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je viens d'un pays qui n'existe plus, je viens d'un paradis perdu


My kayak designs and builds

n charactereedless to say, boats were my "secret dreams" ever since childhood. To quote Honore de Balzac: «the three most beautiful sights in the world are: a ship in full sail, a galloping horse, and a woman dancing». When I was a small boy, I "was building" (imagine in my mind) my "future boats": hull shapes, deck arrangements, etc... The flow of life casts me so far away from my secret dreams, and for so long, many years have passed. Now it's not too late though, to revive those unfinished dreams, I'm making the very first steps into the diverse, colorful world of small boats, starting with the American Indian style canoe Hello World - 1.

Hello World - 1

Hate having to rent a boat each time going paddling, I decided to build my own one. Building yourself a boat is a fascinating experience that teaches you lots of things: woodworking, epoxying, glassing, etc... Hello World - 1, a 12 foot Canadian Indian - style canoe, is my first building project, admittedly, I'd made lots of mistakes, but in the end, the result turned out to be very pleasing. The whole building progress is recorded here (see the albums for photos with detailed comments). Hello World - 1 took 2 months to complete, though quite slow in speed, and heavy in weight, it's my first boat, she helps me practising paddling, a nice utility boat for going fishing and poking around the water near my home!

Hello World - 2

While a small canoe is fun for messing around, I need a suitable boat for longer journeys. Hello World - 2, a 14 foot recreational kayak, is built with the purpose of reaching waters outside of Sài Gòn, not calm rivers anymore, but the choppy, coastal sea. A longer and thinner hull which offers improved speed, closed compartment to store gears, and deck to offer protection against waves. Having gained much experiences from building Hello World - 1, it took me only 3 weeks to finish this (quite simple) kayak, the building progress is described here. I'm quite pleased with both the appearance and performance of this boat: very good looking, lighter and faster. With her, I started to make much longer paddling!

Hello World - 3

With Hello World - 3, I offcially stepped into the world of sea kayak, long slender boat which offers better speed for coastal - sea trips. I wish one day, I could go hundreds of kilometers, reaching remote shores and islands, but by now, I'm still in the progress of getting me ready for that. With experiences gained in the building of the previous two boats, and with much time spent (3 months), Hello World - 3 building quality is quite satisfactory to me. This gonna be my main boat for some time. In building a better boat, knowing its capabilities and limits, knowing how well I'm physically and mentally prepared for long journeys, learning more and more things every day, all pushes me, bit by bit, closer to reaching my dream target.

Serene - 1

In the thirst for a kayak that is "perfect", I proceed to designing my own. I worked on computer modelling for about a month, making all neccessary computations, spent the next two months building it. A long process ended up with a boat very narrow in beam (45 cm), yet quite stable and fast for coastal sea. Among my "fleet", this is the boat I feel pleased the most: lightweight, agile, and good looking. Now I guess that I'm not a beginner in boat building anymore, not yet an expert of course. So I drop the Hello World nomenclature and give her the new name: Serene, starting a new "family" of boats. With a very good boat, when my free time permits, there's no excuse for not to go on with my longer paddling trips!

Serene - 2

My 9 days paddling trip through all mouths of the Mekong river has revealled all the strong points and weaknesses of Serene - 1. I'm very happy to see that the boat behaves well in rough water. On the other hand, the kayak has minor issues with it directional stability, which prompted me to designing and building Serene - 2. The new kayak has a retractable rudder, controlled by 2 pedals. At 17 feet long, it's a bit shorter compared to my previous boat, with a slightly increased displacement. The kayak is equipped with a 7 Watt solar panel which charges a 3 cells, 10 Amph Lithium battery to power the bilge pump and lightings, 2 new lighter paddles, and various improves here and there to prepare it for serious paddling.

Serene - 3

Serene - 3 is a natural continuation of Serene - 2, better understanding on boat design, more experiences in different water conditions, and my improved building skills enable me to build a better kayak, to match and reflect the changes in the sea kayak community, which constantly comes up with many innovations. This is the boat that I put some emphasis on bracing, rolling and other self - rescue actions, as well as its stabilities. With a slightly higher displacement, a rudder controlled by foot pedals, and better equipments, I hope this would be the boat for my long - distance cruisings. Only from a kayak that you build and understand precisely its behaviours that comes the confidence to venture far and long.


My new design ideas translated into Serenity, and the boat that I feel extremely satisfied with. First, I decided to reduce the boat length down to 15.5 feet, for long - distance paddling, when they say "fast", it usually rather means "efficient", as a longer waterline length only benefits those with greater paddling power (which is not me). Second, I experimented with a very curvy hull, lots of rocker and also a relatively deep - V bottom. The results are extremely satisfying, boat was tested to play very well in big waves. Further more, with Serenity, it's much easier to brace and to roll, as well as to reentry. It's with this boat that I would perfected all the essential skills required for an experienced, advanced - level sea kayaker!



Some of my kayak paddling trips

o characterften it does seem such a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat (Mark Twain), now we are imprisoned in this realm of life, like a sailor on his tiny boat in an infinite ocean. Grew up in a fishing village, with sea on a side, it's not until the reading of books such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island that spark in me the wishes of travelling beyond that blue horizon. Limited in many ways by my current life, career... the wishes come back in form of a recreational sport: small trips here and there to help training my body physically, and to nurture my mind by the power of immense water, all with my self - built boats.

Vũng Tàu, June 2014

First "longer range" trip from Sài Gòn to Vũng Tàu. By road, the two cities are 120 km apart, but by waterways, the distance is only 60 km: 40 km on rivers, and 20 km crossing the Gành Rái bay. Slightly supported by the tide, light wind, small waves and good weather, I finished the route precisely as planned within 12 hours of paddling on Hello World - 2, my 14 foot kayak. A very nice little journey to help testifying my endurance, my preparations and efforts are rewarded with those beautiful sightseeings along the way. After the trip, I know I can endure much longer than 12 hours of paddling if necessary. Lessons learned and experiences gained from this trip would help in preparing the upcoming longer voyages.

Đồng Hoà, June 2015

2 - days paddling trip, the first day: from Sài Gòn through Lòng Tàu river to Gành Rái bay (40 km), then 20 km on sea to Đồng Hoà, the town-let across the bay on the opposite side of Vũng Tàu. I finish the first day in 12 hours of paddling, facing a tropical gale in the last several kilometers, a good chance to horn my "acrobatic" skills, an enrollment into an "advanced kayaking course" indeed 😃. The second day: 10 km crossing the Đồng Tranh bay to join Soài Rạp river, then going upstream back to Sài Gòn again, 55 km in total. A very challenging day facing gales, and fighting against a strong current, with many hours paddling in the dark. I reach home at half past midnight after 16 hours of paddling, exhausted!

Kayaking through the 9 mouths of the Mekong river, June, 2016

Initially, I planned for a kayaking trip to reach Côn Đảo island (85 km from the nearest shore) in 7, 8 days. The plan turned out to be flawful, and I stopped short after crossing all the 9 mouths of the Mekong river, 220 kilometers in 9 days (7 paddling days). Various reasons lead to the failure: a badly - leaked sprayskirt, a failed Garmin, a broken signal light, unfavourable weather and my under - prepared physical condition. However, I still enjoy the trip very much, a extremely good time camping and cooking out, paddling in various conditions: calm sea, heavy rain, thunderstorms. This first longer journey taught me lots of things, and I believe with these lessons learnt, I will succeed in reaching target the next time.


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