Wednesday, September 24, 2008

First Real Kayak Paddle!!!!

Alright!!! The weather today in Michigan was absolutely stunning...82 degrees, calm winds, clear skies. Basically, it was a perfect day to head to the lake to get my first real test of the TK-1 out of the way.

I had planned on getting up at 10:00 AM, but that plan fell through and instead I was up at 11:00 AM. I hit the shower and started gathering all of my stuff up. I got everything around and loaded in the car and headed out probably around 11:40 or so.

I got my new Storus dry bag all packed up because I really wanted to try it out. The Storus bag held everything perfectly. It's a great size for what I need it for. It held my Palm Centro smartphone, my car keys, my wallet, some spare batteries, and my digital camera. My digital camera is a Samsung model CH3AP-A55, and as such it's relatively small. It's not in the bag in this photo, because this photo is taken with the camera!!!

After a quick stop at the gas station for some Gatorades, I was at the lake at about 12:10. I found a place to park and got the boat out to get it ready to go. I got the boat and all the equpiment out and dragged it to the spot that I would be launching from. I laid the boat out and unrolled it to get it ready for inflation.

I grabbed my Sevylor bellows foot pump and got to work. About 5 minutes later I had the boat all pumped up and ready to go...

...or so I thought. After I got the boat pumped up, I realized something horrible...I had left the seat at the house!!!! I debated going back to get it, but reluctantly decided just to try to go without it. I have a cheap orange PFD and I threw that in there to try and utilize it as a worked okay, until the end of the trip...but more on that later!!

So anyways, I got the boat all loaded up with the things I needed and got it into the water. The put in at the park I had found was pretty nice. It was nice soft grass all the way up to the water line, but at the water line there was a nice soft sand bottom. Perfect for putting the kayak in!!

I got the boat in the water and took special care to avoid the giant weeds and lily pad field that was just to the right of where I was putting in. I don't like seaweeds. I want to avoid them at all costs. You can see them to an extent in the picture above. They were insane. All over that area.

Once underway I immediately noticed that the water was quite a bit calmer than it had been last week. There was less wind and as such the water was quite a bit less choppy. It was actually really smooth. I set my sights on what appeared to be a rather large sailboat on the opposite side of the lake and figured that would be a good spot for me to attempt to get to for my first paddle.

I set off and noticed that the boat didn't seem to be tracking quite as well as I had remembered it. It was traveling alright in a straight line, but as soon as I stopped paddling it would want to "skid" out. I attribute this to a few things. First, I don't know what I'm doing. That's probably the most important aspect of all of this. Second, I didn't feel quite as comfortable sitting on the live vest as I did on the nice seat that comes with the TK-1. I think that contributed to the boat not being balanced very well. Lastly, I hadn't noticed it when I was first starting to inflate, but the floor bladder was a bit off center. I'm sure that having the floor off center in this boat can cause some odd tracking issues. I believe that these things will be able to be corrected in future paddles...mainly by me gaining experience and making sure I'm all set for my trip.

Tracking issues or not, I was still moving along at a relatively good clip. The inflatable tends to zig-zag across the water to an extent, but nothing that's annoying. It just doesn't go exactly straight, which is to be expected from such a short boat that basically sits on TOP of the water instead of in the water.

I got about half way to where I was determined to go, and stopped for a quick sip of Gatorade. While I was floating I decided to grab the camera and get a shot or two. Clark Lake isn't really a good lake for scenery. It's basically surrounded by summer homes, cottages, and regular homes. Some of them are gorgeous, however, so if you are into that type of thing there are definitely sights to be had. If you're into nature and natural beauty, this isn't really the place for you.

I grabbed a shot just to illustrate how MANY homes are around this lake. You can see the front of my nice looking boat in this photo!!

I turned the boat back around and fixed on my sailboat again. At this point in time I was joined by the first other craft I'd seen on the lake at all. An older gentleman, probably about 65 at least, went flying by on a jet ski. He was probably going about 50 MPH. It was pretty amusing to me to see this old guy going so fast on the thing. I tried to grab the camera but by the time I had got it he was long gone. Anyways, back to paddling.

I started going again and was trying some different types of movements with my paddle, trying to determine the one that helped me track the best and also maintain a good speed. I found a couple that worked, but I think they would be better if I had the actual seat in the boat. The actual seat sits a bit higher than I was sitting, and I determined that sitting lower probably wasn't helping me come up with an effective stroke. I was still moving along pretty well, and was getting closer to my initial target.

After about 30 minutes of paddling I arrived at the sailboat that I had initially set my sights on. It was a nice boat, about 25 feet in length. I didn't take a picture because it had quite a bit of covering on it. It appeared that it was relatively ready to go into dry dock for the winter. Why these people that own these homes on the water weren't out on the water on a day like today is beyond me!!!

As I got to that side of the lake, I realized that the cottages on this side were quite a bit nicer than the other side of the lake. I took a couple shots of the ones that I liked the best.

The brown one in the center of this photo is my favorite on the lake. The picture just doesn't do it justice.

This one was a pretty close runner up, and it was actually just a few houses down from the one above.

After hanging out over on that side of the lake for about 15 minutes, I decided it was probably time to start heading back. Remember, this is my first real trip that lasted more than just a few minutes. The sun was hot and I was getting a bit sun burned. After the little time in the sun I felt like I had been spending most of my time in a cave lately...granted, I don't go outside a ton but being out in the sun for a long time for a change was pretty nice. It felt great to be back out on the water again. It's been a long time since my father sold his boat and I haven't really been on the water since then.

On my way back to the put in, I found another home on the water that I really liked. This one was a bit more "classically styled" than the others. Either way, it appealed to me quite a bit.

On the way back I came across another person on the water. It was a guy in a speed boat who looked like he was getting it ready to be taken out of the water for the winter. As he finally sped off from his boat dock, he created quite the wake and I got to try the TK-1 out in some relatively large waves. The boat handled them with ease and was steady as could be. I didn't really know how to paddle through them, so I ended up just kind of riding them out. When he passed by a bit later I did a better job of paddling in them, and that made me happy.

I noticed now that the boat seemed to be tracking a bit better. I'm assuming that I had subconsciously gotten better at paddling in just this short time and was doing a better job. Wouldn't you know it as soon as I started thinking about it my tracking went to hell again. I stopped worrying and just paddled. As I look back when I'm not thinking about it, I paddle quite a bit more smoothly.

I was getting closer to the put in and I thought of something. That lily pad field that I had avoided on the way out, I was going to go through it on the way back. I was hoping to find some kind of wildlife or something in it. Besides, it was the straightest route to the put in from where I currently was and I was starting to get yah, maybe my laziness overcame my fear of the weeds.

Anyways, I got into the lily pads and immediately noticed something. It was the largest fresh water turtle I had ever seen. It's shell had to be about 10 inches long. He looked like a small pizza floating there in the water!! As the kayak approached, he quickly ducked under a lily pad. But I just floated there and he soon surfaced again. I sat there looking at him for a minute. I decided to try and get a picture. Of course, as soon as I grabbed the camera he took off. I guess I scared him. I waited a few minutes and noticed several other turtles under the boat, but none of them nearly as large as the one I had initially noticed. As I was watching the turtles I also noticed a GIANT fish of some kind. He was easily 16-18 inches long. I turned the boat a bit and he took off like a flash. The lily pad field was actually really cool. Lots of small fish, the giant fish, lots of turles, and the giant turtle. It was really nice even though it was a very small part of the lake. Unfortunately, as I looked at the field I noticed that it was littered with garbage. This small part of the lake was like a net for trash. It made me feel pretty bad, and the icing on the cake was a car tire that was sitting on the very edge of the water. Fortunately, as I got near the tire I noticed it seemed to be a haven for a pod of small at least it was being used by the natural inhabitants of this beautiful place.

After traversing the lily pad field, I was back at the put in. I got the boat as close to shore as it would go and when it wouldn't go any further decided to get out and pull the boat in on shore. Remember earlier when I said that my life vest worked great as a seat until the very end?? Well, here we go.

As I was getting out of the boat to pull it up on shore I quickly realized that I couldn't feel my legs. Apparently the shape of the life vest under my butt and legs had caused my legs to go to sleep. I stepped out of the boat and immediately crumpled into the water, soaking myself and nearly flipping the boat all at the same time. I laughed to myself, then noticed a few people on the shore laughing at me as well. I tried to pull myself up again and still couldn't support myself and fell again, this time face first. At this time the people on shore laughing at me came to see if I was okay. I can only imagine what it looked like from shore. They probably thought I was having a serious health issue. I explained to them that my legs had gone to sleep and that I was okay. I laughed with them at myself and sat in the water for a few minutes. I got the feeling back in my legs and finally got the boat out of the water.

With the boat out of the water I quickly ran and changed my shorts. I pulled the car around and then got the boat packed up and ready to go. Deflating and getting everything back to the car took about 5 minutes. That's one of the things I REALLY like about the inflatable is the ease of setup and tear down, and the ease of transportation. I feel that even if I get a higher quality kayak anytime soon I will still go with the's just so convenient for me.

The boat performed admirably. There was a little water in the bottom of it, but all of that I can attribute to paddle splash, and me flipping the boat. I don't think that there was enough in there to say that anything was leaking. As noted the tracking was kind of spotty. It seems to track pretty well when I'm not thinking about it, but as soon as I say "Hey, I'm going straight!!" all the sudden I start zig-zagging like crazy. Like I mentioned before, I can attribute it mostly to the fact that I don't know what I'm doing. With that said, I may try to rig up some kind of skeg to help with tracking until I get better...but I don't know if that's a good idea because it seems like a cheap fix and I might never learn to correct on my own.

All in all, the boat is great and it gets me out on the water, which is the most important thing. I'm looking forward to getting out there again. Hopefully once or twice more this fall before it's too cold to get out there.

In other news, Cathy's skeg for her Bali showed up today, so she can go with me the next time I go. That'll be cool to get us both out there.

Also, I've narrowed my upgrade options down to basically two. It's down to a Stearns Cordova or an Advanced Elements Expedition. Both are pretty similar, but the AE is longer and has a much higher weight capacity. I don't know if I want a 13 foot long inflatable, which the AE is, but the weight capacity would be nice!!

But in the meantime, I'm super happy with this purchase of the TK-1. It's a great little boat!!!


paddlesheep said...

Looks like a great little boat. I think part of the tracking is due to the boat only having about 8 feet of it's 10 foot length in the water.

I like seeing homes from the water too. You get a whole new perspective.

Gimpdiggity said...

I didn't really even notice that, but you're right.

It looks like maybe only about 7 feet worth of the boat is actually in the water. Maybe some extra weight would help it out, but for now I'm going to try to just learn how to paddle correctly...and if that fails, a skeg it is!!!!