Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mark Hospitalized

I just wanted to let everyone know that Mark was hospitalized on Saturday night with a heart issue. He stayed overnight and has returned home and is recovering. It wasn't a heart attack, so he will be back in the shop soon.

There will, however, be a one week delay on orders.

Thanks for your understanding!


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Just in time for the building season - New Skins!

Jeff's Greenland Style Kayak by Black Dog Kayaks skinned in Ballistic Nylon with
optional Black Dog Kayaks Deck Rigging Kit

Builders have voiced concerns with the vinyl coated polyester skin, suggesting that it's too difficult for a beginning builder to work with and get a wrinkle free finish. Well, we listened to you, and have changed our kayak skin over to 850 denier ballistic nylon coated with a two part urethane. The new fabric is an old favorite with traditional builders and has been proven over time to be very durable and easy to use. Our ballistic nylon is fully heat shrinkable, can be dyed in the color of your choice using an acid dye, or left white for a translucent finish after coating with urethane.

Jeff's Albatross 14 (tan) skinned with PVC and his Black Dog Greenland Style Kayak (blue) skinned with Ballistic Nylon

No sewing is required. The skin is draped over the kayak hull, stretched, and stapled at the sheer line. The frame is then turned over and the skin is applied to the deck using the same method. This is followed by heat shrinking using an iron or a heat gun. The two part urethane is then mixed and applied to the skin and left to cure. The urethane seals any holes left by staples and provides a watertight seal and bond between the deck and the hull.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Skin On Frame Repair Kits

A repair kit is a must-have item in the gear of any kayaker, even moreso for anyone who paddles a skinboat. And it's useful for repairing more than just your kayak! Most of the items in the repair kit can also be used for other purposes, such as repairing a wetsuit or drysuit, sewing a button back on your shorts, attaching items to your PFD or your kayak, and so forth.

What's in my repair kit?

  • Leatherman Multi-Tool - This is a great tool for doing everything from cutting line to pulling needles through fabric with the needle-nose pliers. It also works as a makeshift handle for the camp cookpot.

  • Duct Tape - Useful for temporarily patching holes in the kayak skin, taping broken gear back together, etc. It can also be used for First Aid purposes, closing up cuts, securing a splint, etc.

  • Parachute Cord - Available from Army Surplus Stores, 550 cord is another repair kit item that has as many uses as you can think up for it. It can be used to lash items to your PFD or to your kayak, to splint broken kayak stringers or ribs, or, "gut" it, i.e., cut the ends off, pull out the lighter weight cords inside, and use them to sew up holes in the kayak skin.

  • Sewing Kit - How are you going to sew a hole closed if you don't have a sewing kit? Also useful for repairing tents, sleeping bags, clothing, tarps, etc. Forget the lightweight needles normally included with a sewing kit. Buy large canvas/leatherworking needles, both straight and curved and some nylon or polyester upholstery thread. Avoid cotton covered nylon or polyester. Use thread that's rated for outdoor/UV resistance.

  • Lighter - Start a campfire, burn the ends of threads or cord to avoid fraying, etc.

  • Seal Cement - Neoprene contact cement is technically not a kayak repair item, but if you blow a seam on your wetsuit or your neoprene booties, you'll be glad you have it.

  • GOOP - From the makers of Shoe Goo, Amazing GOOP is useful for gluing patches over holes in the hull, or, if the hole is small enough, glob some GOOP over top of the hole and you're good to go. It cures quickly, so, if you make your repair before breakfast, by the time you're packing up, it should be ready to go.

  • Fabric Patches - I carry scraps left over from skinning the kayak. Use GOOP to secure them over larger holes. If you paddle a fiberglass kayak, you may want to include strips of fiberglass tape.

  • Zip Ties - Who knows? Zip ties are useful for all kinds of things, such as splinting broken stringers or ribs in the kayak hull or tying your garbage bag shut.

  • 5-minute Epoxy - A double tube of epoxy is small, resealable, and handy for more permanent repairs, assuming that you have the time to do them. If a stringer breaks, epoxy the break and back it up with a piece of wood epoxied on as a backing block. Secure it with zip ties until it cures. If you paddle a hard shell kayak, 5-minute epoxy can be used to fix cracks and holes.

There are a number of other items that you could include, but many of those can be found lying around your campsite. E.g., before you apply epoxy to a fiberglass repair, or GOOP to a skin repair, you should sand the area to give the repair better adhesion. No sandpaper? A piece of wood and some beach sand works to rough up an area. Sprinkle sand on it and rub it down with the piece of wood.

When putting your kit together, try to imagine what could go wrong and think of how you would go about fixing it. Think of multiple uses for the items you have and think light and small. I like to use a Sharpie to write the contents of the repair kit on the outside of the drybag.

Finally, keep the repair kit in a place where it is easily reached for yourself or for others. If the rest of your group hasn't spent as much time preparing for eventualities you may be the hero of the day!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Apostle Islands

We were recently in the Apostle Islands in Northern Wisconsin testing kayak protoypes and miscellaneous gear. We ended up paddling over forty miles in four days, camped on four islands, dodged two thunderstorms, and generally had a great time paddling and finding out what the Madeline 16 could do on tour.

You can find the whole story and a lot of photos on our Bulletin Board.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Advantage of Proper Flotation

I took two skin-on-frame kayaks to the beach today, one with skin and one without skin. The one with skin had no extra flotation. The skinless kayak had flotation bags fore and aft.

Here, the Madeline 16 floats on a nice, even keel when she's empty.

But, fill her up with water and things change. The only thing preventing Cleopatra's Needle here was the bottom of the Lake holding the stern in place.

Now, here is the skinless Abatross 14, no skin, but full flotation.

And, even with a 245 pound paddler on board, she floats level in calm water.

The skinless kayak needed some bracing occasionally, but I was able to paddle it away and back to the beach.

I would liked to have tried the skinless kayak with a sea sock and a spray skirt as well, but, as you can see, I didn't have the coaming installed on the Albatross. I think the spray skirt would have held a lot of air in place inside the sea sock, though, which would have provided additional flotation.

Lesson learned: If you're not going to use a sea sock, you need to have flotation bags if you are going to paddle on open water with your skin-on-frame kayak. Ideally, you should have both flotation and a sea sock.

The first time I ever capsized my kayak I had no spray skirt and no float bags. I did a sculling stroke, the paddle dove, and pulled the kayak over with it, flooding the entire thing. That was before I knew even how to do a self-rescue, much less dewater the kayak. I swam it to shore and hauled the heavy kayak out of the water so I could empty it.

You need to have flotation, and, ideally, it should be backed up with a sea sock.

You can find video of the test here:

Monday, May 26, 2008

How To Float Your Camera

Your Camera, your GPS, even sunglasses, have something in common - most of them sink when you drop them in the water. When I was in college I got a very nice Walkman after I saw a kid drop it in about twenty feet of water. I went home and picked up my snorkeling gear and dove after it. The kid was long gone, but I saved the Walkman.

So, the waterproof camera may be able to survive a dunking if you drop it in the water, but unless you can dive after it, waterproof won't matter. It's an easy problem to solve, though. A neoprene glasses strap, available for about two bucks from Wal-Mart, will easily float your ultralight eyeglasses or plastic sunglasses.

And, a piece of closed cell foam will provide plenty of flotation for your camera or GPS.

The closed cell foam is attached to the tripod mount of the camera, where it's out of the way. I should add a washer to the thumb screw to make sure it doesn't pull through the foam.

You may also be able to use a large sized floating foam key chain.

Disclaimer: You should test the flotation in a controlled environment before you drop your gear in open water.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Black Dog Flotation Bags!

Black Dog Kayaks Flotation Bags add safety and storage space to your Black Dog Kayak. Flotation bags displace water, meaning that if you swamp your kayak, you'll have gallons less to pump out. We can't stress enough how important it is to have proper flotation in a kayak, which is why we're happy to be offering these flotation bags made exclusively for our kayaks by Spirit Line. The flotation bags are sold in pairs, front and rear and can be ordered from our Safety page.

Flotation Bags

Made for Black Dog Kayaks by Spirit Line, the rear flotation bag is constructed with a unique 3 ply material. The design allows you to store your gear in one compartment and inflate the other compartment for flotation. Each compartment is the full size of the bag. Hidden solid plastic inserts gives an incredible seal for a submersible seal in the gear chamber. The bow flotation bag is smaller in size and is made with the same 3 ply material as the rear flotation/storage bag. Flotation Bags are $89.99/pair, or, $55 for the Gear Bag, $45 for the front flotation bag (air only). Watch for pics of the flotation bags installed in our kayaks soon.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

CNC Precision Cut Parts

We're happy to be able to announce that the plywood frame components for the Greenland Style Kayak are being produced with a CNC machine (computer numerical control). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CNC Beside alleviating some of the work load in our shop, the most desirable benefit to process is that a CNC machine quite simply can produce parts more perfectly than can be made by hand.

The bottom line is that the kits are produced more quickly, so that we can get them into your hands faster!

Ice Paddling on Lake Superior

To see more photos visit our Forum

We went out paddling in the ice again last week, April 21st.

Temps were in the 60's, the sun was shining, and the ice was falling.

We went south of Marquette, launched off of South Beach and paddled to the beach near the Michigan Welcome Center. Swells were one to two feet high and were reflecting off of the ice. My babysitter, Don, paddled right up along the ice foot for a while. I stayed off between twenty and one hundred yards, depending on what the waves were doing. The waves were reflecting off of the ice and coming back at the same height they went in. There was a lot of floating ice too. Sometimes it felt like we were padlding through a Margarita or a Slurpee.

I did grab a nice big piece of floating ice, very clear, to take home and use for recreational purposes. The clear ice is good if you get thirsty. The pieces have spines and other shapes sticking up, and you can just break a piece off of the top and chew on it.

The Carbon/Kevlar paddle worked very well. The hard finish was especially nice when fending off the big ice bergs floating around us.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Greenland Kayak Workshop

Build your own kayak!

Join Great Lakes Kayak and The Northwest Passage as we welcome a unique boat building opportunity presented by Black Dog Kayaks.

Designed along the lines of the traditional Greenland style kayak, with a low rear deck, hard chines, and a shallow-V hull, our low volume kayak is just the ticket for the boat builder who wants an easy-to-build, traditional looking kayak. This boat building oportunity will see you assemble the frame, sand and finish/waterproof the frame and conclude skinning under the watchful eye of a professional boat builder and designer. The result a Greenland style kayak that is a true performer - fast, lightweight, and easy to roll.

Your Greenland Style Kayak kit includes a builders guide, pre-cut and notched marine plywood frames, cedar stringers, cockpit touring ring, skinning fabric, web trim, a countersink bit and waterproof glue.

- 2008 Price: Full package: $1,100, base package: $929
- Location: Great Lakes Kayak, Lake Bluff, IL

CLASS DATES (2008) - March 28-30
CLASS TIMES - All day Friday - Sunday
STATUS - OPEN Limited space

Activities: 3 day instructional session in skin-on-frame boat building.
All participants will depart with their own Greenland style kayak.
Dates: March 28-30, 2008 (All day Friday through Sunday)
2008 Price: $1,100 Full Package includes catered lunch, t-shirt, video DVD of weekend.
Base Package: $929 (boat only)
Location: Great Lakes Kayak, Lake Bluff, IL
Included in base package: One individual Greenland kayak kit, instructor, work space, equipment storage and for course duration, coffee, tea, hot water.
Full package includes: All the above and catered lunch(3 days), sponsor T-shirt, video DVD of weekend.
Not included: Transportation, drill/screwgun, a phillips screwdriver, clamps, and tape measure. Outing cancellaton insurance (please review your cancellation policy for full details) and instructor gratuity.
Suggested tools: sanding block or belt sander