Kayaks,  Materials,  Our Projects,  Skin-on-Frame,  Wood

Gossamer Muskellunge: Beauty is skin deep.

The Gossamer Muskellunge is a custom East Greenland skin-on-frame kayak.  The hull shape is designed by Bj√∂rn Thomasson of Sweden, after a historic boats on record on the southern East Greenland coast. Thomasson optimizes the lines of the ancient craft with an understanding of modern hydrodynamic science, and designs a hull based precisely on the customer’s biometrics, in this case, mine. The plans are intended to be realized as cedar strip boats. 

When I received the plans, instead of cedar strips, I built forms for a traditionally constructed craft. The result being an optimized traditional boat. 

My East Greenland kayak under construction in my living room. One of the advantages of living single…

The result was initially quite stunning. Sleek, low lines and a translucent ballistic nylon skin revealing the frame beneath. 

The Gossamer Muskellunge, prior to her maiden voyage.

A couple things went wrong: 

  1. The ballistic nylon expands – a lot – with even atmospheric humidity. The boat perpetually looked like it was wearing a saggy, wet sock. 
  2. Although the two part urethane looked great at first and was easy to apply evenly, it only a few months it took on a blotchy more opaque yellow look. 
  3. Any dirt that got into the boat accumulated in the ends and remained visible, pressed against the ugly yellow skin. 

It was kind of heart breaking to see the changes. 

What happens with nylon and urethane…

The skin was easily removed, revealing a frame that needed cleaning, but was quite sound. The skin had originally been sealed with several coats of tung oil. It works. The frame was cleaned up, but did have some superficial staining on the ends. I opted to give deck sealer a try. I laid it on pretty thick. 

Not unlike a banana…
Staining on kayak frame after a few years of use.
A close-up of the newly stained and sealed keelson bow lashings.

The new skin is 9oz polyester. It’s a tightly woven fabric that I picked up at Kudzu Kayaks. It’s not supposed to stretch with moisture.

Stitching the skin on.

Here’s the coaming stitched on. There will be a detailed post about building coamings at some point. They are a pain in the butt. 

All stitched up!

And finally the painted kayak. I used glazes of pigmented spar varnish to get the effect.  I’m not completely sold on the result. It’s unusual and will conceal the crud that inevitably accumulates in the ends.   I’m all ready for walrus hunting! Harpoon sharpening advice, anyone?

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