hello world – 3, part 1c

Chiếc cò bay với ráng sa,
Sông thu cùng với trời xa một màu.

aving put no pressure on a launch day, I spend my free time thinking over about the implementation details, trying to apply lessons learnt from my previous boats. From what I’ve learnt from the internet, boat building forums, books… to the reality is a quite different thing. Here in Vietnam, the materials, tools are not the same, no West System epoxy, no marine grade plywood, no good carbon fiber, even the vendors don’t know what is S – class fiberglass.

“The epoxy can be mixed at any ratio”, said the seller, no reliable way to mix paints to the correct desired colors, etc… even the “words”, the “terminologies” used to communicate between the seller and buyer is kind of mess, no standard, no common understanding. Well, a bit off topic here but, Vietnam has always been a very bizarrely unorthodox country, anyone has the same thinking as me!? At least I’ve been feeling so ever since I was 17, 18 years old or even younger.

Hence, my boat building progress has been a tedious learning curve, as I have no trustable standards here, and many trials and fails have to be done. Anyhow, after 2 builds, I’m quite confident now, to start the third boat that I think will meet my quality standards. Begin to measure, draw, and cut of the plywood today, then joining the parts together, then stitch them up. Stitch and Glue is no longer a challenger for my skills now, maybe with the next boat, I’ll try another different building method.

But that’s another thing, just concentrate on the building of Hello World – 3 for now, simple things that need to be properly executed! In total, 22 pieces cut, and 15 joints need to be made just for the hull and deck. The overall structure of this kayak is like nutshell, you will be building 2 halves, then stitch them together. Cutting only takes me half a day, but joining will take considerably much more time. I used 4 mm plywood for both the hull and deck, as I had difficulty purchasing the 3 mm ones.

hello world – 3, part 1b

Đò ơi, đêm nay dòng sông Thương dâng cao,
mà ai hát dưới trăng ngà. Ngồi đây ta gõ
ván thuyền, ta ca trái đất còn riêng ta!

Trương Chi – Văn Cao

am making a slow start, working mainly on the implementation plan. It’s better to think out all building details beforehand carefully and thoroughly. Unlike a software project though, which is more flexible, in a hardware project, you would have little chance to correct something that went wrong, or correcting it would cost much time, effort, materials… There’re many things to be considered, and require experiences to get done right! One important concern is weight.

HW – 1 weighs at 35 kg, HW – 2 is roughly 30 kg. With my previous two boats, and with my inexperiences, I did put lots more materials into the building, hoping for strength, but they turned out to be really heavy indeed. If HW – 3 could be built at 20 kg, it’s a great success! Imagine that your boat is 10 kg lighter, and that 10 kg saved could be used for additional food, drink on longer trips! And of course, the weight saving should come without any compromisation on quality and durability!

HW – 3 is a really complicated boat, the hull will be stitched together with 4 plywood bilges , while the deck has 5 main bilges. And since the 5.5 m hull length exceeds twice the standard plywood sheet length (2.44 m), there will be 2 joints in each of the hull’s bilges, which I’ve decided to be dovetail joints to further reduce weight and increase strength. In all, every parts of this boat will be more complicated (compared to my previous boats), and hence requires ‘astute’ planning and execution.

Below, I’m building the two halves (hull and deck) of the framing box that would help forming the kayak from plywood planks into the precise desired shape! With the new air compressor and nail gun and glue, all these frames are just quick and easy task which takes just several hours to complete. I’ve switched to using the excellent TiteBond 2 wood glue instead of other normal Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA), which has much better water resistance capability.

hello world – 3, part 1a

Thung thăng thuyền quế chèo lan,
Theo vừng trăng tỏ vượt làn nước trong.
Nhớ ai canh cánh bên lòng?
Nhớ người quân tử ngóng trông bên trời!

ll preparations is almost finished, to “lay the keel” and start the building of Hello World – 3, my next boat, a Nick Schade designed, 18 feet (5.55 m) S&G Night Heron sea kayak. Many would ask why building another boat, while I’ve already had the Hello World – 1 & 2. Actually, HW – 1 is just a simple, slow canoe for poking around, HW – 2 is a recreational kayak suitable only for short trips, as proved in my last paddling to Vũng Tàu in June this year.

First, consider some facts, many of Vietnam islands are around 100 km off from shore. Phú Quý island is about 85 km from Mũi Né, Phan Thiết; Phú Quốc island is 110 km from Rạch Giá, Hà Tiên; Thổ Chu island is another 100 km from the southern most point of Phú Quốc; Côn Đảo island is about 95 km from Hậu Giang estuary, Sóc Trăng; Bạch Long Vỹ island is also 100 km from Cát Bà, Hải Phòng… Some are nearer such as: Cồn Cỏ, Chàm, Lý Sơn islands… all around 30 km.

Second, consider some other facts. If your sustained paddling speed is around 5 ~ 6 kmph, it’s not really possible to reach those islands, at least with a coastal – cruising small kayak which is, by design, not suited for multi – days sea crossing without resting, 14 ~ 16 hours of continuous paddling is almost the upper limit for an average man like me, after which you would need a good sleep to recover. Obviously a boat capable of sustaining 8 ~ 9 kmph and beyond is very much needed.

Third, is the target of 100 ~ 110 km in 24 hours really feasible!? The answer is: ça dépend! It depends on too many things: the weather, the wind, waves, the current, the temperature, all of the unknown factors. And for the known factors: your boat, your equipments, your physical preparation, your planning and strategy… all need to be the – very – best – of – class to push the limits and reach the target. That’s why I would invest lots of time and efforts into the building of this HW – 3 kayak.

lés travailleurs de la mer

Nơi nghĩa trang chật hẹp, tiếng vọng âm vang,
Chẳng một nhánh liễu xanh mùa thu trút lá,
Không một khúc hát ngây thơ buồn bã,
Góc cầu xưa người hành khất thường ca.

ritten with a Pencil stylus on an iPad using our own home – brew inking technology. Excerpt from the famous novel Lés travailleurs de la mer (Toilers of the Sea), Victor Hugo, and my literal, clumsy English translation: Navigation, it is education, sea is the brave school… The voyageur Ulysse had done lots more deeds then the Achille combatant. The sea quenches man, if soldiers are made of iron, then the mariners must have been made of steel. Look at them, in the ports, those tranquil martyrs, the silent winners, man figures with a religious look in their eyes as they’ve come out of the abyss…


Cẩm sắt vô đoan ngũ thập huyền,
Nhất huyền nhất trụ tứ hoa niên…

artly presented very long before, some compositions that’s highly inspirational to me, the Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass album: Passages. I particularly like the Meetings along the edge and Ragas in minor scale pieces. It’s a real pleasure to enjoy the profound sounds of the Indian sitar, sarod, tabla… in conjunction with the Western instruments violin, viola, cello… For so long, my mind has been too dull and monotonous… for such a delicate and elegant music.

  Channels and Winds

  Ragas in minor scale
  Meetings along the edge


Móc ngang sông phau phau làn trắng,
Nước in trời loang loáng vẻ xanh.
Buông theo chiếc lá lênh đênh,
Đè muôn đợt sóng mông mênh cõi ngoài.

ome more updates for the A – Watery – Saigon photo album, some miscellaneous thoughts. I’m no real photographer to say anything insight about photography, most of the time, I have the camera in automatic mode and make quite random shots just to show I’ve been there, done that… For the last few years, I’ve been watching many young Vietnamese ‘professional photographers’ who made great efforts in capturing landscape pictures, e.g: waiting for multiple days on a mountain top to catch the right moment, etc…

And they showed me their photos, ‘really beautiful’ I must say (compared to my well – under – average images, and I do wish my pictures could be like that, technically): perfect color and arrangement, unique point of view, etc… But let me get this straight, and don’t get me wrong on the topic: they lack a spirit, a sense of movement, a sense of selfness, they are just plain boring! In order to become great photographer, you should stop taking photos and do something else, see the world through your eyes first, before seeing it through those expensively distortional lenses!


Xác vờ gởi mặc kiền khôn,
Tẻo teo hạt thóc trong cồn bể xanh.
Thoáng một chốc kiếp sinh là mấy?
Khen con sông nước chảy khôn cùng!

on’t expect myself to become a marquetry craftsman & artist, but decided to try anyhow. The first reason: to decorate my upcoming boat with some mother – of – pearl inlays, the second reason: to train myself the patience and detail – oriented characters which I apparently quite lack of, the third reason: just for the beauty of the extremely fine art of wood marquetry. It’s too early to say at the moment if I can produce good results, but let just try and see!

First, some preparations need to be made, tools and materials. Image 1: metal working files, compasses, and the thickness gauges. Image 2: some woodworking chisels and carving tools. Image 3: the extremely sharp Tamiya knives. Image 4: the jewelry jig saw, with 4 blade sizes, the smallest being as thin as a thread of hair. Image 5: three different types of mother – of – pearl, or the like, with 3 shades of color: white, reddish and jade. Image 6: my marquetry workbench.

my workshop – 1

lmost finished with upgrading my woodworking workshop, just some more painting, fitting and cleaning up jobs needed! This would be a “well – equipped, well – organized” place to carry out my upcoming projects, which is getting more and more sophisticated! Several assets showed below, including my new Makita MLT100 table saw, the Dremel power tools and other wood carving tools, the Maktec MT362 router and its home – brew routing table, the air compressor and nail gun, a dozen types of chemicals for epoxying and painting, etc… basic things for what could be called a boat – building – workshop! 🙂

Drawers for storing various hand held power tools, all these tools need proper care and maintenance.

Makita MLT100 table saw, with this, I can cut wood to the desired sizes, without having to have them cut at the wood mill nearby.

Dremel’s MultiTool and MotoSaw, suitable for small wood working. These are intended for some marquetry works later on.

Maktec MT362 router and its being – built routing table. I used the router itself to install the steel center plate holding the machine underneath.

Various chemicals, the excellent Titebond II wood glue, the 511 epoxy putty, wood carving tools, air compressor, the new Bosch circular saw.

Some more shots around my workshop. Sooner or later, I would need a dust collecting system, or maybe just a vacuum cleaner.


Tôi đang đi, đi trên sông chở đầy nắng hồng.
Đêm nay nghe tiếng sóng biển Đông,
Tôi đang nghe, tôi đang nghe..

ften, I’m not quite pleased with my boat building products, it’s not up to the quality level I’m expecting. And quite regularly, I’m in a dilemma situation that I don’t know what I should improve on: my craftsmanship or my seamanship. (Well, I know, all sound big bold words: craftsmanship & seamanship, but let use them anyhow). The fact is that I’ve just turned to woodworking and boat building for around a year, there’re lots of things still to learn and to improve.

I’ve decided to invest on improving my ‘craftsmanship’. Many hours spent on reading documents and browsing woodworking, boatbuilding forums. Also decided to upgrade my small workshop with more professional tools: a table saw, jig table saw, router and a routing table, air compressor and nail gun, etc… I’m in the preparation process of building Hello World – 3, my next boat, a boat I can trust my life on in the upcoming journeys, and I want to do it as good as I can.

As for Hello World – 3, there’ll be no fixed schedule. All boat designs and boat buildings is kind of compromisation, there’s no such thing as “ultimate perfection”, but I’ll do it until it’s good enough, with no pressure on a launch day, and as my free times permit. There would be lots of new things built into this Hello World – 3: electric pump, battery, electronics, and solar charging system, etc… That’s still a long way to go, concentrate on the basic task of building woodworking tools for now!

It looks like that I’m turning into a cabinet maker for now 🙂 , of the 3 pieces of “cabinet”, one will be the pedestal for my new Makita MT100 table saw, one would be a routing table (to be fitted with the Maktec MT362 router), and the other table will be used for small cutting and carving tasks with the Dremel’s MultiTool and MotoSaw. I’m adding more and more into my tool collection: Bosch (and it’s subsidiaries Dremel & Skil), Makita (and it’s subsidiary Maktec) and Fein.

These ‘furnitures’ are really basic things built with plywood, some wooden frames, and all painted, so I put ‘aesthetics’ aside and focus on usability. One day, I’ll build all my wooden household objects in finer quality myself, but for now, just these simple woodworking facilities, which I need to complete within this month. The plan is to have Hello World – 3 building started somewhere next month, a huge pile of planned works to be done before the rainy season returns the next year…

Additional assets for the workshop, a small coffee table and 4 chairs, for taking a beverage in the hot tropical afternoon. All built from cheap plywood, and painted with wood color, this is also to test my new idea of painting and color pigment mixing, all takes only a day to complete, a quick and dirty job indeed. Building fine and good looking furniture, like building a good boat, takes lots of time and labour, so I’m pleased with these crude but functional things for now.


Làng tôi ở vốn làm nghề chài lưới,
Nước bao vây cách biển nửa ngày sông.
Khi trời trong, gió nhẹ, sớm mai hồng,
Dân trai tráng bơi thuyền đi đánh cá.
Chiếc thuyền nhẹ hăng như con tuấn mã,
Phăng mái chèo mạnh mẽ vượt trường giang…

ver thought that the Golden Age of Great Explorers was long over!? Think twice, it’s not quite so indeed. There’re lots of great adventurers out there still nowadays going on redisconvering old things in new ways, in finding the meanings for their lives. Below are just a few of them… men, women; teenagers, middle ages, old ages; paddlers, rowers, sailors… all in a very long list of figures which I follow closely and passionately along their adventurous paths. Read their stories thoroughly to understand their thoughts and attitudes toward life.

Aleksander Doba

The Polish adventurer turned 67 years old as he paddled his 21′ specially – designed kayak across the Atlantic, making more than 6500 miles in 6 months. Departed from Lisbon, Portugal on October 5th, 2013, when landed in Florida, May 23rd, 2014, the man finished a journey believed to be the longest open – water crossing ever made by a kayak in history. It’s not until 40 years old that Aleksander Doba started with kayaking and paddling, he’s been living by the motto: It’s better to live one day as a lion than a thousand years as a lamb.

Sandy Robson

An Australian kayaking instructor with lots of feats under her belt (including a 6000 km journey along the Australian coastline). In 2011, she started out for a trip from Germany to… Australia in an effort to retrace that of Oskar Speck, the legendary German kayaker who made that 50,000 km voyage in seven years from 1932 to 1939. Sandy Robson has finished the 4224 km 1st phase and the 2260 km 2nd phase, and is currently on the 3rd stage of her great journey, cruising Sri Lanka and the India east coast. For more details, follow her website here.

Roz Savage

An English ocean rower who crossed the Atlantic in 2006 in 103 days, Roz Savage then finished the 4811 km crossing from California to Hawaii in 99 days in 2008, after a previous failed attempt in 2007. Two additional legs from Hawaii to Tarawa, and from Tarawa to Papua New Guinea were made in 2009 and 2010, finishing the conquest of the largest ocean. Roz Savage successfully completed her Indian ocean crossing on 4th October 2011 in 154 days, becoming the first woman to solo row the “Big Three”: Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.

Chris Duff

An American sea kayaker notable for his large scale projects and world – record breaking attempts, having kayaked over 14,000 miles since 1983 in various endurance expeditions: the circumnavigations of Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand and Great Britain. I really like his saying: there are very few times in our busy lives where we have the luxury of true solitude. I love the simple focus of these journeys; the physical challenges of the sea balanced by the inner calm which comes from living purposefully and so simply.

Laura Dekker

The 14 years old girl, the youngest ever to circumnavigate the globe. Born on a boat, fought the Dutch government intervention and attempt to block her from going out to sea, and sailed the two – year – long, 27,000 miles trip around the world, alone! A stunning record that would stand for many years to come. I remember a few years back, watching her news and updates along the voyage in the 11.4 m boat Guppy at lauradekker.com. Let see also Maidentrip, a 82 minute documentary about the journey around the world, and into adulthood!

Matt Rutherford

Matt sailed a 27,077 nautical mile lap around North America and South America continents, in 309 days, on his 27′ boat St. Brendan, an incredible feat includes rounding the treacherous Cape Horn and the icy, dangerous Northwest Passage. North of the equator, in a 50 – knot squall on his April 6th birthday, everything broke, once and for all: the engine was toast, the wind generator was finished, there were no lights or power, nothing. Happy birthday, Matt!. For more information, read his website: solotheamericas.org.

Capucine Trochet

Suffered from a genetic disease (the Ehlers–Danlos syndrome) that kept her in wheelchair for months, Capucine decided to fight and to win, and I had an irresistible urge to go, to get back to sea, to the sea…, J’ai éprouvé un vrai sentiment de plénitude… (I’ve enjoyed a real sense of fullness). Behind the pretty face of great sweetness, this young French woman hides an iron will, with which she sailed across the Atlantic in 2012 and 2013 aboard her Tara Tari, a Bangladesh traditional style fishing boat. Follow her stories at whereistaratari.blogspot.com.