Getting to know your new F1

You just finished my class,  you commissioned a custom boat,  you found one used (unlikely),  you went mad with desire and snatched it from a guy you saw carrying it up the beach in one hand....

....however you acquired it,  congratulations, you are now the owner of one of the single most awesome kayaks ever created,  and I created this page to introduce you to some of it's unique features.   Before you seal your sprayskirt and head into the blazing horizon,  lets take a minute to get to know the boat:

Deck Lines
These are not the lame-ass bungies that plauge so many kayaks.   The oil tanned latigo leather straps mean business.   You can tow or lift the F1 from any line on deck and you can strap stuff down hard under the toggles.   These straps will loosen up over time but they are easy to replace.   You can also add more straps by simply drilling a 1/4 hole in the gunwale,  melting the edge, and pulling through a new 5/16" strap.      Notice the gap beneath the strap where it goes through the skin?   This gap needs a little dab of Aquaseal to be waterproof,   every year or two you'll need to add a new dab to keep things sealed up.

Now flip the boat over,  there is a small HDPE rub strip on the keel in the stern,  held in place with four 3/4 inch, #6 stainless steel wood screws.   This strip prevents the biggest wear spot on the whole boat so you can drag it up and down the beach with impunity.    While you are down here,  notice two tiny holes on the chines and one on the keel.   These are from balancing the boat on screws during the coating process,  they won't leak but if they offend you feel free to dab a bit of aquaseal there as well.   Also, near the back of kayak you might see a rib or two barely touching the skin,  this isn't a mistake.   The extreme stern shape of this kayak is a key part of what makes it paddle so well,  and sometimes that means a rib or two might show,  it doesn't hurt the performance a bit!

The F1 is covered with nylon.  Nylon is looser when cool and wet, and tighter when dry and warm.   In the beginning you will notice a bit of sagging in the skin when cold and wet,  then it snaps tight again when warm and dry.    After a few years this cycle will lessen and the skin will be tight all the time.   Dry it out well for extended storage.

Alright,  back upright and back to the cockpit.   First thing you see is the Snap Dragon backband.   The backband is attached with two machine screws that thread into brass plates.   These need to be checked from time to time to make sure they stay tight.   The backband can move up and down a bit to load gear in the stern.

Now check out the seat pad.   What you should be looking at is two strips of hard foam that insert beneath the ribs and then a foam mat that covers the ribs all the way past the feet.    This seat is very comfortable as your body sinks into it,  you can add more layers if you start to feel the ribs.    Avoid the temptation to install a thick commercial seat because it will raise your center of gravity.   The super low seating position allows you to paddle a boat with a very narrow waterline as compared to a commercial boat yet still feel stable.

Foot Braces
The foot braces are wilderness systems slidelock footbraces,  they move by raising the wand and moving the footpad forward and back,  easy to adjust on the water!   If you notice the footbraces popping loose from time to time,  check your seat pad!  it's probably hitting the wand,  cut a bit out of the pad and you'll be fine.

Knee Bracing
Sitting in the cockpit pull the footbraces until your knees are held firmly into the skin on either side of the coaming, making two little bumps.   This gives you pretty good knee purchase,  but if you need more purchase check out my tutorial on how to make foam thigh braces.   Something to know is that this spot where your knees go will eventually start to crack and peel a little,  don't stress out on that.   The boat is still waterproof,  it's just not a big deal.

Heel comfort
Depending on your leg length your feet might fall on a rib,  if you feel that and it bugs you there is usually plenty of room to pad that up so you don't feel it.  Another more drastic measure is to cut out that rib between the stringer and the keel.   This is emotionally difficult for some people but I assure you, the boat can take it.   Simply, carefully, take a small saw and cut the rib about a 1/4" below the stringers,  then cut the keel lashing in the middle and trim it back (it won't unravel)  and remove the rib.  If you are concerned about the strength of the keel you can always glue a small strip of wood to the top of it.

Lets talk about floation for a minute:   You need floatation,  period.   Without going into a boring speil about the shortcomings of commercial bags,  I'm just going to tell you what to get.   You want Spirit Line Baidarka Bags.    These combo float/gear bags available from are tough and fit the F1 perfectly.   To camp easily you should load a tent,  sleeping bag,  and clothes into the bow bag,  pull the footbraces back and slide it in.   The stern bag should be pushed in with a stick and filled with your food, cooking gear, and misc. stuff.   For water I place a 10 Liter MSR dromedary bag behind the seat.

Getting in
You can crawl in from the back deck if you want, but for all but the longest legs you can also just drop your butt in the seat and put your legs in.   Learn how to use a greenland paddle to stabilize the kayak!    Once you are in,  a greenland paddle tucked under the front deck lines and projecting down in to the water will stabilize you while you put your skirt on.    The cockpit fits a Medium Snap Dragon Ocean Trek skirt.

Stability and Edge Turns
Take a moment to check out the stability.   For the first few minutes it's going to feel a bit wobbly due to the relatively narrow waterline,  don't worry though,  there is plenty of bouyancy waiting for you when you learn to work your edges.    Lets discuss that further.  Manuvering an F1 is basically the same as any other sea kayak, with the exception of the perfomance of edge turns,  or the ability of the kayak to carve a turn when leaned to one side.    While moving,  lean and hold the gunwale flush with the water's surface, the F1 will carve a fast aggressive turn (in the direction OPPOSITE of the lean) that will return to straight tracking when level again.    Don't neglect this feature!   By learning to work your edges you should never need to do a rudder stroke again,  which means you won't be wasting energy dragging a paddle.

Top speed vs. hull efficiency
Speaking of wasted energy,  notice that the F1 has a definite "hull speed"  or top speed at which it feels like it's dragging through mollasses.   This speed is around 5mph.    This is due to the reduced waterline, however, it's not a bad thing,  because one thing that comes with a reduced waterline is a reduced wetted surface.   Back off a bit,  relax,  you'll find that at 4mph the F1 will still keep up with all your buddies,  but will do so much more easily because you are dragging around a lot less wetted surface area.    The F1 is a playful kayak,  it feels quick, it IS quick!

Rescues ARE more difficult in a skinboat!   Even with full flotation you will be taking on a lot more water than your bulkheaded bretheren,  however, that doesn't have to equal less safety.   If you look at real sea kayaking accident scenarios, the causes of injury and fatality can overwhelmingly be traced back to poor judgement on the part of the paddler.   In very few of these scenarios would a faster T-rescue have made any difference at all.   Real safety comes from learning your boat,  practicing your rolls, braces, and rescues in the conditions you might need them,  and making consistent cautious choices while sea kayaking.   Remember,  no matter what kayak you are in,  or even how good your roll is,  if you get caught in conditions that force you to capsize,  they will likely CONTINUE TO FORCE YOU TO CAPSIZE,  until you are exhausted, no matter how many rolls and rescues you can do.    Both 'curl'  and TX rescues are possible in an F1,  but true safety comes from being smart!

Repairs and Lifespan
Although it is a top concern for most people when they first own a skinboat,  punctures are extremely uncommon.   So much so that in the 400+ kayaks I've built I've only heard of one on the water puncture in any of my kayaks.   You are a lot more likely to punch a hole in a fiberglass kayak.    If it does happen, however,  not to worry,  slap a bit of duct tape on there and email me and I'll send you a few photos of how to fix things.    Overall,  the skin on your boat is quite durable,  and if you are really freaked out you can order a heavy skin,  at the cost of 5 extra pounds.    Having said that,  your kayak won't last forever.   If you paddle it it will deteriorate.    Five years is a good estimate on the lifespan of a skin,  though I have seen a skin go ten,  and have personally killed a skin in three.   The frame will last twice that long and can be re-skinned.   

This is undoubtely the best part about the F1.   It weighs 27 pounds and that is something you will cherish every time you use your kayak,  and you'll be using it a lot more often now that you can actually lift it by yourself.    Enjoy,  and send me an email from time to time to let me know how things are going.

-Brian Schulz,  builder, paddler.

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