September 17, 2009

Foot Braces Installed

I spent quite a bit of thought trying to determine what to do for foot braces for Paige's kayak. The usual suspects were:

  • Build an extra cross section for her to rest her feet against
    Because she's growing like a weed, putting an extra cross section that is properly fitted now would render the kayak useless next season.
  • Pad out the cross section with pieces of minicell foam
    Because she's still quite small for the kayak, I would have to buy a LOT of minicell foam.
  • Make foot braces out of wood + stuff
    Because my building abilities aren't very good nor precise, I really wasn't up to the task of building my own foot braces.
  • Buy + install commercial foot braces
    Through a process of deduction, this is my winner.

Once the solution was identified, the next obvious question is what to buy? And where will I buy it from?

The 2 commercial foot braces that come to mind are Sea Dog foot braces and Keepers foot braces. I've read nothing but wonderful things about the Sea Dog foot braces, but the average price was about $60 plus shipping. I've read a few poor reviews of the Keepers foot braces – mostly that they're flimsy; but, I found them for $25 and, as a bonus - locally. I'm not overly concerned about them being flimsy because the kayak is for a kid and she shouldn't be stressing the foot braces even if she does (one day, far away) learn to roll.

I did some quick research on how others have installed foot braces and found that the common solution was to install blocks between the stringers for the 2 mounting points on the foot brace tracks. That was my idea, as well and I decided that's what I was going to attempt to do.

First, I wanted to install the foot braces as far forward as possible – giving us the most flexibility for how long Paige can continue to "grow into" this kayak. I set the kayak on the ground and had her sit in it properly. I put the foot brace in the most forward position. I brought the foot brace only as far back as required (ok, plus a little for her to be able to change her leg/foot position a bit). I marked the position on the gunwales at all 4 positions (fore and aft on both sides).

I then measured the distance between the stringers and grabbed pieces of scrap wood. I had to use pieces of pine because the pieces of WRC weren't large enough to work. Some quick 15-minute epoxy and were in business.

I also decided to follow a trick that I'd read about. I installed the foot braces at an incline. I figure that as she gets taller, her feet will get bigger. As her feet get bigger, the balls of her feet will get higher. This is another of my ideas that only time will tell.

Keepers foot braces installed
The actual installation is a quick screw through mounting holes on the foot braces into the supports for a quick evening in the shop. Here's the final product:

Sea Flea Flotation Bags

Man-o-day, where does the time go? I haven't posted about Paige's kayak since May 15. While I haven't posted, I have continued to work on it. The last post mentioned that I finished the final epoxy-work on the kayak. The next step was to build flotation bags for Paige's kayak.

Bow flotation bag (deflated) installed in kayak
Since I had made flotation bags before, I was pretty sure of the process:

  1. Acquire & cut PVC connectors
  2. Measure the kayak's circumference at the bow and stern
  3. Transfer that to clear plastic vinyl
  4. Cut
  5. Glue connector in place (for inflation hose)
  6. Tape off 1" on sides & 1.5" at ends
  7. Glue both pieces together
  8. Glue hose & mouthpiece

Viola! You're done!

Between the time I had cut the bags and got around to gluing them, Paige had decorated them with a Sharpie and I wrote a message to her.

Make-shift vise and cutting PVC connectors for flotation bags
The cutting the connectors proved to be my first challenge. Previously, with my father-in-law's assistance, we cut them using his hack saw in a vise and then cleaned them up with his disc sander. I should have done all of the steps while I was at his house, but I didn't have the connectors so I just borrowed the hacksaw. I don't own a vise (yet), I will – I just haven't invested in one so far. Not letting a lack of tools (or much ability, but I digress) get in the way of a successful project – I winged it and cobbled together a vise out of my work table, scrap pieces of wood and a couple of clamps. It was a little rickety at times, but it worked. My lack of disc sander was made up for by some 80-grit sand paper (down to 120 grit-ish - it didn't have to be pretty, just cleaned up a bit) and a little extra time and effort.

The next problem, I'll admit was out of sheer laziness: I have vacuumed or swept my work floor in a while. So, as I was gluing – I had various sorts of "stuff" sprinkled through-out my glue. None of it seemed to be problematic, just looks "less good".

The final problems turned out to be small leaks in various spots on the bags.

Leak #1 (on both bags), while I was gluing the bag – the extra height of the inner connector keeps the top layer of PVC from lying properly. I thought I was being slick and sliced the edge out, mashed them back together and went about my merry way. What I found out (later), was that I create a leak that proved to be challenging to fix.

Make-shift vise and cutting PVC connectors for flotation bags
Leak #2 (on both bags), on these bags and the one that I made for the Dirigo, I ended up with a leak around the PVC connector for the inflation hose. The simple fix is to glue a patch over the area and move-on. On this particular bag, I did 2 patches and then covered the entire area with a bigger patch – it was "cleaner looking" was my justification. As the picture shows - I even tried to be careful and clean! It still didn't work out quite like I had hoped.

Leak #3 (on just 1 bag), while "fixing" one of the leaks, Paige came out to help. Not being much for her to do, she wandered around the garage and did whatever she wanted. The wandering included her walking on both bags multiple times. Apparently one of the bags got walked on a time too many – she put a whole clean through both layers.

Leak #4 (on the other bag), while fixing my leak #1 on one of the bags, my solution was to put a patch on and then clamp it between 2 pieces of wood. Apparently I got a little over-zealous with my clamping and/or heat gunning and worked a hole into the bag.

With all of these leaks, I'm ultimately left with 2 patched up bags that hold air. In case you (dear reader) are wondering - I do feel comfortable that my patch-work will hold and they're as safe as any non-patched bag.

Make-shift vise and cutting PVC connectors for flotation bags
Lastly, I had previously mentioned installing an eyelet into the stems of the kayak (using the drill-fill-drill approach). These serve 2 purposes, one- to act as an anchor point for securing the flotation bags to the kayak and two- to act as a bit of a pulley for re-installing the bags once the kayak is skinned. Truthfully, I think #2 looks great on paper, but won't actually pan out- but only time will tell.

September 11, 2009

Places to buy HH-66

HH-66 is the key ingredient to making your own flotation bags, dry bags and kayak covered in Coverene/PVC fabric. It's the glue that melts/welds the 2 pieces of vinyl together to get a water- and air-tight seal (or, so we hope!).

Back when I made my flotation bags, I bought a pint of HH-66 from Veneer Supplies. It has lasted through 2 or 3 tries at that flotation bag, a pair of flotation bags (which, they too had issues and needed immediate patches) and gluing the stems for Paige's kayak. I have maybe 1/3 of the pint left.

With a limited amount of HH-66 remaining, I wanted to get more on hand for starting the deck. Being cheap, I wanted to get the most for my money! So, I googled for places to buy HH-66. I assembled a list of each of the web sites that sold it. I wanted to try and avoid shipping costs, so I found the manufacturer of HH-66 (RH Products Co.) and contacted them about local retailers. They quickly responded and pointed me to Baltimore Canvas Products.

Baltimore Canvas Products is official the most expensive price per quart that I came across. But, even with tax + gas/mileage - it worked out to be a less total price than any online vendor. And, I like supporting local vendors.

Baltimore Canvas Products Quart $18.25 No website; plus tax; plus mileage + time for local pickup
Gallon $46.90 No website; plus tax; plus mileage + time for local pickup
Note, you may want to try contacting the manufacturer of HH-66, RH Products Co. for local retailers near you.
Seattle Fabrics Quart $12.95 Plus shipping
Pint $10.75 Plus shipping
Mauritzon Gallon tbd Plus shipping
Quart tbd Plus shipping
Pint tbd Plus shipping
Rochford Supply Gallon $28.21 Plus $20 handling; plus shipping
Quart $12.57 Plus shipping
Veneer Supplies Pint $13.75 Plus shipping (or- possibly local pickup)
Sail Rite Quart $16.25 Plus shipping
MyTarp.com Quart $15.25 Plus shipping
ElectraTarp Quart $15.00 Plus shipping
Pint $12.00 Plus shipping

September 1, 2009

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month!

A quick deviation from the theme and general kayaking-ness of this blog... September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Cancer doesn't discriminate between race, age, income or any other barrier that you can imagine. The oldest people get it and so do the youngest. My daughter, Paige was 13 months old when the beast, childhood cancer, struck our household. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor on January 14, 2005. We later found out that it was cancerous. She endured brain surgeries, broviac/hickman placement & removal surgeries and 6 weeks of radiation treatments.

We celebrate everyday that she's cancer-free and doing wonderfully. Just yesterday, we sent her off for her first day of kindergarten. Every day in our house is a reason to be joyous.

Sadly, we're the lucky ones - the select few that get to celebrate years of health. So much more needs to be done, so many families are affected by this beast. Show your support by visiting some of the following organizations and seeing how you can help and make a difference to a child, to a family, who've been ravaged by childhood cancer:

July 15, 2009

Experiment Results - Day 1, rope mostly good

Day 1, the rope trick on the Thule rack was mostly good. At less than 30mph speeds and over 45mph speeds, the rope trick has cut the whistling noise. I'm going to try and see if it's the rear bar that's causing the whistling at lower speeds. I've got some rope at home, it's quite a bit longer than I need, but I'll just collect the excess and secure it. (I didn't use that originally because I wanted to cut the front bar to length.)

We'll see - I haven't yet decided if this has saved me from buying a fairing or not.

July 14, 2009

Experiment - can rope work as well as a fairing?

When I got rid of the Corolla, I ended up selling the roof rack. The feet were different and I figured it was a good time to upgrade to the new Rapid Aero Bars that Thule is touting. In an attempt to save money, I decided to go without a fairing. I also figured I'd do the same as last time and only install the rack when I needed it.

First issue, the rack installation on the Hyundai Elantra is a heck of a lot more difficult than the Corolla. There's a slight amount of grunting involved and you're supposed to measure the specific location from the windshield and span between the bars for the rack to be installed properly.

Second issue, because of the first - I've decided to just leave the rack installed. Holy mother of pearl is that thing loud!

The experiment... can a $1.50 fix save me from the purchase of an $80 fairing? I had read a recent posting on PNET that suggested a cheap fix is to take nylon cord and wrap it tightly around the load bars. Use cable ties to secure both ends and you'd be good to go.

I bought 1/4" nylon cord from Lowes for $0.15/ft. Right now my grand total is $1.59 + 2 cable ties. Stay tuned to see how it works out...

June 30, 2009

Stimulus funds to be used to remove 2 Patapsco dams

According to the Baltimore Sun, stimulus funds are to be used to remove the Simkins and Union Dams from the Patapsco River. Additionally, the DNR is studying the removal of Bloede's Dam.

Shown below is a map of the approximate locations of the dams on the Patapsco River:


View Patapsco River Dams in a larger map

Additionally, checkout this Flickr stream for photos of the dams.

June 2, 2009

National parks plan 3 free summer weekends

All 147 National Park Service sites that charge entry fees will waive them for June 20 and 21, July 18 and 19, and August 15 and 16.

Read more on CNN...

The Right Kayak for You

A couple of weeks ago, I had my first weekend where I did guiding/instruction for LL Bean's Walk On Adventures out of the Columbia store. These are introductions to kayaking where the participants are outfitted with PDFs, paddles, some instruction and put into recreational boats to take out on Centennial Lake. I really enjoy doing this, as I've gotten to see a few people really get hooked on kayaking. That weekend we had one such individual.

From what my co-guide told me, she was there on Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed her time in a kayak. She had recently bought one from the store on a whim and wanted to get some instruction before going out on her own. I worked on Sunday and the co-guide told me that she promised she'd be back the next day. Sure enough, she was on the bus and this time she brought a friend. Down at the lake, she asked to be put into the boat that she'd purchased instead of us assigning a boat to her. I was happy to oblige and pulled that specific kayak for her.

We got everyone launched and soon were underway to our first rest stop. She told us later, almost immediately she could feel the difference between the boats. The one she was in the night before had better tracking and glide - the one she was in, not so much. She was peppering the other guide with questions through-out the 1st half of the paddle. For the 2nd half, she and I paired up and she was peppering me with questions - why does it feel so different? is it her? is it the boat? She explained that she was fairly athletic and wanted a boat that would compliment her. I told her that we didn't have any talking boats, but I figured I understood what she meant. We talked a bit more and the end of it came to - she was in the wrong boat for her. It doesn't seem like much, but a 12' boat is a huge change over a 10' boat. And the hull shapes are tremendously different. I felt guilty telling her it was so - but, at the end of the day, it was the right answer for her.

On Sundays, we have 2 sessions - one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Guess who we were surprised to see step off the bus for the afternoon session. Yep, Miss "I bought the wrong boat". We chuckled and asked what she was doing. She explained that on Saturday, she tried an Old Town Dirigo 12. And on Sunday morning, we talked about the differences between it and the Wilderness Systems Pungo 12. (As a side note, on land - I actually flipped the boats over so they could see the differences in hull shapes.) So... now, naturally, she wanted to try out the Pungo 12.

It was quite interesting to see. By the time we got to our first rest stop, she decided that she was definitely returning the other boat. By the 2nd rest stop, she decided that she liked the Pungo over the Dirigo.

It was a rewarding day that we were able to expand on her skills a bit and was able to help her hone in on a boat that was a good fit for her.

May 15, 2009

Rescue and towing practice at Centennial Lake

Yesterday I met up with a couple of people to practice dealing with unruly participants, rescues (assisting a swimmer and self-rescuing with a paddle float) and a bit of towing. We did it locally on Centennial Lake.

The water was pretty chilly; I didn't have a temperature measuring device, so I have to use how the water felt. My guess based on my 2 (intentional!) immersions was that it was probably near 55 degrees. It was cold enough that on my first immersion, it had me breathing quickly and shivering slightly. It took a l-o-n-g time to get my breathing under control and shivering stopped - well ok, it might have just been a minute or two. But, it felt like forever! Strangely, the second immersion - I didn't have nearly the same issues as the first. It's possible that I just wasn't thinking of it as much - on the first, I was being rescued and on the second, I was actively doing a paddle-float reentry. I chose to wear my 3mm farmer john wet suit. I was thankful for it!

We didn't paddle far - just across the face of the dam. On a side note, the water looks so foreign without the water lilies. By the middle of summer, they have a good 20 to 30 feet area covered.

Jen was playing the instructor first. She had to rescue a tandem that has no flotation in the bow. It's quite interesting watching and thinking about how much you think you know. First, I was able to armchair QB the variety of things she was doing "wrong". Then, I was able to armchair QB the variety of things that I thought the co-instructor should be doing. I found out on my turn that reality dictated some of the things she had to do. The biggest - without bow flotation, the tandem's bow started to sink (because the assessor specifically lifted the stern to squeeze out the pocket of air it held). I didn't think it was far and didn't understand why she didn't start lifting the bow. It would have caused the water to slosh back to the cockpit area and would have made life easier with trying to get the boat out of the water -- with pulling it stern first, she was dragging the water-filled bow through the water and water is heavy. I figured it was because she happened to approach the boat at the stern and simply started on the end that she was closest to. However, once it was my turn - I intentionally approached the bow first and found that there was no water to get to it under 6 or 8 inches of water. She was right, my armchair QB'ing was wrong.

The co-instructor explained to us that we could edge our kayaks to get it under the capsized boat and then lift our knee to rotate/rock the boat and give us better leverage. I found that it took some of the brute force work out of getting the tandem into the X configuration for emptying. Once it was out of the water, it emptied remarkably well and required little to no pumping at the end.

Jen then had to tow and then rescue me (in a rec. boat - a Pungo 140). This went pretty well once I got over the cold water.

After she rescued me, we switched roles; I got into the instructor boat and she got into a rec. boat to play the unruly participant. As I mentioned before, I was definitely schooled in my armchair quarterbacking - rescuing the tandem was as hard as it looks. Being a guy and having more upper-body strength helped. But, it was still pretty challenging. We didn't have any victims/swimmers for our scenarios. I was working through in my head what I would do with them, how I would manage them - dealing with a single is tricky enough.

After rescuing the tandem, she capsized so that I could rescue her. My biggest comments to this are that you need to be very concise with the swimmer, letting them know what the plan is and what you need them to do. Oh and - don't hit them in the head on your approach! I had one moment of distraction and came way to close to hitting Jen. The rescue after that was pretty uneventful.

The final task was to perform a self-rescue using a paddle-float reentry. This went alright as I made it back into the boat. BUT- I have a habit of flipping the boat over before I'm setup with the padde-float on the paddle blade. This means that I had to either re-capsize the boat OR try to hold onto it and manage the paddle-float. I made the mistake a year ago of trying to hold onto the boat and manage the paddle-float; long-story short, the boat got away from me and it was a feverish swim to try and catch up to it. Not fun and pretty embarrassing. So- I picked the re-capsize the boat option. After I swam onto the boat and started to cork-screw into the cockpit, I had one uneasy moment when I leaned away from the paddle-float. I didn't go over, but I went far enough that it warranted a compound cuss-word and a dive back onto the paddle/paddle-float. And finally, the seat back on Tsunami boats S-U-C-K. They're just too high. I don't know of anyone who is able to climb back in without flipping the seat down and ending up sitting on it. You're then required to slide to the very front of the cockpit (if you're small enough - I'm not) OR raise your booty so high to make yourself unstable again. If you own a Tsunami and are going to rely on paddle-float reentries, do yourself a favor and swap the seat back out! I tried to empty the kayak by myself, but I failed at both attempts.

It was a good day.