Nomadulino v01, my first hybrid foam kayak / canoe

This winter I build my first hybrid foam kayak / canoe, the Nomadulino v01. Nomadulino is the Esperanto word for ‘small wanderer’, which fits with the size of the boat and the intended use as small nature photography kayak (or fishing kayak for those who fish).

The core is made of pieces of 4 cm thick plates of extruded polystyrene (‘yellow Styrofoam’) glued together with polyurethane waterproof glue in the general shape of the final boat. So it is unsinkable. Some limited shaping was done with a rasp and sander.

To get a ‘camouflage paint-job’ the core was covered with printed bed-sheets with images of poppies (and butterflies). These were glued on with water-resistant white wood glue (D3) following the techniques piloted by ‘Rowerwet’ for his Sawfish foam kayak and other foam boats (see, and using a ‘poor man’s fiberglass’ technique (see The cotton sheets were then impregnated epoxy and covered with a thin layer of fiberglass and epoxy. Finally the boat was finished with mat-gloss waterproof varnish, with an anti-slip varnish on the inside floor.

The handles are simple aluminum cabinet door handles which can be bought in sets of 3 to 5 at most larger DIY shops. The collapsible chair was bought through Amazon and mounted on a 6 mm thick plywood. It is not fixed to the boat so that it can be collapsed and pushed to one end if it is necessary to lie down to pass under very low bridges. But with the anti-slip varnish on the plywood and the floor of the boat there is enough traction to prevent if from moving much while rowing. One of the pictures shows the lowest bridge I-ve passed under so far ;=)

The overall length of the boat is 2.4 meters, width 82 cm and weight approx. 15 kg. The somewhat stubby shape maximizes surface area and by extension flotation. I-ve calculated the boat should be able to haul about 120 kg with a draft of about 10 cm max. The straight back end  allows the boat to be placed upright in my study or the garage to simplify and minimize storage. The short length and low weight allowed the boat to be build in my study (one way of testing your marriage is as strong as you thought ;=)) and easily moved down to flights of stairs. And the length and width allow the boat to be easily transported in my car with the rear seats and 1 front seat down as can be seen in one of the pictures. That is quicker than mounting it on the roof bars.

This version includes a triple wide keel bottom which helps with stability (very high) and directional stability. The latter is quite reasonable for such a small boat if you sit a bit further to the front than usual. It still wags a bit while rowing, but not as much as for example a Packraft of about the same size. And if you stop rowing it essentially continues in a straight line from that point onward.

The open design with no separate storage area is also intentional. I find it easier in such a small boat to have all space available for small or large items in waterproof bags or simply secured to the side handles with clips, than to be restricted by a cramped drum or barrel for dry storage. And this allows passing under those sometimes too low bridges.

The current version does not yet include self draining scuppers. With the high sides so far I-ve not had any water come into the boat from the outside, other than dripping off the paddles. But all those drips do collect into a little puddle after an afternoon of rowing. So the next version, where I may be lowering the sides a little bit, certainly will get scupper holes with one way valves. I will also be changing the shape of the keels a bit, hopefully further maximizing flotation and directional stability while possibly reducing drag a bit.

Speed is so far the only minor negative. Speed-wise the boat is probably between a Packraft (approx 3.5 km/hr) and my Wilderness System Tarpon 120 Angler with which I can quite easily manage up to 6 km/hr. That boat is 3.7 meters long, 80 cm wide and about 35 kg and thus a pain to manhandle out of the yard, onto the car, and into the water relative to the Nomadulino v01.  The lower speed is due to a slightly higher than intended drag of the current keel design and the remaining ‘wagging’. The aim is to end up with a boat which is at least as fast as the Tarpon 120.

Cost-wise the materials used for the boat amounted to around 300 Euro’s. Time-wise it took somewhere in the order of 30 active hours to make, in bits of 1-2 hours of activity. But the total time from start to finish was much longer due to lots of waiting time in between to allow for glue, epoxy or paint to thoroughly dry.

The speed is a very minor issue. For nature photography and when traveling in shallow creeks with potentially lots of hidden obstacles under the surface, you don’t need or want a very high speed. With it’s light weight and small size it is very easy to get in and out of the water even from quite steep grassy embankment. And speed was not expected to be as high as a longer narrower boat. Essentially the Nomadulino v01 has met all my design targets.