As promised, the boats got finished in time for the family trip to the Allagash in the North Maine woods. In another post I’ll share some about the trip, but here I want to talk about how the boats performed, and what I want to do to them going forward.
Weather and Waves
Telos lake was a good first test to understand how these boats deal with wind and chop. Six to seven mile per hour (avg) winds and white caps in the afternoon are pretty typical, making the mile-long crossing from one side to the other a ton of fun. The sheer was just about right to keep us dry without getting blown around, and the bows were full enough that I never worried about taking a dive into a wave. Further, they felt stable. At no point did any of us fear a capsize, as we learned to time our paddle strokes to brace against the swell and keep the bow pointed upwind.
In calmer moments in the early mornings or toward sunset, we ghosted along at a good clip without much effort at all, our paddles barely making a splash. I found that I could keep course pretty well.
But when I switched to using a single bladed paddle in my own boat I found that kneeling to one side to paddle while heeled was hopeless. First, it didn’t feel super stable, and with so little boat in the water I basically was a spinning top. But since the boats are narrow, I had no problem shifting back to the center line. With the bow back in the water, I tracked again.
EDIT (21 Aug 2019): The single bladed paddle is just fine. I got used to it, refined my paddling style, and now I really enjoy switching position and paddling style. My otter tail is a bit long, but I make do, and maybe that’s motivation to make a new one.
Using a Single Bladed Paddle
Single blades are slower than double blades, of course, but it was nice to have the option to change my position. I even tried the double bladed paddle while kneeling. And the back rest made a comfortable platform for it, though the dry bags got in the way of my legs that far back, and I think the boat performed better with my center of gravity farther forward.
- For flotation I doubled up on standard 2+” X 5′ noodles (4 / boat) to exceed Brian’s specs. I just found that buying more of the smaller noodles was less expensive than buying fewer of the 4” noodles. This was more of a psychological measure on this trip though, since we didn’t really have time to practice rescues and the conditions weren’t such that I was worried about it.
- I missed trying out sails and outriggers, which I wanted to do on this trip but just didn’t have time to build and test. The back rests were a gesture at the final product as I had to throw them together the night before we left, and still was modifying them at the put-in (my wife was amused that I’d brought a circular saw, drill, driver, and sander).
- One thing I wish I’d had is a platform on which to mount things like our action camera, and probably loads of other stuff that I’ll think of later. So a board running under the forward rescue loops would have been nice.
- In the pictures you’ll notice that the boys had rods mounted in the boat with them. That was just a section of PVC pipe secured with ball bungies. The system worked well for them, and they experimented with different positions.
I’m not super convinced of the outriggers that Brian builds (all respect to the great master, I’m probably wrong). I think I talked before about how I think I can build outriggers that aren’t tuned specifically to two particular boats. But one of the reasons I decided to skip the outriggers on this trip is that they do, as Brian admits, tend to clutter the boat. Further, even if I can build outriggers that are fully boat agnostic, they still won’t be easy to rig on the water. Here’s my summary of requirements, then:
- Installable and removable while paddling
- Do not require removing existing accessories (e.g., back rest / yoke)
- Fully boat agnostic (the same outriggers can be put on any two boats)
- Minimize clutter in the boat
I’ve go some ideas about how this would be possible. First, to be truly boat agnostic the outriggers would have to attach at the center line of the boat. Perhaps the back rest / yoke could be set up to allow this, while still providing a platform for sitting. This will require some experimentation. If there’s a removable thwart running under the forward rescue loops, then perhaps this could serve the same function for the forward outrigger. Again, this will require further thought and experimentation.
Another thought regards the noodles. I can’t leave these in as some might, since the interference with stacking, multiplied by four boats, would make car-topping unwieldy. What I need is a quick way to install and uninstall them. I’m thinking that 1/8” shock cord, with clips like a cargo net, would do the trick. Also, I like the idea of a toggle rather than a clip or a ball. I found some HDPE rod to try this out, but right now it’s a lower priority.