Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Do you Have Paddle Envy?

How much time did you spend choosing a kayak paddle? If you're like us, not much at all. We researched kayaks and talked to a knowledgeable salesperson before buying, but the paddles were almost an afterthought. We're now starting our fourth year on the water and just realized there's a whole big world of paddles out there and using the right one can make a huge difference.

Call us naive or slow -- we're just not big into gear and gadgets. But when we meandered over to the paddle display at Kittery Trading Post last Sunday and picked one up, it was light as air! Hmmm. Now we're thinking seriously of spending a little extra money for paddles that will improve our time on the water -- yes, we have paddle envy.

Things to Consider When Buying a Paddle
What should you think about when buying a touring paddle? For starters, you should be thinking about:

  • The type of paddler you are (Are you a power paddler or easy going?) Your answer will help to determine the blade length, width, and shape.

  • How tall are you and how wide is your boat? The answer will help decide how long the shaft of your paddle should be.

You can read some excellent articles on choosing a paddle at TopKayaker.net and Kayakonline.com. Or if you prefer in-person expert advice, keep reading. Suzanne from Kokatat is the presenter for the following event.

Special Session for Kayaking MeetUp Members and Guests
The East Hampstead (NH) Kayaking MeetUp group has also organized an information session on kayaks, paddles, and PFDs at the Contoocook River Canoe Company in Concord on Sunday, May 31st at 12:30 p.m. This is an RSVP-event. If you'd like to attend, you'll need to join the group at MeetUp or go as an invited guest. E-mail the organizer Monica at mlcyr7327@yahoo.com to let her know you'd like to be a guest.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Not Quite Ready for Kayaking

Lamprey River in Newmarket, NH
Today was in the low 80s, unseasonably warm for this time of year in New Hampshire. Time to take out the kayaks, right? I know some folks who planned to get out on Lake Massabesic this weekend, but personally I'm going to wait just a few more weeks to give the water time to warm up.

Doug always teases me about being overly cautious when it comes to starting our kayaking season. Why am I waiting? Because most water bodies in our area haven't hit 50-degrees yet. And if we were to find ourselves unexpectedly in the water, we'd be battling possible hypothermia in as little as 5-10 minutes. (Of course, a wet or dry suit could protect against this, but who wants to wear a suit when it's in the 80s? Plus, we don't even own them.)

The experts at the American Canoe Association recommend that you wear protective clothing if the water temperature is below 65-degrees or if the sum of the air and water temperature is below 120-degrees.

I certainly don't want to put a damper on anyone's paddling fun, including my own. But I also know my own skill level and comfort level. If I were to capsize, I'm not convinced I could get safely back in the boat within 10 minutes.

In water temperature under 50-degrees, it takes less than 10 minutes for your core temperature to start dropping, your motor skills to become impaired and your cognitive thinking to slow. All of that makes it even more difficult to get back in the boat! I know there are people far more experienced at safety maneuvers and/or who are out there with wet suits -- but for me, it's better to be safe and wait for the water to warm up.

We're spending the time planning our 2009 kayaking adventures. We also went to Kittery (Maine) Trading Post today and looked at some new gear, including some paddles that were light as air. Will write more on that soon!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Try Canoes and Kayaks Before You Buy

With paddling season fast approaching, I've had a couple of people ask me how to choose their first kayak. I'm not an expert when it comes to that, but I'm happy to point you in the direction of people who are experts, starting with the folks at Contoocook River Canoe Company. (Just so you know...I have no financial interest in any of these companies.)

Contoocook River Canoe Company is offering a full day of on-water demos. They'll have over 200 boats to try out from at least 15 different manufacturers. Mark your calendar now and plan to check it all out at 9 Horse Hill Road in Concord on Sunday, May 17th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. I've never attended this event, but it's billed as the largest on-water demo in New Hampshire. Hope to see you there! Learn more at Contoocook River Canoe Company .

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Maple Guys and Ice Out

We took a ride out to Gilmore Pond in Jaffrey on Sunday just to check conditions. Can you tell we're just a little excited for kayaking season to begin? There was still ice on about 90 percent of the pond, so I'm guessing it will be at least another three or four weeks before we can actually get out there.

How Sweet It Is
Since it was New Hampshire Maple Weekend, our next stop was The Maple Guys in Lyndeborough. I've lived here my whole life and never once visited a sugar house. Never once smelled that sweet steam as it escapes from the roof vent. Never peered into a wood-fired evaporator filled with boiling sap or watched the pure maple syrup as it flows from the tap. That is, until now.

Let me start by saying there's still so much that amazes me about the backroads of New Hampshire. As we were driving from Jaffrey to Lyndeborough, I expected dirt roads, but I never expected so much mud. We're talking mud deep enough to suck your vehicle tires right into a vortex. Luckily, that didn't happen; there would have been no one around to help us out.

Finally, we arrived at 146 Old Schoolhouse Road. At first glance, it looked like the last outpost to nowhere. But the steam was pouring out of a little building. It was supposed to be an "open house," but no other cars were in sight. Do we go in? Do we drive by? It's raining outside. And then we glimpse a young girl, maybe 10 or 11, standing by a cash register in the doorway. She looks likes she's waiting for visitors. Okay, let's go inside. Who could possibly have come way out here to visit this little sugar house in the middle of nowhere?

Well, as usual, I was wrong. The Maple Guys run a small, but full-scale operation. They've won prestigious awards for their maple syrup. They've even invented equipment that is used by other maple producers. Their family members are happy to explain the whole operation to us. Turns out they've had lots of visitors today, even despite the mud and the rain. We learned some interesting facts about maple syrup production and sampled some pure maple sugar candy...mmm.
Still Time to Visit a Sugar House, But Hurry
NH's official Maple Sugar weekend is over, but you can still discover for yourself how sap turns into pancake topping. Parker's Maple Barn in Mason offers maple syrup producing tours on weekends (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) through mid-April. It's a good idea to call ahead to be sure the sap is still running.