What should you look for when you are considering buying a Stitch and Glue kit boat built by someone you don’t know? Are there potential problems that are hard, or easy to spot? Common problems that can or can’t be easily fixed?
On the outside if the epoxy has any drip marks or roughness that is filled with varnish you’ll have to sand ALL THE WAY THROUGH the old varnish and into the the old bumpy epoxy in order to re-varnish the deck/hull. It ends up being a much more involved operation than just light sanding and re-varnishing with two coats. This is pretty obvious difference between a smooth surface and a survace with .5mm high bumps as would occur where drip marks are 1/2 way sanded down,but not all the way.
If it’s an old weathered finish on a bumpy half sanded surface the old flaky varnish below the bumps will prevent subsequent coats from sticking.
I’d make sure the kayak you’re getting is exactly the boat you want and not because it’s a wood kayak.
Is the inside edge of the coaming sharp or well rounded over? A sharp edge will hurt on rescues. Is the bow and stern a sharp point or well rounded over? Most builders unfamiliar with paddling tend to leave the point of the panels. A sharp point will break open easily allowing water stains to develop let alone hurt in rescue situations. Let your open hand swing down onto the bow then do the same with a range of production boats. There’s no reason to have a kayak with a pointy bow.
Are the hatches waterproof?
Does the kayak have darker colored exerior around the compartments than the cockpit? That occurs from water in closed compartments heating up and steaming through the wood. It’s not structural but you’ll never reverse it.
Lee, I thought (from West propaganda)
that epoxy inside would keep water vapor from moving through the panels. Does this have to do with variance in epozy application?
Couple of Things…
Check out the design - Google it, and check any reviews you can find - there’s a world of difference between a good kit boat and something slabbed together from an old Mechanics Illustrated article. Try a post here and on the Kayak Building Bulleting Board seeking reaction to the design.
Check out the materials used - best by far is marine ply and epoxy resins - using construction-grade ply and polyester resins reduces the life expectancy and hence the value.
Look the hull over carefully - is it straight and true? Hold a string along the centre-lines of the hull and deck - does everything look symetrical? (sp?) How fair (smoothly curved) are the lines along the bilge and the sheer - the smoother, the better the builder’s skills are likely to have been.
Check for any signs of damage to the tape along the keel line - that’s a great spot for water to enter and remain (bad news). Check the bow cutwater and the stern for signs of deterioration - that’s where clipping rocks (bow) and dragging (stern) will show.
Check the hull interior as carefully and throughly as you can - any signs of mould, mildew, etc., may indicate it’s been stored a lot with the hatches in place - not a good idea.
If the boat is bright finished (varnished), look for any sign of deterioration in the epoxy coats - will show as lighter-colored flaky areas, or cracks in the finish. This has to be repaired - epoxy encapsulation only works when the epoxy coat is intact.
If it’s painted, look for signs of paint problems - flaking, peeling etc., and also for repairs to paint - one of my VOLKSKAYAKs has a number of ‘splotches’ where I’ve had to remove layers of paint due to bad, bad paint adhesion, caused by my stupidly using spot and glaze putty for final fairing - cosmetic issue only, doesn’t much bother me, but it requires regular maintenance.
Then there’s the eyeball test - if it looks like a good boat, it probably is. I’m not sure why, but boats with sweet lines are generally, in my experience, sweet performers, and vice versa.
Finally, paddle the blessed thing, and make sure it suits you and your paddling plans. My 'yaks, for example, are great along-shore cruising and touring boats, which is exactly what we use 'em for; if I was doing other things, I’d want a different design.
just going from what I’ve seen
90 degree summer day, closed compartment with a wet item in it getting steamed up to 100+ degress will eventually force water vapor into whatever pinhole thin spots exist.
It’s not really a structural issue but it’s pretty obvious when you look at the side of the kayak with the side panels just beyond the bulkheads looking darker than the mid-section. It means the kayak was stored with closed compartments.
On a lot of the Chesapeake boats where the instructions reinforced the idea that multiple sealing coats on the interior adds unnecessary weight people would install the deck with only one sealing coat or not put on any more sealing coats in the compartments.
I had a Pygmy 13 with the underside of the deck well sealed with three thin fill coats but once I moved toto the humid east coast and left float bags in the ends water with no bulkheads water would be trapped between the float bag and underside the deck when stored upside down. After two summers the black ick mold started showing up under the varnish.
Yeah, it’s sounding like pulling out the
float bags between trips may become a drill even in composite whitewater boats. At least they blow up fast.
Much of the skill of the builder can be told by looking at the interior hull seams. Are they neat and even? Or are they lumpy and wavy?
Take a look at the other items mentioned above. Make yourself a checklist and stick to it.
Test paddle it too!
Lots of problems hidden and obvious
The obvious includes things like a nonstraight keel, raw fiberglass edges/spikes, large bubbles in the laminate, patched holes, worn areas, cockeyed fittings or coaming rim, and who knows what else.
The hidden includes water damage in the hatch compartments, too much epoxy (floats the fiberglass above the wood instead of sticking directly to it), bad fillets under the seam tapes, bad wood, green epoxy under the varnish, and more.
Make sure the kayak floats, does not leak, and goes straight. Those are the absolute minimum to check for on your demo. Then check for the other things.
BTW, if the hatch compartments leak, it might simply be the seal between the covers and the deck–not necessarily a dealbreaker.
Not Much That You Can’t Fix…
As long as the seams line up, there is no mold and the boat feels light. If too much epoxy is used on the inside, you have a heavy boat and not much can be done. A heavy wooden boat is greatly diminished in value, weigh it and compare that weight with what the manufacture specs.
re:stored with hatches in place
First thing I did this morning was do a complete inspection of the terns hatch areas. While I store the boat in a dry, moderate temp space over the winter I’n never thought to pop the hatches between paddles while the boat is in the cradle in the garage.
Thanks for the info!
Re: Heavy Boat/lotta freeboard
I think the double tape on the keel of my tern along with installing the slider full footbrace and the liberal applications on the bulkheads probably put the boat out of the lightweight class. I’m probably 6-8lbs over the advertised weight but …given the conditions of launchsites etc. in my area, I’m glad I went the extra yard.
Adding my own experience here; If you tend to paddle in a windy area or with a lot of chop having a boat that sits high in the water can be a real drawback. Unless you intend on doing a lot of loaded touring I’d look at modest volumn over high volumn.
that’s the problem
If you put on the amount of epoxy and glass needed to make a 4mm s&g kayak retain an attractive finish that will last it’s not going to weigh much less (maybe five pounds at most) than a fiberglass kayak of a similar size once you add on the same outfitting of skeg/rudder/hatches/seat/rigging.
If you don’t care about waterstaining dings or water vapor steaming through the wood in the compartments then you can use lighter deck glass and fewer fill coats and varnish but in five years of heavy use it’ll be a lot more worn looking than a fiberglass kayak.
If you are neat and frugal…
with the epoxy and fillers on the inside you will have a lighter boat. More than a saturation coat is only cosmetic and adds no strength. I’ve seen some boats with pools, runs and globs of epoxy in them.
Don’t buy a North BAY
I know of almost no kit boat designs that suck except the North Bay by Chesapeake. Numerous people have written them about it and one of my friends even redesigned it and offered it to them for free. It redefines weather cocking to the max.
I fixed a woman's N. Bay by adding a fixed rudder. It tracks like a train but at least it's paddleable.
When I first met her she could not stay on course, so I told her to switch boats with me. I never did so many bow and stern rudders in my life trying to keep this boat on course in small waves. If I paddled 5 strokes it would turn right into the wind which was blowing about 6 mph. DO NOT BUY A NORTH BAY
That was my fifth CLC kit that started my education about four panel plywood designs.
But if you think the NB had problems don’t buy a North Bay XL, it’s worse. Much.
When that one showed up I was pleased to find that it had a more usable range of stability than the skinnier NB but the stern felt a bit loose with a pivot point noticably forward of the paddlers mass. ok. Some maneuverable kayaks can weathercock more but so what. It wasn’t until I paddled it in a 15mph breeze at a St.Michaels WoodenBoat show that it’s attributes became fully expressed.
I was still paddling my NB at the time and beginning to play with the idea of pivot point, weathercocking and what is it that makes a kayak CONTROLLABLE with differing amounts of tracking/maneuverability or weathercocking. I had paddled the Northbay on a windy day camping on Assateague so I had the opportunity to load it up and shift the loads around for wind/waves. “something aint right here”,which was the same feeling I had paddling a Patuxent 17 in the S.F.Bay three years before when it buried up to the coaming in 18" waves,“something isn’t right for this to be called a ‘sea kayak’”
So when I paddled the NBXL on that windy day it was MUCH worse than the skinnier Northbay, worse than an Eclipse with no rudder. Worse as in VERY dificult to maneuver at normal strong breeze conditions for an unruddered, unskegged boat. To my judgement it was bordering on dangerous given the expectations that a skilled paddler should be able to paddle in 20mph winds and controll a kayak, not so with this one.
At the time I had just finished my own modified version of the N.B.,that NB stimulated a lot of paddling s&g building enthusiasts to modify it. A light bulb went off so I lay the three kayaks down, keel up. The NB, my 18’x21" version, and the NBXL. With an adjustable angle I measured the angles (deadrise?) of the three boat and how it changed in the four feet or so towards the middle from the ends.
The NB was roughly symmetrical fore/aft, my boat had a tighter stern than bow, the NBXL had a sharper entry than the stern for a longer distance and it had more stern windage. In other words if you wanted to MAKE a kayak weathercock worse that’s exactly what you’d do. In a way the NBxl was BACKWARDS. The keelines of the two NBs was similar to the CHesapeake, roughly straight keel center section with ends going up a bit. What limits the Chesapeakes lean-to-turn characteristics is made worse in the Northbay with it’s narrower hull section and fine low rockered ends. In the NBxl turning was improved with more flair in the side panels and less draft but weathercocking and control was made WORSE with more stern windage, a BACKWARDS deadrise that resulted in a forward pivot point.
Basically neither design was tested by experienced paddlers familiar with paddling in wave/wind but the NBxl was in production for a year with NO demo version to discover the worsened high wind handling attributes. When a few local paddlers made their NBXL the started saying the same thing,then Derek Hutchinson paddled it and said “looks at this, it’s going the wrong way!”.
It wouldn’t be outside the norm for a plastic rotomolded kayak to have these attributes but they would go out the door with a rudder to address it and not advertised as “enthusiast” kayaks.
they look cool, but represent a total disregard for the user,let alone the builder thinking he’s spending $1000 and 150hrs for " designed as a fast play boat for expert paddlers. If pure paddling pleasure is your goal, you must try the North Bay."
er,just trying to reinforce the idea that ANY s&g wood kayak is worth getting. Some are worth avoiding.