Frej thoughts

Submitted byJohnAbercrombie onSun, 11/24/2019 - 11:52

George G asked me about Bjorn Thomassen's Frej design in the 'Basswood' thread.

I've built two Frej kayaks - one 16' and another longer 18' version for possible use on trips.

I like them both - they are quick, roll very easily and handle waves and wind well.

In breaking waves from the side, the low back deck means that there will be 'green' water over the deck and the kayak gets knocked to the side. My Mariner boats are much better in this regard, riding over seas.

Frej has quite a lot of rocker and the paddler position means that a bit of skeg is needed for most normal paddling.

Both of my Frej kayaks have home-built skegs; I copied Reg Lake's excellent skeg design with the actuating cable entering the side (not top) of the skeg box.

On the 16' Frej, I installed the skeg just aft of the cockpit bulkhead- a 'skeel' like many of the Sterling boats have. I did the same on the 18' Frej and it wasn't effective in preventing weathercocking in stronger beam winds. So I moved that skeg aft to a more 'standard' location, behind the rear hatch. My advice on the skeg for any Frej would be to put it aft in the area shown on the plans.

Right now, I'm building a Njord (very similar design to Frej) and it will get a Kajak Sport line control (System 4) skeg, aft.

About foot room....

I've come to much prefer bulkhead footrests vs adjustable footpegs at the sides. That's the main reason I paddle my 18' Frej on day paddles. Having a little bit of 'extra' space lets me move my feet around a bit; most of the time I paddle with my knees in the middle of the cockpit and my feet a bit 'vertical'.

I wear Sz 10 shoes. As designed, Frej has good foot room for my feet if the length of the paddling shoe is 275 mm. I have several pairs of paddling shoes that are 290 mm and they are a tight (impractical) fit in Frej.

On my Njord build, the front deck will be higher !



John I would like to apologize for hi jacking your thread, my forum etiquette leaves a lot to be desired. 

Frej looks like it will be a fun play boat. I am thinking 15'6" will work well for my needs. I will discuss this with Bjorn, reading the notes on the Frej page this seems to be ok. Light to get on an off the car, I have a torn rotator cuff that at this time am not planing on having repaired and short for easier storage. With the long waterline it should be plenty fast.

I am planning to use a bulkhead footrest, after an hour or so my left foot becomes quite uncomfortable on pegs. I will check the deck height where my feet will be located, putting this much time into a build I want it to be comfortable.

I may try a Back Joy seat in loo of one carved from foam, can always change that out later if it's not satisfactory.

Several years back I started building a skeg and box but stopped before finishing, not sure if I routed the side of the fin for the cable or not, was planing to. I will look into using this or starting over from scratch. Does the pie section shape provide enough directional stability?

I also considered the Peterl Play, there is shop close by that builds the Play with a resin infusion process that comes out quite light and strong. I haven't had a chance to visit this shop but do intend to.

The Mariner Coaster looks very interesting, they are rarely seen here on the east coast.


Thu, 11/28/2019 - 12:58


A couple of answers/thoughts:

If you are installing a 'standard' seat which is a few inches forward of the cockpit coaming and rear bulkhead, you should consider moving the cockpit opening/coaming aft, compared to the plan position. My copy of the Frej plans show a seat that's integrated with the aft bulkhead.

Also, make sure to adjust the cockpit position marked on the plans when you change the boat length. 

Skeg- I consider the 'pie-shaped' wedge skeg superior to the 'fin' style. It's much easier to fine-tune the amount of skeg with the wedge style, with the fin, once it is deployed 25%, you have the full side area of the skeg operating. This is one disadvantage of the KS System 4 line control skeg, and it's a disadvantage shared by all the homebuilt skeg designs I see online.

About the seat: Whatever seat you choose, try to get your 'sit bones' (butt) as close to the hull as possible. Even a fraction of an inch higher will make the boat feel less stable. I found this when I built a Romany copy - I had the seat 5/8" higher than the factory seat position, and even I could feel the difference. Dropping the seat increased the stability noticeably. 

In 2014 I built a S&G Petrel Play for myself and in 2016 I built a 90% Frej (15' x 19.1") for my flea-weight wife.  Both are exceptional designs, but the two boats have a somewhat different character.

As described by John, the Frej is quick, nimble and capable in waves and wind.  It is a rather low volume boat, so in some conditions (steep boat wakes) you will take green water over the deck.  Depending upon your size, it may be a tight fit.  At 90%, my 5’2” 115# wife fits nicely but the boat is tight for me (5’7” 152#).  No doubt I would fit better in a 100% Frej but I doubt that it would be roomy.

The stitch and glue Petrel Play is also quick and nimble but it has much more interior volume/higher decks.  This makes the boat a bit more comfortable and an absolute beast in big waves.

The PP is more stable than the Frej.

The Frej is considerably faster than the PP.  At a two-hour workout pace, I paddle the Play at 5.2 MPH.  At the same level of effort, the Frej is 0.4 mph faster.

If you want a low volume boat for rolling, I’d suggest the Frej.

If you want a boat for playing in waves, get a PP.

For touring, I think it is a toss-up.  The larger cockpit of the PP will be more comfortable, but the Frej will be faster.  The PP has a bit more storage space but neither has a lot.  Lengthening the Frej would solve that problem.

The Frej is not a difficult strip build.  The PP can be built either S&G or strip.  CLC sells kits for the PP but I’d not recommend the S&G for a first build due to complexity.  As you mentioned, you can buy a composite PP from Joey at TurningPoint.

Some king of skeg is needed for the Frej and helpful in the PP.  I put KayakSport skegs in boat boats.

Hope that this helps!

  PP and Frej


Sun, 12/01/2019 - 12:35

Beautiful work, Mark.

I don't think any strip build would qualify as 'difficult' for you!

Thanks for posting those pics and info.

Just a comment to note I don't use the skeg in my frej much. I do use it when the wind is up and I'm going some distance but my usual use for frej is playing in the waves and surf where direction changes are important ( ).

I'm building a petrel play at the moment - found the comments above interesting. I do find frej fast - it let's me easily keep pace with longer touring style sea kayaks. Regarding the cockpit and seating, I find my frej very comfortable but I wish I'd built a keyhole cockpit. The ocean cockpit isn't helpful around rocks or in the surf and a keyhole with thigh braces provides excellent grip. I'm looking forward to the petrel play's cockpit, I'll fit it out like a whitewater boat. Rolling is a breeze in frej and hopefully the same in the PP. I have a night heron which is also a great kayak to roll so I imagine it will be.


Mon, 12/23/2019 - 11:55


I agree with your comments on the 'Ocean' cockpit. I had a small cockpit on the rolling boat I built - it made sense for that. When I built my Outer Island, it had a smaller cockpit as well, and I changed that to a keyhole cockpit later (then got rid of the OI). For me, a bigger cockpit is essential to allow easy and fast entry and exit from the boat, and I like the keyhole shape, so I put a NDK style Romany cockpit shape in the boats I build, now.




That's my 16' Frej. Looking at the plans, you can see the difference in seat position.