Monday, April 24, 2023

Kayak Camping Tip

Don't Camp with Cows (or Bulls)

When kayaking down rivers in North America, it is not uncommon to encounter cattle grazing in the hills and along the river banks.  They may look cute and peaceful but they are not good campsite companions.  Most wildlife will avoid humans and campsites. Cows are not wildlife. They will wander into campsites and can be quite disruptive.

One year Jeff and I were doing a self-support whitewater kayak trip on the Eel River.  We had a longer than usual day on the river with lots of headwind.  When we rolled into camp, there were a few cows grazing in the hills above the beach.  There were no signs of cows on the beach (no tracks and no cow pies).  In our wind-blown, tired, and hungry state, we decided to set up camp on the north end of the beach where there were some boulders to block the wind.  We dug a pit in the sand and got a fire going and enjoyed a tasty dinner and some choice beverages.  

campfire and kayak camp on Eel River
Kayak camping on the Eel River

After dinner it was still too windy to set up our tent so we set up our sleeping pads, bags, and bivy sacks behind the boulders.  The fire was at our feet.

That night, I awoke to a large creature sniffing around the dry bags by my head.  I nudged Jeff awake and he shot straight out of his sleeping bag with a ROAR!

The bull jumped back, ran over the remnants of our campfire and bellowing up into the hills. (we suspect he scorched his balls on our campfire).

Lesson Learned - don't camp with cows or bulls.

An angus bull resting along the Eel River.

Monday, April 17, 2023

P&H Leo Sea Kayak First Impressions

This spring, we added a P&H Leo Sea Kayak to the Liquid Fusion Kayaking Fleet.  We will be using the Leo for students who want to learn touring sea kayak skills.  Personally, I am planning to use the Leo for kayak camping trips, sea kayak touring, and kayak sailing.  We recently had the Leo out for a couple of paddles on the Mendocino Coast.
Sea kayak rock gardening Mendocino
P&H Leo Sea Kayak at a Blowhole on the Mendocino Coast of California

Before paddling the Leo, we moved the seat and the thigh hooks.  Both Jeff and I found it to be quite comfortable.  Jeff is 5’11” and 145 pounds.  I am 5’4” and 122 pounds.  I had the foot braces adjusted to the shortest setting.  Paddlers with shorter legs than mine might need to make some additional accommodations to reach the foot braces. (My inseam is about 28”).

Jeff and I took turns paddling the Leo.  The other sea kayak we were using was the P&H Virgo.  Both kayaks were the medium volume core-lite models.  

sea kayaking mendocino
Side by side look at the P&H Virgo and P&H Leo

My first impression of the Leo was how stable it is. I was pleased that it had a bit more glide and hull speed than the Virgo.  The extra hulls speed was nice when riding surges through rock garden channels.  I did not feel that it this increased length sacrificed maneuverability.  Of course, one needs a little more room in a sea cave to turn the 15’11” Leo in compared to the 14’5” Virgo.  Both Jeff and I did bump the stern a few times turning around in tight spaces.
Mendocino sea cave kayaking
Jeff Laxier taking the Leo for a spin in the sea caves of the Mendocino Coast.

The Leo definitely rewards a skilled paddler who edges their kayak to turn.  As sea kayaks are becoming shorter and more maneuverable, we see paddlers not using this key skill that really makes a sea kayak sing.  A slight edge freed up the hull of the Leo to dance about.  I will be following up with another video experimenting with the different amounts of edge and the edging effect on maneuvering the Leo.
edged sea kayak turn Mendocino California
Edged Turn in the Leo

The Leo doesn’t have a lot of bow rocker which inclines it toward tracking in a straight line.  I think it is going to be a ton of fun surfing following seas and kayak sailing.  In a skilled paddler’s hands who is comfortable edging to turn, I think the Leo’s maneuverability is comparable to the Virgo and perhaps a bit more nimble; however, neither boat would be my first choice for rock gardening, sea kayak surfing, and coastal play.
sea kayak rock gardening mendocino
Sea Squirting the Leo.

In terms of first impressions - I think the Leo is a fun touring sea kayak.  It is remarkably stable and ideal for paddlers of all skill levels that are looking for a general purpose, durable, low maintenance sea kayak.  Compared to the Virgo, I would most likely choose the Leo over the Virgo.

Here is a video of our first journey in the P&H Leo.  We will be posting more reviews and content on the Leo and instructional contacts on the LFK YouTube Channel so be sure to subscribe to get the goods.

We will be paddling the Leo more later this spring.  If you have questions or would like to see something in particular, please let me know in the comments.

Best of days on the water,

PS While the Leo is not designed as a rock gardening kayak and is not my first choice for coastal play, I still couldn't resist running a few pour-overs with it.

sea kayak rock gardening mendocino
Cate Hawthorne rock hopping on the Mendocino Coast.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Paddle Care Tip

Don't be left up the creek without a paddle!

Broken paddles are no fun, can be a safety hazard, and impact your bank account.  Being mindful of your paddle can go a long way to preventing it from breaking.  One way to protect your paddle is don't put your paddle on the ground.

Sea Kayak Paddle on Ground
Don't put your paddle on the ground.

Paddles on the ground can get stepped on or run over.  I regularly see paddlers javelin throw their paddle onto shore when landing.  Then the paddle gets left on the ground as people step on it and even drag kayaks across it.  The impact from hitting the ground and/or getting stepped on or drug over will stress the paddle.  This can create tiny cracks that you don't see but may crack further when you aren't expecting it.

Paddle Care Tip - 

Get in the habit of never setting your paddle on the ground.  

Here are 3 ways to protectively stow your paddle when you are on shore.

1. Put the Paddle in the Cockpit

Stow Lendal Paddle in Cockpit of P&H Sea Kayak

2. Stow the Paddle Under the Decklines or bungees.

Stowing Lendal Paddle Under Deck Lines on P&H Sea Kayak

3.  Secure the paddle with a paddle park.

Paddle Park for Lendal Paddle on P&H Sea Kayak
Paddle Park

Happy Paddles make Happy Paddlers :)

Monday, April 3, 2023

Join the Journey

Happy Spring!  Are you getting excited about spring/summer kayaking adventures?  Jeff and I are and have adventures and projects that we would like to share with you.

Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Cate Hawthorne in her happy place - on a wave!

On the Mendocino Coast, we have had a wet and chilly winter.  After 3 dry years, it is nice to have a proper winter with lots of precipitation.  Nothing record breaking here on the coast except for colder than average temperatures and what seems to be daily hail storms.  Elsewhere in California has been a different story - including inland Mendocino County.  Our inland paddling playground of the Eel River has been frozen, flooded, and even snowed in.  Mudslides, down trees, and significant snowfall have impeded travel in the county.  We have been happily hanging out at home on the coast working on projects, surfing, rock gardening, and dreaming of the spring whitewater season.  

Hail! Hail! Hail!

We have been working on revving up Liquid Fusion Kayaking's Instructional Program.  In December, we moved out of our rental and tour location on the Noyo River.  We are currently operating the business end of LFK from our home office and then meeting our students at the water (river, harbor, beach, pool, ect.).   This change has enabled us to have more availability for kayak lessons and for instructional projects.


As we evolve LFK back to its roots in kayak instruction, we invite you to join in the journey - on the water with us and/or virtually.  

Sea Kayak Rock Gardening Lesson on the Mendocino Coast

To join us on the water, here is a link to information on our custom private lessons.  Our schedule has a bit of flexibility to accommodate your interests and schedule so hit us up with your dreams and let's make it happen.

You can also join us virtually.  We are creating more instructional and educational videos and blog posts.  We will post some teasers on Instagram and Facebook but be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and my Woman on Water Blog to get the goods.

If there are any skills or topics that you would like to see from us in a video or blog post, please let us know.  We have some ideas but would also be stoked to hear from you.

Best of days on the water,


Whitewater of the SEA!