My Strip-Built Sea Kayak

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I’m reasonably handy with tools, I guess, but by no means am I a boat builder. And I often lack patience and focus for long projects – being well known for cutting corners to get a job done. Just ask my wife about our gap-riddled parquetry floor; or our wonky bookcase; or the slapdash-rendered wall behind our television where a power socket once was.

But my strip-built wooden sea kayak which I made back in 2006 remains one of my most memorable and fulfilling constructions. The project while daunting at the outset took a solid four and a half months from start to finish – my aim was to have the kayak fully completed with enough time to train and paddle in that year’s 111km Hawkesbury Canoe Classic. There were times when my plans looked like stalling or being abandoned altogether but I got there in the end, with the build and subsequent paddle. Now seven years down the track, my well-travelled, much-loved sea kayak is still going strong and looking good.

While recently backing up files from a soon-to-be-defunct home PC I stumbled upon a series of photos taken during the course of this project. Which got me reminiscing. It really was a fun build. And something I can fully recommend to anyone who is up for such a challenge. I have attached the photos in this article with commentary for each in four Parts: ‘Design’, ‘Wood’, ‘Fibre-glass’ and ‘Finishing Touches’. My aim: to share some tips and troubleshooting moments I experienced, and to instill confidence in eager paddlers who want to build their own kayak that it is a most doable and rewarding project.

From lofting diagrams to carpentry to mixing resins, from rigging rudders to mounting foot-plates to carving out a seat, my prime snippet of advice for budding builders is that you do not need to be a craftsperson – you just need a vision. And trust me: specialist people will be eager to share their expertise because of the shear romance of your project – building your very own boat.

Another clincher: the parts and materials are considerably cheaper, in my case at least, than purchasing an equivalent readymade sea kayak. And: there is no greater satisfaction than paddling a boat you built yourself, even if it might not turn out the showroom-perfect exhibit you may have envisaged.

The journey begins in your garage or workshop and continues ever-more once you hit the water.

About Blair Paterson

Blair grew up and lives in Sydney’s Inner West. He first realised a love of nature and the outdoors during weekends and holidays with his family on the Hawkesbury River. From humble childhood pastimes building billycarts and tree houses to spending large chunks of time in the bush, Blair now embarks on outdoor pursuits whenever and however possible – by foot, kayak, bicycle or other. He has worked in Environmental Management and currently Outdoor Education. Some of his fondest travels to date have been around Australia and through the Indian Himalayas.
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