Petestack Blog

29 September 2022

Packrafting killed my camera!

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 5:41 pm

To cut to the chase, we’re talking about a good day yesterday (something I’ve wanted to do for a long time) marred by stupidly knocking an unsecured camera bag containing my Lumix GM5 + 14–45mm lens in the water when I got out the packraft and almost certainly killing both!

It was of course entirely my fault; I have a waist strap on the bag, but didn’t clip it because I was wearing a buoyancy aid. The camera has a leash with a clip which I’d normally clip to something on me (e.g. rucksack), but didn’t because there are no obvious attachment points on this old buoyancy aid I took. Either would have ensured the camera left the boat with me or I could have just put it on the bank before I got out, but instead got out forgetting I had the bag there, remembered/looked for it, saw it floating alongside and thought ‘****’! It didn’t even take in that much water, but seems a little goes a long way…

It’s over a year (July 2021) since I started looking at packrafts with trips like yesterday’s in mind. But I never got the Alpacka Llama I ordered in August 2021 for estimated January 2022 delivery because they sent the boat to the distributor in February with a ‘cargo fly’ or zip I neither specified nor wanted and simply haven’t agreed to put this right by supplying the boat as ordered for all the months since. So I finally requested a refund, went looking for something else and chose a Norseraft Loki Light which came within days. This is a simple open boat similar to the basic Llama, but perhaps even better for my long legs; Norseraft says ‘Loki Light is based on the design of the popular Viking Light, adapted for people up to 183 cm’, which should include me if height was the only consideration. But of course I have legs for someone considerably taller, so looked carefully at the specified inner length and sitting length (still more than the Llama) before putting some questions to Norseraft and deciding with Ørjan’s very helpful answers that I’d still get a good ‘performance’ fit with this boat. And so it’s proved to be when I’m finding my feet braced neatly against the bow for paddling with slightly bent legs and just enough wiggle room to straighten fully when I want.

So yesterday’s trip was a local outing I’ve had in mind for at least a year, which was to paddle the sinuously attractive lochan sitting at c.735m between Sgòr Eilde Beag and Sgùrr Eilde Mòr that gives Coire an Lochain its name. And I probably visited every little bay more than once, criss-crossing the lochan for an hour and a half or so, both in and out of the wind which came and went. While I’d put in just west of where the Allt Riabhach leaves it, this floating exploration proved the best put in/take out spot to be some 120m north across the same eastmost bay, where a tiny inlet distinguishable on 1:25,000 but not 1:50,000 OS map seems to be the only place with a flat, sandy bottom instead of shelving (but at least smooth) rocks. My post-camera-dunking photo of the raft here was taken with my phone!

Time to post some more photos retrieved from the SD card in the GM5 before finishing with some more thoughts about the boat and the borked camera equipment. So here’s where I sorted myself out and put in, with Binnein Mòr behind:

And here I’m paddling north towards Binnein Beag (centre) against a breeze that’s stronger than it looks:

Here’s Sgùrr Eilde Mòr in a calmer patch followed by Binnein Mòr and Binnein Beag with the breeze increasing again:

Two shots not really doing justice to a rather nice rainbow up the west side of Binnein Beag, captured (I think) with the packraft’s stern sitting against the lochan’s bank:

And holding up my paddle below a new rainbow, which is the last shot you’ll see from the GM5:

So… further thoughts about the boat? It’s a good size for carrying to remote playgrounds, being big enough to paddle well (where its handling impressed me) but no bigger than I need for my legs. This particular model is a nice, almost bronze colour I find subtle but not dull (NB I did like the pale blue and gold Alpacka ‘Forget-Me-Not’, but am happy with this). It comes with a skeg/tracking fin as standard, which is good to have and I took with me, but chose not to fit on this occasion due to the nature of the shallow water round the lochan’s edges. I thought it handled just fine without, staying comfortably straight while paddling if making predictably slow progress against the strongest breeze! I started with my paddle at the 210cm I use for my other, narrower boats (sea kayak at 58cm and inflatables at 79/80cm) before trying 220cm in the breeze and reverting to 210cm, which still works for me despite the broader 94cm beam of the packraft. I found the seat and backrest comfortable although the seat’s considerable volume takes a bit of blowing up and some squeezing to deflate through its narrow, mouthblown tube. Fitting/removing the inflation bag for the main hull chamber is a bit fiddly because it screws into and out of the valve, which twists that end of the bag into a kind of ‘rope’ you then need to untwist, but the bag works fine when fitted. It’s clearly a well-made boat although mine did come with a couple of tiny marks to the tube fabric I’d prefer not to have found, but realistically it’s going to pick up marks in use and Norseraft’s extended my warranty since I reported them before using. While the floor’s lighter than that of the Alpacka I didn’t get, it’s the same 420D weight you get with most packrafts, seems sturdy enough and is surely a ‘compromise’ worth making for a boat that’s little more than half the price, easier to get hold of and seems to fit me better.

Now what about that camera gear? It’s all very well to save money on the boat, head straight for the mountain lochan I’ve wanted to paddle for ages and take the camera to document it when there are paddles I just don’t feel the need to document, but dunking said gear was a stupid and expensive mistake! It was a late decision to keep things as compact as possible by taking the GM5 instead of the G80 I’m thankful didn’t end up in the water instead, but then perhaps I’d not have missed the larger bag I have for that when I got out. Not that you get the choice with accidents but, if I’d had to choose which to wreck, the GM5 has been quite temperamental for some time now, suffering from a known fault where some hardwired little internal battery fails and you have to reset the clock if you haven’t used it for a while. Still an unfortunate loss as a neat wee body they don’t make any more, and also a pity about the 14–45 (the classic original Lumix kit lens), which was only on it because there’s an unrepaired (again known) problem with the zoom ring on the 12–32 that came with it. But I don’t use it on my G80 when I normally have the weather-sealed 12–60 fitted on that.

So is the dunked gear definitely dead? While it’s all currently sitting on/in rice in sealed containers because I have to at least give that a go, I think probably yes. While I might just get it dry and the electrics might just work if they’re not completely fried, things also feel a bit gritty from the sand I probably disturbed as I came in and got out. While I can also rationalise that it’s just stuff or point out the irony of it happening the day a new dry bag I got for strapping cameras to my kayak deck arrived, it’s above all a lesson in carelessness when it wasn’t having it in the boat that killed it but not taking proper care of it there!

25 September 2022

Kayak round Lismore

Filed under: Paddling,Sailing — admin @ 8:18 pm

I’m ‘supposed’ to be trading my sailing know-how for Amanda’s in kayaking and we’d hoped to go sailing yesterday…

Amanda lives about 180m up the road and Ruth lives right in between (a neat 90m from either of us). Amanda’s a Sea Kayak Leader and Coach who’s keen to do some sailing where I’m a lifelong sailor getting into kayaking, so Ruth suggested we could help each other. What a good idea!

But a forecast short of wind said ‘kayak’, Amanda suggested the single-day circumnavigation of Lismore we both wanted to do, so that’s what we did. And, needing to cover the length of the island by a midday low tide, we were afloat by 8:35am having arrived at Port Appin still only just in time to grab the last obvious parking space! We’d still been discussing which way round to go on the drive down, but settled on anticlockwise to cover the more exposed Lynn of Morvern first when we’d be more sheltered from an expected slight strengthening of potentially adverse breeze (F2–3 NW’ly?) paddling back up the Lynn of Lorn in the afternoon. While we also had to weigh up the possibility of now missing the last of the ebb through the inside passage at Eilean Musdile (Lismore Light) when the flood would be with us there on the clockwise circuit, we thought we could cope with that so headed pretty well point-to-point to get there ASAP before following the coast more closely back up:

In the event we had nothing to worry about with an apparently effortless, almost dream-like passage down to Eilean Musdile taking just over three hours and the channel being child’s play when we got there after a short stop to portage the narrow neck (An Doirlinn) between Bernera and Lismore. Now of course you can have enough water to paddle this, but perhaps not at the state of tide you’re likely to find on a round-Lismore kayak trip where you’re aiming to hit the southern tip of the island at low water, and it might not take any longer just to paddle round Bernera, but we’d planned to go this way so portage we did!

Time to relax after hitting our one and only major target on time, so we stopped for an early lunch at the lovely little bay of Port an Rubha at the southern tip of Lismore before I took my boat for a quick play so Amanda could take photos with my camera:

And then we were on our way back north-east, happy with our decision to save this more sheltered option for the return and making another stop at the ferry terminal of Achnacroish after I’d also popped into a wee bay called Miller’s Port to sort an annoying loose flask rolling about under the hatch behind my cockpit:

For those interested in a similar day trip, I recorded 18.9 nautical miles (21.7 statute miles or 34.9 km) over the ground in a little over seven hours including stops and that brief play at Port an Rubha. We’d planned assuming about eight hours, but everything (tide, conditions etc.) just came together perfectly, with probably about six hours of actual relatively relaxed paddling and typical, mostly slightly tide-assisted, speeds of 3.5 to 4 knots over the ground. If the second half of this speed profile suggests a slight drop in pace where we didn’t feel one, this is perhaps simply due to following the coast tightly where we’d made more obvious use of the tide on our straighter morning line, but the top peak still comes as we crossed the tide back to Port Appin at the end:

All in all, a grand day out taking a logical and aesthetic route in perfect conditions, with plenty of interesting but unphotographed wildlife (porpoises, seals, many herons, geese, more) to further add to the charm!

So could we cap a great weekend by squeezing in a sail today before strong winds forecast for the next couple of days started to really blow up this afternoon? We sure could and it was fun (check the smiles!), if still plenty windy enough to give Amanda’s second sail on Fly a quite different vibe to her first in conditions more like yesterday’s a few weeks ago. The ideal for teaching and learning is probably somewhere in between, but this is what we had:

11 September 2022

September Cruise

Filed under: Paddling,Sailing — admin @ 2:42 pm

Time for a sailing blog!

Sometimes things get blogged and sometimes they don’t but, months after I last blogged about anything and nearly a year since I last talked about sailing here, the impetus finally comes from a September cruise I couldn’t have done when I was still working. Of course I’d thought that now I’ve retired I’d get fitting the boat out early for an April launch, but started building my kayak store instead before losing weeks of potential Fly time to dismal May/June weather and finally (if only narrowly) breaking my record for latest-ever launch in not hitting the water till 2 August! So was it worth it for what’s likely to be another sub-three-month season? With more good sailing already bagged by mid-September than perhaps the whole comparable post-refit ‘era’ of 2019 and 2021 (2020 of course being lost to lockdown etc.), I think that’s a rhetorical question…

So I fancied a trip south, thinking Sound of Jura or something, and the combination of RHYC Loch Craignish muster on 3 September, proposed cruise in company to follow and weather looking OK for the foreseeable had me heading for Puilladobhrain on Thursday 1 September. With little wind till hints of a south-westerly tempted me into beating down the outside of Kerrera instead of motoring on through Oban Bay and the Sound, I didn’t get much sailing that day, but not to worry when there was plenty to come over the next week! See chart below for Fly’s track, with ‘solo’ days marked in red and ‘cruise in company’ in blue:

Can’t remember how many boats I counted at Puilladobhrain but it was certainly short of summer busyness at about eight (?), which helps when Fly needs a little more scope and swinging room than most as a light boat on part-warp rode when all-chain seems far more common. The yacht we followed in turned out to be Mark and Charmian Entwistle’s Discoverer of Sleat, likewise en route to the muster and cruise.

Friday was much windier, but gave good sailing all the way to Craignish once I took in a reef in the main and some turns on the genoa (setting beautifully with its padded luff) off Easdale, and arriving a day early gave me pretty free choice of anchoring spot within the designated area in the Lagoon (which actually never got busy with some boats preferring Ardfern in the strengthening winds):

While the muster was officially just Saturday evening, other RHYC boats were arriving all the time and I’d also purposefully got there a day early to see David and Carol Graham at Barfad, where we spent a very pleasant Friday evening as well as bumping into George Seaton at Ardfern when Carol took me up earlier to fill a couple of diesel cans. Then some serious threat (amber warning!) of rain caused the muster to be moved from the slip at the Lagoon to Lucy’s Ardfern (very nice café), where Vice Commodore Martin Clarke outlined the latest cruise plans (what… we’re still planning to go out through the Corryvreckan in this wind?), which might have led to a couple of boats heading elsewhere but turned out to be a good call. So we’re off through that notorious gulf on Sunday morning and of course I really wanted to do it (first time in all my years of west coast sailing), but it was windy and had been windy, if fairly crucially from the east with no sea to speak of. In the event it was probably about as straightforward as it ever gets and you’d never have guessed its reputation if you didn’t know… except that you have to know to be there at all! John and Lesley on Leumadair were through first, taking off at speed under full sail and quickly putting miles between themselves and the rest of us, with Fly following under just genoa (typically hitting the sweet spot for efficiency when single-handing in a breeze) and eventually being overhauled by the other bigger boats (Discoverer, YoHoHo and Warisha under various combinations of reduced sail) way out the other side. While my photos of Discoverer show her passing during the brief period Mark and Charmian shook out their reef(s), I think Warisha just had genoa all day and am guessing YoHoHo stuck with the genoa and tiny main you see:

Anyway, we’re through the Corryvreckan and heading for Kiloran Bay on Colonsay, which is providing excellent shelter from the east for us but wouldn’t from the west. I’ve not seen a yacht there in two short holidays spent at a cottage above the bay but there are going to be nine by nightfall, which might surprise those on the land! While Colonsay’s a lovely island and Kiloran’s a lovely bay, there are (many) times when neither’s the place to be in a yacht. This Sunday night it’s paradise afloat as well as ashore:

On Monday morning most of us are heading for Cragaig Bay on Ulva and, mindful that my thoroughbred 28ft cruiser racer is still by far the smallest boat in the fleet and I can’t drive her that hard on my own, I’m looking for a head start and away first again. Today I’ve chosen to start under just mainsail (still reefed from Friday), but the genoa might have been better when it’s almost dead downwind to Ardalanish, I’m not trusting the tillerpilot with the deep running angles and find myself preferring to steer by hand much of the way (NB the genoa’s not much use behind the main because it’s basically just blanketed and doesn’t want to goosewing). But it’s good, quick sailing and no-one’s obviously catching me apart from Geir and Deborah on Grand Banks 48 (motor yacht) Anne of Ardfern, who’d have overtaken me coming through the Sound of Iona if they hadn’t stopped for a break there.

Apart from that, it’s still a thrilling lone ride all the way to Cragaig on what’s now become more of a starboard-tack fetch with no real shelter from quite fresh conditions till I’m almost there, but I’m the first of the RHYC yachts to drop anchor just inside the single prior arrival whose poor crew probably thought they had the place to themselves!

So… Cragaig is a lovely wee harbour with decent shelter and a fine prospect of Ben More. While the entrance isn’t obvious from offshore till you’re really quite close, it’s actually quite straightforward once identified with a clean entrance channel that’s plenty wide enough. When (time to extricate myself from the present tense here!) I decided to pump up the kayak instead of the dinghy to try a wee paddle — and I mean ‘try’ because I hadn’t tried it from Fly before — I was surprised to see a group of sea kayakers appear from the corner of the bay and head off who knows where. Now I obviously can’t carry my sea kayak on Fly, but had brought the smaller of my two Gumotex inflatables, which is the really tiny Twist, and think I’d probably have preferred the slightly larger Safari. It’s a while since I’ve paddled the Twist and it does feel small, but at least I now know it’s possible to get in and out of an inflatable kayak from my hook-on plastic stern ladder and things should work better yet when I fit a more substantial folding stainless one.

Tuesday 6 September came with the twin targets of Calgary Bay for lunch and Sanna Bay for our overnight stop, we had good sailing all the way till the wind eventually (perhaps even conveniently?) dropped off the Point of Ardnamurchan and — wanting to get this blog done — I’m just going to leave the photos mostly to speak for themselves. But you might like to look out for the sailing ship off Staffa, the lifeboat (not sure which one) speeding past Lunga and my full mainsail, which had Fly absolutely trucking NNE towards Ardnamurchan after shaking out the reef as we left Calgary:

Now Kiloran, Calgary and Sanna have much in common as beautiful sandy bays popular with land-based visitors but open to the west in ways which leave them best classed as ‘occasional’ anchorages for seafarers… perfect in the prolonged easterly stream we’d been exploiting but potentially uncomfortable or even dangerous at other times. While Sanna also brought the first ever failure of my Rocna anchor to bite first time when trying to tuck right into the southmost corner with Leumadair and Anne of Ardfern simply brought up a humongous clump of weed, this was quicky rectified by moving slightly northwards to clean sand where RHYC member Doug Sharp coincidentally there on Blue Point had (like the solitary prior arrival at Cragaig) probably been anticipating a quiet night! And we had our first real daylight rain for days, with impressive afternoon showers to seawards (see photos of Warisha below) followed by a pretty wet evening for the beach barbecue we could have had dry any other night:

Wednesday saw our fleet starting to disperse, with Discoverer heading northwards home to Sleat and Neil, Sue and Mark on YoHoHo also deciding not to head up Loch Sunart as far as Salen. So we had just Warisha, Leumadair, Anne of Ardfern and Fly left that evening for a good meal at the Salen Inn although that’s somewhat jumping ahead when we have another pile of photos to take us there first! Again not stopping to say much about these when I’m trying to get the blog finished and it’s really just a peg to hang the photos from, but I do like the one of Martin motoring the dinghy apparently out to sea to say goodbye to Mark and Charmian as Discoverer departs:

While I like anchoring and wouldn’t want to be simply sailing from marina to marina, pontoons also have their place and I enjoyed the change of gear that came with our final two nights at the fine facilities at Salen Jetty and Lochaline Harbour. So, yes, there are fees when anchoring is free, but you’re never going to drag, can step ashore, get toilets, showers, water, fuel, whatever, as well as instant, inter-boat socialising. And, after having previously been invited aboard Leumadair and Warisha for group drinks, it was nice to finally get John and Lesley aboard Fly at Salen and (jumping ahead again here!) Martin and Philippa at Lochaline. But our remaining group of four boats, seven sailors became just two boats, three sailors for Lochaline as John and Lesley on Leumadair headed off first on Thursday morning to catch tidal gates south and Geir and Deborah on Anne of Ardfern (who had been coming with us) had to go to Oban instead. The healthy breezes that had provided almost non-stop sailing from Craignish to Ardnamurchan were becoming more sporadic and my initially fairly determined attempt to sail finally gave way to a calm motor down the Sound of Mull about halfway between Calve Island and Eileanan Glasa or rather more than halfway between Salen and Lochaline. And here I had to stop and make circles to recalibrate the tillerpilot since I wanted to use it but something had started upsetting it as I’d left Salen that morning to the extent that it now simply wanted to steer an imaginary slalom course sweeping from lock to lock!

So I’ve already said I had Martin and Philippa aboard at Lochaline, but must add that was simply the prelude to an enjoyably long evening of dinner, music, wine and chat aboard Warisha with them… strange to think I’d never met them before Craignish, but that’s what a cruise in company’s all about when the people you’re with (and this includes everyone named above) quickly seem like old friends! Sad that dinner pretty well started with the news about the Queen, but we’re surely all aware growing older that none of us are here for ever. And we’re also reaching the end of my cruise tale now with Lochaline but a relatively straightforward day from Fly’s Glencoe home, or so I thought with favourable tide the whole way and the probability of a light north-easterly suggesting a pragmatic, quiet motor up Loch Linnhe to be sure of getting to the Ballachulish Bridge on time. In the event I had significantly stronger headwind than expected and set the genoa for some (mostly) motorsailing beating that would be both more comfortable than bashing straight up on engine and quite simply less hassle than a full-on sail against that wind on this final day:

So what else needs saying before I wrap this up? While I’ve been an RHYC member for many years, I’d never joined one of these cruises before and it won’t be the last! Like the Drascombe rallies and group cruises I used to enjoy from 1992–6 (and on which we sometimes covered as much or more ground) but with bigger boats. It was good for me as Fly’s first real trip in years when I might have been feeling a bit rusty, but you don’t simply forget how to do things you’ve done for so long and it quickly just seemed so natural to be ‘back’. I’ve had a really good chance to test things (including, but not limited to, my new Raspberry Pi chartplotter and sprayhood) for the long-planned Shetland trip and now have a very good idea of what’s ready, what’s not and what I still want to sort or add. Perhaps I’ll discuss some of this stuff in more detail another time when things I’ve discovered about its usage may interest others, but right now I’d prefer just to say thanks to all the other participants (including those on Pride of Erin and True Brew who weren’t with us for so long and I barely saw) for such a good week together! :-)

24 April 2022

Kayak store completion and trolley

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 8:04 pm

It’s been a while because I’ve been doing other things too, but the store is now finished bar a cabin hook to hold the door open, and my attention is now turning to Fly and catching up with the garden. But first a quick rundown of my Sea Kayak Oban ‘Confidence Builder’ course on 6/7 April…

It was a windy week, but we found relative shelter on Lochs Etive and Feochan for two great days when we’d come that close to losing one or both, with conditions ultimately helping to make rather than break the course. There were three of us out with Phil and Laura, and SKO have some publicly-viewable photos on their Facebook page. I had their medium-volume Volan and made these lists of what we covered while it was still fresh in my mind. From day one on Loch Etive between Taynuilt and Bonawe:

  • In response to a specific question I put to Laura about what to do with your paddle while securing your spraydeck, wedge it under your PFD. It works a treat!
  • Forward stroke, watching each other for rotation and not fore-and-aft movement, and working a bit more at the catch.
  • In no particular order… how much skeg relative to wind direction, sweeps, edges, stern rudders, maintaining an edge and sweeping round Phil’s boat looking at him, paddling with eyes closed (these last two activities making us feel rather than look at what our boats were doing) and steering a wavy course by edging while paddling strictly alternate sides.

And day two on Loch Feochan between Knipoch and Minard Point:

  • Play in interesting conditions at the Loch mouth and return against tide using eddies along shore, during which we saw two otters playing between navigation buoys.
  • Low brace, where the need for rapid deployment effectively trumps any single prescribed method (no good adopting the ‘perfect’ position if you haven’t got time!).
  • Discussion about calling for help, then rescue stuff punctuated by a couple of stinging late hail showers… contact towing with boats facing same and opposite directions (towed paddler pushes end of towing boat while pulling perimeter lines), towing with a line (clip under one bow line so still attached if deck fitting breaks), heel-hook assisted rescues (paddler in water hooks outside leg in, rolls onto aft deck then over into sitting position) and wet exit (just me after the others decided they were done for the day).

And then I drove home through a stunning low rainbow arching over the east end of Loch Feochan. So overall great, mostly dry, conditions with fresh but manageable winds and really just a cold start to day two and those brief hail showers on the less pleasant side. Bonus otters and rainbow and excellent, friendly instruction, to which I must just add that I’ve now been out with all four current SKO staff and would happily go paddling with any of them again!

But wasn’t I supposed to be talking about the completed kayak store? So let’s go…

It’s three weeks since I fitted the bar to the door and the boards to hold up the ground by the fence. Which I should have done before I even started building because it was quite a grovel sorting the well-trodden edge afterwards, but sometimes you learn the hard way!

And a fortnight since I made/fitted the remaining trim and finished the roof at the back:

Here’s the trolley nearing completion:

And ‘test driving’ outside. There are three minor differences from my original drawing, which are 1. cutting the bottoms of the side braces vertically instead of horizontally, 2. making both gussets for each end as one continuous piece, and 3. incorporating a plywood panel above the axle to guard against the frame racking in plan view. But it’s essentially still the trolley I drew in February and I’m relieved to say it behaves perfectly on its wheels when I couldn’t be absolutely sure till I’d built it and tried it:

And finally with screw-on replaceable wood feet (where the trolley frame is otherwise all glued) and a boat (which is the whole point):

Postscript (25 April 2022): the cabin hook came today, so all done now! :-)

But editing again (10 June 2024) to add some belated photos of the boat in the top-tier trolley slot I quickly found I preferred for just one:

25 March 2022

Kayak store roofing

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 11:06 pm

Now we’ve covered the kayak store concept, posts, drainage, framing, cladding and sarking and door, what’s left? Really just the roofing and trolley, but the trolley can wait while I catch up with other things like fitting out Fly for the season, so today we simply complete (or nearly complete) the main structure with most of the roofing after heading briefly off-topic for my third and fourth Nevis Canoe Club pool sessions…

Last Friday I tried rolling, but really wasn’t ready for that (just wasn’t comfortable trying to put the paddle where it’s supposed to be) and have been practising low and high braces since along with some more wet exit and rescue stuff. Tonight I messed up my first proper head-in-the-water high brace when I failed to come back up because I apparently tried to lead with my head (remember ‘boat, body, head’!), then managed six successful ones (three to each side) before losing it again for the last two and getting some more unplanned wet exit practice, which is probably good for me anyway because it’s surely more ‘realistic’ when unplanned! But that’s this year’s block of four sessions done, so let’s get back to the kayak store build…

Tuesday’s roofing work started with spending the morning replacing a damaged skylight panel because I was careful beyond careful measuring, cutting, drilling and fitting the new one!

Before continuing with the black panels for the kayak store roof below, where I found my notched measuring stick/jig a great help in lining up the fixings:

I didn’t like the look of the clear caps/washers on the black stuff, so the first thing I did on Wednesday was swap them out while I still could:

Before fixing the rest of the corrugated panels to the store roof:

There might not be much obvious to see from Thursday, but here’s something to secure the ridge pieces to on this back wall:

And the long-planned piece to secure the front end of the roofing and provide a drip guard for the door, after which the whole exterior got its second coat of Demidekk:

Think this end is finished now (today) although I’m still contemplating a thicker drip guard below the line of the roofing:

But I can’t finish the back or make the vertical trim pieces till I get the wood I’m still waiting for:

That’s a stainless machine screw with penny washers securing the corner of the old roof to the new ridge piece, so no nail where there was nothing to hammer one into:

Pity I can’t finish this right now, but it’s essentially done and as far as I can go without the wood:

And that’s us bang up to date! :-)

20 March 2022

Kayak store door

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 7:55 pm

So I’d got the cladding and sarking done and the store now has a door, which first needed a finished doorway to measure up and fit it to…

Here I’m testing a piece of trim before deciding after nailing it on that it shouldn’t have overlapped the post below!

Despite much careful thinking on Tuesday, I still didn’t really think through that top screw, which is why I drilled an extra hole below and you’re looking at a shorter screw for the top hole that I eventually got in with a hex-shanked bit and shifting spanner. The back of the original shed trim has also been rebated to take the new trim behind, with a further new piece yet to be added to sit flush with the old:

I decided after fixing this trim I’d done it wrong too, so marked it to cut back with the multitool…

And refined the cut with a chisel. The vertical piece you’ll see in the next photo can now go to the top and overlap another vertical piece on the side wall although my after-the-fact cut didn’t need to be that neat when it’ll be covered by another sloping piece above the door!

I just clamped the vertical piece on to test because I hadn’t yet decided how close to the ground to take it, but later cut it to match the bottom of the door:

It was still definitely too close to the ground here:

Like I said, the join didn’t need to be that neat because it’s not going to show, but I’m me!

Something I fortunately realised the night before I built the door is that you need to watch the thickness of a door with a sloping top or it will jam at the top corner when opening. Because the roof (and top of the door) are at a 30° angle, the back of the door needs to be 30° lower than the front for the same clearance when opening and, because I also wanted to fix a lip inside the opening for the door to sit against, I needed more clearance yet. But, having worked this out, it wasn’t difficult to apply to the design and build of a door that actually works. It took time and much careful measuring and checking, but the final fit is good with the top of the cladding sitting proud of the frame to create the required front-to-back drop:

It’s difficult to keep weatherboarding exactly parallel when fitting, and here you see a slight mismatch between cladding and frame towards the top of the short side which I later planed off to restore the parallel fit I’d previously achieved between frame and doorway:

So I made the door on Wednesday and had hoped to hang it on Thursday, but left it till Friday because it was raining with sunny days forecast. And my only photo from Friday shows it all wedged in place before getting to work on the hinges:

Now here’s a whole sequence from Saturday showing not just the fitted door but all the pieces it sits against in the opening. While I’m still waiting on more wood to make trim like the overhanging piece above the door and roofing to get the roof finished, I’d say I basically have a store here:

And here I am today framing the additional weatherboard at the back and starting to paint some bits. These back bits are where I wasn’t originally sure what to do with the falling ground, but are better framed now they’re boarded:

Quite striking how much the sarking and the cladding have dried out and shrunk back already since I put them together with tight joints!

So I’ve got a coat of Demidekk on the door…

And any corners/joins I’m planning to cover with further trim…

And might yet paint the rest while waiting for the wood and roofing I need to finish things off!

14 March 2022

Kayak store cladding and sarking

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 10:00 pm

Following on from my framing blog of two Saturdays ago, the store is now weatherboarded and sarked and the long drain is finished. But first a quick résumé of Friday’s pool session, where I chose to practise wet exits again counting lengthening times before releasing the spraydeck and getting out the boat as well as heel-hook assisted rescues. And must say I’m much more relaxed about the wet exits now I know what I’d already guessed, which is that there’s really no need to rush at them when you don’t need long to find the cockpit coaming and work round to the tab with a calm, clear head and will probably get out quicker anyway remembering ‘more haste less speed’!

So here we have the long wall weatherboarded. Is it perfect? No! Is it still a good job? I think so!

Look along the line of the boards and you’ll see they finished up marginally higher on one side of the central join despite me setting them all as tightly together as I could. But that join will be covered and I’m not planning to spend my life lying between fence and store staring at that wall anyway!

I didn’t cut the ‘bad’ joint wrong but simply trusted the factory ends to be square. They usually are but, after discovering the error on the first board I fitted, I cut all the remaining ends square before cutting the boards to length. And, as already stated, that join will be covered:

This all worked exactly as designed!

I cut the edges off the top boards on the table saw, which was still set to 30° from cutting the roof rails. The chunks of CLS are my ‘push sticks’ because I needed a bit of weight and rigidity there:

I wondered whether I should have cut the weatherboarding flush with the end rafter before doing the sarking, but (as you’ll see) chose to fix the sarking on top when the join between them was all going to be covered either way:

Already less of a gap under the back end where I dropped the side boards to match the back, but later to be effectively reduced to nothing through the addition of gravel boards to retain the chippings. I’m still planning to frame these lower weatherboards along their bottom edges:

A study in wedges where I recently discovered the shed found had sunk slightly at the back corner and I’m also temporarily propping up that side board, but the real reason for this photo was to show off that nice rounded corner on my frame!

(What the vertical pieces above hide is that it’s also rebated to fit round the shed trim.)

Not much to say about the sarking except that it’s, well, sarking:

Not exactly a day’s work next, but these gravel boards gave me something to play with on a pish day! There’s maybe a bit more to this than meets the eye because I had to dig out about a bucketful of soil with a trowel, find a piece of wood for a mini post, shape it to avoid chipping away the existing shed found (which I didn’t want to do), concrete it in, fit a spacer behind to take the boards, and shape and fit the gravel boards (one of which I did twice because my first attempt used a horrible bit of sarking that didn’t meet the weatherboarding nicely). But still really just playing compared to the previous few days…

Here I’m taking a break from building after an abandoned attempt to start the corrugated roofing on Saturday to work on the drain yesterday. There’s two bulk bags of gravel gone into that, which proved to be the Goldilocks amount as I tipped the last of the second into the top of the former hippo pit to finish working downhill then back up. So here’s where it starts on my neighbours’ side of the fence:

And where it finishes just above the remains of the old field drain I found:

Still quite a lot of gravel to go in here:

I worked downhill along the trench…

Then back uphill…

Till the gravel ran out perfectly up at the shed end…

Then raked a fair bit of the ground back, which was probably harder work than doing the gravel!

It’s not all gravel in the hippo pit because I put some of the rubble back in the LH side:

And finally (for now) some more ground restoration/realignment today before I get back to building things. Who knows when I’m going to get working on Fly, but I’m guessing April now. Which is OK because, much as I’m looking forward to a good sailing season, I’m currently busy with this and want to see it done! :-)

5 March 2022

Kayak store framing

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 7:44 pm

Yes, the subject’s ‘framing’, but let’s talk a little more about drainage first…

Sunday was a good day for digging and my materials weren’t coming till Tuesday, so of course I dug! There’s 11m of pipe beyond the ‘hippo pit’, so the drain is > 11m long, a shovel wide and as deep as the top of my wellies, which is to say 400mm (this depth chosen so there’s no uphill to get out of the pit, but handy to have a quick measurement system like wellies!):

I broke into this ancient earthenware pipe (presumably an old field drain) at the bottom end of my trench. It’s about 10″ diameter with walls 3/4″ thick!

And here’s my drain again from the reverse direction. Since these photos were taken, the pipe’s gone into the trench but is currently still waiting to be buried in gravel:

Here’s Travis Perkins bringing my stuff on Tuesday. No rear-wheel steering this time, but plenty of room from the uphill side. Of course the CLS for my framing is packed below the weatherboarding and sarking! The gravel is for the drain and the plywood (under the tarp) to build a lumber cart for my workshop as well as the kayak trolley gussets:

I got all the remaining post holes fully concreted and domed for drainage the same day:

This next six-photo sequence from Wednesday might not look like much, but shows what’s actually quite a significant step in cutting back shed trim and attaching an angled rail to take the continuation roof:

I’ll need to cut back that gable trim further to accommodate my rafters and sarking, but will come back to it when necessary:

This joint was photographed without fastening since I was still considering how best to do it, but I later fastened it with Gorilla Glue and a single screw:

By Thursday evening, things were starting to look more like my drawing, but still wanting intermediate rafters (six out of eleven done here) as well as all the wall studding. It would be nice to work with straight timber, but I managed to pull the longer pieces straight enough and was relieved to get past the post-cutting stage in good shape! Nailing the top ends of the rafters has proved trickier than the bottom ends because the overhang of the existing roof gets in the way, but I’ve got there:

Friday saw the long wall fully framed, leaving the two short walls and remaining rafters for today. I’ll decide what to do with the gaps at the base where the ground’s falling away at the back (unlike my hypothetical ‘flat ground’ drawing) later. The reason I didn’t frame right to the bottom of the shed woodwork was keeping the long-wall cladding to seven whole boards where there’s no point going lower than ‘ground level’ along the fence, but I’m at least taking the end wall one board lower where the gap’s biggest:

And here we are today with the framing all done:

The weatherboarding comes in the stupid length of 4.5m, which is not a multiple of 0.6m, so the only sane way to cut it for my 6m wall is 3m lengths (keeping the 1.5m leftovers for the 1.2m walls), and the logic of the tripled stud is simply more wood to nail all the joins and a covering piece to:

I shot multiple angles of the frame before it all gets covered up, and am still considering how to deal with the falling ground at the back:

So that’s how things stand right now. In other news, I did my first pool session with Nevis Canoe Club last night and practised repeated wet exits with the spraydeck. I’m also starting to think about working on Fly now the weather seems to be improving, but still really need/want to get the kayak store finished first!

26 February 2022

Kayak store drainage

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 8:31 pm

So I talked in my last blog about standing water and drainage in our neighbourhood. Basically, we live on a hill, the ground sometimes gets wetter than it can cope with short-term and we all (through inevitability rather than intent) dump water on our downhill neighbours. Agreeing where and how to pass this water on is about all we can reasonably do about it…

If you’ve seen that blog, you’ll have seen photos involving mud, and here are two more from Tuesday afternoon showing the creation of an embryonic soakaway that quickly got dubbed the ‘hippo pit’:

Now obviously this pit wasn’t finished there when excavating it half-full of muddy water is a bit like shovelling mushroom soup, but it disappeared completely from sight for a while as that whole area flooded in Wednesday morning’s heavy rain! Sorry I’ve no photos of that (or the hippos!), but I do have two showing where a fair bit of the problem’s coming from:

But it’s clearest in my video shot at the same time:

We’ll come back to the solution shortly, but first here are a couple of shots from yesterday morning of the transition/ramp I cut down to the store on Thursday showing drier ground and how quickly things can change:

So I both needed to drain my own ground and wanted to divert my neighbours’ drain to come out below the far end of my kayak store, we discussed and agreed to a shared drain using some suitable pipe they had, and I dug the top end yesterday:

I deepened my original trench to keep everything moving downhill from where the drain comes through the fence:

Here I’m checking I’ve got a draining gradient the whole way before putting down fabric and pipe:

When I tried to drag the pipe behind me on my own, it wanted to kink and fold where it had been coiled, so I phoned Alan for help!

While my original (pre-pipe) plan for my drain was just a soakaway at the hippo pit, the remaining pipe will now get used to extend it down-slope:

And the last thing I did yesterday was dump my remaining round gravel in the trench to keep my new chippings for the top:

Today I put down most of the ton of chippings Twig and I collected from Banavie on Wednesday, but I’ve kept some back to spread round the posts when their bases are finished. And that’s pretty well as far as I can go till Tuesday’s delivery although I might get the mud off the shed walls!

These two posts are finished but I’m waiting on concrete to top up the others:

And here they are with chippings spread:

I should have just about enough chippings to finish the store area but will need more sometime for the extended drain:

And that’s it for now. The next instalment should be about framing the store and possibly even getting started on roofing and cladding, so we’ll see how that goes…

21 February 2022

More kayak store

Filed under: Paddling — admin @ 6:32 pm

(See my previous blog for a quick rundown of the concept and image from my SketchUp model.)

While I was already planning to get building the store in preparation for a probable sea kayak purchase and had taken delivery of the first batch of materials (posts, gravel and concrete), the project gained added impetus from actually buying said boat (about which more another time) on Thursday. So I got to work pronto in some varied February weather, but let’s start with said materials arriving last Monday. And here we have an impressive truck with rear-wheel steering, a crane and a guy who can handle it all in tight spaces. He was even expecting Fly to be there because his boss (who turns out to be a former pupil of mine) told him there’d probably be a boat in the garden!

And my 14″ no-puncture wheels for the trolley came the same day:

I made a 1200mm square on Friday morning to help with laying out and setting my posts. It’s currently accurate to within about a millimetre, although of course not guaranteed to stay that way! And then I got digging for the rest of Friday and Saturday, with Saturday in particular being an unexpected gift of a day weather-wise just when I needed it.

Not such a good job on the first two holes, which ended up a tad wider than I meant as bits kept falling off the sides in the wettest ground, but I did better with most of the others although one got quite messy from a fight to excavate a piece of slab and pile of rubble occupying pretty well the exact space required by the post. That said, they were all hard work, requiring many passes with a bar to break the stony ground and keeping the spoons more for removing the spoil than doing much real digging.

While I had Alan available to help on Sunday, I nearly called off for the forecast, but was happy to go ahead after a wee look out and pleased to get five of the seven posts in after using all the concrete to fill them to an acceptable depth (for now). So big thanks to him for the extra pair of hands (and brain!), although I later realised we’d made one silly mistake (my fault), which was not levelling the line before measuring for the post spacing. But I went back out and checked and it’s going to make bugger all difference (whew)! I’d also gone knee-deep in one of my own holes earlier when I stepped in (on?) one I couldn’t see because it was full of muddy water; the standing water you see at the front of the store area comes and goes when the bank above gets saturated by rain, but should hopefully mostly go once I get round to dealing with it. To which I might add that it’s typical of this garden and neighbourhood in general when wet and disturbed. I’ve now cut temporary drainage channels to help that corner a bit, and know from experience that I can sort it all out for use. Most of it’s soaking through from my neighbours uphill (aka gravity), but I’ll get to it!

Since there were also deer tracks through my work area yesterday morning, I blocked off both ends with barrows to discourage them from taking that route before leaving it for the night!

This morning I went to Fort William to get more concrete and price the next batch of materials before getting back to the last two posts on my own. And these weren’t too tricky even solo because I’d worked out how to utilise what we’d already done last night, although I still had to be careful to keep enough height on the last one, which both requires close to the full length of the post and swallowed up an extravagant amount of concrete in the hole that had grown as I’d levered out that slab and pile of rubble.

So that’s the state of play right now. Four days’ work and the posts (on which the accuracy of everything else depends) are in, and I’m probably now waiting a week or so for materials to continue with the framing, roofing and cladding getting the posts right should have set up nicely. But I’m positively looking forward to the next stages now the crucial, temperature-dependent and accuracy-demanding first one’s accomplished with no major faux pas!

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