River 180 designed by Chris Kulczycki
Chesapeake Light Craft
Built and reviewed by Grant Glazer
During the months of July and August 2001 I lost my last remnants of sanity, covered my back deck with plastic, and spent every spare moment I had building my own kayak. Since I have yet to find a high performance plastic kayak, or a fibreglass one within my nonexistent budget, I decided the only way to replace my beloved Narpa was to build my own. I haunted the kayak building forum sites and bookmarked every website I came across for 3 years before everything came together and I went for it
I was after a fast kayak which I could still take out in the rough and had enough storage for camping. After much indecision and some almost last minute changes, I decided on the West River 180. Plans for this design are available from Chesapeake Light Craft. Before ordering the plans I brought a book from Amazon.com called The New Kayak Shop by Chris Kulczycki. To my surprise and joy the offsets and plans for the WR180 were included in the book. The book can now be obtained in NZ from Boat Books for less then buying it from overseas.
Building and Plans
The New Kayak Shop uses offsets to draw up the panels from. This was a new experience for me and kinda daunting when faced with a large table of numbers. But the instructions in the book are well set out and by following it step by step I didn't have any problems in lofting out the plans. The table of offsets are printed in hand writing and some fractions can be hard to read . For anybody wishing to build from them I recommend enlarging with a photo copier or scanner until it fills up an A4 sheet of paper.
Other changes I recommend are:
Cost and Time
I didn't keep a log of my time building or the cost of materials, both of which started to get scary, but I estimate that it took me 170 hours and just under $600NZ. Most S&G kayaks take around 80 (from kits) to 120 (from offsets) hours to build. Being a multi-chine boat the WR180 has twice as many panels to loft, cut, sew and glue then the more common hard chines. I also got fancy with inlays, two tone seat and hatch frames. This (and fixing my mistakes) probably accounted for the extra 50 hours.
By shopping around I managed to keep the cost down. I got the plywood and epoxy at bargain prices. Unfortunately I had no tools before I started so had to purchase everything needed. This pushed the cost over the $1000NZ mark but I still have the tools to use on my next one. No special tools are needed and most households would already have them. The sale of the Narpa covered not only the cost of materials but also half my tools so in real terms the kayak only cost me time.
The WR180 Reviewed
I am very happy with the final product. Although the various errors made in construction show close up, from a reasonable distance I reckon it looks pretty cool. The final weight came to 28kg which is extremely heavy for this type of kayak but still lighter then my Narpa. I had reinforced the hull more then called for in the plans (so reinforced I might call it "The Ice Breaker") and used a heavy ply for the cockpit coaming and bulk heads. This and my lack of skill in fibreglassing would have countered for the extra weight.
As performance goes, the WR180 tracks very well yet turns as easy as a much smaller boat when leaned. It takes a huge amount of gear without the extra weight effecting its handling. Being 5.55m long (5.25m waterline) and with a 56cm beam this boat is fast as touring kayaks go. I found that the acceleration wasn't much, but when paddled at my cruising speed it motored along. There has been no problems with stability despite being much narrower then I am used to. I have paddled and surfed in 35 knot winds without any trouble at all. It has been correctly described to me as a "wet" kayak, but this just adds to the fun of paddling it!
I highly recommend the design to anybody after a performance touring kayak.