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Glassing a Sea Wolf

Dee Hall

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I took a trip to Cambridge last night to measure a Sea Wolf in order to determine whether or not Bob would be likely to fit in it. I ended up doing more than taking measurements.

It was a chilly 3-4 degrees when I arrived at the put-in, a very narrow one-way street with intimidating "Resident Only" parking signs on both sides. After deciding that it was probably too cold for Cambridge's finest to be writing tickets, I chose a corner parking spot.

Finding the kayak workshop was as easy as Adam described, even though I didn't have the correct address. There was a brightly lit basement window with a full view of the kayak and builders for the numerous spectators on the sidewalk.

Adam introduced me to Norm and they went back to filling small holes and seams in the hull. The basement was a bit on the chilly side, but I had my "thermies" on. They offered to let me help, but although I was dressed for the conditions and had my organic respirator, I wasn't enthusiastic about getting epoxy on my sweater and shoes (my jeans, on the otherhand, already have a few finger-sized resin or varnish imprints).

Soon another paddler arrived, and Leslie had brought coveralls, epoxy squeeges, and 2-3 more respirators. She quickly joined in filling the holes.

Aside: There is a web journal that was written by the wife of another new kayak builder. She refers to the epoxy as shmoo and the epoxy mixed with filler, etc. as dookey-shmutz. I couldn't get these terms out of my mind while watching and had to carefully phrase my questions to use the more technical terms for these sticky mixtures.

Then there were five. Kevin arrived in a two-piece wool suit, and quickly joined in the fun of filling the holes. Since the other paddlers were distressed at the possibility of him ruining his suit, he finally agreed to put on Leslie's coveralls. (Kevin and Leslie are currently building their own boats. They came by to get a preview of the process of glassing their own hulls.)

After about 30 minutes, the filling was complete. They were ready to glass the hull. Norm and Adam measured out the glass and cut a single piece long enough (almost) to cover the kayak from end to end. Then it was folded up and put aside. A very thin coat of resin was applied to the hull. Even though the epoxy is of a relatively thin viscosity, it took the team another 20 minutes to spread with the small foam rollers. Finally, the glass was drapped over the hull and carefully smoothed.

Squeeges were cleaned and more epoxy was mixed and Adam demonstrated how to pour the epoxy on and carefully spread it to wet out the glass. At this point my desire to stay clean was surpassed by my curiosity of this technique. My previous experiences with fiberglass have been effective, but definitely not pretty, and I got glass and resin everywhere. Now there were 4 of us spreading epoxy while one person kept mixing up more to keep our yogurt cups from becoming empty.

The experience reminded me of an old-fashioned barn building, a community coming together to create a essential structure with and for their neighbors. There was pleasant classical music on the radio, and the each person was contributing to warming the air as well as the atmosphere. Even issues other than kayaking were discussed.

At this point two potentially new paddlers arrived to see the boat and the process. Although each had paddled just a few times, they didn't own boats and were considering building one or two themselves. They watched for a while, but before long one put on some gloves and started spreading epoxy too.

After about 75 percent of the hull was epoxied, Kevin left for a meeting. Leslie left soon after. Then there were four plus one observer. Some time later, Adam and I took a break for dinner. About 90 percent of the hull was covered in epoxy, although there were many dry spots left to touch up, Norm and the two now almost certain future kayak builders continued with the epoxy. 20 minutes later they

emerged from the basement. All that was left for the day was the finishing touches.

A process that normally takes 1-2 people 4 hours to do took around an hour and a half. Apparently, Norm spent one evening on another paddlers boat while he was considering building his own. When I left, he said to let me know when I was ready to glass my own boat. He would be there.

And no, there wasn't a ticket on my windshield.

Dee Hall

Impex Currituck, Blue over Smoky Ivory

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Ya know, Dee, you have a way of making even

a "stinky" process like that sound like great

fun. Not only was it entertaining, it sort of

makes the idea of glassing a kayak a lot less

forbidding. Like "hey, maybe I COULD do that!"

Thanks for sharing your experience.


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