Sunday, April 24, 2011

Waiting, waiting, waiting.....

This is probably the most painful part. The waiting. There is very little left to do. In about a week we will start spending money. They ferry tickets need to be purchased, and about a month after that the food will need to be purchased and packaged. For me, my prep is done, but for a few things left that need to happen.

That is not the case for everyone. I believe some gear still needs to be purchased, and there is still one member of our group who is not sure she can afford to go. So there may still be a last minute reduction in the size of the group. From four to three.

If she doesn't go, the only thing that will really change - aside from the fact that I will miss her, as she is an amazing person - is the tent I bring along. I will go from my four season three person tent (which would have been for the two of us) to a two person 3.5 season tent that will be my solo home. I hate the thought of not using my four season tent as it was purchased specifically for this trip, but I also cant see using a three person tent myself. That seems a little excessive.

The Chart book still needs to be printed but I want to add some info to the back of it - locations of campsites, and food markets for resupply as well as useful phone numbers. I need to pull that info together just prior to printing.

With the the waiting continues.

On my phone I have added Wrangell, Skagway, and Ketchikan as regular locations for the weather app, so I can see and compare here and there. It's 77º here, but 43º in Ketchikan right now.

A friend will be loaning me his GoPro which will serve as the backup camera in case of a failure. I do still have to order a special housing for the camera as well as a couple of additional batteries. I have talked with several people about using a solar charger to charge my batteries, but heading to a rain forest I don't think it will be too effective.

So with that I will keep waiting, and waiting.....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The tapered dry bag

The tapered dry bag has arrived, and once I got the chance - I was out of town teaching a Wilderness First Aid course - I loaded it up. I packed it with every piece of clothing that I normally pack on a multi day trip. From rain gear to base layers, everything except my drysuit which I will be wearing when I paddle. It swallowed them all without any trouble. In fact normally with a dry bag you want three smooth, solid rolls to maintain waterproofness. I actually got six rolls - indicating that there is still room in the bag! The bag fits in both my stern and bow, giving me some packing options. It leaves a little room in front - or behind depending on your point of view - which will be filled with fuel bottles. I will test pack the kayak in a few days but it fit so well in my boat I am thinking about ordering another one. It literally takes the place of two 20 liter dry bags, a system I have used effectively since 2000! I am very excited, and can't believe I waited as long as I did to do a taper bag.

Tomorrow the first of the food arrives, along with the bags that will be holding all the food when packed. The only purchases that need to be made are the actual food and fuel, and a few accessories for my Gopro camera. At the end of the month we will buy the ferry tickets. Were are getting close.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Take a seat

When I talk to new paddlers, or paddlers contemplating their first kayak purchase, one of the most common comments about kayaks that I hear is this. "I liked this kayak because it had a really comfortable seat"

New paddlers are drawn to kayaks with seats like lazy boy recliners. I can see the appeal, but like so many things for new kayakers this will lead them down a path of poor kayak control, poor posture in their kayak, and a lack of connectedness - if that is a word - to their kayak.

Kayak seats have two parts, a seat bottom and a seat back. In general I am less concerned with the seat bottom. It can be padded, or gelled. It should certainly be contoured to your shape. It is where the vast majority of your weight is going to be impacting the kayak, so a bit of padding of some sort is okay. It is seat backs that concern me, and it is large seat backs that attract the attention of many novice kayakers. Yes, they look very inviting. Yes they are comfortable. Yes, they will get in the way of every skill we strive to have.

Take a look at the seat of any high end touring kayak and you will see a thin molded fiberglass seat base - probably with no padding - and a very thin lightly padded back band. Not even an actual seat back. But take a look at a kayak like the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 and its beautiful phase 3 seating, with its large articulated sections, and high back. One is designed for high performance, and the other for high comfort. The problem is the high level of comfort gets in the way of high performance.

The high seat back impedes our ability to rotate at our core, which is the key to power in our kayaks. It also allows us to lean into the seat back, ruining our posture and removing weight from the seat bottom and loading it onto the seat back and decreasing our overall connection with the kayak. It can also get in the way of our PFD making us uncomfortable. It can get in the way when rolling, or doing any kind of re-entry - particularly from the stern - and it makes greenland rolls impossible as you can't get your back close enough to the back deck.

My Delta splits the difference it is neither a high and heavily padded seat back, nor a tiny back band - though I have been told it will accept the immersion research back band. I have compromised by reclining the seat back as far as it will go. The top of it is now even with the top of the cockpit coaming. It barely touches the bottom of my back. It forces me to have good posture. My back is straight. I am ready to rotate.

This lesson was driven home to me working at the school I teach for in Alaska. I got into a very old kayak with a simple back band. The first time I pressed on the foot pegs the webbing in the back band ripped, leaving the back band dangling. At the end of the day - 27 nautical miles later - I felt ready to continue paddling. I was in fact eager to keep paddling. Our students felt otherwise and we made camp in a marshy cove.

Yes, it forces you to have strong back and core muscles, is that a bad thing? Yes, it may be difficult in the beginning. But like so many things that are difficult in the beginning it will pay huge dividends in the end.