Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lessons Learned From Our 2009 Kayaking Season

I aim to keep my kayaking posts upbeat, but I also want to keep things real. In that spirit, let's talk about some of the things that didn't work so well for us this season.

People: I was excited to join the East Hampstead Kayaking MeetUp Group this year so we could meet new paddlers and try new places. They turned out to be a great group of friendly people and we enjoyed our early season paddle on Dubes Pond with them. But in the end, the group didn't work out for us. They tended to favor longer paddles of 3 to 5 hours and many trips were scheduled at night or on Sunday mornings -- just not a good fit with our kayaking style. If this sounds like your style, however, definitely check them out.

Places: Our least favorite kayaking excursion this season was the 9-mile section of the Contoocook River we did with the East Hampstead Group. We paddled steadily for 3.5 hours and saw mostly high (eroded) river banks and very little wildlife. In this case, we were shuttled to the put-in and had no option but to keep paddling to the take-out. (Next time we take a shuttle, we'll check the distance more carefully.) Thank goodness it was a beautiful summer day and we were with a nice group of people!

Things: Our Heritage Feather Lite kayaks have served us well for four seasons. But we're leaning toward buying new kayaks with closed cock pits next year and here's why: The Feather Lite has a wide open cock pit (which makes it stable) but also turns it into a huge bowl that quickly fills with water if you do tip over. (Doug found that out on the Nashua River this summer.)
I read afterwards that the boat is considered "unrescue-able." He was able to save the boat probably because he was so close to shore, but things probably would have turned out differently if he had been out in the middle of the river.

There's a makeshift solution to this problem and that is to fill the open cockpit with inflatable bags sold for that purpose. We might try that next year or we might start shopping for new boats, if we can afford them. If you have a favorite brand or model, please write in and let us know. We would love to get suggestions!


MHoffmanPhoto said...

Great post.

Too bad the group didn't work out for you. I might try joining a group, but I'm not sure yet. I usually don't like to be in large groups when I'm enjoying the outdoors. However, the longer paddles are right up my alley. For instance, today, a climbing trip to Rumney didn't work out, so I paddled both Grafton Pond and nearby Crystal Lake. If the sun didn't set, I'd still be out there.
So your Heritage is more of a "sit on top" style kayak, right? If you're thinking of replacing it with a "sit-in", one advantage will be weight savings. Sit-on-tops require significantly more material to make and usually weigh about 30% more than a comparable sit-in.
I have a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140 and I love it. I find the 14' length to be a good compromise between manueverability and good tracking and speed. Also, the WS Phase 3 seating is the most adjustable and (IMO) the most comfortable, so it makes longer paddles a lot more feasible.
I hope you get some other feedback. It's always great to hear peoples experiences with different boats.

Good luck!

Lucie said...

Hi Matt,
I was hesitant about group kayaking, too, because we definitely enjoy the solitude (or close to it) when we're on the water. But we figured it would occasionally mix things up a little. Too bad I didn't have the stamina for this group!

Our Heritage kayaks are actually "sit in" boats and pretty lightweight. I think they're about 36 pounds. I've been eyeing some of the Wilderness kayaks -- it's good to hear from someone who uses one. Thanks so much for writing!
P.S. Looking forward to your guest post on Pillsbury State Park. Do you have time to write it?