◊ Occasional Blog

This blog mostly describes sea kayaking experiences, but not exclusively. Nor are new posts added regularly.

As the 2017 Kayak Season Wanes

posted Aug 31, 2017, 9:03 AM by Richard Sevenich

This has been the first season where I've been satisfied with my rolling progress. Choosing to use the NDK Explorer, in lieu of the Mariner Express, kept me from floundering away my roll sessions making zero progress. At this point I have a very solid roll (even 'inadvertent' rolls) on my on-side with the NDK. This definitely makes me feel safer. I know where I am underwater for on-side rolls. However, for off-side rolls my brain remains confused. Nevertheless, I was semi-confident that I could return to the Mariner and experience some success. This went OK, not great. I was able to roll the Mariner on 12 of 13 on-side attempts. But most of those rolls were something of a struggle. The Mariner doesn't pop up like the NDK. I am guessing I need a stronger 'hip snap'.

Currently we own 4 kayaks and I'd like to move to just 3. This would still give us a spare for guests. I'd like to sell the Mariner, but am reluctantly willing to sell the NDK.

A lot remains to be accomplished, perhaps for next season:

  • My rolls are all Pawlata and I'd like to move to non-extended paddle rolls.

  • I need to move to off-side Pawlata and add non-extended paddle rolls.

  • How about reentry and roll?

River kayakers really need to be able to roll both sides. For a sea kayaker, who avoids surf and rock gardens, this is not as important. But I can get caught in waves and swells, where the need to roll up on either side becomes more important.

It took me a very long time to learn to roll. But the time underwater was somewhat necessary, so that I could learn where I was more precisely. Old people don't learn new tricks easily.


posted Aug 11, 2017, 3:58 PM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Aug 11, 2017, 4:01 PM ]

At this point in the summer, I've developed a one-sided, somewhat laugh-proof roll. My roll sessions are sometimes solo and sometimes with friends. The water is now warm enough that a Farmer John and dry top are sufficient for an extended session. I believe the next progression is to move toward the one-sided bombproof roll. In particular, I need to mimic an inadvertent roll, where there is no setup before the actual capsize. It seems that I am relatively aware of where I am and of what I'm doing while underwater and it should be feasible to achieve a semi-bombproof roll before summer wanes.

So, what next after the one-sided bombproof roll? I'd hope to follow that with the off-side roll, perhaps bombproof as well. Longer term, I'd like the on-side and off-side rolls to become indistinguishable. So far my rolls are Pawlata (i.e. extended paddle) rolls. Eventually, I'd like to have forward finishing rolls, perhaps before I turn 80.

Unrelated goals might include rolling other boats, perhaps even the Mariner. I am already using a selection of paddles.  How about a half paddle?

Smoky in North Idaho

posted Aug 9, 2017, 11:25 AM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Aug 9, 2017, 11:30 AM ]

Nearby forest fires and an ill wind have conspired to gift us with smoky air, neither conducive to kayaking nor biking. I suppose I could try some rolling practice and just breathe while under water. But, in the meantime, I have scoped out some kayak trips for next year (2018). Chronologically, the planned trips will be destined for
  • the upper Douro River in Portugal

  • the Broughton Archipelago, northeast of Johnstone strait in British Columbia

The first trip will be 6 days and 5 nights, conducted by Douro Kayak Expeditions. This will start on May 14. The trip leader will be Jack Atkinson, an American expatriate. Coincidentally, Jack is my age and, like me, has an NDK Explorer as his primary kayak. On this trip, the kayaks will likely be Prijons, perhaps a Seayak or Kodiak. The paddling will be on the last 4 days, averaging about 8 miles per day. This is a relatively inexpensive trip, compared to what was advertised for Norway's Lofoten Islands. There is no camping involved and our luggage comes along via a support vehicle.

Our second trip will be based at Paddler's Inn operated by Bruce and Josée McMorran. This will start in mid September. The facility is located at Simoom Sound on the west side of Gilford Island. Access is via Bruce's water taxi, both to and from. This gets us across the Johnstone Strait without requiring any camping. The lodge has 2 cabins and a 'lodge' all floating, then another cabin on the shore. We expect 8 in our party and will be our own guides. The duration will be 5 nights of lodging and 4 days paddling. Eli and I stayed here once before.

To finish the tale of rolling the Mariner Express …

posted Aug 2, 2017, 1:48 PM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Aug 4, 2017, 5:48 PM ]

After rather consistent success rolling the NDK Explorer, I once again tried the Mariner. My success rate was better than before, but still more toward the dismal side. Consequently the NDK will now become my preferred kayak. If the Mariner remains in my fleet, it might still be the choice when on our rare camping forays, since it holds much more gear than the NDK. But, in general, I plan to use the NDK.

At this point, the Explorer is pretty much rigged and configured the way I want. The NDK leaks scarcely at all, except when rolling. Then the rear hatch leaks, as does the day hatch to a lesser extent. The day hatch almost certainly leaks via the hatch cover. I haven’t diagnosed the leakage in the rear hatch and am only moderately motivated to do so. Most likely it’s the hatch cover or the deck access to the rope skeg.

Revisiting Attempts to Roll the Mariner Express

posted Jul 25, 2017, 3:02 PM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Jul 25, 2017, 3:19 PM ]

I abandoned my attempts to establish a consistent roll with the Mariner Express. While upside down, I had trouble getting the paddle close enough to the surface for a viable roll. This was poor technique coupled with the Mariner's intolerance of my marginal expertise. I was hitting my head against the wall with no efficient path to improving my roll. As mentioned in an earlier post, I next switched to the NDK Explorer and was rewarded with instant success for my roll, despite the poor technique. The NDK just likes to pop back up.

This change to a kayak eager to roll allowed me to work on and improve that roll. Most recently I have been able to get the paddle close enough to the surface for a decent roll while inverted. Using a Greenland paddle aided in this evolution and returning to a euro paddle retained the improvement. This, of course, has been with the NDK. Hence, I'd like to revisit and improve on my dismal showing with the Mariner. I'll try that this weekend.

We currently have 4 kayaks … one for me, one for my wife, one for a guest, and an entirely surplus kayak. My wife has her kevlar Necky Looksha IV of which she is fond. I have begun clinging to the NDK, but if I can consistently roll the Mariner then I could part with either the NDK or the Mariner. I could also sell the Noyak, but its size and weight are nice for a guest … and it's royal purple!

So this story must continue. Can I joyfully roll that Mariner?

On a Roll

posted Jul 15, 2017, 8:05 AM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Jul 16, 2017, 7:02 PM ]

In the summer of 2016 I purchased the kayak of my dreams, a Mariner Express refurbished by the inimitable John Abercrombie (of Victoria) to include bow, stern, and day hatches – a truly professional job. Having neither rudder nor skeg, the kayak behaves well even in rough water with no need to carry skeg or rudder repair parts. I am selling it. What?

I have a compromised lower back from a long ago ski injury, reducing my torso rotation and inhibiting my reach. The Mariner seat is too deep for me and even with adding some seat padding, I have significant difficulty rolling this fine kayak with any consistency. At age 76, it is not productive for me to learn to roll this boat – I need to improve my rolling, not spend another year or two trying to start on a roll.

Coincidentally, I picked up a neglected, disheveled, older NDK Explorer. My plan was to refurbish this and sell it at a modest profit – not for enough to pay for my labor, but sufficient for continuing this hobby. Working hard at rolling my Mariner, I decided on a whim to try the Explorer. My inadequate roll was suddenly 100% successful in the NDK. I continued going back and forth, attempting to roll these two boats. Success with the Explorer was splendid, that with the Mariner was dismal.

The Explorer leaks a bit in the stern hatch when rolling, but otherwise not in normal upright paddling. I’ll get around to addressing this, but there is no urgency. I have cleaned up the kayak, adding rigging, repairing the skeg, replacing the backband, including a keel strip, etc. The hull and deck are fine, albeit not with their original luster. I’ll continue to tweak this until it is where I want it.

This kayak is somewhat heavy for a fiberglass kayak, reinforced with diolen (poor man’s kevlar) here and there. It is truly a sturdy craft, perhaps a bit long for me, perhaps not. It is reputed to handle rough water well, even without the skeg, until conditions get waygnar. It has the rope skeg, which is easily repaired in the field (even I know how). I once had an older Romany Classic, which would likely be a better choice for fit, although slower. I wasn’t much into rolling then, but did find that particular boat to weathercock more than this Explorer.

Of course, the NDK Explorer has a name … Xena.

The Extra Kayak

posted Apr 9, 2017, 9:39 AM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Apr 12, 2017, 1:22 PM ]

Now that Eli and I have kayaks that are close to perfect for us, what do we do? Eli has her kevlar Looksha IV and I have my Mariner Express (as enhanced/rebuilt by John Abercrombie). Perhaps we need an extra kayak for visitors . My elder daughter is visiting this summer; and later my youngest granddaughter. They will need a kayak, won’t they? After that I can sell the extra ... maybe.

Mariner Kayaks in their later years had an excellent builder, Noy Palatvong. When Mariner ceased production, he started his own company, the Noyak Kayak Co. I don’t believe Noyak lasted that long, but one of his kayaks was modeled vaguely on the Mariner Coaster. This longer version (at 15’ 2”) was called (somewhat unfortunately) the “DeRide”. Noy had 4 of these still bagged up and still new at his place in Moses Lake, WA. So I made the harrowing trip to Moses Lake and purchased the purple one, a royal color persuading me to name her “Daenerys”. This fiberglass kayak has a bow hatch, a stern hatch, stainless U-bolts fore and aft, fiberglass bulkheads, and weighs around 45 pounds. There is a Mariner style paddle park just in front of the coaming in those situations where you temporarily need to perform a task unencumbered by your paddle..

The DeRide has various deck lines, but all of the bungie variety. So I mounted some self rescue straps behind the cockpit and a perimeter line (with a pair of needed extra pad eyes) – all new lines of the non-bungie variety. The foam seat was unattached so I used velcro to secure it. Otherwise, the seat was ready to fly elsewhere
, for example, on a cartop transport. Finally I attached a spare paddle holder, made by North Water. I already had a spare light weight skirt that fits.

The Mariner kayaks were famous for needing neither skeg nor rudder; would this hold true for Daenerys? Her hull is not actually that close to the Coaster. On my first voyage I found that she weathercocked, but not at all severely. In a white capped lake, she remained quite manageable.
On my next attempt, even though she weathercocked only slightly, I loaded the stern hatch more heavily to successfully reduce the effect. All this is rather hard to judge since the lake currents are a bit stronger and more random than they will be when the lake has filled to normal pool level. There is typically at least some current since the lake is really a natural (and deep) reservoir with major input from the Clark Fork River and outflow into the Pend Oreille River.

On my most recent tour with this boat, I did a 7.4 nm loop which I've done before. I found my speed (measured by gps) was the same as with my longer boats. This surprised me, because I wasn't trying to speed along. Of course, I'm expecting Daenerys to be slower if I attempt to move at my race pace (i.e. my version of race).

Slowly Recovering – Part 2

posted Dec 28, 2016, 4:29 PM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Dec 28, 2016, 4:35 PM ]

Ten months have passed since the rupture of my left calf muscle. I reached a plateau in the recovery by late summer. While walking the leg would start to hurt, but not enough to stop, but enough to slow down. Resting the leg for only a minute or two would restart this same scenario – suggesting that blood /oxygen flow to the calf was compromised. The foot remained sort of a tingly numb. After our month long trip to Albuquerque, I decided to have a session or two with a person who did deep tissue work.

In December, I had two such sessions. Now I am determining if there has been an improvement in allowing the leg to continue healing. Perhaps the easiest way to tell would be to resume skate skiing, but on relatively flat terrain – very flat by Schweitzer standards. My first two skate ski outings were similar – leg began hurting, not quite the same as when walking before the deep tissue work. In my third outing I went a little further and seemed to hurt less. In my fourth outing I went significantly further and with less pain. These were all short distances, 3.5 miles at most. Furthermore, the numb feeling in my foot has improved slightly.

The next month will be most interesting, after this initial encouragement. On February 11 we head to the Methow Valley for a skate ski trip. Perhaps by then I’ll be closer to my normal … perhaps not.

End of 2016 Kayak Season

posted Nov 11, 2016, 8:18 AM by Richard Sevenich

We've been in Albuquerque for 4 weeks and will return to Sandpoint next Tuesday. Our 2016 kayak season is over and gone. The memorable results were
  • great trips to Cortes (July) and Quadra (September) Islands
  • eventually rolling my Boréal Design Ellesmere consistently (one side only)
  • replacing the Ellesmere with a Mariner Express at season's end
  • inability to roll the Express with consistency
Next season will evolve . There is some thought of spending 3 or 4 weeks in Nanaimo after Labor Day, I hope to begin rolling the Express with some consistency, and so on. I would like to help some local sea kayakers with strokes, maybe rolling, etc. Of course, this develops my own skills.

I'll do some off-season gear maintenance. I already added a Keel Eazy strip to the Express and removed its built-in electrical bilge pump. My dry suit gaskets have reached their end of life, so I need to address that. Other tasks will appear, but post ski season will be the time slot when most of this gets done.

Marissa - first Impressions

posted Oct 4, 2016, 8:38 AM by Richard Sevenich

I've used this kayak for a total of only 7 days. None of the days had difficult water, so Marissa has not been put through her paces. I find her maneuverable and pleased to be put on edge. My prior kayak, a Boréal Design Ellesmere named Bianca, always seemed happier with at least some skeg. Marissa neither weather cocks nor lee cocks and, of course, has neither skeg nor rudder. I only experienced minor whitecaps so far, and the behavior stayed the same. It's not a big deal, but I am really pleased not to be messing with a skeg or rudder.

Marissa does not roll as easily as Bianca. That's not quite a fair statement because I learned a decent roll with the Ellesmere, but never tried another boat until now. So the criticism should probably be aimed at my technique and not the kayak. I'll know more next season, since our season is ending.

Is Marissa a fast kayak? My feeling is that it is very slightly slower than the Ellesmere, but I have no data to support that conclusion. If I race the Sand Creek Challenge next year, I'll have a data point. However, I last raced 'seriously' at age 74 and I'll hit 76 by the next race. I assume that I am slowing down, so if next year's time is somehow faster than at age 74, I'll consider Marissa to be quicker. Otherwise, the result will be indeterminate. The Ellesmere is 12 inches longer overall than the Mariner, but I never recorded the Ellesmere water length. Further, the skeg would introduce some drag.

I like the sliding seat, easily adjusted but then it stays put. At this point, it is a convenience that allows plenty of room for getting into the kayak, securing the spray deck, and then placing the seat where I want it. I've not yet needed to situate the seat for boat trim in adverse conditions.

I was concerned that the hatch openings might be a bit small. But I just rearranged the load to fit through the appropriate openings e.g. swapping the first aid kit to the stern and putting something comparably heavy in the bow hatch. My preferred trolley doesn't fit at all, but I have another one which can go into the stern hatch.

All in all I am extremely happy with Marissa.

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