Despite her tiny size, she took the longest time to finish amongst the boats we built so far, not because she was particularly difficult to build, but because we had other projects going on at the same time and little interest had been invested in her.
Vydrus started as an experiment and was inspired by the North Alaskan recovery kayaks in shape and size. Some people may also say she looks like a canoe-polo boat, which is true, but I prefer using the traditional breed.
The experiment consisted in trying to use the leftovers of the leftovers into building a kayak. Much of the materials used came from a bigger kayak which in turn was built using carpentry left-overs and one day I simply picked up two pieces of timber which were too short for a normal kayak, tightened the ends, put a temporary beam in the middle and obtained the gunwales and the future shape of Vydrus.
The frame stayed like that for a few months somewhere in the back of the shop, until one day we stumbled upon it and resumed work. Building the frame was fun due to the smaller dimensions and little concern about lining things up and the materials used. It was also fast from the same reasons.
The boat was inspired by the short North Alaskan kayaks, used to retrieve the game that fell in the water. However she is not an exact copy of such a kayak as we’ll see below.
The length of the kayak came only a few centimeters short of a 3 meters threshold. After some judicious testing and marking on the gunwales we established the beam at 60 cm in order to have enough space for the legs and compensate the lack of volume and subsequent lack of buoyancy. We positioned the cockpit exactly in the middle in order to have a proper center of gravity and to obtain the maneuverability expected from such a boat. For some timber related reason the shape of the deck came out having a slight Sweed form instead of being perfectly symmetrical.
The gunwales were leftovers of some timber used to produce another pair of longer gunwales. We already had the deck beams and a piece of timber for the masik. The only problem was to adjust them for the necessary length. We also had a rib stock already cut (as a backup for the other boats, as you never have enough of them), so we hurried to soak them. That was a process of stretching a piece of plastic over some logs and putting the ribs in the space so created. We could have used a garden hose to fill it up with water or wait for the rain to come. We used both methods, as the plastic covering the logs proved to be punctured and the water mysteriously disappeared over night.
The ribs were bent using the pot method. One will patiently inhale wood smoke and stir a fire for the whole day, while putting one rib at a turn in the pot and pour hot water on it. Some of them didn’t make it…
The keelson and the hull stringers do not respect the traditional Alaskan method. Instead of using 2 round stringers per side I used only one square-ish one as in the Greenland boats. I took care of leaving enough space between the ribs and the stringers for the water pressure squeezing the skin not to affect the shape of the hull and transform it into an accordion. Also because of the only one stringer per side the boat came out with the typical shallow V hull shape instead of a more rounded one.
The skin is cotton canvas and the last piece of a large roll that covered other boats. Was in fact wondering what to do with it as it was too short for a new 5 meters long boat. From here on in fact it wasn’t my business to much as the skin part was done by my partner.
Also the paint job. Well, in here things started to get complex. Painting Vydrus was the longest part of the whole process of building the boat. After the first background coat and initial water tests (which was the only time poor Vydrus saw the water), her skin started to get covered in the following months with thick vegetation. All over. Even the bottom. When questioned why that was needed for as it was not visible anyway I was promptly replied: we’ll roll in it.
Vydrus was painted in plain air as the artist needed to see all the plants in real time in order to project them on the hull. She was carried around the whole garden and even on some nearby fields with paint, brushes and all. Sometimes the process stopped for some thinking or for doing something else with a higher priority. Sometimes the decision process of what color to buy took a funny turn when thinking out loud in front of a warehouse guy used mostly with grumpy farmers and coming 3 times per day to look at the paints without buying any.
What else can I say? She was really fun to build.
Vydrus was fun on the water too. Can be turned on a stroke, cruises well, displaces only a shallow draft and really reminds me of a canoe-polo boat. Can’t wait to put her on the water again, now that she’s finally finished.