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Building Ken Taylor 1959 Kayak – the Igdlorssuit

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In the Fall of 2007, I set out to build a new kayak to serve several goals:

  1. Build a kayak that fits Ilena, my significant other, better than my Romany.
  2. Build a kayak that would be a Greenland style hard chined boat that is as easy or easier to roll than my Romany.
  3. Try several ideas for a kayak build that I haven’t tried yet. Glass hatch recesses. Glass fitting recesses. Dyeing the wood. And a few other.
  4. Generally to improve my building and glassing abilities during a quick build.
  5. Reproduce a historic kayak in cedar strip construction.
  6. Build another day boat with a different feel than my Romany and lighter than the Romany.

Three kayaks came to mind for this project:

  1. Pilgrim Monument Museum kayak in Mark Starr’s Building a Greenland Kayak on page 115.
  2. Ken Taylors’ Igdlorssuit kayak.
  3. Southwestern Greenland kayak, 1883, Figure 206 from Adney & Chapelle on page 210.

After weighing my needs, polling opinions on the Internet I narrowed my choice from three historic kayaks to replicate down to one – a boat that’s fascinated me for a number of years. Some of the great comments I received follow:

Advice on Traditional Kayaks

Michael Silvius – If I remember correctly a few years ago (6?) someone showed up at the Newfound Rendezvous with a S&G reproduction of the Pilgrim museum kayak which I tried and liked a lot though I had some trouble fitting in due to the fixed bulkhead built to suit its owner. On several occasions I have paddled the famed Zipper boat which is as faithful a reproduction of Duncan Winning’s drawing as anyone on has seen around these parts. It is a S&G with a soft deck and drysuit zippers for hatches and has to be my favorite kayak of all. An Anas without the bad traits. Tracks well, is fast and is yet very nimble. Photos of it can bee seen in the QUSA photo albums for the Vermont madness meet (Opens in new window.) over the past few years. Could not go wrong with that one either. Dont know if anyone has ever built the Adney and Chapelle one but you likely would not go wrong with that either. build all 3??

Dennis M – I built the Igdlorssuit last fall as a hybrid (S+G hull, strip deck)(Opens in new window.). It has been my most frequent ride this year as I find it fun to paddle. It is a bit slow, but bops around nicely in waves and surf. At a group conversational pace, the speed is fine. When you try to push the speed, the bow wants to rise and pushes a wave up. It is fairly neutral in wind, turns easily, tracks when you want to. It is more comfortable with the drop down skeg in quartering/following seas. I put in a recessed coaming to assist layback. While not a rolling boat, it does pretty well in this category. I’ve taken this boat in various conditions in Fla, NC, Nova Scotia and LI Sound and have always been happy in it.

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Éric Gloutnay – As for the Pilgrim Museum qajaq, the MacMillan… one word.. stable! Well, I’ll add more, it does turn on a dime, rolls without really trying and has such great volume balance that it performs with ease in pretty much any condition. The first time I sat in it I faced 3 foot waves and it just climbed over without a peep. The flat section at the paddler’s position really makes it rock solid, yet the rapid upsweep of the chine makes it extremely responsive in a lean. It carves really well. And.. well.. it looks extremely sharp! Éric’s MacMillan Kayak (Opens in a new window.)

Mike Hanks – Is the Southwestern Greenland kayak, 1883, Figure 206 from Adney & Chapelle on page 210 the one that Skene drew up in 1923. If so, it is the kayak that the Putz Walrus was derived from. I went back to Skene’s dimensions for my Skinny Walrus. I also made my folder based on the Igdlorssuit dimensions. They are very different kayaks. The primary stability on the Skene, is so good, it is easy to stand up in. The Igdlorssuit has low initial stability, but strong secondary. They both respond well to edging, but the Skene is a better tracker, and the Igdlorssuit is more nimble. The Igdlorssuit is a wetter ride, while the Skene’s high ends ride over most waves. The Igdlorssuit rolls easier, but the Skene’s sheerline makes it less stable upside down. The Skene is significantly higher volume. I personally like the Igdlorssuit better now, but for a while the Skene was my favorite kayak. (Bryan’s Note: figure 206 isn’t the Skene boat, but these comments were very relevant to my decision.) Mike’s Iggy Folder(Opens in a new window.)

After receiving these great comments, sorting through reviews for a commercially designed kayak based on the same lines, viewing kayaks already built, I decided to build Ken Taylor’s Igdlorssuit kayak. The history behind the kayak is what eventually drew me in.

Kenneth Taylor’s Igdlorssuit Kayak History

The year was 1959. The place was Igdlorssuit (Illorsuit is the new spelling)(Opens in a new window.). University student Kenneth Taylor was sent by his professor to study the kayak and Inuit culture. While there Emanuele Korneiliussen built Ken a skin-on-frame kayak. In 1964, Duncan Winning surveyed the kayak, and he passed along the information to Geoff Blackford, who modified the size. Geoff built a boat from plywood based on these modifications and named the kayak the Anas Acuta. In 1972, Frank Goodman started to commercially produce the boat. (source: Paul Caffyn, The Long Journey Home for a Greenland Kayak, originally published in The Sea Canoeist) Valley Sea Kayaks still produces the Anas Acuta (Opens in a new window.).

The Anas Acuta spawned a wave of British kayaks, and according to a family tree compiled by Duncan Winning those include: Nordkapp, Skerray, Aquanaut, Pintail, Avocet, Q-Boat, Island Kayaks’ Expediton, Newt, Qaarsut(an exact replica of the hull in fiberglass with a modern deck), and Qaarsut 550. I’ve also heard that the Romany was based on the AA/Pintail, which would mean a number of other kayaks like the Meridian, Zephyr, Explorer, Alaw, Alaw Bach, Xcite, Xplore also descend from this kayak.

Duncan Winning’s family tree also lists 18 other kayaks that descend from the Taylor kayak. In addition, recently it’s been built by a number of different builders in plywood, cedar strip, skin-on-frame, aluminum folding frame with PVC skin, and as I write this it is being built in skin-on-frame by, at least, one builder (kellyt’s skin-on-frame(Opens in a new window.)) and cedar strip by another (Gennie’s website(Opens in a new window.)). Or in other words, can so many people be wrong?

Builder’s Log Goals

During this builder’s log, I will describe, often in detail, the steps I’ve taken to build this kayak. I’ll include tips that I receive online or otherwise, and skills I learn during the process. This building log will include photos, drawings, and other assorted items. I’ll update as I pass what I consider the end of one step and the beginning of the next. Also, I’ll probably digress and muse during the process when I don’t feel like building and need a distraction.

Kayak building is as much about breathing life into a new sea creature as it is about sharpening a chisel, so it is important to maintain perspective outside the workshop by enjoying the sport of sea kayaking. Even tonight, despite my heavy desire to work on the boat, I forced myself to suit up, head down to Lake Superior for a quick paddle before the Thunderstorm, and I paddled for 45 minutes and rolled (attracted a crowd) in the 45 degree Fahrenheit water for around 10 minutes. My goal for this building log is to provide an outline and plans for builders wanting to build their own Iggy. I hope you enjoy.

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