Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Darkness Duet

I’ve now had the opportunity to refine some of the fittings as we continue to find out more about the boat. It was clear from the first few sessions that we needed to be further forward to trim the boat and as such, I moved both seats and footrests forward by about 10cms.

Boat in plan

Boat in plan


I also covered the seats with foam and lifted them by 2 cms using aluminium square tubes. This significantly reduced the bouncing caused by the thickness of the plywood. The front of the seats are now 18cms from the bottom of the boat.
Reconfigured seats and footrests

Reconfigured seats and footrests


The front footrests are well under the front deck now, but still lots of room for big feet. I’m going to add pull bars to both sets.
New paddlers positions

New paddlers positions


Everything is starting to come together even after just six outings and the boat moves well on the canal and the river. We are maintaining a good 10 minute/miles average – 6 miles/hour on the canal even with portages. We did Dreadnought Reach to Shiplake (4.3 miles) in 35.5 minutes which is 8.25 minute/miles. There was however, a good flow on the river.
A better trim

A better trim


I was surprised on how quick we are over the portages (for two old blokes!). The rim around the gunwale provides an excellent purchase for hands to haul it out of the water. The portage handles allow the boat to be lifted and turned upside-down onto the shoulders for running, and the decks sit comfortably on the shoulder.
Portaging

Portaging


I even made a spray deck to cover the large exposed area between the paddlers, however I stupidly left it on the bank at Great Bedwyn and it’s gone.
Spray deck

Spray deck


During the design stage, we were a bit concerned about the freeboard and buoyancy. We’re not fat boys or racing snakes and the boat seems to cope easily with a combined weight of about 160 kgs.
Sitting pretty (the boat that is!!)

Sitting pretty (the boat that is!!)


What I also like about the boat is the stability. I’m not going to pretend it’s as solid as a touring boat, but I reckon it’s about a seven on the racing kayak stability scale. This is mostly due to the flat profile through the hull, where it matters. The maximum width at the waterline is about 60 cms.
The hull profile

The hull profile


That just leaves the name of the boat. When I first conceived the C1, I never envisaged that I would go on to design a C2 version, so I didn’t consider a naming strategy. For the two man version I considered “The Double Darkness”, “The Darkness Squared” and “2/Two/Too Dark”. You can see why I’m not in marketing!

Anyway, I’ve opted for……………..

What's in a name?

What’s in a name?


…………..but please don’t ask us to sing

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On the water at last

Ok, so it was actually Friday before we took the boat out for its maiden voyage as it took some time to configure all the fittings. I got everything done except the name stickers.

Initial fixtures and fittings

Initial fixtures and fittings


I managed to get a couple of Zastera racing kayak seats from a guy who found them too uncomfortable (must have a funny shaped bum!). I mounted these on some plywood platforms bolted to the seat support flanges. Had no idea if they were the right height but it seems fine when we’re paddling. Trouble is, the plywood is too thin and it bounces like a trampoline. I’ll stiffen these with aluminium bracing.

I used some aluminium square profile rods for the footrests and covered these with grip tape. They’re not great because the sole of your foot is in contact with the corner edge of the bar, rather than the flat. However, it worked ok for the maiden voyage.

First footrests

First footrests


I fitted the thwarts, grip tape, oh and the all-important racing number holder (just in case).

My wife had my big car for the weekend, so I borrowed my daughter’s Clio to transport it to Kintbury where we were going to introduce it to the Kennet and Avon canal.

Bit of an overhang!

Bit of an overhang!


My “partner-in-crime” for the Devizes to Westminster canoe race next Easter is John Hayden. John has completed the DW thirteen times, plus four non-finishes (including 2000 when the race was cancelled). He did the junior DW in 1967 and 68 and then senior K2 in 76 (3rd), 77 (6th) and 78 (2nd). He paddled K1 in 89, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 2003 and 2005. His best time is 17:23. BUT, he still needs one more straight-through to qualify for the DW 1,000 mile club.

So, we unloaded the boat and sat it on the bank.

All set and ready to go

All set and ready to go


I can remember the poignant moment when I first paddled The Darkness C1. It had taken a lot of effort to eventually get the boat I’d wanted for so long, and it was with some trepidation that I first stepped into it. I didn’t have a proper seat and it felt quite strange. It was some time before I knew I had a winner.

No such ceremony with the C2, John just picked it up and put it on the water. Before I had any time for reflection or quiet contemplation, we pushed off from the bank.

I knew within the first ten strokes that the boat was everything I’d hoped for. After developing (and learning from) the C1, I almost expected it to be good, but it was a relief and a surprise, just how good it is.

For a start it is stable. Not rock solid like a tub, but far more stable than a K2. Too stable would be too slow, but I have no worries about the tideway.

The seat height is comfortable and easy to get up from (we’re old remember!). The thwarts help too. The portage handles really help with the portages (obviously!) as does the front and rear decks to take the weight on the shoulder.

It handles exceptionally well on the water. Easy to keep it straight, but responsive to turning. Paddle access to the water is good, but not as good as the C1 due to the additional width. In fact I need to pad out the gunwales at the front as John bashed his hands a couple of times. However, he is a kayaker and this was only his second time in a C2.

His first time was when we paddled a concept boat I’d made from an old K2. I was worried that this boat would handle in a similar way in that when the K2/C2 started the veer, it was hard to bring it back on track. It just shows that you can’t just take any old boat, add some extra moulding and expect it to perform in a predictable fashion.

But the best thing was the speed, wow does it shift. I need to do some timing against the C1 to be sure how quick it is as this is the only measure I have. I also want to get some experienced Wenonah ICF paddlers to have a go too.

Anyway, I modified the footrests and we took it out again.

Modified footrests

Modified footrests


I got a couple of poor quality pictures which shows that it is a bit too high in the bow. I’m 75 kgs and John is 82, but I still need to move his position forward by about four inches to trim the boat.
On the water

On the water


And we’ve gotta do something about that hat!
Bow slightly high

Bow slightly high


So, we’ve got about three months before the start of the DW to work on fitness and paddle efficiency.

First boat has left the mold

The first boat is now built. Both sides were laminated and joined in the mold, and it came out really well. It looks stunning in “naked” carbon fibre.

Black, shiny and naked!

Black, shiny and naked!


We opted for a thin layer of gel-coat and a carbon-kevlar-carbon “sandwich”, which created 600 grams of weight/thickness. We used polyester resin which is recommended for the first boat in a new mold. (Don’t ask me why. It was explained but I just nodded and smiled!!)
The underside.

The underside.


The internal flanges which support the seats and footrests give the boat massive stiffness and rigidity. Once the thwarts, seats and footrests are secured, it will be even more rigid and we may consider reducing the amount of materials to lower the weight and cost.
Flanges for seats and footrests.

Flanges for seats and footrests.


The boat currently weighs in at 13.5 kgs. Once I’ve fitted it out, it should be about 15 kgs.
Just get me on that water!

Just get me on that water!


There still remain a number of tasks to complete before the boat is ready for its maiden voyage. These include:

• Smooth the external join surface
• Shape and smooth the cockpit rim
• Add thin layer of resin to cockpit rim to smarten up
• Reduce width of seat/footrest flanges to 5cms
• Make seats (may use Gees platform kayak racing seats)
• Make footrest with pull bars (will start with basic footrests)
• Add central thwart (35mm carbon tube)
• Add front thwart (positioned to enable front paddler to use to get-up/lower-down to seat)
• Add rear thwart (positioned to enable rear paddler to use to get-up/lower-down to seat)
• fix skateboard grip tape to reduce risk of slipping when embarking/disembarking
• Add buoyancy bags in bow and stern
• Add portage handle to front deck
• Add portage handle to rear deck
• Fix the name stickers
• Add a racing number holder

The maiden voyage is planned for Wednesday 9th December 2015.