Australian Sailfish: Backing Blocks and Hardware

I’ve been making only slow and occasional progress on the Australian Sailfish. Home improvement projects, interspersed with periods of nursing my persistent malaise, interspersed with acquainting myself with a new camera on local, morning jaunts, and a comic book cabinet project I’m doing for a friend, have intervened. Further, what little progress I’ve made I simply haven’t documented, or I documented it but didn’t bother to upload it here. So let’s do some catch-up.

First, I managed to get the bottom on. This was fussy, and the results were not spectacular. Something I was afraid of happened: the bevel on the keel wasn’t really coplanar with the angle of the stations. Either the drawings had me cutting too deep of a notch on the stations for the keel to set in, or my stock was too thin, or I inadvertently planed it down too far. As a result, the two bottom pieces didn’t meet cleanly and I had to save it by filling with thickened epoxy. If I had wanted an unpainted bottom this would have been a deal breaker. But then, if I had wanted an unpainted bottom then I would have butted the two halves, not lapped them.

So here I have the ugly bevel. And when I’d mostly established center, I went ahead and cut the daggerboard slot. Then I ran a chalk line and tuned the bevel to run straight along it.

So now it’s time to fit the interior out for hardware. I chose to put T-nuts everywhere, so I can add the hardware after putting the deck on. I chose to laminate squares of the ply, rather than use blocks of cedar, just because that seems a better use of scrap material.

In the bow, I installed bolts where I’ll install a U channel to hold the forestay.

On the sides, I installed bolts for the shrouds. These are at an angle specified in the plans. After drilling out the bolt holes I pressed the T-nuts into the wood. Then I removed them so I could coat the entire assembly with unthickened epoxy. Once tacky, I added the T-nuts back in.

The transom was fussy, because of how I had to work between the deck and the keel plank. And because I’m paranoid about the rudder, I made the backing plate three layers thick of ply. But this was too much as the bolts I bought weren’t long enough. Silly mistake. Since I didn’t want to bother getting new bolts I just chiseled out a recess. I got it done, but it wasn’t pretty.

Next step is to go back to the epoxy. I’ll be spending the next little while cleaning op and filleting the stringers and all other joints. I have to do this now, because the next step is the deck stringers, and once they’re in I’ll be severely restricted in my ability to access the awkward corners.

Australian Sailfish: Attaching the Bottom Ply

Time to start on getting the bottom ply on the boat. I brought the boat out the basement for the first time to do this, because I wanted to be able to walk all around it to sight down the sides. The goal here would be a fair bevel all the way down the length of the bottom edge of the side ply. So I used my eye to check along the length, and then I used a batten to check that the bevel of the keel was on a plane with the station molds. I’m not completely happy with how this worked out. I think on a subsequent boat I might want to get a little more thickness on the keel to get this right, maybe by glueing down a batten along the center line before planing.

Back in the garage, I dry fit the first piece, and used a batten to mark the center line. This was so I could trim down the inside edge to closely approximate the centerline. Once trimmed, I ran thickened epoxy down all the stringers, the chine logs, and the frame edges. I clamped up battens where the frames were and used shims to press the plywood up to the frames. I did the same between frames as well.

Once the bottom was cured it was time to establish the centerline bevel where the next piece would overlap the first. I was pleased at how easy this was with my #6, riding the tail end of the plane over the nearest stringer until it met the keel. I was a little worried about how this would work toward the bow, where the bevel flattens out significantly. I was thinking that depending on how flat the ply went I might be looking at cutting a gain. But as it happens that wasn’t necessary. You can see below how the bevel widens toward the bow.

And on goes the second piece of bottom ply. I repeated the process from before: put thickened epoxy down on the boat, then dropped the ply on. I used a batten to lift one end of the ply while I lined up the other, in the hope of avoiding having to slide the piece around on the epoxy. Except for one moment when the bow end went squirly and slid way out alignment, that seems to have worked out.

And so this morning before work I removed the clamps, flipped it over, and failed to resist the urge to dive into trimming and planing some of the sides down.

Australian Sailfish: Scarfing and Cutting the Sides

This week I made a lot of progress. Earlier this week I cut and attached a piece of ply to the transom. Ordinarily, this would be a 1/2 inch piece of cedar. But I decided to use ply everywhere I could, so that’s what I’m doing. I spent some time today trimming that down and prep for attaching the sides.

I had a lot of anxiety about scarfing the plywood. I’ve often thought through the process in my head, and I’ve watched a ton of YouTube videos about it. I really didn’t want to build a router sled or some other big and unwieldy jig, and I don’t have a ton of faith in high speed power tools to not shred my four and three millimeter material. So I decided to stick to what I know and feel comfortable with: hand planes, chisels, and battens.

So first I marked one inch in from the end of the material with my combination square, using it to run a line all the way across. Then I fit a batten against that line and went to town with my block plane. When I’d planed all the way down to almost a feathered edge, I stopped and switched to a sanding block, gently working the material down to a feather edge. I’m guessing I’ll have to work it a bit more before final fitting, but I’m super pleased with the result.

So I got the ply for the sides scarfed, cut, and epoxied on, and I got the ply for the bottom scarfed. Next, I’ll go ahead and scarf the ply for the top, but first I want to see how the scarf for the bottom turns out. I’ll be painting the bottom, so I want to make sure I know how to make a neat seam before committing all the way down the line.

But I did get the sides attached, and that feels like a huge step.

Australian Sailfish: Stringers and Keel

This week I made a little more progress on the stringers. First, I managed to get notches cut on the outer edges of the frames to accept chine logs. I just used an off-cut from one of the stringers to mark out the notch and I used a pull saw to cut them.

Then I worked on beveling the keel. For this I ran one of the as-yet unattached stringers down the side of the keel and marked it. Then I took the piece to my bench and beveled it down to that line. Once the keel is permanently affixed to the frames I’ll fine tune the angles. For now it’s just roughed in.

Feels good to see things starting to fill out and take shape. All said and done, I have four more stringers to attach, the topside notches to cut and the topside chine logs. Then it’s on to scarfing the ply for the sides and bottoms.

Australian Sailfish: Setting up Frames

With the frames cut out I ran the deck plank through my planer to get it to 1/2 inch and set it up on a strongback. Not happy with this strongback, btw. Tried to make it from MDF… dimensional lumber would have been better. The order of operations here is as follows:

  1. Set up the frames on the deck plank at the correct intervals
  2. Install the daggerboard trunk between frames 3 and 4
  3. With frames 3 and 4 supported by the trunk, set the keel plank down
  4. Square up the rest of the frames under the keel plank to ensure everything is running straight, and epoxy everything together

First, the daggerboard trunk. I actually ended up building two of these since the first one developed a warp that I couldn’t pull out.

With the daggerboard trunk set and trimmed, it’s time to place it under the keel plank and trace the curve so that it fits snugly between the keel and the deck. I did the cutting with a jig saw, and then planed down to the line, checking for square across the two edges of the ply with a try square. Once that curve was established and the fit dialed in, I installed bracing along the top and bottom edges of the trunk.

And finally, with the trunk trimmed and ready, it’s time to epoxy the whole shebang together. This went really well. First I rolled a coat of epoxy down the entire deck plank and coated the fore and aft faces, and the top and bottom edges of the trunk with un-thickened epoxy. Then I added silica into what was left in the cup. I glopped the epoxy onto all the contact surfaces of the trunk and set frames three and four into place against it. Laying the keel plank down with packing tape between it and the trunk, I verified the trunk was centered on both the deck and the keel planks, then clamped the whole thing down.

Frames set up and squared up, it’s time to fillet. I’m installing everything but the nose frame, which needs some shaping. Also, I’m going to need to put this whole things on casters to be able to shift it around. This space is too narrow to work on more than one side at a time, and that’s going to be a problem.

Next up: Nose frame, more filleting, and then stringers.

Australian Sailfish: Tracing Frame Patterns

Welp, here we go. I’m on to another boat. This build shall represent a new stage of maturity in my boatbuilding skills, whereupon I build something that sails and is made all of wood. It’s an Australian Sailfish, and you may avail yourself of Google if you don’t know what that is. Building a sailboard seems to make sense for lots of reasons: it’s still light enough to car top and lug around without lots of mechanical assistance, and it’s something you could conceivably paddle around, like a SUP. This is important because our local lake has sections, joined by very narrow stretches that would be difficult to sail through to get to more open water. Also, I can see the kids beating around on this without feeling so intimidated as they might feel in a “real” boat.

So here we go. I ordered the plans for free from the class page, and I’ve had some very helpful conversation with the folks over there as I work through my approach. My main departure from the plans is that I’ve opted to build the sides out of 6mm ply since the spec’d Western Red Cedar (WRC) is super expensive and sometimes not judiciously sourced by suppliers. This has the side effect of potentially making the boat lighter, which always makes a better boat. But since the plans were drawn to the assumption that the sides would add an extra half inch, I have to extend the frame lines out by 1/2 inch minus the 4mm thickness of the ply. I did this by sawing a stick to 1/2 in, then holing it up the edge of the ply and tracing a second line. I then planed the stick down to that line, and used the stick to draw directly on the plans sheets.

I’m tracing the patterns onto the ply with carbon paper. This is my favorite method. The other would be to simply spray mount the paper plans directly to the plywood, and cut directly from the plans lines. Carbon takes more time, but saves me sanding the paper off later, and I don’t mind taking the extra time.

The Wild River Wilderness: Jeannette’s Second Death

As I said, Jeannette’s fateful suggestion, “I don’t feel like I’ve had enough outdoorsing. What if we were to go hiking…” set up the conditions of her second death. Also, being married to me had a lot to do with it. Because I’m never content to just “have a good time” hiking, or paddling. No, if I’m going to paddle, I’ll build four nesting canoes and take the family out for a three day adventure in the Allagash. It’s going to be planned, and we’re going to make miles and keep to time tables. If I’m going to hike, we’re going to climb a ridge and see how many 4k+ footers we can bag over two to three days. Jeannette’s therapist has encouraged her to clearly communicate her limits in these instances. In deference to the therapist, I did do that for our earlier adventure this week, which was, as J put it, “carefully tailored to maximize ‘Nettie happiness.” But my filters were off for the second, less well planned adventure. She also can’t resist a challenge. “Is this trail advanced? Good. Because after one gets a Ph.D. it’s hard to settle for less.”

First, I want to establish with emphasis that J was cute for the duration of the hike. This is something she worked very hard on, having tried on the outfits she’d bought for our paddling trip, which hadn’t arrived in time but were waiting for us when we got home. I’m convinced that part of why she wanted to hike in the first place was to show the world how cute these outfits actually were. There were skorts with hidden pockets, athletic bras, and ventilated athletic tops. And there was a trip to REI for new hiking boots to replace her broken old Bean boots. She went with Salomons.

The plan was to visit the Wild River Wildnerness in the White Mountain National Forest. I knew other areas of the park would be mobbed, and I’ve read that this area is less well known. Further, I’d read that the Black Angel Trail was a true gem, and I was eager to hike it and maybe bag another 4k+ footer (or two, or three). So we left as early as we could and arrived at the Shelbourn trailhead at noon. This trailhead sits a ways down the Wild River Road, which follows the southern bank of the Wild River, which is more of a trickle this time of year.

We took the Shelburne trail up to our first mountain, Shelburne-Moriah. Along the way, J made it a point to “document the purple”, which is to say she was on the lookout for a purple lichen she had begun to notice. We also spotted several different kinds of mushroom, a variety of mosses, lichens, and indian pipe. I was struck by how verdant this forest was. There wasn’t a surface that didn’t support life, sometimes life upon life.

As we started to gain elevation I made sure to fill all of our water bottles. I knew that once we got up to the ridge water sources would be hard or impossible to find. And as we reached our first “summit”, where the forrest had shaded into the scraggly pines, spruces, mosses, and lichen covered rock of the alpine zone, we looked west to what we judged was Mt. Moriah. With a few hours of daylight remaining, we hoofed it to the summit of the next mountain and down the ridge to the next draw, looking for the trail intersection that would presage our arrival at the tent site, and our next water source.

Someday I’ll return to this trail with time enough to savor it, as it was full of surprises; you’d descend into alpine only to rise again to bare rock, a winding and twisting path that kept you guessing.

The Shelburne-Moriah mountain in the distance, and on the right, viewed from Moriah. See the vertical side???

Eventually we did arrive at an intersection, but it was not the one we had hoped. The intersecting trail was on our map, and it told us that in fact we were not on the other side of Moriah at all, but that we’d only managed to traverse the first of our summits, Shelburne-Moriah. The thing I sometimes struggle with in reading maps is accounting for the time it takes to scramble up the side of a mountain while making no progress in terms of map miles. So while we’d been hiking, all our our progress had been up, not over, and so we had completely misjudged where we were.

Jeannette was demoralized. She clings to mental goals to keep herself putting one foot in front of the other, and this disappointment was too much. Further, while I’d said several times that I thought this first leg would be a push, and that we might have to cowboy camp, that was too much of an abstraction for her to prepare for. So we hiked down a bit to where we could find some water, and put up the tent in a little spot off trail, but J was miserable and didn’t sleep well.

The next day we pushed on to Moriah which, one we got there, felt much more like a proper 4k+ footer. The views across to the rest of the ridge, with Carter dome in the distance and Mt. Washington behind were stunning.

I know I felt super sheepish that I’d been so far off on my orienteering, and in view of where we actually were, J determined she wanted to take the Moriah Brook trail back to the trailhead. This would make it a much shorter loop than the Black Angel trail would have been. I mean, I knew one night would be too few to make the whole loop, and I secretly was hoping that J would get through the first night and be up for more. But in view of the previous day’s disappointment that hope was even further from reality.

While I’m sad we didn’t get to the Black Angel trail, I’m glad we got to hike this one. It offered everything I had hoped the Black Angel trail would offer: a descent from alpine to deciduous forest; a stark contrast to the dense, moss-covered forest of pines and spruces where we’d spent the night. The trail meandered among boulders and fallen, dessicated trees, and at times it vanished altogether leaving us to pick our way down the brook, hopping rocks and whacking our way through dense underbrush until the trail reappeared. As we continued down, the brook widened into a gorge with stunning pools and artful waterfalls. It’s a gem of a trail.

Later, J looked up the Moriah Brook trail to find out more about its history. It hasn’t been maintained since Hurricane Irene, and hikers do find themselves bushwhacking. Further, while we were able to ford the Wild River to get access to the trail, that wouldn’t have been possible in the Spring, when the water is up because the bridge that used to span the river there had been removed with no plans to replace it. So this truly was a “wild” experience, and one to enjoy while we can. I’d go back in a heartbeat, and plan to. I know Ellis would love it, so maybe we can take a little more time, or pick a slightly different route, and continue to explore this area.

The Wild River, looking East

Connecticut River 2020: Jeannette’s First Death

Coronavirus has everyone doing strange things. For J and me, it was deciding to take a vacation without the kids. I think E (my oldest sone, with whom I do all my adventuring) was genuinely hurt that I sent him to stay with the grands while J and I got to go paddling. I guess I’ll have to make up for it by taking him out on a bunch of trips in the remaining months of the season. Oh, darn!

I intended this to be a four or five day trip. I wanted to find something that offered remoteness, and a close-in river experience with lots of oxbows and wildlife spotting opportunities. That meant the northernmost section of the river. What I didn’t count on was exactly how bony it would be, and how quickly that would cut our trip short. In the end, we got only two days of the trip done, but it was an amazing few days. I asked my wife to write the rest of this post because she’s a better writer than I am, and I enjoy getting out of my own head and hearing things as she experienced them.

He: Do you want to take a multi-day paddling trip?
Me: I don't want to tip over. I'll go if I won't tip over.
Readers, I tipped over.

It was a four-hour drive up to our start point in northern NH, approximately a mile south of the border with Canada. Along the way we dropped off my car at our presumed stopping point and drove on to the starting point together. He said we were going to “glamp” the first night at a campsite he booked through AirBnB. By that he meant the car was within walking distance. I also tried out hammock tent for the first time. I’m not fan, it made me feel incredibly claustrophobic. But I’m glad I at least tried it for the sake of research.

Day One

We put in at the Canaan, VT launch. (We knew it was Vermont, because people were wearing the obligatory pandemic masks.) It started off pleasantly, gliding through the serene summer day, but shortly along the way we hit our first rocky bit. As a novice to water travel, I have never, ever paddled anywhere with a noticeable current or rock obstructions. In retrospect, it was fairly tame as rocky bits go, but I had absolutely no idea what to do. Therefore, I promptly bumped into a rock, tipped over, and swamped my canoe. This is not the journey I was looking for. C advised that in the rocky bits to let the current provide the momentum and use the paddle to maneuver. I’m starting with so little experience, that, yes, that had to be articulated. I also point this out so that it can be known how awesome I was at handling subsequent rocky bits.

Most of the river was serene and shallow. As an aspiring naturalist, I had plenty of opportunity to soak in the wildlife. I picked out various bird songs and enjoyed watching the little flocks of killdeer, the river’s sea gull, darting over the water’s surface to catch bugs. I saw the unmistakable soar of a bald eagle and enjoyed watching the osprey crisscross over the river high above, sometimes carrying a fish, perhaps to a nest. (The second day, I managed to see the osprey actually swoop down into the river and snag her fishy prey.) The lush crowns of large ferns and flowering joe pye weed and golden rods dressed the river banks in verdant, early August glory.

We stopped for lunch on the rocky beach of a little island in one of the oxbows. I took a little nap (needed as a result of my hammock research) and then investigated some of the flora growing among the rocks. I was especially delighted to find wild mint in flower, a favorite of pollinator insects.

The afternoon offered a change of pace as we encountered more rocky bits and our first bit of quick water as we passed under the bridge in Colebrook, which I faced with skill and dexterity compared to my start of the day self. Dare I say, it was even fun? Since C had allowed time for “vacation” to part of our plans in addition to “extreme physical challenge,” we stopped mid-afternoon at our campsite, which he nominally reserved. (We’re not entirely sure reservations mean anything at these sites.) We tied up our canoes, set up camp, and enjoyed a refreshing swim in the water which had been inviting us all day. I took some time to jot down some of the day’s nature observations in my journal, while C made some food. The reason I agree to these kinds of vacations is because he does all the planning and cooking and setting up and taking down. I just help here and there. It was an entirely lovely summer evening of a perfect vacation day.

Day Two

Expecting more of the same, we set off on the second morning passing through some light showers and under one of the many famed covered bridges. After another rocky encounter, the river opened into farmland. A group of cows even mooed their salutation. But then we began to come upon rocky bits with increasing frequency. At first it was a little fun dodging rocks and riding quick water. We even went through a bit of a rapid, which I aced and C tipped over in. We had some laughs and some scooching out of minor rock catches. Eventually, though, we found maneuvering to be increasingly difficult. Our boats were starting to get more scraped and bumped than seemed like a good idea. There wasn’t enough water around the rocks to allow ourselves enough leverage to paddle through the obstacles, so we had to get out and walk the canoes with the rope. Apparently, this is called “lining.” I distinctly felt like I was walking an obstinate cow, though. (Not that I’ve ever done that, but it’s what I imagined.) C had gotten up ahead of me as I’m significantly slower at picking my way around slippery rocks with an obstinate cow/canoe. I was glad he did, because he flagged me down in time to stop off at our second campsite, which was just before the falls of the former Lyman Dam.

We were both grateful for the respite, and the campsite was an absolute gem, nestled in a hollow just up from the rocky beach. We were cold and soaked and grateful for the hot chocolate packs in our supply. I was much appreciative of C’s masterful campstove system. After an early dinner, we walked around on the rocky beach enjoying the geological and plant diversity. The gray sky teased us with promises of rain, but I told C that if we set up a tarp and planned for rain that it would blow through. I was right. The next morning delivered sunshine.

Day Three

Ever since our arrival at the Lyman Falls campsite, we looked at the river ahead, knowing that our next phase would include more lining. We didn’t even bother getting into our canoes in the morning, we just started the slow walk. The water level was only on the very edge between being able to paddle and really needing to walk it, which made for an extremely frustrating experience. Deepish bits with current were constantly interrupted with rock obstacles, so sometimes we carried the canoes, and sometimes they carried us. C sort of hung on to the canoe and let himself ride with the current whenever he could. After about an hour an a half, I was so frustrated that I just decided to paddle what I could. So I would maneuver what I could, then walk a bit, then maneuver. However, this process proved to be momentous in the end. I was coming through a fairly swift section, but misjudged a small catch of large rocks for quick water and came smashing up on them. I was so annoyed and realized that I would have to get out of the boat in order to get off of the rocks. Somehow in the process, I ended up standing in the water, holding my partially swamped canoe over me as the water rushed by, and thinking, “I really need to work out more.” I did manage to right the canoe in a stable position to begin to pump it out, but the triumph of the moment was drowned at the sight of my paddle floating away beyond my grasp–the one thing not securely fastened to my boat. At that moment, I decided that this wasn’t fun anymore. Thankfully I did have a spare paddle, but I barely needed it. We walked our canoes to the nearest resting place and pondered our next course of action. We had only come 0.7 mi in 3 hours, with no sign of river conditions changing. We were in the middle of a river in a very rural area; there are no ubers or taxis or shuttles. Had C been alone he might have persevered further down the river, but I had hit my physical limit. I knew this, because whenever I do, I cry. And I was crying. I just knew I was dead. So there’s that. C was brilliant though and messaged the AirBnB host of the first night’s campsite, and she cheerily agreed to come rescue us! We were near enough a road that we were able to lift the canoes out of the river and carry them to a place where she could pick us up, alongside one of NH’s many ATV trails. She was our hero of the day, throwing all our gear in her truck and hauling us back to our starting point and C’s car, regaling us with hilarious stories along the way. I venmo’ed her some cash for the effort and buckets of gratitude. So here we were back at the beginning and the planned itinerary fading from possibility. C suggested we just get an AirBnB somewhere, but we were both feeling a little bereft to abandon ship so abruptly. Since the Lyman Falls campsite also had road access, we decided to go back to that lovely spot and camp one night more. Or shall I say “glamp” since the car was within walking distance. Since we were glamping we decided to live it up and have orange soda and roast marshmallows and *gasp* even have a small campfire! We were actually awake late enough to see stars come out. It was the perfect ending to a rocky day. And that night the rain did indeed come. (Because we didn’t hang the tarp, I’m sure.) In retrospect, it’s a good thing we did end up at a lovely AirBnB in the Vermont mountains for the next night, because that’s when the remnants of Hurricane Isaias blew through.

I’ll pick up where J broke off. This also was the moment (at the next AirBnB) where we discovered together the joys of a burger and ice cream after a tough wilderness journey. And this discovery would be tested in our next wilderness journey, wherein Jeannette experienced her second death, bought on by her comment,

I don’t feel like I’ve had enough outdoorsing. What if we were to go hiking…

Connecticut River 2020: Fails and Wins

I learned a lot on this trip about the limits of my boats and of my skills, mainly related to how much rock bashing these boats really can take, and how some of my accessories really perform. I’ll talk about the damage to my boat, first.

The Fails

I cracked a stringer. This is the second stringer down from the gun’l, one of the thinner ones. It looks like the crack doesn’t go all the way through, and I’m thinking I’ll just leave it? Apart from sistering in another length of stringer there, I’m not sure how I would repair that without re-skinning the boat.

I’ve worn holes in the nylon. In one instance, a tiny pebble worked itself between the keel and the fabric, and then worked itself out through the fabric leaving a hole in the bottom of the boat. Meanwhile, the goop is pretty much scraped away from most of the keel and bottom two stringers, leaving the nylon weave exposed and, I presume, not waterproof. I mean, even the dye is gone from there.

My tether clips failed. While lining, I found my clip suddenly and inexplicably detached from the boat. I noticed just in time, and immediately removed the clip and tied the line directly to the pad eye with a bowline. This is the clip I was using. Looking at this picture I can see how if you rotated it to the left, counter clockwise, it would push the gate open against the after end of the pad eye, allowing the clip to slip off. Next time I’ll skip the clip and just use a knot, or splice a line on there.

I skipped the flotation. I should have taken the trouble to set up the extra flotation (pool noodles) but didn’t. I never do, because I’m usually on flat water and it’s a pain to lace those noodles in and out all the time. Fortunately, I wasn’t in a self rescue situation, but I might have been as I did swamp the boat several times. It’s really time to figure out a system for making those noodles easy to take in and out so I’m more likely to put them in.

The Wins

I had my tube of Aquaseal. I’m so glad that back when I built these boats I put a tube of Aquaseal into the first aid / emergency kit, and that I’ve never left for the water without it. I never expected I’d need it, and then I did. And I had it. I also had duct tape. I didn’t need it this time, but the lesson is learned; don’t cut corners, and don’t take your conditions for granted. Also, thanks to Brian Schulz at Cape Falcon Kayaks for this simple, yet sage advice on how to put together an emergency kit for paddling trips.

Everything in the boat was buttoned down. Again, following Brian Schulz’s advice, we made sure to properly packed, roll, and bungy our drybags into the boats, with the bungies running under the straps and through the D rings. We clipped in our ditch bags, and secured our spare paddles with ball bungies. We also secured our water bottles and anything else in the boat under bungies, or in bags tied to the boat’s ribs. Consequently, when we swamped or tipped we never lost a single thing except the paddle J let go of that one time, which wasn’t a disaster because we had both had spares, and the spares were secure. We encountered another couple on the same trip we were on who lost half their gear down river and had to end their trip right then and there. I guess I sound a little smug. It’s because I am.

These boats are tough. I only built these boats a year ago, but I’ve put them through a lot. I’ve used them almost every other weekend on local day paddles and overnights, and multi-day trips in Maine and New Hampshire. I’ve not been gentle. They’ve been pulled up sand banks, they’ve bashed against rocks, and they’ve been dropped and tossed. I think they’ve held up amazingly well.

And let me say, everything I did right I did because I paid attention to Brian. Check out his fantastic video series and other resources at Cape Falcon Kayaks, and also on Instagram and YouTube.

Connecticut River 2020: Planning

Here’s a typical interaction between my wife and me:

Me: Hey, for our canoe trip: do you see yourself wanting to be up at 6 and arriving at the next camp site at 7? Or do you see yourself wanting to break camp at 10 and be at the next place at 4?
Her: It’s in two months. I have no idea.

So now the trip is upon us. The food is dehydrated and packed. I ordered a few new dry bags, replaced the rub strips on my boat, and I’ve called the police departments at our put-in and take-out towns to let them know where we’re leaving our cars. I just can’t even express how exciting this is to me. Five days floating with my wife. It’s going to be amazing.

And I have to say, while the amount of extra stuff my wife packs gives me pause, she’s actually doing really well. She has a few more things to pack, but both of our bags come in at about 22 lbs with consumables and a few inefficiencies in the base weights, My backpacking base weight is between 9 and 11 lbs depending on season, so I’m pretty happy.

So this is the plan: tonight we drive up to Canaan, NH to camp. In the morning, we’ll get an early breakfast, pack the car back up, and paddle off. We’re following one of the suggested trips on the Connecticut River Paddler’s Trail, starting at Canaan and ending at the Mt. Orne covered bridge in Lancaster. Here’s the trip plan. Descriptions are taken from the CRPT site:

Day One: Put in in Canaan, Vermont (RM 372), at a town owned park below the bridge to West Stewartstown. There is ample parking here and an improved access. Journey through a broad pastoral valley marked by quickwater and Class I rapids past the Johnson Farm Wildlife Management Area on right right. Stop for lunch and a swim at Picnic Rock. 10 miles in, the river slows as you’ll pass by Colebrook (RM 363) and Monadnock Mountain, a rugged site hike with rewarding views. Spend the night at Holbrook Point (11 miles in, RMN 362), a small campsite nestled beneath Silver Maples or Columbia Meadows (14 miles in), a more open site at the edge of a hayfield.

Day Two: The river is quickwater here – delightful after rains but scratchy at low water. It is an easy, 10 mile (3-4 hr) paddle to Lyman Falls (RM 351), one of the finest campsites along the Upper River. Scout/line this rapid on river left. Camp at the state park (no reservations needed) on river right, or the island on the NH side. Enjoy catch and release fishing at this well known angling destination.

Day Three: Enjoy four miles of quickwater to Bloomfield. Resupply at general stores located both in Bloomfield and North Stratford, easy walks from landings at the confluence of the Nulhegan (VT) or a park in North Stratford (RM 347). Below Bloomfield you’ll be paddling part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. The river is fairly flat, with occasional quickwater, and is well away from roads. The river braids around islands here; in general, stay river right. Stop for lunch and a swim at the Maine Central Campsite (RM 341), before carrying on to the Samuel Benton Campsite (RM 334). This campsite, managed by the NFCT, is situated beneath trees at the edge of a large farm field, 17 miles below Lyman Falls, and is suitable for large groups.

Day Four: Paddle through the Maidstone Bends – a series of old oxbows and wide meanders, and on to Guildhall. For a shorter day (or lunch break), stop at the Scott Devlin Campsite (RM 324), a pleasant campsite in a stand of pines. One mile downstream is the breached Wyoming Dam (RM 323) – take out on river right above the bridge to stretch your legs, and portage or scout. Rebar from the old dam creates hazards at low water or for accidental swimmers, and at high water this is a short Class II rapid. It is possible to end a trip here – please park by the town offices. Those carrying on should consider camping at the South Guildhall Campsite (RM 317), with splendid views of the Whites, or the less primitive Beaver Trails Campground near Lancaster (RM 313), where you can also take-out to end the trip.

Day Five: Its a mellow, ten mile paddle on from the South Guildhall Campsite to the Mt Orne Covered Bridge Access (RM 307). For a longer day, one hour further is the John’s River Ramp on river left (RM 304).