Center Spray Skirt
for the Native Watercraft Ultimate 12 Tegris
(continued from Kayak Cover and Center Spray Skirt)

     My Native Ultimate 12 Tegris kayak is an "open" design, more like a canoe than a conventional "cockpit" style kayak. It has no deck of any kind, which is one of the reasons for the extreme light weight of this kayak... a mere 29 pounds (without seat)... truly a featherweight among kayaks. I knew I would need a center skirt to shade my legs and feet from cooking in the summer sun. The skirt would also minimize paddle drip on my camera equipment sitting between my knees, right where most paddle drip would end up. Though the manufacturer made bow and stern spray skirts for this model, which I purchased, they never offered a center skirt for it. It would be up to me to make my own center spray skirt to provide shade and water protection.

Two views of the temporary cardboard batten.

     After first making a kayak cover for my Tegris from 500 Denier coated Cordura nylon waterproof material, I turned my attention to making the center spray skirt from more of the same material. I had already drawn the skirt design on the computer, so I had a good idea how the patterns should work (see the cover article for drawings). However, without access to a large format printer, the computer drawings of the skirt design could not be used to print paper patterns for cutting the material.

Two views of the paper patterns being fitted and marked.

     In order to make paper patterns I had to resort to taping large sheets of art paper together to make larger pieces to drape over the kayak and create paper patterns by hand. For proper fit I needed a temporary batten arch over which to form-fit the paper, so I made one from corragated cardboard. With this temporary batten wedged into place, I draped these larger pieces of paper over the kayak, wrapping the paper around the gunwale (or gunnel) and bow as if it was the material itself, and marked it with a pencil.

     Since the bow piece was a symmetrical shape, I could fold the paper pattern in half along the centerline and insure it was drawn and cut perfectly symmetrical. The two side pieces should be mirror images of each other, so I only needed to make one of them. For the opposite side I simply used the same pattern but flipped it over on its back side to use for marking and cutting of the material. With the paper patterns now trimmed and marked with my hems and folding lines I was ready to cut the material.

     Having already made a "virtual" pattern layout on the computer, I knew how best to arrange these life-sized paper patterns on the remaining piece of Cordura material. I adjusted the arrangement for the absolute least waste and pinned the paper cutouts to the material. Next I traced them, adding my marks for hems, alignment lines and arrows, and other notes right on the material. Then I cut out the material pieces. (This only included the three main pieces. The zippered flap would have to wait until I had the main spray skirt assembled because the flap had to be fitted to the spray skirt, not to the kayak itself.)

Laying out paper patterns on the material. Example of tracing pattern onto material,
and adding hem marks and notations.
     I will note here that you could alternately just lay the material over the kayak, mark it and cut it out, much as I did with the kayak cover. That worked fine for the cover because the shape was quite simple (a large "football" shape), and it required the full width of the material for the cover. There was simply no need to "fit" a pattern to the material. Instead I had to fit the material to the kayak. However, if I had done that with the small complex and oddly shaped pieces of the center spray skirt design, I could have ended up wasting a good deal of material. I realized during the initial design drawing stage that it would be best (and much more efficient) to make the center spray skirt out of three main pieces (bow section and two long side pieces), plus the zippered flap as the fourth piece. Making the paper patterns allowed me to lay them on the material and arrange them to best utilize the material without excess waste. This proved particularly important with such oddly shaped pieces as those for the center spray skirt. It also saved money on material.

     With the skirt pieces cut and ready, I turned my attention to making the battens before doing any sewing. If my batten idea didn't work out, I didn't want to have to take out a lot of stitching and make alterations to accomodate battens made a different way. It would be easier to ensure the battens would work before doing all that sewing.

"Splitting" 1/2-inch CPVC pipe with
a hand saw.
1/2-inch CPVC pipe before and
after cutting in half.

I had used both PVC and CPVC in previous projects for frames and stiffening in camo blinds. I learned that CPVC was lighter and more easily flexed and bent to shape. I had also learned that heating CPVC with just a hair dryer (1500 watt or so) would allow it to be bent easier, and hold the shape when cooled. CPVC is waterproof, very lightweight, won't rust, will flex and spring back, and is practically unbreakable - all good attributes for batten material. An option would have been to use an aluminum yard stick cut to size and bent into an arch, but I already had sections of 1/2-inch CPVC on hand from those previous projects and decided to try that first. Besides, if the aluminum was accidentally bent, it would not spring back into the desired shape by itself.

CPVC battens comparead to the
temporary cardboard batten.
     In short pieces, even the round 1/2-inch CPVC was too stiff to bend well for what I would need here. Flatter material would fit inside the channels in the material much better. So I put the CPVC in a clamp and cut the 1/2-inch CPVC in half lengthwise with a hand saw to get two half-round "slats". If you have a table saw, splitting the CPVC would be even faster and easier. These "slats" are relatively flat. It should be no surprise that these flatter pieces flex more easily in short sections than round pipe. Heating these "slats" with a hair dryer and shaping them was much easier than doing so with round CPVC pipe. I found that applying and holding the desired bend while heating them works faster and better than heating a section and then doing the bending. Heating it with the bend in place seems to "set" the bend more quickly. Once shaped and cooled, they hold their shape. Then when you try to straighten them, they spring back into the bend you just put into them.

Best way to shape CPVC battens.

     One important thing I learned was that it worked better to pre-shape the battens into a higher, rounder arch and less width between the ends than you need. Then use the spray skirt tie-down points to pull the ends outward toward the gunwale, slightly flattening the batten's arch. This way the battens naturally want to return to the higher arch by themselves, creating a firmer arch. The alternative is to leave the battens straight, or only slightly arched and wider than the gunwale, and then forcing them into a tighter arch with tension against the gunwale using the spray skirt tie-down points. Although that sort of worked, if the tension slacked off, they would flatten out, which is exactly the opposite effect from what you want to happen. It definetly did not work as well as having too much bend and too little width.


Inserting CPVC battens into the channels.
Velcro flaps secure them inside the channel.

     I knew sewing together the three main pieces of the spray skirt would be a slower process than sewing the relatively simple one-piece kayak cover had been. There would be a bit of design-as-you-go involved, since I didn't have all the answers just yet. I did have a lot of ideas and possibilities I had considered at length during the design drawing phase. However, I've learned from previous projects that what I thought would work, and what would actually work does not always coincide when doing projects like this one. There is always a bit of learn-as-you-go involved. First I sewed the three main pieces together, and made a test fit on the kayak. So far, so good. I made minor trimming adjustments to the two flaps that wrapped around the bow point, pinned the flaps together and did the finished sewing and hems on that small area. The skirt design depends on hanging the front over the bow point and pulling the rest of the skirt back from that anchor point to tension the whole skirt into shape. Next I sewed the channel hem around the cockpit cutout area so I could insert the nylon cord/bungee cord around it. This cord would hook the rear points of the two sides into the rear thwart, and pull everything into shape - at least that was the plan.

     My original plan called for 1/4-inch bungee cord all the way around the inner "cockpit" opening. I found out that this allowed too much springy "give" to hold the skirt as tight as I wanted. I tried using 3/16 nylon cord around the "cockpit" with a foot or so of bungee cord on each end to hook to the thwart bar. That worked better, but even that much bungee was too springy. Then I tried useing a 1-foot length of bungee cord in the middle (around the curved front edge) of the cockpit and a length of 3/16 nylon cord on each side. That was better still, though the large knots necessary to connect the cord and bungee tended to get hung in the notches of the curved center along the hem when tightening the cord. Finally I moved the bungee section to one side away from any notches in the hem, and that did the trick. This seemed to give me the best tension (and stiffest sides) for the cockpit opening.

     I inserted the batten in the channel where the bow section and side pieces were sewn together, as in my original design, and did another test fit on the kayak. To my relief, it worked pretty much as planned. However, the tension pulled down the cover a bit too much just behind the batten. It seemed the batten was some four inches too far forward to do exactly as I had intended. I decided to add a second batten just behind the first one. Such practical impirical modifications are often the case in my projects. It only required an additional channel for the second batten to slide into. Because I had designed the pattern with enough material overlap to allow room for a second batten channel, all I needed to do was a row of stitching to create the channel. With a second batten inserted, it did the trick. Now it worked as planned.

The Adapt-A-Trak kit clips.

     With that important hurdle behind me, I checked to see if the attachment points I'd chosen for the Adapt-a-Trak clips would be optimal for tensioning the battens and holding the skirt edge in place. It became obvious this too was going to require some impirical modifications as I fit things together and found out just where the tension points were really needed.

Reinforced slot for skirt tie-down
clips in Adapt-A-Trak railing.
     The Adapt-A-Trak Lashpoint kit from Native Watercraft was the only source I could find to get clips to fit their proprietary rail connection system on the sides of the Tegris. I cannot fathom why they don't sell the clip strip material, since they make very few items that use that connection system. Native kayak owners who want to make items not provided by the manufacturer have little option for do-it-yourself solutions without a means to attach to the kayak. The Tegris in particular is a problem, as it does not have the option of the "Groove" adapter system that comes on the poly Ultimate models to attach accessories. In the instance of spray skirts, the Adapt-A-Trak strip is the only logical attachment point short of drilling holes in the Tegris hull.

     The kit comes with four "lashpoints", but as shown in the accompanying photo, each of these lash points actually has two pieces - one clip sewn to a 1-inch web strap, and one clip sewn to a 1-inch D-ring and 1-inch ladderlock (also called a strap adjuster). Thus I actually had eight "clips" available to hook into the Adapt-A-Trak strip on the Tegris. I had planned only six attachment points (three on each side) for the spray skirt, but at this point it looked like I may need to use all eight clips.

     Note that my center spray skirt design works alone, with or without the OEM bow or stern spray skirts from Native, although I am also using both in conjunction with the center skirt. The OEM skirts do not interfere with my design, so I can leave them on when using the center skirt.

     With all the clip points still not firmed up, I finished hemming the rest of the center skirt. Then I cut slots into the cover for the first pair of clips that hook onto the Adapt-A-Trak rail just below the double batten. I reinforced the openings where the web straps feed through, and sewed on the straps and ladderlocks for these two clips.

      My next step was to sew the two 26-inch nylon zippers to the base spray skirt. Then I set up my temporary cardboard batten again so I could cut and fit a paper pattern for the zippered flap. This was the final piece to the puzzle to make everything work as designed.


Paper pattern for the zippered flap after
trial and error fitting and adjustments.

     The zippered flap would have a CPVC batten at the rear edge to support it, replacing the temporary cardboard batten. The two 26-inch nylon zippers will allow me to roll the flap up out of the way. This will open up the center skirt much like a cockpit style kayak to reach equipment and for ease of entry and exit. It will also have what I am calling a "lap skirt" that will function as a sort of "touring skirt". This will offer additional rain protection, as well as extra coverage from excess paddle drip whenever I engage in some serious paddling. The lap skirt will tuck away into a pocket on the zippered flap when not needed.

     Once again I had to tape two large pieces of art paper together to get a piece large enough for the flap pattern. I soon found my attempts to position the paper on the kayak and mark it very frustrating, even with the temporary batten in place. Eventually I resorted to taking measurements from my scaled design diagram and transferring them to the paper to create a pattern. I cut this pattern out and did a test fit with the kayak. After several rounds of re-marking, taping more paper around the edges and refitting, I finally achieved a useable pattern, although it now looked more like a patchwork quilt. Next I pinned the pattern to my material, marked it and cut out the material for the flap. Then I hemmed all around the flap and once again made a test fit. So far, so good. After some more pinning, fitting and scratching my head, I decided I would need a second batten near the front of the flap. It didn't take long to make the additional batten. Then I made and sewed on two channels for the battens, slid both CPVC battens into these channels and did another test fit after moving the cardboard batten out of the way.

The paper pattern for
the "lap" skirt.

     This time the news was not good. The flap sagged far too much. The tension I expected would keep it in position only pulled it down flatter, even with the batten inserted. After so much work it was rather disappointing. This was obviously going to require some rethinking. There had to be more support at the rear batten, which it seemed was only achievable by making a longer batten that reached wider and closer to the gunwale for support on the ends. So, I moved the existing rear batten and channel forward near the center of the flap, then moved the front batten and channel farther toward the front as well. I made a new longer rear batten and channel. This new one would extend over the zippers instead of ending next to them. I wasn't sure how easily I could work the zippers in this configuration, but I had little choice.

Lap skirt pocket with skirt tucked inside. Lap skirt deployed.
     When I tried this new modification I was very pleased. I now had a workable solution. With the skirt and flap installed on the Tegris, I climbed in to be sure I had sufficient knee room. I found there was more than enough room, and the batten height was just what I was shooting for. To finalize this modification, I removed the skirt and did the final sewing of the zippers to the flap. After a little final stitching to permanently attach the front edge of the flap, I was home free. There was still the "lap skirt" piece to be made and attached, but that would be simple enough. All the difficult work was finished.

     For the "lap" skirt I made another paper pattern by a combination of measuring and test fitting. I traced the pattern onto the Cordura I had left, cut it out and stitched the hems around the edges. On the back edge where the skirt wraps around the body I made the hem wide enough to form a channel. I will feed 1/8 or 3/16 bungee cord through this channel and clip it to the thwart bar. That will hold it snug while still having enough stretch so I can comfortably move and paddle. About twelve inches of the front edge is sewn to the zippered flap. The rest hangs down to shed water. On top of where it's sewn to the zippered flap I stitched on a "pocket" where I can roll up the lap skirt and store it out of the way when not in use. It will also make a handy spot to temporarily stuff small items.

Two views of the nearly completed skirt. The "lap" skirt has not yet been attached. A full side view of the center skirt
before the "lap" skirt was added.

Here the zippered flap is unzipped
and rolled up out of the way.
Alternately the zippered flap can be
rolled under behind the footrests.
The fully completed center spray skirt
with "lap" skirt deployed.

     So, there is the finished center spray skirt for my Tegris. I have taken into consideration the idea of using a camouflage cover over this skirt. It should be as simple as using some die-cut polypropylene camo blind material, or even some netting in which I can stuff natural vegetation. Either one can be draped over the skirt and tied to the bow handle and the D-rings along the sides of the skirts. The center skirt will hold it up out of my way. Combined with some camo clothing it should work out nicely.