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Plans, Nanoq - 108 EUR
Nanoq is a sea kayak with west Greenland ancestry, based on the legendary Illorsuit (or Igdlorssuit) kayak that appeared in England 1959, having a profound influence on English sea kayaks ever since – and that was the inspiration for the Qanik, I designed for Seabird Designs some years ago.
With Seabird now making major changes in the catalog and market position, I thought it was time for a strip version. And though Qanik was a success among reviewers and customers, there are always things to refine in retrospect. A commercial assignment is a compromise between my ideas on hydrodynamics, usability and aesthetics and the client's ideas on costs and markets needs (imagined or real) – and of course, the necessary adjustments for industrial production.
Turning production Qanik into strip Nanoq, I went back to the original drawings and adjusted the lines to suit strip building. Nanoq will be easier to strip with slightly less friction due to the smooth lines (water prefers simple harmonious curves that are easily achieved in strip). A wood strip kayak will also be lighter and structurally stiffer, resulting in a faster, more maneuverable kayak with slightly more load capacity.
Nanoq has a slightly higher deck and more secondary stability than those of my kayaks with east Greenland influence: Black Pearl, Njord etc. Thus, Nanoq can be leaned over 30 degrees without the support of the paddle, that in combination with an accentuated rocker means very good maneuverability – a quality often mentioned in reviews – making it the perfect play kayak in surf and in rock gardens. Skeg down, Nanoq becomes a controlled cruiser for long distances with good touring speed. The higher deck is a welcome advantage for those who find Njord a bit tight, but of course, a disadvantage for those who appreciate the comfort and control of the tight fit in Njord; as many other paddling options a matter of taste.
Erik Frantzen in Danmark built the first Qanik as a prototype before it was available commercially (he increased the LOA and lowered the aft deck). I had the opportunity to try it on a kayak meeting in Denmark and was very happy with the performance. But Erik complained that it was hard to strip the production-adjusted hull, and if an experienced and competent builder like Erik found it challenging I knew I had to clean up the lines for Nanoq. It still takes a couple of hours more to build than the super simple shapes of a Kavat or a Smart – but, on the other hand, most kayaks do. And for most paddlers, it is worth it.
Photo: Erik Frantzen
If you find a strip project challenging, there is a simple way to get almost the same kayak. Petruskajak in Tranås, Sweden, and Dan Caouette in Milan, New Hampshire, offer two S&G versions of Nanoq – Alleq 55, the original (546x52 cm), and the smaller Alleq 52 (520x51 cm), available as kits or finished kayaks. At Petruskayak you also build your own kayak on his well-known 8-day building classes at the workshop in Tranås.
Alleq is a sheet panel version, adjusted for S&G, a simplification of the Qanik/Nanoq concept, with precision CNC-cut panels. It is actually a little closer to the original Illorsuit, that in SOF-technique also has flat surfaces. The hard chines result in a slight loss of speed (to friction and turbulence) and a slight loss of interior volume. Those differences are barely noticeable and will be for most builders offset by the advantage of having a finished kayak in less time – after 8 days in Petrus' workshop.
(Bob Ten Eyck's beautiful kayak in the photos below is built from the Alleq plans, but with wood strips – the deck shape hints at the flat panel origin.)
||546/425 cm (overall/WL)
||52/49 cm (overall/WL)
||27.5/17.5 cm (in front of/behind the cockpit)
||125 kg/315 litre
||3/5 (initial/secondary stability)
||Expedition and touring, coastal and deep sea. Rolling and advanced paddling. Day tours and exercise.
* These dimensions can be adapted to suit personal needs or wishes.
** Depending on type of wood, equipment, care with epoxy usage, sanding etc. etc.
*** The speed numbers are based on mathematical standard formulas (175 lb paddler + 30 lb carco weight) and corrected from the kayaks actual performance om trials, on tours and in races.
⁴ Calculated resistance in 4 and 5 knots (at nominal load capacity).
⁵ Initial stability and secondary stability on a subjective scale, where 1 is very tippy and 5 is very stable.
Three sheets contain the information needed to build the kayak. Station molds, stems and a few details, such as the suggested cockpit size are in full size, while lines and construction are in metric scale 1:10. On the plans is information on how to shorten or lengthen the hull and to change the dimensions of the cockpit.
You will need approx 300 meters wood strips (approx 20x5 mm) including some margin for a mistake or two, 17 meters fiberglass (approx 160 gr/m2 on 100 cm width, preferably twill weave). The amount of epoxy is harder to anticipate since it depends on how it is handled, but approx 6 kg is a reasonable estimation. Of course, if you change the LOA or other dimensions, you have to recalculate...
Minimum window dimensions to get your kayak out from the workshop: 52x41cm
The illustrated step-by-step building manual is in Swedish only, but it is available online in English: it covers all steps in detail and will guide first-time builders through the project.
Plans, Nanoq - 108 EUR
Norwegian Padling reviews Qanik
In Norwegian magazine Padling (3-2012) there is a nice review of Qanik (the Seabird Design fiberglass version of Nanoq) – and a translation on Seabird's site. Here are a few excerpts from the original review.
"Seabird og Björn Thomasson har grunn til å være förnøyd med Qanik. Glitrende respons gjør den til en virkelig artig lekekamerat. God komfort og bra lastevolum inviterer i tillegg til litt lengre turer ... Forholdet mellom pris og kvalitet er i begge tilfeller veldig bra. Her får man mye grønlandsinspirert kajakk for pengene."
Their comments on stability and maneuverability are exactly the experience I was hoping for during the hours at the drawing table:
"Summen av stabilitetsparametre er av en art som særlig de rutinerte vil møte med ovasjoner. Båten er lettbevegelig i primærplanet, uten att føles direkte rank. Primærstabiliteten opererer i et temmelig avgrenset område og plasserer sig litt under middels. Andrestabiliteten er derimod god og gir god motstand ved kanting, men uden å fremstå som dominerende. Den ender opp i en sluttstivhet med en noe rund karakter. Derfor sjeneres heller ikke carvingegenskapene av en konstruksjon som stritter altfor mye imot.
Her berører vi samtidig båtens aller beste egenskap. Carvingresponsen er nemlig av ypperste sort! Kajakken reagerer knivskarpt på kanting av skrog. I kombinasjon med tilpassede åretak, er den i stand til å vende på ett par båtlengder. Den er i sitt esse når det inviteres til lek og moro. Her spiller kajakken på lag og lar utøveren få ta seg ordentlig ut."
...as are their comments on speed and surf:
"På flatt vann avslører våre GPS-målinger at den mest effektive skroghastighet befinner seg mellom 3,8 og 4 knop. Gjennomsnittsfarten i vår testløype havnet på 4,4 knop. Toppfarten kulminerte ved 6 knop [11,1 km/t]."
Surfvilligheten är upåklagelig. Skroget er ikke specielt kresen på verken vindstyrke eller bølgehøyde. Det skal lite til för man kjenner at det spilles på lag med naturkreftena i form av deilige surfer."
They also liked the looks:
"Björn Thomasson har designet en vakker kajakk ... Testbåten fremstår fremdeles som både slank, lav och elegant."
Background and history – a modern Illorsuit
In summer 1959 a young student, Kenneth Taylor, was sent to Greenland by his professor on a research trip to study kayaks and kayaking culture in the Igdlorsuit area. To Greenland he brought his English plywood kayak - on the journey back he had a real Greenland kayak, built for him by Emanuele Korneliussen in Illorsuit. It measured 505x53 cm and had the low deck - 20 cm in front of the cockpit - and low midship sheer, typical for the region. It was built in six days, with timber imported from Denmark.
A drawing of the Illorsuit kayak
The kayak excited the Scottish paddling community on return, and the lines were recorded by Duncan Winning, discussed and copied. Some plywood and fiberglass copies were produced, tried and forgotten. When Geoff Blackford some years later was designing a new sea kayak, he based it quite heavily on Duncan Winning's drawing but increased the volume and deck height to better suit Europeans. The result became the now famous Anas Acuta (the Latin name for the Northern Pintail) - still one of the most "Greenlandic" of production kayak, and still in demand by discriminating paddlers.
A contemporary Anas Acuta
The Anas Acuta was rejected by alpinist Colin Mortlock looking for an expedition kayak - in his view, it did not handle good enough in bad conditions and it was too small for expedition purposes. Frank Goodman worked a little more volume into the hull and christened the result Nordkapp after the expedition goal. These two - Anas Acuta and Nordkapp - became legends and are still in production and still evolving (impressive, but nothing compared to the Swedish VKV Anita, designed in 1930 and still in production!). When Len Ystmark of Seabird Designs asked if I could design something that would appeal to the Anas Acuta aficionados of the world I was excited by the challenge. Having spent some time in an old Acuta some years ago, I had strong feelings about what I liked and disliked about the hull design.
A few things have changed since the sixties. One thing is that more of Korneliussens kayaks have been surveilled (by Harvey Golden, the expert on traditional kayaks), and thus more is known about dimensioning and more specifically how the Ken Taylor kayak was adapted for Ken Taylor. Another is that the changes from the original lines made by Geoff Blackford were of course influenced by the contemporary ideas of Greenland style kayaks: thus, the sheer was raised as a unit to create the preferred high fore-deck, resulting in very high stems and an accentuated banana shape - far from the lovely sheer of the Illorsuit kayak. Furthermore, to create volume the bottom was flattened to an extent that it is hard to see any resemblance in the station shapes. From approx 20 degrees deadrise of the original to approx 8 of Anas Acuta. This is not intended as a criticism of either the kayak or Geoff Blackford - the commercial success and long history would make any such remarks reflect more on my prejudices than on the kayaks.
But still, what would a modern interpretation of the Illorsuit kayak be like? Well, most of the changes made by Blackford still make sense and there is no reason not to do the same today. I raised the sheer and deck slightly to create room for a western seating position - few of us would be comfortable with straight horizontal legs, a deck barely one inch over the knees and a vertical back without support (I might, after many years in my Black Pearl, but this kayak is not for me alone). I kept the stems just slightly higher than the original lines, in an attempt to preserve the understated elegance of the Illorsuit (well, I am obsessed with the beauty of lines: be warned!) - and of course to avoid the windage of high stems. I also flattened the bottom though not as much as in the Anas Acuta. The reason for not sticking to the 20-degree deadrise is that it would have forced the seat up higher, thus decreasing stability and necessitating an even higher deck.
In Greenland, the Illorsuit has evolved along similar lines as well - towards longer waterlines and less deadrise making the kayaks faster, roomier at the expense of a little maneuverability - or in the direction of kayaks with very low freeboard for rolling competitions (which is where my Black Pearl belongs).
So, in the end, my design from 2015 is at least a cousin to the Anas Acuta, but with a personal edge: a few inches longer since the low speed was one of my dislikes, lower stems that will make it easier on the paddler in high winds (even if the Acuta isn't bad at this) and with a slightly lower deck (sea kayak decks have lost a couple of millimeters per year the last decades as more paddlers begin to appreciate the comfort and control attainable simply by getting rid of old excesses in superfluous cockpit volume (note that this still is a roomy cockpit - those looking for a really tight Greenland cockpit may consider the Black Pearl). I also hope that my take on the Illorsuit will offer easier and more predictable movements in steep choppy seas and that surfing will be at least as good. And not the least - I downplayed the banana. (Love bananas? No problem, there still is the Anas Acuta...)
My take on the Illorsuit kayak
So, is my design an Illorsuit kayak? No, I cannot say that it is. The looks are inspired by the Illorsuit because I love the beauty and harmony of the lines, but the hull shape and hydrodynamics are modern, efficient and relevant to an altogether different situation than seal hunting in arctic waters 60 years ago.
Wouldn´t it have been interesting to make a true copy of the Illorsuit? Yes definitely, and it has been done on several occasions as skin-on-frame replicas or sheet panel kayaks for dedicated builders/paddlers. But as a production kayak - no, I believe most buyers would have eyed it over with curiosity and then turned to something more familiar...
Are you interested in the background in more detail I recommend Ken Taylor's website with his account of his interesting Greenland trip?
Also, take a look at Harvey Goldens museum-quality replica, complete with all hunting equipment.
...and the name?
Nanoq is a polar bear. I wish I could share a profound smart meaning in the name, but Nanoq just suggests a Greenlandic association, is easy to pronounce, to my knowledge is not offensive or ambiguous anywhere, and it may suggest a semantic kinship with Qaniq and Alleq. That's all...