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Fixing & Outfitting A Vintage Tandem Folding Kayak   Leave a comment

Shortly after moving to the Pacific Northwest from the Midwest, I began dreaming of having a boat to explore the lakes and coastline of the region.  My boating budget was pretty small (well less than $1,000) so I stalked Craigslist for a while to see what might turn up.  What I found was something I had never seen or heard of before; a folding kayak.  A local family was selling an old (1970’s?) Klepper Aerius II tandem folding kayak.  The Klepper consists of a folding wooden frame and a flexible canvas as rubberized hull that fold into a couple of canvas bags you can just toss in your trunk.  It had holes in the canvas, peeling keel strips and a few pieces looking worse for wear, but at $350, I decided to take on the project.

Initial Repairs: After a search online, I found a man named Gerald in upstate Washington who runs the US branch of Klepper.  It’s not much to write home about, he runs things out of his basement and has access to their full parts catalog.  Gerald is what makes it great.  He’s very personable and eager to help people get and keep their boats in working order.  He sent me a piece of marine canvas and some suggestions for patching holes and re-attaching the keel strips.  For the keel strips, I peeled back the poorly attached portions, scrubbed both sides with acetone and a rough sponge, dried it and used Barge Cement to re-attach them. It was messy and probably not a perfect fix, but I think it’ll hold.  For the canvas holes, I used Bish’s Original Tear Mender.  For the big hole, I put new canvas on both sides of the hole to keep tears from extending.

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After the initial repairs, I took her out on the water for a test paddle.  It handles beautifully on the water.

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As with most of my hobbies, I like to find online communities that share a passion for a specific topic. I found a great resource at FoldingKayaks.org which is a very active community of people using and repairing these unique boats.  It was there I learned that these boats are designed to take a sailing rig.  Having sailed a bit as a kid, I started looking at how to upgrade my kayak for ocean sailing.  Craigslist, again, yielded a seller in Anacortes, WA who seems to be a bit of a folding boat black market pirate of sorts.  He buys up all the accessories he can find for these boats and resells them.  He had a main sail, mast and boom for my boat so I drove up and purchased it.  The mast base was a round pipe and my boat fitting was square hole, so I had to make a ‘round peg to square hole adapter’.  I also needed keel boards which Gerald (KlepperUS) happened to have in his basement shop.  Next, for a boat this size, a pair of outriggers help keep you from flipping while under sail and I bought and modified a pair of small inflatable Hobie Amas.

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The first trial sail went pretty well!

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Next, I wanted to be able to sail upwind so I needed a jib sail.  Couldn’t find one for sale so I decided to sew my own.  Went to a great place called seattle fabrics to buy the sail cloth and used a software tool to come up with the panel dimensions.  I also bought some high strength cord from the local Fisheries Supply Company to run the length of the jib and a grommet kit to fit it with other tie downs.  I used a hand awl to attach a few strips of webbing to replace handles that had split or torn.  Last, I needed (ok, I wanted) a cable management board to make solo sailing easier so I modified designs I saw in the forums and made my own including a little fancy laser etching.

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All in all, the boat handles well under sail.  I can safely sail in 10-12mph winds (there’s a whole other story about trying to sail in stronger winds that did not go well).  My wife and dog and I have sailed together a few times and even took the boat out on the ocean off Lopez Island in the San Juans. There’s always more tinkering to do, but we’re loving the adventure of working on and learning to handle this versatile little boat.

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Posted August 7, 2016 by chrislux in Hobbies

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