THE NORTH STAR - Cedar Strip Baidarka - Designer Rob Macks


I posted a full photographic record of the North Star build with explanatory captions (over 100 large well compressed images) Click here.

Background: I have built 15 boats of various kinds over the years. None of us are getting any younger. I hit fifty this year. I have lived in Sneem, South Kerry, Ireland, for thirty years now.

Yes I built the boat myself, and no, I didn't run into any problems, although I did take some liberties with Rob Macks's instructions, which by the way were very good. The North Star is a little more complex to build in the details than other strip kayaks though.

Regarding appearance: My opinion - this boat makes all the others look mundane. Photos just do not do it justice. At any gathering there is always a crowd gathered around it gawking.

Overall: I have used The North Star for an entire summer now and covered a lot of miles and have had it out in some fairly rough conditions. The boat is rock solid and will move sideways when hit by a side wave rather than rock and roll. Very good for confidence.

Not the fastest boat I have, but I have had no trouble keeping up with the carbon fiber speed machines of other paddlers while out at touring speeds with them. On one day I was paddling along in a large group chatting away to someone beside me in a NordCap and realized I was getting no response. He was CONCENTRATING HARD. I had been unaware that the conditions had become a little gnarly and that some paddlers in other boats were having to keep their wits about them. A measure of the NS’s forgiving nature. When it gets rough I believe a forgiving boat is actually faster and less stressful (tiring) for the average paddler.

Upwind: the boat rides over waves rather than punching through them. In short choppy seas this causes a bit of slap on the descent, slowing the boat momentarily and causing splash in windy conditions. I can’t help wondering if a little more depth with some V in the forefoot would eliminate this altogether, (but then would it be a baidarka?) I have found that paddling the North Star a few degrees off the wind transforms the ride into a very pleasing rolling motion, and dry, with a marked increase in the sensation of speed. Upwind in slightly longer seas she is a pleasure, riding high and feeling very buoyant. Tracking is not a problem at any angle when paddling into the wind: just point and go, no correction needed.

Downwind: The boat catches even small waves really easily and if you then lean back to fully engage the stern will track very nicely down the wave. A quarter of the paddle-blade in the water alongside braced against the gunwale as a makeshift rudder will stop the boat from rounding up in larger waves. Try not to catch a crab! I have not tried it in a surf break yet. The NS also turns easily enough and tracks very well on auto-pilot. I have never used a rudder or a skeg so I am not an authority. A small skeg may be a useful addition if one is used to using one. As it is I find the boat goes more or less where I point it without having to be consciously corrected for weather-cocking all the time. Considering the amount of rocker in the keel the North Star is surprisingly well behaved in regard to tracking. The level of V in the keel as well as the buoyant ends probably contribute to this.

Speed: I kayaked back from Waterville to Sneem in the spring (very calm conditions) with a friend. I was in the North Star. He was in my Nimrod Two. A leisurely paddle got us home in one minute under 5 hours on the water. a distance of 35 km. (7 km per hour). The Nimrod is slightly slower than the NS. I would think that a steady 7.5 kph (4.7 Mph) would be possible without busting a gut. I have a faster boat but it is more tippy. I should add that In following seas she moves very quickly.

Fun element: I have to say that I am getting out a lot and really enjoying the boat. I have six other boats at the moment and haven't used any of them since I built the NS a year ago. It is a lovely boat which feels great on the water, giving a lovely ride, especially if it gets rough. The boat also attracts a LOT of attention, which is always nice. Worth the bit of extra work in the details. So far my funnest kayak.

Optimum paddler size: The North Star is a buoyant boat. I am 220 pounds and it rides about perfectly in the water with me and a day-pack in it. An extra 50 - 100 pounds of luggage would probably improve its performance for touring, improving tracking even more. The boat has a fair amount of rocker and a smaller person may find that the built-in-skeg-effect is lost if the boat floats too high in the water. My wife 130 lbs (don’t tell her I said that) found the stern disengaging a little on bendy water.

For a smaller person the smaller Rob Macs Fire Star may be a better bet.
I'd love to see a Fire Star in the flesh, and be able to compare it to the North Star.

The Shooting Star, apparently, it is a totally different concept and intended for a different function.

What would I do different:? The North Star is a beautiful looking boat and it seems a shame to change its appearance in any way. If I only had one I would leave it as is. Having said that, the boat has plenty of freeboard. If I built another I would consider - leaving the fore deck as is - sweeping the rear sheer line in an inch and a bit lower and reducing the arch of the rear deck as well, thus enabling a more pronounced backward weight shift for tracking down waves. The result may be worth it with even better down-wave tracking. Of course, if one was doing long expeditions this would be at the cost of stowage space. one of the North Star's strengths is loads of space.

Well that is my tuppence worth.

I posted a full photographic record of the North Star build with explanatory captions (over 100 large well compressed images) Click here.

I would be very interested in comparing the experiences of other North Star users, and indeed, other baidarka users. Please feel free to email me anytime.