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(updated July 15, 2014)

My 2012 Kayak journal

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” - Helen Keller

Page Menu: | My 2012 Paddle Outings Journal | Selecting a New Sea Kayak

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Note: my current paddling outings are always part of my main Kayak page.

This page covers my 2012 paddling season, which lasted almost exactly seven months (my first paddle was on April 14th and my last was on November 12th).  My two kayaks are both long composite sea kayaks, so my paddling is on larger bodies of water.  The season begins at least a month earlier up here for many whitewater paddlers, who are on the rivers as soon as the snow melt opens them up.  But the lakes and ponds up here are usually frozen solid until at least the first of April.

Page Menu: | My 2012 Paddle Outings Journal | Selecting a New Sea Kayak
My 2012 Paddle Outings Journal

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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 a lot more miles in a year than I do.

April 2012: My first time on the water in 2012 was on April 14th.  I paddled 4 times in April, on on Moore Reservoir (my "home" lake), before I decided to add my paddle outings here.

May 5, 2012 - Squam Lakes (3 hour paddle, ~12 miles). [5th paddle, 39 miles total in 2012]

Nice Spring Paddle: Today we drove down to the Squam Lakes for the first time this year.  These two lakes are about an hour drive (52 miles) from my home. Squam Lake, which is the second largest lake in New Hampshire, has become my favorite lake to paddle. We are both members of the Squam Lake Association, so we always put in at the Association's home, on Piper Cove.  But due to construction on their dock, the launch site was full of lumber, so we drove back to the NH Fish and Game launch on the Squam Channel (the river between Squam and Little Squam).

Due to our lack of snow melt and fairly dry spring, the lake is about a foot below its normal/full level. The weather was warm (in the 60s) and sunny, but the lake water is still pretty cold (although not as cold as Moore, my home lake). We ended up doing a 3-hour paddle in VERY nice conditions . . . on  practically empty lakes.  We launched on the river that connected the two lakes, paddled the length of Little Squam and did a section of the outlet river.  We were hoping to see some turtles, but the water was apparently still too cold for them.  And there were no loons or even duck to be seen on our paddle (which was very unusual).  Then we paddled back past our launching site, but decided to paddle the rest of the river up to Squam, where we paddled out to the closest island (about a mile from the river) and returned to the launching site. I really wanted to spend more time out on Squam, but had to return home as I was having company that evening.

"A Summer on Golden Pond" [video by SchoolYardFilms.org]

"Nestled in the heart of New Hampshire lies Squam Lake, the site of the 1981 Academy Award winning film,

'On Golden Pond.' The site was chosen by the film makers because it was, "...gorgeous, pristine and undeveloped..."

May 7, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (2 hour paddle, ~10 miles). [6th paddle, 49 miles total in 2012]

Solo Paddle, with lots of waterfowl: This afternoon I loaded up my kayak and drove down to my closest boat launch on the Moore (3 miles).  Since our heavy rains at the end of April, the water level has been near peak height (after been so low in the early spring), and the floating dock had finally been put in (not that I use it, but it had been cluttering up the parking lot).  The weather was clear and sunny, with the temperature in the upper 60s F, and the water was noticeably warmer than just a week ago.  "Warm" is relative, as the water is still too cold for swimming . . . but it is no longer freezing, and I was comfortable just wearing my water sandals (without needing my Gore-Tex socks or my insulated booties).  This was the first time this Spring (on Moore) that my feet have not been cold for the entire paddle.

I decided to head North, up river (Moore is a dammed up section of the Connecticut River), as I had not yet been on that portion of the lake this Spring (due to iffy weather and the strong south-western wings that have been so prevalent on my earlier outings).  I had barely begun paddling when I heard my first two loon calls, and I soon came within sight of the pair, who kept dunking under the water, but pretty much remained in the same spot.  These were my first loon sightings of the season, so it was nice to see that the loons were returning to the lake.  Before my paddling was done for the day, I saw two more loons (plus 11 ducks).  I also saw 3 mature bald eagles, including one that plucked a fish from the lake, no more than 50 feet from me.

The lake was unusually calm, so I completed my paddle by crossing the final 1-mile wide section of the main lake (VT boat launch, back to my NH put in) at my fastest paddling speed.  I made it in just under 12 minutes (and this was after 9 miles of nearly steady paddling).  So my speed was just over 5 mph, which is a pretty good pace to hold for a mile.  It will be interesting to see how fast I'll be able to do this crossing once I have my Tempest.

May 12, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (3 hour paddle, ~ 11 miles). [7th paddle, 60 miles total in 2012]: Windy day, 15 to 20 mph winds, with gusts close to 30 mph; roughly 1 to 2 foot waves; upper 60s F.

May 18, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (2 hour paddle, ~9 miles). [8th paddle, 69 miles total in 2012]:

Solo Paddle: Light winds, 5 to 10 mph, upper 60s F.  Late afternoon workout paddle. I averaged just under 5 mph, which wasn't a bad average, since I had some pretty good head winds part of the way.

May 19, 2012 - Comerford Reservoir - full length of lake, dam to dam and return (4.5 hour paddle, including lunch break, ~13 miles). [10th paddle, 82 miles total in 2012]: Warm sunny afternoon in upper 70's, with very light winds (5 mph tops).  This was our first real warm paddle this season, so we both only wore bathing suits and lathered on the sunscreen.  The water was still fairly cold, so we did have our spray gear in out dry bags ('Under Armor' and spray tops). We launched from the beach, near the dam, paddled across to the Vermont side of the lake, and headed up river.  There's a long section, below the first cove, where the water remains fairly shallow (only 2 to 3 feet deep), quite a ways out into the lake.  We were paddling along, looking down through the clear, cold water, at all the deer and moose tracks in the muddy bottom (where they have waded out into the lake), and I suddenly saw a huge fish just lying there on the bottom.  I had gotten within about 6 feet of it before I even noticed it, since I had been looking on the other side of my kayak . . . if it had still not notice me. This fish was by far the largest I had ever seen in any lake . . . at least 3 feet long, and about 6 inches thick . . . it was so big that I was having trouble believing my eyes, I had stopped paddling and was about to point it out to my friend, who was just a few feet behind me, when it came to life, with a big splash (making about the same noise as a startled beaver).

My heart kept pounding for several minutes.  I had no idea that there were fish this big in these lakes!  I don't fish, so I have no clue what kind of fish it was.  But when I described it to my neighbor, who is a avid fishermen (+3 foot long, tube-like fish, with long nose), he told me it was most likely a Northern Pike (which can get even a bit larger than that).  I don't think I'll ever be able to look at this lake quite the same again, knowing that it has fish that big swimming around in it, especially since they are carnivorous.

We also saw 4 bald eagles (one flew right over us, only about 30 feet above the water), 3 loons, a great blue heron, 4 geese, and several kinds of ducks.  There were very few other boats on the lake, but this will be the last slow weekend, as Memorial Day weekend always kicks off the boating season.

May 21, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (1.6 hour paddle, ~7 miles). [10th paddle, 90 miles total in 2012]:

Solo Paddle: 15 to 20 mph winds, with higher gusts, 80 F.  Another late afternoon workout paddle. The steady moderate winds and 1.5 to 2 foot waves made for a challenging, but a fun paddle (I love 'lumpy water').  I was still able to average just under 5 mph, so I had a really good workout, even though this was a pretty short paddle.  The only damper was that I hurt my right shoulder when I was lifting my kayak off my Honda, and carrying it to the edge of the lake.  This bothered me the whole time, and I really felt it when I was lifting my kayak back up onto my car's roof rack.  It was sore all night, but after a hot shower it seems to be a bit better.  Hopefully it will only be sore for a few days.

May 26, 2012 - Squam Lake (4.5 hour paddle, including lunch. ~14 miles). [11th paddle, 104 miles total in 2012]: My best friend and I are both members of the Squam Lakes Association, so we drive down to the lake early to join the association's annual pancake breakfast. We enjoyed a nice leisurely (and very filling) breakfast out on their deck, overlooking the lake, and chatted with some other members.  Then we changed into our swimsuits (it was going to be a hot day). Getting our kayaks unloaded, loaded, and launched took quite a while, as there were a number of other members who we doing an after breakfast paddle.  So we didn't get on the lake until about 10:30 am. We had some moderate winds and waves for the entire paddle, which was perfect, as the temperature hit the low 80s by early afternoon.

We had a late lunch on the water, watching a pair of loons.  Then the winds really picked up, along with some pretty gusty winds at times, and some good size waves (+2.5 feet).  We even got to see one of the nesting pair of bald eagles (most likely the male), who flew with over us.  We circled Little Loon Island, where their huge nest is, but never spotted the female.  But we did take to a photographer who was trying to take some photos of them (from a remote camera that was set up on a tripod that was perched on a submerged ledge/shoal . . . I got pretty close to the camera, before I realized that it wasn't a marker).  We got back to the association launching area by 3 pm . . . so we were out on the lake in our kayaks for 4.5 hours straight.  Overall, a very good paddle.  We saw at least one bald eagle twice (or two different ones), a great blue heron, a number of ducks, 8 or 9 loons, and I finally saw my first turtle of the season.

June 08, 2012 - Update: It has been two weeks since my last paddle, which is terrible!  I'm generally out at least once a week, so this is a really long no-paddle stretch for me.  These last two weeks have been very rainy, with a lot of thunderstorms . . . some of which have been quite severe.  The only really nice day was last Friday (June 1st), and that was when I spent most of the day hiking up Cannon Mountain, in Franconia Notch.  This past week has has been so cool, that the summit of Mount Washington has already had 2.2 inches of snow this month (the average monthly snowfall for June is just over an inch). When it has stopped raining long enough this week, I've had other things that I needed to attend to . . . like moving my lawns (yes, I have more than one), and the total lawns take over 3 hours to cut.  I very nearly did a solo paddle this afternoon, even though we had thunderstorm warnings again.  I checked the online weather radar, and the only storm cells were more than 100 miles away, so I thought that I could safely get out for awhile.  But when I was outside, getting ready to load my kayak, a sudden crash of thunder came out of nowhere . . . and it was very near, and very loud.  So I quickly changed my mind and went back inside, just before the heavy rain arrived.  This weekend the weather is finally going to nice (and warmer), but both days are pretty full.  Tomorrow we've off on a road trip, in search of new kayaks, and we cannot even take our kayaks with us, as we may be bringing a kayak or two back with us. And Sunday afternoon is a double graduation party.  I may possibly be able to get out on the lake late Sunday.  I'm going to have to really get in gear, if I'm going to hit my 100 miles of paddling goal for this month.

June 10, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (2.25 hour workout paddle. ~11 miles). [12th paddle, 115 miles total in 2012]:

Solo Paddle: light winds, 76 F.  It was 3:15 before I was actually on the lake, but I still paddled about 11 miles (based on my path estimate in Goggle Earth), in 2.25 hours, which is an average speed of 4.9 mph . . . which is about as fast as I can average with my Dagger Specter . . . so it was a very good workout.  There was so much activity on the lake, that most of the waterfowl were not visible, but I did see one lone loon . . . and it looked like it may have had a young chick on its back (I was fairly close, but didn't want to get too close, which would have upset it).  This evening a flock of turkeys (which I refer to as a "herd of turkeys," because they walk a lot more then they fly) roosted in some large trees on the edge of my lawn . . . including about a dozen chicks. These are the first turkey chicks I have seen this year, so I was a bit surprised that they were already old enough to fly (although, by the way they had to make several attempts to get up to where their mom had roosted, they haven't been flying for very long).

June 12, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (2.67 hour workout paddle. ~11 miles). [13th paddle, 126 miles total in 2012]:

Solo Paddle: Partly cloudy, 73 F.  Steady winds, with some pretty strong gusts, that kicked up some 18 to 30 inch waves for most of my paddle, which is why I averaged only 4.1 mph this afternoon . . . including time spent having a PBJ sandwich (my standard paddling fuel), and some bird watching, and getting some help for some guys struggling to keep their large powerboat, with a dead engine) off the rocks. Enjoyed watching some nesting bald eagles (mom, dad, and two largish chicks).  This is the first nesting bald eagles I have seen on my 'home' lake, so it was pretty cool for me.  I also saw two different large groups of Canadian geese (counted 22 in one group, including 8 downy goslings), and one lone loon. Had a lot of fun playing in the waves, including some decent surfing.  I never lowered my rudder, but did a LOT of edging to maintain my desired direction.  I really should have put on my gloves, as all my hard paddling in the larger waves have left my hands rather sore.  This gets me up to 22 paddle miles for July ... still a bit behind my 100 mile goal for the month, but slowly catching up.

June 15, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (3.2 hour paddle. ~10 miles). [14th paddle, 136 miles total in 2012]:

Another day in paradise ... sunny, light winds, and 77 F when we got on the water at 3:10 pm.  Today I took my digital camera with me for the first time, packing it in a zipped-lock bag and then in my dry bag (so even if I should capsize, it would stay totally dry). My only worry was when I had it out taking photos.  But the lake was pretty calm and I've never tipped over in my kayak before, so I figured it would be safe.  I was going to take my best friend over to show her the bald eagle's nest and one flew right over us before we had even launch our kayaks.  It was only about a 7 minute paddle to the nest and I spent a lot of time trying to get some photos ... which is really a challenge when you're bobbing in a kayak, with your camera zoomed in all the way. Only one young was visible in the nest, but the lighting was bad, as the sun was behind the nest.  But my friend spotted one of the adults in another tall pine tree, several hundred yards from the nest.  So I paddle closer the adult and took some photos, with my camera set to action photos, hoping that the shutter would be fast enough to compensate for not being able to keep the camera steady.

We talked with three other kayakers, and did a pretty easy paddle (for me), since this was the first time my friend had been kayaking this month.  About a quarter of a mile from the nest we saw the other adult eagle, flying low over the water, towards the nest.  Of course my camera was now packed safely away in my dry bag, but we still were treated to one of the best views of a bald eagle in flight I have ever seen.  And later on we were passing by a man and his son fishing from their boat, and they said they had just spotted a deer walking in the woods, not far from the shore. We stayed out on the water until 6:25, enjoying the long summer day.  On the way back to our boat launch, we cut across the lake to check out the nest again, as the sun was now in a much better position, and I really wanted to get one good shot.  This time we were in luck and one of the adults had returned to the nest.  I took a bunch of shots and the one below is my favorite.  I thought it came out really well, considering that the nest is about 60 feet above the water, where I'm bobbing in my kayak.

The Bald Eagle Nest, with one Adult and the Two 'Chicks'

The two 'chicks' are getting big, and should be about ready to try out their wings.  The seem to be getting eager, as they were doing a lot of wing flapping today.  And mom (or dad) seems to be getting impatient with them ... almost like she is scolding them for not being brave enough to try flying yet.

It was a great afternoon to spend out on the lake, and I'm so blessed to have this lake and all the wildlife so close by my home. The month is now more than half gone, and I'm only up to 32 paddle miles for July, so I've got to double my efforts if I'm going to make my 100 mile goal for the month.

June 17, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (2.5 hour workout paddle. ~12 miles). [15th paddle, 148 miles total in 2012]:

Solo Paddle: Sunny, in the upper 70s F, when I got on the lake at 2 pm.  Steady winds, with some pretty strong gusts, that kicked up some 12 to 20 inch waves for most of my paddle. Swung by the nesting bald eagles, and got a distant view of one adult and one young one (I figured I'd keep my distance and give them a break, as there were a LOT of boats on the lake this weekend). The wind and waves made for a great workout (which I'm now feeling a bit).  I never lowered my rudder, but did a LOT of edging to maintain my desired direction.  This gets me up to 44 paddle miles for July . . . it is going to be difficult to reach my 100 mile goal for the month, but I'm still going to try to get there (all that bad weather during the first week or so of June put my paddling on hold until the 10th).

June 18, 2012 - Connecticut River (5 hour paddle. ~14 miles). [16th paddle, 162 miles total in 2012]:

Sunny, in the upper 70s F, when we got on the river at 12 pm.  Started at the public boat launch in Dalton, NH (off Route 135). The current wasn't bad, but on our return trip, when we were paddling with the current the south wind had become so strong that it actually blew us upstream, if we stopped paddling. So we had a pretty good workout in both directions. The upper Connecticut River is an awesome place to paddle, yet it gets very little use for how navigable it is.  Part of the reason it is not used more is that there are not many public boat launches and the banks are often quite high and very steep. The portion of the river that we paddled today is wide and is mostly through farmland, and in the summer the current is generally not very strong. Even though roads in both states (VT and NH) follow it, they were often not that close, due to the way that the river bend so much.  Plus the river banks are quite high, with lots of foliage, so, even when the rive may be close to a road, you often do not see it.  We saw at least 2 bald eagles, a great blue heron, and a number of ducks (including 6 fuzzy ducklings, whose mom pretended she was injurer and tried to lure me away from her babies). Aerial photo (Connecticut River Museum Exhibit Image) showing the northern portion of our paddle (the covered bridge is 3 miles up stream from the boat launch that we started from). This gets me up to 58 paddle miles for July . . . so only 42 more miles to go to reach my 100 mile goal for the month.

June 22, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (3 hour paddle. ~9 miles). [17th paddle, 171 miles total in 2012]:

We didn't realize that today was the first day of the annual fishing tournament on Moore, so it took us forever to get on the water (and to later get off). It was a very hot and humid day. But we had steady winds, with some gusts, that kicked up some 12 to 16 inch waves for most of our paddle, which kept us semi-cool. Checked out the nesting bald eagles, before heading in, and only saw one young one in the nest. I hope that the other one is ok.  This gets me up to 67 paddle miles for July (only 33  more miles to go to reach my 100 mile goal).

June 24, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (2 hour workout paddle. ~10 miles). [18th paddle, 181 miles total in 2012]:

Solo Paddle: Waited until later in the afternoon, as I wanted to be sure that the fishing tournament was over. And it paid off, as there were noticeably fewer powerboats on the lake when I arrived. Gusty winds, but mostly not strong, so only small waves for most of my paddle (other than what the powerboats generated). A thunderstorm was building up so I cut my paddling short, but still swung by the nesting bald eagles, and saw both of the young ones today.  This gets me up to 77 paddle miles for July (only 23  more miles to go to reach my 100 mile goal).

June 29, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (2 hour relaxed paddle. ~9 miles). [19th paddle, 190 miles total in 2012]:

This was the first time my friend paddled her new Tempest kayak, so we launched from the sandbar near the Dam.  This just makes for a longer drive, since it is across the main lake (6 miles, instead of 3), but it is a really nice open area to launch . . . which is exactly what she wanted for her first outing.  The Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 is a much lower volume kayak than our Dagger Specters, so this was going to take some getting use to.  Fortunately it was a pretty calm day, and once she got seated in the much tighter cockpit, she was fine and it didn't take her long to get fairly comfortable.

She loves her Tempest, and it is a MUCH better fit for her than the Dagger Specter was. She was a bit concerned at making the switch from a rudder (which she used a LOT) to a skeg . . . but now she loves it and has no trouble tracking in a straight line. She can also near keep up with me now (I'm still stuck in my Specter).

This was my last chance to paddle in June. I ended up paddling an estimated 86 miles, which is not bad, but was still 14 miles less than my goal of 100 miles in the month.  July is probably not going to be a good month for me to do a lot of paddling, but perhaps I'll try to make August my 100-mile paddle month.

July 02, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (2.5 hour paddle. ~10 miles). [20th paddle, 200 miles total in 2012]:

This was a late afternoon paddle, as it was 4 pm by the time we actually got on the water.  It was a rougher day . . . windy with about 20 inch waves.  The conditions ended up being perfect for my friend to get use to her new kayak, and see how it handled in waves and wind.  I was concerned that this might be a bit too rough for such a low-profile kayak, without using a spray skirt (the Tempest is a modified Greenland design, so you have much less distance from the lowest part of the cockpit to the water). She had brought along her old sprayskirt, which should technically fit (but it would be a bit loose), but she really didn't want to have to use one just yet, as she was still not use to the tight fit of this kayak (and a sprayskirt can make this even more claustrophobic).  But these waves were no problem at all, and the Tempest just rose up with them, so the open cockpit stayed as dry as my open-cockpit Specter.  I cannot wait until my own Tempest arrives (hopefully by the end of July) . . . it is going to be a blast getting out on some 30-inch waves and trying some surfing with it. :)

Oh, we did paddle by the eagle nest and one of the young eagles in the nest . . . actually it was a few feet away from the nest, perched on a branch (like it was trying to get up the nerve to try its wings).  No sign of the other chick, but it may have just been done in the nest, out of sight.  We also spotted on of the adults in flight.

July 13, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (2.25 hour workout paddle. ~10 miles). [21st paddle, 210 miles total in 2012]:

Solo Paddle: I was hoping to venture off to a different lake this week, but it's been a really hot all week, and I got a bit sunburn last week, so I decided that it would be best for me not to spend a lot of time out on a lake in such a hot sun.  Plus my best friend, and like the only person who I paddle with, is off to China for the rest of the month, so I'm on my own. But I really needed to get out for a good workout paddle, so I waited until late afternoon, and headed down to Moore.  But it was still in the upper 80s at 4:30 pm, when I began paddling . . . so it was a pretty hot paddle.  Thankfully there was a little wind, and the lake was surprisingly not too busy, so overall it was a really good paddle. Even in the hot weather, my average speed was 4.5 mph, which isn't bad (since I'm still paddling my Dagger).  I paddled by the eagle nest, but didn't see any eagles at all, so I'm guessing that the youngsters are now flying (or napping in this heat).

July 16, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (2.75 hour workout paddle. ~10 miles). [22nd paddle, 220 miles total in 2012]:

Solo Paddle: Back on Moore on my own (again!), but that's ok, as it didn't even look like I would be able to get any paddling in today.  It was very hot and humid all day, with thunderstorms in the forecast (which I would not want to get caught in). By late afternoon the chances of a thunderstorm had been reduced quite a bit, but it was still nearly 90 degrees at 4:30 pm. My average paddling speed was much better than the distance and time above gives, as I spent at least 30 minutes just sitting in my kayak, chatting with a kayaker friend of mine, who I had not seen on the lake since early summer. 

She has been really focusing on her rolling skills, and asked if I would critique her rolls. Personally, I am NOT into rolling.  Intentionally turning my kayak bottom-side up, with me still in it is something that I have been avoiding ever since I started kayaking.  But I admire paddlers who are skilled at rolling and can recover from a capsize. Even though I have not ever even attempted a roll, I do know a few of the rolling techniques, so I felt that I could perhaps help her out a bit. Her kayak is a P&H Scorpio-LV, which is a British-style kayak, with dimensions very similar to the Tempest (but hers is the heavier poly version).  She was using a wooden Greenland paddle (long and narrow), and was working on perfecting her sweep rolls (laid back recovery position, with your paddle sweeping at, or very near the surface).  She did great, in that she had no trouble completing her rolls, but she was having trouble keeping her paddle's blade near the surface during her sweep.  Once I get my Tempest (and a neoprene sprayskirt), I really should learn to roll.  The Tempest has a reputation as being a very easy kayak to roll (especially the 165).  I will need to really work on my best friend though, as she wants to attempt a roll even less than I do.  Part of the problem is that we have been really lucky, as neither of us have ever capsized, so we haven't had the personal motivation to be able to do a roll recovery that we should have.  But eventually we are going to run out of luck, and then it would be a really good idea if we at least had learned how to recover (which would really lessen the panic, when that day comes).

I also paddled by the eagle nest, and today I spotted one of the juveniles, perched in the top of a large dead tree, a ways down the shoreline from his nest.  Apparently he (or she) is now one his own (and obviously has learned how to fly).  The nest was empty again, and I didn't spot any other eagles on this paddle.  I did see one lone loon, who let me get semi close.

But the time I got back home and put my kayak and gear away, it was 8 pm . . . time to whip up a late dinner (but I was in luck, as I had leftovers in the fridge).

July 21, 2012 - Comerford Reservoir (3:40 hour workout paddle. ~16 miles). [23rd paddle, 235 miles total in 2012]:

Solo Paddle: Back I hadn't paddled on Comerford since mid May, and I was more than ready to paddle on a different lake (I love Moore, but I needed a change).  I paddled hard for the entire lake, dam to dam (literally), following the shoreline and going into nearly all the small coves, in both directions (which added a couple of miles, according to my Goggle Earth path).  I averaged 4.25 mph overall . . . including my lunch break and the time I spent talking to some of the people that I met (both on the water and on the shore), and a porta potty break near the halfway point.  Plus, on the upper end of the lake, for the last mile or so, I was fighting a pretty strong current, as they were letting water out of Moore Dam. This made a rather tricky large whirlpool just below the dam.

It was a near perfect paddling day, in the upper 70's with a light wind. And I was fortunate to have some awesome view of birdlife . . . some of which few people ever get to see in real life.  I launched at noon, but there was hardly any other boats on the water. I had only been on the lake for about 15 minutes when I spotted my first adult bald eagle, which flew right over me, and then dropped to about 3 feet above the water and, within just 40 or 50 feet from me, skimmed the surface and caught a fish.  The fish was large enough that the eagle remain a few feet above the surface, until it landed on the shore with his lunch.  If you've never seen this before in the wild, it is way more amazing than I can put into words (if you have been lucky enough to be a close spectator, you know exactly what I mean).  The eagle is one of the most amazing birds, and I am still always thrilled when I am blessed with a close contact with on.  I spotted two other eagles on today's paddle, and they were also fairly close (one was perched up in a pine tree, about 30 feet above me).  I also discovered an Osprey nest on the tip of one of the large transmission line poles.  I saw (and heard) one adult and at least two chicks in the nest (they make a high pitch chirping sound).  And then just below Moore Dam, another osprey flew right over me.  The other waterfowl I saw on the water and shore, included a flock of about 20 Canadian geese and a mother duck and her 8 ducklings (which were uncomfortably close to one of the bald eagles).

July 23, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (1:45 hour workout relaxed paddle. ~3 miles). [24th paddle, 238 miles total in 2012]:

I took a friend of mine out who a beginner.  He has kayaked before, but this was his first time out on a large lake in a sea kayak.  He used my best friend's older kayak and he did fine, even though he admitted that this was beyond his comfort zone.  Fortunately the weather cooperated, and the winds were pretty light, so the waves remained small the entire time.

July 30, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (2:30 hour workout paddle. ~12 miles). [25th paddle, 250 miles total in 2012]:

Solo Paddle: This was a much needed workout paddle.  We had been having thunderstorms nearly every day for the past week, so I hadn't even been out on the water.  It was quite windy today, with occasional strong gusts (the kind that you have to lean into, to keep from being blown over), as the waves soon kicked up to 2-foot and higher.  For about an hour, at about halfway through my paddle, I was fighting a strong headwind, with 30 inch waves.  It felt great!  But I was exhausted by the time I got home and had gotten my kayak off the top of my Honda and up on its sling in the garage.

August 6, 2012 - Moore Reservoir (3 hour paddle. ~12 miles). [26th paddle, 262 miles total in 2012]:

My friend Wendy was finally back home after being in China for most of July and this was her first time back on the lake (and only the third time in her new WS Tempest).  The weather was perfect, even though we were both a bit chilly until we had paddled enough to get our blood pumping.  It was windy, with moderate waves, and we kept a good pace.  The Tempest 165 fits Wendy so much better than her Dagger Specter 15.5, and I would estimate that she her paddling speed is at least a full mph faster.  I'm use to having to slow myself down, so that I don't get way ahead of her . . . but today I kept a fast pace and she was able to stay right there beside me.  She told me that's all going to change once my own Tempest arrives (which is suppose to happen this week). 

On the way back, we pulled up on a small beach and switched kayaks, as I'm still trying to decide between the Tempest 165 and the slightly larger 170.  After paddling Wendy's Tempest for about 45 minutes, I'm still undecided.  I'm feeling that the 165 is just a touch too small for me (as far as getting into and out of), but I really liked the way it handles.  The 170 should be a bit easier to get in to, but I'm concerned that it might be harder for me to handle the larger 170.   I hate being so undecided!  But, if things work out this week as planned, I'll finally get to actually sit in a Tempest 170 Pro on Friday, and then I'll have a MUCH better idea of which kayak is the best one for me.

August 12, 2012 (T1) - Moore Reservoir (45 minute paddle. ~3 miles). [27th paddle, 265 miles total in 2012 (T=3)]:

I finally picked up my Tempest 170 Pro yesterday, so this was my first time out on the water with it (I didn't have time yesterday). Today's paddle was between thunderstorms, so it was MUCH shorter than what I wanted, but at least I had a little time to test out my new sea kayak. I knew that the 170 was the kayak for me as soon as I sat in it at the store yesterday, and after paddling it any concerns I had about its larger size was put to rest almost immediately. I'm VERY happy that I decide to purchase the the larger kayak, even though I had to wait a bit longer for it. The 165 is a bit more responsive, but I was just not comfortable in it, as if felt a bit too small for me, and I had to go through contortions just to get in and out of it.  I do have to work a bit harder to hold my 170 on edge, but I can live with that, as I can still keep it on edge pretty well (and it edges much easier than my Dagger Specter).  The Tempest 170 fits me perfectly . . . in the same way that my favorite jeans fit me perfectly.

My Tempest fits me like it was custom made for my build, and it is MUCH easier for me to get in an out of than the 165. I still loosened up the backband and had to slide myself all the way back in the seat pan, but I could get my legs in/out under the deck without lifting myself up out of the seat. The cockpits are identical, as the opening is exactly the same size . . . the difference is that the Tempest 170 has a hull that is 1-inch deeper, which made all the difference in the world for me, as my knees now have room to clear the front of the opening.  Today, even when I was out on the water, I  discovered that I could actually bend my knees up out of the cockpit keyhole, without even loosening the backband (I could not do this in the 165, even when the backband was loosened up all the way).  Plus, when we returned to our launching site, I was able to get out without any problem at all. My 170 Pro paddles like a dream for me. I was VERY happy with my first paddle in it, and I didn't want to quit, even when a storm was moving in (and I really don't like thunderstorms). I'm hoping to get out for a good long paddle on Tuesday.

August 14, 2012 (T2) - Squam Lake (2:45 hour paddle. ~9 miles). [28th paddle, 274 miles total in 2012 (T=12)]:

We finally made it back down to Squam Lake.  We had only been to this lake two other times this year, and the last time was way back on May 26th.  Squam is only about an hour drive, but all our other attempts to get here just never worked out (either due to lack of time, or due to the weather conditions).  So I was very happy to finally be heading down to Squam again, and was really looking forward to getting in a good long paddle in my new sea kayak.  It was a hot summer day (in the low to mid 80s), with just enough of a breeze to cool things down. 

I had hoped for rougher conditions, but the only times we had waves larger than a foot, was when a large boat passed by.  But, even with just an occasional moderate wave (24 to 30 inches), I could tell that my Tempest 170 is going to be great when I am out in rougher conditions.  My friend, Wendy, felt the same way in her new Tempest 165.  We were both VERY happy with the way that our kayaks handled, and by the end of today's paddle, we both felt very comfortable in our new kayaks.  I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to this kayak, even though it was a pretty big step up from what I was use to paddling (my Tempest is nearly 2 feet longer then my Specter, and about 2 inches narrower, with a lower deck, and a much smaller cockpit opening).  The length is the biggest factor, as it is going to take me a bit more paddling before I totally adjust to the extra 2 feet of boat.

We had a pretty relaxed paddle, as we are still both making adjustments to get the fit just right. Today, we both had moved our thigh braces a bit, before even getting on the water.  And we tried different seat adjustments while out on the water, and made adjustments to out hip pads, and to out foot braces.  But even with all that, we still ended up with a 4 mph average paddling speed (not counting out leisurely lunch break).  We had originally hoped to paddle a bit longer, but there were thunderstorm warnings again this afternoon, so we headed back before they arrived.

We also saw about 8 loons (4 of which sang a chorus of loon calls to us), and had a great view of one large mature bald eagle.  So, all in all,  it was a great paddle!

August 22, 2012 (T3) - Moore Reservoir (2:4 hour paddle . ~12 miles). [29th paddle, 286 miles total in 2012 (T=24)]:

Solo Paddle: This was a much needed workout paddle.  It has been a week since my last real paddle (I spent a few hours on Moore late late week, teaching my best friend's parents how to kayak for the first time . . . which was fun, but just not the same as a long paddle).  This was only my third outing in my new sea kayak, and this afternoon I paddled 12 miles, which was as much as my other two outings combined. 

This was also my first solo paddle in my Tempest, but I'm already feeling totally comfortable in it.  In fact, after today's paddle, I've already reached the point where I now feel safer in my Tempest than I do in my old trusty Dagger Specter.  And that's saying a LOT, as my Specter has been a really dependable kayak for me, and it has never let me down.  But my Tempest is just so amazing in how it handles.  Plus the Tempest is a LOT easier for me to load and unload and carry.  There's only suppose to be 4 pounds difference in weight (Tempest at 51 pounds, and Dagger at 55 pounds), but I find this hard to believe.  My guess is that my Dagger's weight is actually close to 60 pounds (which explains why I could never carry it very far).

It was perfect weather, in the mid 70's, with some wind . . . which increased quite a bit on my return trip (as in head wind).  So I had a good workout and averaged exactly 5 mph for the 2.4 hour paddle (which is a pretty good pace for that length of time, especially when factoring in the roughly 45 minutes that I was fighting a headwind).  There were sections on my paddle where my spend was about 6 mph, which is really fast for me.  The wind was blowing in gusts, so the waves never got much bigger than a foot or so in height, which the Tempest just glided through and I barely felt them (my Dagger would have been bouncing over the waves, and just blasting through the tops of them).  Plus the gusts barely slowed down the Tempest (I would have been struggling a lot more in the Dagger).

I was hoping to spot an eagle today, but there was no sign of them (I think they moved up river, away from most boat traffic).  I did see about 20 ducks and 2 great blue herons (and a bunch of seagulls).

August 23, 2012 (T4) - Moore Reservoir (2:2 hour paddle . ~12 miles). [30th paddle, 298 miles total in 2012 (T=36)]:

Solo Paddle: This was another good, long, workout paddle.  It was in the low 80's today with very few clouds and only a light wind.  So I waited until late afternoon, when it would begin to cool down a bit.  I personally love warm days, but when I'm going to be paddling hard for over 2 hours straight, I just as soon it was a little cooler.  When I got on the water just before 4 pm, it was still 80 degrees (but the temperature dropped almost 10 degrees by the time I completed my paddle). I saw two loons within the first 5 minutes of my paddle . . . and they let me get pretty close.  But it was another day on the lake with no eagle sightings, and I was looking for them.  The wind remained light for the entire paddle, so I was able to average 5.23 mph (which is my best average speed ever for a 2-plus hour paddle).  The more I paddle my Tempest, the more I like it.

August 25, 2012 (T5) - Lake Winnipesaukee (5:45 hour paddle, including lunch and other breaks, ~ 18 miles). [31st paddle, 316 miles total in 2012 (T=54) (August=66)]:

Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in the state (and one of the largest lakes in the United States that lies within the boundaries of a single state). It has approximately 72 square miles of water surface, and contains about 250 islands. This crystal clear, spring fed lake is surrounded by three mountain ranges.  It is a wonderful place to kayak, except for one issue . . . the lake is an EXTREMELY popular tourist destination, where huge multi-million dollar homes are not uncommon (including the Romneys' 10 million dollar home).  So, on summer weekends the lake is literally full of powerboats . . . some of which are VERY large (the largest being the 230-foot M/S Mount Washington excursion ship). 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, leaving his $600,000 boathouse on July 5, 2012

On these weekends the busier parts of the lake have so much large boat traffic that you have to deal with nearly constant 3 to 4 foot waves . . . often coming at you from different directions at the same time (referred to as "confused seas").  On the positive side, there are lots of areas off the main lake where there is much less power boat traffic, and there is now a 45 mph daytime speed limit.  [In 2007, I testified in support of the need for a speed limit, in front of the House Transportation Committee, at the NH State House. At that time, there were some boats on the lake that travelled at speeds in excess of 100 mph, which was insane for such a busy lake).]

Lake Winnipesaukee is only about 60 miles from my home, but I don't paddle there very often as my best friend and I can only travel that far on weekends . . . when the lake is VERY busy.  Plus our route takes us right pass our favorite launching spot on Squam Lake (which is 10 miles close, and is a much less congested lake on weekends).  You would think that it would be really easy to find a good spot to launch a kayak on a lake this size, but that is just not the case.  The problem is that all most all the shoreline is on privately owned land, and there are no where near enough public boat launches to accommodate the summer weekend traffic. So we've had such a difficult time in the past finding a launching site that was kayak-friendly and that didn't come with a $20 parking fee.

Today I talked my friend Wendy into paddling on Lake Winnipesaukee, even though we knew the lake would be insanely busy (since it was a Saturday, near the end of summer, and the forecast was for lots of sun, with temps in the 80's).  We were hoping that if we got there early enough in the morning, that it wouldn't be too busy (at least until we got out away from the heaviest boat traffic).  I had also spent a lot of time doing research on finding a better launch site, and had found three possibilities.  But from past experience I knew that, what was posted online, was not always totally accurate (as most of the online information was on promotional tourist sits, which tend to misrepresent the truth).

We selected the Meredith Town Docks ramp, which was the closest of the three possible launch sites, even though it was a very popular spot.  But we got lucky . . . even though our plan to get there "early enough in the morning" didn't exactly work out well (since it was nearly 11am by the time we arrived.  The first thing I did was to approach the marine patrol officer at the launch site, and asked him what was the best way for us to launch our kayaks.  He told me that we could just get inline with the powerboat trailers, and when it was our turn, we could unload our kayaks and gear on the grass, just above the ramp.  He also told us that we could park for free, as long as we didn't mind the 5-minute walk (which all sounded perfect to me!).  Even though it was late morning, there was only one boat trailer ahead of us, and we were able to get on the water by 11:30.

Our launching site was at the very tip of Meredith Bay (on the southwestern end of the lake), and we began paddling along the western edge of the bay, which I planned to follow to Governor's Island, but the powerboat traffic was so heavy on this side of the bay, that we were literally choking on the engine fumes, from a couple of very larger speed boats.  So were turned around and heading along the opposite side of the bay, keeping within 100 yards of the shore, where we remained away from the heaviest boat traffic. I had strapped my chart of the lake on my deck, and couldn't figure out why it was taking us so long to get out of the bay. Then I took a look at the scale of miles on the chart and saw that it was about double the scale of my Squam Lake chart (which was what I was much more familiar with).  This was a big lake, and this was a much larger bay than we were use to.  By the time we had reach the lighthouse at Spindle Point (a 40-foot stone tower that was constructed in 1892), we had already paddled nearly 5 miles.  We then headed northwest, into a more sheltered part of the bay, where we stopped for lunch (remaining on the water . . . but stretching out legs out over the hulls). 

Right after lunch was when we met the most kayakers, most of whom were just out for short paddles in these more protected coves.  Most of them would have thought we were crazy to be heading out to the main lake (and into the big waves).  But I doubt that any of these recreational paddlers had ever paddled a sea kayak, so they didn't get that our kayaks were actually designed for rough seas (even when the "rough seas" had been churned out mostly by all the large powerboat traffic)

We continued along the shore until we reached the narrow waterway between Meredith Neck and undeveloped Stonedam Island (the entire 112 acre island is a wildlife preserve).  This waterway felt more like a gentle river paddle into a jungle-like forest, which was a nice break from the busy lake.  Then we entered Sally's Gut, which is another fairly large bay, and followed along the eastern edge of Stonedam Island until we reached its eastern most point.  Our plan was to cross from  here, straight over to Governor's Island (a short crossing, of less than 1/2 mile).  The only problem was that we were right at the mouth of Meredith Bay . . . and some of the heaviest powerboat traffic on the lake.

This was where things got a bit hairy.  The water out in the mouth of the bay was very rough, what I call "confused seas," because the waves are coming from every direction.  It was fairly windy here, but the biggest waves were from all the large boats, not from the wind (which explains why they were coming from every direction).  Our Tempests were great in those conditions (much better than our Daggers ever were), so I figured that the crossing wouldn't be bad at all.  Except that there was so much boat traffic, and the power boaters seemed to be pretty impatient by the time they reached the mouth of the bay (the "gunning" of so many boats in the same stretch of lake was what was churning up the water so badly).  But I still figured that all we had to do was time it right, by waiting for a gap in the traffic.  So we stayed just off shore, where the water was a bit calmer, and looked for an opening.  It took a bit of a wait, but the number of boats finally eased off a bit.  So we dug in, and we made a go for it.

The only issue was that my "digging in" speed is way faster than Wendy's top speed, so I immediately left her behind and soon had to wait for her to catch up.  When you're paddling in rough water, the last thing you should do is stop paddling, because it is your forward momentum that gives you the control you need.  Without any hull speed, these "confused seas" would push me all over the place, and may even flip me. So I didn't totally stop, but I did slow down considerably, and now I was fighting a bit for control.  Once Wendy caught up, I yelled to her that she needed to push harder now, because going this slow was dangerous (in her defense, she was paddling just fine for her ability . . . I just needed her to go a bit beyond her ability . . . which was asking a lot). But we soon were moving well together . . . Wendy was now going faster, and I was now matching her speed better (it is amazing how fear can push you to do things that are beyond you normal abilities).  We were about a third of the way across, and were both doing fine. My biggest concern was now how long Wendy would be able to main this speed, when a larger concern popped up. 

Coming at us, about 45 degrees to our right, was a HUGE wave!  This sucker was twice the height of all the other waves . . . which made it a 6-footer.  And this was a steep wave, not some rounded swell. If this thing broke over us, we would be swimming.  I yelled to warn Wendy, but she was already staring at the rapidly approaching wave, in disbelief.  There was no time to think, but I'm blessed with excellent instincts . . .  I just yelled for her to dig in, as I turned my kayak to meet the beast head on, and she followed me.  "Ok Tempest, let's see what you can really do!"  But it was really hard for me to remain confident as the front of my kayak raised up to about a 45 degree angle, as I climbed the front of the wave. Suddenly I reached the top, and Wendy wasn't far behind me. Then we were both heading down the backside, with death-grips on our paddles.  Normally this would have been the easy/fun part, but now we discovered that the huge wave had an evil twin.  So we were now heading down into the deep trough (like a valley in water), between the two super-waves.  Would the front of our kayaks submerge when they hit the bottom? If so, would we be able to get our speed back up before the twin wave hit us?  Our new sea kayaks were totally awesome! They just blasted through the trough, without slowing down at all, and we were soon climbing again.  This time, when I reached the top, I let out my Roller-Coaster yell, and enjoyed the ride down.

After this the rest of our paddle was not quite as exciting/scary . . . but I've only covered less than half of the section of the lake that we were on.  We still had to reach Governor's Island, paddle most of the way around it (where a 3-foot wave dropped me onto a shallow section of rock . . . I nearly cried, but the damage was just a minor scratch).  After passing under the Summit Ave. bridge, we followed the shore toward Weirs Beach.

Then we ran into a little snag: there were two constant lines of powerboat traffic coming out of, and heading into Paugus Bay. It was like rush hour traffic in Boston, and we had to get through it somehow.  All I could figure up was to treat it like heavy automobile traffic . . . we would just merge into the outgoing lane of traffic, then do a u-turn into the inbound lane, and then exit toward the M/S Mount Washington dock.  This plan actually worked perfectly, but then a Marine Patrol boat flagged us down.  Oops, we had apparently done something that was frowned upon here!  But the officer was very nice and just wanted to know why we felt like we needed to get through that heavy boat traffic.  I told him that we needed to get back to our launching site.  He asked where that was, and when I told him that we had launched from the Meredith Town Docks, he seemed impress that we had paddled so far.  He also smiled and said that we were braver than he was, and told us to enjoy the rest of our paddle. 

Soon after this we ran into another little problem . . .  there were a number of +30-foot boats leaving the docks, and none of them were letting us get through.  But then they all just stopped and yielded us the right of way.  I was mystified until I turned around an saw that the Marine Patrol boat was right behind us, with the officer smiling.  We both waved our thanks and paddled past all the now idling boats.  The rest of the paddle was long, and Wendy was pretty wiped, so we took our time getting back.  What a memorable paddle!

Video clips (from others) that show some of the section of Winnipesaukee that we paddled on:

Expensive homes on Governor's Island

Boating Activity in the Weirs Channel

September 1, 2012 (T6) - Moore Reservoir (3 hour paddle, ~12 miles). [32nd paddle, 328 miles total in 2012 (T=66)]:

Solo Paddle: Today's paddle was mostly just a relaxed paddle.  I had been feeling a bit down lately.  Most of the time I do ok, but there are times when my personal problems overwhelm me to the point that I can barely function. As you can probably imagine, these times are emotionally draining, and leave me very discouraged with my life, and with (what often feels like) my endless struggles, and feeling that I'm just a unwanted freak.  I hate feeling like this, but when you're suffering from depression, there's very little that you can do about it.  It is a paradox . . . at these times I desperately need to feel like I still have some hope and that things will eventually get better for me . . . but my depression just sucks all hope away.  It is never any fun, and by the time that I get through it, I am totally wiped, and am a real mess. 

So today I just needed some peaceful time on the lake more than anything else.  There was a bit of wind, and three small sailboat were out on the lake when I arrived.  But the waves were only about a foot high, which seemed really small after my last paddle.  About half way through my paddle, the wind did pick up, and the waves increased up to two feet.  At that time I was paddling into the wind, so I dug in and pushed my kayak through the waves at top speed (for me) . . . which was fun (and the workout felt great).  On the way back, I ran into one of my sea kayaking friends, and we paddled together for almost an hour (going really slowly, and chatting the whole time).

By the time I got home, I was tired, but was emotionally totally recharged.

September 8, 2012 (T7) - Squam Lake (3.5 hour paddle, ~14 miles). [33rd paddle, 342 miles total in 2012 (T=80)]:

Very windy, and cloudy, with temps in the 80's F.  It was an overcast day, with a good chance of a mid afternoon thunderstorm.  We we out on the lake by 11 am and planned to be back by 2pm, and hopefully before the storms arrived.  It was very windy the entire time we were on the lake.  At first it wasn't too bad, but it increasing got worse.  For the first 45 minutes we had the wind on our right side, so were traveling mostly parallel to the waves . . . and this was often pretty challenging in 3-foot waves, with strong gusts.  But it was an excellent chance to get use to how our new kayaks performed in these condition (they were awesome, but we really needed practice to get use to the way that they responded, which was rather different from our older kayaks). 

The we turned to the North, with the wind to our backs, which meant surfing . . . which was a total blast.  For half an hour we made excellent time.  Now we were really cruising! Midway through our paddle we entered a large sheltered cove for a lunch break.  After lunch we headed back out on the main lake, and into a VERY strong headwind.  At times the wind was so strong that my friend could barely make any headway at all, so I spend about 20 minutes in a holding pattern, waiting for her to catch up.  And staying in one place in such rough conditions is trickier than blasting through the waves, since you have no momentum at all, so the waves hit you harder.

We made it back fine, and only had 5 minutes of light rain.  The rain had let up by the time we made it back to the launch site, so loading the kayaks was fine.  But we hit thunderstorms with torrential downpours on the way home.

September 15, 2012 (T8) - Comerford Reservoir (2.5 hour paddle, ~9 miles). [34th paddle, 351miles total in 2012 (T=89)]:

Another very windy day, but a bit less gusty than last week. The biggest difference was that today was MUCH cooler, with temps only getting into the upper 50s F.  And we were use to warm temperatures, so the wind felt really chilly, especially since there was very little sun today (less than 24 hours before, it was sunny, with temps in the low 80s).  It felt like we had instantly gone from mid Summer to early Fall. We both wore long-sleeve rash guards over our bathing suits, and had our spray tops stashed in our day hatches, in case of rain (or if we were not warm enough). 

We also used our spray skirts for the first time (with out Tempests).  This was something that I had been wanting to do for a while, but we had both been a bit hesitant to do so.  But we had both paddled our Tempests in enough challenging conditions now that we felt very comfortable with our new kayaks.  Besides, we would be a lot warmer with our spray skirts protecting our lower body from the chilly wind and spray.

September 25, 2012 (T9) - Moore Reservoir (~2.5 hour paddle, ~5 miles). [35th paddle, 356 miles total in 2012 (T=94)]:

A friend of mine is visiting this week and I talked him into going kayaking with me.  He was a bit wary, since he had never been in a kayak before. And I don't think he had all that much faith in my teaching ability . . . or in my ability to rescue him if he should capsize.  We launched from the sandbar, which is just above the dam.  It was a bit winding, but the nearby hill was sheltering us from most of the wind. This is a perfect spot to launch kayaks, as you can drive your car right to the water, unload your kayaks, and then just leave your car there. Today there was only a lone fisherman on the far end of the sandbar, so I had plenty of launching/parking options. I picked a spot near a sandy/gravel stretch of shoreline, where the water remained shallow for a ways out. 

All total, we were out on the water for more like 3 hours, but I had him spend the first 30 minutes or so getting comfortable in his kayak (my Dagger Specter 15.5), floating around and doing some leaning bracing, until I felt that he would be able to keep his kayak upright.  Then I watched as he paddled a bit on his own.  He was doing just fine, so I got in my Tempest and off we headed together.

We stayed near the shore for like the first 30 minutes of our paddle. Then, after my friend felt more comfortable with the kayak, we headed out across the narrowest stretch of the bay (less than half a mile across). We were now out in the wind and waves, but the wind was still fairly light and the waves were small.  The weather report was for stronger winds later in the day, but the winds arrived early . . . when we were halfway across.  My friend was having trouble heading the way we wanted to, now that the waves and wind increased (which were hitting from the side), so I showed him how to lower the kayak's rudder, which helped considerably.  When we were reached the opposite shore, my original plan was to head north, following the shore . . . but I was now concerned that the winds might continue to increase, so we headed back across the bay to our launching point.  But the wind let up after a while, so we ended up going the length of the bay, and has a pretty good paddle (for my friend's first time out).

September 27, 2012 (T10) - Moore Reservoir (~2:20 hour paddle, ~12 miles). [36th paddle, 368 miles in 2012 (T=106)]:

Solo Paddle: This was a good workout paddle. It was cool and breezy, but all I needed was my under armor on my lower half, and my light-weight, long-sleeve rash guard top. Once I got paddling, I warmed up pretty fast.

October 5, 2012 (T11) - Moore Reservoir (~3 hour paddle, ~14 miles). [37th paddle, 372 miles total in 2012 (T=120)]:

This began as a solo paddle, but my best friend joined me for the last hour or so.

October 8, 2012 (T12) - Moore Reservoir (~2:15 hour paddle, ~10 miles). [38th paddle, 382 miles total in 2012 (T=130)]:

This morning it was cool (in the mid 40s) and breezy, with some light showers.  The forecast was for a mostly sunny day in the mid 50s.  We had planned to go down to Squam today, but this morning's weather was not following the forecast at all, so we decided not to paddle at all today.  But then the weather improved in the afternoon, so we decide to go to Moore for a short paddle.  The weather continued to improve while we were on the water, so we ending up staying out until late afternoon.

October 18, 2012 (T12) - Moore Reservoir (~2:45 hour paddle, ~13 miles). [39th paddle, 395 miles total in 2012 (T=143)]:

Solo Paddle: This was another good workout paddle. It was mild Fall day; sunny and in the mid 50s, but quite windy.  I was mostly warm enough with just my long sleeve rash guard top and Under Armour leggings (until some larger waves landed in my lap).  The water has gotten much colder over the past couple of weeks, as we've had some nights when the temperature has dropped well below freezing. So my feet got cold, even though I was wearing my Gore-Tex socks under my water shoes.  The problem is that my feet still get wet when I wade out to launch my kayak.  My feet were warm enough for the first hour or so, but after nearly 3 hours on the water, they had gotten pretty cold, and they were still cold when I got back home (so I took a hot bath).  I guess it it getting cold enough for my dry suit, which might be a bit too warm on a mild Fall day, but at least my feet will stay dry and warm.  This was my first long workout paddle in nearly two weeks, and in the middle of my paddle, I spent nearly 90 minutes paddling hard, non-stop against the waves and the wind.  So I was pretty tired by the end of my paddle, but it felt good to push myself this hard.

October 20, 2012 (T12) - Squam Lake (~2:45 hour paddle, ~10 miles). [40th paddle, 405 miles total in 2012 (T=153)]:

This was relaxed paddle. It was mild Fall day; mostly sunny and in the mid 60s, with just a light wind. This was to be our last paddle on Squam this year and that was a bit sad, as I love this lake.  Three other kayakers put in just ahead of us, and they turned out to be the only other paddlers we saw on the lake.  There were a few power boats, and most of the camps and second homes on the lake appeared to be closed up for the season.

We were treated to very special sighting . . . one that I had never had the luck to see before.  The loons were gathering for their migrating south.  We paddled into a large cove and heard the loons before we were close enough to see them.  There were about a dozen, chattering in short, low calls to each other.  It was almost like they were planning out their trip south, and were having some disagreement as to the best route to take.  We kept our distance, as we didn't want to disturb them, but we just floated there for quite a while, saying our goodbyes to our summer friends.  As we paddled out of the cove, they started a chorus of long, loud calls (the classic call of the loon), and way off across the lake, other loons called back.  It was all very cool.  What a perfect way to end the season on Squam!

October 27, 2012 (T12) - Moore Reservoir (~2:00 hour paddle, ~9 miles). [41st paddle, 414 miles total in 2012 (T=162)]:

This was a cool Fall afternoon, about 50 degrees, with a light breeze  But it was mostly sunny, so once we got warmed up a bit, we were very comfortable.  The only issue lately is that the water has cooled off a lot in the past few weeks, as nights have been getting down below freezing.  The mountains are now white on their summits, and I love being able to paddle on the lake and look up at snow on the Whites.  It is a very narrow window when it is still warm enough to paddle, yet cold enough for snow only a few thousand feet higher up.  But other boaters have pretty much given up for the year . . . the only other boat we saw the entire time we were out was just a small power boat with a couple of guys fishing.

With snow on the mountains, we wondered if this was perhaps out last paddle this year.  It would all depend on the weather, as Fall in northern New Hampshire can be warm and sunny one day, and then suddenly turn cold.  So years the cold doesn't last for more a few days before mild weather returns . . . but other years it just stays cold and the snow comes early. 

The Hurricane Sandy is on its way to New England, but it is still too far away to affect us.  We have flood warnings, plus high wind warnings, and will likely have both when the storm arrives in a few days (if it stays on its current course).

November 2, 2012 (T12) - Moore Reservoir (~2:00 hour paddle, ~10 miles). [42nd paddle, 424 miles total in 2012 (T=172)]:

We got off easy up here, away from the coast, with the mountains blocking most of the storm (although winds did hit 140 mph on the summit of Mount Washington).  We did get some pretty high winds, with a lot of rain, but damage here was very minimal.  The lake, which is normally lowered for the winter by now, is now full to its brim, as they are trying to reduce the downstream flooding.

Solo Paddle: It was another cool day, but much warmer than earlier in the week, when it barely hit 40 degrees.  It was only partly sunny, and pretty windy when I launched . . . and the water was getting pretty cold, and that cold was seeping into my kayak.  I was wearing neoprene booties under my water shoes, which help, but my wet feet we not at all warm.  The wind soon picked up and I found myself fighting 2 foot waves, with strong gusts showering me with spray from the white caps.  And I had mistakenly left my spray skirt at home. But only a very little water was getting into my cockpit, so I was fine. I did have to stop to pull on my warmer gloves, and then I began to enjoy myself, as I fought my way up wind.  I had an excellent workout for the next 40 minutes, until the wind suddenly died down.

November 12, 2012 (T12) - Moore Reservoir (~2:45 hour paddle, ~8 miles). [43rd paddle, 432 miles total in 2012 (T=180):

Today is Veterans Day, and it is in the low 50s, with some sun, so we decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather.  And the lake is still high.  Normally by this late in the fall, I would have to carry my kayak at least 100 feet from the boat ramp to the water . . . but not this year. 

We had a fun paddle, but we both had very cold feet by the time we got off the lake.  (It was hours before my feet were really warm again.) If I do go out again this Fall, I'm wearing my dry suit (I was trying to be considerate of my friend, as she doesn't own one, and I had talked her into kayaking today).  But I'm guessing that this is probably my final paddle this year, as this warm weather isn't going to last much longer and this is about as late as I ever paddle up here.  If this is my last time out, that's fine, because it has been a really great season.  I'm very happy with my new Tempest 170, and even though it arrived much later that I had planned, I still paddled it about 180 miles (since August 12th). 

I just bought some new Nordic skate skis on Saturday (hold-overs from last year's poor snowfall, that were marked way down).

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Selecting a New Sea Kayak (Spring and Summer of 2012)

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Ok, I get that God is trying to teach me to be more patient . . . but it really seems like He's expecting a bit too much from me this year. First there were all my issues in trying to get a new computer (and my current own breaking, yet again), and now I'm having issues in trying to get a new sea kayak. Of course part of the problem is likely my own fault, as I can be pretty clueless about some things, so perhaps my expectations were off a bit. And then there's that part about performance sea kayaks being more of a specialized market than recreational kayaks (or even entry-level sea kayaks). But I cannot believe that most people have this much trouble selecting a new sea kayak . . . and then actually being able to purchase the one they finally selected. Life really should NOT be this complicated! [Update/Note: I ordered my new sea kayak on March 31st . . . it is now July 14th, and I'm STILL waiting for my kayak to arrive!]

Note: For comparison, the images of the three different kayaks I have owned have all been sized to match the exact same scale.

Posted May 05, 2012: About a month ago my best friend and I attended the annual New England Paddlesport Show at the University of New Hampshire (a two and half hour drive from my home). For the past few years I have 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. While our current boats are sea/touring kayaks, they are entry-level sea kayaks, as they are only 15.25 feet long (464 cm) and 23.5 inches wide (60 cm). When I'm solo paddling, and pushing myself, my current kayak has been holding me back, as I can now paddle faster than its maximum hull speed, which is about 5 mph. At my top speed, I'm plowing through the water, instead of gliding over it. So I'm definitely ready for a longer, narrower kayak. . . which would be considerably faster and easier for me to paddle . . . it would also a bit more tippy (initial stability), but that means it would actually be more responsive in edging turns. I'm now an intermediate sea kayaker, and my current kayak is now holding me back from advancing further. My best friend, and kayak buddy, was less enthusiastic about moving up to a more challenging kayak, but she was willing to check them out with me.

The Paddlesport Show has always been my favorite place to purchase kayak gear, as everything there is 15% off, including any kayak that you order (which is significant as performance fiberglass sea kayaks start at around $3000). 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.  Some openings are as narrow as 14 inches!  I'm fairly slender . . . but my hips are still wider than that! With such a narrow opening, I would have to enter by sitting on the deck, up behind the seat, put one leg in at a time (if that is even possible with my long legs) and then twisting my hips, so that one side enters at a time. and then wriggling into place.  This involves some contortion, but it is not all that hard for me to do with a kayak that is sitting on the showroom floor (with a sales guy holding it steady) . . . but I cannot imagine trying to do this when the kayak is floating on the water!  Then add a windy day and some surf . . .  and I would instantly be upside down. (Remember, I'm very visual . . . so this all plays through my head, as I'm trying to contort myself into a very narrow cockpit opening . . . so this model is immediately crossed off my list.)

Note: the very best way to buy a kayak is to try them out first . . . on water (some dealers have demo days), but this is not something that we can do where we live . . . since there are not many sea kayakers up here (we have to special order sea kayaks).  So I did a lot of research, talked to a number of experts, sat in many of the kayaks at the show, and relied on my intuition a LOT.

In the end we each ended up ordering a Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 Pro, which is a 16.5 foot long (503 cm) fiberglass kayak that is 21.5 inches wide (54 cm), and has a skeg (a little fin that you lower), instead of a rudder. The Tempest is 15 inches longer and 2 inches narrower than our Daggers; but fiberglass weighs less than Airalite, so they actually weigh 6 pounds less (49 pounds instead of our current 55-pound kayaks).

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 version of the Tempest was not available for the show (due to a backorder problem), so we could only test out the fit of the regular (poly) version, which Steve told us was essentially the same size.  We also talked with Steve's wife, Cindy, who has paddled her own Tempest for 8 years.

The Tempest Pro is rated as one of the overall best sea kayaks, so the demand often exceeds the supply . . . which means ours are still on order, and will hopefully arrive by the middle of June.  I'm not even sure what color mine will be yet (red is my first choice); and I may end up getting the slightly larger Tempest 170 Pro (17 foot long, 22" wide), as the larger one would be a bit easier to fold my long legs into (even though my weight makes the 165 an equally good match for me).

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Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Pro

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."

I'm very excited to be moving up to a more challenging sea kayak this summer, but I still love my trusty Dagger Specter. Despite our weird Spring weather (unseasonably warm weather, followed by unseasonable cold weather), I managed to get in four good paddles (in very cold water) in April, and have already paddled about 30 miles.  My current kayak is now for sale, but I sort of feel like I'm loosing a faithful companion, so I may decide to keep it as a spare (I have a number of friends who don't own a kayak).  After 7 years and 2000 plus paddle miles (I average 300 to 400 miles each year), my Dagger Specter has more than paid for itself in the hundreds of hours of enjoyment it has given me.

June 06, 2012 Update: Yesterday I found out that  our new kayaks, which we were planning to pick up next week, were both damaged during shipping.  Bummer!  It will now be at least the end of July before replacements will arrive . . . and it may take even longer than that.  Both the store in Maine, and the kayak manufacturer were full of apologies on the phone.  I'm not upset at them, as it wasn't their fault.  And there are much worse things that could have happened, so I need to stay positive about all this, and keep things in perspective.  In time it will all work out.  It is just that I was really looking forward to being able to paddle a new kayak this summer.  And I have been very patient (I ordered my kayak on March 31st).

Today I talked on the phone with the store manager again, and he told me that he has some other new sea kayaks down at the store that he thinks might be good alternatives to the Tempest. So now we have four options (A through D).

Option A: Two Cypress kayaks (by Current Designs) are available at the store; a fiberglass (mango deck/white hull) and a Kevlar layup one (lime green deck/white hull).  The Cypress is a 16'-9" long, 22" wide British-design sea kayak.  It has a more rounded hull (soft chine), which means it will be more sensitive (as in tipsier).  My biggest concern is that the cockpit opening is quite a bit smaller than what the Tempest had (29x16"vs. 34x19"), and I could barely fold my long legs into the Tempest (after dropping me butt into the seat, which is my preferred launching method) . . . so getting in and out will involve sitting on the hull and getting one leg in at a time, while I use me paddle as an outrigger (so I don't flip over), and the dropping into the seat . . . which is doable, but awkward.  We're also not thrilled about the available colors, and my friend is concerned that the Cypress might not have enough stability for her (as in she'll tip over).

Option B: One Chatham 16 Composite (fiberglass) kayak (by Necky) is available at the store (red deck/white hull).  This kayak is 16'-5" long, 22' wide Greenland-style sea kayak (lower deck, with upswept bow and stern). It has has a hard chined/soft edged hull, which is more like the Tempest's Americanized, moderately chined hull, so it should be less tipsy than the Cypress (but still a bit less stable than the Tempest) . . . but it also has a fairly small cockpit opening (30.75x14.25").  The Chatham 16 might be a good choice for my best friend, but I would would need the larger Chatham 17 Composite (17'-5" long, 21.5" wide; with a 32x16" cockpit) . . . which means that I would have to order it (which would likely take about four weeks to arrive).

And then we have Option C, which is to just wait until the end of July for the Tempests to arrive (but there's no guarantee that they will arrive then, and their track record has been really bad this year).  And there's always Option D, which is for us to get a refund and try again next Spring. 

We've decided to make the 2.5 hour drive down to the store in Kittery, Maine on Saturday and take a look at the Cypress and Chatham kayaks.  The clincher was that the manager will sell us these kayaks for 25% off (even if we have to order one), which is a really good price.  These are all really great sea kayaks, and both Necky and Current Designs have excellent reputations, so it is just a matter of finding what will work for us (as in what we are comfortable with) and is available.  I don't know if we'll end up bringing new kayaks back with us, but at the very least, we will decide on one of the four options.

June 11, 2012 Update: On Saturday morning my best friend and I made the 2.5 hour drive down to the store in Kittery, Maine (which is just over New Hampshire's southeaster border, near the coast). The manager was trying to help us find replacements for the Wilderness Systems Tempest kayaks that we had ordered. We spend about an hour "trying  on" a number of different kayak models, but none of them felt exactly right. Ideally, we would have been doing this on the water, where we would have the chance to actually paddle them . . . but this was not an option, as the store only has few demo kayaks . . . none of which really matched what we wanted in a sea kayak. It may seem like we are being way too fussy in what we want . . . but have you ever tried to find the perfect pair of jeans?  Buying a sea kayak is much the same, only you're spending a LOT more money, and a bad fit doesn't just look bad . . . it can get you in to real trouble on the water.  Plus we are trying to find a single kayak model that will work best for both of us, which is proving to be difficult, since my skill level is a bit higher, and I'm quite a bit taller and heavier.

The fiberglass Cypress kayak (by Current Designs) is a really nice looking sea kayak, but we were both concerned about the rounded hull design, with less secondary stability than our hard-chined Dagger Specters. And the increase rocker (how curved the hull is) would also be something that we would have to adjust to.  The Cypress is described as a "playful" sea kayak, because of how responsive it is . . . my friend was worried that it might be too responsive for her ability, which would get her into trouble when we were out in rougher conditions.  And the 29x16"cockpit opening was rather tight for both of us . . . but doable.  If I loosened up the seat's back band, and lifted myself off the seat just a touch, I could bend my long legs under the front of the cockpit opening.  They also had a Kevlar Cypress, but it was more expensive and even the manager admitted that a fiberglass kayak would likely hold up better over time (and would be less expensive to repair). The benefit of being 5 pounds lighter didn't seem to be worth the trade off of higher costs and being less durable. 

The Chatham 16 Composite (fiberglass) kayak (by Necky) was a very nice kayak, which has a great reputation.  This was the kayak that I thought might work as a good replacement for us, as it was my second choice back in late March when we we at the New England Paddlesports show, trying to select our new kayaks.  Based on my size, I would need the 12" longer Chatham 17 Composite (17'-5" long, 21.5" wide), which has a 32x16"cockpit opening, which would be quite a bit easier to get into.  But the Chatham was not in stock, which means that I would have to order it, and wait an estimated four weeks for it to arrive.  Not ideal, but I was willing to wait for it . . . if my friend was happy with the Chatham 16.  Unfortunately she didn't like it.  The main issue was that the shorter Chatham had a VERY narrow cockpit opening . . . only 14.25 inches wide (and 30" long).  We could both get in, but it took some contortions to do so.  I had really hoped that the Chatham 16 would work for her, as I felt that I could be happy with the Chatham 17.  If the longer Chatham had been available, I might have bought it, but since I would have to wait a month for it to arrive, I might as well wait a bit longer for the Tempest to arrive.  The other thing was that there were a number of things that we both like better about the Tempest, and neither one of these two models really stood up in comparison.  They are both great sea kayaks, with really solid reputation . . . they just weren't the kayaks for us.

We also looked at a couple of other kayaks, but they were too much like our current Dagger Specters (too short and too wide).  The manager insisted giving us a refund for our down payment, but he was still going to try to keep our Wilderness Systems Tempest kayaks on order, and we will have the first option to purchase them (at a discounted price) when they finally arrive  . . . hopefully by the end of July.  If that doesn't happen, then we will just wait until next Spring.  Not really what we were hoping for today, but we both decided that waiting to get the kayak that feels right to us is more important than settling on kayaks that are not exactly what we want.  I also have another Wilderness Systems dealer in NH trying to see if he can perhaps find any Tempests for us, or get some kind of more definitely delivery date on them, if we order them from him (which I would prefer, as his store is much closer to my home).

June 26, 2012 Update: Last Friday my best friend had a call from Kittery Trading Post.  Her new kayak had unexpectedly arrived (I guess someone cancelled their order or something, and she was next in line, since it matched her color choice). I was happy for her, but also a bit jealous (especially since I had talked her into upgrading with me this year), as I still have to wait at least another month for my own kayak to arrive. So we made the 5-hour round trip today, arriving in Kittery at the same time as a semi-severe thunderstorm (and I really don't like thunderstorms).  Her kayak was ready, but we waited for the downpour to let up, while we both took turns 'trying on' her new Tempest.  It was a tight fit for her, compared with her Dagger, but was actually a good fit.  I had more of a problem, as my longer legs made it a real challenge. I had to actually slide my legs in first . . . and then drop my butt into the seat.  This was doable with the kayak sitting on foam cradles on the floor, but it was going to be a LOT trickier trying to do this on the water (without tipping over).

The good news (for me) was that the manager had both a 165 pro and a 170 pro on order, and if they both actually arrived, I could have my choice of either one.  The good news (for both of us) was that the manager had reduced the price of our kayaks, as compensation for all the delays (the Paddlesport price we had originally agreed to was 15% off, but not we were getting ours for 25% off . . .  assuming that mine arrives at some point).  The storm had let up quite a bit by the time we loaded the kayak on my friends Jeep . . . but we still got pretty wet, and I never totally warmed up until I took a nice hot bath at home that evening.

Mission accomplished!  Well, sort of.  One down and one to go (hopefully mine will arrive in a month or so).

July 2, 2012 Update: June 29th was the maiden paddle of my friend's new kayak. The lake was fairly calm and we launched at the sandbar, near the dam, where the was a lot more room, and we could take out time getting on the water, The Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 is a much lower volume kayak than our Dagger Specters, so this was going to take some getting use to.  Fortunately there was only a light wind, and once she got seated in the much tighter cockpit, she was fine and it didn't take her long to get fairly comfortable. She loves her Tempest, and it is a MUCH better fit for her than the Dagger Specter was. She was a bit concerned at making the switch from a rudder (which she used a LOT) to a skeg . . . but now she loves it and has no trouble tracking in a straight line. She can also near keep up with me now (I'm still stuck in my Specter).

We paddled to a gravel beach, at the end of a bay, where she let me try out her new kayak.  Getting in was tricky, as I couldn't just straddle the kayak and drop into the seat.  Well, actually I could, because this was exactly what I did on my first attempt.  But then I was stuck.  I couldn't get my long legs in under the deck, because my knees wouldn't quite clear the front of the cockpit (I'm 6 feet tall, and all leg).  The only way that I could get my legs in was to loosen up the seat's backband and then scoot my butt all the way back, up out of the seat a bit, and then my knees would just barely clear.  The hip pads and thigh braces were adjusted for my friend's smaller build, so I pretty much felt like a cork a bottle.  But even with my less than ideal fit, the Tempest was fun to paddle!  The secondary stability was great, and edging was a snap (after being use to edging my much wider, and larger volume Dagger).  Playing around in the bay, I edged it over so far that I got a LOT of water into the cockpit.  But even with that much edging, I never felt like I was in any danger of tipping over.  And then I "dug in" (my term for paddling hard), and the Tempest took off and I had her up to speed in just seconds (where I have to really work to get my Dagger up to speed).  Then I returned to the beach, where I found out that getting out was even trickier than getting in. 

The Tempest was a VERY good choice for us, and the 165 is a perfect size for my friend.  But after actually paddling her kayak, I'm now feeling like I might be better off with the next size up (the Tempest comes in 3 sizes: 165, 179, and 180).  The Tempest 170 is 6 inches longer, half an inch wider, and an inch deeper.  The cockpit openings are identical, but with it being an inch deeper, this should make it a LOT easier for me to get my legs in (and out).  Of course there's the trade off where the larger 170's greater volume means that I will have to paddle a bit harder (since I'll have to push a bit more water out of the way), it will be a bit less responsive (it won't edge quite as easy, and it won't turn quite as fast), and it weighs 2 pounds more. But I'm a pretty strong paddler, so I feel that I can easily handle the larger kayak. So it is a choice between the more sporty (but tight-fitting) 165, and the more roomy (but less responsive and heavier) 170.  At this point I'm torn.  But Kittery Trading Post has both lengths on back order, and if they both arrive, the manager has told me that I can have first pick of either one.

Today (July 2nd) it was pretty windy, with about 20 inch waves, but it ended up being perfect conditions for my friend to get use to her new kayak, and see how it handled in waves and wind.  I was concerned that this might be a bit too rough for such a low-profile kayak without using a spray skirt (the Tempest is a modified Greenland design, so you have much less distance from the lowest part of the cockpit to the water). She had brought along her old sprayskirt, which should technically fit (but it would be a bit loose). But these waves were no problem at all, and the Tempest just rose up with them, so the open cockpit stayed as dry as my open-cockpit Specter.  And the skeg kept her tracking straight, even when she was paddling parallel with the waves.

August 7, 2012 Update: My best friend was nice enough to let me paddle her new Tempest 165 today.  I tried it very briefly a few weeks ago, in very calm water.  Today the conditions were much rougher, and I paddled it for about 45 minutes, so I now have a MUCH better feeling about how it fits, and how it handles.  My biggest issue with the 165 is that, due to the lower deck and small keyhole cockpit, my legs are too long for me to just drop into the seat and slide my legs in under the front of the cockpit (like I am use to doing in my Dagger).  After some near capsizes, I came up with a semi-stable entry method: first I slid one leg all the way in under the cockpit; then I dropped into the seat, slid my butt way back, and lifted myself up out of the seat a bit (I had loosened up the backband all the way); this just barely gave me enough room to get my other leg in under the deck.  Trust me, this is not all that easy to do in a floating, 21.5" wide sea kayak, that is being hit by waves. The lift butt, and tuck leg has to happen in one quick, fluid motion . . . or I'll end up capsizing.  Once I had both legs in where they belonged, I was fine . . . although I felt very exposed, as this kayak sits much lower in the water (its deck height is only 12.5").  This took some getting use to, but the Tempest was a lot of fun.  And it is fast!  When I really push my Dagger, it really plows through the water, so it takes a LOT of effort to hold a speed of 5mph (which is about as fast as I can average for any distance).  But when I pushed the Tempest, it just glided over the water, and asked for more.  And since I wasn't pushing so much water out of the way, it took much less effort for me to hold a fast pace.  It was great!  After paddling each other's kayak for about 45 minutes, we pulled into a large beach to switch back, and then I had to go through the reverse sequence of getting in.  I managed to exit without capsizing, but not without battle wounds (I skinned by left shin enough to bleed).

So I'm still undecided.  After today's paddle I'm feeling that the 165 is just a touch too small for me (as far as getting into and out of), but I really liked the way it handled.  The 170 should be a bit easier to get in to . . . the cockpit opening is identical to the 165, but its deck is an inch higher (and that inch should get me room to slide my long legs in under the hull, without going through contortions, or giving blood).  My only concern is how much harder it might be for me to handle the larger 170.  I'm a fairly strong paddler, so I'm pretty sure that I will be able to handle the larger kayak just fine, and speed-wise, they are potentially about the same. (Longer kayaks are generally faster, but you're also displacing more water on every paddle stroke.  Any kayak is only as fast as the paddler's ability. If I try to paddle a kayak that is too big for me, I will just be working harder, while actually going slower).  I hate being so undecided!  If things work out this week as planned, I'll finally get to sit in a Tempest 170 Pro on Friday, and then I'll have a MUCH better idea of which kayak is the best one for me. My dealer has a 165 Pro reserved for me, which arrived last Thursday, and my 170 Pro is scheduled to arrive this Thursday. (They were both suppose to arrive last week, but the order was messed up and they received three 165 Pros . . . with one marked on it's protective wrapping as a 170 Pro.)

August 12, 2012 Update: I finally picked up my Tempest yesterday and just completed my first short paddle in it (between thunderstorms today). I ended up getting the 170 and after paddling both my friend's 165 Pro and my 170 Pro, I'm very happy that I went with the larger kayak. The 165 is a bit more responsive, but I was just not comfortable in it, as if felt a bit too small for me, and I had to go through contortions to get in and out of it. I have to work a bit harder to hold my 170 on edge, but I can live with that, as I can still keep it on edge pretty well (and it edges much easier than my Dagger Specter).

Yesterday I finally saw my first 170 Pro (and it had my name on it). As soon as I sat in it, I instantly knew this was the kayak for me. It fits me like it was custom made for my build, and it is MUCH easier for me to get in an out of than the 165. I still loosened up the backband and had to slide myself all the way back in the seat pan, but I could get my legs in/out under the deck without lifting myself up out of the seat. And today, when I was out on the water, I  discovered that I could actually bend my knees up out of the cockpit keyhole . . . I have just barely enough room to do this without even loosening the backband (I could not do this in the 165, even when the backband was loosened up all the way).  Plus, when we returned to our launching site, I was able to get out without any problem at all. My 170 Pro paddles like a dream for me. I was VERY happy with my first paddle in it, and I didn't want to quit. I'm hoping to get out for a good long paddle on Tuesday.

Oh, one more little thing. While I was sitting in the 170 Pro in the store yesterday, a guy who was walking by smiled down at me and said. "That's such an awesome kayak!" And he was totally right . . . my 170 Pro is definitely an awesome kayak!

The other news is that I'm trying to get up my courage to do some wilderness kayak camping trips . . . even though I have never even camped before (I have issues just sleeping anywhere but in my own bed, so this is a biggie for me).  We still have all my brother's backpacking gear, including a high tech, "Sierra Designs Stretch Dome 3" tent, which I hauled out of the attic and finally figured out how to set up (in my living room last night).  This is a 3-person 4-season expedition dome tent (it has the optional Expedition Fly, for winter use).  This is a pretty neat little tent and seems pretty roomy (93' x 84" floor), yet it packs up into a small 24" x 7" stuff sack and it only weighs 8.5 pounds.  My brother and his wife used it on their hike up Mount Whitney in 1994, so it is at least 18 years old, but it is still in excellent condition.

I also have a sleeping bag that should work ok.  A comfy sleeping pad is the only major item still on my need-to-have list, and I need to still work some more on my courage level, but I'm getting close to feeling like I might actually be able to do this.  Who knows, I might actually enjoy kayak camping enough to try my hand at backpacking camping (but that might be a bit more than I can handle).

My Sierra Designs "Stretch Dome 3" Tent


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