Stars & Stripes

Two Low-volume Kayaks


Stars and StripesDesign

The ancient Inuit and Greenland kayakers had it right designing low-volume kayaks for windy, open ocean conditions.  Their kayaks sacrificed reserve buoyancy for low wind resistance, resulting in less downwind drift and less need for course-correcting paddling strokes.

Paddling conditions are often windy here in the Fiji Islands, so I decided to make a very low-volume deck for a good hull design.  I don't mind the loss of storage space in the hatches as the tropical environment does not demand as much space for thermal clothing and sleeping gear.

Using Vaclav Stejskal's One Ocean Kayaks' Cirrus hull, I designed a low-profile deck. 

Stern veiw showing how the deck panels align.Playing with a model made from cereal box cardboard, my final design was a 4-panel deck. My objective was to minimize wind resistance while maintaining adequate space for knees and feet.   This number of panels is less than half the number of deck panels in the original Cirrus design.   

My low-profile design is low enough that a recessed cockpit area is eliminated.  The front of the cockpit, or knee area, has a depth of 11 inches.  The rear of the cockpit, inside, has a height of 8 inches.

The cockpit was extended approximately one inch in the rear to allow easier layback rolls.



A temporary gunnel was used to ensure a fair curve.The hull and deck consist of 4mm marine-grade plywood covered with 6-ounce fiberglass on the exterior.  An additional layer of fiberglass was added to the high wear areas at the hull's bow and stern.  Interior seams were filleted and taped with 6-ounce seam tape then the entire interior was sealed with epoxy to prevent water penetration.  

After constructing the hull, I made the self-designed deck slightly oversized and trimmed it to fit the hull.  Before joining the deck to the hull I screwed on temporary external gunnels on the hulls to create a fair curve, as the 4mm plywood used on the hull had a few irregularities.   

These are my first painted kayaks.   I thought it would be easier than using varnish or 2-part polyurethane, but I was wrong.  Painting several colors requires several touch-up steps, and the marine enamel takes a long time to dry. 

The painted design of the two kayaks together is intended to suggest the stars and stripes of the American flag, while each being aesthetically pleasing on their own. 


I'm a big fan of paddle parks on the side of the boat (thanks, Kurt!)Deck outfitting includes an easy-grab reflective perimeter line, toggle handles, shock cords fore and aft, and a paddle park.  Webbing pad eyes hold shock cord and the perimeter line.

Inside outfitting showing sponge storage shock cord on the left, and two shock cord loops on the underside of the deck for pump storage.

Outfitting inside the kayak includes a sponge-holding shock cord, under-deck shock cords to hold a pump or gear, and a  tie-on loop behind the seat.  The seat is a Joe Greenley pre-sculpted seat blank to which I added a little more back support instead of adding a separate backrest.  

Minicel foam softens the underside of the deck for knees, and thigh hooks are installed for maximum connection when rolling or bracing.  An "If Found Adrift" ownership label is behind the cockpit in case of accidental loss.

I later added a foam block behind the seat to make a firmer backrest.I reverted back to using Seadog footbraces in these kayaks for optimal body-boat contact in rough conditions.


Paddling Performance

P9040034.JPG (1303403 bytes)The Cirrus hull is a shallow 'V' that tracks well.  The flared sides provide good secondary stability.

Performance was good upwind and in crosswind, though sometimes a little wet in 2 foot waves.  The shock cord across the bow created spray that sometimes went onto my face, so I may remove it.  

When wind was from a rear quarter, there was some weathercocking.  No big problem, but I may add retractable skegs to these boats when I have the time.  

It is a Fijian custom to name a boat after the first fish that is caught from it.  That's a little Baracuda on the foredeck in the photo at right, so Star boat is nicknamed Cuda.


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Created September 5, 2009