My Tulugaaq rolling qajaq went through another round of testing and improvement this year. My friend Joan is an athletic coach for mountain biking and tennis. She has been working out all summer rolling one of my rolling qajaqs. It’s a smaller version of the Tulugaaq which is 18 inches wide. The qajaq was a little small for her so we did a refit. We ripped off the skin, made some improvements to the frame and refitted the masik, knee brace and foot pegs for Joan. I added a pretty black cherry isserfik ( backrest ) sewed on a new skin and proceeded with a new method for applying the polyurethane finish. I am constantly on the lookout for the best methods from the skin-on-frame community and trying new ideas of my own invention. Joan’s feedback from a summer of rolling was invaluable. There were a number of design issues we addressed.
Joan provided a lot of feedback on the optimum fit for a rolling qajaq. We worked on a sitting position with more freedom for the knees to be higher and further apart. This position is more comfortable and allows more forward flexibility. A fit that is too tight makes it harder to enter and exit the kayak, restricts foreword mobility and puts unreasonable stress on the knees and hamstrings.
Floorboards mounted beneath the ribs lower the centre of gravity about 12 mm, which is very significant in a rolling qajaq. The floorboards must be lashed on very well when they are mounted below the ribs and bearing more weight from the paddler. I use yellow cedar floorboards for their strength and flexibility.
Traditional skin-on-frame qajaqs were covered with seal or sea lion skins that needed to be replaced every year or two. This gave the owner a chance to redo the gut lashings in the kayak. A modern skin made of ballistic nylon coated with polyurethane is very durable and may last for decades. The lashings may be required to last a long time with repeated flexing and abrasion from sand particles. Therefore the lashing methods on a modern skin-on-frame need to be more robust.
Steam bent, laminated, yellow cedar raised beams are strong and stiff and light. A solid wood masik is at risk from splitting if the kayak is dropped on it’s deck.
The stringers on the foredeck must be long and flexible to create the most pleasing lines for the front deck. The height of the deck affects the rolling behaviour of the qajaq. A higher deck provides more righting-moment for a smoother roll. A combing that is too high restricts forward mobility. We arrived at a solution that raised the front deck without raising the combing.
The isserfik (backrest ) must be strong to fit the weight of the paddler. Since the isserfik protrudes into the cockpit, it might as well be attractive.
Qajaqs used for competition in Greenland must not have plastic or metal parts. A recreational roller in the south is not subject to this restriction. This opens up the opportunity to use adjustable plastic footpegs. Taller or shorter people may want to roll the qajaq and adjust the footpegs for themselves. Fastening the deck lines with screws and nylon webbing is easier and keeps the qajaq drier. A clear deck immediately in front of the cockpit is better for sculling rolls and storm rolls.
I have been experimenting with better ways of applying the polyurethane coating to the skin. The two part polyurethane from the Skin Boat Store makes a excellent primer that saturates the skin and loads lots of flexible, abrasion resistant material into the skin. Marine polyurethane finishes designed for yachts and fishing boats provides a finish which can be rolled on, does not sag and drip, can be applied in multiple thin coats, can be sanded and dries quicker and more reliably. There is more control over the look of the final coat. You can choose a gloss, semi-gloss or matte finish. You can apply the colour in the marine paint or use a clear marine paint and apply the colour in the primer …. or you can do both. Marine paints are durable, abrasion resistant and adhere very well to a ‘green’ primer coat.
After 5 days work refitting, improving the frame, reskinning and applying deck lines, Joan got to try out the kayak to see how it performed.
Here is what Joan said about the project:
“Rolling the Tulugaag this summer has been most inspirational – the SOF feels at one with the water.”
“Before rolling the RavenWoods Tulugaaq I rolled a Tahe Marine Greenland and, as Greenland rollers know, the Tahe is a great rolling kayak. But is it the best? Is a skin-on-frame better?
SOF’s are light enough for anyone to load onto the roof of their car and carry to a launch area without the need for wheels. So soon after Gerhardt loaned me a Tulugaaq I discovered the joys of setting off and rolling in solitude. Very empowering.
The Tulugaaq took my rolling to another level. But a SOF must fit perfectly. This Tulugaaq was built for a smaller paddler so I did not hesitate when Gerhardt offered to strip the skin off for a refit, and also look at improving the design. We wanted a kayak that fit, rolled better than anything else, with a Greenland look and a good quality finish.
We pulled off the skin that is made of an indestructible, ballistic nylon (see Video) then pegged in a new knee brace and massik. Next we fit on a pair of new stringers in order to raise the front deck from the massik to the bow. We lashed all these pieces together with waxed twine. We also replaced a few floorboards that Gerhardt destroyed in the above-mentioned video. I then opted to include adjustable foot rests so I have a good foot position when barefoot or when wearing winter footwear. Finally, Gerhardt reskinned and refinished using a new and far superior process.
Our goals were met. The higher front deck adds buoyancy and improves the righting of the kayak on forward finish rolls. But, the rear deck we left as it was, very low, lower than the Tahe. The result is that it is very easy to finish back deck rolls. I have also learned that a snug knee brace combined with a slightly loose massik is a very powerful combination. Thus is a fit that I could never get right in my Tahe and one needed for a strong hip snap and leg drive.
Yes, the new Tulugaaq rolls better, fits better and inspires me to get out for more rolling. See you out there.” Joan
“We’d rather be upside down in our kayaks than right side up most anywhere else”.
I only build 3 or 4 kayaks each year. If you are a Greenland roller and want a custom skin-on-frame rolling kayak, send me a message and let’s see what we can do.