Sunday, November 28, 2010

Updates: Excuses, Buoy, Castle Rock, Blog

As the sun goes down, ice crystals begin to grow on the surface of the river
Excuses: “It’s too hot”… “It’s uncomfortable”… “I’m not paddling anywhere dangerous”…. “I’ll stay close to shore.” It’s not a pretty thing when excuses that I've heard from those who don’t want to wear lifejackets play back from inside my head. It’s all about the drysuit. I’ve thought about buying a drysuit since I saw the “I Shouldn’t be Alive” episode about two kayakers crossing Rosario Strait, (which I was a little embarrassed to see was first shown in 2005. ) It was obvious that a drysuit well outperforms a wetsuit in cold water. I’ve actually had a drysuit for a couple of years. But I’ve never worn it. The story in the August Sea Kayaker about Randy Morgart falling into a river on a warm, calm, winter day reminded me how weak my excuses really were, particularly by late November. Plus this year I’ve had all the good examples of folks wearing drysuits showing up in blogs. So, those of you wondering if being a good example has any pay off, I’ll confirm yes, you’ve done your good deed for the year.

It's a misty day, so it must be above freezing
I’ve cut some rings off the neck of my drysuit, but nothing at the wrists, even though the gasket it a little tight, especially on my left wrist. I figure the neck can just be snug as opposed to tight, since I plan to keep my head well above water, but that excuse doesn’t apply to the wrists. I’ve gotten larger boots to accommodate the feet. And it’s been pretty comfortable. I hope to stick to my good intentions come spring, with its warm air and cold water.

Buoys: This is a picture of a buoy on the Penobscot taken Saturday.

It’s depressingly not a different buoy than it was this summer. I now suspect that the buoys are not changed out annually. Eventually I will get the final answer.  And look - by Dec 4 they were in place.

Castle Rock: I’ve discovered that Castle Rock can be viewed from the Orrington Picnic Area, which is about one mile south of Center Road along route 15. I suspect that the picnic area is closed for the winter, and Castle Rock does lose something when viewed from over a quarter mile away, but it is there.

Castle Rock as viewed from Orrington
Also, Friday as we paddled by I spotted a raccoon slinking away on the ledge. As I sat in my boat regretting that missed photo opportunity, a second raccoon followed behind it, then a third! Just like clowns from a clown car they kept appearing from this nothing little indent, until at last there was only this final raccoon, head down hanging out on the ledge.
Not much of the snoozing raccoon shows
Blog: Paddling less means more time working on other projects, including the blog. I’ve redone some of the pages, and added some links to the right. One, which appears as just a tiny link is to Paddling Planet. That’s a fun site which accumulates sea kayaking blogs from around the world. Gnarlydog, and A Whole Bunch of Ings posts appear there; and it’s a handy way to track them. The other links to the Outdoor Blogger Network , a site working to accumulate links to outdoor themed blogs. Many of the blogs there are currently fishing and hunting blogs, but there are categories for ecological, paddling, nature photography, hiking and more. That’s another fun place to spend some time. I often look through the photography blogs, and I enjoy Belfast Bushcraft, whose efforts at bushcraft remind me that you don’t have to be an expert to have fun and create something useful. And I can’t help but hope that lots more paddlers show up there.

Daily Paddles:

Mark takes a moment to free his release strap of ice
Daily paddles are fewer. We’re approaching our temperature limits, it gets harder to keep the hands and feet warm, and without nimble fingers, I’m not interested in paddling. In addition, ice is showing up on the Penobscot, and though it looks attractive in small clusters, it is decidedly less so in major sheets.

Mark has lifted some newly formed ice
And finally, my work hours are increasing. January through February I expect to work six days a week, and though I love my job, that does eat into the available daylight. So, every paddle may be our last, and those paddles we do take will be close to shore (and with a drysuit).


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  2. That Seals sray skirt does not look like ordinary neoprene but has a shiny surface to it.
    Is it still neoprene with a rubber coating or is it a thinner fabric like Reed Chillcheater?
    Very interested if there is an alternative to Reed since some of my skirts don't last much more than a year...

  3. That spray skirt is just an ordinary inexpensive coated nylon skirt. I've only had it for about a year now but it's doing okay. It keeps me mostly dry, except when I angle the edge of the cockpit below water, when there is some seepage under the rim. I don't know how well it will hold up though. It's a Seals 1.7 Inlander if you want to google it.

  4. I was hoping it would be stretch fabric that is rubberised.
    While I am happy with the performance of my Reed Aquatherm I am disappointed with its durability.
    Looking around for a better product that is thin, seals well and breathes...

  5. Hi Molly! IMO, it is ALWAYS important to prioritize safety above all other considerations when paddling, especially when the water temperature gets into the "hypothermia" range. Also, I find that the older I get, the less I can tolerate really cold outside temperatures. Another downside, my wife Rachel refuses to paddle when the outside temperatures sink below 50F, so I either have to go it alone (not a good idea) or get back to that good book I'm reading! You could label the above as "excuses", but I would tend to label them as "caution tempered by good sense!" BTW, I've played around with the idea of getting a dry suit, but the high price tag has always been a show stopper for me. Do you have any recommendations on where to shop for dry suits? How about brands and features / items to look for in a "good" dry suit?

  6. Mike, I don't really have good advice on the drysuit. Mine is a Triton from NRS; it was purchased as a closeout special and was the cheapest drysuit available. But as the post indicates, I have very little experience with drysuits. Mark has a different suit from Kotatot, similar story. He was happier with his, which he bought a year before I got mine. But it wasn't available in my size. Kayak Across the Water recently reviewed a suit. Maybe others will help with reviews? In late season we often seek out shallow streams, where an flip means we wade to shore. But kayaking in cold weather is always iffy, sometimes the best decision is to stay home, we've begun cultivating some trails by water. Sunday we substituted a hike for paddling. I don't think cold is an excuse; not paddling under adverse conditions is common sense; the excuses were the weak reasons I kept putting off using the drysuit.

  7. And Mike, long before I got a drysuit, I'd buy a wetsuit. I have a farmer jane model with some sort of fleece like lining. It fits well, it's comfortable and it's a base layer. If we're driving to paddle I can throw pants over it and look normal in a store. If I get hot while paddling I can remove the outer layers or push up my sleeves, conversely I can easily add a coat if I'm cold. It's lasted really well and still works even if it has some holes in it, so I wouldn't hesitate to buy a used wetsuit from an outfitter or guide service.