Douglas fir and even mahogany for stringers, but I’ve settled on clear, white pine as the best overall material for gunwales, stringers, deckbeams, bow plates and stern plates, as it’s readily available around here. I steam-bend the masik from red oak. I don’t put floorboards in my boats, but you’d need hardwood for those, too. Mahogany works well for deckline toggles and other fittings.

I have a bunch of 1x6x8 ash boards. I assume I can just scarf together anything I need more than an 8’ board for? I think my dad might have some 10’ or 12’ ash also. I’ll have to ask him.

I’d like to build the whole frame from ash if I can. I do have a bunch of larch and some pretty clear white pine that had sawn up about ten years ago also. I’d like to use some for something better than rabbit hutches and other wasteful things for my kids I have been building with it :slight_smile:

The problem with salt water in an enclosed space is that with temperature changes you will get condensation on the inner walls. Condensate is fresh water and can allow mold and mildew to propagate if present. I paddle in salt water and I had a couple of straps that were inadvertently left in a hatch get pretty funky.

With a Kevlar Arluk 1.9 I’ve had to reseal bulkheads with Lexel twice in 21 years. These were foam bulkheads not fiberglass. Don’t know if there is a difference in bulkhead seals depending on construction. I’ve had quite a few friends get some seepage that could only have come from the cockpit in older well used boats.

I found answers to two of my questions. I was watching the videos on the cape falcon site and they say it’s ok to scarf two shorter pieces of wood together to get the length you need. So that’s good.

I also emailed Brian and asked him about using a different species of wood. He said I can use ash and white pine in place of white oak and red cedar. Sweet.

So it looks like I already have the lumber to build one of these.

At the annual (well, until this year) Michigan Qajaq Camp, as at many traditional skin boat gatherings, they have workshops and demos for building the boats and accessories, like the Greenland paddle carving class I was hoping to attend this year. One event the last full day of the 4 day session is the “90 Minute Qajaq Build” where several teams of attendees each get a pile of 8’ long 1" x 2" slats, a bunch of rolls of duct tape, a kids plastic hula hoop for a cockpit coaming and a big roll of the clear plastic film used to wrap palletized cargo. They have to use only those materials and anything natural that they can scavenge around camp to design and construct a full sized skin on frame kayak. After they are built, one member of the group (typically the smallest person) has to paddle the kayak and the teams race out to the end of the long dock and back – extra points for rolling it!

The winning team (whose paddler keeps upright and makes it through the race) gets the glory and a nominal prize. Then that night the boats are dragged to the Lake Michigan dunes beach behind the camp and burned in a bonfire. Great fun!

Photos below of the build and race in 2017.

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I wouldn’t recommend using ash for the gunwales or stringers unless you want a really heavy boat. Save it for parts that are going to be steam bent. Ideally, for ribs you want vertical grain (quartersawn) wood, preferably green or air-dried. Also, the best way to get gunwales that flex evenly is to cut them from a single board.

A lot of skin on frame builders use the plastic wrap as a way to “beta test” the frame on the water before committing to the final skin. Enables you to tweak the hull design to dial in what you want from the performance while the skeleton is accessible.

If you are interested, here is a link to an album of photos that the builder of my SOF took while he was constructing it back in 2007. You’ll see one shot where he had wrapped in tarp material to check it out on the water. A few other photos of it in the water as well.

You can see it rides very low and is not much affected by wind. At 18’ long and 22" wide it’s surprisingly stable for me and is very fast and handles rough water well. It was designed to be a seal hunter’s kayak, made to continue to quietly glide straight towards an animal ahead on an ice floe even as the hunter drops his paddle so he can pick up and aim his harpoon or rifle.

I named it Sisiutl, after the legendary double-headed sea serpent of Pacific Northwest Coast mythology.


So yours is based on the cape falcon design or no? I notice the cockpit is different, and yours has a few things changed on the stern.

What do they call the piece that sticks up from the stern, and what was it’s purpose originally?

It’s based on the 1935 Sisimuit Brian has listed in his traditional kayak archive. A guy named Harvey Golden surveyed (made detailed measurements and drawings) of native-built kayaks in museums and collections around the world and builders like Brian use them as patterns to make new kayaks. The guy who had mine built (I bought it used) requested a larger cockpit rather than the traditional small round one. I’m glad because it is the same size as two of my other kayaks so I can use the same spray skirts.

The perky “tail” has no function and is purely a style decoration. The builder was an American Buddhist monk named Dawa Nordrup out in Oregon who constructed custom kayaks to raise money for a meditation center he was building. He stopped making them about 10 years ago. Like Brian, he had some health issues that made kayak production physically difficult.

Skin boats are typically scaled to be custom fit to the body metrics of the user. The skilled builders know how to tailor them to the paddler. The guy for whom my kayak was originally built looked about 30 pounds heavier and 5 inches taller than me (I used to sell cross country skis and got pretty good at judging height and weight of customers, including that they usually lie about their weight by 10%), but we had the same length legs and same hip measurement so the cockpit and foot pegs fit me nicely. If you look at the photos I posted you will see that he sinks it further in the water than I do but it performs very well for me – he may have been a little heavy for the kayak since a reason he gave for selling it was that he felt unstable in it.

In fact, the wood inside that tail on mine is now broken due to wind blowing the kayak off the roof of my car when I was trying to load it two summers ago. So it is crooked now and loose. The kayak is due to get a new skin soon and if I can’t splint that tail I may just remove it. It’s a weak point if it gets dropped and gets in the way when I am trying to drain water out of it on shore.

Since you seem to be heading towards SOF, I’ll put in a plug for the Cape Falcon F1. I have the precursor design SC-1, built in a class with Brian. The design was based on the Mariner Coaster, a legendary kayak designed by the Broze brothers known to perform extremely well in confused water. I believe Brian tweaked the design during prototyping, and the boat is a real joy to paddle. It was further refined to the F-1, which is also customized to the paddler size, so I assume the F-1 is even better.

For me, the ocean cockpit on a Greenland boat was not an option, plus I am more of a flat water paddler and not looking to play around that much. I certainly never tried it in surf, but it can do that. I recommend Brian’s discussion of how to choose a kayak, he makes a lot of sense:

Note that John Abercrombie has an ad on our West Coast Paddler site with a rare Mariner Coaster for sale. He is in Victoria, BC.