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.

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