serene – 1, part 20

he more I paddle, the more I’m familiar with my new kayak, and the more I feel pleased with her. Maybe on my next boat, I should have the following motto boldly engraved on: built like a gun, run like a bullet!! 🙂 Been quite occupied with my works recently, so for now, I won’t put an emphasis on carrying out the next phases of the project yet, just casual paddling here and there a couples of weeks, to get to know more about the boat, and to enjoy the rainy season at its climax.

One minor problem with kayak at this beam, I realized, is that just a small shift in weight could make a directional deviation, it is not a problem with the boat’s structure itself, but with the motion of your body in action. Especially on long paddling, my lower body part becomes stressful and tired long before the upper part, so the need for frequent changes in sitting positions, and hence the effects on directional stability. I guess my lower body part needs some further exercising too.

I like making some short sprints with the boat, it takes up momentum easily, just after a few strokes, and makes it very straight on effort, or to see her gently riding down the waves, just like an Andalusian in dressage equestrianship! 🙂 Well, when I really have some free time, I think I should build a standard K1 hull, to experience that extreme Olympic racing form, and to better understand the correlations between lines, speed and stabilities, and also for some practicing on flat water.

Serene – 1 albums
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

In my opinion, a problem with most commercially – available kayaks is that, the cockpits are usually placed too far aft. It’s easy to understand the reason, cause weights of paddlers are variable, they are not fixed. It’s better for the producers to make some ‘reservations’…

to place the cockpit a bit further aft, so that the boat could be trimmed rearward for heavier paddlers. And trimming rearward is wiser for most kayaks, which usually have a Swede form. For a self – designed boat like Serene – 1, it can be tailored to suit your very own measures 🙂 .

serene – 1, part 19, trial

ade several more ‘sorties’ with Serene – 1 the last week, and her name is Serene, isn’t it!? 🙂 I’m now quite comfortable with her motion, especially her primary stability. The secondary stability comes to assure the initial lesser – secured feeling, though the marginal limit of which is still the subject of more testing. Windage is barely noticeable in most cases. It takes some practices for cockpit entry and exit, the small size would only have benefits once going to the rougher sea.

Speed measured in several hours of paddling averages out in the [7 ~ 7.5] kmph range, that’s good! But please note that the conditions are mostly flat water with some winds, and it’s not a measure for whole – day paddling in true sea environment yet. In fact, I would be very happy to have my whole day sustained speed around 6 kmph, cause it’s very hard to keep up the same constant horse – power output at the end of 12 hours or more paddling session. Still lots of spaces for improving.

I’m not done with my testings yet. It takes time to adapt my paddling habits to the new boat, and to find out the best way to propel her. For example, the very narrow beam, in addition to the low seat, require much a shorter paddle. My standard 2.22 m paddle suddenly becomes too long, it sweeps far apart from the kayak body, and hence has some negative impacts on directional stability. I’m planning to build some Greenland – style paddles in the upcoming phases of the project.

Serene – 1 albums
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

As noticed in previous post, the kayak becomes more stable when has some water in her hold, as she becomes heavier toward the designed displacement at 95 kg. It doesn’t mean however, that water should be used as ballast for such small watercrafts (bottled water is fine I think).

I would spend the next month trialling the boat in various other conditions, e.g: carrying different amounts of load, heavy load in rough water… to find out if she is really suitable for the course of “about – a – week – long” trips. Day after day, step by step nearer to being far away! 🙂

serene – 1, part 18, launch

he final boat weighs at 21 kg (7th image), a bit heavier than my expectation (I was adding more materials in the later phases of building when thought that it’s already light enough, and the two plastic Beckson hatches add an additional 1 kg 🙁 ). But anyhow, that’s fine still, I can comfortably transport it on my shoulders for considerable distance at that mass. Looking top down, the boat is slim and slender exactly like a bamboo leaf! Last image: me porting the kayak to water… 🙂

I took the boat to my routine 20 km paddling route today, having just one word to say: EXCELLENT!!! 🙂 It rains heavily 2/3 of the route, quite strong wind at times, but small waves, relatively calm water. The first thing to recognize is the (predicted) low initial stability, took some times to get familiar with that. A novice paddler could be probably frightened in my boat though. The kayak does not track as straight as Hello World – 3, and I need to deploy the skeg 1/4 down for most of the time.

Velocity sees a very good improve, I finished the route in 2 hour 50 minutes, compared to the 3 hour 30 minutes best time of Hello World – 3 on that same route, with quite a weak tide today. However, this is only initial measures, I need to thoroughly trial the kayak in many other routes and conditions to have some precise comments, e.g: with this narrow beam of 45 cm, I would certainly need a shorter paddle. Would post some paddling pictures and videos once I’m done with the testings.

Serene – 1 albums
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

With this narrow boat, the steadiness of your own body in motion is important. Hence, it does require some practices to completely handle the boat. For the moment, it’s too early to say about the kayak stability, especially that I haven’t had the chances to test it in rougher conditions.

However, my observations during the strong wind & some waves, the boat handles nicely. I feel it’s more stable in waves than on flat water 🙂 . When rain’s flooded about 6, 7 cm, it becomes even more stable, cause the kayak is approaching its nominal (designed) capacity.

serene – 1, part 17

ome final jobs required still to complete the boat: slight sanding here and there on the deck, some minimum decorations, all in white vinyl decals, then the final coat of transparent PU paint on deck. For decorations, there’ll be certainly the inevitable part, the Vietnamese boat eyes, the boat name and some texts stating the owner’s contact information. I’ll keep these to the fewest possible, standing from a functional point of view, and avoid any elaborate decorations, at least for now.

3rd, 4th images: the decals in places, the boat’s eyes, name and contact information. This kayak has bigger eyes compared to those of my previous boats, as for it to see and travel wider, further 🙂 ! Btw, Vietnamese is not the only people traditionally to have eyes on boats, but while others infrequently have eyes as decorative items, 99% of Vietnamese boats has eyes as an indispensable part, a kind of ancient belief that boats are living creatures, who have eyes and souls.

It took several more hours to install all the bungee lines, boat pulling knots at two ends (I just used a variation of the hangman knot) and skeg control. 5rd image below: the skeg control line offset – ed to starboard side, right after the cockpit, hold down by a cleat, for easier handling, and also for not interfering with the rear hatch. 6th image: the skeg blade in its maximum extending position. Now just wait for the paint to completely cure, and for the favorable tide to christen and launch the boat! 🙂

Serene – 1 albums
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

The very small fraction of Vietnamese boats which doesn’t have eyes are of foreign immigrants (e.g: Chinese, Khmer…) who had settled in Vietnam long ago. Eyes have different patterns, by looking at their shapes, I can tell from which province of Vietnam does the boat come from.

Serene – 1 building takes less than 2 months to complete, not everything is as perfect as I was expecting, but the boat overall quality is much more satisfying compared to my previous boats. Not going to water yet, but its firm and compact body gives me a very pleasant feeling.

serene – 1, part 16

itting the Beckson hatches, fore and aft, is quite straight – forward and just takes about half an hour or so. The hatches are glued with silicone sealant, then screwed to the deck. I also applied a silicone – based mold – release spraying agent as lubricant, which secures a very fine and watertight fit. With these Becksons, I won’t have to worry about water leaking anymore, and even that the gears carried inside (e.g: electronics) don’t need to be packed in waterproof bags.

4th, 5th images below: the cockpit and some other parts on the deck painted. I decided to increase the amount of color pigment to turn the dark brown color into almost black to match that of the Beckson hatches. 6th image: I repaint the deck vs hull jointing line as the previous is quite ragged cause I used the wrong type of duct tape (which lets the paint leak underneath). In this Serene – 1, I don’t “cut corner” anymore, when something’s not right, I redo it until it’s good enough!

7th, 8th images: the hull painted, the dark brown color has become almost black now. I use a foam roller to quickly make the first layer of paint, then use a brush to apply the second (and last). It’s smooth enough, don’t have to sand & repaint another time as in my last boat. At this point, the boat is technically ready for water already, but yet some more painting and fitting jobs needed on the deck. Tell myself to be patient, I can’t even just wait for the paint to dry out in this moment! 🙂

Serene – 1 albums
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

Well, some plastic parts on a wooden boat doesn’t look very attractive to some eyes, and initially, I’d preferred wooden hatches too, but such thing leaks no matter how good you make it. In my last trip to Đồng Hoà, I had to stop twice to drain water out when it has filled more than 1/3 of my boat.

So safety is the primary concern over aesthetics. One who’s paddled in rough conditions would understand the very fearsome instability of a boat half – filled with water, not only it’s more heavy to paddle, the whole thing becomes a very thrilling acrobatic game indeed.


ne autre vieille chanson Française de temps en temps, j’aime particulièrement des percusions, et aussi de guitar, dans un tempo très modéré… La mer comme une preface, avant le desert, que la mer est basse, holidays! Tant de ciel et tant de nuages, tu ne sais pas a ton age, toi que la vie lasse, que la mort est basse, holidays!

serene – 1, part 15

pply a very thin epoxy fill – coat to completely cover the fiberglass fabric weaves, then peel off the duct tapes (together with the excess glass) with a sharp knife. The hull is then exposed to sunlight for the epoxy to completely cure, before given a very light sanding in prepare for painting. I paused for a few moments to watch her lines, well, with the singular exception of the “man – of – war”, all boats is always referred to as “she / her”, there must have been a reason for that, right!? 🙂

Next come the job of installing some miscellaneous deck hardwares, the deck plate to seal off the skeg box, two small wood blocks acting like tiny cleats to hold the skeg control line… Some more unnamed works needed before the deck could be painted. You can also notice from the images that the deck has received another layer of thinned epoxy (mixed with color pigment). I was thinking over about the color scheme, but found out that it’s best to just have wooden colors on a boat.

7th, 8th images: using duct tapes to mask the areas out for painting. The cockpit would be painted first in dark brown color, like the hull, as well as some other parts on deck. After some simplest decorations go in, the deck and hull would be coated with transparent PU, just one layer on top and two at the bottom. After that is the final fitting (hatches, lashing lines, skeg control) and the boat would be ready for water, seems like I can’t wait anymore for it, to try out the boat this weekend! 🙂

Serene – 1 albums
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

A bit off topic about the connotation of concepts… (in addition to polyurethane vs PU in the previous post) in Vietnamese the terms: áo ấm (warm jacket) and áo lạnh (cold jacket) vaguely refer to one same thing. In English, a wet suit and a dry suit are two different things! 😀

Reflected by the language, the Vietnamese are usually narrow – minded, they don’t take concepts into the very detailed, they don’t see things from different angles. They only see what’s immediately closed to them. As such, they’re easily tricked into seeing only what they / others want to see!

serene – 1, part 14

ome tweaks here and there to smoothen the jointing edges between the hull and deck, putty – seal the bulkheads to the deck, then some slight overall fairing and sanding before putting on the final layer of fiberglass to the bottom part. The glass will marginally wrap over the deck (about 1 inch of overlapping) to strengthen and completely seal the joint. Deck would have no fiberglass on the external side, and would only be clear – coated with thinned epoxy and polyurethane (PU) paint.

4th image below: the deck thoroughly sanded with 100 grit paper, it looks quite fine now! In my previous boats, I was usually over sanding, with multiple grit – levels applied, and lots of efforts too. But now, I’d realized that I actually don’t need a furniture – grade finish (and I couldn’t do it as nice as a professional woodworker nevertheless). After all, a boat is a functional (not a show – case) object with lots of hard and harsh uses. A too perfect finish wouldn’t be of any practical good!

5th image: the deck has been stained with thinned epoxy mixed with color pigment (yellowish wooden color). The white duct tapes mark the area of wrapping when glassing the bottom. 6th, 7th images: glassing the hull exterior and wrap the fiberglass an inch over the deck. I used exactly 300 gram of epoxy mixed with dark brown wooden color pigment. A lesson learnt from the previous boat: use lighter colors for the wood to appear natural, too strong, deep colors look very… ‘artificial’.

Serene – 1 albums
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

About polyurethane (PU) paint: it’s a broad category of paint with different sub – types and applications, but in Vietnam, the term is narrowly and misleadingly meant to be one used for (semi – clear color) wood – surface finish only, as people is only familiar with that widespread use.

So if you want to see other types of the paint, say: Polyurethane, don’t say PU 😀 ! As the vendors will assume you know nothing about it, and by telling the chemical formula, you would be given more choices, don’t say PU, or you would be wrongly given the interior / inferior furniture finish!

serene – 1, part 13

arved and installed two wood blocks at the two ends to drill holes for the pulling knots (to further save weight, I won’t pour epoxy into the two tips, just the wood blocks with some sealing putty), sanding the cockpit coaming, glassing the lashing lines’ anchor points built into the hull, some more miscellaneous jobs before I can dry – fitting the hull and deck together. In the next couple of days, we’ll see the boat in its final shape! First two images below: inside and outside of the anchor points.

Cut a slot in the aft deck for the skeg box to get through, then the hull and deck are ready to be jointed together, with just some epoxy (not putty) applied to the edges. The two ends, bow and stern, fit well, I just need duct tapes to press them together. The mid section requires some fastening as the plywood bent and and does not offer a perfect match. Nevertheless, the overall process is smoother compared to my previous boats, and I’m so happy to see the kayak taking on the designed shape!

I spent times going around and around the boat, watching the fruit of my efforts 🙂 ! The hull shape looks very fine to me, the deck shape is quite crude indeed (not as cursive and fine as that of Hello World – 3, since the deck was drawn to be easy to build). But in essence, the lines, size, weight… all gives me a very comfortable and manageable feeling! Just a few more weeks from now and the kayak would be ready for her new life on water, can’t wait any more for that! 🙂

Serene – 1 albums
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

With a flat deck, the kayak wouldn’t be particularly easy to roll, as once ‘turtled’, the deck becomes the bottom, and flat bottom is quite stable and difficult to turn over. So rolling is not a strong point of this design apparently, nor I did had rolling intention in mind!

Admittedly, I haven’t learned and practiced the Eskimo rolling techniques, and I couldn’t do it whatsoever, since my previous boats are too big and too heavy for me to roll. The techniques are in my (long – term) TODO list anyhow, at some points, I will try to master them!

serene – 1, part 12

onitnue working on the deck part and the cockpit. But first… some pictures to show off the boat shapes, still quite a long way to the final forms, but look fascinating enough to me already, to quote a popular architectural saying: form, IT IS function 🙂 ! 3rd image below: the cockpit coaming being reinforced with some putty in the corner, then a layer of fiberglass tape the under side. 5th image: cockpit being jointed to the deck. There’re some miscellaneous jobs to be done on the hull still.

15 anchor points to be built into the hull. First, I glued small wood blocks alongside the gunwales, then drilled two holes (1 inch apart) into each block. Plastic lines 5 mm in diameter (the one usually used in fishery net) are run through, then putty is filled in, this way, just a small amount of putty is used. When the epoxy has cured, pull the lines out, you would have some “tunnels” to run the lashing through. Finally, small pieces of glass would cover and strengthen the wood blocks.

The cockpit coaming is glued, then glassed with the deck, two layers of fiberglass (one under and one upper), it’s very strong now, can withstand the weight of my whole body (while climbing onto it). For such a narrow kayak and small cockpit (45 cm in width, less internally), I don’t install any foot brace or thigh brace, and even back rest, the cockpit almost fits my lower body. I have no idea for a seat for now, maybe that I would just sit on the bare bottom, or with a thin layer of mattress.

Serene – 1 albums
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

[13 ~ 18] kg is the usual weight range of wooden kayaks, with the lighter being used for tourings, and the heavier as “expedition boats”. Plastic or FRP (fiberglass – reinforced plastic) boats are much heavier, often in the [25 ~ 30] kg range. In order to go below 12 kg…

…you would need a SOF (Skin on Frame) design, or make use of the expensive carbon, kevlar fibers (usually found in racing boats). So wood is a very ideal choice for kayaks (as well as any small watercraft), and I would be very happy to have mine aimed at the 17 ~ 18 kg target.