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Building the Ultimate Expedition Kayak

Prologue: From Obsession to New Year's Resolution

To start my kayak-building project with a spirit of resolve, I decided to make it my official New Year's resolution. Early in November 2003, I began researching boat designs on the Internet. A lot of great kits were available, but none of them quite seemed to have the perfect blend of characteristics I was seeking. So, in the grip of kayak-building insanity, I instead acquired some kayak design software and began designing my own boat from scratch.

After a couple hundred hours of designing, swearing, and hair-pulling, I finally created what seemed to be the perfect design. It had beautiful lines, plenty of internal volume for cargo, great stability, phenomenal speed, and a low deck optimized for easier rolling than my Eclipse. At least, that is what my computer calculations and drag sheets predicted. Unfortunately, there was still no way to know for certain that this theoretical kayak would actually perform as expected in real-world conditions. No way, that is, except to build it. And so, with 2004 fast approaching, this is exactly what I decided to do.

A few days before Christmas, I built a 1/6 scale model cut from balsa wood. The model looked promising, but it told me less about the finished boat than I had hoped. All I could tell for certain was that the model seemed to have a lot of volume and a reasonably sleek, stable hull shape. But I still could not be certain the design would work until I had built it full size. With this in mind, there was nothing else to do except to go for it.

It was at this time, while trying to find someone who could print full-size cross-sectional stations of my kayak design, that I dug up more information about an existing kayak design which had interested me more than any other: the "King," designed by Joe Greenley of Redfish Kayaks. Thanks to some valuable input from another King builder, I found (to my delight) that the King's hull was strikingly similar to the computer-generated prototype I had designed on my own. But the King had one distinct advantage over my design: It had been built and proven to perform well. Every King builder I spoke to praised the boat's performance and aesthetic beauty. It sounded like the ideal design: good tracking, good maneuverability, plenty of storage, sleek lines, and so on. In fact, it almost sounded too good to be true. But so many of Joe Greenley's clients were pleased with the King that I finally came to believe in its seaworthiness. And even though I was still tempted to build the prototype I had designed on the computer, I finally decided that it was smarter to start with a proven design and modify the plans as needed.

Thus, on January 1, 2004, after a long quest for the ideal expedition-capable kayak, I purchased Joe Greenley's plans for the Redfish King—the much-praised design that would become the foundation for my ultimate expedition kayak.


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