Monday, December 29, 2008

In praise of heavy kayaks and mittens

Yesterday was my first time out in neoprene mittens. They promised to be warmer than the gloves I have been using, and sure enough, my fingers weren't cold at all! I must admit it was 45 degrees warmer than last week. We'll have to see how they work in more seasonal weather.

The reason it was so warm was strong southerly wind, so the 55 degrees here was probably the same as it was in Virginia the day before. My sponge was encased in a 10 pound block of ice from last week, but at least it could be removed from the boat. Dave had his Kevlar (lightweight) kayak on the concrete boat ramp and it blew right over to the rocks on the side, and eventually onto the lake. Fortunately I was standing close by and already suited up so I could jump in and grab it.

We took off pretty much into the teeth of the wind, catching a little lee here and there from an island or point. Chris and I hit land somewhere around Gross Point and since the other 2 had turned back, figured we would go no further. The wind had diet, but came up again more from the west. That brought some short lived rain, and meant that we were going just a bit down wind instead of straight downwind. The fetch was now only about a mile, so the waves were considerably smaller. A bit of boost, not enough to beat us up, warm wind in the hair, what more could you ask? We almost caught up with Dave and Tom, getting to the ramp just a couple of minutes after them.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Saturday seemed like a great day for kayaking. Sunny, calm. Just have to shovel out from Friday night's snow storm. The others want to go Sunday. Oh, yes, the first day of winter.

For some reason it's become traditional to roll on the Solstice. I'm not sure why.. maybe getting closer to the bottom of the world where the sun is hiding?

The first day of winter turned out to be the real deal. 10 degrees and snowing heavily.

The new camera doesn't seem as water resistant (or maybe it's just the "new" part.) I'm not eager to use it with wet neoprene gloves, so there's just a shore shot.

If "2 day delivery" included Saturday, or the local shop hadn't sold the last pair of "large" the day before I went in, I'd have mittens by now, but that's a different story (maybe the same story.. if the mittens are easier to get off and on I may be back to taking on-water photos.)

My official Solstice roll came immediately after seal launching off the pier as the stern landed on the edge of some ice and flipped me.

It was a slow day for the Coast Guard (where we launched.) There were a couple of guys out knocking ice off their boats. They asked if we all had drysuits and how long we'd be out, and warned of the bad visibility.

We took off upwind (North) staying in sight of shore. There were thin sheets of ice in some sheltered areas, and lots of pizza size slush bunnies. About the time we turned around, the wind did too, so we had snow in our faces both ways.

I was starting to emit creaking ice sounds with each stroke. The loom of the paddle had hanging icicles, and the gloves had a hard layer of ice that cracked if I straightened my fingers. Inside the neoprene and Goretex, all was good.

Sunday, December 14, 2008





I detect a trend!

What were the implications for the winter kayaker?

1) Excitement
2) Maybe not going so fast upwind.
3) Plenty fast downwind.
4) Launching into the wind from a concrete ramp didn't look inviting, so we seal-launched off a snow covered dock.
5) Kayaks blow across the parking lot unless you set them between 2 cars.
6) It takes 3 people to put a boat on the roof rack. Two to hold it down while the 3rd straps it on.
7) The plowed road into the Coast Guard station was drifted over with snow when we left. Good thing I got the snow tires on last week.
8) Wind-chill was strong enough that "de-icing" rolls seemed to just pack more ice on the PFD zipper. I ended up driving home in the full gear (drysuit, tuiliq, and PFD)
and finally hosed the zipper with the hot water spray at the kitchen sink to get it undone.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Still too hot

Last weekend it was about 20 degrees F, plus pretty windy and wavy.
I figured, ok, now's the time to break out the fleece. For the record, even with spray blowing in my face and the occasional roll, fleece+drysuit+tuiliq was way too hot.

Dave found the waves too big for his rolling boat and bailed out (not literally) early.

Between the heat, the waves, and something I must have eaten the day before, I only lasted about an hour. I fell in the water exiting the boat (full immersion, still too hot), crashed through some shore ice (in to the waist, still too hot).
Next time I think I'll at least skip the fleece top.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cheap Gas

The big thing of note in last week's trip was that even though it's mid November, we saw the most motorboats of any trip this year. Correlating with that, the parking lot at the Cedar Beach boat ramp was pretty much packed.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Indian Summer

I figured with the demise of daylight savings time the midweek paddles would be done. Then we got a warm spell, pushing 70 degrees Wednesday and calls started flying about a lunch time trip, not too long, but take advantage while we can.

We ran into Bruce building a house by the shore just north of Red Rocks. Apparently he used to paddle with our gang, before my time. Then he got totally immersed in outrigger canoes. This was the first we'd seen of him since the Maloko'i (sp?) a ~40 mile race in Hawaii last month.

With the warm temperature, dry suit, and tuiliq I started embracing the concept of the back brace resting position. (the picture is not me, just to show)

For some flexibility reason it works ok for me on the left side but on the right I have to keep sculling to stay on the surface.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Button Bay

Saturday was the roughest weather I've paddled in the SOF. I suggested Button Bay as I've only been there once before. It is also on the southern end of our usual range and Sam was going to be coming north from Rutland. It is named for stones shaped like buttons originally formed by reeds growing through clay (making the holes).

It was in the high 30's and pretty windy at the put in Saturday. A dry suit seemed like the key to comfort even before we launched. Once paddling though, combined with a tuiliq, it was pretty hot.

We started with about 2 hours straight into the wind. A low volume boat with just a smidge of rocker is not in it's prime here as oncoming waves tend to wash over the bow and scrub off speed. It still seemed plenty stable, so the only problem was the speed.. oh, and the heat from exertion, so there were a few rolling and back brace breaks.

We then headed cross wind out into the lake, the best leg of the trip for this boat. The waves just rolled under the hull, not costing any momentum or causing any tip.

Downwind to home I was getting some boost from the surf, but again the low volume and no rocker worked against me. I spent a considerable amount of time with the boat completely under water, but always upright, pointed pretty much in the direction I wanted to go, and still pretty dry inside after playing submarine. All grist for what I might want the same or different in a future boat.

We stopped for lunch at the Basin Harbour Club.

In season, that would run about $25, and they probably take kindlier to folks flying into their private air strip than kayakers washing up on shore in dripping tuiliqs. But this was the off season, we brought our own lunches, and no paying guests were around to be put off.

The last couple of miles were pretty uneventful. Since I wasn't driving on the way home I could just wallow in the tired all over feeling.

The season is progressing... Killington ski area opened Sunday!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Juniper Island

The season is progressing. The water is still hanging in the high 50's where it's been for a couple of weeks. For air the high Saturday was ~45, with the wind-chill in the low 30's, but that's with dry skin, so I figured I'd wear the dry suit to keep that applicable as we would have a mid-trip excursion on foot.

Can you tell there's a dry suit under the tuiliq that needs burping? After this pic I tried rolling and the hard part was getting under water.

I made the bottom of the tuiliq to fit the keyhole cockpit on the other kayak. It bunches up on this smaller one, so leaks just a bit.

We went to Juniper Island, which features the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the country (according to wikipedia anyway.) Its electric replacement is in the background.

For foggy weather this building had a big bell on top and some sort of mechanism inside to keep it ringing.

When we got back to Oakledge there was another group of kayaks coming in and a guy we've run into a few times heading out on his standup paddleboard. So, the place is still pretty busy with paddlers.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Willsboro Bay

The Champlain valley is sometimes called Vermont's "Banana Belt" since the lake moderates temperatures (until it freezes over.) Some areas haven't seen frost yet, so you can still get local tomatoes and peppers at the farmer's market.

Yesterday we launched from the back (main lake) side of Shelburne Shipyard on Shelburne Point with a destination of Willsboro bay on the New York side.

Tom's boat is anchored in the water. Still too new for him to let it rest on the sand.

On the way we passed the Four Brothers islands. They've been taken over by cormorants. They strip all the green growth off trees for their nests. When the trees are dead they seem just has happy nesting on the ground. In the end they drive off other ground nesting birds that really have to be on islands for protection from predators.

We crossed Willsboro bay and paddled down the mainland side. Some of this rubble is natural, and some is debris from blasting out the railroad bed near the top of the picture.

We lunched on shore by this trestle.

There are some nice cliffs too..

This was the first time using my recently finished tuiliq with the Gulfstream. It keeps the cockpit a lot drier than my old spray skirt. Either I just rolled up, or the photographer caught me in a hellacious sneeze.

Here we still have about 5 miles of open water to go. Dave with Camel's Hump and 2 loons in the background:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

This weekend I went to New Hampshire to help close down an AMC camp for the season. Putting boats under cover, bagging mattresses so they don't turn into mouse nests etc etc.

I had to leave early Sunday because this closing weekend coincided with the only time Cheri & Turner could come to Burlington for a rolling class. I got there when they were doing lunch between the morning and afternoon sessions.

One thing I noticed in the afternoon session was that there wasn't a factory built boat in the group. 3 of us had skin-on-frame's and the rest appeared to be stitch-and-glue plywood.

I remembered that last year's class involved a lot of standing in the water spotting a buddy, and the water is 6 or 7 degrees colder than last year, so I broke out the dry suit. It turns out that we spent pretty much the whole time in our boats, so just a tuiliq would have done fine, but you might as well be comfortable. It wast the first time I'd worn a dry suit with the new boat (the brown one in foreground) and it was actually easier to get out, more like extracting a wine cork than a wisdom tooth.

I can't say I had any great breakthroughs, but I improved my form on forward finishing rolls, can manage a static back balance brace (a bit of buoyancy from the neoprene tuiliq helped) and have stuff to work on.

I was hoping I or someone could take some shots of the actual class, but nobody had the downtime.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Not Valcour

Email said "the gang" was going from White's beach to Valcour Island Saturday. The weather service's prediction tool was saying that stretch of lake was likely to have South winds at 25 and 4 foot waves. Maybe this isn't the best day to take the low volume SOF that would rather spike through waves than climb over them, given that we may do 20 miles. So it's the Gulfstream. I'm not used to having to choose which kayak to take.

At the beach were a collection of opportunistic fans of wind on water. Windsurfers were unpacking their stuff, and a kiteboarder was zipping around offshore.

Kiteboarding on Lake Champlain
Logging air time

The paddlers were mumbling something about Valcour maybe being too ambitious. The consensus finally settled on going upwind out of the bay then surfing downwind to the boat ramp north of the ferry terminal (total about 12 miles). So, first thing, car shuttle.

I had a good hunch that the camera wouldn't come out of the drybox at any time on the water, so there's just one shot of the launch:

As we left the shelter of the bay the waves got a lot bigger. I realized I was spending a lot of time looking up at water. To demonstrate the power of fetch, the waves near Charlotte (30 miles upwind) were only a foot and a half. We regrouped in the lee of Carlton's Prize (picture isn't from this trip!)

The downwind run was entertaining. 2 combat rolls! I instinctively came up with laybacks, then decided I ought do a few storm rolls to see if they work any better. I can see that the storm roll leaves you in a more stable position, but it didn't seem to make much practical difference in these waves.

As usual, going downwind in waves is faster, but no easier, than going upwind. You are constantly either sprinting to catch a wave, or you're on one and trying to stay pointed in the right direction.

The landing was uneventful.. no onshore waves trying to drop us on a concrete ramp.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The new ride

This must be the season for new kayaks. Tom got his Rapier over the weekend. Last night I test-drove a used SOF, a sleek 18 inches wide by 18 feet long. I used the same boat in a rolling class last year and correctly remembered it as a tight squeeze to get in and out but a nice boat to roll & paddle once I'm in.

We did a loop of about 8 miles in 15 kt wind. Compared to my Gulfstream, less windage. Going upwind it tends to go through waves instead of over (low volume and little rocker). Cross wave you hardly notice them between the narrow hull and v bottom (that is to say it's no less stable than on flat water.)

From SOF

Worst case fit adjustment will mean a new masik (and reskin), but I'll try shaving a bit here and there (masik, 1st rear deck beam) first. Or maybe shave a bit off my heels and modify the knees to hyperextend a little.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

LCMM challenge

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum had their challenge race Saturday. Originally scheduled in July, it was postponed due to thunderstorms. We gave Tom no end of grief because he's been practicing with a wing paddle on his kajaksport and ordered a racing boat. Now on the 1 day a year with a local opportunity to race, he was off in New Hampshire picking up the new boat.

The race is for any human powered boat, and there were 4 of us in "single men's recreational kayak"
There were also 4 or 5 of these longboats which were made at the museum by high school kids, starting from trees:

From Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

and a couple of Adirondack guideboats:
From Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

I'm not sure who got best time on this 3 mile course. It was either the fastest longboat, or a guy in an outrigger canoe.. both far enough ahead that I couldn't tell! The second longboat, a guy in a Hobie pedal drive, and I were all pretty close, but in different classes. Next time, depending on the weather, I might ditch the PFD. It was *slightly* restrictive for taking deep breaths, and hot. I had to stop paddling a bunch of times to scoop a hatfull of water on my head and rollled just past the finish line.

My local high school finished a few minutes later:

Sunday there was a new boat to try. We launched from Leddy Beach and pretty much stayed in that bay going up, down, and cross wind for 3 or 4 hours. Tom's Rapier only LOOKS twice as long as Jamie's Explorer
From Kayak2008

Thursday, September 04, 2008

No Wind

A good crowd of 7 turned out at the Converse Bay boat launch Wednesday. Tom and I got there early for some rolling. He showed me a "storm roll," and I got it the first time. It's supposed to leave you in a more stable position than the more common layback roll. I'll have to try it in a storm sometime.

Certainly no storm last night.. more like not a breath of wind. We decided to cross the lake to Split Rock.

About when we got there we saw a rowboat following us. From a distance it looked like one of those sliding-seat wherries, which we've seen a couple of in the area. When it arrived it proved to be something larger, a combo rowboat/sailboat. LIke I said, no wind, so just a rowboat for now.

From Kayak2008

I think this style is called a Peapod.

A couple of our party know the owner, so we talked for a bit. He'd recently taken the boat to Maine. Wonder if he went to that "Small Reach" wood boat regatta.

On the far side of the split we ran into a couple of kayaks from Essex (NY) who were curious about the skinny stick paddles.

Sunsets are coming earlier! When this one showed, we figured we better skedaddle back home, tempting as it was to sit and watch it play out.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Another "What?" rescue, this one in New York City
(NY Post, 8/31)
Danziger, a corporate headhunter from the Upper East Side, was taking kayaking lessons with wife Ellen at 3:30 p.m. near Pier 61 when he toppled out of his craft.

Fortunately, the crew of the passing ferry spotted him and pulled him to safety.

"He was in the water for 17 minutes. Another minute or two and he would have been finished," said crewman James Canham, a retired firefighter who dived in to pull Danziger out.

First question: If he was in the middle of a lesson, where was the teacher, who could presumably use this opportunity to teach how to empty the boat and reenter?
Second question: 17 minutes in the water in August puts you within a couple of minutes of death? Don't people voluntarily go in the water in August for hours at a time? OK, maybe not in traffic, but am I assuming too much that the rescuer was referring to hypothermia?

Closer to home:

On Sunday we went north, leaving from the west side of Grand Isle and going to Point au Roche state part in NY. There was a lot more motor traffic than we've seen all summer.. I guess partly the holiday weekend, and part that the price of gas fell a bit.

We stopped for lunch in a small bay near the campground. It would have had a spectacular view but for a large raft-up of tall powerboats about 10 yards off shore. So we got a view of transoms.

We didn't have to go far into the lake before it was a straight downwind run to the starting point. It wasn't exciting surf, but a noticeable speed boost. The new whiz-bang wave/wind tool on the noaa site says that part of the lake had 15 knots and 1.4 foot waves (precise!) for the run home.

Who says we don't let Euro-paddles or rudders on our trips?
(to be fair, I don't think he used the rudder at all)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wreck and rescue

In yesterday's paper:

~20 kt wind (according to Colchester Reef station) on Lake Champlain Sunday, 4 kayakers capsized and bailed out of a group of 12 and needed Coast Guard/Police rescue.

They were all from out of state, no mention of experience level. All wearing PFD's, no injuries.

The 2 things that struck me were..

1) It would be nice if they could have recovered amongst themselves.

2) sounds like a nice day.. wish I was out paddling.

While we're on safety.. while vacationing on Lake Winnipesaukee (NH) the big hubbub was a fatal accident in July where a "high performance"* motor boat crashed into an island. The ironic part was that the driver, whose family owns a marina and representing a boat dealer's association, had recently testified to the legislature against the need for speed limits on the lake.

The prior fatal crash (high speed boat ran over a smaller boat) in 2002 also had a driver who owned the marina that sold the boat. Maybe the key is just banning dealers from driving their own boats on the lake?

At any rate, the speed limit law passed (45 mph day, 25 at night) a few weeks before the crash but doesn't go into effect until Jan 1 next year.

*"high performance" meaning a general class with top speed around 100 mph.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Appliances on strike

Did you ever notice that appliances seem to know when you're going on vacation?

The day we were going to leave, my kid (who keeps teenage hours) wakes me at 3 am to tell me the drier stopped working. When we got back her computer monitor was dead and the dishwasher won't fill. While clearing the prairie that formed in 2 weeks the discharge chute on the mower fell off and went under the mower for a clean slice into 2 parts.

The belt and idler pulley for the drier are on order, we got a free monitor from the recycling center that someone presumably replaced with an LCD. The dishwasher will get attention today or tomorrow.

Vacation was 2 weeks at the Appalachian Mountain Club's island camp on Lake Winnipesaukee. It rained 13 out of the 15 days but I still got out in/on the lake every day with plenty of hang time (upside down in the kayak). I even managed to do a layback roll in a Keowee. The hardest part of that is not falling out as the cockpit is so big.

There were some studies done, like "Does raising your center of gravity change a boat's handling?" (yes)

And do kayaks produce more paddling force than canoes? Not in this case.
(video on youtube)

Tentative upcoming event: Turner & Cherie rolling and strokes class September 28!

Monday, July 14, 2008

wind and waves

Sunday was supposed to be a "get wet day" where people could come learn some strokes, wet exit, how to get rescued by another kayak, ...

The forecast was a bit harsh for that, with rain, 20-25 kt wind, 3 foot waves, so nobody signed up. The beginners might experience a little too much "get wet" and rescue. We were going to go out anyway (hey, 25 knots, 3 foot waves, what's not to like?)

In the morning it was pretty windy judging from the noise and all the moving trees outside. Tom called around 8:30 and said he wanted to go right away because he was afraid the wind would die down. I was going to meet him at Coast Guard and we'd surf downwind to Leddy beach, meed Dave, and play in the offshore shoal.

At Coast Guard, a bunch of Dragonboat teams were getting their first practice for the festival in August. Lines of 12 people doing "air paddle" as someone counts while waiting their turns in the real boats. You can see that the breakwater does a pretty good job of keeping the waves out.

We headed out into the lake to get a good downwind run. This leg featured an unexpected capsize after which I didn't realize my hat was gone until it was really gone.

At Leddy we went ashore to wait for Dave, then played in the breaking surf for a while and still didn't see him, and we headed home.

WE headed home along the shore for more practice at beach launches into the waves and reflected waves from the cliffs. The don't push you sideways much, but you go up and down a lot:

Friday, July 11, 2008


Charlie's boathouse is a private boat ramp buried in the woods at the end of North Avenue by the mouth of the Winooski River. He's got storage for a few boats, some kayaks and rowboats for rent, and various snacks. Until the bike bridge was built it was also right at the end of the Burlington rail-trail, so perhaps a good lure to get kids to pedal "just a little further" to Charlie's where they could get a soda.

1065 Charlie's Boat House on the bike path in Burlington - kayak, canoe rental and restaurant

Wednesday evening we started at Charlie's. From there there was an unusually clear view of Champ, our local version of the Loch Ness Monster.

Up close, it turned out to be the root ball of a blown down tree.

The exciting part of this trip is I got to try Tom's new SOF for a bit.

As the saying goes for Greenland boats, it fit like a pair of jeans, except for having to slide my feet under the foot beam. After about 15 minutes of paddling and rolling people were making cracks that I wouldn't give it back. Hey, Turner does good work! The downside of fitting like a pair of jeans is that kayaks generally don't have zippers. It took a few minutes of wriggling to get my knees past the masik so I could get out. My lust for that particular boat is somewhat tempered. Maybe just like it... except a little higher masik or lower rear deck beam. And that's what made-to-measure is all about.

On the way back we passed a group that appeared to be a guided tour. The leader pointed us out as "Inuit style paddlers" (oh buy, we count as "local color"). Tom replied "Yes, we really get Inuit big time!"

Monday, July 07, 2008

Hand made boat weekend?

Tail end of the good news/bad news from last time:
I got the stitches out of my hand, but not in time to kayak the harbor for the fireworks.

THe good news is there were organized (as organized as they get, anyway) trips out both Saturday and Sunday. It seemed like most everyone this weekend showed up on home made boats (though not all made in their home.)

Saturday we were paddling "the islands." Not that there aren't islands elsewhere on the lake, but in the north end there are some large enough for towns. We started from Grand Isle (As you might guess, the biggest one. A little larger than Manhattan)

Powerboat traffic was pretty light for a holiday weekend. Many we did see had "For Sale" signs, and most we saw were Canadian. One Canadian interviewed on the news pointed out that marine gas is $1.75/gal cheaper here.

Stave Island is owned by one of our local captains of industry. They seem to have a soft spot for kayakers. We chatted for a while and were invited to come up on shore.

Here's Dave with his chopped North Bay "stealth boat"

Tom is still using his new skin on frame exclusively. The other white boat in the picture is a 45 foot catamaran anchored near the dock on Stave. The width looked like around 30 feet, so the total footprint was larger than most houses. After we went around the island the occupants were snoozing on the netting up front when Tom paddled through the middle.

Going around Stave. The one in the middle is Mark's North Bay, also modified. He lowered his cockpit and a couple of feet behind for easier layback. We got to try it for a while at the end and I managed a 1 hand roll. I want to build a skin on frame sometime, but could be tempted by this stitch and glue design.

Sunday we started from Converse Bay and had lunch at a dockside restaurant on the New York side. Gerd was there with the last hand-built of the weekend, a cedar strip Outer Island. Again, modified from the original, but just scaled for body size.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wednesday's trip Mallet's Bay featured the launch ceremony for Tom's new sparkly-white skin on frame kayak.

Boat builder and all around Greenlandic fixture Turner Wilson was on hand sharing some paddles that seem like they were carved from a closet rod rather than the usual 2x4. Compared to mine and some others I've used, they really let you know if you aren't canting the right amount.

It seems to balance well.

Good news, bad news...

The bad news was Turner's car lost a belt (at least) so he had to stick around to get it fixed.

The good news is that meant another paddle today while waiting on the car.

The bad news is I stuck my hand with a chef knife this morning and couldn't go.