November 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Older Articles

A Skin-on-Frame Version of a Composite Kayak

My Favorite Coaster Photo

My Favorite Coaster Photo from www.capefalconkayak.com

After a few years of kayaking every paddler can recognize a skin-on-frame (SOF) kayak: they’re long, skinny, with a round bottom and a small cockpit (ocean cockpit). They’re all chocolate brown in color, and they’re all tippy. Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayaks (www.capefalconkayak.com) hasn’t broken that mold (he does make traditional greenland kayaks) but he has extended it. I just completed Brian’s 7-day workshop in SOF kayak building and not one of the finished kayaks fit the traditional mold. In fact, every single one can trace a heritage back to Cam and Matt Broze of Mariner Kayaks.

There is a reason for this. Brian has long been a fan of Mariner kayaks and their Coaster in particular. Several years ago Brian received permission from the Broze brothers to recreate the Mariner Coaster in a skin-on-frame design. His SC-1 comes remarkably close to the easily identifiable outlines of the Coaster in looks and very close in performance and, since you can no longer buy a brand new Mariner Coaster (or any Mariner boat) he set about teaching his techniques to paddlers who wanted the performance of a Coaster but couldn’t find one on craigslist.

Brian told me that he wanted a bit more so he took the SC-1 and fine-tuned its design and, at the same time, figured out a way to scale the boat up or down to fit individual paddlers better while retaining the same performance characteristics. His web site shows some remarkable photos of Brian in his F-1 (the fine-tuned version of the SC-1) surfing some huge Pacific Ocean waves near his home base only a few miles east of Manzanita, Oregon.

This is where I come in. A tragic fire last winter left my Mariner Coaster (and 2 other Mariner kayaks plus a Nimbus Solander belonging to my wife, Sue) in a sad state. Virtually nothing was salvageable except, perhaps, the sliding seats. I found a Mariner II (17′ 11″ of very fast sea kayak) on craigslist in Seattle and bought it just to keep a kayak on hand but I felt an emptiness in my heart for that Coaster. It’s at once a performance kayak capable of gigantic ocean waves or cavorting in rock gardens and also stable and maneuverable enough for a chile or a beginner to get into and feel at home. In fact my favorite 8-year-old girl had come to think of the Coaster as *her* boat and had spontaneously learned to edge it for better maneuverability last summer.  Try putting a 7-year-old girl in your Nordkapp and see how long it takes her to capsize it.

I liked Brian’s approach to kayaking and I loved the idea of building my own SOF kayak with Coaster-ish capabilities. One of the few things about my Coaster I didn’t like was that it was just a tiny bit too small for me. I had a difficult time bending my 6’1″, 225lb frame into it. Once I was inside it was find, but getting otu again was another ordeal. One time, on the dumpy beach at Bowman Bay (just west of Deception Pass) I

Gunwales with ribs inserted ready to steam-bend.

Gunwales with ribs inserted ready to steam-bend.

made a perfect landing in the surf and then couldn’t get out! I just could not raise myself from the cockpit on that steep beach. Finally another paddler took pity on me and lent me a hand. How embarrassing. So when Brian told me that he could size an F-1 (the new model) to fit me without sacrificing the performance characteristics I had become addicted to. Sign me up!

So on May 3rd of 2009 an eclectic group of 5 prospective SOF kayak builders gathered at Brian’s workshop (an old milking barn). Peter (an E/R Doctor), Steve (an Optomatrist), Marvin (a software engineer), Pam (my paddling partner and a veterinarian), and me. That made three doctors and two comptuer guys. Brian wasted no time getting us started and before that first day was over we had a recognizable kayak outline in gunwales. We continued working for the next 7 days progressing through steaming ribs, tying and pegging wooden parts together, steaming ribs and inserting them into the proper places, sewing nylon covers onto the boats and kayak hatches to the covers, applying 2-part polyurethane sealer in a marathon process and then, finally installing deck lines, back bands and putting them into the water and paddling them.

Ribs and keel in place

Ribs and keel in place

One of the students in our class had never kayaked before and another had only minimal experience. Of the group, Pam and I were the most experienced. Pam swooped and soared in her yellow bird (I wanted her to name it “Sweet Pee” but she wouldn’t hear of it) when we launched on May 9th and impressed us all with her performance. I opted to launch with my Greenland Paddle (GP) even though I had never even tried one before and had two perfectly adequate paddles in the car. Brian pointed out that I was sitting too high with my foam seat and he threw in a simple pad that made all the difference in the world.

How is the performance of the F-1? With only a few flat-water paddles behind me I can’t give a definitive answer to that. But my impression right now is that it is the equal of my Coaster in performance and is at least ten pounds lighter. I can simply lift it up and put it onto the rack of our Kia Sorento SUV; no sliding up, no grunting, just lift that 27-pounds up and set it into the rack. The boat edges very well and feels rock-solid. Putting the boat on an edge will initiate a turn in the opposite direction (edge onto the starboard side and begin a turn to port and vice-versa). I can enter and exit the boat easily and can even bring a knee up to boost myself out (something I could never do with my Coaster).

Stern of the F-1

Stern of the F-1

Pam trying out the fit - ready for cover

Pam trying out the fit - ready for cover

Brian Schulz is a comp;ex guy and I can’t pretend to understand him after only a week. But his approach to kayaking is simple and pragmatic: know what you want out of a boat and figure out a way to get that. His admiration for the designs of the Broze Brothers mirrors mine. Brian is willing to move beyond the traditional SOF boat designs even though he retains a love and passion for the old ways. But we heard none of the

Cutting the cover to fit

Cutting the cover to fit

traditional SOF terms when we were building our boats. No

Adding the Cockpit

Adding the Cockpit

Pam's Yellow Kayak

Pam's Yellow Kayak

mention of a “masik”. We worked on “cockpit back”, “cockpit front”, and other straightforward names. Neither Pam nor I wanted a traditional SOF kayak. We both admire the Mariner design philosophy and felt that Brian could produce a boat that would meet our requirements.

It looks like he’s met them so far. We’ll find out if the 8-year-old likes it next week.

My Finished Product

My Finished Product

Comments are closed.