Thursday, August 27, 2009

Smoke Detectors Go Camping

I've always been a bit leery of smoke detectors. For example, how reliable are they really? How can they work when the power goes down? Is changing the battery once a year often enough? What about the radioactive thingie? Will it eventually kill you long before the fire does?

Well, there's an safe, non electric alternative at last! Not only will it work in the home, but it carries on working when you're out camping during a paddling trip. You can even take one along with you while your camping! So what is it, you ask? I'm referring to the 'Jiffy Pop' heat detector shown in the photo above. Not only will this little baby wake you up from a dead sleep when it detects heat, it will go on to feed you while your new house (or campground) is being rebuilt. Will your old detector do that? I didn't think so...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Maelström's Vaag 174

Now that I've had a Maelström Kayak Vaag 174 for most of the summer where I've had a chance to paddle in a variety of conditions, I thought I could report on how we were getting along. First, this boat is very different from the QCC 600 which I also own and have paddled since 2004. Where the latter is a boat more suited to making long passages loaded with gear for a couple of weeks or more, the Vaag, with it's much greater rocker and smaller hatches is more at home at play in rougher water in conditions where stability and maneuverability are in greater demand. Together I feel that these boats complement each other very well for the two types of paddling I tend to do most: tripping and playing.

Seated in the comfy cockpit, there are a number of items to make life comfortable on the water. The seat with attached side pads is simply glued onto the hull, so it can be removed and adjusted to suit. The back rest is a piece of foam which can also by moved and shaped easily. It is glued to the rear bulkhead which slopes up directly behind the seat. I haven't altered it yet, but intend to do so to make laybacks more comfortable.

When in the water, lifting the bow and draining the cockpit water is not only simple, but virtually all the water can be easily removed in a single lift. There is both a day hatch centered behind the cockpit as well as a smaller mini-hatch just forward for small items like snacks, car keys and so on. All the hatches are made by KayakSport. They are made from soft rubber with a harder plastic center and are all tethered internally. The mini-hatch is all rubber and tethered externally as seen in the photo. So far I've not found any leaks when playing around, rolling etc. There are bungies everywhere to tuck things under and reflective perimeter lines running right to the extremities. I sometimes catch my knuckles on the fittings closest to the cockpit when paddling, but this may be due to being inattentive with my forward stroke. The carrying handles are neatly held in place with bungie cords.

A loop of cord inserted inside a short piece of plastic tubing acts as a paddle holder at the bow. My Greenland stick slips in nicely without stratching the deck. Split Euro paddle handes would also fit. A clever idea!

The foot-braces are a standard item requiring one to pinch a lever behind the peg and then sliding them fore or aft for adjustment. There's plenty of foot-room!

Unlike my QCC, pulling down on either end of the Vaag will result in it wanting to tip over. I have used this method to assist in getting back in the boat after a wet exit. With the Vaag, the only method which seems to work for me so far has been to pull myself up on the rear deck from the side just behind the cockpit, swing my leg over the aft deck and then slide forward until my seat can drop into the cockpit. I usually get some water inside the cockpit as I heave myself up out of the water, but Maelstrom sells a Seal sprayskirt equipped with a bailing hole, perhaps just for this purpose!

I find paddling the Vaag, using a bit of skeg - adjusted via a slider on the left side of the cockpit - is helpful whenever there's much wind, especially coming from the quarters or the sides. Otherwise the boat tracks well considering how much rocker there is in the hull. Sliding the skeg down to the half mark and lower, puts the boat on rails to the point where, at times, it can be a struggle to turn. With it all the way up, it's easy to spin the boat in place once it's leaned on edge a bit.

Paddling in rougher water is where the Vaag really shines. I was taken aback by how stable and comfortable it is paddling in wind-driven waves in the 1 meter range, the biggest I've been out in so far. This includes going up-wind, down-wind or across the waves even with the boat empty! It simply inspires confidence, in my opinion. I'm sure it can handle bigger stuff than my paddling skills will allow, but it's good to know it's ready for me when I'm ready for bigger stuff!

I ordered a black hull to match the black hatch covers. Of course hull scratches show up clearly against the black, but it'll be easy to tell when it's time to re-do the hull! An available option is keel strips which would probably be worthwhile if you plan to paddle anywhere with rocky coastlines!

So as I near the end of the summer, I am very happy to own a Maelström Kayak Vaag. I look forward to having many interesting paddles in her!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dragons Come to Sherbrooke

Even since I got to go out in a Dragon boat in July, I've been fascinated with these multi-paddler craft. There is a thrill both paddling and watching these boats skimming across the water. A series of races was held in Sherbrooke, Qc yesterday and, naturally, I had to have a look.

First the boats...

Then the paddlers...

Then they're off...

I'm working on some video footage, a little collage of the races, which I'll post on Vimeo (or see the sidebar link) later when it's done. In the meantime, enjoy the photos!

Update! Video is now online. Click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cooling Up, Cooling Down

In the recent hot weather we've been aaa... enjoying (over 30°C and humid), there have been two means of staying cool. The obvious one was to get the boat out on the water and practice rolling and rescuing, standing up to paddle, parading on the aft deck and so on. It was never long before one ended up more in the water than on it.

The next preferred cooling technique was to go climbing. In the photo above friends and family took a post-wedding (my daughter married her beau on the weekend) hike up a local hill called the Pinnacle where we caught a welcome breeze and a hazy view.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

See-Thru Kayaking

I suppose one way to learn to become 'one with your boat' when out kayaking, if to have a see-thru deck and hull. Thus when the instructor says something like "Bring your lower knee up and push the deck" everyone will be able to see exactly what is being asked of them. Getting that transparent boat has always been a problem until recently, but not any more.

A local company called 'Appalaches' can provide you with a custom sized SOF style kayak covered in heavy clear plastic. Built somewhat like those designed by Yost, the boats have a distinct look on the water. I haven't tried one, but I understand a few have already been sold. Not recommended for those who like to paddle naked...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Going Deep

While in Newfoundland last month, I went paddling with a fellow who works with remote underwater robotic devices, usually in connection with offshore oil rigs. The job offers him a number of interesting opportunities one of which is pictured above.

The styrofoam coffee cup on the left is your standard sized cup most people are no doubt familiar with. The small cup on the right used to be standard size, but my paddling friend took it on a deep dive. As you can perhaps see, the cup went deep: 1041 meters deep off the site known as the Flemish Cap, southeast of Newfoundland. It survived the ordeal, but got the air punched out of it. Makes me thankful, kayaking is a surface water activity for the most part!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Paddling On A Looner Lake

I was out paddling yesterday with a friend of mine and we discovered the lake was nearly awash with loon activity. Here's a photo of a few of them heading our way to check us out...

They all looked and looked and looked some more...

... and then, finally satisfied with our choice of kayaks, off they went to see what else was happening on Looner Lake!