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Plans, Frej - 107 EUR
A couple of years ago I began sketching for a new sea kayak, based on the Njord, but shorter and more maneuverable for surfing, playing in waves and touring in rough conditions. For different reasons, I quit halfway – primarily because I was so satisfied with my Njord, and more so for every year. I found the maneuverability so excellent that I did not see the need for improving this at the expense of speed.
But things change. I have lately had some inquiries for this kind of kayak – just the other day in a comment on the site:
"Hei Bjørn, har sett litt på noen nye kajakker som er komt på markedet, kan nevne PH Delphin,Tiderace Extrem,ser ein tedens til litt meir spesialiserte kjakker til bruk i større sjø og surf,hadde vert spennende å sett dej designe ein slik type kjakk,å lagt ut tegniger for salg og bygging. Har du noen komentarer til eit slik forslag?"
(My translation: "Hi Bjorn, have been looking for the new kind of kayaks, appearing on the market, PH Delphin, Tiderace Extreme to name a few. See a tendency towards kayaks specialized for rough seas, surfing. Would be nice with such a kayak from your drawing board, with plans for sale and home building. Comments?"
Furthermore, I designed the Discovery for Seabird Designs. Though shorter and wider than my initial sketch, it was received with (to me and my love for narrow and fast craft) surprising enthusiasm*, and one reviewer recommends the kayak for the very same purposes I had in mind.
So I pulled the sketches from the forgotten-ideas-folder and started playing with the hydrodynamics. Most was already done: starting from the Njord hull I had reduced the length from 559 to 507 cm, increased the beam from 51 to 54 cm, increased the keel rocker and lifted the stems slightly (a shorter kayak risks dipping the stems in steep seas more than a longer). So far so good. I aimed for approximately the same displacement as Njord – 130 kg – but ended up a few kgs over that, when I was satisfied with the other hull data.
Key features are:
- Easily handled – minimal resistance in touring pace and turning almost like a white-water kayak,
- Safe and snug –smooth and easily countered movements mean that you sit dry and relaxed even in rough sea conditions,
- Adaptable – Frej does whatever you want it to do, whether it is touring with a full load, play and surf in waves, rock-hopping or a rolling competition...
Frej är den bästa kajaken jag paddlat, grymt följsam och lättrollad. Jag är helt nöjd!
(My translation: "Frej is the best kayak I have ever paddled, incredibly responsive and easy to roll. I am completely satisfied!")
First impressions of Frej:
Good boat! ;-)
Stability: I wouldn't hesitate to put a beginner in this boat- it is very 'quiet' in the water- good initial stability. I had no trouble paddling with my knees in the middle of the cockpit ('sorta K1'style). The boat feels very predictable on edge as well. When I was playing around with re-entries, I could easily sit on the back deck with a few inches of water in the boat, and paddle around.
Tracking: I definitely felt like the boat was 'sitting on top of the water' and it was easy to spin it around 180 deg with a sweep and a bow rudder, even with little speed. Hanging draws were easy- throw the paddle in anywhere around the cockpit and the boat moves sideways - no searching for that 'magic spot'. However, it was pretty easy to manage when paddling forward.
Skeel: I like it a lot. This boat and the skeel are a great match, I think. An inch or two of skeel and the boat is still very maneuverable but goes where it is pointed with no fuss.
Re-entry: I was a bit concerned that the low deck aft the cockpit would get too close to the water when doing a cowboy/scramble re-entry. Not a problem at all. Even with 3 inches or so of water in the boat, there was lots of freeboard aft. In rough conditions, it's always easy to get water slopping into the boat (in my limited experience) but I don't think it would be any worse in the Frej than in my Romany, for example.
This would be a great boat for teaching cowboy re-entry as the low back deck is easy to slide up on.
Rolling: I'm a beginner roller (sweep roll with layback-style finish), but the Frej certainly snaps right up - comparable to the Romany, or perhaps even a bit easier with the low aft deck.
Speed: It felt quick for a 16-foot boat, but I was alone and didn't have a GPS, so no data there. There's a fair bit more waterline than on the Romany, and it did feel like it was quicker ...but I may have been a bit more 'hyped' with the new boat.
It feels like a lot of fun, and I would put a beginner or especially a smaller paddler in it without a second thought.
Here are some building blogs to follow: text (some only in Swedish or Norwegian), photos and sometimes video clips:
John Abercrombie (on Kayak Forum)
Another statement on Frej's rolling qualities came from Andreas Holm, Denmark, when he in this video quickly performed all the 34 Greenlandic competition rolls in a standard composite Frej!
An almost flat bottom in combination with rocker means that the kayak turns very easily, while the sharp midship chines give control over maneuvering. Volume and the rounded bottom in the extreme ends add positive floatation for surfing while moving silently and smoothly through the waves. The vertical stern adds direction stability at speed, balancing the maneuverability when needed. The deck/cockpit configuration is developed from some years of experience with Njord – combining a very low sheer and a comfortable aft deck with minimal windage and a rather good volume under the aft and fore decks.
||507/492 cm (overall/WL)
||54/52 cm (overall/WL)
||27/18 cm (in front of/behind the cockpit)
||135 kg/260 litre
||3/4 (initial/secondary stability)
||Safe and comfortable touring at sea, along coasts and in larger lakes. Advanced paddling, rockhopping, rolling etc. Excercise and day trips.
* 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.
Slightly more stability (upper curve) than Njord (lower curve), initial as well as secondary. If this is good or bad depends on the experience of the paddler. Njord is more demanding, but enable a proficient paddler to maintain a good touring speed in all conditions, while Frej may feel more secure but will slow down slightly in waves. (the difference in stability is not as big as it might seem. The curves are in essence dimensionless since the relative position of the curves depends on the chosen load and metacentric height. It is like the classic case of cheating in statistics: the incomplete diagram. By choosing the right load/metacentric, it would be possible to show anything from a slight increase in stability to twice as stable! The interesting information is that both initial and secondary stability is increased and that the max point is reached when leaning over slightly more.)
The plan sheets contain the information needed to build the kayak/canoe. Station molds, stems and construction details are full scale. For kayaks the recommended cockpit size is shown half scale with offsets for a full scale drawing and advice on altering the size. On the plans you will also find advice on how to shorten or lengthen the craft. Lines and construction drawings are in metric scale 1:10.
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, Frej - 107 EUR
More about Frej
There are some qualities I could improve on, not the least with knowledge acquired designing the Sea Racer and Nordic Kayaks Fusion – new insights in the complex balance between speed-stability, volume coefficient and such. With a bit of tweaking, I could lower the friction and wave-building resistance further, without losing stability. Some procrastination is not always a bad thing ;-)
The increased rocker places the paddler deeper in the water and lowers the Cp considerably, and to compensate I worked a little more volume out in the stems. Thus, Cp decreased no more than from 0,56 to 0,52. This means that the efficient speed range is lower than Njord's, which might be appreciated by most of the potential builders: Frej (blue curve) has less resistance in speeds below approx 8 km/t (4,3 knots), while Njord (purple curve) wins at higher speeds. The extra volume also helps keep the stems from diving in steep seas.
Frej turns quicker than Njord – the rocker, sharp midship chines, and the rather flat bottom combine to give quick and precise maneuvering for surf and play. To balance the maneuverability the stern is shaped to give a directional stability proportional to the speed – but for long distance touring it still needs an adjustable skeg. I have no doubt whatsoever that Frej will be a highly competent partner to paddlers who like big water play, surfing and tough touring in whatever conditions that might be encountered.
Interesting is that I succeeded in minimizing the wetted surface in relation to the displacement (and thereby the friction) to a very low figure, in spite of the sharp chines. Relative the mathematical minimum for a 135 kg displacement, the underwater area is at no station position more than 6,6 % over – promising a quite fast and easily driven hull in its class.
Safety is handled as in Njord. Rolling, support braces, balance brace etc is cheatingly simple: a little more stability to overcome during rotation, but better secondary stability helps in the final stage – and, of course, the low sheer midships and aft deck is inherited from Njord, facilitating stroke dynamics in paddling, rolling and maneuvering. Better overall stability means that it is easier to climb back into the cockpit after a wet exit, for non-rollers.
The review of Seabird Discovery referred to above:
* (from Playak.com)
"Get out onto the water with ease: the Discovery provides it all in one neat little package! The kayak is responsive and stable; plus it features a distinctly shaped hull great for bridging a wide choice of day trips. The Discovery is light and very easy to handle, additionally providing extra fine-tuning options for meeting your personal preferences. This mini sea kayak is exactly what you need for exploring open, choppy waters on the sea; the lull of lazy rivers and wild beauty of lakes.
The Discovery is fantastic for fishing excursions. A high level of stability allows you to feel assured while turning your attention to reeling in a catch; the specialized hull is likewise very conducive for extra-kayaking activities.
The kayak features a waterproof day hatch in front of the cockpit where it is possible to store items requiring frequent access, such as a camera or mobile telephone. The kayak also has the benefit of a new backrest regulation system allowing adjustment while sitting in the kayak.
The Discovery likewise features the SeaBird Power Pedals string system.
Pedals on the kayak's leg rail can be adjusted by 15 cm in either direction and allow you to fit the kayak's steering capability precisely to your individual needs. Thigh braces can also be regulated by ten centimeters".
A production Frej
The very positive reviews of Frej interested the well-known Danish company Struer Boats. To satisfy those who can't or won't build their own kayak we decided to develop a production version. From the start we agreed on that nothing should be changed. This was to be a Frej – not some watered-down commercialized look-alike (a suggestion I have heard a couple of times from other companies!). The only change is that a composite kayak will be heavier than a wooden one – but, on the other hand, you don't have to spend some 150 hours in the workshop.
March one, 2015 Petrus Johansson (Petruskajak) handed over the wooden plug. In June we could test the first production kayaks. During the summer all kayaks were preordered and were sold more or less directly from the truck. In September we begun to catch up – more kayaks produces than preordered and decided to show it at a major kayak event in Denmark.
The composite Frej is a "real" Frej without any marketing or production compromises. It is targeted towards discriminating paddlers in the same category that otherwise would choose to build their Frej.
Jeff Allen from Cornwall had the opportunity to test a Frej: "I have had the opportunity to test this design out on an Incident Management course I've been running this week and have been very impressed with both the performance and build quality. I am doing a review of this kayak for Ocean Paddler magazine which should be available mid-summer. The 534 version of the design can be tested at Sea Kayaking Cornwall in Falmouth and the smaller version the 504 can be tested at AS Watersports in Exeter". Here is a video from Jeff's facebook site where he tests Frej in waves ...
A couple of reviews of the production Frej (my translations from Swedish and Danish):
After having tried out several kayaks the last two weeks, hunting for a kayak with both maneuverability, speed, solid edging and good capacity, Frej was on top. Other kayaks I tried were Skim Beaufort, Valley Nordkap Forti and Nordkap traditional and Etain, Sterling Illusion, Zegul Arrow Play HV, Seakayaking's Explorer and Romany. Of course, paddlers have different preferences and the final choice is subjective. But Frej has a huge potential and I look forward to pushing the limits in all kinds of weather.
Johan came back a little later with a report from a tour along Helgelandskusten in Norway:
Just got home from nine days on the Helgelandskusten in Norge, bringing three Frej. The photo is of Traena Hawaii (The north sand island) with the Traenastaven in the background.
The kayaks are fantastic. Two beginners had no problems handling them in wind and waves.
Easily maneuvered and take a good amount of camping gear, easy to control in surf and on flat water.
And good looking as a bonus!
I have been waiting impatiently for Frej. in the meantime I have read everything I could find about Björn Thomasson's design. And in spite of that, I was positively surprised. I am looking for a new kayak and have tried some – among others Arrow Play, Arrow Nuka, Rebel Greenland T, P&H Cetus LV, Tiderace Xcite S, Valley Avocet and NDK Pilgrim.
Then I borrowed a Frej for a tour across Storebælt. This is what I found:
Frej is a fun kayak. Are you into rolling you will love Frej! Frej reacts far better to edging and turning strokes than any other kayak I have tried. It goes around the corner just by edging. Roll training is fantastic in Frej. You have a superb contact with the kayak, and rolling is really easy.
Frej feels stable, in spite of being a lively and fun kayak. I was initially worried about tracking and room for gear. And here Frej really surprised me. It's like the closet in Narnia ;-) It swallowed all my gear + some more. And I have, as always, brought too much.
On the water, I tried several positions with the skeg. Without the skeg, it is hard to stay on course. With the skeg slightly down Frej tracks beautifully.
At some occasions, we had current from one direction, waves from another and wind from a third. But with the skeg in an adequate position, I had no problems whatsoever to stay on course.
The speed was quite good. I had no problems keeping the pace of my male paddling companions.
As a perfect finish of a lovely tour, I hand-rolled Frej ;-) I have only managed one handroll before: in a Greenland kayak, in an indoor pool with an instructor guiding me. Later attempts have failed. Now I nailed two successive handrolls. No doubts anymore – Frej is my next kayak.
...and a proud owner scrutinizing his new Frej on video, and another one.
Is it easy to roll?
Background and history
As told above, Frej is developed (not very far) from Njord – a slightly shorter, slightly wider, a little more rockered Njord. The background, therefore, is essentially the same.
The name Frej felt relevant: Frej was, in the Norse mythology the son of Njord, the Vanir God of the sea, the weather, the fishermen and the merchants of the sea.