JP's First Sea Kayak Tour!
Wish me luck!
I'm going to attend the Great Lakes Primitive Skills Gathering on Bois Blanc Island this weekend. For the first time. I've been wanting to for years.
But I'm going to cheat the ferry out of $30! I'm paddling across myself. It's what I've always wanted to do.
I'll start from St. Ignace, hop over to Mackinaw Island, visit old pals there, then hop over to Round Island and then to Bois Blanc Island. Modest hops all, but with possibly some sizeable swells, it being the Straits!
I had the choice of a flat, fast Eurostyle boat---my Seda Glider woodstrip copy. Or a curvy Greenland style wave-luvin boat. I went wavey, just in case. Altho, darn, I just LOVE the speed of the Glider! And I checked the weather forecast: mellow conditions ahoy. And the Glider is such a character boat, in beat-up wood.
But I've focused on getting comfy with the Valley Pintail sea kayak that I borrowed from Tim. I can now roll it to both sides, no matter which side I flip over to, and I can also do it without getting set-up, so I think I'm fairly well set. I can also easily re-enter it from the water with my paddle float. Ready!
I really do like the semi-immersion world of the low-volume Greenland kayak, and seakayaking in general. It's a great break from a summer on road bikes!
I'll pack along about 20 lbs of tenting stuff. The Gathering tribal folks will provide some meals. I hope everything inside the boat stays dry! As for me, bring on the waves!
UPDATE 8/14: Well, I'm back! What a fun trip. The paddling was a bit farther than I thought it would be. It took me 4 hours each way. I took a break halfway both times. It was probably about 12 miles, with 3 hops across open water, one of 3-4 miles. The trip back was against the wind, with the last 2 hours against 20+mph wind, with whitecaps. Wow!
[OK, I guess I will add, though it seems a bit over the top, that I got a dose of cracked ribs a few days before my trip. I tested the paddling/rolling and could do it all, but things were achy and more so afterhours. Even weeks later now it still hurts to sneeze or to have my side pressed, so I might as well confess and include the detail. I guess one can still do hard motion with cracked ribs. They're just a little annoying.]
The Pintail did seem heavy and slow but I think I'm really glad I took it in light of the strong winds on the final leg. I'm eager to test out the big, long, fast Glider in similar conditions to compare.
I packed maybe 30 pounds into it, including foodstuffs. This filled the boat's 3 hatches to the brim. I probably brought 7 pounds too much. It seems like you could beach camp with this boat for a week or so---if you have an outside water source or filter.
The Pintail did handle GREAT in the leaping, plunging waves. There were quite a bit of confused seas, too. Probably a good bit of that was due to the ferries that regularly passed 1/4-mile away from me.
The day before I left from the Primitive Gathering we also saw brisk winds and whitecaps so I went out and practiced my "primitive skill" rolls on both sides---that went just fine. I also did an easy self-rescue re-entry in the waves. So I felt pretty confident heading across that last windy, wavy passage. I gave myself a test for the first 1/4-mile of the crossing, to see what kind of headway I was making and it seemed doable. Tough but doable, so I went for it.
Before the wind piped up I had the next experience of doing a couple of the island crossings in the company of a bunch of Monarch butterflies. We were all making about the same headway---I think I beat em out by a little, though.
But back to thrillsville... I took dozens of waves in the chest but the return leg didn't take any longer than the outbound leg a few days earlier in calm conditions! One funny thing is that I found myself singing and chanting and yelling and whistling quite a bit. It kept me psyched and busy for the 2-hour slugfest. The boat felt stable the whole time. I'm not in good paddling fitness but I just alternated hard and easy spells and also punched it whenever the wave sets went into a lull, which sometimes lasted for about 50 yards.
I also made the attempt because, sheesh, it was only "fresh and breezy" out. Seas have wind and waves and that's what sea kayaks are made for. It wasn't bad weather or a storm or anything. It was just hard to move my arms against that little breeze! So I just paced myself.
I sometimes wondered about paddle choice. I used a sweet carbon paddle. But to get a fast low-stress cadence I'd sometimes only bury half the blade. It made me think that the Greenland blade might be good to try out. A race blade is about power. The Greenland blade lets you spin. Makes sense. It might also simplify things for rolling and entries.
Sometimes I used good flatwater technique with lots of rotation. Other times I just took it easy. I generally had straightish arms and some rotation. I tried to stop the stroke at the hip to avoid slurp and splash.
I sure was happy to reach the far harbor and played the radio loud out my rolled-down car windows after I was loaded up. I went and had a steak dinner. [The song I played was Robbie Fulks's "Where There's a Road" from his "Georgia Hard" album---a great song of escape, perfect for blasting loud out of your windows: http://www.amazon.com/Georgia-Hard-Robbie-Fulks/dp/B0008JII2U/jeffpottersoutyoA/ ]
UPDATE: Rolling Test of the Woodstrip Seda Glider
I finally tested out my rolling skills in the other kayak, the 19-foot long woodstrip copy of the Seda Glider, built by my pal Karl Pearson. I was very happy that I could roll both ways on my first tries. Yeah!
This model of boat is known to be one of the fastest there is. It has no rocker---it cruises straight and fast. Ya gotta lean hard to turn it but I can do that.
This boat is so fast. It's just great to paddle. You really feel like you're getting somewhere---the carry and glide are superb. I just like that aspect. I'm not being a speedfreak. Carry and glide are simply fine things in a human powered boat!
But after a few experiments of other kinds of rolling and various fooling around, I missed my rolls twice! Hmm, I still don't know what went wrong---I screwed up somehow. This boat has a high rear deck and a more open and spacious keyhole cockpit. My mess-up relates to these things somehow. I gotta iron that out. I really would prefer using this boat! It's 5 pounds lighter, too.
Next test: a windy, wavy day! That will be the REAL test of the sweet ol' Glider. The word is that this model of boat is a LOG. Let's find out!
This is fun testing---a big reason is that these two boats couldn't be more different. They represent polar opposite schools in seakayak-land. The Euro vs. the Abo. Let's see how they shake out!