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(updated July 15, 2014)

Sea Kayaking Journal
(and a bit on Sailing)

ďLife is either a daring adventure, or nothing.Ē - Helen Keller

 
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New England Paddlesports Show April 19-21, 2013 - University of New Hampshire


Latest News

 

Intro

April 15, 2013:

I'm still waiting for the weather here to feel like Spring.  We have had snow showers for the past 6 days now, and I woke to another fresh dusting of snow this morning. This new snow hasn't amounted to anything, as it melts as soon as the temperature rises above freezing.  But my nearby lake is still frozen solid, so no kayaking for me yet. Last year my first paddle was on April 14th, so I'm already a day late . . . and it will likely be at least another week before the ice is off this year. 

But my best friend and I will be heading down to the University of New Hampshire to attend this year's New England Paddlesports Show early Saturday morning . . . so it will at least feel like the paddling season has begun.

I just created a new page as an archive for My 2012 Kayak Journal, that includes the journal of my 2012 paddles and my trials in selecting a new sea kayak.


April 2, 2013:

Last year I kayaked 43 times, from April 14th (as soon as my home lake was ice free), until November 12th (when it was getting too cold to safely paddle alone).  According to my own estimates, I paddled roughly 430 miles in 2012.

This was a bit below my average of roughly 500 miles per season, but my best friend was out of the country during the middle of the summer, so I had to do a lot more solo paddles (19 of my 43 paddles were solo).  My solo paddles are almost always workout paddles, where I paddle as hard as I can for about 2 hours (covering roughly 10 miles).

I finally upgraded to a longer sea kayak last year, but it didn't arrive until the second week of August, and by then it was too late to find a buyer for my older sea kayak. This was probably for the best, as I now have a second kayak for friends who don't yet own a kayak. But it did make for a very tight paddling budget, as my new sea kayak was rather expensive . . . and gas prices were high all summer.  It all worked out fine in the end, but I ended up doing a LOT more paddling very close to home.  This season I'm hoping to be able to travel a bit more often, so that I can spend more time on newer lakes (or at least less familiar ones).

  This page is my way of sharing my love for kayaking, and to provide a bit of information that, based on my own experience, can be difficult to find. 

I began kayaking in the Spring of 2004 and immediately fell in love with it.  Kayaking has become my favorite recreation, and I'm a bit obsessive about it.  Most recreational paddlers are only on the water from June through August, but I generally paddle for six full months (from mid April until mid October). My nearest lake usually remains frozen over until early April, but I'm generally out on it within a week of ice out (even when it is still less than warm out).  And I have paddled as late as mid November.  I paddle an average of 400 to 500 miles each year (around 100 hours of paddling) . . .  the average kayaker burns about 250 calories/hour (I probably average more like 300 calories/hour, as I tend to push myself pretty hard). 


For many paddlers, kayaking is a real passion . . .

Paddling becomes part of your soul and spending time on the water is often as much a spiritual experience as it is a physical one.  If you are not really into kayaking, our passion may be a little hard to understand, and even a bit silly . . . after all, a kayak is just a little boat, and it doesn't even have a motor  . . . so how could paddling be so great?  The following video does a good job of showing the spiritual part of kayaking. 

Of Souls + Water: The Teaser

Link to webpage: NRS Films - Souls + Water

I also wrote an essay in college, that I titled "Experiencing a Lake," in which I tried to put some of my own feelings about kayaking into words.


Sea Kayaking and Sailing

I began as a recreational kayaker, but I soon moved up to a sea kayak, as I wanted to improve my skills and I wanted a faster kayak for my paddling workouts.  My first kayak was 12.8-foot recreation kayak (a plastic Dagger Catalyst), but I moved up to a 15.5-foot sea kayak after just a year. In August 2012 I picked up my 3rd kayak . . . a Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Pro . . . which is a 17 foot long, 22 inch wide, fiberglass sea kayak.

I live close to some of the best paddling lakes in New England, so I generally paddle on the large lakes within an hour or so of my home.  My home is just 3 miles from Moore Reservoir (my "home" lake), which is the fourth largest lake in NH . . . and it is totally undeveloped, which is awesome, as my paddles include views nature up close, in ways that many people only dream of . . . like nesting bald eagles and being serenaded by loons.

Most ocean kayakers refer to lakes as "flat water paddling," but I've crossed the width of Lake Winnipesaukee (The Broads) in very gusty winds, with 3-foot plus waves, which is definitely NOT flat water. Even my much smaller "home" lake can be so windy that it is sometimes more than all but the most experienced paddlers can handle. Last year while we were out on Squam lake, the wind blew so hard that my best friend was unable to make any headway at all . . . she was paddling as hard as she could, and was basically staying in the same spot.

I have done a little white-water river kayaking, as I prefer paddling on large lakes (and my kayaks long, expensive sea kayaks, made out of light-weight composite materials).  My home is about 3 hours from the Atlantic Coast and we rarely travel more than an hour from home to paddle. So far my only salt water paddling experience was while I was attending my university (RWU), where my work study included being in charge of loaning out kayaks, along with a bit of paddling instruction.

This section is mostly about sea kayaking, but there's also a bit here about sailing (I competed on a collegiate sailing team from the Fall of 2007, until I graduated in 2009). 

     

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"Experiencing a Lake"

This is my descriptive essay that I wrote in my freshman year of college,

where I tried to put some of my own feelings about kayaking and about my "home" paddling lake into words.

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This photo was taken from the Littleton Rest Area/Welcome Center (off I-93),

just above the sandbar that I often launch from.  My home is near the other end of the lake,

but the sandbar is only 3 miles further away and is the preferred place to launch kayaks,

especially on busy summer weekends, when the boat ramp launching sites can get very busy.

Plus I can usually drive my car right down to the water and just leave it there until I return.

 
Southwestern Portion of Moore Reservoir


I hope you enjoy my essay.

One of my favorite places is only a few miles from my home, on a fairly large lake on the northern section of the Connecticut River, called Moore Reservoir. This ten-mile long lake was created when a huge hydroelectric dam was built across the river, submerging the original floor of the valley. What makes this lake very special to me is that itís the largest undeveloped lake in New Hampshire, completely without any camps or homes along its shoreline. This lake does attract quite a few boaters on nice summer weekend afternoons, many of them noisy, speeding, power boats, which disrupt the usual peacefulness of the lake. Thankfully these periods of raucous activity are fairly brief, so the valley is a very peaceful place most of the time.

I love to kayak on this lake, silently slicing through the deep waters of the main lake and heading upstream to the narrow, wildest portions, where the river finally rises out of the lake. This gives me a wonderful inner peace that refreshes the deepest parts of my soul, freeing me from the cares of life in our complex and fast moving world. During these times I often feel like Iíve been transported back to a much simpler age, to when this valley was the home of Native Americans, who paddled their delicate birch bark canoes through this pristine river valley. And the glimpse of wildlife that appears during my little voyages always reinforces my sense of being in the middle of a vast unspoiled wilderness. Squirrels playfully chase each other along the shoreline and through the trees of the mixed growth forest that pushes right up against the very edge of the lake. Beavers swim near the cool waters at the mouth of streams, or in the smaller bays, and may startle me by sharply slapping their paddle-like tail on the surface, warning their nearby relatives of my presence. If Iím lucky, I might get a fleeting glimpse of a timid deer or perhaps even view a nearsighted, gangly moose, stopping by for a refreshing morning bath.

There are many other mammals that make their homes here, but itís the birds who always dominate this world. They have claimed the lake as their own, filling the skies, wading in the shallows, or swimming on, and even under, the lakeís surface. Great Blue Herons fish or hunt for frogs among the grassy shallows or fold up their long legs as they fly silently across the water. Loons call out with their haunting cry, as they bob on the gentle waves and then suddenly disappear for several minutes under the waters, reappearing hundreds of yards away, in their search for just the right fish. Majestic eagles and their osprey cousins rule the skies and lord over the rocky shoreline, perching in the tops of the very tallest scented pines or slowly tracing circles at dizzying heights, keeping watch over their valley.

This special place always holds a sense of adventure, with no two paddling trips ever being the same. This is largely because the lake constantly changes, sometimes slowly, but often very rapidly. Even the water level can be totally different from one day to the next. The lake recedes and the shoreline grows as water is released through the massive turbines in the dam. And then, after a heavy rainfall, the lake rapidly fills to its brim, until there is practically no shoreline at all. The ever changing weather has a constant and often dramatic effect on the lake. Sometimes the air is so calm that there are no waves at all and the surface turns into a glassy mirror, reflecting the sky and clouds above. At these rare times, reality becomes blurred, as the lakeís surface and the sky seem to merge into one entity, giving me the dizzying sensation that Iím floating through the air itself. But soon the air begins to stir, as the wind picks up again. The mirror instantly dissolves, as waves begin to form. Within minutes Iím battling into a strong headwind, with large powerful waves breaking over my bow, drenching me, but also invigorating me, as my love of this special place is renewed yet again.


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Starting Out (or Kayaking 101)

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Written Spring 2004:

Kayaking has become my latest obsession (I never seem to get involved in anything just a little bit).  It's not really my fault, because my best friend actually had to talk me into this.  The idea of kayaking was actually pretty scary at first, as I had never even been in a boat of any kind (ok, so I've had a rather sheltered life).

Anyhoo, I wasn't about to let a little fear stop me from trying out something new, especially since it did seem like it might be sort of fun.  And I figured that it would be pretty easy to learn.  I mean: kayaks are very simple little boats . . . they don't even have motors or sails . . . just a paddle . . . how hard could this be?

In early May, on my way to a doctor appointment, I noticed that a nearby sport shop had kayaks on display in their front window.  After seeing my doctor I innocently walked into that sport shop and told the salesclerk that I was interested in buying a kayak.  He then asked what kind of kayak I was looking for. "There's more than one kind?"  I'm in trouble!  That was the beginning of my research.  That week I went to several other local stores (up in this part of the state, local means anything within 50 miles), and spent hours on the Internet.  It wasn't long before I discovered that this was not going to be nearly as easy as I had thought.  In fact, it soon became rather complicated. 

And this was just the beginning!  Do you know how many different kinds of kayaks there are?  I discovered that there are white-water ones, expedition-touring ones, day-touring ones, and recreational ones.  Oh, and lets not forget recreational/touring and recreational/white-water kayaks.  Ok, this part wasn't actually all that difficult.  After seeing a few photographs in my first kayak brochure, I sort of figured that I wasn't exactly ready for a white-water boat.  And I wasn't planning on doing any expeditions, so that narrowed it down quite a bit.

But then there are like a zillion different kayak manufacturers.  And they all claim that they make the best boat in the world.  So how am I supposed to know who is telling the truth?  I ended up just going back to a couple of the bigger kayak stores, where I spent an hour or so talking to the owners, and just got more and more confused!  I was obviously way in over my head!  But, by now, I really did want a kayak.

So the following weekend I dragged my best friend down to the stores.  In the end, it just came down to picking the one that had the most comfortable seat, came in the best colors, and looked the best to us. ("best" equals what appears to be the safest looking to me.)  Anyhoo we both bought a Dagger Catalyst 12.8, which is a 12.9 foot long (394 cm) light-touring poly kayak that is 27 inches wide (69 cm), and weighs 45 pounds (20 kg).  This kayak also has a rudder, which you steer with your feet (by pressing on the foot pegs -  once the rudder has been unlocked and lowered into the water).

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My First Kayak -  a Dagger Catalyst 12.8

We also bought a whole bunch of other stuff, that apparently we needed, and started kayaking . . . with a lesson (which I'll get into a bit later). In the end all my effort paid off, because I discovered that I really loved kayaking and I went out 33 times that first summer!


Kayak Lessons (on White Water!) - June 2004:

You can do more than you may think youíre capable of - sometimes all you have to do is try something new. 

When we purchased our first kayaks, they came with a free lesson, since the store also doubled as a river adventure touring outfit.  We would not be using out new 12.8 foot kayaks, because they were a bit too long for this section of the river . . . instead the owner told us that she would provide some 9 ft rental kayaks for the lesson.  So on the 1st Saturday in June, we drove down to a nice sandy beach on the edge of Pemigewasset River, in the town of Lincoln, NH. The morning's weather was perfect - sunny, in the low 70s. So far so good, right?  Not exactly.

The truth was, I already had two major concerns: the river was NOT calm and flat like I had imagined; and the water was freezing! (I later found out that it was only 40 degrees F, since it was mostly from the melting snow in the nearby mountain summits.) But I was still psyched. 


Rapids on the Pemigewasset River in Lincoln, NH

After a few minutes, the owner/instructor arrived, and we lugged the three kayaks and gear down to the beach Ė just as 6 guys were launching.  She had also brought us some wetsuits to keep us from freezing in the cold water.  I stepped into the wetsuit and zipped it up over my bathing suit, then pulled on my life vest, and climbed into the kayak - which was in the shallows, on the edge of a large pool in the river (out of the main current).  We spent the first 15 minutes in the large pool Ė where we learned how to paddle properly.  We were also give some safety instructions, such as what to do if we capsized, and we we warned about sweepers and strainers (avoid them, as they can suck you under).

Then our instructor headed down the river, with me not far behind. I was a bit terrified when I saw first section of rapids, which were more than I was prepared for.  Suddenly the first large wave crashed over front of the boat, totally drenching me.  Imagine having a 5 gallon bucket of ice water thrown into you. Fortunately my wetsuit and the warm air temperature kept me from being completely frozen.  My first thoughts were: "Iím doing this all wrong!"  And I knew I was in trouble when I heard and felt large rocks hitting bottom of the boat (rather, the boat hit them). 

But when we all made it through the second rapids in one piece, the instructor said that I was a natural at this. She said that I had excellent instincts in picking my route and at being able to ďread the river.Ē  Her positive comments really helped me to relax Ė so I actually enjoyed the rest of the trip.  We had up to class II rapids (medium to difficult Ė maximum for open canoes).  I saw two guys capsize ahead of us, but my friend and I made through the entire lesson without tipping over. Not bad for my first time in a kayak - I basically had a total blast!

Our lesson had been cut short (due to our instructor being double booked), so we came back for a second free lesson in Mid July.  This time it was after days of heavy rain, and the river was  much higher, faster, and louder this time.  Big Water!  It was pretty intimidating at first, but were now much more experienced, since we have been getting out in our kayaks twice a week.  There were a few scary moments, but we both did fine and never got into any real trouble.  The last rapids were Class III (Difficult), with a 4-foot drop over some ledges. I ended up with a few bruises, but I kept my kayak upright. The river was flowing so fast, that we did that section in under an hour (this is normally a two-hour trip).

I learned that you really can do more than you may think youíre capable of - especially when you donít know whatís ahead of you. I doubt that I would have ever tried white water kayaking on purpose Ė but Iím so glad that I did!


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My First Sea Kayak

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Written in May 2005 (the photos on the lake were taken in 2012):

On May 10, 2005 my new sea kayak finally arrived!

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This is my Dagger Specter 15.5 Airalite kayak.

It's 15'-5" (470cm) long (including the rudder) and 23.5" (60cm) wide.  This a touring kayak, but it's also called a sea kayak. It's made out of a special composite material, called Airalite, which looks like fiberglass.  So it's much stiffer and a bit lighter than a poly (polyethylene) kayak. And it's very sleek and shiny, and sexy (Hey, kayaks can be sexy, if sports cars can).

My first kayak was a recreational kayak, and this is a performance kayak.  It's much longer and quite a bit narrower, so this one is much faster . . . and much tippier.  This is NOT a beginner kayak!  So it's going to take a bit of getting used to.  Just getting in and out of it is tricky (it's a bit like putting on a pair of jeans).

It also weighs 55 pounds, which is 10 pounds more than my first kayak.  I can lift it by myself, but it's a struggle for me, but I won't be carrying it very far.  Besides, I usually kayak with my best friend, and we can carry the boats together (she has this same model, only hers has a yellow deck).


Enjoying a cool waterfall on a hot summer day in our Dagger Specters


Cockpit and Thigh braces:

Another big difference is that this kayak has a smaller cockpit opening, with thigh braces.  Ok, so what does that mean actually?  Here's a good way to explain this: "You sit in a recreational kayak, but you wear a sea kayak."  Sea kayaks are just a much tighter fit.

Which is one of the reasons why sea kayaks are made in so many various sizes and models.  One size does not fit all.  You don't just pick out a sea kayak because you like that way that it looks.  You have to find one that fits you right, and that's made for your weight (including the weight of all your gear).  It's sort of like buying designer jeans . . . you want something that looks good, but they also have to fit well.  Without a good fit, you'll be very uncomfortable.

19x34" Cockpit w/ thigh braces

Most sea kayaks have thigh braces, which are necessary for a couple of reasons (in the photo above, they are the black curved thingies, just in front of the seat).  They give you a solid place to brace your thighs (kayak terms are sooo logical), and are used to help control your kayak. They are necessary for advanced paddling techniques, such as bracing and rolling.


Bracing and Rolling:

Bracing is leaning your kayak on it's edge . . . it's also called edging, or carving.  Sea kayaks are long and edging helps you to turn much sharper, much like the way you edge on skis or on a snowboard to turn.  Edging also helps you to keep your kayak straight in windy conditions. 

Rolling is . . . well, rolling over . . .  like all the way . . . as in 360 degrees.  It involves getting wet, because you're actually completely upside down in the water for a while.  You really need to have a spray skirt to do a roll.

My Seals Marina Spray skirt

A spray skirt seals your open cockpit.  It fit's snuggly around your chest and stretches over the lip that surrounds the cockpit.  It keeps most of the water out when you're out in big waves or even if you flip over.

Rolling is the skill that allows you to get your kayak back upright again, while remaining in the cockpit.  I can edge my kayak.  I haven't attempted rolling yet.  (I've only been out in this kayak twice so far and only had my spray skirt on once.  I'm still learning.)


My best friend paddling her Dagger Specter on Moore Reservoir

Note: My 2012 Kayak Journal includes my trials in selecting a new sea kayak.


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Current Sea Kayaks

Note: My 2012 Kayak Journal also includes my trials in selecting a new sea kayak.

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I finally moved up to a more challenging sea kayak last summer, but I still have my trusty Dagger Specter. I had it up for for sale for a while, but there isn't much demand for composite sea kayaks up here. The few offers I had were not anywhere near what the Specter was worth (I had it appraised last Spring), and I felt like I was betraying a faithful companion. So I decided to keep my old kayak as a spare (I have a number of friends who don't own a kayak).  Besides, after 7 years and 2000 plus paddle miles, my Dagger Specter has more than paid for itself in the hundreds of hours of enjoyment it has given me.

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Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Pro

My newest kayak is a 2012 Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Pro, which is a 17 foot long (518 cm) fiberglass sea kayak that is 22 inches wide (56 cm), weighs 51 pounds (23 kg). My Tempest is 21 inches longer and 1.5 inches narrower than my Dagger Specter; but fiberglass weighs less than Airalite, so at , it actually weighs about 5 pounds less. It also has a skeg (a little fin that you lower), instead of a rudder. 


My 2007 Dagger Specter 15.5 (on left) and my 2012 Wilderness System Tempest 170 Pro Sea Kayaks

My two kayaks may look very similar in the above photo . . . and my Dagger is obviously still in very good shape (I take very good care of my babies).  So you may be wondering why I felt that I needed a new one.  The thing is that the two kayaks are actually VERY different.  The Specter is a beginner/intermediate level sea kayak . . . it is very stable, an it does pretty well even in fairly rough conditions.  The Tempest is an intermediate/expert level sea kayak . . . it is designed to be tippy (you steer it by putting it on edge) . . . it can handle VERY rough conditions . . . and it is MUCH faster.  Last summer Wendy and I were hit by two successive 6-foot waves.  We were more than a bit scared at the time (because we were still use to our Daggers, and they would have likely been flipped over by the first wave), but our Tempest handled them easily.  Now we need to improve our skills to keep up with our higher performing kayaks.

Plus I can now share my love of kayaking with friends who do not have their own kayaks.  Last summer I introduced four friends to sea kayaking, including a friend who was visiting me from Moscow.


The following is the short version on picking out a new sea kayak (the much longer version of all that we went through is still posted in my 2012 Kayak Journal):

My best friend, Wendy, and I attended last year's New England Paddlesport Show at the University of New Hampshire, with the hope that we would be able to come home with new kayaks (and possibly being able to sell or trade in our current kayaks).  For the past few years I had been wanting to purchase a more advanced sea kayak, as I had felt like my paddling abilities were now ready to be pushed to the next level. When I'm solo paddling, and pushing myself, my older kayak had been holding me back, as I could paddle faster than its maximum hull speed. At my top speed, I was plowing through the water, instead of gliding over it. So I was definitely ready for a longer, narrower kayak. Wendy was less enthusiastic about moving up to a more challenging kayak, but she was willing to attend the show with me and at least  check out what was available.

At the show we "tried on" quite a few kayaks, which is sort of like finding the perfect jeans. The idea is to have a snug fit, while still being able to stretch out a bit . . . but you still need to be able to get in and out without too much trouble.  Top end sea kayaks have adjustable seats, thigh braces, and hip pads, so they can be adjusted to fit different size paddlers (within limits); your weight can often be just as important, as each sea kayak has its optimum paddler weight range. If you're too heavy for the boat, your kayak sits too low in the water (and plow through the water); if you're too light for the boat, your kayak sits too high in the water (and you constantly have to fight any wind). This is why sea kayaks come in so many different lengths/widths. Just 6 inches difference in length can result in a big difference in how a kayak paddles.  The same is true for just 1 inch difference in width, and in 1 inch difference in deck height. Lower profile kayaks are less effected by the wind, but will also take on more water in rough conditions (so you'll need to use spray skirts more often).  And then there's the issue of all the different sizes of cockpit openings . . . which can be very different, even for kayaks that are roughly the same length and width.


Tempest Pro cockpit, with 12" ruler for scale (opening is about 15 inches at widest and 30 inches long).

I run on instincts, so if a kayak did not feel "right" to me (as far as the way it fit me), it was crossed off my list fairly fast. Others were eliminated because they were too expensive (for my budget). We both really liked the Wilderness Systems Tempest as soon as we slid into the seat. The cool part was that Steve Scherrer, the designer of the Tempest, was at the show and spent a lot of time with us.  He  helped us make the proper adjustments to the seat and thigh braces to get the best fit (and he very patiently answered all my questions).  The Pro (fiberglass) version of the Tempest was not at the show, so we could only test out the fit of the regular (poly) version, which Steve told us was essentially the same size. 

The Tempest 165 fit Wendy perfectly . . . far better than any other kayak she had sat in, and she was now ready to place her order.  But now I was the one hesitating.  The problem was that the 165 wasn't such a great fit for me.  I'm 6 feet tall, and my long legs were making it difficult for me to get in and out of the cockpit.  The only way I could do this was by sitting on the deck (up behind the seat) slide one long leg in at a time, drop my butt into the seat, and wriggle into place. This was doable with a kayak that is sitting on the showroom floor (with a guy holding it steady) . . . but I was having trouble convincing myself that I would be able to go through these contortions when the kayak is floating on the water.  When imagined trying to do this on a windy day and some surf . . .  I pictured the kayak (an me) ending up upside down.

Once I got into place, Steve said that the 165 fit me really well, and he told me that the 165 Pro version had a touch more room, but I was still worried that it would be too tight for me.  It "felt" a bit small for me, and I had to keep my long feet at an angle when they were on the footpads. But I  had done my research, so I knew that the slightly larger Tempest 170 had an inch more deck height, even though its cockpit opening was exactly the same size as the 165.  So I asked Steve if I would be better off with the 170 Pro, but he said it would be too big for me.  My problem was that I was too long for the 165, but not big enough (not heavy enough) for the 170.  Steve was also concerned that I would not be strong enough to handle the larger kayak in the wind or in rough condition.  My gut feeling was that I could handle the larger kayak, but what if Steve was right and the 165 was the best kayak for me . . . maybe all I needed was time to perfect my entry. So I was torn.

We also talked with Steve's wife, Cindy, who has paddled her own Tempest for 8 years. Cindy also felt that the 165 was better fit for me.  The clincher was that the store manager told me that he was going to order both models and that he would reserve one of each for me, until I had the chance to actually sit in both. Now I was ready to place my order!

The Tempest Pro is rated as one of the overall best sea kayaks, so the demand often exceeds the supply and last year's supply had been greatly reduced due to some manufacturing issues.  We had ordered our  kayaks on March 31st, but it was June 26th before Wendy's yellow Tempest 165 Pro arrived at the dealer.  It was August 10th before my red Tempest arrived. Once I finally sat in a Tempest 170 Pro, there was no longer any doubt . . . the kayak felt like it was made for me (The first 170 Pro that I saw, and that I sat in, is actually the Tempest that I bought).


Sliding into my Tempest 170's cockpit is a bit tricky . . . but I'm getting pretty good at it.

This is what AllAboutRivers.com says about this kayak: "The Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Pro is a versatile sea kayak that seamlessly blends speed, stability, comfort, agility and value into a package ideally suited for a wide range of sea kayakers. Whether you're a novice sea kayaker who is looking for a forgiving sea kayak that has no limitations or an expert paddler who demands a lot out of your boat, the Tempest 170 has something to offer you and is sure to leave you smiling. The Tempest features a hull that is forgiving and stable yet also quick and efficient through the water, making it the perfect choice for your first multi day trip or an afternoon of playing around in rough water and wind. In addition to its exceptional blend of stability and performance on the water, the Tempest also features Phase 3 seating system, perhaps the most comfortable and adjustable cockpit outfitting available on the market today. No matter what your size or body type, it is easy to get a custom fit and feel from the Tempest thanks to adjustable thigh hooks, hip pads and under thigh support that is unparalleled in today's market."


Paddling my Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Pro on Moore Reservoir (my home lake) last Fall

My Tempest 170 has never felt too big for me, and I have no trouble at all being able to handle windy days and rough conditions.  Wendy and I were paddling on Squam Lake last summer (the 2nd largest lake in NH) on a very windy day.  On our return trip back across the lake, we passed through a shallow, rocky section, in 3-foot waves, when we were hit by what had to be a 50-mph steady gust.  Wendy was paddling her 165 for all she was worth, but she was not able to make any headway at all.  She was effectively paddling in place . . . barely able to match the force of the wind.  I had to dig in a bit, but I was still making decent headway.  So I had paddled out of the rocky area before I realized that Wendy was no longer right behind me.  There wasn't enough room between the rocks for both kayaks to fit safely, so I paddled just enough to stay where I was. Neither one of us was ever in any real danger. Wendy could have just let the wind push her backwards, until she was out of the rocky area, and then found another route.  But she wasn't willing to give up that easy . . . and we both expected that the wind would let up any second. The wind did eventually let up enough for her to catch up with me, but not for about 15 minutes.  On that afternoon Wendy learned what her limits were, but I learned that my larger kayak was not too big for me . . . even in the worse conditions that we have ever paddled in.


 

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My Latest Paddle Outings (2013 season)

Link: My 2012 Kayak Journal (includes the journal of my 2012 paddles and my trials in selecting a new sea kayak).

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This section is about my paddling outings, which is as much for me as for the readers.
The distance and times for each outing are estimates, and just my way of tracking my progress over the season.
This is also a way for me to share my own weekly paddling experiences. It has nothing to do with bragging rights,
especially since there are many sea kayakers who paddle faster and cover MANY more miles in a year than I do.


April 15, 2013: I'm still waiting for the weather here to feel like Spring.  We have had snow showers for the past 6 days now, and I woke to another fresh dusting of snow this morning. This new snow hasn't amounted to anything, as it melts as soon as the temperature rises above freezing.  But my home lake (Moore Reservoir) is still frozen solid, so no kayaking for me yet. Last year my first paddle was on April 14th, so I'm already a day late . . . and it will likely be at least another week before the ice is off this year. 



Last summer's Bald Eagle Nest, with one Adult and the Two 'Chicks' on Moore Reservoir (my home lake)


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Other Equipment

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I plan to add more to this list soon.


Waterproof Camera (still on my wish list):

You may have noticed that there aren't many photos on this page, other than the ones of my gear.  This is because I don't own a waterproof camera.  When I began kayaking in 2004, waterproof digital cameras were very expensive.  But I really wanted to be able to take photos out on the lakes, so I considered getting a waterproof case for my existing camera - but they were too clunky and were still pretty expensive.  But I recently started pricing waterproof cameras again, and discovered that they are now much more affordable.  I think that I've found one that I can afford that might just work for me.  So, if this actually works out, I'll be able to start posting some sea kayaking photos here.


My Awesome Drysuit:

I purchasing a dry suit in 2008, even though I couldn't really afford it at the time, as I needed one to sail in the very early spring (our sailing team went back to practicing on the bay by the end of February).  But then I was badly hurt during our morning team workout on Valentine's Day and ended up in the hospital . . . so I was not able to sail at all that semester (which was a major bummer!).

Trying to get into my drysuit for the first time made me giggle so hard that it became even more difficult (as if wasn't already hard enough). I felt like I was trying to get into a space suit.  The only way in is through the large waterproof zipper (as in very heavy, industrial looking), which runs from the right shoulder to the left hip.  It does take some contortions to get into one of these things, so you have to be fairly flexible, and having long hair adds an additional challenge, when you're trying to get your head up through a tight rubber neck seal. And then I have to use both hands and all my strength just to zip myself in. 

But I did have a bit of a problem the first time I sailed when I was wearing my dry suit.  No one told me that it was important to get most of the air out before zippering the suit closed.  My first sign of a trouble was when I sat down in the boat, and noticed that my legs were inflated.  And then I had dificulty staying on the side, when I was hiking out, as my suit kept sliding (because it was too inflated.

Plus it was a pretty gusty day, and near the end of practice, a couple of us tipped over when a strong gust quickly changed the wind direction.  The next thing I knew, I was on my back, looking up at the sky . . . floating on the surface like a little raft . . . sort of like a blue and yellow Pillsbury Dough Boy.

It would have been funny if not for the fact that I could barely swim in such an inflated suit . . . and we were out in 3-foot waves . . . so I was blowing away from my capsized boat.  Eventually I made it to the boat and, with the help of another teammate, we got the sailboat righted and made it back to shore ok.


Kokatat Front-Entry Drysuit

By the end of February our team returned to the water, which was COLD (both the air and water were in the mid 30s F).  But my dry suit was totally awesome at keeping most of me dry (and semi-warm)!


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a
Sailing (while I was a student at RWU - 2007-2009)

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I competed on a collegiate sailing team from the Fall of 2007, until I graduated in 2009).  My team was the RWU Hawks, and we made it to the Nationals in both years - finishing 4th and 2nd place out of all collegiate sailing teams in North America.  I was the rookie, since I was by far the least experienced (even though I was also the oldest . . . by far).

Cy Thompson, one of my RWU sailing teammates, competed in the 2012 Olympics for the US Virgin Islands, in the Men's Laser (a small, single sailor racing dingy).  He did very well for his first Olympics, placing 25th out of 49.
 


Posted January 29, 2008:

Ok, so I tend to think about kayaking, even in the middle of winter.  That's what happens when you're as obsessive about things as I am (I need help).  But kayaking is one of my favorite things, so I enjoy just thinking about it. In Northern New Hampshire our lakes are frozen and ice out generally doesn't happen until mid April.  Besides, I'll be at my university until mid mid May. But my school in right on Mount Hope Bay (which connects to Narragansett Bay), and we have our own kayaks, and my work study job is on the waterfront, where I'm in charge of the kayaks.  Even though the bay is not frozen over, the water needs to warm up a lot before the school's kayaks are made available again (probably in late April).

But I'll be on the water here (at RWU) well before April (2008), as I'm a member of my university's sailing team and we're currently scheduled to return to the water in the end of February. But you need to own a dry suit, to sail before spring break.  So I need to get one, as I really need all the practice I can get.  The trouble is that a good dry suit is very expensive, and they are really hard to find in tall sizes.  But my coach just set up a discount for our team at a really great sailing store in Newport - so I'm hoping that they will have something that will actually fit me, that I can afford.  With any luck, I'll be able to drive down there this weekend. 


RWU Sailing Team - Practicing on Mount Hope Bay

I've wanted a dry suit for a couple of years - ever since I first saw one at New England Paddlesport Show at UNH.  But the cost was really hard to justify, as I felt that I could manage ok without one.  I do have a wetsuit, a dry top, and a spray skirt for my kayak.  And I carry extra clothing with me, in a dry bag in my kayak's hatch.  Until the water warms up, I just have to say fairly close to shore to be safe, just in case I tip over.  (So far, I've never tipped over - but it can happen pretty easily.)   But, when you're a collegiate sailor - you're in a small, open dingy, so you get very wet, unless there's like no wind (in which case, you aren't really sailing).  So now I have a very good reason to purchase a dry suit, which will make cold water sailing and kayaking much more enjoyable - and much safer.  This past fall we sailed until Nov. 11th, and I totally froze from mid October on - and I never want to be THAT cold ever again.

Lake Winnipesaukee Speed Limit: I've been fighting for a speed limit for New Hampshire's largest lake since 2005, and today the latest speed limit bill (HB857) was passed by the NH House - now it just needs to be passed by the NH Senate.  If this happens, we'll have a 45 mph speed limit this summer (25 mph at night).  45 mph is still really fast on water, but it will be much safer than paddling out on a lake where some boats travel at over 70 mph.  I've personally had close calls with high-speed powerboats, who didn't even see me until the very last second.  So I'm really happy about this bill's progress. 

[Updated: The 45mph (30 mph at night) speed limit went into effect on January 1, 2009.]


Posted December 2009 (being badly hurt):

In February I was badly hurt during our sailing team morning workout . . . playing flag football (which was perhaps not such a great idea for a coed team).  So, on Valentine's Day (seriously!), I was taken by ambulance to the  hospital in Newport, where x-rays showed that I had a compound fracture of my hip.  The head of my right hip (the ball part of the joint) was totally separated from my femur bone; which required three long metal pins to put me back together. I was released on crutches on Monday (I only missed two days of classes). I had healed enough so that by Spring Break, I was able to drive myself most of the way home (but not with my surgeon's full blessing).  I drove with my right foot very gently pressing the gas, and had to brake with my left foot (which was tricky in Boston's heavy commuter traffic).  My best friend had gotten a ride to Concord, NH, so she could drive me the last 90 minutes home (I was in tears by then, from the pain). So I spent the rest of the spring semester on crutches, carrying all my books and stuff in a backpack (like 30 pounds) with lots of physical therapy, and was not able to sail at all.  Major bummer, especially for someone as hyper as me.

As soon as I returned home, I began kayaking (with my surgeon's permission), even though I was still using one crutch to get around.  It was so great to get back on the water again, but kayaking was quite painful.  The worse part was getting in and out, and I wasn't able to paddle for more than 30 minutes at first.  By the end of the summer I has progressed up to being able to do 3-hour paddles, but it was still rather painful.

In the end of August I returned to my university, and immediately met with my sailing coach.  I had to schedule a visit with my surgeon and have more x-rays taken, but I was able to return to sailing with my team (and doing morning workouts).  Competitive sailing at the college level is rather intense and physically very demanding - and my hip wasn't quite read for what I was trying to do.  At first I couldn't last more than 1-hour, before I was in tears . . . and we have 3-hour practices.  But my coach was great!  She left it up to me, allowing me to sail as much as I could stand it, and then I would hail her in the coach boat and one of my teammates will take my place (being a senior has its little perks, when you're a varsity athlete).  Within a few weeks my leg was strong enough for me to last for the entire practice (although never without being in pain the whole time). 

My biggest problem was that the heads of the metal pins in my hip were messing up my leg muscles.  My right leg generally worked ok, but when I was pushing myself to my limit sailing, sometimes I pushed off my leg and it just folded under me . . . which can be a bit of a problem when you're racing in rough conditions and have to be able to move across the boat rapidly.  But I survived the Fall season and was strong enough to compete at MIT in November. And my awesome dry suit was worth every penny when the weather got cold that Fall. 

Just before Thanksgiving I went in for another surgery . . . to have the metal pins removed.  And then I dove home two days later, with staples holding my incision closed (which was as painful as it sounds).  The surgery caused some minor muscle damage and some major bruises, but it felt so much better to have those pins out.  By the time that my spring semester began, I had recovered to the point that I no longer needed any more physical therapy, and I could do almost everything during our team workouts.  But trying to run was still not a pretty sight (picture a tall female who moves like Quasimodo).


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Links

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My Favorite Paddling Areas (In NH and VT):

- Moore Reservoir Map & Info - This is my "home" lake. It is the largest hydro plant in New England, the 4th largest lake in NH, and the largest undeveloped lake in the state. I live just 3 miles from the water, so this 10-mile long lake (3500 acres) is where I paddle the most.All the shorefront property is conservation land (but Interstate 93 crosses the south-western edge with a long causeway).  We often see Bald Eagles, Osprey, Loons, Geese, and many species of Ducks on our paddles (especially on the north end of the lake). Google Earth Panorama Image.
- Public Access Boating Sites in New Hampshire - Provided by NH Fish and Game
- Squam Lake Association - Conservation group for the preservation of my favorite place to kayak. The two Squam Lakes consist of 65 miles of shoreline, 30 islands, 13 reefs, 20 coves, and 3 bays,; so this is a wonderful place to explore in a kayak.
 

Kayaks and Other Gear:

- Dagger - Company that made my 2004 Catalyst 12.8 (my first kayak), and my 2005 Specter 15.5 Airalite kayak.
- Outback Kayak - A family run kayak store/adventure tours in NH White Mountains. This is where we bought our first two kayaks and where we took our first kayak lessons.
- Kokatat Watersports - Company that made my wonderful dry suit (and all sorts of gear) . . . which makes sailing and kayaking bearable in colder weather/water).
- Wilderness Systems - Company that made my 2012 Tempest 165 Pro.  Wilderness Systems was awarded the 2009, 2010 and 2011 "Boat Brand of the Year" by Canoe and Kayak Magazine.
 

Forums, Blogs, and Organizations:

- America's Rivers - River Conservation nonprofit organization
- Connecticut River Joint Commissions Maps of the Connecticut River - The best printer friendly maps of the river.
- Connecticut River Paddlers' Trail - "The Connecticut River Paddlers' Trail is a series of primitive campsites and access points from the riverís headwaters to the Massachusetts border." This is the best listing of access points to the river that I know of.
- Northeast Paddlers Message Board - an information and communication resource for paddlers in the Northeast Region.
- Paddling.net - ". . . founded in 1998, with the goal of creating the best resource for canoe and kayak paddlers and a community for paddlers to share ideas and get advice."

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