◊ Occasional Blog

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

Paddlers' Inn - mid September 2018

posted Sep 23, 2018, 7:43 PM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Sep 23, 2018, 8:20 PM ]

In late summer of 2018, we rented five nights of lodging at Paddlers’ Inn, within the Broughton Archipelago, more or less NE of Port McNeill on Vancouver Island. The Inn is owned and operated by Bruce and Josée McMorran. The Inn lies in a small, rather narrow bay open to the west and just north of Echo Bay on Gilford Island. The area lies in unceded land, belonging to the First Nations. The Inn consists of

  • the floathouse lodge with dining area, full kitchen, and bathroom – accommodates 10 people

  • the floathouse cabin with kitchenette, bathroom, and sauna - accommodates 2 people

  • the cliffside cabin (also floating), with kitchen, and bathroom - accommodates 2 people

  • the Blue Room (also floating) with adjacent bathroom and sauna - accommodates 2 people

  • the shoreline cabin (on land) with kitchen and bathroom - accommodates 6 people

Our group of 10 occupied everything except the floathouse lodge. Fortunately, the latter was unoccupied so we were able to use it for communal dinners and occasional breakfasts by splinter groups.

Our Cabin

Floathouse Lodge on Left

Our plan would allow us 4 days of lodge-based kayak trips. We were to park our automobiles at Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island and travel to the Inn via the water taxi, owned by Bruce. A few days prior to our arrival, Bruce informed us that the water taxi transmission had died, but that he had arranged for an alternative water taxi, operated by his friend Larry. This was fortuitous for us (not for Bruce) because the water taxi got us to the Inn about 1 PM, allowing an unexpected early day of paddling.

Paddling weather gets chancier as fall approaches, more rainy and potentially blustery. The weather could have shut us down for several days, but somehow we were granted 5 days of very calm water. One day had maybe an hour of light rain, another a half hour. We were definitely on the far side of lucky.

Diane in Calm Water

Dick in Calm Water                                                    

On the water taxi ride to the Inn we saw whales (even up close), basking sea lions, and dolphins. As far as wildlife on our day trips we saw various creatures including

  • seals and sea lions

  • sea stars

  • numerous kingfishers

  • oyster catchers

  • herons (one resident near the Inn)

  • harlequins

  • surf scoters

  • porpoises

and heard one loon.

The 4th day included a stop at Billy Proctor’s Museum. Billy, at 84, was present and ready to talk. He also had his shop open with a few items for sale, including 3 of his books written with coauthors. These books are well worth reading to get a sense of local history, more or less starting with the onset of the Europeans. But it is a sad history which exposes the grim exploitation by corporations with the full cooperation of the Canadian government. Until then, life albeit rough had a more sustainable flavor. But corporations eventually brought in careless large scale logging, disease ridden and stinky fish farms, and the like.

On our day trips (except for the first) we would find a lunch spot, several on middens, deep with shell fragments. Perhaps the prettiest was in the Burdwood Group:

Burdwood Midden
Eli at Burdwood Midden

We averaged about 8.7 nmi per day with 12 nmi being our longest effort. So it was a very mellow pace, providing opportunities to see what was there. We had no capsize events or any other crafty excitement.

Each evening we gathered for dinner as prepared by whichever pair was assigned to that night’s meal.

  • Steve and Trish – meal #1

  • Dick & Eli – meal #2

  • Diane & Pam – meal #3

  • Carole & John P – meal #4

  • Audrey & John O – meal #5 from leftovers, they also organized hors d’oeuvres.

Steve served G&Ts each night as far as I recall. Wine was readily available from various boxes, carefully chosen to frighten any wine connoisseur. Trish and Audrey occasionally graced our ears with tunes from fiddle and mandolin.

The kayak day trips were splendid. The Inn itself was perfect for us, rustic as expected but exceptionally clean and with all hoped for necessities. Two members even arranged for massages from Bruce, who is well trained and skilled. This was not camping! Not all our participants knew each other at the start, but as the trip evolved we discovered that we had a convivial lot. By trip’s end, Bruce’s water taxi was up and eager. Heading back to Vancouver Island, we again saw many Humpbacks, particularly as we neared Telegraph Cove

Restoring Miss Frigid – Part 2

posted Jun 9, 2018, 8:41 AM by Richard Sevenich

In my most recent test, Miss Frigid and I encountered only moderate wind during a 7 nm. outing. With no rolling attempts, I found the rear hatch to be almost 100% dry. But what about weather cocking? Moving the seat about 2 inches further toward the rear and loading the kayak rather stern heavy did not keep the kayak from weather cocking. And in the moderate wind, stronger corrective strokes were more necessary.

If I keep Miss Frigid, she will typically be a boat for guests and in relatively calm conditions. So the leaky rear hatch will be acceptable, only being a minor pain when rolling. I would prefer to replace it with a softer hatch cover to get a decent seal, if such exist and if the cost is reasonable. Replacement with another hard hatch cover is not necessarily going to change things. Similarly, reinstalling a skeg is not crucial for relatively calm conditions, but such conditions can degenerate making it something of a chore to keep the kayak on track. As with the hatch cover, the cost of a replacement skeg could be the deciding issue.

Nevertheless, my druthers would be to keep Miss Frigid even with the marginal hatch cover and non existent skeg. It is an extremely maneuverable kayak and fun to drive. But what else remains to be done? Well, the interior of the rear hatch is poorly done and could use some attention, although it is mostly a cosmetic problem. I'll likely use an epoxy paint or the like after I clean it up a bit. Any other problems are quite minor.

Restoring Miss Frigid to its best condition is not that important to me. It is my kayak for occasional guests, where rather calm conditions will be typical. My primary kayak remains the SKUK Explorer. It rolls easily and remains dry in both hatches. It scarcely weather cocks and actually has a skeg if needed. It fits me better and so on. For my purposes, the Explorer is a better kayak.

I'll modify this blog entry once I get hatch and skeg replacement costs from Sterling Kayaks.

Restoring Miss Frigid - Part 1

posted Jun 7, 2018, 5:54 PM by Richard Sevenich

As mentioned earlier, I had one too many Explorers, an older NDK (relatively bombproof) and a younger carbon/kevlar SKUK. I traded the older NDK for a Sterling Ice Kap, in very rough shape. So this is my new project, 'restoring' the Ice Kap … now known as Miss Frigid. For starters I cleaned it up, then started on the project phases. Note that my DIY skills are very limited.

Phase 1

There was damage to the hull, mostly restricted to the keel line. I patched these with an epoxy putty and sanded them so their shape did not protrude from the hull. Since the skeg was non functional, I plugged the hole and added filler, again blending the result with the hull keel line shape. The hull was now relatively smooth, but ugly.

Note 1

I plugged the skeg hole so that I could remove the plug and install a new skeg and wire. These are supposedly available from Sterling Donalson (in Bellingham, WA).

Phase 2

Adding a keel strip with the EazyKeel product covered all the significant hull uglies but one. I have used EazyKeel on maybe 10 boats. It is applied with a not-too-hot heat gun, especially useful for going around the bow and stern curves. Then one waits for a few days, watching the keel strip for areas that don't bond well. Such make their presence known visually. Reapplication of the heat gun will typically fix these. In a worst case (not for Miss Frigid), one may need to apply an appropriate adhesive.

First tests

My first outing in light wind showed that Miss Frigid weather cocked easily when gliding. Oddly, it would straighten up easily as well, without strong corrective strokes. Perhaps this is due to the long, narrow bow. When rolling, it shipped water in the rear hatch, but not the bow hatch. The bow hatch has a softer rubber hatch cover (a replacement), while the rear hatch is hard rubber and 'snaps' on. If I replace the stern hatch it must be the softer rubber … if available.

Next test

My next test will exclude rolling. So, will water still afflict the rear hatch? To reduce weather cocking, I have moved the foam seat backwards and will trim a bit stern heavy. Will that be effective?

2018 – Starting Rolling Sessions Again

posted May 29, 2018, 3:53 PM by Richard Sevenich

I’ll report on our kayak trip in Portugal later, after I get some photos ready. For now, I have returned to Sandpoint and had my first rolling session with Matt yesterday. Since I only achieved a reliable roll last summer, I was wondering if my aging body would retain that muscle memory. Despite being a little rusty, my 9 rolls were all successful and felt OK. The kayak used was a 2007 carbon/kevlar SKUK Explorer, replacing last year’s much heavier 1996 NDK Explorer. In the water, I could not discern any noticeable difference in how they rolled other than it was easier to ‘overshoot’ in the lighter boat.

My rolling goals for the 2018 season are to

  • achieve an offside roll that becomes indistinguishable from onside

  • learn a decent reentry and roll

Further, my roll is a Pawlata and I’d like to add a non extended paddle roll, but consider that to be less important.

My summer refurbishing project is to salvage the severely neglected Sterling Ice Kap. The hull is pretty beat up and the skeg needs replacing. I’ve heard the Ice Kap does OK without the skeg, but requires extra corrective strokes in rougher water, of course. So for now, I’ll plug the skeg hole and keel strip the whole hull. The plug will be quite secure, but reversible should I decide to reinstall a skeg. This is intended as my extra kayak, available for visitors. It should be a good roller.

A Change in the Kayak Fleet

posted Apr 23, 2018, 7:12 AM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Apr 29, 2018, 2:57 PM ]

If you read my earlier entry, you’ll recall that we have five kayaks and I need to sell two, maybe three. At that point, two of these were Explorers, as designed by Nigel Dennis. The 1996 model was very sturdy albeit heavy, and in good shape. The 2007 model is carbon/kevlar and expectedly much lighter, in nearly new condition. I recalled that a friend of mine had a Sterling Ice Kap. So I traded, my 1996 Explorer for his Ice Kap. Admittedly, the Ice Kap is in grim shape, but is recoverable. Plus I enjoy restoring kayaks despite my very limited skill set. Ice Kap problems include:
  • pine sap drippings on the stern

  • gel coat damage along the keel

  • poorly finished inside by the manufacturer

  • also some surface damage in the hatches

  • a crippled skeg

  • a rear hatch leak, perhaps related to the prior item

Resolution of these problems will await our return home in late May. Nevertheless, I have at least cleaned off the pine sap and made initial gel coat repairs.

The virtues of the Ice Kap are that it is a very maneuverable and light boat, my estimate being a bit above 40 pounds. The kayak was supposedly a demo model that Sterling Donalson took from show to show. Perhaps this is the reason for the poor internal finishing, unready to be inflicted on a buyer.

It will be a while before I paddle it. It should roll easily and it may become my roll practice boat. On the other hand I may just sell it, whatever seems appropriate. Donalson insists that none of his boats weathercock, but I’ve heard the Ice Kap does. The seat can be moved backward a bit, so that would help the weathercocking – as would loading it somewhat stern heavy. The potential for weathercocking remains to be tested.

The Ice Kap is about 17’ x 19.5” and with significant rocker, hence the maneuverability. There are front and rear hatches, but no day hatch. It will hold less gear than Sedna, my carbon/kevlar Explorer. The Ice Kap came with no name, so I’ll name her now … Miss Frigid.

A few photos will be added when she is less disheveled.

Start of 2018 Kayak Season

posted Mar 28, 2018, 8:23 PM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Apr 1, 2018, 11:06 AM ]

The lake water is at ~38º F, dry suit time … with some insulation. The lake level is down by ~9 feet to accommodate any sudden snow melt. The air temperature was to approach 50º F and the mountain skiing offered no fresh powder. So it became my first kayak day this season. It was also my first day paddling in this kayak (her name is ‘Sedna’). Here is Sedna, champing (an aside, not ‘chomping’) at the bit, awaiting her short 6 nm. outing.

Looking to the west, we see the Schweitzer ski area. It’s not apparent, but the snow pack is about 34% above normal … water for kayaking some weeks later.

I drove west from Sandpoint along the water, about 20 miles just before the lake turns south. I launched at Trestle Creek Campground (no one else there). I saw one other boat with one fisherman and two snoozers. The launch site itself went well beyond the concrete pad, into the rocky fore beach. It’s not yet ready for the bigger boats. Looking to the east, I could see the Green Monarchs descending abruptly into the water. Not too many years ago, Lawson Tate skied a line down to the lake. Friends retrieved him via boat.

After my short trip I returned to Trestle Creek Campground. A woman Subarued her way into the campground. I recognized Sally from some years ago. She helped me load Sedna onto the Hullavator. Then back home

Update: now it's a few days later - both cold and snowy. I guess we'll ski tomorrow as the snowstorm continues.

Kayaks to Sell

posted Mar 17, 2018, 8:05 PM by Richard Sevenich

After zeroing in on our preferred kayaks, I find that we now have five kayaks. Eli prefers her Necky Looksha IV and I prefer my SKUK Explorer. So we have 3 spares. We’d like to keep just one extra for guests, so we wish to sell two. All shortcomings have been dealt with e.g. none (currently) leak. Hence we need to pick two to sell from these three, all fiberglass:
  • Noyak DeRide (with the unfortunate model name)

  • Mariner Express (with fore, aft, and day hatches)

  • NDK Explorer (diolen reinforced where extra strength is needed)

My first choice would be to keep the Noyak, because it is light, has neither rudder nor skeg, and is therefore perfect for a guest who might be a beginner. It does exhibit slight weathercocking and would profit from loading it stern heavy.

Perhaps the easiest of our spare kayaks to sell would be the NDK Romany Explorer. It is one of the most classic British designs, a noted expedition kayak, very neutral, and very stout – really a good kayak for a guide. Its storage capacity is adequate at best, because of the skeg box.

Slightly more difficult to sell would be the Mariner. It is a cult classic here in the northwestern USA, but not well known beyond the west coast. It is famous for good handling in rough seas with neither skeg nor rudder. This particular boat was modified quite professionally by John Abercrombie (Victoria, BC) to have fore, aft, and day hatches. Typically the originals did not have hatches, but used float bags for buoyancy. It has a great deal of storage capacity. This would also be a good kayak for a guide … and with enhanced storage capacity.

Spring 2018 Looms

posted Mar 6, 2018, 8:04 PM by Richard Sevenich

Spring of 2018 is looming, but ski season is reluctant to leave, with over 11 feet of snow at Schweitzer’s summit. We’ve had some fantastic ski days, even a few with sun and no fog. Our valley floor Nordic trail system is going strong, but will melt quickly at any point. Next Sunday we switch to daylight savings time, so winter is waning despite its reluctance.

Consequently, I am starting to focus on kayaking. Today I installed some inexpensive refinements to my newest kayak (a slightly used carbon/kevlar SKUK Explorer, named Sedna). These are :

  • a paddle park

  • under deck storage for the bilge pump, just fore the coaming

  • a skeg retrieval string, should the skeg jam on the water

There are a few more things needed, but a keel strip is the only major feature not yet added. I need warmer weather to install this, but have the Eazy Keel product ready to go.

Once the lake ice is gone and the pool level up a bit, I should be on the water, dry suit and all. I must prepare for our Portugal kayak trip (leaving Sedna behind sadly). This is a 30th wedding anniversary present my wife and I are sharing. We’ll first spend a week in Austria, then a week in Portugal, and finishing with another week in Austria. Julie, my eldest, will host us in Austria and join us in Portugal. She will be our indispensable facilitator.

Back from Kalispell

posted Feb 17, 2018, 3:50 PM by Richard Sevenich

As feared, I purchased the kevlar/carbon NDK Explorer in Kalispell. As used boats go, it is in relatively pristine shape. Included were a 220 cm. Werner Ikelos paddle, a paddle bag, and a spray skirt - all in excellent condition. The Werner Ikelos blade is likely too large for my stature, so I may look for a trade. Otherwise it will make a good spare.

Peering through the dust, this kayak is red over white and has the Karitek skeg, which currently works smoothly. If installed properly, the skeg is supposedly kink free. I'll add a few other enhancements:
  • a Keel Eazy keel strip
  • a paddle park
  • an under deck bilge pump holder, just fore the coaming
I'll incorporate photos in this article, once spring is nigh and the enhancements added,

This leaves me with several very nice, serious sea kayaks to sell. Craigslist here I come once spring brings forth the kayak aficionados.

A Rainy Day in January

posted Jan 18, 2018, 1:16 PM by Richard Sevenich

January 18, 2018 is a rainy day down here in Sandpoint, The rain at nearby Schweitzer Mountain has evolved from morning rain into heavy snow, with only the front bowl open for skiing. We’ll declare it a non-ski day and hope for relief tomorrow, as forecast.

Meanwhile, I am thinking about the coming kayak season. In mid February, three of us will drive to Kalispell to ski Whitefish Mountain and maybe find some Nordic trails. What has that to do with kayaking? A second motive for the trip will be to possibly purchase a hybrid NDK Explorer (standard), found on Craigslist. I really like my own Explorer, but it is heavy for me, despite my burly 5’ 5” frame. So the lighter hybrid is very attractive.

I would then have five kayaks for our family of two. Even if we keep an extra kayak for an unwary guest, we still would have two I’d like to sell. I would select the two from these three:

  • 15’ 2” x 22” Noyak DeRide

  • 16’ x 22.5” Mariner Express

  • 17’ 8” x 21.5” NDK Explorer

Of the three kayaks above, the Mariner is a cult classic with neither rudder nor skeg, not needing these even in very rough water. This particular kayak was typically built with no hatches and relying on air bags for flotation. However, this particular kayak was modified by John Abercrombie (Victoria, BC) and has bow, stern, and day hatches, modifications that appear 100% professionally done.

The NDK Explorer is a more well known kayak.It is a very strong layup reinforced with diolen at stress points, hence rather heavy.

From the Internet: [This is a famous sea kayak named as Sea Kayaker magazine's “Readers’ Choice for Best Extended Touring Kayak”, in 2008, in 2011 and in 2012. It has a number of first expeditions with circumnavigations of Britain, Ireland, Iceland, New Zealand and South Georgia Island and a number of the Aleutian islands to its credit. It is what an amazingly high percentage of high level coaches and expert paddlers choose to paddle, yet many novices find it to be very comfortable, responsive and forgiving.]I have added a keel strip, a comfortable back band, an under deck bilge pump storage location, a paddle park in case you need both hands free, and new deck lines and bungees.

The Noyak was built by Noy Palatvong, formerly Mariner’s top builder who then started his own company when Mariner ceased operation. It is an elongated version of the famous Mariner Coaster. It has neither skeg nor rudder and is well behaved and neutral enough to need neither is the hands of an experienced paddler. The beginner might avoid really rough water until accruing some paddling skills. It is a relatively light kayak. I have added a keel strip and some static deck lines.

Any of these kayaks would be happy on a lake or in the sea. Each is fiberglass, so I would be reluctant to take them through river whitewater. Of course, a fiberglass kayak is more easily repaired (even while on a trip) than a rotomolded kayak, but the latter is more durable for most abuse.

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