Your Design and Getting Started

The first thing that happens at the school is a history and technical lesson. The second is a test paddle of several kayaks so you can discuss your design objectives with Corey. Each kayak is designed to meet your objectives. I wanted a kayak significantly shorter than my Pygmies, but wanted to retain a high degree of initial stability and ease of entry. We settled on 14-1/2′ long, 22-1/2′” wide, with a moderately flat bottom, and a 30″ coaming–this is a bit wider and the coaming is longer than the usual baidarka, but will still provide a significantly different experience on the water than my Arctic Tern 17. Settling on the design took about 30 minutes and could take less time if you are confident in your decisions.

Pre-cut bow and stern parts

Getting started on construction is quick. The school provides pre-cut shapes for the bow and stern. You cut the gunnels to length, use a router to cut rib slots in the bottom of each one, then attach them to the bow unit. After the gunnels are lashed to the bow, they are clamped to the stern unit and a spacer is inserted at the mid-point to establish the width of the kayak. All the major joints are pegged using bamboo pegs, then lashed together using synthetic sinew (rosin-coated nylon).

Attaching the bow and stern to the gunnels. Note that a spacer bar is in place when the stern unit is clamped on.

The joints are made secure with very strong and tight lashings. After the cord is run through the holes, it is drawn together with six half-hitch knots, which increases the tension significantly. The end of the cord is then secured with additional knots and run through the bunched cords once to secure it, exactly like you’d secure a thread at the end of a seam in cloth.


Bow gunnel ties. These cords were wrapped as an X and the drawn together


These cords were inserted as a Y and then drawn together.

The main structure of the boat is now defined and it is now ready for the deck.

I’ve heard that a baidarka can be assembled in 5 days, which is exceptional–the usual schedule is 8 days. I completed this boat in 6 days, but was lucky to be the only student and I was willing to do a lot of work (like lashing) after hours.