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

Charleston Harbor

Heath, Susan and I went paddling in Charleston harbor this afternoon. We put in at the north western tip of Sullivan Island. We followed the shoreline shoreline of Mt. Pleasant north up to Hog Island and back. The weather was perfect. Just enough waves to make things fun, but not too much for Heath. According to Susan, it was a marathon paddle. Little does she know, I usually go twice as far as we did today.
I'm excited about coming back.

April 18, 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

Taunting Me

I'm in a business meeting on the 8th floor of an office building that overlooks Lake Union in Seattle. Even though it's raining, I can see people out paddling. Kenmore Air is at it as usual. The the meeting is going very well and I'm doing a lot of the talking, but I'm finding it hard to pay attention. The water is taunting me. This is the 3rd time in 3 months I've been in Seattle and haven't had time to hit the water.
tags: travel

November 13, 2008

Whitewater Paddling at the NOC

During a recent trip to Bryson City, NC, I warned my wife not to let me get near a whitewater boat. I'm pretty sure it would be love at first paddle. Compared to sea kayaking, I see a lot of upside to WW kayaking. Instead of buying expensive rack gear and struggling to get my sea kayak on top of my car, I can throw my WW boat in the backseat. Instead of the letdown associated with realizing that my car is 10 miles away and I'll be paddling against the current, I would rarely loose sight of my car. Instead of seemingly endless stretches of waves and swells and no choice but to paddle through them, unless I'm upside down, I can stop paddling at any time. I may even be able to grab onto a rock or tree. I may even be able to paddle a few feet, climb out of the lake and rest. In WW kayaking, a long paddle is only a few hundred feet, not 15+ miles.
I didn't go WW kayaking, but the family and I did go rafting on the Natahala river. It was my first time and it was a lot less exciting than I expected. We also had a bit of a mutiny on our boat. It seems that the crew lost faith in our captain's ability to steer the boat. If I were to offer any advice to those that have never gone rafting before, if you have any paddling experience at all, skip the group experience and get a single raft. It looks like a lot more fun.
We spent some time at the shop at the Natahala Outdoor Center. It has a lot of whitewater gear in stock. I finally picked up a decent quick-dry paddling shirt. I was able to try on helmets and figure out just how big my head actually is. (It's not as big as my wife says it is.) Since the extended family has many photographers, we all took quite a few photos of the whitewater action.

July 01, 2008


I'm in Madison, WI on business and stopped by Rutabaga. I ordered my spray skirt and one of my paddles from them online, but this was my first trip to the store. Everyone there was very nice helpful. If you are in the area, I highly recommend stopping by. The only disappointment was not seeing Derrick.
tags: travel

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

Seattle - Kayaking heaven?

On my way back from my trip to Canada, I was hoping to find some real kayak stores around Seattle. I was looking for something other than the rec and whitewater stores we have here. I wanted to find places that had real sea kayaking gear.
I guess I should feel lucky here in Raleigh, NC, but I don't. I have Great Outdoor Provision Company and three REIs close by. But I want more. I want a place that sells kayaks that don't come with a fishing rod and multiple cup holders.
We stopped at Seattle Raft & Kayak and Northwest Outdoor Center. It wasn't quite retail heaven as I'm not a fan of Werner paddles, and that's all any store in the Seattle area seems to have, but it was close. I was able to see and touch things that I've only previously seen online. I didn't buy anything, but I did confirm that Snap Dragon considers my gut to be "extra large". That's what their fit guide said it was, but I had to try one just to make sure. When the temperature here drops below 95 degrees, I'll order my all neoprene skirt.
I was impressed with Northwest Outdoor Center's location on Lake Union. I'm sure I'm odd in thinking this, but I'd rather paddle among these beavers and otters than these.
Local wildlife
Local wildlife
Looking back on it, I should have gotten something while I was there. I went to the most impressive kayak stores I'd ever seen and I got nothing. But, Jean did get a t-shirt.
tags: travel

September 03, 2007

Paddling on Maligne Lake

After my previous experiences paddling in paradise, I was determined to enjoy this experience, no matter how miserable it might be. Rain, clouds, even snow and ice wouldn't keep me from enjoying this experience.
We arrived at the boat house around 9:00AM. There was a young couple standing at the counter renting a double. The man asked, "How far is it to Spirit Island." The guy behind the counter replied, "About three hours. But that's paddling the entire time with no stops. If you want to go all the way there, don't worry about getting back by closing time. There's a night drop box outside. Just put your gear in there and tie up the kayak on the dock." The couple got in their boat and then started towards Spirit Island.
We knew that 3 hours wasn't unrealistic, but it's around 8 miles to Spirit Island from the boat house. It's doable in 3 hours for someone with experience, even in these bathtub boats, but that's quite a workout. We agreed that we'd try for Spirit Island, but we'd turn around before we got there if we needed to.
Heath and Jean
Heath and Jean
I grabbed a PFD and the lightest paddle I they had. Heath informed the owner she wanted a 230cm paddle. He just looked at her and then pointed to the clump of identical, heavy, rental paddles of unknown length, leaning in the corner. He helped Jean and I adjust the footrests of her double and my single. Mine was perfect, but Jean didn't notice till she was in the water that when she centered the pedals, the rudder was well over to the left. When Jean asked what the paddle float was for, the owner showed her how to slip it onto the end of the paddle and then said "then you just use this to climb back into the boat. It's easy." Right. Just like that. Easy.
The only other advice the owner gave was, "When the tour boats pass you, turn into the wake." I wasn't worried by this as I was certain that we could handle whatever the lake threw at us, but the couple that left right before us followed this advice every time a boat went by.
Staring at the scenery
Staring at the scenery
The weather started out great. High clouds, little wind and calm water. We took a break at Four Mile Point and then stopped for lunch about 2 miles short of Samson Narrows. The wind had picked up, blowing the clouds out of our photos, but also creating a nice little chop on the lake. As we rounded the point, we got slammed with strong winds and whitecaps. Jean expressed her interest in turning around, but Heath pointed out that we were almost to Spirit Island and I suggested waiting a few minutes to see if the wind died down. It did.
As we went past Charlton Creek and into Fisherman's Bay, whatever wind remained was at our backs. Jean asked a couple heading back to the boathouse in a canoe how much further it was to Spirit Island. Their response of "just around that point, about 10 minutes" was enough to keep her going.
As we rounded the point, we saw that the inexperienced couple that left just before us had made it to Spirit Island. We went around the peninsula, and landed near the boat pier. Just after we landed, a boat full of camera toting tourists invaded. I grabbed by camera and went over to help Heath and Jean with their boat. I had managed to find a small break in the rocks and landed on the pebble beach, but they had landed in the mud.
My kayak and Spirit Island
My kayak and Spirit Island
We hung out for a while, ate and waited for the boat to leave. When it did, we took all the required photos and stretched our legs. Another boat of camera toting tourists came, climbed the steps to the spot and took the picture, then got back on the boat and left. (Of course I went to the spot and took the picture, but I paddled there, so I'm better than those lazy wimps.)
I considered finding the couple we had followed all day to make sure they were okay, but decided against it. They had seen us come in and knew we were there and there were boats coming and going every few minutes. They left a little before we did.
As we were getting ready to leave, one of the camera toting tourists asked Heath, "Did you paddle all the way here in those?" Heath replied that we had and he replied, "That's great. When did you leave?" She told him that we'd been on the water a little over 4 hours, but we'd stopped a couple of times. He replied, "That's amazing. Good luck!"
As we headed back, the weather started got worse. The temperature fell and the wind picked up. As we hugged the right shoreline back through Samson Narrows, I saw the inexperienced couple up ahead and decided to shadow them for a while on the left side of the lake. They looked a lot better than when they first started. Their seemingly random strokes were now relativly in sync.
I decided to pass them and catch up with Heath and Jean. As I went by them, I heard them arguing with each other, but didn't think anything of it. I reminded me of Heath and I's first time in a double.
A short time later, the wind really kicked up. It was at least 30 knots. It was coming from the right and I had waves breaking over the boat. I had a spray skirt, but neither Heath nor Jean did. I decided to cross back over to them so I'd be close in case something happened, even though I'd be paddling directly into the wind.
As I started across the lake, the wind got worse. At one point it blew so hard that a sudden gust nearly blew the paddle out of my hands. (Note to self: always bring your own paddle leash.) It felt like I was going nowhere. Looking at the shoreline as I struggled forward confirmed it. After about 20 minutes, I finally made it across to Heath and Jean. The closer I got to the shoreline, the more the wind died down.
We were all worn out by that point, but we were also still about 6 miles from the boathouse, so we just kept paddling. As we got to Four Mile Point, we decided to stop and rest. My back was exhausted and my face quite sun burned. We stretched our legs and then I helped Heath and Jean off the beach. While they went ahead, I stayed behind to try to adjust the rudder pedals. The straps were slipping and I could barely turn the rudder anymore.
As I pulled away from the beach, I saw the other couple not too far back. I hadn't thought about them for a while, but then I wondered how they had done in the wind. I should have stopped and made sure they were okay, but I didn't.
As we rounded Four Mile Point, the wind shifted. It was now at our backs and the chop was almost surfable. Every once and a while, I caught a wave and rode it for a few seconds. I caught up to Heath and Jean fairly quickly. As we got close to the boathouse, I pulled ahead so I could help them out of the boat.
As I got there, the guy was just leaving. He drug my boat up on the dock and took my gear. He reminded me about the drop box, locked up the boathouse and then left. Heath and Jean arrived and I put away their boat and gear. I saw the other couple round the point and by then, we were all ready to go, so we got in the car and left.
As we were driving back to Jasper, we passed an ambulance heading towards the lake. I have nothing to base this on, but I can't stop wondering if something happened to the other couple. I also wondered how many other people were still out on the lake.
Overall, we all got some great photos and had a great time. It wasn't easy. It was the most any of us had ever paddled in a day. We all agreed that we'd do it again, just not any time soon.
tags: lake, travel

August 30, 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

Kayaking in paradise Pt 2 - Morrea

Heath and I went to Morrea for our honeymoon. Moorea is a small island near Tahiti in French Polynesia. The resort where we stayed had kayaks for rent so one afternoon we got one and paddled around the islands that make up the resort.
Heath had a great time, but it just wasn't working for me. It was only the second time I'd even been kayaking. I'm not sure I'll do it again.

October 20, 2004

Miserable in paradise - Kayaking in Alaska

Tracey Arm fjord
Tracey Arm fjord
It was the smell that did it for me. That lingering mildew smell. The smell of something that hasn't been dry in months. According to my mother, I'm allergic to mildew.
Heath, Susan, Jean, and Kathy were all very excited about kayaking in Glacier Bay. I wasn't so sure it was something that I would enjoy. That water is cold.
We headed down to equipment shacks after breakfast. We put on the rubber waders, the rain jacket, the PDF and headed for the beach. We carried the heavy boats down to the waterline. Heath and I were in a double, Jean and Kathy were in a double, and Susan was in a single. The guide helped my adjust the rudder, and then pushed us out into the water.
I'm not having fun
I'm not having fun
The boats were nice and wide, but I felt like I was going to go over at any minute. Knowing that the water temperature was in the mid 30's didn't help. I was convinced that if I fell in, I'd die.
Then it started raining.
I was cold, anxious, and tired of hearing Heath complain about my inability to use the rudder. I hate rudders. I hate tandems. The back seat is for steering and the front for complaining about the steering.
Is that a smile?  No.
Is that a smile? No.
We paddled across Barlet Cove and then came back. We were not out long, but it was way too long for me.
Plenty of opportunities for kayaking
Plenty of opportunities for kayaking
We took a boat tour of the bay and while we were out, we stopped to pick up some kayakers. They seemed quite happy, but then, the insane usually are.
These people are insane
These people are insane

June 18, 2003