One man's rush to jump on the kayaking bandwagon

2009 East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival - Day 3

The TideRace kayaks are the best made kayaks I have ever seen. The finish is nearly perfect and the design is just smart. You can clearly see the localized reinforcements along the keel and the top deck. I've read online that these boats have foot plates, but both boats I paddled had SmartTrack foot pegs.

TideRace Xplore S

This boat felt like a slightly faster version of my Explorer. Like my Explorer, it felt a little unstable while sitting still. The seat in the particular boat was loose. I've read about the complicated seat adjustments available on TideRace boats on other sites, but I don't remember seeing them on this boat. The 4th hatch just forward of the cockpit is very nice. While not as big as the one on the Cetus, is should be big enough to store a GPS, camera, radio, or snacks.

TideRace Xcite S

I want this boat. If I actually did what I wanted to do, this would be the perfect boat for me. Considering what I actually do, I just couldn't justify spending the money. This is still an amazing boat. The fit was tight, but perfect. The initial stability was rock solid and the secondary was more than enough to immediately feel comfortable on edge. It seemed to accelerate fairly quickly, but I felt like I was easily hitting a wall. Without a GPS or an actual timed run, I'm not sure if this was just an illusion caused by the significant bow wake or if the boat really is slow. The tracking was nearly as good as the Explorer. The skeg flopped around quite a bit when down. I'm not sure if this is intentional or not. Even with the small hatch in front of the cockpit, I would miss the day hatch. I would have to somehow add restraints inside the bow and stern hatches as I find it very annoying when gear slides around in the hatches. This boat is going to make a lot of people very happy.

P&H Cetus LV

After paddling the TideRace boats, I wanted to compare them to the Cetus LV. I'm still very impressed with the LV. It feels much faster than the Xcite S, but as I said, its really hard to tell. I also don't know how either would handle in less than ideal conditions.
If I were really in the market for a new boat, it would be a tough choice between the Cetus LV and the Xcite. Since the Cetus LV isn't available, I'd go with the Xcite S.
tags: travel, gear

April 19, 2009

2009 East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival - Day 2

The good news is that TideRace is here. The bad news is that TideRace is here.
Today was to be a shopping day, but I just didn't see anything I just had to have.
I didn't do any paddling today, but I'll be back tomorrow to try out those TideRaces.
tags: gear, travel

April 18, 2009

2009 East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival - Day 1

Heath, Kate, and I headed down to Charleston again this year for the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival. As usual, it's all about trying gear and adding to my dream list.
Last year's focus was on paddles. This year was all about boats. I like my Explorer, but I've grown a lot (skillz, not weight) and would love to transition to a more responsive boat. I'm also on the lookout for a new boat for Heath.

Wilderness Systems Zephyr 15.5 Pro

According to the Wilderness Systems rep I spoke with, the Zephyr is an old Mariner design that was "cleaned up using CAD". I remembered liking the RM version of this boat last year, but it really turned me off this time. The cockpit is too tall and I just could not connect with the boat. The initial stability was high, but it has the same flopping from one chine to another that my Tsunami has. I asked the rep is they would consider creating a lower volume version and he said that they had received many similar requests.

Impex Force 4

I really liked this kayak last year. I thought the fit was perfect. What a difference a year makes. It just didn't do anything for me this year. It felt stiff and unresponsive.

Impex Currituck

The fit was fine, but the back deck was very high. This boat felt neither fast nor maneuverable. I already have an Explorer. Why would I want another one?

Valley Avocet

The flat lake was probably not the best place to demo this boat. It did nothing for me.

P&H Quest LV

The Quest LV was unmemorable.

P&H Cetus

P&H Cetus
P&H Cetus
Once you get rid of the silly glitter, the Cetus is a nice kayak. It tracks well yet responds to even the slightest edging. P&H seems to have found just the right mix of tracking and maneuverability. I wish I had a better sense of how the handling changes as the chop starts to pick up. The only negative is the skeg control. It took considerable pinching effort to unlock the control so that the skeg could be moved. I just don't see how this is an improvement over the older design. While there was nothing that was obviously wrong, the cockpit fit is lacking. The location of the skeg line seems to reduce the amount of space available for my thighs. Even with the skeg control and cockpit fit, this is currently the one kayak I'd most like to own. Unless...

P&H Cetus LV

Prototype P&H Cetus LV
Prototype P&H Cetus LV
The Cetus LV was just a little too LV for me. The P&H rep I spoke with said that this was still a prototype version and the production version would likely be a little closer to the normal Cetus. If that's the case, then the Cetus LV is the kayak I'd most like to own.

P&H Capella 163

I paddled a Capella RM on a windy day on a large lake last spring and did not like it. The cockpit was too big, it didn't track well, and skeg didn't seem to help. I was expecting this to be the same way. I was mostly wrong. The tracking was much improved, but still not what I want. It was very maneuverable.
Overall, it was a great day at the show. Heading back to David's place for some home smoked ribs was the perfect ending.
tags: gear, travel

April 17, 2009

To HV or not to HV

When I tell someone that I had an Explorer HV and I replaced it with a normal Explorer, I usually get asked, "Were you bigger then?" I guess they think the HV refers to the paddler. In truth, it's about the bumps.
Instead of HV, NDK should use LL -- Long Legs. Those bumps are for your knees. If you have short legs, then this won't really work for you. If you have long legs, then HV is for you! To get those long legs in the boat, Nigel has also made the front of the coaming an inch and a half higher than on the standard model. You may be asking, what difference do those bumps and that extra 1.5" make?
It's all about edging. When I was in a relaxed position, I had to lift my knee up about 3 inches before making contact with the boat. That's 3" less "edge" I can apply to the boat. With the standard Explorer, the deck is only about 3/8" from my leg and it hits my thighs, bringing the leverage point closer to the center of the boat. The net result is that I never felt comfortable edging or rolling my HV, but I can throw my standard Explorer around like it's attached to me.
To all the kayakers out there that are a little overweight, give the standard Explorer a try. All you skinny guys with long legs out there, give the HV a try. To all the guys that think those bumps are where where the fat goes, go eat a doughnut.
tags: gear

June 07, 2008

Current Designs

I knew Great Outdoor Provision Company was having a demo days event yesterday, but it until I left all my gear at home that I found out the CD rep would be there with something other than the usual rec and whitewater boats. I must have looked like an idiot standing there barefoot in my work outfit wearing some ill-fitting PDF and carrying a whitewater paddle. I jumped in a Gulfstream and headed out into the lake. I'm not a fan of the Gulfstream. Its pointy ends and bathtub cockpit just don't do it for me.
As I was pulling the Gulfstream back up the beach, a GOPC employee asked me what I thought. I replied, "I didn't like it, but I bet I'd love that Cypress on the truck over there. Is it going in the water today?" He replied that it wasn't a demo boat. I then exchanged my whitewater paddle for a nice low-angle Werner and headed out in an Solstice. It didn't work for me either, but then I hate ruddered boats.
I guess I must have done something to demonstrate that, despite my appearances, I was serious because the GOPC employee was waiting for me when I came back in. He said that as long as we wet launched the Cypress, I could demo it.
The Cypress is CD's latest "British" style kayak. It has all the required elements you'd expect on a modern kayak. Tracking was better than I expected, as was it's maneuverability. Skeg operation was very smooth and I didn't get a sense that the skeg is needed very often. Primary stability was lighter than my Explorer and secondary seemed light as well. The kayak seemed to accelerate fairly quickly, but it didn't feel fast. When moving quickly, the stern design resulted in the sound of something being drug through the water. I've never before heard a wake this loud. The construction was superb the seat seemed like it would be comfortable for extended periods of time.
Overall, I liked the kayak, but I think I'll stick with my Explorer.
tags: gear

June 05, 2008

New NDK Explorer

Out with the old. In with the new, yet only slightly different.
I got a great deal on my ExplorerHV. So good that I could overlook at few things that were wrong with it. The seat was a little off, the skeg fluttered every once and a while, and it was an HV. Coming from the world of super-sized rec boats, the cockpit on a normal Explorer seemed fairly cramped. At the time, I still wasn't sure why you'd want your knees to actually touch the boat. What a difference a year makes.
After playing phone tag all week with Lamar, I drove down to Barrier Island Kayaks early Saturday morning. I wasn't sure which kayak I wanted until I got there. Lamar had a slightly used 2007 that was just like my HV, British Racing Green with yellow trim, a dark blue with white trim, and the slate blue with black trim. The British Racing Green color resulted in a lot of positive comments, but it shows every little scratch and it just sucks in the heat and it's fairly hard to see. I wanted something that was easier to see and lighter. The slate blue kayak was perfect.
More proof that I can't take a decent photo of a kayak
More proof that I can't take a decent photo of a kayak
I took it out for a quick paddle just to make sure everything was as it should and let's just say it's an NDK. I found a small hole in the gellcoat that holds in the bulkhead between the back of the cockpit and the day hatch. The back hatch also has a very small leak somewhere, but I was unable to track it down. There's also quite a bit of excess gellcoat. It's an NDK. It has character.
I can't say enough positive things about Lamar, David and the other guys at Barrier Island Kayaks. They really know their stuff and the location is great.
tags: gear

May 31, 2008

Kayak Efficiency

One of the gripes I have with my Explorer HV is that it feels slow. Whether or not it is actually slow has to do with the engine (aka me). Speed isn't the issue, efficiency is. Is the Explorer an efficient kayak? Compared to what? The most common measure of efficiency is Winters/KAPER (more info). Using that data as published in Sea Kayaker Magazine, I was able to generate the following graph. The lines represent the percentage difference in efficiency as compared to the explorer.
Based on this data, the Explorer doesn't do too badly below 4.5 knots. Between 4.5 and 5.0, the Explorer seems to hit a wall. At 5 knots, the Valley Aquanaut is over 7% more efficient, the Impex Force 5 is 4% more efficient and the CD Gulfstream is 1.6% more efficient. At 6 knots, the Explorer looks downright pokey. The Aquanaut is 16% more efficient, the Force 5 is 10% more efficient, and the Gulfstream is 8% more efficient. There are clearly more efficient kayaks than the Explorer at higher speeds. What about lower ones?
At 3 knots, the Valley Nordkapp LV is 5.88% more efficient, the CD Cypress is 3.3% more efficient, and the CD Gulfstream is 3% more efficient. At 4 knots, the Nordkapp LV is 3% more efficient, the Cypress is 2.2% more efficient and the Gulfstream is .5% more efficient.
None of these numbers seem to contradict conventional wisdom. It is generally believed that the Aquanaut is "fast" and the Explorer is "slow". It's obvious that the Aquanaut is more efficient at higher speeds. The Nordkapp LV is a bit of an oddball. It is said to be a fast kayak, but the data does not support that. It is more efficient than the Explorer below 4.5 knots and less efficient above. That explains the kayak's quick acceleration, but not the perception of top end speed.
What does all of this mean in the real world? Do a few percentage points of efficiency really matter? I don't think so. If I'm going to go a long way really fast, then I'd prefer to do it in an Aquanaut. However, most of my paddling is done right in the range in which the Explorer is fairly efficient. It may feel slow, but the data seems to indicate that it's a problem with me, not the kayak.
tags: gear

May 21, 2008

NDK Explorer HV and Old Town Dirigo 140 for sale

I'm selling my Explorer HV and my wife is selling her Dirigo 140. After paddling the Explorer for a year now, I've decided that I should have gotten a standard volume rather than the HV. Here are some photos of the Explorer. Heath uses my old Tsunami now so we no longer have a use for the Dirigo. Here are some photos of the Dirigo.
UPDATE - Neither of these kayaks is still for sale.
tags: gear

May 18, 2008

Carbon is a wonderful thing

tags: gear

May 05, 2008

Odd fellow in a kayak

A kayaker paddles towards the crowded beach. He weaves his way around swimming children, jet skis, and boats. He rides a small wave up onto the sand between two of the many sunbathers. He undoes hit spray skirt and hops out of the kayak. He sticks his paddle under the front bungees and opens the kayak's day hatch and pulls out a hacksaw. He then reaches into the cockpit and rips out a piece of black foam. He lays the foam on sand and proceeds to use the hacksaw to trim off about and inch from one end. He then puts the foam back and rips out another piece, trims and replaces it. He then takes the saw and starts cutting small groove down the center of a piece of foam behind the seat. Satisfied that the small groove will alleviate the pressure points on his spine, he places the hacksaw back in the drywell and pushes the kayak out into the waves. He gets back into the kayak and paddles off.
I can only imagine how odd I must have looked to the people on the beach.
tags: gear

May 04, 2008

The perfect GPS?

I hate the iPhone. I really do. The UI is NOT the future. Apple seems to have a problem with me developing software for myself without jumping through more hoops than lions at a circus. However, it may be exactly what I've been waiting for.
Considering the rumors that the 3G iPhones will have a built in GPS and Apple's patent filings for the workout manager and TomTom-like navigation device, it seems like Apple really wants me to buy an iPhone. Ideally it would have the following features:
  • "Splash proof" - I don't expect a battery powered GPS to ever be really waterproof, but a little rain or splash shouldn't ruin a $500 gadget. Apple, if you won't let me replace the battery, then you have no excuses.
  • Audible reporting - I don't care how nice the screen is, when there's water and salt all over your sunglasses, the sun is bearing down, and the screen isn't at just the right angle, the screen is unreadable. I want my GPS to speak to me and let me know my average speed over the last 30/60/90/120 seconds. I want it to tell me when my ground track drifts off the desired track by more than 5 degrees. I want it to tell me when how far I've paddled every 1/4 mile.
  • Integration with Google Maps/Earth - Native KML support. Realtime integration would be nice as well, but I'd want to turn this off.
  • SiRFstar III - For the GPS to be accurate for kayaking, it needs to be very accurate.
tags: gear

April 23, 2008

2008 East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival

We went down to Charleston again this year for the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival. What was the best part? Nigel Foster? Dubside? Paddling boats I'd never have an opportunity to otherwise paddle? The opportunity to meet and talk with people who share my obsession? It was a great weekend. Here's some random thoughts on various bits of gear I tried over the weekend.

NDK Explorer

I already own an NDK Explorer, but I had never tried one with a foam block back rest. I liked it enough to buy one from the Virginia Sea Kayak Center. I know I could have made my own, and I just might use this one as a template. I also have to admit that I made a mistake by getting the Explorer HV. The standard Explorer fits perfectly.

NDK Romany

The Romany feels very similar to my Explorer. I also have to admit that considering the paddling that I do, the Romany may be a better choice than the Explorer.

Impex Force4 and Force5

I paddled the Impex Force5 last year and I didn't like it. This time around, I was impressed. The boat is quite maneuverable for it's length and the finish is in a class above what I'm used to with my Explorer. The Force5 is a bit too roomy, but the force4 is the best fitting kayak I've ever paddled.

Valley Aquanaut

The Valley Aquanaut is Valley's Explorer. It's boring and predictable and not for me. The keyhole is a little too wide making it uncomfortable.

Valley Q-Boat

The Valley Q-Boat seems like a fun boat. Doesn't track well at all with the skeg up, but then this boat isn't about getting places. I'm sure this boat would just kick my ass if I was to take it out in some rough water.

Valley Nordkaap LV

It's hard to avoid the buzz surrounding the Valley Nordkaap LV. I have to say that it is completely justified. The acceleration is amazing. It is very responsive and feels much shorter than it is. If I were to add another boat to the fleet, it would be this one.

P&H Cetus

The P&H Cetus seemed to be last year's over-hyped boat. Other than the forward day hatch and the built in kayak lock attachment, I just don't see the appeal. The odd orange glitter finish didn't help. I just don't understand the glitter movement.

Wilderness Systems Tempest 170

The Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 was one of the boats I had considered when I was looking to replace my Tsunami. After finally paddling it, I can say that I'm glad I didn't buy this boat. The outfitting is excellent, and the construction is solid, but it's just not exciting.

Wilderness Systems Zephyr 15.x5

This show was the coming out party for the Wilderness Systems Zephyr 15.x5. Stability was high and it was quite maneuverable. It feels like a non-chined Tsunami.

Werner Paddles

I went to the festival in the market for a new paddle. The first thing I did was jump in an Explorer and paddle over to the Werner booth. I tried the Camino, Shuna, Cypress, and the Ikelos. I tried lengths from 220mm down to 205mm, small diameter shaft and the standard diameter, straight and bent shaft.
I ruled out the low angle paddles immediately. While the straight shaft paddles seemed to offer the most control, the bent shaft felt better for a forward stroke. As of today, the 205mm bent shaft Cypress is the paddle that works right for me. But, who knows how long that would last. It wasn't that long ago that I was using a 240.
I highly recommend this post by Simon Willis on Werner paddles.

Lendal Kinetik Touring S

While Lendal was not officially at the festival, many vendors had Lendal paddles available. I tried a crank shaft Kinetik Touring S. From what I've read about it, I really thought I'd like this paddle, but I didn't. The crank shaft just feels odd compared to Werner's bent shaft.


It seems that Reed gear has finally arrived in the US. After seeing it, I now understand why it is so popular. The spray skirts are much lighter weight than normal neoprene skirts. I wonder how well they breath.

Pacific Horizons

I picked up a copy of Pacific Horizons. I haven't watched it all the way through yet, but so far, it's boring. Justine takes me to places I've never seen before. Watching Dubside drag his kayak on a public bus is entertaining at first, but not something I'd ever want to watch over and over again.
The best part was watching Nigel Foster. Nigel is simply amazing. Disappointments include no Seaward's and therefore no Nigel Foster Legend, no Rumor -- except for Nigel's, not bringing my gear, and not signing up early enough to get in on the master classes.
tags: gear, travel

April 21, 2008

Getting warmer...

Colorado, Garmin's new line of GPS's seems to be getting closer to what I'm looking for.
It's a shame that the price is ridiculously high. If it drives down the cost of the the GPS76's, I may wind up with one of those.
tags: gear

January 18, 2008

Need a new GPS

I need a new GPS. My current set up of a bluetooth GPS and Cetus GPS running on my Treo is too clunky.
I'm interested in something that's waterproof and can record tracks on a removable memory card. Mapping would be nice, but it's not a requirement. The obvious choice is a Garmin GPSMAP 76, but the large size, questionable GPS sensitivity, and pathetic battery life are significant negatives. My current set up has great battery life and has the added advantage of being able to run TomTom, but I can't really use it while I'm on the water. The buttons are too small and the touch screen just doesn't work with with my gloves on. I could use the stylus, but that requires two hands.
While I don't have any nautical mapping software, my Treo does run GoogleMaps. A satellite image does just as good a job at telling me what's around the corner as a map. The only downside is that I need cell reception, but this hasn't been a problem so far.
Overall, I'm just not impressed with the GPS's available today. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to send me a note.
tags: gear

December 10, 2007

Drought and new gear

The water level at Falls Lake is significantly lower than I've ever seen it. It's really scary to see all of the stumps and rocks that were just below the surface, just waiting to put a hole in my boat or my head.
I've paddled my kayak behind this bench
I've paddled my kayak behind this bench
Dry swim area on Falls Lake
Dry swim area on Falls Lake
My new Snap Dragon Ocean Trek skirt fits perfectly. Not having a clue what I was doing, I was a bit worried that the skirt was too small for my boat. I was sufficiently smited by the usual suspects who pointed what should have been obvious. It's a lot easier to get it to fit when you're actually in the boat.
I also took the time to attach the front and rear hatches to the boat. I still need to figure out a way to attach the day hatch cover.
tags: lake, gear

September 20, 2007

My birthday

Today is my birthday. My family gave me kayak porn: This Is The Sea and This Is The Sea 2.
I guess I have to wait till Christmas to get this.
tags: gear

August 27, 2007

Sea kayak finally meets the sea

It's hard to believe that my Explorer has been a flatwater boat until today. I finally took my new kayak out in the ocean. It wasn't a monumental adventure, but technically, it was in the ocean.
I left the house early and headed up Banks channel to Masonboro inlet. The tide was coming in and I got quite a workout getting out past the jetty. The swells were around 8 feet and there were scattered whitecaps. The boat traffic was quite heavy.
Allow me to state the obvious. My Explorer is awesome. In conditions like these, it handles exactly like one would want it to handle.
My only complaint -- it's hot! The green deck just soaks up the heat. My legs were covered with sweat and the hatch covers were bulging.
tags: gear, coastal

August 04, 2007

Demo Day in Farmville

Why go to a demo day billed as the "largest thing to happen to Farmville since Lee and Grant passed through town 130 years ago" a month after getting a new kayak? Affirmation! I wanted to try out all the other kayaks to prove to myself that my Explorer is the perfect kayak.
I drove up to SML last night and Jean and I headed over to Farmville for Appomattox River Company's demo days. I went looking for a PFD, a decent sprayskirt, a new paddle, and many kayaks that didn't measure up to my new kayak. Unlike me, Jean went looking for a boat she actually liked.
She was mainly interested in a Riot Enduro. She saw it in Charleston, but had not had a chance to paddle it. She took it out today and found it to have horrible tracking and severe weathercocking -- even with the skeg deployed. She also tried the Riot Endeavor and it was worse than the Enduro. I suggested she try a Wilderness Systems Pungo 120. She liked it a lot better than the Riot kayaks. And she still thinks WS's seats are perfect. I also suggested she try the Liquid Logic Saluda. She liked it, but not as much as the Pungo.
I was very much looking forward to trying a Wilderness Systems Tempest 170, but the cockpit is too small. It's wide enough, but it's about an inch too short. I did try an Impex Force Cat5. Overall, I didn't like it. The finish was very well done and I liked the Immersion Research backband and seat, but the handling seemed lacking. The tracking was not as tight as I would have expected with the skeg up. My Explorer doesn't need the skeg until most sane people are off the water, but the Force Cat 5 seemed to need it on perfectly flat water with only a minor breeze. Initial stability seemed higher than my Explorer. That was likely due to my being near the top of the paddler weight range. As I had my keys, wallet and cell phone in the pocket of my shorts, I didn't test the secondary stability.
Proving yet again that I don't look like a kayaker, the Impex rep warned me that since the Force 5 was a long boat, I shouldn't expect it to turn like the boats I'm used to. He suggested that I try leaning a little, but not too much or I'd fall in. What is it about me that makes people think I have no idea what I'm doing in a kayak. Oh yeah, I don't. (The kayak turns quite easily with a simple sweep stroke and a little edging.)
The only purchase of the day was a 220 Aquabound Manta Ray.
tags: gear

June 09, 2007

First outing with the new kayak

Get it down from the top of the car without dropping it. Check. Cary it down to the water. Check. Load up all my stuff. Much easier since the hatches actually come on and off easily. Get in the boat. Easier than with my Tsunami.
Attach the spray skirt. It fits perfectly. I guess I'll need a real neoprene skirt now that I have a real boat. Oops. Almost flipped over. I miss those two and a half inches. Wide, overloaded boat means stability. Narrow, lightly loaded boat, and a nervous kayaker means things are a little tense. That's good. That's what I wanted.
I paddle a mile or so. It feels familiar, but better. It's time to fiddle with everything that can be adjusted. I find a sandy bit of shoreline and get out. I adjust the seat, eat lunch, and stretch. And stretch some more. And then some more. By body is still really tight from the drive home yesterday. I adjust the backband so it no longer pinched my ass fat.
I get back in the boat and paddle a few more miles. Lot's of idiots out today means lot's of wake. Turns out this British Sea Kayak thing actually handles boat wakes pretty well. This Nigel guy seems to know his stuff. Even handles the dreaded Coast Guard attack conditions without even a hint of twitch. I guess it helps to have a pointy end at both ends.
Those real rubber hatch covers get much hotter than the ones on my Tsunami. I lifted up the back hatch cover and air rushed out like the hatch was inflated.
I return to my put in spot after around 12 miles of so. Took about an hour less than the last time I did 12 miles. I love this boat.
tags: gear, lake

May 20, 2007

An upgrade

I got my first electric guitar when I was in 10th grade. Like most kids forced to take piano lessons, I hardly ever touched the piano but played my guitar every second I could. After a couple of years, I got pretty good. But, I still couldn't play like Steve Vai (and for some reason, playing just like Steve Vai seemed like a sensible thing to do at the time.) I blamed my guitar. Steve had the genius Japanese scientists crafting custom guitars. I had a $150 Yamaha somethingoanother that I'd painted blue and green. Obviously, you can't play like Steve Vai on one of those.
Thanks to a going out of business sale, I managed to buy a glow-in-the-dark, yellow and pink, Steve Vai Ibanez Jem 777. It had the classic hand grip, a fully locking and floating tremolo, and it came with a case lined with pink fabric. (In my defense, it was still the 80's.) No more excuses. If I couldn't play like Steve Vai on Steve Vai's guitar, it was my fault, not the guitar's. I practiced and practiced and was eventually able to play most Steve Vai songs note for note.
I guess you could say that today I bought Steve Via's kayak.
I wanted a kayak I could take anywhere. I wanted a kayak that has been everywhere and done everything. I wanted something I couldn't blame for my mistakes. I wanted to know that if I failed, I failed, and not the kayak.
The technical criteria were as follows:
  • fiberglass - no more plastic and I can't afford kevlar
  • must not be slow - It doesn't have the be fast, but it can't be slow
  • no more than 22" wide - unlike my wife, I do not want a floating recliner
  • I have be able to get my fat ass into it
The short list included the NDK Explorer, Valley Aquanaut, and the Nigel Foster Legend. Yes, they are all big, British, skeg-boats. No, I don't like rudders.
I found an Explorer on a trip up to Virginia and was quite surprised that I had no trouble getting in and out. The problem was that the thigh braces were too low.
I called around to try to find an Aquanaut and the only one I could find as an RM version in GA. No thanks.
I found a Legend in a rental fleet at a place in Carolina Beach, NC. I didn't rent it, but I didn't need to. I just didn't like it. I can't tell you why specifically. I just didn't like it.
I then began the quest for a NDK Explorer HV. A place in Swansboro had one in their demo fleet. Before I could make arrangements to demo it, I saw that Appomattox River Company a 2004 demo model for sale in Yorktown, VA.
The day I picked up the kayak was colder than usual with some light rain. It was only fitting. British kayaking weather for a British kayak.
My NDK Explorer HV
My NDK Explorer HV
tags: gear

May 19, 2007

East Coast Canoe & Kayak Festival

Heath's uncle needed help with his website and Heath suggested we drive down to Charleston for a long weekend. The weekend we were available just happened to coincide with the East Coast Canoe & Kayak Festival. When we mentioned there would be kayaking of sorts, Jean decided to meet us in Charleston.
I didn't really know much about the festival before we arrived Saturday morning. None of the sessions appealed to me. I wasn't really interested in a new boat. I was mainly just interested in a seeing new gear.
As we walked around the lake, Jean was yet again struck with the obvious fact that she needs a new kayak. She was impressed by one of the new Riot designs. I was 12 feet long, had a skeg, a rod holder, large cockpit opening and both front and rear bulkheads. She thought the Nigel Foster Legend would be a good boat for me. I have to agree. It looks very nice.
I was more impressed with seeing a glass Tsunami 140. It just feels like a completely different boat than mine. It feels much more solid. It was also considerably lighter.
One boat I wanted to see was the NDK Greenlander Pro. After seeing it, I wasn't all that impressed. It looked crude. The seat looked like some kind of torture device. I didn't even bother trying to see how it fit. I could tell by looking, I couldn't fit my ass in that thing.
I couldn't help but get a sense of just how small a world kayaking is. I kept seeing people that I recognized from kayak magazines and websites. Everyone also seemed to know everyone else.
I witnessed an interesting example of kayaking culture clash. A relatively un-athletic looking woman was demoing some kind of Hobie SOT kayak when she flipped over. Another kayaker saw her fall out and turned and paddled over, his Greenland paddle moving furiously and his gray ponytail flopping back and forth. He stowed his paddle under the deckline, grabbed her boat in such a ways as to steady it. He them began encouraging her to re-enter the boat. She wanted nothing to do with it, stood up and walked the 15 feet to shore. As she was climbing up the bank, he finally let go of her boat and paddled off. The whole incident just seemed totally absurd.
Jean picked up a few small things and an NRS paddle bag. I should have demoed at least a couple of boats, but I didn't want to have my first experience in a real kayak to be in front of a bunch of pro's. Yes, I know. Who cares.
tags: gear, travel

April 22, 2007

Are we having fun yet?

I really needed to go out on the lake today. I felt like I needed to go, but I didn't feel like going. I went anyway, hoping that I'd feel better once I got out. On one hand, I'm glad I went, on the other it wasn't exactly fun.
We put in at a boat ramp we hadn't used before. Its located further west on the lake than Upper Barton Creek, our usual spot. I liked it much better. It has less boat traffic and much more room to launch. We can even drive the car to within feet of the water. There's no need to lug the loaded kayaks down slippery ramps and over rocks.
The water was even higher today than it was when we went out last week. It makes finding a place to beach and have lunch or answer the call of nature a little harder than usual.
Today was my second day out wearing my Mukluk's. While they are wonderful at keeping water out, they also excel at keeping water in. I'm going to have to find some way to keep my feet dry. No one wants to get stinkfoot.
tags: lake, gear

December 27, 2006

New Paddle

I picked up an Aqua-Bound MantaRay today from REI. Why this one? It was something completely different.
tags: gear

November 20, 2006

Kayaks at the lumberyard

Heath, Jean and I drove up to the Appomattox River Company in Farmville, VA. It wasn't at all what I expected. It looks like its in an old lumber yard. Stacks of lumber have been replaced with stacks of kayaks, still in their shipping wrappers. Its a great place to go if you want to pick up a new kayak, but if you're just browsing, its a bit of a disappointment.
Appomattox River Company's absurb collection of kayaks
Appomattox River Company's absurb collection of kayaks
The main "showroom" is very small, but it seems that everything you could ever want is "in a box upstairs somewhere". I got a skirt, Jean got a new paddle, and Heath got a new drybag.
tags: gear

October 21, 2006

First time out

Today was the first day in my new kayak. I'm sure I made the right choice with the Wilderness Tsunami 140. Now comes the quest to find which kayak accessories define me as a person.
I think I hate my paddle already.
tags: lake, gear

October 13, 2006

My new kayak

I got my kayak today. It is a used/demo blue Wilderness Tsunami 140. I hope to take it out tomorrow. A Werner Skagit was included in the package. I'm not sure I like it, but I have no idea what I'd want instead.
Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140
Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140
It's odd that I got the kayak so close to home. After spending all day on the phone, planning to drive to Greensboro, or Newport News, driving half a mile up the road makes it feel like an impulse buy. I guess it kind of was.
tags: gear

October 07, 2006

Just Renting

Today's goal was to determine if I'm really into the whole kayak thing or not. We rented a couple of kayaks from Paddle Creek and took them to Falls Lake. Jean and Suzanne joined us.
We rented a Tsunami 140 and a Cape Horn 160. We all swapped boats throughout the day. Both Suzanne and I really liked the Tsunami 140. The Cape Horn didn't do it for anyone. It may have had something to do with me getting wet while trying to get out of it. Silly me.
Since this was an official Dalton Event, we packed a lunch. It was a nice day, but the wind was blowing quite hard. At one point, we had a few little whitecaps.
I really do like the Tsunami 140. It fit's just right. It's easy to get in and out of. It feels fairly quick. And I like the color. I may have found my new boat.
tags: lake, gear

September 23, 2006

It's just a small hole

"No, I don't want to buy your kayak for $500. I want to know if $500 is a good price for one just like yours. But there's a catch. It has a hole." My father in law seemed to think it was a decent price, depending on the hole.
The hole didn't seem all that bad. A paperclip test seemed to indicate that it was about 1/8th" deep and didn't go all the way through. It seemed like some simple filler would solve the problem. But, it was around 2:00PM and this was an REI garage sale. How could anything worth anything still be around at 2:00PM? Would it still be there at 4:00PM?
Here was an Old Town Dirigo 140, the exact kayak Heath wanted. Even the color was right.
We went for it. The hole was quickly filled, sanded and it seems like new.
Heath in her new kayak
Heath in her new kayak
tags: gear

September 17, 2006