Corbin's Treehouse - Corbin Dunn, Santa Cruz, CA
Plug Bug

Photography: Half Dome Side



Building the Chesapeake 16LT Kayak: Part 10 – Top Coat

I used 4oz fiberglass on top, per the instructions in the kit. I was afraid I was going to run out of epoxy hardener, so I only glassed half of the boat at first. This is fine..since the glass is done in two pieces.

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I jumped over to West Marine in Santa Cruz and got some more of their epoxy that has a “clear” finish (i.e.: non-blushing). I got home and cut open my container to utilize the last bit, and managed to get enough out from the original MAS bottle to do the rest of my kayak’s first coat:

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This was done with a squeegee, and just enough was put in to fill the weave of the fabric. I’ll go over with a second and third coat once it has finished drying to the touch (probably 5 hours).


Building the Chesapeake 16LT Kayak: Part 9 – Rounding the top and sanding

I’ve been busy having fun doing other things, so the kayak progress isn’t too fast. Yesterday I finished rounding off the corners of the top, and sanded through all the grits from 80 on up to 220. It is ready for some fiberglassing!

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Building the Chesapeake 16LT Kayak: Part 8 – Gluing the top on

The next big step in the kayak was to glue the top on. First you put a coat of unthickened epoxy on the bottom side of the top piece, and then use thickened (cab-o-sil) epoxy to glue it down to the top part. Using straps to secure it down in place helps form the curve while you nail it on. An action shot of me!

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Flip it upside down so the glue drips into the gaps, and fill in the edge gaps (there were quite a few…): 

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 The next day it was dry. I flipped it right side up and trimmed the edge off with my jigsaw before planning it level and adding a bevel:

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Photography: Half Dome from Cloud’s Rest, Yosemite, California

Half Dome from Cloud’s Rest, Yosemite, California




A grueling 9 mile hike from Yosemite Valley that is relentlessly straight up! 


Chesapeake 16 LT Kayak: Part 7: Planing the end clamps

The next step in my kayak building journey was to plane the end clamps. These need a specific radius that changes depending on where you are along the top of the boat. The kit includes two guides to assist with this. The fore deck of the boat has a 16” radius. The aft deck has….well, I’m not sure! The instructions say the 16LT should have a 60” radius, but the kit included a 49” radius. I emailed Chesapeake Light Craft and John H. got back to me quickly and said “it original was 24” in the demo boat, and then changed to 49. An easy check would be to compare the aft deck radius template to the rear “hatch frames” in the kit. They should be close to the same.”    I did that, and the radius is 49”…but the aft bulkhead seems to be about 60”, so it will be interesting gluing the top on. I planed it down to 49” using the template, and then did the “end pours” to protect the nose and tail.

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Building the Chesapeake 16LT Kayak: Part 6 – The bottom side glassing!

The next big step is to glass the hull bottom. I sanded down the putty with 80 grit, and then went through all the grades all over the kayak: 100/120/150/220.

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You then cover it with the fiberglass and smooth it out by hand. The directions said you could smooth it out over the bow (the front — away from you in the picture below) of the boat without cutting it; I was a bit skeptical about this, but sure enough…you can pretty easily get it to smooth over the front of it.


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The next part was smoothing over the fiberglass with un-thickened epoxy (no additives). You use a plastic scraper to embed it, and a small disposable brush to get some of the more vertical parts.

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Photography: Cloud’s Rest Panoramic, Yosemite, CA

Cloud’s Rest in Yosemite, California. You hike from the Valley floor at just shy of 4,000’ up to 9,931’. 

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Building the Chesapeake 16LT Kayak: Part 5 – The bottom side

The kayak is still moving along! I’ve been a bit busy enjoying the outdoors: mountain biking (yeah on two wheels!), camping, and rock climbing. 

The next part was to glass the interior middle section; there is some heavy duty fiberglass added to re-enforce the passenger area:

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This area had two coats applied, just like the front and back sections.

Then the boat was flipped over:

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I cut off all the spikes pretty closely with wire cutters and used a dremel to grind them down a bit. They said you could just sand them down..but I figured that would tear the paper. I then used a random orbital sander to sand it down with 80; including a bit of rounding over the edges. 

Next up was taping the lines in prep for filling in the slight gap with some wood putty epoxy mix:

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Plug Bug: The bug is squished… I was rear ended!

It’s a sad day in electric-ville. I was driving the electric bug to work at about 6:45 am on Highway 85, trying to enjoy my morning commute by working on learning some Japanese words for an upcoming trip. Listing to to language stuff on audio is awesome, and I really enjoy learning new things. Now at this time there was already quite a bit of traffic, which I consider the plague of silicon valley, and it slowly came to a stop in the #2 lane. Yeah, that is CHP speak for the second lane from the left.

Then I saw it happening. I always look in my rear view mirror when traffic slows down or stops, as I like to be prepared for the unexpected, and this time it actually happened. The car behind me, a 2001 Ford Escape XLT, didn’t slow down and rammed into the bug’s rear end at quite a fantastic speed. I was holding my foot on the brake, and in hindsight I probably could have softened my blow by letting the car move forward and whacking the guy in front of me. Instead, my neck took the brute of the force with some strong whiplash.

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The woman’s air bag went off, and she was disoriented with a cut lip. My neck was sore, but I otherwise was fine. At least so far, as this just happened this morning, and my body might take some time to feel the effects of the accident. The woman’s car doesn’t have too much damage, but the bug didn’t fare so well in the impact.

The bug wouldn’t move; the ignition was disabled and the throttle wasn’t working. I also couldn’t move the shifter — something was really messed up with the transmission. It is actually good that the car’s power source was disabled on impact. I have one of the main contactors to the controller hooked up to an inertia switch. The inertia switch is a simple little device that on impact will provide a hole in the 12v circuit to cut power. I discovered it works a few years ago when I hit a major pothole on Highway 17 and got stuck on the side of the road for a few minutes before I realized what happened and reset it. It worked great in this case; it immediately cut power to one of the two main contactors and starved the controller from having high voltage power. It requires a physical reset by pushing in on a button, but it is located in the rear trunk motor compartment and I couldn’t get it open. I also wouldn’t want to reset it until I made sure that the electrical paths were all sane and not shorting out on anything like the body frame. Conversions usually keep the high voltage pack isolated from the chassis. Normally a car’s 12v system will have the 12v ground hooked up to the body of a car, but that isn’t safe to do with the high voltage pack.

At first I couldn’t push the car off the freeway and thought the transmission was locked completely, but I realized I had put the e-brake on before I got out of the car to see how the lady behind me was doing.

Of course, I called 911, and the cops came within minutes. They were very friendly and I was happy to have them around to help make things feel a little safer. Luckily the traffic was bad, and not moving too fast to present an extra dangerous situation.

I had AAA tow the car to my house, and now I’ll have to deal with the other person’s insurance to get the car fixed. What happens depends on the extent of the damage, and I’m not planning on doing the work myself. The transmission is spewing out oil on the ground…so that means something bad happened inside it. The motor was probably impacted and pushed the tranny forward and broke stuff inside it. I have a feeling that the tranny and motor are damaged, and possibly the controller. I won’t know until I take the bumper off, and I am not going to touch the car until a claims adjuster first takes a look at it.

The rear engine deck lid is destroyed; there is a hole it from pushing the release hatch through the metal. I’ll need a “new” one from a salvage vehicle…which might be hard to come by. Matching the paint is going to be impossible, since I did a custom job on it…which means the car probably will need to be repainted. The bumper is wrecked…the rear panels are damaged and need straightening, and the light is destroyed. 

The car managed to remain whole and without major damage until today. That is from 1969 until 2016. Forty-seven years. Almost half a century, and then this happens to me. I blame distracted drivers looking on their cell phones. Don’t do it!

I’m quite sad. I have a strong attachment to this car, as I know every little part on it.

PS: I’m okay.

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(c) 2008-2015 Corbin Dunn

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