This summer I figured it was time for a different sort of project. My whole family is into kayaking and my daughter has been learning many types of Greenland rolls, with the help of a friend lending her his Tahe Marine greenland kayak. The Valley Avocets that we have a fantastic rollers, but there is nothing quite like playing around and rolling in a super low volume Greenland boat!
With that in mind, and being a rather crafty person, I decided to tackle making my own kayak in the Greenland style. This, of course, meant going with a skin on frame boat, the way they’ve been doing in in Greenland for centuries. Rather than get too crazy on my first build, I went with one of the fuselage frame methods rather than going totally traditional. It’s a bit easier to build and quicker for sure, so it got me out on the water a few weeks after I started!
First let me say, dealing with Dave was an absolute pleasure. He was eager to answer my many, many, maaannnnyyy questions before I ordered and also during my build. You can find Dave and his various boats on his website here Dave Gentry Baffin Bay.
One day this arrived in the mail. The kit!
I have to say, the kit was very complete and well made overall. It comes with the ribs, the combing, skin, sinew for lashing, and other misc. parts that you need to complete this boat. Dave even included the little brackets needed to attach the beginning stages of the boat to the strongback so I didn’t have to make them. Very nice!
You will have to provide the wood for the stringers and gunwale, masik and rear deck supports. Basically anything too long to fit in the box. You’ll also need epoxy, paint, and a pretty good amount at that. You might need screws, or more artificial sinew than provided to lash everything together.
You’ll need tools, but basic ones are all that’s needed. I ended up needing an electric drill, rotary tool (I use the Proxxon Rotary tool, it’s fantastic!) a circular saw to rip stringers and such, screwdrivers, wood files, wood chisel, hammer, stuff to smear glue, an old soldering iron to cut the skin nicely, something to sand with, and a paint roller and supplies. Dave covers everything in great detail in the instruction manual.
Speaking of the manual, it is very well done! I found it very easy to follow and had little trouble following the steps to get the Baffin Bay done right. From start to finish it’s all there, as well as walk through’s on tools you’ll be needing, things to keep in mind and understand, as well as a nice summary talking about kayaking in a Greenland boat as well as safety tips. Great stuff here! Oh and because the manual is that good, I am not going to do a play by play build description here. You can build this boat in a few weeks in your spare time, and if you are handy at all, it isn’t difficult!
So let’s move along here. As I said the kit worked well and went together in a pretty straight forward manner. My only suggestion is compare the dimensions given for the stringers to the size of the slots cut in the ribs. Mine were not the same and I had to compensate for that in the middle of the build. Small things like this won’t matter a bit because there is, and can be, a bit of fudge factor in a build like this, but the difference in this case was more than a quarter inch and that was beyond my “let it slide” threshold haha!
My only other complaint at all is that my boat finished out at 23 inches wide. The boat is advertised as being 21 inches wide, which, to me, is the limit for hull width on a greenland boat. Twenty three inches wide is just too big for a Greenland boat, period, unless you are a VERY large person. That, combined with the large combing, makes it a challenge to brace my thighs for a roll so I am having to make some thigh hooks to compensate. Not a huge deal there. I knew this was not going to be a super low volume boat but it is just too big for my 5’9″, 170 LB frame. My next project will be redesigned and likely around 19 inches wide.
Now on to what I like! Not only was it fun, and easy, to build, but that satisfaction of launching a boat that you built with your own two hands is fantastic! Be aware and ready on your first paddle though, you probably will have to tune a few things up! Water will likely get into your boat from places you can’t imagine or anticipate. Mine did not leak enough to come close to sinking, but keep it in mind. Coming home and touching up some paint coverage and a few well placed beads of silicone made everything nice and dry.
I LOVE the way this boat paddles! Combined with a Greenland paddle, the Baffin Bay glides effortlessly and silently through the water. And combined with the paddle, this skin on frame kayak has such an alive feel, it’s some kind of more primal connection with the water and with nature. My other boats are a blast but they don’t have this feel to them. I was super impressed with the way the boat handled in all conditions. It handled wind waves and boat wakes with no problem at all!
I was concerned that this boat would be prone to weather cocking and I am thrilled to report that there is almost none! I think this boat weather cocks less than any other kayak I have ever paddled, which is an absolute joy! It also handles and turns very nicely for a boat with such little rocker.
Despite it being just too wide, I can say that, for me, this kayak is an absolute dream to paddle. This design, a bit narrower, would be a dream boat for me for just having fun paddling and rolling, or a nice, super silent ride for getting up close to nature.
What mods did I make, you ask? I did add in a foot pad made out of closed cell foam, and a seat back made of the same. I used foam construction insulation in the bow for flotation, and am inflatable float from NRS in the rear. Since this was my first build, I wanted to try out a few of these things, and change things around, to see what ends up working best. For the rear float bag, I installed a 6 inch hatch in the back deck and have a looped piece of Paracord in there with a carabiner. I can hook that to the bag and pull the bag in when I want to use it, or pull the bag out when not needed or to let everything dry out. So far it’s working great, and time will tell if it’s a good solution.
Of course these mods all add weight, which I am not thrilled about but even with that, this boat is still by far my lightest kayak in the stable, even lighter than an all fiberglass Sterling Illusion. I can curl it with one arm and hold the boat up over my head no problem. Without all my fussing I think it would be even 5 pounds less than it is now, which is amazing for carrying the boat to the launch spot or car topping!!
I think, with that, I’ll wrap this thing up and let photos tell the rest of the story. I can 100% endorse this boat and Dave. It’s a quality product and makes a boat that paddles fantastic! Just be aware of what you’re getting, and if you want a skinny Greenland kayak you may have to make some mods.