Saturday, August 31, 2013

Thermoform Kayak Repairs - the process

Let me start this by saying, I am far from an expert at repairing thermoformed kayaks. But I think my skills are now serviceable, in that I could do a repair in the field with a reasonably high level of success.

The boat I worked on was a Delta 15.5 expedition. It had severe cracks on both sides of the deck. As the boat had sat for 2 years, I started with a thorough cleaning. But it turns out I didn't do a thorough enough job. The edges of the cracks all had dirt in them that I couldn't get out. In the future I would dremel these cracks bigger for the sole reason of getting the dirt out. After cleaning them as best I could, I aligned the plastic. Most of this was done by hand, but some spots I used a rubber mallet to align the edges.

Once the edges were aligned I cleaned the entire area again, and then cleaned them a third time with Alcohol. I didn't think of this on the first section of repairs, but later on I started taping off the areas to be 'glued'. This made clean up a lot easier, and I was able to tape deck bungies out of the way. After it was taped it was time to proceed with the actual repair.

For this, you want Devcon Plastic Welder. I had a hard time finding it, and tried a couple of other items, but you really want Devcon Plastic Welder. The epoxies and glues just dry too brittle, and in the end we want a little flex. Mix your "glue" (I am calling it glue because that is what it feels like, but I am putting it in quotes because it isn't really glue) and use a disposable paint scraper to apply it to the crack. You will have about 3 minutes of working time. The amazing thing is that it will actually get hot to the touch - I was mixing it in a plastic paint cup, and could feel the heat through the cup. Make sure to fill the crack as that is what is really holding it together. Don't worry too much about what it looks like, you will be sanding it later.

After it has cured, cooled, and hardened it is time to move inside. This is where I had to improvise. I found a great resource on eddylines website, and they show using fiberglass tape and saturating it with plastic welder. Then applying it to inside of the boat, covering the crack. I couldn't find fiberglass tape, so I used the plastic mesh tape that is used to cover joints in drywall. It seems to have worked beautifully. You want to do several overlapping pieces, each covered with Devcon Plastic weld. When it is cooled, and hardened you are done with repairs.

Time to sand. I still have sanding to do, but it is a pretty simple, if time consuming matter. I started with an course sand paper and moved to a more fine one, but the trick is you want to wet sand this. Have a spray bottle handy and keep everything wet. It is easy, but as I said time consuming.

The only thing illustrated on the eddyline website that didn't work for me, was the dremel part. First, these boats don't crack in a straight line, all my cracks are pretty jagged, second, when I dremeled out the cracks, it really just splintered the plastic more. I may have had the wrong bit.

Another tip I would pass along, I did most of this wearing nitrile exam gloves, and it worked great until I touched the Plastic welder. A few cracks I used my fingers to work the weld in. But when you do this, you really have to remove the gloves right away, as it will melt the gloves off your fingers pretty quickly.

Another thing to keep in mind, is the sanding process takes the gloss coat off the boat. So after you are done the area around the repair wont have that beautiful glossy look. I haven't figured out how to return that to the finish.

If you know how, or have any other tips to make this process easier, please let me know. I am sure there are more skilled people out there, so I look forward to your tips.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Globemaker

Another beautifully crafted short film, about beautifully hand crafted globes. you can't be the type that loves adventures in the natural world without loving maps, charts, and globes.

Peter Bellerby - The Globemaker from Cabnine on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


I like to think that boats, like people, have potential. When I look at a new touring kayak I think about the possibilities for a boat like that. Maybe it will do a lot of weekend trips, maybe a week. Maybe it will introduce someone to the joy of backpacking without having to put a pack on - and enjoying better food! In the town I live there is a very old Perception Sealoution that I always see on its owners truck. I wonder what amazing adventures it has been on. I think all boats start out with this potential. Potential to do great things and go on amazing trips. But also like people, some boats never get a chance. This is the story of such a boat.

My back yard is a repository for kayaks. For clarity, I should point out that I have only owned one kayak since I got my Delta, but despite this, there are many boats in my back yard. As I was talking with a group of friends about 'the boat yard' one of them said "Hey, your back yard called. It said no more boats please!" Currently there are four, but there have been times when as many as 8 different boats will take up residence. Usually a friend will buy a boat with no place to store it, and it will turn up on the rack I built. Some stay for months. Others, for years. A boat arrived about a month before I left to paddle the Inside Passage.

It was a Delta 15.5 expedition, that had been damaged in shipping. Not the kind of damage that occurs when you drop a boat, for I have dropped my Delta more than once with no damage, but the kind of damage that a shipper creates when they don't know better. The kind of damage done with a fork lift, momentum, and a lot of weight. Jagged cracks that ran down the side, and then angled sharply across the deck. So the boat was acquired cheaply, was deposited in the yard, and left. Unfortunately her owner got busy. Too busy to get her a cockpit cover, or even seal the neoprene under the hatches. By the time I realized that she was vulnerable she was full of water, leaves, bugs and a birds nest. The water over the winter must have at some point frozen in such a way to do more damage. One of the rails that holds the seat in place got popped off the hull. As did one of the tracks for the rudder pedals. At this point, what potential she had for greatness was gone. Like a beautiful person, early in her life she had acquired a set of bad scars. Then she was picked up cheaply and dropped at a halfway house. Where her damage was allowed to get worse. She spent two sad years like that in my yard. Occasionally I would empty water out of her, but that was about all I did. Then about six weeks ago I decided to take matters into my own hands. It was time to see if she could be returned to her former glory.

I did a fair amount of research - I will do a separate post about the process - and learned a lot as I went along. The structural repairs were completed yesterday, and today I decided she needed a little primping. I spent over an hour cleaning and scrubbing her. I worked solely on the deck, hull and cockpit. The dry storage will still need to be done. Now she glistens like the beauty she was, though she still carries the scars from her previous life. I am good at repairs, but not good at making them pretty. Because of my inadequacies she will carry these scars always. Though underneath, she is as strong as any boat - I hope. I think I have returned her to some level of normalcy. Not only does she once again have the great potential to do amazing things, She will do amazing things. Next summer she will be paddled in Alaska, as we gaze at glaciers, ironically, comparing them to their faded glory. She will do what she was designed to do, and she will give a young woman - also filled with potential, who wanted to do the trip but couldn't afford a boat - an opportunity that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

I like to think of scars as a road map. Here are the things I have done, and the mistakes I have made. This beautiful yellow boat did nothing wrong, but was for all practical purposes cut down, before her prime even got a chance. Now she has one. Next summer you will all get to see that despite rocky starts, and bad scars we are all capable of great things.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The declination cheat

I was teaching a map and compass class on Saturday for 10 highly motivated people. It was a lot of fun, and always nice to be outside teaching, particularly teaching people who are excited to get active in the outside world.

So, I was talking about Declination. The difference between the two 'north poles'. This is how I describe it:

There are two north poles, One, where Santa Claus lives, is at the very top of the planet. Santa Claus' north pole is where the vertical lines on a map run. But then there is Magnetic north. This is where your compass points. So not only is there a difference between these two places, but that difference changes.

I don't know how long I have been teaching map and compass - probably sliding up on ten years. I teach it to full classes three or four times a year, which depending on class size is 10 to 30 people, so lets say 60 people a year times 8 years is almost 500 people. Something happened for the first time on Saturday.

As I was explaining the above concept A student asked "why don't they just change the way they draw North on a map?" This is a big concept, and I think in my shock that someone figured it out before I told them prevented me from congratulating this student on being so sharp. In 500 students no one had ever just come up with this in class. Because that really is the answer. But first, you have to know how to do it the right way, which while pretty simple, is generally where people make mistakes with map & compass.

This is how you are taught to do it. You plot a course on a map using your base plate compass. You draw a nice line on the map and label it with the heading you will want to follow. Say 180º. Then, you put down the map, and grab your compass. Turn the bezel to 180º at the bearing index and put red fred in the shed (turn your body in a circle until the red end of the needle (red fred) is inside the arrow inside the bezel (the shed)). Now you are facing 180º, the direction you want to go, except really you aren't. Because declination has the needle pointing a direction you don't want to go. If the declination is 10º west You would add 10 to the bearing (because East is Least (subtract the declination) and West is Best (add the declination)) So turn your bezel to 190º put red fred in the shed and you are ready to walk that bearing.

Normally the math isn't so perfect. Normally you will want to go 137º and your declination is 9º and someone will add it when they should subtract it, and it becomes a mess. So there are two things you can do. The first is buy a compass with a settable declination. My Suunto M3d has a tiny screw driver so I can turn the inside of the bezel however many degrees the declination is. Then when I put Red fred in the shed the math is already done. But this means if I travel I have to remember to set the declination on the compass. But here is the cheat. This will save you a metric ton of worry, but I generally advise people to get good at declination first. Then employ this cheat.

On the bottom of your map there should be a diagram illustrating declination. It should look like this. Charts (and National Geographic Trails illustrated topo maps) use a compass rose, with two circles. The inside circle shows MN, and the outer circle shows geographic north. 

So this symbol is telling you that magnetic north is 13.5 degrees east. It is the angle between the star and MN. Before your trip lay out your map, and put a ruler - or better, a yard stick if you have one - on the MN line, and draw a line across your map in pencil. Then draw parallel lines all across your map. You have now 'redrawn' north on your map to match the declination. Instead of aligning your compass with the straight vertical lines of the geographic north pole you can now align it with magnetic north, where your compass is already pointing. That is your cheat. No more math. 

But the answer to my student who figured this out on his own, as to why they don't just print this on maps is this. The reason is declination is always changing, and so this would mean yearly reprinting of maps. Maybe next time I will tell you about my favorite navigational tool.... A piece of string! 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

This S*%T is about to get real.

Next month is when it will all really begin, and soon I will start updating you on where we are in the planning phase. In under a year myself and a small team of paddlers will be paddling Prince William Sound comparing archival photos of 6 famous glaciers to photos taken 'today' to compare the difference.

I have an amazing researcher who is finding the photos for me. Hopefully I can talk her into being in the film. I am making final repairs on one of the boats that a team member will be using. It has afforded me the opportunity to become quite good at repairing thermoform, well, at least structurally. My repairs aren't very pretty. All the maps and charts are in, and we have had our first team meeting regarding the route. We already have one local sponsor, and in September I will start trying to find some others. In October there will be a trip with the team to the Outer Banks. We chose that time of year to simulate similar weather.

Another member of my team finally picked up her boat, the cedar strip photo I posted on facebook a while back. It is a little tight - gear storage wise - for a trip of this nature, but what it lacks in storage it makes up for in looks. I will be doing a post about the manufacturing of that boat. Once I finish doing repairs on the boat I mentioned before, it means that everyone on the team will have the kayak they are going to paddle.

A lot to do, and unfortunately it is too early to start any of it. It is going to be a very interesting fall paddling season. If you really want to stay on top of all the preparations, head over to facebook, and give my page a like. There will be more frequent updates over there.

Stay tuned! (Do people say that anymore?)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adam Savage is fascinating.

A long time ago I had a goal. Now, when most people set a goal for themselves it is something concrete. Like, I want to get that job. Or I want to climb 5.11. Something like that. This goal was different. This goal was to star in an "I'm going to Disneyworld" commercial. I should point out, I have no great desire to be on television, I have had a few opportunities and I have always turned them down. I also am not a huge fan of anything Disney. So why, you may ask would I want to do an I am going to Disneyworld commercial? Simple. In order to do a commercial like that you have to do something really cool, like win a Superbowl. Why is this important? I'll get there. I was talking about Adam Savage.

Like everyone else, I first learned of Mr. Savage from Mythbusters, which I watched and enjoyed, but I quickly moved on from it. I thought it was interesting, but I lost interest. Though I admired Adam and Jamies knowledge, and ability to make learning fun, I think it was a little too repetitive for me, clearly I am in the minority as it is still going strong.  I think I stumbled upon Mr. Savage next watching a TED talk.

This TED talk struck me for a couple of reasons. I am somewhat handy, but everything I learned about construction I learned in my late teens and early twenties on film sets. I learned a lot of things working in the film industry - as did Mr. Savage - one of them was how to build a set for photography. The only problem with my construction skills is that things I make only look good from one side, and I am not great at finishing details. But Mr. Savage can build anything, and watching him obsess over recreating a Dodo bird and a Maltese Falcon fascinated me. I was particularly fascinated by the Maltese Falcon in this Ted Talk because I love the story, having read the book, and having seen the movie dozens of time. There is a story about a guy who finds a Maltese falcon at a garage sale and it turns out to be a prop from the movie worth millions. I have always wanted a falcon on the mantle.

Now, it is clear from watching this Ted talk that Mr. Savage is a bit obsessive. Just listening to him talk, the speed at which words and ideas spill from his head is overwhelming. But his obsessiveness is mixed with such a genuine enthusiasm that he is a bit infectious.

Shortly after seeing this Ted talk - I think - I stumbled on Tested is a technology website that at some point in the last 18 months or so Adam and Jamie from mythbusters seemed to have had some sort of merger with. Tested is primarily a technology website. A lot of the technology discussion isn't of much use to me, though Will and Norm - the regular hosts of the site - have great personal interaction, and there is clearly a lot of knowledge being brought to bear. Even though I am not always interested in the tech conversations, I find myself listening to or watching their podcasts because they are genuinely funny, well informed and a good source of information.

But the part of that I really have enjoyed is the look into the world that is Adam (I feel I have gotten to know him well enough now to be on a first name basis!) There are a number of videos 'from Adams cave' where we get a real glimpse into his psyche. First, he has multiple shops, and offices, and all of them are filled - FILLED - with stuff. This upsets me at a deeply personal level. I am very much a minimalist. I have very few possessions. Almost no 'knick knacks' - but Adams office is filled with really fascinating stuff. Filled in a way I never could have the space around me filled. It literally makes me uncomfortable to watch him talk about the things in his spaces, I feel crowded and cramped. So why do I like it? Because in spite of this, the stuff is fascinating! From a full size C-3PO to an Iron Man Mark 1. There is a whole progression of Blade Runner Pistols. I love watching him build things - primarily because I am fascinated with the process of say, making a mask out of latex and all the steps involved - I would love to cast the inside of a kayak to fit me precisely - He has a life size T Rex head hanging in his shop..... I am speechless.

We also share some similarities which makes it an interesting way to view my life in a 'What if' sort of way. We are about the same age, both born in the same city and we both worked in film. I wonder where I would be if I had stayed in that industry? That is an interesting game to play.

He recently started a new series of videos called 'the talking room' where he spends some time talking with people he knows. The first (and as I write this only) episode is an interview with Chef David Chang, who I knew only a little bit about before this video - I actually am fascinated by food production at the commercial restaurant level, and am fortunate enough to know several talented professional chefs - I heard a mention on a podcast that an upcoming 'talking room' is with John Landis, which should be interesting.

What does all of this have to do with Disneyworld? Well... This. I no longer have the dream of doing a "I'm going to..." commercial. Now the dream is to do a podcast on tested with Mr. Savage. I am hoping he develops an interest in kayaks or expeditioning, maybe then I could be of some use to him. He seems like the kind of guy that would be fun and interesting to talk to over a Whiskey. I don't think you should pick a president that way, but choosing someone for a conversation, that method has never steered me wrong.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Water, treatment, and desalination

I am a big fan of Sawyer water filters. I used the older sawyer two bag, four liter system in Alaska - in conjunction with Aqua Mira. It works beautifully, you don't have to buy replacement filter cartridges, it is a great system. Probably my only complaint is that it doesn't get out odors or flavors - because it is of hollow fiber design - and while it has never been a problem it is the sort of thing that sticks in the back of my mind. I don't understand why there isn't a small carbon device that the water runs through after exiting the filter. It is the sort of simple thing that they could sell millions of.

we also used Aqua Mira, in part because both of us were NOLS instructors and NOLS uses Aqua Mira. It is a great product, it is a two part chemical treatment that you add to a liter of water and 30 minutes later you have treated water. We would see fresh water spilling into the ocean and paddle up to it and fill a dromedary without getting out of the cockpit of the kayak, treat it and then keep paddling. Then, hours later we would arrive at our beach and have drinkable water.

I have talked about it before but I am a die hard user of MSR dromedaries. I have a ten liter and a four liter - so if I am using both I can carry 3.5 gallons of water, which is a lot. They are versatile, and durable and not that expensive. They tend to live in the cockpit in front of my feet, so they are usually easy to get to, but also out of the way. Being only 5'8" I have probably close to 18 inches in front of my feet, before the bulkhead.

In the past I have had PFD's with integrated hydration, and you know what? they never work well. They add a lot of weight to your PFD, and they are never big enough. On the inside passage I used a 1.8 liter integrated reservoir in my Astral 300r. I think I refilled it twice and then stopped using it. It was hard to fill, and way too small for a full scale expedition - where you are spending all day in a boat. I am sure it would be great on day paddles. I have already decided how I am going to do water on my next trip, I am going to keep it simple with a Camelbak Unbottle. An insulated 100 ounce bag will sit under the bungies behind my cockpit. When in doubt keep it simple.

My next filter will be the Sawyer Squeeze. You fill a bag with water, attach it to the filter and squeeze. It is surprisingly easy. The hardest aspect is actually filling the bag - if you are sitting in a kayak and hold the bag under water, it will only fill about half way. I am guessing that exterior pressure on the bag keeps it from filling, someone correct me on the physics please.

Sawyer has made a number of filters designed to be dipped in the water and used directly, or you fill a bag with water, or a water bottle with water, and draw water through the filter with your mouth, which got me thinking. Why can't they make a filter that removes salt from water? Why can't I dip a bottle in the ocean, and draw water through a filter and have clean, fresh non-salt water? There are a handful of pump - okay I can find 2, and they are expensive, slow and bulky - filters that work as desalinators, but beyond that you are either looking at evaporation systems or other high priced, heat based systems. There is nothing small, portable, simple, reliable and inexpensive. And let's face it, that is what people want from a filter.

The problem comes down to size. The sawyer squeeze filters down to .1 micron, which is pretty small. Small enough to get Giardia and Cryptosporidium. It turns out that Sea Salt is .035 microns in size, so significantly smaller than the squeezes .1. But Sawyer also makes a filter that will get out viruses, which removes anything .02 or smaller. In theory that is smaller than sea salt, so why doesn't it work? The answer is, I don't know, but I want it to. I want to fill a ten liter dromedary when I get to the beach with salt water. Hang it from a tree, connect a filter to it and have water feed via gravity to a 'clean' bag. When I plan an expedition my two big concerns are campsites - can I get off the water? - and fresh water. This would solve that big concern.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #21

Tip #21

JUST PADDLE.  It's going to rain? Go for a paddle. It's 30 degrees out? Go paddle. You're tired? Go Paddle. A lot of people say the key to meditation is just to sit. You want to get good, and have a good time doing it? Stressed at work? Need a break from the world? Just. Go. Paddle. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #20

Tip #20

Dump the old gear. If your PFD's color is fading, it is time for a new one. Unfortunately gear ages, and needs to be replaced, some of it will make you uncomfortable - the sleeping pad that wont hold air, the rain fly on the tent that doesn't shed water anymore - and some will be unsafe, like the above mentioned PFD. I need to follow this tip myself as my beloved Astral 300r needs to go. I shall lead by example and make that happen. Sorry old friend. It's your time. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #19

Tip #19

Do something EPIC! Epic is variable. If you have never done an over night, make it happen. Your longest day is 10 miles? shoot for 15, then 20! You have done a weekend of kayak camping? Try a week. Of course, seek instruction, research what you are doing, and do it safely. But by pushing ourselves, we grow. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #18

Tip #18

Allow yourself a little luxury. Yeah, people give me a hard time when on a lunch break during a one day group paddle I break out a small table and chair to eat my sandwich. But you know what? I am comfortable, and it is really nice. The table is awesome when cooking, and the chair keeps your bottom off the rocks. Both pack tiny in my kayak. Your version of luxury maybe a really cush sleeping pad. Or that super fluffy down bag. What ever it is, have something that makes you smile. Particularly on long trips. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #17

Tip #17

Hydrate and fuel yourself! I generally just do water, but on long hot days I use additives. Keep the fluids going, and learn how to go to the bathroom in your boat. Paul Petzold said the lunch was the meal that starts right after breakfast and ends just before lunch. Feed yourself. I am not a fan of most 'power food' but it can work in a pinch. Nuts. Cheese. Pepperoni. Carrots. Peanut butter. And keep it where you can get to it, like a drybag in your cockpit. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #16

Tip #16

Practice rescues, not just rolling, all kinds of rescues. Everyone likes to roll, but how many different self rescues, and assisted rescues do you know? How often do you practice them? Can you do them in rough water - which incidentally is where you are going to need to do them! - Make it fun. Twice a year I try and get a group of friends to get together and do them. If I cant find people to practice with it do it alone. You want a challenge? Try getting someone with a dislocated shoulder back into a boat. Have you ever used a stirrup? Got a paddle float? Great. Now use it. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #15

Tip #15

If you are the most experienced paddler in the group, look after the less experienced. They may need your help with any number of things. How to dress, what to bring, how to get into the boat. Help them out, and make their experience an amazing one. They may be too embarrassed to say they can't keep up, make it your fault the group has to slow down. "Hey guys, my wrist hurts, lets slow down a bit." 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #14

Tip #14

If after paddling, your arms are tired, see Tip #3 Seriously. You know what should be tired? Your core. Your back. Maybe even your legs. But not your arms. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #13

Tip #13

Doing an out and back? Paddle into the wind first! This is a simple thing, that most people don't think about. Paddle into the wind first, then when you are paddling back to your put-in you have the wind pushing you. Also, if you are in a channel the wind - and current - will be going faster in the middle of the channel. If you are going that direction go with it. Need to go the other direction, hug the land, it will slow the wind and current, and you will have to do a little less work. Paddle smart, save energy for when you have to paddle hard. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

In a previous career...

I worked in the stock photo industry. I started as a photo assistant, became a studio manager, and throughout I was a photographer. The stock industry is a little backward, that instead of a client coming to you with a photographic need that you create, you create photos that you then sell to clients. So when you are creating them you don't always know they will sell, so you spend a lot of time looking at photos that do sell, to create similar things in the future.

For instance, we sold many more images of mountain bikers carrying their bikes, than riding their bikes. I don't know why, but apparently that is what people think mountain biking is. Like this:

Yesterday I was reading an article online about 20 places to go before you die. I came across this photo.

This must be what current stock photographers think Kayak camping is like. There are a few problems with this. The photo is too low res for me to tell what they are doing by the waters edge, but I think they are supposed to be cooking dinner. Why would you cook dinner there? The guy on the right is about to fall in the water. I can only assume that they are staying the night, because their tent is set up, and so I have to comment on a few other things. The boats should be hire than the tent, and tied to something. The tent doesn't look like it is set up on a durable surface. As a photographer I know that this photo works very well. It is nicely balanced, it follows the rule of thirds, the boats create a nice diagonal line to the tent which draws the eye to the tent. But it is very unrealistic. As is this:

This one is a little harder to see, but it is a very similar camp site. The boats are at the water line, the tent should be back in the trees so it doesn't get pounded by wind. If you want to see what a good campsite looks like, all you have to do is go here.

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #12

Tip #12

Watch the weather! Regardless of what the weatherman says, watch what is happening around you. I don't trust weather forecasts that project more than 48 hours. I carry a VHF radio for weather reports (among other things) and wear a watch with a barometer for very localized weather prediction. Learn to see what the weather looks like when it is changing around you. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #11

Tip #11

Buy Gordon Browns book 'Sea Kayak'. I worked harder on my book than anything I have ever done. I am very happy with it. I succeeded in my goal. It is also very easy for me to say that Gordon Brown is the Yoda of Kayaking - though I was very happy that someone called me that in a review of my book on iTunes - His book is sensational and it is a goal of mine to go to Scotland to spend a couple of days with him on the water. You can get it here