by Tsunami Captain Jim Kakuk and Lt. JG Nancy Soares
Lt. JG Nancy: It was a celebratory weekend. I drove down to Guerneville on Friday to help with the setup. Capt. Jim and his lovely gal Patti were having a party, and what a bash it was! Jim and Patti had recently returned from an epic trip to Oaxaca only to find the Russian River in flood phase. Although their home is on high ground and consequently unscathed the floodwaters made it impossible for them to get to the house and they had to stay one night with friends before taking the back roads in. Once reunited with their dwelling, they decided what was needed was a PAR-TAY! So in true Tsunami/Sonoma County fashion, they put together a Zapotec party, the Zapotecs being a major local Oaxacan tribe. Mezcal, the smoky Oaxacan answer to tequila, mole, two kinds of flan, tres leche, chile rellenos stuffed with chicken… it was fantastic.
But wait, there’s more! Capt. Jim has had a new kayak in the works for some time, and the pieces were coming together. The day after the party the plan was to take the new boat out on an inaugural paddle on Bodega Bay. The weather gods cooperated and it was a beautiful day. Having learned some self-restraint over the years, we weren’t too hung over and the water was flat as a board, so it was perfect. We hit Doran Beach before lunch and paddled out around the jetty to some little rock gardens below the bluffs.
Capt. Kuk: The spirit in the boat comes from the passion of the builder.
Small boat building predates written history. It is our connection to the sea and is an extension of the human experience. It also allows you to get to the best places on the water planet and is the purveyor of many adventures. A small boat can take you and your stuff to far away places. There are plenty of quotes about boats and the sea in literature and song. My favorite is “flotation is groovy” by Jimi Hendrix.
A boat builder is a multi-dimensional artist. From the aboriginal carving a dugout canoe to the traditional Greenland skin on frame, not much has changed even with computer-aided design and fiberglass-reinforced plastics. Designs keep evolving but small boats are still mostly done by hand and trued with the eye. Like chefs discussing a fine dinner menu I never get tired of talking about the subtleties of boat design. Some of the people I have worked with and learned from include Tsunami Rangers Glenn Gilchrist, John Dixon and Don Kiesling.
My first flotation experience was an inner tube “groove’n down the river”. My first boat building experience was a wood frame covered with thin plywood when I was in grade school. Since then I have spent about ten thousand hours (I am guessing) on shaping river and sea kayaks, way more time than I have spent paddling them. On a beautiful spring day the perfect place for me is in the shop tooling out a new boat design, shaping and molding curves that will meet the water with the least resistance, in the end producing something that is functional and pleasing to the eye and touch is very satisfying.
The hull displaces water by weight, the deck is effected by wind and waves, and ergonomics is the interaction with the paddler who also provides the horsepower. In my building experience I have had more failures than success. It takes at least three times to get it right and then more changes.The only limit to perfection is time.
My last quote is a perversion of a line from the Freak Brothers: “Designing boats will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of not designing boats”.
Nancy: We’re calling the new boat the X-Caliber. It’s a great Tsunami name, calling up the legend of King Arthur and Merlin (we’re all about myths and legends) and continuing the tradition of naming the boats after legendary aircraft but also suggesting a certain quality, or caliber of performance. The lineage for Capt. Jim’s Tsunami boats is as follows: X-1, X-15, X-2, X-O Crossover, X-3 Trident and now the X-C aka X-Caliber.
The X-15 is the boat most of the Rangers paddle on a regular basis, although we all mess around with other types of kayaks. The X-15 is a great all-around kayak: suitable for surfing and rock gardens but with enough space and speed for expeditions. I have an X-15, an X-O, and an X-3. The X-O is a little rock garden kayak that turns on a dime and is quite fast as little boats go. The X-3 is a design that could include 3 cockpits for 3 paddlers but mine is for two paddlers with space to load gear on top as well as inside for long expeditions. I’m proud to say that I’ve actually surfed the X-3 successfully and done some nice surf landings with it as well. The X-3 Trident was the boat I paddled in the Sea Gypsy Extreme Sea Kayak Race with a buddy. One of the coolest things about the X-3 is that you can pierce through a truly massive wave if necessary as long as you’ve got up speed.
The X-C is an ocean white water kayak. Capt. Jim built this model as a follow up to the X-15. It is both narrower and faster. Welcome to the Water World, little X-C!
Please note that all the earlier models are no longer built. Only the X-C is currently available for a limited time. For questions or comments, please click below. Thanks for reading about our boats!