Monday, July 21, 2014

Oru Kayak Demo

   Mark and I are dedicated members of the kayak of the month club.  It just seems like there are so many good ideas out there.  Like a light kayak you can fold up.
    Just last weekend we loaded our kayaks on the roof and headed two hours south for a gathering which was supposed to happen on a beach accessible by boat only.  However when we arrived it was 68 degrees (F), foggy with a 20 mph wind.  For some reason none of the others (who were arriving via a shuttling skiff arrangement) felt it would be a good beach day.  So an alternative gathering was thrown together, and on the way home, as a consolation prize, we paddled a few miles on a river.  And when we got home we lifted those same 50 pound kayaks back off the car to put them away.

  It was the sort of situation made for an Oru, the origami kayak.  Rather than lifting heavy boats, we could have tossed them in the back.  When there was a change of plans, we wouldn't have had to worry if we'd loosened the straps when the sun came out, or if the boats were filling with rain when a shower passed overhead.

  And as Mark read about the Oru, he found that they were doing a "Pop Up"  demonstration in Portland Maine on Sunday.  So we signed up, via Facebook and planned to attend. 
The boat launch in Portland, viewed from on high where we found parking
   There were the usual signs of disaster on the way down.  When Mark called Portland Paddle (the sponsor) to confirm the event at first he was told it had happened yesterday.  When Mark expressed dismay that Facebook said it was a Sunday event, the voice reconsidered and said she was mistaken, she thought the day was Monday; but had that error corrected, the day was in fact Sunday and the event had not occurred yet.  (I'm still not sure if that reflected her being overworked or over-partied.)  There were rain showers, Mark's computer turned itself on, overheating and using up most of the charge trying to run a fan to cool itself, there was a huge traffic tie-up....  still we got to the Portland Promenade about the same time the Oru rep, Cara, arrived.

   Portland Paddle has a nice set up at East End Beach.  They offer kayak and SUP rentals, lessons and tours and with Fort Gorges just a half mile off shore, some awesome places to explore.  They take kids as young as 7 on tours.  Portland Harbor is one of my favorite places for day trips in Maine - having a kayak rental on site makes it even better.

  Cara put the kayak together, while we all kibitzed about how heavy our kayaks are.

    As Cara put it together she was careful to explain about what changes had been made since the first edition, including new end caps (which are sturdier than those on the model we tested)  We took turns sitting in the Oru, then brought it, and a second boxed Oru kayak to the beach where we took turns testing the boat.  There wasn't a very big group of testers; though the second Oru was unfolded, it wasn't used.

  The questions folks seemed to have are: 
   Is it light?  Yes, it's very light.  Folded up or constructed I could easily move a boat.

Light as a feather
  Is it sturdy?  Time will tell.  The folds are rated for 10,000 folds.  I checked the bottom of one of  the kayaks for scratches and didn't see many, but it would be nice to check it again in a year.  Mark managed to pop the back of the kayak as he got out.  He was using his paddle to brace.  A bracing paddle should be placed over the combing, while his was on the back deck, plus Mark is a bigger guy. I don't have a picture of what happened, because we scrambled to fix it.  It popped back into place, but a channel sealing section was slightly torn.  (This is a piece which snapped off every time the kayak is disassembled, the tear didn't effect seaworthiness, but it would probably need replacement.)

Is it stable?  Definitely, it's stable and it tracks well.

Is it a sea kayak?  No.  It does not claim to be a sea kayak.  It does not have genuine bulkheads.  There are float bags available.  A tester from Portland Paddle rolled the kayak easily, and I'm sure that rescues like a foot hook rescue or re-entry and roll are possible for everyone.   Scramble rescues are practical for average sized paddlers.  But it's only a twelve foot boat and its not designed for open ocean.

Is it a fun paddle?  Yes, it feels like a bigger boat than it is. It's responsive, you can edge it, it moves quickly and obediently through the water.  It tracks very well.  There is a foot brace, a bar positioned by straps.  The seat is basic and flat, but bearable.   There is storage behind the seat and some deck storage.

Optional equipment for the Oru include float bags, a backpack, and a four piece paddle adjustable in length and angle.  The float bags are a great idea, the backpack could be useful and the paddle seemed well worth the price.  Cara mentions they are thinking of a better paddle and perhaps an add on rudder. (A seat upgrade would be a nice option too - not so much more padding, which a yak pad would offer but a little contouring -  if they're looking for suggestions.)

Cara did a great job, showing us the Oru,  and letting us test it.   She had been in New York, demoing the boat and was scheduled to be at Oru's next East Coast demonstration  in Boston, Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

The Oru was a fun kayak and is very tempting.  If money were no object I'd add it to my collection.  But, as it is, we've already bought paddleboards this year. (we might be more in the Kayak-of-the-Year club)  So we need to assess where and how likely we'd be to use it.  The Oru would be great if we were regularly traveling to quiet waters, say driving south every winter....  Ideal, if we had a sailboat we were taking to exotic locations.  Tempting if we sometimes drove long distances to family gatherings and wanted access to paddling without being too blatant about it.

Also seen at the Promonade were many other kayakers.  There was a long skinny Cheaspeake lurking off shore.  A trio of fast fiberglass paddlers came in from a trip around Peakes Island and up to Little Chebeague.   A traditional paddler who'd been out rolling visited us.  He mentioned Portland was about to get a skin-on-frame store.  (maybe called Dancing Bear??)

East End Beach Portland on a Sunday afternoon is entertaining for the kayak variety alone. 


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Low Tide at Lamoine

Lamoine State Park is a lovely location, fields and forest beside the sea, the mountains of Mount Desert Island as a backdrop.  Picnicking, camping, swimming and boating are available activities.  My favorite is exploring at low tide. There's so much life available to see.  Crabs, sea stars, urchins, periwinkles, shells in abundance; and a few rarer sightings of anemone and brittle sea stars.  It's an ideal place for cold water snorkeling, and it's fun for paddling, or even just wandering along the water line.
   Now, we've been paddling this spring and summer; mostly on fresh water and mostly in kayaks.  But we haven't done anything particularly photogenic.  So I thought it was time to break from routine- and Lamoine would be a great place for our first salt water paddle board adventure.  We were there fairly early in the morning, so winds were down. 

   It took no time to pump up the boards and launch.   Though our long fins mean we need to stay in deeper water than a kayak would, the bottom was easily visible.  Sea star, barnicles and periwinkles dominated on the floor.  But higher up it was jellyfish; moon jellies and lions mane; pulsing and rotating in the water.  Enough jellyfish  so at times it felt like I was paddling through an aquarium exhibit. 
shot from underwater

   There was also this fairly odd creature; which might be a plant or an animal.  It was furled on the rock and looked like thin packing sheets of foam.  When I looked closer it appear to be clear with rows of bubbles within.  (The photo is not as clear as I'd hoped.)

    It was a lovely day, great temperature, not much wind.  We paddled upwind first, the downwind.
    The park is a backdrop for this photo.

    We continued downwind, past the park, admiring the seaside cottages, visiting with a total of six  kayakers out paddling as well.  As it grew closer to lunch we headed back to the park.
   Here our boards, stripped of their fins, are drying in the sun while we're enjoying the view from the shade.

   Summary:  Lamoine State Park   Lots of parking, beach, picnic area, pit toilets, water.  Camping available.  Fee fpor entrance, additional fee to camp.  Launch 9AM, low 10:15AM, finish was 11AM.  Not a lot of miles, but an awful lot of fun.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Greenland Paddle Board

  So a decision has been made:  implementing our standard excuse ( Anything that gets us outside and improves our balance saves us money by reducing health costs) we've purchased two paddleboards.

  We purchased Naish inflatables, a Mana Air 11'6" for Mark and Naish One 12'6" for me.  Inflatable, so we can take both boards and kayaks on the same trips.  Naish for quality.  Mana for Mark because there aren't a lot of boards for bigger guys, the One for me because it was so much fun to paddle. 

  We found these boards at Kittery Trading Post, attending their demo day to try these and lots of other boards and kayaks.

   These are very light boards, about 25 pounds each.  It took me twelve minutes to hand pump my board up to pressure.  These boards are comfortable; because they're inflatables they seem gentler both to stand and kneel on than a hard board.  They move well into the wind, fly downwind, and turn in a reasonable distance. 

   Mark's board has two small fins and a large slide in fin, mine has just the one slide in fin.  Both fins are 10 inch fins, so using a board is like always having the skeg down.  It's taken some adjustment to avoid snarling the fin on branches or muddy shallows.

   We plan to use these to enliven trips to familiar paddling locales, and to bring to family gatherings.  I think we'll get a lot of people willing to try these boards!

  We purchased a paddle as well, but Mark won't give up wooden paddles easily.   He just took a 2x4 and carved a paddleboard paddle.

    The paddle is the length recommended for him, as high as he can reach.  The blades are each about 24 inches long to get enough area to propel the board. The paddle has a hard shouldered loom, making it comfortable to grip.  

   The chief advantage:  when he needs to go up wind or up quicker current.

  I wouldn't try that standing up - at least not yet, but I would with Mark's paddle.

  It is heavier than a fiberglass paddle, but it's not bad..  We're just out having fun, it's not like we need the lightest equipment.  And my primary draw back for Greenland style paddles when kayaking, having water dumped on my lap with each stroke, isn't really a concern with a paddleboard  . 
  I really didn't find the extra weight to be an issue at all, and can't wait to have a Greenland paddle for my board too!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sage Sign in Ellsworth

One alternative to paddling is visiting nearby towns.  We went to Ellsworth one Sunday, where we discovered this sign containing  such sage advice, we felt it should be shared.

  Now I feel like I should go back on a warm summer's eve and see what sort of people need a sign like this...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Breaking Up an Ice Jam

   On the same day as our first paddle, at high tide (10:42AM) we headed to the Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor to view the ice jam.   The jam had been there for a couple days, created when rain and warming temperatures broke up ice upstream and sent it coursing to the mouth.  But where the Kenduskeag join the Penobscot, the Penobscot was still frozen solid, so the ice backed up, filling the canals with a jagged landscape.  At high tide the combination of ice and incoming water sometimes overflowed the banks, flooding parking lots.

  We wandered along the half mile jam, chatting with other voyeurs and snapping photos.  There was no flooding with this tide.

  Mid afternoon, (2PM-ish) two ice-breakers passed by our house; the Bridle and Tackle.    The Bridle has been clearing the river fairly regularly.  The last day I noted a pass-by was January 5, but I think it’s come since.  I’m not sure it goes up as far as the Bangor waterfront, but even if it has, with the cold temperatures, the river has frozen over again quickly. 
  Shortly after the icebreakers went up river, the Penobscot was once again filled with broken ice.  All afternoon chunks streamed by.
  A blurb on the five o’clock news mentioned the coast guard vessels were clearing a path to Bangor, which would allow the ice jam to flow free.  The anchor cut to a very dark Bangor waterfront, where a reporter was waiting for the ice breakers to come by.  The reporter had yet to see or hear them.  So after dinner we headed out by car to find where the ice breakers were.  We spotted the two vessels just south of Hamlin Marina/Hampden boat launch, working the river.  One at a time each breaker backed up, then moved steadily forward to strike solid ice.  On average each attack got the vessel forward one boat length (65 feet).  The second boat would back and drive forward slightly to the side, widening the path. 

  It was a beautiful night to be out; just at freezing on a still night.  Orion kept watch overhead, the January full moon slowly rose over Brewer, and the two ships kept charging at the ice.  
   We watched for 30-40 minutes.  The two breakers had made it about an eighth of a mile closer to Bangor by the time we left at 7 PM.  Not an eighth of a mile of cleared river, but an eighth mile of a narrow center path.  There was still over three miles of river to be cleared to reach the mouth of the Kenduskeag.  We heard later the two boats over nighted at Hamlin Marina

  Saturday we went to check on progress and found the boats working by the I-395 bridge.  We joined ice breaker enthusiasts on both sides of the river in watching the slow and steady progress.  

  Cars gathered at the waterfront, cameras were pointed, families gathered to watch boats battle ice.  It took two hours for the boats to go the three quarters of a mile from the bridge to the waterfront.

An hour and a half after the previous shot
  On shore the was a celebratory feel in the air, as we watched the Coast Guard wrest the Penobscot from winter's grip.
The Bridle, 65 feet long

  The impressiveness of this feat is best seen in a short video.   Video of the two ice breakers in action
   Notice the distance the icebreaker gets, watch how it tilts as it drives itself on top of the ice and imagine doing that hour after hour, mile after mile. 
    They did and by evening, the waterway was free...for awhile anyway.

  The ice jam is still in the Kenduskeag Stream.  There is a huge solid sheet of ice between the railroad bridge and Washington Street which needs to break up before the ice jam can flow through.  Perhaps that will happen next tide cycle.  Fortunately, the highest tides of the month passed without flooding.  And Bangor residents can see the Coast Guard did all it could to clear a path for that ice when it breaks.

  An earlier ice breaker related post:  On Board the Tackle 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

First Paddle

    I’m not sure it’s ever really wise to paddle in the winter, especially if it involves dragging my kayak across mounds of shore ice to access the water. 

   But it was wonderful get back on the water.  The ice was amazing, broken by the tide cycle, tossed to the shore - huge chunks of blue ice, rounded blobs of frozen snow, floating piles of skim ice.   

    Evergreen trees and high hills line our river.  Atop one pine, a pair of eagles investigated an old aerie.
  The river appeared clear, and since it was an incoming tide, we headed downstream so we’d see any large sheets of ice before they could block our landing.  Sure enough about a mile down river, we came upon a pack of ice.  Not a solid sheet, but it was jammed enough to stop us.

  Returning to our ramp, we needed to land on the ice strewn shore.  It was comforting to be in my dry suit, knowing I could wade or swim to the edge.  In this photo, I’m sitting on a firm ice chunk, while my boat floats on slush and thin ice layers.  I’m getting my ice creepers so I have a hope of walking without falling

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Alternatives to Paddling - Crossword Puzzle Answer

The answer:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Alternatives to Paddling - Crossword Puzzles

I've been working on building a crossword puzzle, related to kayaking.  It seemed like an easy enough idea to start; kayak, canoe, lake - they have so many letters in common.   But, like all of life it turned out to be far more difficult.  Sure, it would start easily enough, but then I'd need a word that started with dk and ended with zt.   Anyway I preserved, (lots of ice and below zero days makes that easier to do) and now I have this:

It''s not perfect.  There are two two-letter words (rules require three letter words); one square does not have a secondary clue at all, and several clues are obscure.  But it contains a lesson I learned, so I thought I'd post it here.  Enjoy!

The clues:

1.  Not weak or soft
5.  VW model
10.  Western Hemisphere Org., initially
13.  Dull, continuous pain
14. Archaic wanderer
15.  Apple seed
16.  Part one of lesson learned while making this
18. Wrath
19.  New in Bonn
20.  Compass dir.
21.  Oft thought while creating this
22.  Part two of lesson
25.  What Sting did with Edin Karamazov
26.  The desire for this ruins many kayak rolls
27.  “Monic” and “thin” follower
28.  Large, dark birds
29.  1947 Dennis O’Keefe movie
31.  Moved quickly
33.  Employ
34.  State not to mess with
36. Low light level
38. Not to be left unturned
42.  Part three of lesson
44.  Part four of lesson
45.  Discovered on a Scrabble word site.  Also a Roman cloak
48. Poor paddling alternative, initially
50. Baffinpaddler’s lake
51.  Enlist for a third time?
52.  Part five of lesson
55.  Father of Aoris
56.  One paid to kayak
58.  Glee’s Michele
59.  Part five of lesson
60.  Prophet
61.  Can’t do it
65.  Zorba recites the alphabet?
66.  Laud
68.  Iranian currency
69.  An aid to golfing
70.  Final part of lesson

1.  60’s awesome
2.  Ward for the very ill, initially
3.  King snout-horned beast?
4.  Homer’s River
5.  Middle Brady girl
6.  A kind of moth
7.  Elf stunt double Ty
8.  A distinct pitch
9.  Adams or Poehler
10.  Drug containing opium
11.  USAF guys
12.  Disburses
14.  One who sees
17.  Period toward evening
21.  Fancy bedspreads
22.  American suffragette
23.  Of the ancient Mariner
24.  Two words which can finish this sentence:  “To shape a dugout wood you could use an ax --”
25.  Beverage made of yogurt
28.  Symbol for Ruthenium
30.  Italian city
32.  Zero
35.  Takei’s memorable role
37.  Allot
39.  Just one
40.  US Ocean Org., initially
41.  Abbrev. list enders
43.  Electric bug killers
45.  Former PLO chief
46.  NHL Flyer’s coach
47.  A fruit and a color
49.  Put a price on
52.  A type of waterwheel
53.  Fair type favored by the SCA
54.  Maldives money unit
57.  As ye sow, so shall ye …
60.  Luxurious retreat
62.  Storage container
63.  Fall behind
64.  Spanish article
67.  Neighbor to WY