Reenter and Roll

Ocean Kayaking

Paddled from Rye Harbour to Salibury Beach and back today. A distance of about 21nm. A good combination of conditions. Winds shifted around to the S for the paddle home. 15kts with higher gusts added to a fair tide made for a fun ride back. The S’ly seas added to the E’ly swell required paying attention. I find that I can paddle into some really nasty stuff and feel pretty relaxed. Turn that around to a following sea; even a moderate one, and it never seems relaxed; you have to be “on” the entire time.

Landing through the 2 ~ 3″ surf at Salisbury was good practice; I’m getting pretty quick at the exit on the beach. Launching was more good practice.   It’s certainly harder with the short periods seen around here. Paddled back with a fair amount of water in the cockpit which was yet more good training.

The Nordkapp LV is very well behaved in the surf.  It takes off well on a wave and is quite predictable.  Breaking out through the surf is also very reassuring in that the bow slices through the wave face easily and does not tend to slam down on the backside.   I am really liking this boat.  At 6′-3″ and 190lbs, I am not really what the designers had in mind but its working very well for me thus far.  I have yet to get into the full sized Nordkapp which is the boat I will be using for the trip.  I am hoping that it will feel very familiar based upon my time in the LV but that remains to be seen.

Only about 7 weeks left before the challenge begins.

Approaching the Nubble Light; Cape Neddick, ME

Approaching the Nubble Light; Cape Neddick, ME

March 20th, 2010

Marking the day that that the sun, moving along the ecliptic, crosses the celestial equator on its way to the Summer Solstice, the Vernal Equinox turned out to be the best paddle day of 2010 to date.  Temperatures at or near 70F, skies dotted with fair weather cumulus and balmy SW’ly breezes.  The water is still in the 40’s so winter paddling rules apply making for a pretty warm (and wet) paddle.

I left from Portsmouth Harbour and paddled well offshore towards York Harbour to meet up with the rest of the group. This begins the distance training for the big paddle in July.  Looking to do about 20 nm’s today.  Managed to make good a pace of nearly 5kts for the 10nm to York Harbour against the tail end of a outgoing tide and what airs there were, whispering astern of me.  I met with Laura, Suz, Carl and Peter who were making their way down the York River as I exchanged my sweat-soaked tops for dry ones.  Once clear of the harbour entrance we meandered northward toward Cape Neddick, luxuriating in the absolutely perfect conditions.

After paddleing around Cape Neddick Nubble for a bit of play, we landed on a ledge for a bite to eat.  Relaunched after a short break on the ledge and at that point, the expected freshening of the SW’ly breeze was taking place and I elected to begin the 10nm paddle back to the Portsmouth launch site.

The paddle back was uneventful unless you want to hear me whine about the foul tide and the 15kt breeze that insisted on staying in my face no mater what direction I was headed.  By the time I got back, I was pretty tired and my lower  back muscles wanted out of that boat.  Total distance for the day was a bit shy of 23nm. Will need to double that with no additional fatigue or discomfort by the time I head west.

I find that once you begin to experience the aches and pains of too much time sitting in the boat, it all becomes a head game with yourself. If you can’t divert your attention elsewhere, you won’t be able to go on and expeditioning may not be for you; if you can, the pains seem to disappear.

I definitely need to work on lower body flexibility.  My hamstrings seem to tighten with time in the boat and my calves will threaten to spasm from time to time as I alternate L and R feet pressing against the forward bulkhead with each stroke.  I suspect I need to stay better hydrated and watch that sodium and potassium levels don’t drop with my tendency to dump fluids through sweating.

The Tiderace cruised right along at a nice clip. Pretty mild conditions but she is definitely fast.  Unfortunately, she is not of sufficient volume to use for the big trip.  I expect to be using a Nordkapp for that and I am currently in the process of arranging for the use of one out there to avoid having to deal with shipping a boat.

All in all, a grand day to be on the water!

The skeg control currently used in P&H‘s Cetus line of kayaks is a well-intentioned system that was designed to be trouble free from the perspective of both the user and the manufacturer.  By using a bungee cord to provide continuous motivation for the skeg to deploy and a locking/ratchet device in the skeg control to harness that motivation, the hope was that this would be a simple and reliable system with the added benefit of minimal returns to retailers due to inexperienced kayak owners having skeg troubles as a result of misuse.

In reality, paddler’s experiences have been varied with some finding operation of the control to be difficult. The goal of this project was to replace the existing skeg system with one that was a little easier for a small hand to operate while retaining the reliability of the original design.

The boat I replaced the skeg system in is the Cetus LV.  This is very nice boat that is maneuverable, fast and straight tracking.

The first decision to make is whether or not to make use of the existing skeg box.  This one decision can change the job from daunting to doable. I elected to work with the existing skeg box.

So lets get started:

Remove the old components:

Remove the existing skeg system components. Cut the old rope guide tube as close to the fitting in the skeg box as possible from inside the after hatch.  I utilized the original tubing as it is high quality and there is no reason to replace it.  The old skeg control unit is cemented in place and you have to be careful and take your time so that you don’t damage the surrounding gel coat. I was able to gently pry this controller out.  Once out, you will need to remove the old cement.

Cleaned out and ready for the new control unit
Cleaned out and ready for the new control unit

Install the skeg control unit:

The next step is to install the new skeg control unit.  I bought this one and a skeg with pre-installed wire from Kajaksport in Finland.   I just called them up and spoke to a fellow named Marko. I found the folks there to be quite helpful. (The part numbers are listed below)  A rat tail rasp is handy to adjust the hole that the after end of the skeg control fits through.  The control unit needs to be able to lie flat against the hull within the cavity.  The needed adjustment(s) becomes clear once you start fitting it into the kayak.

New controller fitted
New controller fitted

Filling the void:

Once fitted properly into the cavity the extra void space needs to be filled in a way that the new controller doesn’t appear to be something cobbed on as an afterthought. I used epoxy pigment with added Microballoons and West System epoxy. The area is completely masked off and everything lightly sanded before taking this step.   To add the pigmented epoxy mix, the boat must be propped up on its starboard side and leveled fore and aft so that the mixture will settle out nice and level in the control cavity.

Mask the area off well and fill in the void space.

Mask the area off well and fill in the void space.

New skeg controller box in place
New skeg controller box in place

Fitting the new skeg to the old box:

The next step is to prepare the old skeg box and the new skeg so they work together properly.  The skeg box in the Cetus is shorter and more shallow than the replacement skeg so the new skeg will need to be trimmed.  Once the new skeg is trimmed to length, a 1/4″ hole needs to be drilled through the top of the skeg box so the wire can pass through it to the inside of the boat.  (A long drill bit is handy here) Position the hole so it corresponds with the location of the fitted wire in the skeg.

Now the skeg needs to be trimmed for depth so that in the stowed or retracted position, it is flush with the bottom of the hull.  Pass the wire through the hole you drilled in the skeg box and be sure the skeg is settled into the box as far as it will go.  If the hole and the wire line up correctly and the trimmed skeg fits such that it lowers into the slot with no binding at all due to length, the skeg should come to rest against the bottom of the skeg box.  Mark the protruding portion of the skeg with a pencil using the hull as a guide.  Remove the skeg and wire and measure how much skeg extends beyond your pencil mark.  This is about how much you will need to remove from the TOP of the skeg.  You will only be trimming material from that portion of the skeg that is aft of where the wire is fitted to the skeg.  Do this a little at a time until you get it to fit just so.   The plastic used in the skeg is easily cut with a band saw and finished with a low angle block plane or sandpaper.

Red shaded area indicates where I trimmed the new skeg.

Red shaded area roughly indicates where I trimmed the new skeg.

Fitting the skeg pin:

Once the skeg fits into the skeg box a “hinge” pin needs to be installed into the forward end of the skeg box for the skeg to pivot on.  Use a 1-1/2″ x 5/16″ stainless bolt/lock nut.  The location of the hole is determined by the skeg as it rests in the box in the retracted position.  Drilling the holes in the sides of the box can be a bit of a challenge.  I used a long drill bit and drilled from the outside.  You could also use small tools like a Dremel and possibly manage it from within.  I drilled low and filed my way to the correct position.  Patience is handy here.  Once the pin is positioned correctly, it needs to be glassed into place.  Use thin stainless washers on either side.  The lock nut should NOT be tightened past the point where it just meets the wall of the skeg box.  Now the pin needs to be secured in the correct position while it is glassed in place.  I made the rig below with a piece of left over electrical wire, some string and a piece of bungee cord.  Notice I also placed a couple of nylon washers on the pin inside the skeg box to help keep the skeg centered.

The pin is set in position and ready to be glassed into place.  Notice the filler in the bottom of the skeg box.  This is neccessary to prevent the skeg from risin up and coming off the pin unless it has been pulled free of the skeg box to remove it.
The pin is set in position and ready to be glassed into place. Notice the filler in the bottom of the skeg box.   This is necessary to prevent the skeg from rising up and coming off the pin unless it has been pulled free of the skeg box to remove it. I used some minicell foam with a single layer of glass to cover.

Making the fairlead:

At this point, it is time to make the wire fairlead that will later be attached to the skeg box.  I used some 1″ kevlar tape to do this but only because that was what I had handy.  Any similar weight cloth will do but a finished tape is easier to work with and neater.  Using a piece of tubing that I also ordered from Kajaksport, I slipped a piece of copper wire into it and then formed the curve that I wanted.  What I don’t want is the wire entering the skeg box at a 90 degree angle. This predisposes the wire to kinking.  The goal is to have a skeg system that is reliable and forgiving.  Done correctly, this system will allow the fully deployed skeg to be abruptly jammed back into the skeg box without kinking the cable.  Crafting this part of the system properly is an important part of that ability.

Use copper wire to create and maintain the fairlead shape.
Use copper wire to create and maintain the fairlead shape.

Note: If you have not replaced the wire guide tubing you will need to attach the length of tubing that the fairlead is made from to the original tubing.  I did this with short pieces of electrical tape running along the length of the tubing.  To get the total length, pass the end of the fairlead tubing through the hole in the skeg box and position it from inside the after hatch.  Once it looks right, mark the overlapped section of the old tube with a sharpie.  Cut both butt ends square and clean before joining.

Using a darning needle and any handy thread, sew the cloth sleeve around the fairlead tubing being sure to cover the joint in the tubing if you have one. Then apply resin to the cloth and allow to set up while keeping the copper wire in place to maintain the fairlead shape.

The finished fairlead. The old tubing is mated to the fairlead inside the fiberglass sheath.
The finished fairlead. The old tubing is mated to the fairlead inside the fiberglass sheath.

Attaching the fairlead to the skeg box:

The next step is to install the fairlead into the skeg box.  Trim the bare tubing that extends beyond the fairlead so that only about 1/4″ of tubing is exposed.  Prepare the skeg box from inside the after hatch by sanding the area all around the hole.  Place the fairlead in position and using a couple of 3/4″ x 5″ strips of glass cloth, glass the fairlead in place and allow to set up being sure that it is stable in its proper position.   Once the initial glassing has set up completely, sand the area again and glass it in securely.

Fairlead glassed in place.
Fairlead glassed in place.  The old tube fitting remains but is plugged.  At the base of the skeg box you can see where the pin has been glassed in place.

Installing the new skeg:

The last piece is actually installing the skeg.  The wire is too long and will need to be trimmed to length.  This is done after the wire has been passed and the slider control has been placed on the wire.  First place the skeg in the retracted position and mark the wire with a Sharpie about 3/8″ back from the forward end of the control box.  Place the skeg control slider on the cable before you cut it to length.

To position the slider control knob correctly, put the skeg in the perfect deployed position. (The skeg is fully deployed but the top of the skeg is still within the skeg box)  The control slider wants to be hitting the after end of the control box when the skeg is in this position.  Tighten the set screw carefully securing the slider to the wire.  Place the retaining caps on either end of the control slider mechanism and go paddle.

New skeg control installed and ready to go.
New skeg control installed and ready to go.

New skeg deployed.  The skeg can be aggressively pushed back into the skeg box without kinking the cable.
New skeg deployed. The skeg can be aggressively pushed back into the skeg box without kinking the wire.

If you have questions about this project you can email them to me:  jdkilroy@this website.

Inaugural Post

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A few months have gone by since starting this blog and enough folks have mentioned the fact that visiting the website has been less than entertaining that I have decided to do a synopsis of sorts.  We’ve been in the heart of winter here in New England and although there have been a few days on the water, temps in the 20’s F and persistent winds have turned my passion into something that is just not fun at all.  Hands are the hardest thing to keep comfortable and that is a major paddling quality-of-life issue.

Peter and I were to head out for a long paddle yesterday but for some reason, my brain refused to drop into paddling mode and after unloading my boat at the launch site in Portsmouth, NH, I realized that I had no paddles…   Returning home to retrieve same, I proceeded to miss two exits.  I returned to the launch site a couple hours later with the paddles and prepared to get underway.  All dressed ready to go, time to put on the neoprene gloves that have been working so well in this winter.  I have two gloves but they are both for the left hand…   hmmm, perhaps I shouldn’t paddle today.   I used the pogies that I keep in my  spare kit bag.

We headed out of through New Harbour on a fine day and made our way north along the coast.  We turned around a couple hours later just shy of Nubble Light.  The seas were flat, a one foot SSE’ly swell and essentially light airs. We turned around and rode the tide back and eddy-hopped against max eb to the launch site via Portsmouth Harbour and the Piscatiqua River.  Boring as conditions were, it was good to be back on the ocean.

Peter next to the Tiderace as she awaits her baptism in salt water.

Peter next to the Tiderace as she awaits her baptism in salt water.

Getting to know the new Tiderace Explore S.  I bought it from Randy Henriksen.  Initial impressions: easy to roll, pretty fast, handles nicely.  Can’t wait to get it into the big stuff.  The intended role for this boat is as a fast cruiser on extended trips.  Looking to make good time on a long paddle this summer; really good time…

Scotland Trip


Getting to the launch can present a challenge at times

Last Fall I was fortunate to get over to Scotland for a couple weeks.  Spent the entire time on the Isle of Skye. The first several days were spent with Gordon Brown.  I did a 5* training and then tea-bagged for the subsequent 5* assessment. The weather was lively the entire time with steady SW’ly winds in the F 5 ~ 6+ range and a Equinoctial Spring tide to make Kylerhea a bit more interesting.  Gordon was kind enough to send me on my way with a boat to paddle for the remainder of my time there.

Looking out to sea from Loch Beag near Coillore

Looking out to sea from Loch Beag near Coillore

Kayaking Upon the Sea

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This blog is our way of documenting and sharing our love of kayaking upon the sea.  Here we will write about our experiences,  our journeys, our successes , our failures and what we learned along the way.

Feel free to send an e-mail with ideas, suggestions or comments.

The Blog is not open to others to post on at this time but I expect it will be once we figure out how we want it to work.

Click on the “photo gallery” link to the left for collections of photos not included in the blog itself.

JonD & LauraK