hello world – 2

aunched and trialled the kayak this April fool day! Can’t say how much I’m pleased with it, great speed, just like a dart slicing through water! 🙂 It could take some time to learn how to handle this new kayak, the experiences are different between my two boats, but I got the right feeling on how to control it very soon.

The boat gave me a good firm sense that it can be used for longer range. The 2.2 m paddle is too long for this 0.62m – beam kayak, I would need to make a new 1.9 ~ 2.0 m one, but that would be later. I need to try it out thoroughly before deciding what to do to turn it into… an “expeditionary” boat for my up – coming journeys!

Made some longer paddling and realized the boat’s tendency not to track very straight under turbulent flow or wind (in calm conditions, it tracks well), this is tiresome for long voyage. This could be fixed when the kayak is fully loaded, with weight shifts toward the aft, but I decided anyhow to add a retractable skeg to the boat in the coming weeks!

hello world – 2, part 2

rom the outlook, she gonna be a nice boat with simple and sporty curves! I proceed slowly and carefully, as I intend to use this boat for white – water (near coastal) areas, where it gonna be rougher and wavier, compared to the almost – calm rivers around Saigon. It need to be ‘engineered’ with a focus on durable & strength! 🙂

6.     Canopy

It is extremely hard to bend the 5mm plywood into the curvy shape of the canopy (I used 5mm for convenience cause I’d bought 8 sheets of them, I should have used 3mm instead). The ply cracks a bit at the bow section, forcing me to apply a layer of fiberglass to repair and reinforce. Also, I would need to change the painting plan to better conceal the faults! 🙁

7.     Coaming & hatch

Finished the canopy part, now the jobs of fixing the plywood cracks, fitting the cockpit coaming, the hatch and its locks, sealing the compartments to be water – tight, installing the seat… lots of miscellaneous jobs. Still some way to go, but I’m already very excited to see the desired watercraft taking shape!

8.     Glassing

I was considering over and over again about whether to glass the hull or not, cause glassing will add more weight into the boat, which is quite heavy already (estimated final weight at about 25 kg). Eventually decided to glass still (stiffness is important out there in rougher water), plus an additional layer of glass at the bow & aft sections.

9.     Painting

I chose quite an unusual color scheme which diverges from my favorite colors of blue & white, I just feel that this boat needs something bold and strong, so I go with black & white, plus the wooden color of the canopy. The result is quite satisfying, at least to my eyes, now I know why this model’s code name is: Dart! 🙂

10.     Finishing

It takes some more time to finish this boat: the seat mattress, deck lashing lines, hatch’s lock, and some decorations: boat name and contact information, and boat’s eyes of course. Some more accessories need to be built for this boat, but that would be after then, can’t wait until launching and trialling this beautiful kayak!

hello world – 2, part 1

ix months have passed since I’d started Hello World – 1, my first build, a general purpose canoe. Now it’s time to let this planned Hello World – 2 to say Hello to the world 🙂 . She gonna be a kayak (of Selway Fisher’s Dart 14′ design), which I hope to have better performance and somewhat better ‘open – water’ capabilities.

1.     DRAW & CUT

Having gained much experiences from the building of Hello World – 1, I’m expecting Hello World – 2 to be finished in 2, 3 weeks or so. Apart from the canopy, the underpart of this kayak requires only 4 bilges (compare to 7 of the previous build), which would ease and speed up the progress. I did all drawing, cutting & joining in a single day.

2.     TRIM & JOIN

After cutting, pairs of bilges are clamped together (port & starboard) and trimmed to the same shape. Then simple butt joints with additional ribbons of plywood would do the job of joining to the full length of 14 feet (~ 4.2 m). All these joints would be hidden inside the hull under the canopy anyhow, so I don’t really care if they look good or not.

3.     STITCH

Stitching does not take much time indeed, there’re only 4 bilges to put together. The hull is simpler, the plywood is easier to bend too. I guess more hard work would come with the canopy part, but for now, I’m really pleased to see the hull quickly take initial shape. Check geometries, fasten the wires, then come to the next step!

4.     GLUE

More and more hands – on with epoxy and fillet. I think the suitable mixing ratio is somewhere between 1:3 and 1:5. That is (applied for), in Saigon, there’s no West System’s epoxy or such things, what I can find is kind of ‘raw chemicals’. Also, humidity greatly affects epoxy curing, avoid working when it rains. Absolutely keep acetone from the messing in!

5.     Bulkheads, deck’s beams, stringers & gunwales

At this point, I decided to change the original design. The fore and aft sections are water – tight compartments serving as flotations, next to the aft section is the added storage compartment with hatch, to store gears for, e.g: a weekend trip, and cockpit in the middle. There’re so many small details to be cared of at this step…

essai sur la construction navale des peuples extra – européens

ome time ago, I posted several entries about The Junk Blue Book. What’s a small world of the internet that lately, I had my honor to be contacted by Capt. Robert Whitehurst, the collector, editor who made the original, rare book written by Capt. Marion C. Dalby available for us as a free ebook today. Mr. Whitehurst is kind enough to correct a mistake in my postings, and sent me various documents that he’ve spent times and efforts to collect and digitalize them. I would say a thousand thanks to him, an old captain who spent his younger years on the Mekong delta’s rivers, who loves Vietnamese boats, who has closed – relations with Vietnam in many ways.

Among the documents Capt. Whitehurst sent me was this invaluable copy of Essai sur la construction navale des peuples extra – Européens, (literally translated into English as: Essay on naval construction of peoples outside of Europe), a tremendously amazing work by French’s admiral François – Edmond Pâris, published in Paris in 1841. The work consists of two volumes, 160 pages in textual volume I, and 132 illustrations in graphical volume II, introducing boats and boat constructions from various parts of the world. I’ve just started my reading, but can’t suppress my eagerness to made some excerpts here to show the extremely beautiful illustrations below.

The first 2 images: a rowing boat and a sail, fishing boat of Touranne, Cochinchine, which is today Đà Nẵng, Việt Nam.

follow me

irst of the three images, could it be called a “Follow me” style!? 🙂 So busy lately, but keep paddling an average of 20km every two days, don’t actually have time to raise the target at 25, 30 km yet. February is short, can’t wait until all the rowing stuffs get done!

It’s now “kite – flying season” for the kids, plenty of wind these days on the rivers. And it’s also the “practising – season” for me, lots of windage for my small boat. It can even get quite rough at times, and you’d need to be tough, harder and harder paddling, day by day!

Imagine the 4, 5 feet (or more) waves out there in Vũng Tàu, much more troublesome and fascinating, compared to the 1, 2 feet waves here on the rivers, which couldn’t really give me a sense of motion. For various reasons, boating works have been delayed and delayed again, sigh… 🙁

a watery saigon – 1

ade my first “departure” on this first day of the new year 2014, year of the horse; a 20 km paddling roundtrip. I want to see more of that same city, from a different point of view, not that usual view of most of the 20 – years – long living here. There is another completely different Saigon, a Saigon seen from water, as on flat land, for the most part, it’s a messy city. It took me a long time to get accustomed to its main roads, especially in the southern parts, as they usually turn around and around, forming untidy, complex, bizarre networks. But if you see them from the waterways perspective, the topologies immediately become clear and easy. That reminds me the essential geo – ecological things about this southern young, energetic city…

hello world – 1, rowing kit

oating progress has been stagnated lately… But really I’m interested in experimenting with rowing, another way of propelling the boat besides paddling. Rowing can help building other groups of your muscles, it could produce more torque to push the canoe forward under unfavourable wind and current conditions, it should increase sustainable speed significantly, furthermore, it’s good for long – range tandem trips: with two hands aboard, ones can take turn to row and to rest. First, I make a pair of 8 feet oars: 5 planks of wood is glued and screwed together to form the oar’s handle and blade. Next is scraping and planing them into their final shapes using my new, very useful tool: a power planer. Then the 4 feet 8 inches outrigger and flotations.

For the oars, I use a lighter wood, Vietnamese name: thao lao (Lagerstroemia calyculata Kurz); the white, fine grain wood traditionally used for building paddle, oar and rudder. Having density at about 0.9 (900 kg/m3), the wood is not as heavy and hard as căm xe (Xylia xylocarpa), but resists better to water. The oars handles’ ends would be attached with short aluminium tubes, which serve two purposes: 1. lengthen the oars to the full length of 2.4m (8 feet) and 2. the hollow tubes will be casted with about 1.5kg of lead each, to better balance the oars once they’re put onto the oarlocks, and hence reduce rowing effort. I’d also decided to use ready – made plastic fishing buoys for flotations, to make the outrigger construction simpler and easier.

Today, I took Hello World – 1 to dry dock for inspection, maintenance and more fitting. After almost 2 months on open water and under direct sunlight, mistakes in the building phase have been shown: 2, 3 small cracks on the outer fiberglass and epoxy layer at bottom aft, water has leaked into the aft watertight compartment (about a gallon), and the paint has been scratched at places… 🙁 Also, I should have taken more care on the canoe’s storage and usage. Now I need to make some repairs: find the seal the leaks, repaint some small areas, lower the seats to improve stability, before being able to fit the rowing kit and other miscellaneous accessories: cleat and anchor, the light pole… It could take the next 2, 3 days to finish all these things!

Today, we tested the preliminary rowing kit, the result is very unsatisfactory 🙁 , but somewhat encouraging still. I’ll need to rethink about the designs, various flaws are spotted and to be rectified: the oars are too long and heavy, the oar locks are placed too low that they limit the rowing movements, flotations are not done yet… The only promising thing is that speed would surely get a huge improve, we was expecting to be able to sustain somewhere around 4, 5 knots (7 ~ 9 km/h), a great advantage (compared to paddling) for long – range cruising. But that would be the jobs of the coming (Lunar) new year, for now, all boating works will be temporarily suspended, as I’ve already got in my TODO list many other stuffs which have higher priority.

hello world – 1, accessories

ello World – 1 has been finished, and trials showed it’s an excellent boat for solo paddling, but there’s still much work to be done to make full use of the canoe. Various miscellaneous things: a raincoat to protect the hull from weather at docking, a pole to push the canoe forward in shallow water, also to mount a signal light for occasional night going, an apparent wind indicator (wind vane) to better observe wind condition, a hand pump to drain water out when it rains, an anchor to allow going fishing anywhere on the rivers around my area without having to find a tree or a buoy to attach the canoe to… Most important of all, I want to make a rowing kit: an outrigger with two flotation units to help stabilising the boat, and two long oars.

It could take a couple of weeks to finish everything, since I’ve just started the design, with some undecided considerations still. Slowly I would got each items done, first is the spade – shape anchor, I casted 1.5 kg of lead into the hollow space underneath, to concentrate weight into the tip (the anchor is a bit oversize and overweight for such a small canoe, some wrong calculation, but I would use it anyhow). 2 meters of steel chain, plus about 30 meters of rope will be enough for an anchorage almost anywhere. There’s still lots of works to be done, with possible more and more delay (the holidays, Christmas and New Year are coming). Meanwhile paddling is still my main pastime in a fresh morning, or in a calm sunset, any day in the week 🙂 .

For the past few days, I really enjoy night paddling: familiar enough with the region to navigate in the dark, northern wind has cool down the nocturnal temperature considerably, and houses, buildings along the rivers’ banks have been decorated with all kind of colourful LED and neon lights for Christmas and New Year holidays, creating picturesque and splendid sceneries. I was paddling among a dark, silent, wide space, only the marvellous lighting and the stars above the sky. Unfortunately, my GoPro camera is not very good at shooting in low – light environment, I would try to post some pictures instead, just to show how beautiful our city is this season, especially in this specific place on Crescent lake near Starlight bridge (hồ Bán Nguyệt & cầu Ánh Sao).

The more paddling I was practising, the more do I realise how much boating (and paddling, rowing, sailing, etc…) resembles life, it’s a microcosm, a metaphor for our lives, for the struggles and enjoyments we make. Any destination is just a temporary target, as life is a long journey on which we struggle to make the next leap, reaching the next milestone, while trying to enjoy the scenes on the way. And that’s why we should take our thinking, our words, our intentions, our jobs… seriously, just to make the journey a more lovely, pleasant promenade… Well, that’s enough of philosophy, 🙂 I need to stop dreaming here and return to the actual works, refine my calculations, sharpen my skills… lots of things to be done in the up – coming year, year of the horse.

hello world – 1

was choosing a good day, and also waiting for the tide (it’s just after full moon and the water is low still), time seemed to be so long. Finally, christened, trialled the boat, and started its maiden voyage, all in this same day! 🙂 First impressions: the boat is very agile, good speed, better than the plastic boats I used. It’s a real pleasure once you ride into, and the boat gets momentum after just a few paddling strokes, the feeling was light and firm. It tracks very straight, perhaps even too straight. On the minus sides: the canoe’s fat hull makes the turning angle a bit wide (it’s a bit difficult to turn quickly), and it’s somewhat shaky at times, probably because the seats are too high, maybe I should cut the seats’ legs down a bit to lower the center of gravity (or maybe not).

Some photos for now, would post in – action videos once I finish trialling the boat more thoroughly on longer distances… The last several days, I’ve finished two additional testings: one 10km run and another 15km run. Overall, I’m very pleased with the canoe’s performance. The sustained speed is improved by a small margin, from 5 km/h to nearly 6 km/h, but the paddling effort seems to be much less, I don’t feel that tired like with those plastic boats. The windage is good, given that the boat tends to keep straight very well, once it gets momentum, it doesn’t drift much under unfavourable wind. The rolling motion can be unpleasant for novice paddlers, but I’m ok with that still, actually I prefer to have some little shaking, after all, it’s not solid flat land, it’s bobbing water!

Some very beautiful scenes captured when trialling my new canoe. It rains sometimes, but the sky was clear was bright. Waterways in this region have lots of traffic, high buildings along the riverside, many activities afloat, most people I met was opened and friendly. And everyone was asking from where I bought such a nice and handy boat! 🙂 And many ones who patiently spends hours along the banks for casual fishing look at me with envious eyes 🙂 ! It is pure pleasure to enjoy the river in many of its status: tranquil, wavy, windy, sunny, rainy… all within one same day, and it is even more pleasant to enjoy all those things in a built – by – your – own – hands boat! Well… every journey begins with a single step… consider this first step successfully done! 🙂

Today, I tested the canoe in tandem configuration, and I must admit, it’s a failure! The only point that I’m pleased with is that the boat is still very light and agile with two paddling hands, it’s very quick to get momentum, velocity is very good, and there’s less effort needed to propel the boat to optimal cruising speed. Things to be improved in tandem configuration: 1. distance between two seats is too tight, the paddles can collide if two hands are not paddling in sync; 2. the canoe rolls a lot, to the point of instability, the only cause is that seats are mounted too high. It’s a dilemma, I don’t really want to lower the seats, they make comfortable positions and reduce paddling effort. I’m considering possible fixes to this problem and would update the canoe in the upcoming weeks.

hello world – 1, part 4

he canoe construction has reached about 3/4 of the overall progress, but there’s still much work ahead. Lots of small errors and mistakes made here and there, lots of lessons learned, but I’m happy to see the general status of the canoe standing well. Since I’ve put more materials (epoxy, fiberglass, hard wood…) into the boat, its final weight might far exceed the projected 20 kg, but that’s not very important anyhow. If it’s too heavy to be easily carried on one’s back, I’ll make a simple carriage to help moving the thing (with my bicycle) around then! Although designed to be mostly a solo canoe, for now I see it can easily accommodate two persons and some little gears, making it a nice weekend fishing canoe very soon in the next 10 days or so! 🙂 .

10.     SEATS

One of the most important things when go paddling for extended time is… the seat. If you spend several hours mostly with your upper body in action while the lower part doesn’t move much, you’ll understand why a comfortable seat is very much needed. I’m gonna install two seats, to prepare the boat in tandem configuration. Usually, seats are just mounted (hang) against a single bilge, but I think that installation is too weak. Instead, I will make 4 legs to support a seat, each leg also serves to link 3 bilges together, hence strengthen the boat overall rigidity. It could take some times to cut and install the 8 legs into the correct shapes and positions, but if done properly, the boat structural strength would be much improved, that’s worth the efforts.

11.     PAINT

Next comes the job of painting… Unlike the old – day, one – part paint, which is simple to use, today two – part PU (polyurethanes) offers superior properties, but is more complex to work with. First I would need to sand the hull at 120 grit in preparation, then apply two layers of primer, sanding after each layer (150 & 180 grit), then apply two other layers of main coats, then briefly sanding again at 240 grit, finally a topcoat of gloss. In total: 5 layers of paint and 4 times of sanding are required for the interior and exterior, a huge pile of work. I allocate 5 days (could be more) just for this painting job 🙁 ! Actually, I don’t expect a really fine, shiny finish, and the topcoat would only be semi – gloss (or even satin – gloss), it just need to be smooth, that’s already good enough for me.

12.     FINISH

There’re still many small jobs that need to be done to finish the canoe: polish and varnish the naked wooden parts, cut and stick the decal decorations (boat name, owner’s contact information and especially the boat eyes, a must – have, intrinsic part of Vietnamese boats); apply the topcoat (a semi – gloss on top of the decals to protect them from the weather), adjust and fit the two seats, fit two handles at two ends to help lifting the boat… and some other miscellaneous items (styrofoam fenders…) I intend to build also a simple trailer (some wooden planks with two small wheels) to reduce the burden of moving a 35 kg mass on longer distances. Thinking like if I can wait one and a half month to get the boat done, I can wait a few more days to go paddling in it! 🙂