serene – 1, part 29

ext is the paddle float used to assist kayak reentry. Often we’ve seen experienced kayakers performing some kinds of rolling, but for most people, that could only be done with an empty boat. When it’s fully loaded for long journey, it’s almost impossible to roll that heavy hull. The most practical way is, of course, just climb in via the aft deck. My paddle float is just a supermarket plastic bag, I hate needle and thread things, but some little tailoring work would be needed to turn a bag into the float.

It’s just a quick job stuffing the bag with Polyurethane foam. The float is made such that it could be quickly attached (and detached) to one end of the paddle to assist boarding the kayak from water. One of the most important equipments for a cruising kayak is… a radar reflector. Here I should emphasize its importance a hundreds times, as with experiences gained in my previous paddling trips, your kayak is just so small compared to those huge freighters, looks like just a peanut shell in the sea.

And without a radar reflector, I’m sure that you would probably not be seen from above those high ship bridges. And as a big ship is approaching you, the situation is really critical: to be seen or to be sunk. Having a reflector would boost your boat’s radar signature, and it works best in combination with a marine handheld radio. My radar reflector would have a tubular form, erected on the aft deck, and it functions also as a signal light mast, with a red – blinking light attached to the top.

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

The elements of the radar reflector are made from thin steel plates, welded together to create some prism shapes. 8 pieces like that would be put inside a PVC tube (the signal light mast), which create an object with a radar – cross – section of about 1.4 m2 (estimated).

The ugly part about a home – made radar reflector is that you have no way to tell if this equipment works well, how big your boat would appear on those big freighters’ radar screens. But it’s better to have something, hoping that it should work, rather than having nothing at all.

serene – 1, part 28

am in the progress of preparing for my next trips… so some more add – ons for my Serene – 1 kayak is a must. First is a deck mount compass. I’ve been long wanting a good compass with built – in LED lighting, for paddling at night, but that would require some kind of 12 or 24 Volt DC electric input, which my kayak doesn’t have at the moment. So I came up with a simpler compass available within my local market, and would just use a small flashlight to illuminate the compass instead.

Next is building a “cup” to hold the compass, which would then be mounted, recessively, onto the front deck of my kayak. I use a thin strip of oak veneer to build the cup, turn it two rounds around the compass (with Titebond – 2 glue in between), then add the plywood top and bottom parts. The whole thing would be reinforced with some fillet at the jointing edges, then a layer of glass. It requires some handiness to build the “compass cup”, as its size is quite small and my hands are big and clumsy! 😀

I hate having to punch a hole into my kayak, but it need to be done to fit the compass holder in place. That’s quite straightforward the job, cutting a round hole some distance in front of the cockpit, just before the bungee lines, gluing the compass holder with some epoxy, then some little painting outside. Et voila, here it is, the compass in its working position, it looks so great! And as they usually say: May your anchor be tight, your cork be loose, your rum be spiced, and your compass be true! 😀

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

It’s not immediately obvious for me to see why this compass dial (the compass rose) is reversed, looking from above, it’s flipped so that the North becomes South, East becomes West. It took me some minutes to understand the rationale behind that “weird” fact 😀.

Cause in most cases, the boat handler would be sitting, looking forward, so the indicated direction facing him is actually the heading (bearing) of the boat’ stern (not the boat’s bow). Flipping the compass rose would give a correct and convenient reading for the sailor.

bắc hành – 2016, phần 47

Neo buông sâu như những sợi tơ lòng,
Thuyền lớn nhỏ đều chứa đầy hy vọng.
Thuyền ra đi, bến đã động lòng thương,
Ai phăng neo vội vã để đoạn trường?

uốt dọc miền Trung, làng mộc Kim Bồng (xã Cẩm Kim, thành phố Hội An) ngày xưa từng là một trung tâm đóng ghe tàu danh tiếng. Hội An thì đã quá quen thuộc rồi, ghé qua lần này chỉ để biết rõ hơn về làng Kim Bồng, bây giờ đa số đã chuyển sang làm mộc gia dụng, gỗ trang trí, đi khắp cả làng đếm không đến chục chiếc thuyền lớn nhỏ đang đóng mới.

Đây rồi những hình thuyền trong giấc mơ tuổi nhỏ của tôi! Nhưng không chính xác là những thân thuyền truyền thống, thon dài để lợi sức gió, sức chèo như trước, bây giờ chỉ toàn xài máy. Cũng những hình thể đó, nhưng ngắn lại và mập ra để tăng tải trọng. Việc đóng hoàn toàn dựa trên kinh nghiệm, không bản vẽ, không công thức, không khuôn mẫu nào cả!

Theo như chính người làng nói, thì giới thợ trẻ bây giờ chỉ làm mộc gia dụng, dể có việc, dể kiếm tiền. Đóng thuyền chỉ còn sót lại ít người tuổi trung niên trở lên, khó có đơn hàng, dù đơn hàng cũng thường lớn tiền hơn. Nhưng quan trọng là đóng thuyền cực khổ, đòi hỏi thể lực, kinh nghiệm, còn giới trẻ chỉ muốn công việc nhàn hạ, kiếm tiền nhanh chóng.

Lang thang khắp một vùng cửa Đại, hạ lưu sông Thu Bồn, đây đó vẫn còn có thể tìm thấy những mẫu hình thuyền theo đúng truyền thống, những hoài niệm xưa cũ… mấy ai là người hiểu và cảm được!? Quê choa một dải, từ cửa Hàn cho đến cửa Đại, từ núi Sơn Trà cho đến cù lao Chàm, đây đó vẫn luôn còn nhiều điều thú vị cho những ai để tâm tìm hiểu!

bắc hành – 2016, phần 46

ừ đây trở đi là những vùng đất đã quá quen thuộc, nhưng vẫn luôn có gì đó mới mẻ nếu chịu khó để tâm tìm tòi, quan sát. Dừng chân ghé thăm một xưởng đóng tàu ở gần cửa Thuận An, một con tàu đánh cá lớn đang được đóng, ván gỗ kiền kiền 5.5 phân. Sau một vài câu nói chuyện với ông chủ xưởng: rứa chú là người gốc Vinh Mỹ à!?, đúng là tài thiệt!

Thiếu tiểu ly gia lão đại hồi, hương âm vô cải mấn mao thôi!, đã bao nhiêu chục năm mà người ta vẫn nhận ra giọng nói. Câu chuyện tiếp diễn một hồi nữa, ông chủ xưởng hỏi: rứa trong làng chú họ chi!?, đáp: dạ, họ Trần, ổng phán: cái dòng nớ hắn thông minh ghê lắm!. Biết là những câu xã giao nhưng vẫn không khỏi mỉm cười trong bụng 😀.

Mà xã giao ở cái miền quê ni hắn dông dài, vòng vo, đưa đón kinh khủng lắm, nói tiếp vài câu rồi kiếm cớ từ biệt lên đường. Nhìn sơ qua về cách đóng những con tàu đánh cá theo cách cổ truyền, chủ yếu vẫn phải dựa nhiều vào sức bền vật liệu (kiền kiền là một loại gỗ nặng, chịu nước rất tốt), chứ chưa đạt được đến mức xây dựng nên độ bền cấu trúc!

Quê choa một dải, từ cửa Thuận An đến cửa Tư Hiền, phá Tam Giang, đầm Thuỷ Tú, đầm Lập An, đầm Cầu Hai, từ núi Bạch Mã đến vịnh Chân Mây, cảnh quan đến thật là quyến rũ lòng người. Lặng đứng bên bờ cửa Tư Hiền, những chiếc thuyền nan bé tí một người chèo, và cái động tác mạnh mẽ, tự tin, an nhiên của họ giữa muôn trùng sóng to gió lớn cửa sông!

Chặng 46: Huế ⇒ cửa Thuận An ⇒ QL 49B ⇒ cửa Tư Hiền ⇒ đèo Hải Vân ⇒ Đà Nẵng ⇒ Hội An

Bắc hành, 2016, phần 1
Mai Châu, Mộc Châu, 2016
Điện Biên, 2016
Lai Châu, 2016
Hà Giang, 2016
Cao Bằng, 2016
Lạng Sơn, 2016
Bắc Ninh, 2016
Ninh Bình, 2016
Bắc hành, 2016, phần 2

serene – 1, part 27

inal entry of the Serene – 1 series. There wouldn’t be any major updates, add – ons for the kayak since most everything is completed, and I need to shift my times and efforts into some higher – priority tasks. In a sense, an important milestone has been reached, the designing, building and equipping of my newest beloved kayak. A fascinating process at the beginning of which, I didn’t even think I could make it, and I didn’t know where it would lead to, a nice useful watercraft, or… a disaster!

Serene – 1 is the best kayak of mine until now, outperforms all others in term of performance, lightweight and agile, pretty much fast, with some sacrifice in primary stability. Yet, it is not without some weak points that could be further improved, and that would be the concerns of my next boat project (still have no plan for that at the moment). I’d tried to get out with the best design, the best building as I could, learning lots of new things about a hull’s hydrostatics and hydrodynamics along the way.

But let me make a clear point about this, even the best cruising hull, the best equipments won’t improve your mileage by 15 ~ 20 percent, for a whole – day paddling. After all, it’s you, your horse – power output, your determination and physical endurance, which are the factors that could make a key difference. To be honest, sometimes, I have a strange self – satirising feeling that I’m quite like Popeye, the Sailor man cartoon character, especially before embarking on some longer journey! 😀

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

Where to go from here, now!? I have so many ideas on boat and boat – building, so much that I fear that I wouldn’t have enough time to carry them out all. But sometimes, I should be pleased with what I’m having, me, a nice little boat, and the immense water space to indulge myself in!

Time on water is the time well spent 😀, constant hard struggles, always keep a cautious eye on wave, wind and weather, be prepared for bad things, and reserve the other eye to enjoy the many different shades, different faces of the water. That’s truly serene for my mind then!

serene – 1, part 26

ontrary to my initial thinkings, the second Greenland paddle has proved to be the most satisfactory among mines. Despite its short length (190 cm), I’ve found it the best balance between length, blades’ width, weight and force. And that’s explainable, cause I have small arms and quite a short arm span, in body building, could be called a “bottom – heavy” type, my upper part is not too strongly built, unlike the lower part. And that has some advantages as well as some disadvantages in kayak paddling.

I could often balance the boat better in shaking situations, compared to the “top – heavy” type, but also, I usually find myself understrength when prolonged heavy paddling is required. Overall, I’m very pleased with my new pair of Greenland paddles, especially the second one. And that’s an attractive appearance, my boat with the two paddles, all of one same nice wooden style! 😀 On my paddling route, I usually meet and have some talks with the captain of a 2000 – ton dry – cargo vessel named UT Glory.

He proposed buying my kayak, and before I could make a polite refusal, he insisted: you know, price is not the problem! 😀. Well, at least someone who really want to have a nice little boat like her that much! It takes some moments choosing the right words to answer him, that I won’t gonna sell her, Serene – 1, my self – designed, self – built boat! And for sure, he wouldn’t be able to find anyone who could produce just a simple, hand – crafted kayak in Vietnam though, as far as I know.

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

Apart from some plastic, fiberglass kayaks used for “tourist attraction”, kayaking as a real hobby in Vietnam is virtually non – existent. That explains why the kayak – building, kayak market in VN is virtually zero, though designing, building one is not any big thing, I would say. Why so!?

Frankly speaking, I think VNese is busy drinking and talking bullshit! Seriously speaking, I think VNese has salt in their mouths, but no salt in their blood! Truly speaking, I won’t hope they would do anything besides trying to cheat someone for some dirty purposes! That’s all facts!

serene – 1, part 25

aving gained some know – hows from my first Greenland paddle, I proceed to making the second one. This is not a “storm paddle” as mentioned in the previous post, but rather just an auxiliary, backup one. It would be shorter (190 cm), and wider (10.5 cm), as my first one, though suitable for long range paddling, lacks the force needed to compete against really strong current and wind. I think it’s wiser to have a pair of paddles to compensate each other (and stop using the plastic one completely).

But first, I need to reshape my first paddle a bit, to make it even lighter, and turn the cross – sections from “rounded – rectangles” into real flat – ovals. The blades are still quite thick, especially at the edges, and they’re making quite some noises when entering the water. A good paddle should make as little sound as possible, so that the water birds wouldn’t fly away until you’d approached them within 4, 5 meters or so 😀. Well, those lovely water birds, an interesting story I would tell in another post.

5th image below: using a spokeshave to carve the edges (the rougher job is done with the machine planer already). I’d turned to love this tool, it removes wood easily and nicely. As I’m gaining more experiences with wood working, I feel more confident and rely more on the manual tools, as they allow me to do the finer jobs. 6th image: the pair of paddles, they’re just a little bit heavier than the plastic paddle, but feel like firm enough for hard uses though! Now ready for the glassing and painting tasks!

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

For true wild birds, it’s hard to approach them within 10 meters without signaling them on your presence. But for those “half – civilized” birds around my area 😀, they only fly away when I’m just 3, 4 meters apart. That implies some things on the city’s noise – pollution, I would suggest.

8th image: the blades’ tips get one layer of 6 – oz glassing on each side (which cover about 20 cm of blade length). Some light painting still needed to really finish them though, to protect the epoxy resin from UV! I’m eager to try out the two paddles in action in the next couples of day!

serene – 1, part 24

irst two images below: the paddle takes its final shape, it is quite light indeed. Next I would glass the two blades’ tips to strengthen them a bit to avoid cracks in collisions, then some little thinned epoxy, then paint the whole thing with the same kind of PU used for the boat. Less is more is the “principle of operation” of a Greenland paddle (compared to a wing paddle), but it would take times to really accomplish that. A completely different toy, and quite a separate way of using!

The next couple of weeks, I would just re – train myself with the new paddle. It’s quite a different style, the thinner blades allow movements very closed to the boat’s body, they enters water in almost a vertical manner. It takes time to suppress old habits, find out the most efficient way and make the most out of this newest toy! I would use this and the old paddle in parallel, at least in a ‘transitional time’, a second “storm paddle” is in plan, but only after I’m well – versed with this new one!

Initial testings prove the efficiency of the Greenland paddle, at normal cruising paddling pace, there’s no noticeable difference in speed, while it’s more lightweight and ‘handy’ to operate. And my boat proceeds with much more balance and hence, tracks better with this new ‘propeller’. I would trim the blades shorter (and also make it thinner at places), 210 cm is still quite long, I guess the final length would be somewhere between 200 ~ 205 cm, but only trials would tell the final, ideal fit.

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

I still need to test the new paddle more, to know if it could totally replace the wing paddle. In specific, I’m still worrying about its capability to provide enough force against strong head wind or other adversary conditions. Its efficiency under normal cruising situations is out of question.

My new paddle is light and firm, much more dependable compared to my previous one. And it is made of wood, looks better, not that ugly plastic outlook anymore. This one, when pulled hard through water, produces a mild vibrating sound, like a musical instrument, really interesting to hear! 😀

serene – 1, part 23

he spray skirt works very well as anticipated: tight fit with the boat and my body, easy to snap onto the cockpit coaming, flexible enough for some torso rotation and other paddling movements. The velcro stickers seal the water well, and two pockets could hold the camera, and some other miscellaneous things. At least, it’s much better than my previously – bought skirt, which is of quite an amateurish design. Next is the important job of building a wooden Greenland paddle.

The rationale of a Greenland paddle, as I understand, is that: the smaller blades put less strain onto your arms (while propelling the boat at a slightly slower speed compared to the larger wing paddle), and at the end of a long paddling day, you would end up covering almost the same distance, with less fatigue sustained, and this is specially true for lighter boats like Serene – 1. At least that’s my theory, and let see how this would turn out in practice. Well, to really know, you need to build one and test.

I start by jointing thin (1.5 cm) strips of wood to form the paddle, which would have the length of 210 cm, 75 cm for each blade and 60 cm for the loom. I choose to joint wood instead of starting from a single big piece, (it depends on the specific situation), but sometimes, glued wood is stronger, consider the strength of epoxy. The blade would be 8.5 cm wide, and the loom would be slightly oval in cross section: 3.3 x 2.8 cm. Next comes the job of meticulously carving down to the final desired shape.

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

The Bosch machine planer is very useful, most jobs could be done handily with it, I only need to use the hand planer on the edges. Much wood is removed, the paddle is quite light now. For a paddle, weight and balance is important, I check the object balance from time to time while working.

The plastic – blades, aluminum shaft paddle I’ve been using for a long time is kind of… a toy paddle 😀, it’s very fragile, I’ve always been worrying about breaking it in some power actions. But it is super super light. Need to finish and see how this Greenland paddle would prove himself in practice!

serene – 1, part 22

ne of the things I’ve been concerning about since start designing the kayak is the spray skirt. The skirt follows a cockpit that has an unconventional size and shape, and after quite some searching on the internet, I couldn’t find a vendor who could supply an already – made spray skirt that fits my size. I could, of course, have one built on custom order, that is I would need to give them the exact drawing of the cockpit, that would involve many steps back and forth, and an expensive process too.

I decided to make one my own, everything needed is already available in my workshop: some nylon fabric (the one used for thick raincoat), bungee cords, needle and thread… My sewing skill has always been terribly miserable, but the first step is done, with acceptable quality. Not a “spray skirt” yet, rather a “spray deck” covering the cockpit. Next would be sewing in the tube that goes around your waist which could be fastened with velcro tapes. Jack – of – all – trades is the sailor, isn’t he!? 😀

7th, 8th images: the tube stitched, an elliptical tunnel that goes around my waist, 36 x 28 cm in dimensions. By now, the spray skirt is almost completed, it fits the boat and my body very well, just gonna add 2 pockets on the two sides. If look into details, one would see the very rough, clumsy seam lines, cause I’m not really familiar with those needle and thread jobs (I broke 3 needles while sewing!). Anyhow, I’d got it done, and it should fullfill the important functionalities of a spray skirt! 😀

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

One of the advantages of D.I.Y is that things could be made to suit your very own needs, e.g: my spray skirt would have a belt fastened with velcro tapes, matching my waist closely, and two small pockets on the sides to hold miscellaneous things very much needed once under way.

Made of nylon fabric, the skirt is not as good as professional neoprene – built one, however, that would be suffice to do the job of keeping the water out, in rain or in heavy sea, but surely wouldn’t be suitable for rolling actions. Btw, I can’t find retail – selling neoprene here in Saigon anyhow.