Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Hockey Stick Roll

This week when I was grabbing paddles to take to our Monday night pool session at the CV Starr Center, I grabbed a stick (not a greenland paddle but a hockey stick). Peter Donohue, editor of California Kayaker, inspired the idea this summer. Here's a video of my first attempt at the hockey stick roll.

After I loaded this onto YouTube, I discovered that some paddlers in the Olypmic Kayak Club have already rolled with a hockey stick. They call it the Canadian Emergency Paddle Roll.

Pretty fun, eh?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rainy Day Reading

After a busy summer, a much awaited rainy day has arrived. Ohhh . . . how I have been looking forward to a rainy day spent in a cozy chair in the sunroom cuddled up with a blanket, a cat and a good book.

Today I am reading Wild Trees by Richard Preston. A story of passion and daring and redwoods . . .

As my laptop has been down, I have been reading more than writing while at our shop on the Noyo River. If you are looking for a rainy day book, here's my top picks from my summer reading -

Confessions of a Wave Warrior by Eric Soares - Tales of Eric's beginnings as a boy in the water and sea kayaking adventures (and misadventures) with the Tsunami Rangers. Eric has recently started blogging on his website. His latest blog was on sea cave safety.

Diary of a Sea Captain's Wife: Tales of Santa Cruz Island by Margaret Holden Eaton - Jeff is reading this one now. Fascinating stories of early days in the channel islands including stories of boats, fishing, camping, bootlegging, and movies.

The Raven's Gift by John Turk - An adventurer/scientist's travels to the Siberian Wilderness and spiritual journeys with a Koryak Shaman. A must read!!! Adventure, exploration, spiritual journey, and even a search for reindeer. I am going to check out his other writings.

The Chicken Thief Soldier by Michael Fields - My high school English teacher crafted a page-turner coming of age novel set within Valley Forge, PA. Here's a description of it that does way more justice to Fields' writing than I can.

The Shack by William P. Young. An "out of the box" look at how we view tragedy and god and probably a book that will mean something different to each reader.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. A fun tale that entertains with a family's quest to raise their own food and support local farmers that also educates about the realities of agriculture in our modern world. Good resources as well in the book and website.

California Kayaker Magazine - a fun, new magazine that covers different aspects of kayaking.

Although I have to admit that a rainy day at the beginning of fall may have me picking up Dick Schwind's - West Coast River Touring: Rogue River Canyon and South which is likely to bring sweet afternoon cat nap dreams of our upcoming Mendocino County whitewater season.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It FLOATS and Surfs!!!

The frame was almost too pretty to skin but that wasn't the purpose.

So I sewed a ballistic nylon skin on her.

And she floated.

And hasn't broken yet kayaking in our Mendocino rock gardens.

Good thing I skinned it with the 12 ounce cloth.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Skin on Frame Kayak

Progress continues on my skin on frame kayak which I am building on our deck over the Noyo River. It is fun to hear the comments that paddlers make about her as they cruise by on the river.
The chestnut chickadees, downy woodpeckers, wilson's warblers, orange crowned warblers, and violet green swallows flit about feeding in the alder tree by my new kayak. It is fun to hear and watch them. Perhaps they will be inspiration when naming her.

When I cut the ribs, I put them in the mortises for a stegosaurus effect. At the moment when I took this photo, Stan and Jim of the Lost Coast Chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association rowed by and were intrigued.

Steaming and bending the ribs can be a little nerve-racking. I broke several of my first attempts on the steeply V'd first ribs but then started to get the hang of it - sort of. My ribs definitely aren't perfect. The keel required some shimming and I am hoping that the chines will help pull things into shape a little bit better tomorrow.

My friend John's ribs are very symmetrical and even (the boat closest to the river). But my purpose for building this boat is to do it on my own (with a little insight from my friends) and learn from and enjoy the experience. It will be fun to see how well my imperfect boat paddles.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lazy Days on the Noyo River

Lazy days on the Noyo River? Well not really but it kind of feels like it - kayaking, bird watching, soaking up the sun. Pinch me . . . it this a dream?

Birds, birds, and more birds . . . I think that spring/early summer is one of the most exciting times for birders. We are enjoying the wilson's warblers buzzing about, the musical songs of the black headed grosbeaks, glimpses of the downy woodpeckers, diving osprey, fuzzy mallard ducklings, and colorful violet green swallows. The Canada geese have been rather entertaining lately. The goslings are growing fast and they seem to have adopted a new member to their flock. I have heard of the odd duck but how about the odd goose?

I have started building my skin on frame kayak which is modeled after Brian Schultz's Cape Falcon F-1. It is magical to be able to work on it on our deck just above the Noyo River where I will launch it (hopefully by the end of the month).

Ahhhh . . . life is good.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Twilight Whitewater Kayaking

Winter and early spring is typically our whitewater kayak season in Mendocino County, California. We feel pretty spoiled when we get late spring rain and boat every chance we get - even if it means an evening twilight run.

Monday, May 10, 2010

New Green Kayak

The new green kayak gets wet and wild . . .

on the Eel River, Mendocino County, California.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


My world is looking pretty green at the moment.

All of the trees and plants are green with new leaves and growth.

Jeff and I "adopted a highway" and donned our green vests while picking up litter.

Jeff and I just painted our bedroom bright spring green,

my new green sleeping bag just arrived, and I just unwrapped my new green whitewater kayak which unintentionally matches my green bike.

So is green my favorite color? No, but maybe it will be.

Monday, March 29, 2010

And on the Seventh Day . . . We Paddled

It wasn't a suped up DeLorean but my Toyota Tacoma that transported me for a week this month back in time. My destination wasn't small town America but the old Naval Air Station in Alameda, California.

For seven days (eight due to a material issue), I felt like I was immersed in a high school woodshop class. We were mostly using hand tools and techniques that the Inuits used to construct a skin on frame kayak. Many of our materials and tools were modern due to the fact that our goal was to finish these boats within a week. Our instructor's philosophy is that one could spend all day completing a task with simple tools but that doesn't leave much time for surfing.

Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayak was our instructor. He is world renowned in the skin on frame boat design and construction. He usually teaches classes in his workshop in Manzanita, Oregon; however, he will take his tools and materials on the road to teach in other locations throughout the world. Recently Brian completed a class in Tasmania. Brian was recruited to teach a class in the San Francisco Bay area by several Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK) because of their interest in a specific design that he builds. The Mariner Coaster is a popular sea kayak in the Bay Area; and Brian has designed a skin on frame version called the F-1.

Why build a skin on frame kayak? Everyone has their own reasons. In our class, the main reasons were to have a lightweight kayak that handled rough waters well and could be built to fit a specific individual - sounds like I'm not the only Goldilocks kayaker. It was the Goldilocks in me that drew me to interest in Skin on Frame kayak construction. If the manufacturers didn't build a boat that fit me and my paddling needs, then maybe I could. I had been researching skin on frame construction and was contemplating taking a stab at building one with a little help from my friend John who has built one with Wolfgang Brinck - Bay Area small boat builder and author of the Aleutian Kayak. Typical of one of my research projects, the kitchen table stacked up with books on skin on frame construction and the internet was scoured for information.

A class seemed like a great way to learn the ins and outs without lots of trials and tribulations. And then it happened . . . a post on the Bay Area Sea Kayaker's online forum BUZZ appeared. Maryly posted that she wanted to take Brian's class in the bay area to build a F-1 but was unable to. She queeried if some one would be interested in taking the class and building an F-1 for her." Ding-ding-ding . . . we have a winner (actually 2 - Maryly who gets an awesome custom skin on frame kayak and Cate who gets a hands on experience to learning how to build a skin on frame.)

It was awesome!!! Under Brian's guidance and assistance, Gordon, LaRhee, and I shaped wood into a frame. Each of our kayaks were of the same design but being customized for the size of the paddler who would be paddling them.

For 3 days, we drilled holes, carved out mortices and tenons, steamed and bent wooden ribs, planed surfaces, and joined the pieces with wooden pegs and artificial sinew lashings. Many discussions ensued during the process including comparisons of the techniques and materials that we were using compared to the Inuits as well as discussions on paddling skills and techniques, philosophies of kayak instruction, sustainable organic farming, and whitewater kayaking.
At the end of day 4, our frames were completed and we had carved paddles. We put our woodworking tools away and got out needles and thread.

Day 5 was a fabric and sewing party. At the end of day 5, we had skinned our boats (balistic nylon not seal skins) and were wetting them to get the fabric to shrink into the shape of the frame. We wet the boats. Instead of water soaking into the fabric, it beaded up. !@#$% - the manufacturer sent us the wrong material. The need to reorder the fabric and reskin the boats became apparent so class was dismissed until the following weekend.

A little side trip 2 hangars down was in store - we ventured down to Hangar 1 for some vodka tasting to celebrate the early beginning of the weekend for us.

A week later, we returned to our little workshop among the hangars of the Alameda Naval Air Station. Reskinning the boats went quickly as we were now experienced boat skinners and this time the skins shrunk to fit the frame. The next morning, we treated the skins with "goop" a polyurethane mixture to seal them. On the 7th (actually 8th day), we outfitted the boats and paddled them.

And they paddled beautifully. Brian demonstrated some techniques with the Greenland Paddle and off we went. The kayak that I had built paddled smoothly in the water. The secondary stability was excellent. I practiced some edged turns with sweeps strokes and found the boat to be very responsive. The warm and sunny day inspired notions of getting my hair wet so I did some sculling and rolling and found the boat did exactly what I wanted it to do. I look forward to building my own and putting it through the measures of kayaking in the surf and rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast.

Maryly smiled from ear to ear as she paddled her new handmade kayak. When we were finished with our test paddle, it was really cool to see her effortlessly carry it from the water to her car Mission accomplished - a lightweight, custom fit kayak!!!

I can't wait to build mine!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Goldilock's Issues Revisited

This boat is too wide, this boat is too deep, this boat is sooo uncomfortable . . .

Last spring I fessed up to my Goldilocks ways in my blog and online. I stuck my neck out with some posts on forums in discussions of boats for small adults. Of course I was lambasted several times on for voicing my opinion (by men of course) but also found many other women in the same too big boat as myself.

Almost a year later, Goldilocks has had several revelations:

1. Don't expect others to understand my issues with boat design and fit. Everyone is in their own boat when it comes to this subject. I do feel for those with big feet as they seem to have as many if not more fit issues than us petite paddlers do.

2. YEAH DAGGER and WAVESPORT!!!! You guys got it!!! I was stoked last year to see that Confluence Watersports' new whitewater kayaks - the Dagger Axiom and Wavesport Diesel had sizes for all sizes of adults. I reserved judgement though until I had a chance to paddle both. Last week, I had the chance to paddle the Dagger Axiom 8.0 and the Wavesport Diesel 60 and was stoked that both fit and performed wonderfully. Now, I have the tough decision of which boat to choose and even tougher choice of what color.

3. Kudos to The River Store in Lotus, CA on the American River. They have an excellent selection of sizes and boats in their demo fleet and very helpful employees.

4. I still love my Eskimo Kendo Starlight. Solid German plastic and a petite 29 pounds. Not my choice for creeking but definitely a fun river runner and ocean rock gardening boat.

5. If the boats don't fit, build your own. Skin on frame sea kayaks have captured my interest. I am in the finishing stages of building one for another petite paddler and am looking forward to starting on one for myself in the near future. Check out Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayak boats and ideas on boat design.

Stay tuned to see if Goldilocks ends up with a new river runner and what color she chooses and for trials and tribulations of skin boat construction.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Boat - New Paddle - New Waters - Happy New Year

We have been enjoying drop in kayak sessions at the new pool just blocks from our house in Fort Bragg. It has been nice to have a couple of hours to just play in calm, warm water -no waves to catch, no wildlife to watch for, and no where to go. So what does one do - enjoy the music and mess around in boats. Kayak polo - anyone?

This month I started playing with the greenland paddle during our pool sessions. WOW - it is so much fun. I have been intrigued by the greenland paddling style for its traditional roots and admired the fluidity of movements from the first time that I saw Cheri Perry rolling in This is the Sea 3. It has brought a new sense of kinesthetic awareness to my rolling including more precise and controlled movement. Here's a clip of one of my first rolls with the Greenland Paddle (This is a start and definitely room for improvement).

New for me this year is paddling a performance surf kayak. There has been a green Mike Johnson Design Mini Mako sitting on our kayak rack for a couple of years now. I finally got out our bag of foam and outfitted it. SWEET!!! It is has a totally different feel than any other kayak that I have paddled. It is a fast boat and makes catching waves effortless (almost). I have had a few head over heels tumbles from catching one of the rails and definitely need to learn more about maneuvering the mini mako in the surf. I feel like I have upgraded from my Camry-like Eskimo Kendo to a high performance sports car.

New waters for me besides more time in the surf zone include our local whitewater runs. Last weekend I had my first run on Rancheria Creek and understand why so many boaters rave about the run. It is scenic and fun. Miles of class II rapids keep one entertained and grinning from ear to ear while traveling through a mystical mossy canyon inspires awe as one watches for wood sprites and fairies in the seemingly ancient forest.

Winter rains have also put us back on the main fork of the Eel River between Outlet Creek and Dos Rios. I definitely get to exorcise my demons on this Class III run (more on that in another entry). One of the highlights of this run for me of course are the birds including American dippers, bald eagles, and believe it or not - a male harlequin duck (this is the first recorded sighting of one on an inland river in Mendocino County). In this photo, Jeff watches a 2 year old bald eagle land on a rock next to us on the Eel River.

Good Stuff!!! And more to come!!!