Write up on Qayaq construction

Builder’s Name

Skip Snaith



Name and source of boat design

"Iluraq";   Modified Y-K Delta qayaq after Dick Bunyun(via Zimmerly's "Hooper Bay Kayak Construction).

Type of construction and materials


Dimensions and finished weight

13' 4" LOA; 27" Beam; 14" Keel to deckridge, Midships. paddling weight, 32 lbs.

Date of first launch

July, 1998

Height & Weight of paddler

5' 7", 165 lbs

Typical paddling conditions ( eg. Open ocean, flat river, white water river, etc)

Ocean paddling, also creeks, lakes, sloughs, just about anywhere.

My comments on the boat’s performance: (as applicable to particular design: stability, speed, tracking, maneuverability, effects of wind and waves, load carrying capacity, general "feel" and overall seaworthiness)

Great boat, fast for it's size and a real load hauler, good secondary stability when light but "lively" until loaded. Much quicker and "sportier" than her dimensions (especially beam) would suggest. Tracking is good due to straight keel and sharp ends, which is necessary because they are customarily paddled with a single paddle, 2 strokes on one side, then switch. It's a fun way to go, but I use a double blade for  speed or distance. I made the cockpit somewhat lower than an original might have and a double blade (even at 8' length) works very well. I reduced the length to keep volume workable too, I'm not hauling seal carcasses around too much these days. The deep cockpit keeps you dry and out of inclement weather, Delta hunters would camp in their boats when they got weathered in.

The single paddle allows for "stealth" work and a wide variety of strokes. No drips either. I've used it for day trips and camping in the San Juans, and am really impressed with the Bering sea type, which many skinboat revivalists seem to think is too wide and deep. All I can say is, try it, you'll like it. When paddling, you feel as if you were a large Eider or Scaup duck, buoyant and salt-water adapted.

My comments on building the boat: (time, cost of materials, building tips, unusual techniques, recommended reading, etc.)

Longitudinals are yellow cedar, Lower bow was a fir root, stern assembly made up from straight grained yellow cedar stock. Some deck beams are grown fir, others are half-lapped from yellow cedar. Ribs are mainly willow, with about 5 "canoe style" oak ribs midships. The upper bow is from 3/8 Bruynzeel plywood (first use of PW in a skin boat for me, but a good application). Boat is lashed with #12 seine twine, but I used a long bronze carriage bolt to connect the lower bow, gunwale assembly. (Attention purists- Delta eskimos use screws or nails here, and elsewhere too). I used a long wedged-shaped gunwale block to connect the gunwales fore and aft instead of the "ears" the Dick Bunyun hewed into his. These are epoxy fastened. Covering is 8 0z nylon, with UA-75.

These boats are very different than the Aleutian and Greenland types most builder are experienced with, so you may need to revamp your thinking a bit. At times it's a real head scratcher. Zimmerly's text gives you what you need. As mentioned above, there are some metal fasteners used, but not nearly as many as qayaq builders from the 40's on up employed in the delta.

I also experimented with making some of the normally grown parts out of straight-grained stock - Zimmerly shows this too, because some of these shapes are hard to come by, and I also was thinking ahead to possible qayaq building projects in the Delta with more modern materials. Several deck beams are half-lapped from 2x4's (yellow cedar), which is a really good way to do it. The stern post is half-lapped too ( a sort of "tee" section), and worked out well, although you need to think about how the keel attaches at the bottom. A small grown knee seems to work pretty well. Glueing up the lower bow assembly can be done but is less satisfactory than a grown piece if you can find one. Plywood for the upper bow makes a lot of sense, the area of the hand hold is delicate, and is broken on may old frames.

Deck rigging is essential on this boat, the traditional pattern of several straps across the deck fore and aft, and an open loop at the stern is superior to modern x patterns. Make a single paddle to go with the boat, or you will miss a lot of it's appeal.

The adz and crooked knife are really helpful tools when making this boat, more than other types I've tried. Zimmerly's paper is out of print, but well worth tracking down if you contemplate getting into this style of qayaq.