serene – 3, part 31

arious small updates for this Serene – 3 kayak still, I’ve could always found out somethings that could be improved. First, I’ve built a new paddle, a simple one with rattan shaft (sandwiched between 2 thin strips of wood) and slightly larger plywood blades. With lessons learnt from building previous paddles, this one is much stronger, and weights reasonably at exactly 1kg. I’ve also put some 3M reflective tapes on the paddles’ blades, which offer excellent reflection (see 2nd image below).

The electric system is redone, a new solar charge controller, better wirings for easier future changes and upgrades. The controller has 2 USB outputs (5V, 2Amp), which could charge most electronic devices. It also has better protection for the delicate 18650 battery, 6 cells in 2 blocks that totals 20 AmpH of juice! However, I still need to carefully observe the reliability and durability of the whole system, especially in this tropical climate, where temperature is of the upper 30s (Celsius) most of the time.

Once the electric system is tested and proved to be reliable, lots of things could be done based on it! First, I could modify my Garmin device to run directly on the 5V USB output, thus don’t have to use the rechargeable AA batteries anymore, power would be available “all the time”. Second, a LED torch could be also added, which directly use the 12V output from the 3 serially – wired 18650 cells. Lots of things to be experimented until the whole electric – electronics system could be finalized!

serene – 3, part 30

aving accumulated hundreds of kilometers with this Serene – 3, mostly paddling the water around my home area, I feel very pleased with my latest kayak! It behaves better than any of my previous boats: tracking straight, nimble and agile, while maintaining a larger stability margin. However, the last 2 years in my life have seen many big changes, ups and downs, and also, I have moved my workshop to a new place, so I couldn’t have much time for kayaking and building new equipments.

Things gradually get better, my personal life and work settled again, and naturally, I’ve got more time for kayaking. First is finishing this very – long building process (almost 2 years by now). I’ve added some few more assets to Serene – 3. A new cart is built in 3 pieces, that could be assembled / disassembled quickly. I’ve used a same – sized, but lighter pair of wheels. The cart, when disassembled, could be stored inside the rear hatch so that it won’t interfere with boat motions in action.

I’ve also built a new seat from tortured plywood, a much more comfortable one, slightly wider, with a slanted back (easier to get in / out), and a soft, closed – cell – foam back rest. The job looks easy, but really, it requires practical experiences to build a comfortable seat, the one you would probably spend many continuous hours of hard – paddling on. 4th image: the near – completed seat (without the foam block), would post more photos of the finished, painted cart and seat later on soon!

serene – 3 vs. hello world – 3

short paddling around with a friend, with Serene – 3 and Hello World – 3 along side each other. Hello World – 3 is more stable but slower, Serene – 3 is, by design, more nimble. For a very long time, I was just paddling alone and didn’t have a chance to observe my own boats in actions, very good feelings to see them from a 2nd person perspective!

serene – 3, part 29

irst half of 2018 is kind of a huge mess for me, everything unsettled for quite a long period of time, and I could hardly find any times to go paddling at all 😢😢. You could guess what the feelings were like, when the newly – built kayak has to stay dried for an extended period of time, and the paddler dwell into a rather prolonged fatigue mood. However, things got better gradually, most of my works has come back on the right track, and it is just so wonderful to get back onto water again! 😀😀

There are so many things to be tried with the new kayak! But first, just some paddling around to wake up my muscles again after quite a long period of “hibernation”. And there are so many things that happens during my idle times, the 2 large bridges of Bình Khánh and Phước Khánh are being completed, crossing over the 2 waterways (Lòng Tàu and Soài Rạp) through which the Sài Gòn river flows to the sea. But what I worry most is the 3 large dams are being built, isolating a very large area.

All Nhà Bè and 7th districts would be isolated once the 3 dams are completed, no more rising and lowering tides, just but dead – flat water, that would be a very bad news, at least for a kayak – paddler like me, as boats crossing through the dams would only be allowed at certain times throughout a day. Yes, I certainly wouldn’t want to paddle in a large calm pool of static water, that’s no fun at all. But there’s still time (1 ~ 2 years) until all these big building projects got finished and put into uses.

serene – 3, part 28

took the kayak out for several more paddling around my area, 12 ~ 24 km, and also took a few video shots, mostly from second – person positions. I want to observe the whole boat under action, its motions and its wakes, etc… I also want to see how the rudder works, to check if the hull need some trimming, as well as to observe my own paddling movements. Actually, I’m very lazy for video capturing (and editing), they’re time consuming jobs, I’d better concentrate just on paddling.

I made a new seat from plywood, of a very simple design, composed of 3 pieces of ply bended into curved forms around a frame made from MDF. This batch of plywood is really good, no cracks, no breakages even though tortured to extreme shapes. The seat is bolted onto two “hip braces”, connecting the cockpit coaming and the floor, providing a comfortable seat, and together with the rudder pedals, offer a very tight fit for my lower body, required to control the boat in turbulences.

The overall evaluation for Serene – 3 is very satisfying, the boat behaves very well, and very predictable under different conditions. Its stabilities enable me to lean the boat to extreme angles without falling, and I really enjoy its agility, which reacts instantly to my different paddle strokes. The hatches are completely waterproof, the rudder has (more than) enough steering power, and the electric – bilge pump system works just fine. More trialling ahead on this Lunar new year holiday.

serene – 3, part 27

etween the trials, I managed to complete a couple of things. First is to mount the compass, the tried – and – true type of compass used in all boats of the Serene series, this without an internal lighting. Then, I built another paddle, a simple one with rattan shaft, and plywood blades, a little bit bigger, weights at 1.1 kg, slightly heavier than the Greenland companion – my “storm paddle”, 0.9 kg. Still considered an Euro – type paddle, but with a smaller blade to resemble Greenland style.

As I sometimes need larger power faces to propel the boat under unfavorable conditions. The rudder control lines are modified to be more easily adjustable, see the second image below. The pedals are attached to small segment of chains, to adjust the tension, you simple move the shackle to another chains’ eye, this could be quickly done while you’re in the field. I also replaced the bungee cords holding the pedals back by 2 large steel springs, providing better “suspension”.

Just release one pedal and the springs would pull the rudder blade back to its neutral position. I added 4 tiny 3.7V LED bulbs (series wiring) to the electric box, in an attempt to indicate the batteries’ remaining capacity (as there’s no easy way to do so). This is a trick I learnt from experiences, when 1 or 2 of the LED bulbs won’t turn on, or their brightness is drastically reduced, you’d need to plug in the solar panel then! 😀 Not all works has been completed, but it’s time to clean up the workshop a bit!

serene – 3, part 26

aunch the boat today, first day of the year 2018 😀! Took the kayak out to water on a sunny, breezy afternoon for a 12 km paddling, the temperature was around 25 ~ 27 Celsius, considered “cool” with this hot – all – around – the – year tropical climate. The short paddling is just to get some first impressions, to check if everything works, and how it feels, the new hull shape, something radically different from my previous boats. Yet all confirms things I’d known from the design phase.

The kayak is nimble and very predictable, probably not too agile compared to Serene – 1 and Serene – 2, it’s also a bit more stable across all its axis. It’s easier to get in and out of the cockpit with these stabilities. The rudder works nicely, changing course instantly with just some slight pedal kicks, though I’ve come up with some new ideas to improve the “fine – tuning mechanism” for the rudder control lines’ tension (the cleats used are fine, but not too convenient for adjusting the tension).

The rudder pedals offer very good seating position, together with the plastic seat (used for testing), fixing my lower body well to the hull. I would decide later whether to just use this plastic seat, or build another lower one to facilitate reentry actions. The hatches are absolutely water tight, an important criterion! The overall feeling is very satisfactory, yet more trials are needed, in different conditions, especially on rougher water, to really understand the capabilities of this new boat.

serene – 3, part 25

lmost ready for the water, but the tide is unfavorable for the weekend (its heights are at night), and the Tembin cyclone is crossing the East sea, threatening the area. So I take the time to complete a couple more things. Attaching the electric box through cable gland is quite straight forward, everything works out right, in essence the bilge pump and reed switch. I added one master switch to the electric circuit, in order to turn everything off and not to drain the 18650 batteries to exhaustion.

One critically important issue with the 18650 batteries is that, never used them to exhaustion, when the voltage drops below 1 ~ 1.5 V or so, the battery just becomes dead, you simple could just throw them away, a costly lesson the last time I hadn’t paddled for some weeks, and let the batteries run until dead 😢. Next, I “refurbish” one of my old paddles to match the new boat style, turning it to black, and make it a bit stronger (and slightly heavier) with an extra layer of fiberglass.

The paddle was specially built from rattan and balsa wood, and is light enough already at 0.8 kg. I would try to use this paddle first, before deciding if it’s necessary to make an extra new one, weight and durability are two major concerns. Third image: a “smoke test” to verify if the bilge pump and the solar panel all properly works. Now wait out for a few more days before going to water, just some 10 ~ 12 km of paddling, to see how the kayak behaves, how everything would feel out there.

serene – 3, part 24

askets fabrication: the critical thing in a hatch’s waterproofness is its gasket, and I realized that the best material for gasket is silicone: flexible, durable and offer a very good fit. And for a custom size and shape hatch, somehow I’ll need to make the gaskets too. It turned out to be pretty much easy, using the 2 – parts silicone available here on local market. You mix up component A to component B (catalyst, around 1 ~ 4 % by weight) and pour it into a mold, wait for about 2 hours, and it’s done.

1st image: the mold (cut from plywood) is filled with silicone, I use the “Silicone” (red bottle) spray as a mold release, it’s “strange” that silicone is used as a release agent also for silicone. 2nd image: the product, the O – ring released from the mold. 3rd image: the gaskets inside the hatch lids. The gaskets are 15 mm wide, 5 mm thick, and are pressed down to the hatch rings with those belt locks. I hope I would end up with excellent waterproofness, but let wait until “sea trial” to know better.

I reuse the bilge pump from my previous boat, it still sees very little use, the installation is quite straight forward using some cable ties fastening the bilge pump into its mount. The flexible water pipe leads to a hose right on the right side behind the cockpit, the hose is protected by a screw – in cap, to prevent water from leaking back into the boat when waves wash over the low aft deck. The bilge pump really offers lots of convenience and confidence when you are out there, in the roughness.

serene – 3, part 23

irst image: the aft deck hatch, secured by 3 belt locks. These locks are usually found on your backpacks, and while they are a bit cumbersome to install, they offer quite some holding power and downward pressure, which is essential for the silicone gaskets inside the hatches’ lids to properly work (would mention about those gaskets in the next post). Similar locking for the forward hatch (2nd image). There’re 3 locks per hatch, so if one failed, the other two could still full – fill their duty.

Next, I installed the rudder pedals and control lines. 3rd image: the rudder in retracted position, 4th image: the rudder in its working position. Thank to the lessons learnt with my previous boat, I redesigned, rearranged every details so that the rudder actions now is very light, smooth, and balanced: kick the pedals lightly and the rudder would follow, release a pedal and the rudder would come back to its neutral position. All control lines tension could easily be adjusted from within the cockpit.

I lubricated with silicone grease all the moving parts of the rudder system, the pivoting points, the lines and pedals, and everything became much smoother. I’m very happy with the overall working of the rudder, though this is still in – dock testing, let see how they would behave while on water. Can’t wait for water trial yet, as there’re still much things to be completed, the bilge pump, the electric box, the hatches’ gaskets, the seat, cart, and a new pair of paddles, etc… still many jobs ahead.