Saturday, May 29, 2010

Full Circle

Isn't it great when two loves in your life finally come together? I've only been kayaking "seriously" since July 2009 and during that time I know that I must've been driving my poor wife, Cheryl, nuts with my fanaticism. (Anybody who paddles knows that it can be all-consuming.)

My wife had expressed an interest in paddling but we never got around to doing anything about it - until I got it in my head to buy her a drysuit for Mother's Day. I decided not to surprise her so we went to the Outfitters, a local shop that sells kayaks and associated gear, so that she could try one on. We left without a suit as she was unsure if she would use it enough to justify the cost. As luck would have it, there was a local paddler who had the exact same suit that we were looking at and was willing to let Cheryl loan it with an option to buy!!! What luck!

Today, May 30th, was our first "long paddle" together. We left Bay Bulls and did a 7 km trek. While not too long, we did run into a brisk head wind on the way back - go figure. We had a great time and I think that Cheryl is hooked!!! She said "We should paddle every Saturday". I'm up for that!!!

The only downside of the day was that when I went to take off my drysuit I found that I have a tooth out of alignment which causes the zipper to jam. Fawk that!!! It's a Palm Stikine - a very nice suit - and I'm hoping that the Outfitters will help me out (hint hint). I can still use the suit I just need to use a needlenose pliers, i.e., multi-tool, to realign the tooth so that the zipper can open!!!

Here's a few shots from the day:

The put-in

Headin' out the bay

Lunch and a smile. What it's all about. Who can't help but smile while enjoying a day on the water?

Thanks Cheryl for a great day together and looking forward to many more!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sometimes it's just fun to bounce . . .

The regular Thursday night practice was looking a bit lame. The wind was up but off the land - for the most part. But it continued to rise - and rise - and rise - until we had some "fun" conditions. It was a great evening to just bounce, and plow, and raft up, and chat, and maybe pull a few rolls and what have ya.

Our crowd tonight was relatively small but the Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador Retreat is tomorrow so we expected some people to be home getting their gear ready. Myself, Dean and Dennis are leaving tomorrow afternoon but we decided to head out to St. Philip's tonight anyway. (Hopefully the gear will be halfway dry by tomorrow!!!!)

It turned out to be a great evening on the water. The wind was gusting like all get out. The waves started off steep. I remember Clyde saying "the waves are starting to curl" but he meant it in a good way - as in yeehaa let's get out there!!! And we did!!!

We all agreed that, despite the fact that we never really got anywhere, it was a great night to be on the water.

I have to admit that I pulled off my first "combat roll" tonight. I was fooling with my camera and not paying attention to the beam sea. I tucked my camera inside my PFD just as a beam wave hit me. I knew what was coming next but I simply went over. Oriented my paddle. And did a nice clean and slow roll - just like in practice. No panic. No worry. I came up laughing and smiling like an idiot. I looked around and, I'll be damned, but no one saw me go over/come back up!! I was both relieved (that no one saw my faux pas) and disappointed (that no one saw my "fabulous rough water roll)!!

At one point we "lost" Stan. Stan, as many know, is the Johnny Cash of Kayaking. He's the man in black - black boat, black drysuit, black PFD, black hat, black soul (just kidding) and, as of late, a black CF Greenland paddle. Stan decided to skirt the shore for a bit. After a while,the collective asked "Where's Stan?" He was nowhere to be seen. Ah, but there is the rub. You can't see Stan when he's backdropped by the rocks!! We finally "found" Stan - bobbing about in a small sheltered rock cove. Here's where was:

It was a great night guys - Tobias, Tony, Stan, Dean, Dennis and Clyde. My apologies to Tobias and Tony. Sorry guys but no piccys of you!!

There should be a new video in the right hand menu as well - just so you can relive the conditions!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Baby One More Time

I can't believe I'm titling this post after a Britney Spears' song but what can you do?

Last night after supper I did the final shaping of the new paddle. I then hosed it down to bring up the grain. While it was drying I headed off for our final pool session until next fall.

I'm happy wih the results thus far.The paddle is stiff while still fairly light (31 oz) and, if I may say so, looks good to boot. All pictures in this entry were taken after the initial wet down. I have not added the trademark black band in the images.

When I returned home from the pool, I gave the paddle a quick touch up sanding, put on the black reflective bands, applied a coat of epoxy to the tips and a coat of tung oil to the remainder of the paddle. The oil brought the look of the wood up nicely. The epoxy went on smooth but that's another story!!!

Here's a few shots after wetting down with water:

I said that the epoxy was "another story" because the friggin' stuff was still tacky and soft after 7 hrs drying and there were a few fish eyes (spots where the epoxy does not adhere to the wood but runs off to leave bare spots). I'd like to express how I really feel but you never know who's reading this blog!!! I am getting disillusioned with epoxy resin as a protective coating. I follow the 1:4 ratio of accelerant to resin as per instructions but I don't seem to have much luck - be it amine blush, running/sagging or improper curing. I beginning to think that I'll just coats the tips with tung oil and "let the chips fall where they may" - or should I say "let the paddle chip when it falls!" (hahahahaha).

If the coat is not cured when I get home this evening "up she comes", i.e., I'll strip the tips and go with good ol, easy-to-work -with tung oil!!!

Also, the epoxy yellowed the tips - taking away from the nice white bone-like look that I wanted!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

It Begins . . . yet again

Contrary to popular belief, I do more with my life than experiment with Greenland paddle designs!! Unfortunately, these other things rarely make it into a blog entry. So, this entry is no different.

After the "catastrophic failure" (a fellow paddler'e terms" of my last paddle) I took a few week's hiatus from paddle making but now, with our club's annual paddle retreat being this weekend, I figured it's time I got back to making a new paddle to take with me. With the exception of my last failed paddle, all my others have been 88 long. Being 6'3" with a 22" wide boat, I figured I should give a 90" paddle a whir - just to see if it makes any difference.

As with my other paddles, I've gone with a laminated structure. This one has a pine centre strip. For some reason this piece of pine is much more dense and hard grained that other pine I've used so I feel quite confident that it'll be up to the task. I'm also using Western Red Cedar (WRC) for the bulk of the paddle with aspen for the tips and edges. Aspen is basically a soft hardwood. It is much MUCH harder than WRC and also harder than the spruce I've been using. It's pretty light in weight as well. It's also very light in colour - almost white - which works well for the tips and it gives a nice contrast for the edges.

I've gone with the hollow centre loom again on this paddle. I really like the lightweight that can be achieved by this simple process. In this case, I drilled a variety of different holes sizes (1", 3/4" 1/2" and 1/4") throughout the loom and shoulders. This knocked over 4 oz off the centre lamination alone.

I've decided to let the outer laminations extend to the end of the paddle to add support the attached tip. Here's the ends prior to the aspen tip being atttached. The added strength of the laminations should negate the need for any other type of supprt for the join - dowels, mortise and tenon etc.

Unlike with the laminations where I used waterproof glue, I opted to use epoxy to attach the tips becuase it has greater gap filling capabilities. The joins are pretty tight - eventhough it make not look like it in this image.

I love how what appears to be so rough and ugly can, with a few passes of the plane, become so much more beautiful as the epoxy is stripped and the true grain of the wood shows through.

But that's for another day . . .

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's a Labour of Love AND It's Therapeutic

Sometimes I think that people look upon wooden paddles as being the "poor cousins" of the carbon fibre ones. I'll admit that I made my first Greenland paddle because I was too cheap to buy a CF unit. A year later, I was given a fairly decent Euro CF paddle for Christmas but promptly returned it to the store as I knew that I was committed to using the wooden GP and the Euro would see little to no action.

At the risk of sounding "airy fairy", there's something very organic about a wooden paddle - "obviously", you say, as it's generally made of 100% entirely organic materials (I say "generally" because some are laminated with a glue or epoxy). But a wooden paddle is organic in other ways. First, there is a good chance that you fabricated the paddle yourself - so you know all about it. It's curves, weight, balance and, yes we all have them, imperfections!! Wood also has a very different feel than a CF or other non-wood materials. Wood never feels very cold - no matter how cold the air or water may be. A hand carved paddle is also more than a tool. A well crafted paddle borders on a sculpted carving - a piece of functioning art, so to speak

A wooden paddle by nature, can require more upkeep than a CF or fibreglass or, god forbid, aluminium and plastic. Is this a downside? I say not. I'm very careful with my wood paddles. They are stored against the wall in my living room (right behind me as I type) They are handled carefully when being transported in the car. When I notice that the tung oil finish is looking a little lack lustre, I give it a quick rub with steel wool and apply another quick coat of oil. This, in itself, is therapeutic. In a matter of minutes you can take a dull paddle and replace it with a shiny (but not too shiny) new one. It's very satisfying.

Even the dings on a wooden paddle can be attractive. A CF or FG paddle blade usually shows white when its given a hard scrape or knock. A wooden paddle, on the other hand, will bear its wound less obviously. A ding on a wooden paddle usually shows as darker - almost like a bruise. (Think of a boxer proudly displaying his battle wounds)

A wooden paddle that you've crafted, I would think, has a greater attachment to you than a CF or FG that you bought in the store. I know that is how I feel. My current paddle is 88" long, is a full 3.5 wide yet it only weighs 27oz. That's about 1oz heavier than the $500.00 Werners that many people are using. I've tried twice to make paddles to replace it (see earlier posts) but they have failed. I'm beginning to think that its kharma. I think I'll stay with this one for a while.

The intent of this entry is, in no way, to slag Euros, CF's or any other non-wood, non-GP paddles. I've tried the Euro's but they are too hard on my shoulders. Luckily the GP is more forgiving. A Euro paddle in the hands of a skilled paddler is a joy to watch. I guess I'd just like other paddlers to not think of wood as an inferior material nor should they be afraid to try a GP (wooden or CF) just to see what the grass is like on the other side of the fence.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

'Nuff Said

Well, another Thursday evening "practice" in St. Philip's has come and gone. The day started with a brisk NW wind that had whitecaps forming on the bay. It was beginning to look like a good evening on the bay. But, as is often the case lately, the wind dropped off completely by the time we hit the water. There were, however, long rolling swells producing some good clapotis in areas so we took advantage of that. For some reason, there was not a "whole lotta practicing goin' on" tonight. We bobbed, we chatted, we rolled and we scooted in and out of the swells.

Thanks to Brian, Tony, Clyde and Hazen. Hazen, by the way, was sporting his brand spankin' new drysuit and this was his first salt water paddle since September! Now that he has his drysuit, there's no stopping him now!!

Was tonight a write-off? By no means at all. Look at the picture above and you'll see why? A beautiful evening on the water, good friends and an obvious love of paddling. 'Nuff said!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

. . . and how quick it DIED

I took the new paddle to the pool tonight. At one point I put a lot of pressure into a stroke and I felt a "pop". I stopped and noticed a small fracture in one of the blades. No biggie. I went home and fixed that. While the fracture repair was setting up, I decided to do a another stress test. This time, putting a considerable amount of pressure on the other blade. Anyways, the loom cracked about 3" in from the shoulder. The noise as it snapped sounded like a gunshot. It was 12:30 AM but luckily I woke nobody in the house!!

I keep going over in my mind - did I put undue pressure on the paddle or was it not fit for "ocean going service" and that I'm lucky it broke when it did? I guess I'll never know.

I think I may have buggered up the grain orientation. Comments/suggestions?

Anyway, I slapped some epoxy in the cracks and put a quick wrap of glass around the broken loom - just to see what happens but I doubt that this paddle, as beautiful as it once was, will never be used!!

I considered making a new paddle but then thought "Hey, I have great paddle already" It's only 88" but it's 3.5" wide, has a 22" loom and weighs an incredible 27oz. It's stiff and strong and I've already used it quite a bit over the past few months. Plus, I've put plastic tip protectors on it which negates the need to go with the maple - which is quite heavy!!

I think it's time that I appreciate the great paddle that I already have and to use it accordingly!

Here's a shot of ol' faithful. Looks an awful lot like the new one, what??

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

IT LIVES . . .

One week to the day of starting my new paddle, I finally gave it its first coats of tung oil and epoxy. I did some initial sanding on Saturday night so that I could take it on a paddle on Sunday. Sunday's paddle gave me a chance to feel it out and to allow the water to raise the grain of the wood prior to the final finishing.

Tonight (Monday) after letting the paddle dry overnight, I went back to the sanding and removed some more wood from the lower edges and the tips. It's funny how a little sanding can make a difference in weight. I managed to drop almost 1.5 oz just by doing the final sanding alone. The paddle now sits at 30.9. Damn - so close to that sub 30 threshold. But I really should be pleased. This a full 90" paddle with solid maple tips and edges. I really can't expect it weigh less than a full cedar unit. I'm happy!!

As per all my latter paddles, I've applied the distinctive reflective black strip. Hence my designation as this being paddle BBP (Black Band Paddle) #7.

The Naked Paddle (No finish whatsoever)

First coat of Tung Oil

Slight coat of epoxy applied to the tips.

I'm not really that keen on the glossy epoxy so I'll tone it down a bit with some steel wool to take off some of the shine.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Day on the Bay . . .

Seven of, what I would call, our core group of paddlers headed off to Bay Bulls today for a day paddle. I've been to Bay Bulls many times, went on the tour boats a few times but never paddled there. I was not disappointed.

The morning started off with the standard leisurely paddle along the shore. It was pretty sheltered on the North side of the bay today.

Clyde and Robert

Dean sporting his new lid

Robert and Tony just cruisin'

But as we headed towards more open water outside the headland, things took a change. We bounced into the swells/waves for a while before making the prudent decision to turn back. I only wish I had my camera mounted on the deck for some water level videos of the oncoming water!! It was too hard taking pictures in the more confused waters so I only have a few and even these don't do justice to the sea state.

Tony just entering the chop

Can you see Ralph's red helmet and paddle tip?

We then rode the swells back into Bay Bulls . . .

Stan looks like he has to paddle "uphill" to catch Ralph!

. . . stopped at the head of the bay for lunch.

Fueling up!

. . . and then headed back out again!!!

This time we hit the Southern head of Bay Bulls where the water was choppy as well.

Clyde in his element

Thanks to Robert, Tony, Dean, Ralph, Stand and Clyde for a "lovely tell yer Mudder kinda day" on the Bay!