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November 2007
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January 2008

Announcing: Qajaqs for everyone!

OK, I’ll admit that once in a while I fight a strong urge to go shopping for a fiberglass production boat.  After all, who would not be attracted to the idea of having spacious dry compartments, a comfortable molded seat and drop down skeg?  I’ve even gone so far as to call dealers and demo a few.  But something always stops me -- my inability to decide on a color scheme, lack of storage space in my garage, the thought that I would only really use it for a week or two touring in the summer (not to mention the price)!  Ultimately though it’s probably the thought that, given a little work and a year or two, I could make that elusive "perfect kayak" myself out of wood!  (Well, maybe once I finish that last project that's been sitting neglected in the shop.)

There have been exciting developments recently in the qajaq building world, just in time for the New Year.  If you were thinking of finally building that kayak in 2008, you have a couple more options to look into. 

First of all, Lodro Dawa of Monkcraft kayaks now has a custom Greenland kayak kit for sale.  Without having to equip your own woodshop, you too can make a skin-on-frame kayak.  According to the Monk:

Monkcraftkayak"The kit comes with everything you need, including a fully illustrated and very detailed assembly manual and technical support if you get stuck. To complete the kayak little woodworking is required. The gunwales are milled to shape, mortised, marked and pre-drilled for the deck beams and ready to go. The deck beams are cut and ready to install, as are the pre-bent ribs. The stems, coaming and all others parts are ready for assembly. Once you have completed the frame, you’ll skin it, dye and shrink the skin, apply the polyurethane and fit out the kayak. This kit is designed so that you can built it in your living room if necessary and will take only 30 to 40 hours to complete. Only simple ordinary tools are required."

Price is $985.  Just like the custom-built kayaks, each kit is customized according to the paddler's  dimensions and skill level.

BrinckkayakSecondly, if you are still insist on building your own kayak from scratch, Wolfgang Brinck has published instructions for building a Greenland Kayak on the Instructables website.  By the way, if you like building, Instructables is a cool site to surf on.  You can find instructions on how to make a little matchstick rocket or bathroom slippers with LED lights on the tips, for instance.   Brinck’s method of building is a modification of the HC Petersen and Svend Ulstrup methods.  The instructions are long and quite detailed, so I haven’t had a chance to read through it completely.  Looks like a nice boat though.

Cypress Island

Cypress3Ricardo and I joined Tom and Dubside for an afternoon paddle in the San Juans the other day.  Ricardo brought along his latest (his fourth) Greenland skin-on-frame.  He built it as a “guest boat”, meaning something fairly beamy, comfortable and stable for friends who might not necessarily be experienced paddlers.  It turned out to be more stable than his previous boats but still a little tender on rough water.

Dubside is living on Guemes Island now.  He has good access to water, by walking on the country roads with his Feathercraft and assembling it on shore.  This was my first time on Guemes and I was pleasantly surprised by how rural it was.  There is this charming general store right off the ferry terminal called Anderson’s  which features live music in the café.  I told Dubside he should get his guitar fixed so he can make a few extra bucks playing there.  Or maybe he could find a gig in downtown Anacortes as a one-man reggae band.  Hopefully he’d make enough to at least pay for the ferry ticket.

We put in on a public access beach on the west side of Guemes and paddled across Bellingham Channel to Deepwater Bay and a little protected cove on Cypress Island, and then up to the public campground on Cypress Head.  The water in the channel was alive with an ebbing current, opposing a south wind and with a little bit of swell coming from the south.

I asked Dubside if he had seen the full version of Pacific Horizons yet and he said no.  Apparently he’s still waiting for Bryan to send him a complimentary copy in the mail.  Hey, Bryan -- don’t forget the little people while you enjoy your rocket ride to fame and fortune!  My guess is that Bryan is just busy, or maybe lost his address.  I know how it is -- I'll have to confess that I neglected to email Derek Hutchinson to tell him when I posted that interview of him at the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium.  I really did lose his email address, but finally found it just the other day on the back of some dry suit care instructions.  Well, better late than never I guess!


The Christmas Ship

It's that time of year again -- time for another twenty minutes of Christmas carols from the Christmas Ship, and another big bonfire at the beach.  The Dash Point Social and Improvement Club must have really been on the ball getting permits for beach fires this year! 

The Christmas Ship makes regular stops throughout the Puget Sound and Lake Washington.  If you are interested in paddling to one of the stops, Seattle Raft and Kayak hosts a few trips on Lake Washington. 



Hurts So Good!

Dpd3Dpd2Well I survived the 2nd Annual Deception Pass Dash, or should I say, Deception Pass Slog.  What a brutal experience!  With the cold wind blasting in my face, rain and current, there were times I told myself that I would never do it again.  In the end though I was very happy to finish. 

A high wind watch and high surf warning were predicted for the Whidbey Island area the night before the Dash.  I had wondered if conditions could get so bad that they’d cancel the race.   But I packed up my gear anyway and strapped my kayak to the roof of my car the night before, left early in the morning, and drove two hours through rain and snow to get to Bowman Bay.

The weather forecast didn’t keep the crowd away -- over 70 kayakers showed up.  I was lucky to get a decent parking spot!  This was clearly a much bigger event than last year.  They also had a bigger safety patrol with a support boat and couple guys from the local police on jet skis in addition to the usual support team in kayaks.  Even the Seattle Times was there to cover the event.

Dpd10Check out the triple kayak.  Yes, they were in the race and finished 33rd overall.  That’s pretty damn ballsy if you ask me!  I asked the two kids in front what they thought about it afterwards.  All they had to tell me was, “it was cold.”

Dpd1Dpd4Things that went right/Things that went wrong:

I started off surrounded by surf skis so I drafted off them and enjoyed a good start.  After they left me in their wake however I think 50 people passed me within the first mile.

I knew my baidarka likes to lee cock so I packed some extra gear in the foreward compartment to add some weight to the bow.  Even with the south wind coming at my beam as we headed into the Pass from Deception Island, it turned out to be perfectly balanced, although I blame the extra weight for slowing me down.

I choose to hug the Fidalgo Island shore to avoid the ebb current, so I ended up passing a number of people who stayed in the center of the channel.  But they ended up passing me again when we met up at Pass Island.  I need a faster boat!

By the time I got to Pass Island the ebb current had really started to flow.  I was right up against the rock wall and just inching along.  If you stopped paddling at all, or were forced a little too far from the wall (as some racers were) you would get washed out, never to return.  If I had made it to Pass Island much later it would have impossible get through.  Have you ever had one of those moments of panic, when you are paddling as hard as you can, then suddenly realize that you are just standing still, and soon will be too exhausted to continue and be swept away?  It was like that, but once in a while I’d be able to catch a little boost from the swell coming in from the West, and it kept me moving forward.

I strapped my GPS to the deck to record time and distance.  Being able to look at the speed occasionally was actually encouraging, because I usually felt like I was going a lot slower than I really was.  And during the last half of the trip, paddling with the current and wind through Canoe Pass, I delighted in watching my speed shoot up to 6.5 knots!

The last leg of the race from Deception Island to Bowman Bay actually turned out to be quite difficult as well.  Once again I was facing the wind and the current.  Afterwards I met a racer who made it through the Pass and all the way to Deception Island but just didn’t have the energy to make it back from there.  He got a ride back on the support boat.

Dpd6Dpd7Dpd8There was lunch at the crowded picnic shelter afterwards: burgers, chili, miso soup and hot cocoa.  The prizes were given away randomly, rather than by how you placed in the race.  If your name was drawn you got to choose an item from the many prizes donated by the sponsors, including things like a Werner paddle (any model you want), PFDs, dry bibs, helmets and all kinds of gear, and a copy of Greenland Rolling with Dubside.   I won a drybag! 

So what did Leon Somme of Body Boat Blade choose after his name was drawn from the hat?  An NRS rigid closed cell foam paddle float, of course!  My thought is that he’s probably doing a service by keeping it out of the hands of someone who might actually try to self-rescue with it!  ;-)

Many thanks to Seattle Raft and Kayak and race director Bill Walker for organizing such a great event!  You can view the race results here.


TAKS Album

Forqusa_largeI just had to share this photo album from the 2nd annual Traditional Arctic Kayak Symposium (TAKS), an event organized by John Petersen of Shaman Kayaks.  From the TAKS website:

With the success of last years 1st annual event, TAKS San Simeon, continues to be the first 3 day symposium of it's kind in California celebrating the making of, use of, and history of, traditional Arctic kayaks, Umiaks and other related skin-on-frame, strip built, or stitch and glue vessels. Builders are welcome to bring their completed or uncompleted boats. If you don't own a traditional kayak, you are certainly welcome to participate with what you have. Enthusiasts of the Greenland paddling technique at all skill levels are invited to explore the waters of San Simeon Cove or beyond.

John just posted the completed photo album today.  Check it out!

Pacific Horizons Premieres at SRK

Bryan Smith showed his film Pacific Horizons last night at Seattle Raft and Kayak. The house was packed!  I showed up just in time to grab a free beer and the last few pieces of pizza, courtesy of Canoe and Kayak Magazine.  It was so full that most of the audience had to stand.  People brought along their non-paddling friends and dogs, who lapped up the spilled beer on the floor (the dogs I mean).

KelpIn Bryan’s words, this film was meant to get people “stoked on sea kayaking”.  Then people really got excited when he started giving away door prizes - a number of t-shirts and Yakima rack accessories from the sponsors.  Lots of free stuff! 

Pacific Horizons is an excellent film. Seeing some segments for the second time (I saw a shorter version at the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium) just proved that to me.  It definitely encapsulates the whole Pacific Northwest sea kayaking experience, showcasing our scenic beauty and dynamic waters for the world.  But why is everyone in the film wearing a Body Boat Blade hat?  ;-)

SRK has been doing an excellent job building a community of paddlers with events such as this.  Another example is the Deception Pass Dash tomorrow morning.  Last year they had 40 racers but this year over 100 people have signed up.  The weather forecast calls for a high of 40 degrees, NE wind 10 to 15 kt becoming SE late.  Snow changing to rain.  So I wonder how many people will actually show up tomorrow.  Time to double up on fleece - it could be nasty!