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.)   (I'm fortunate that Janet Gagnon from An Ocean Lover in Maine identified this as a tunicate, possibly a didemnum.  Didemnum vexillum is an invasive also known by the unpleasant name, marine vomit.  This particular variant seemed to be whiter and cleaner than other species.  Since I haven't noticed it before, I think it is likely an invasive.
   Ocean Lovers, and Maine Ocean Lovers in particular are missing out if they don't check out Janet's engaging blog.) 

    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.