Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Stuff Everywhere

The house is starting to get really messy with only 4 weekends left to prepare for the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge (EC). Sailing, paddling, and fitness training will continue, but now I also have to start focusing on the tasks of preparing for an expedition.

Though the EC is an unusual event, it is an expedition, and requires the same careful planning and preparation that any paddling expedition would. Detailed equipment lists must be prepared and checked, packing plans (including practicing packing the boat), food and water storage, making kits (signalling, first-aid, personal hygiene, hypothermia, and repair). Lots and lots to do. Luckily I've done this a few times, so now it's more about fine tuning.

The WaterTribe posts a required and suggested equipment list for all participants here. More specific details can also be found in some of the excellent articles on the WaterTribe Magazine, including 'The WaterTribe Kit', 'Make a Hypothermia Kit', 'Fueling the Fire'. And there are many other excellent articles written by previous participants about their Challenge experiences that include discussion on their food and shelter preferences.

February's Sea Kayaker Magazine had a very interesting and useful article, 'Compact Packing for Expeditions' by Brian Day. This is well worth the read for anyone planning an overnight, weekend, or expedition length paddling trip.

About a month before a Challenge, my paddle training is with a fully loaded boat (often just dry bags haphazardly filled with stuff, to create bulk and weight, no real planning here). This helps me get adjust to paddling, maneuvering and steering a fully loaded boat. I'll also include some rescue practices fully loaded. This is something I highly recommend to all paddlers, regardless of the length of trip they plan.

Once I've got all my gear figured out and collected, I plan a simulation weekend. I pack the boat as I plan to during the Challenge, and spend at least one weekend, paddling and camping as I would during the Challenge. Do not underestimate the importance of practicing packing. The beach, ready to start, is not the time to find out that the dry-bag you packed your sleeping bag in, will not fit through your hatch.

The simulation weekend allows me to work on boat packing and weight distribution for paddling, practice setting up my hammock tent, simulate and practice setting up for camping in the boat, both on shore and anchored in shallow water (as I had to do last year in the WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge). This weekend also helps me to make sure everything I might need while on water is readily accessible. There is no time to stop along the way for chores, remember, "when you aren't paddling, you aren't moving", quote by Verlen Kruger.

The key is ease and efficiency. If you have kayak camped before, you likely have experienced the effort it can take to set up and break down camp. In a Challenge such as this, all your energy must be used in forward movement towards the finish line, everything else you do must be done as effortlessly and efficiently as possible.

So, time to find all my gear, possibly get a new bigger dry bag, and get ready for a simulation weekend or two. This year, packing the Kruger SeaWind brings a new challenge. It has no bulkheads, and lots of open space. I'll likely pack everything in a few large dry-bags (no longer needing the many smaller ones to fit 8" and 10" kayak hatches). So some additional practice and experimenting will be needed. Hoping for a warmer weekend soon for my simulation.

Next I'll post on how I approach navigation and route planning.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Good Day

Saturday was a 25 mile experiment in the Kruger SeaWind with the Balogh Sail Rig. Winds were 10-15 mph, it was a beautiful sunny day, hit 62 degrees. I never got further than 3 miles from the boat ramp, as I spent the whole day just trying to sail at all different points of wind, first to see if I could, and then to see what kind of speeds I could get at these different angles.

Most of the time I experimented with trying to sail upwind, and to access the benefit of paddling (motor-sailing) at these angles, vs just paddling. The upwind work is reflected in my overall average of 3.3 mph over the 25 miles, even though I did have some fun and fast sailing across and downwind, clocking a maximum speed of 7.7 mph.

I still have a lot of difficulty figuring out the exact direction of the wind. Seems it should be an easy thing to do, except I get confused by the wind in my face from sailing forward.

This practice day also included reefing and taking the sail up and down while on the water. I paddled some with the sail down and outriggers out, definitely slower going, and a real slog upwind. Though a very easy setup, it's still not something I'll want to do (setting up and taking down) more than once a day, or even every day. During the 100 miles of the Everglades Wilderness Waterway I'll likely store the whole rig, as even with good winds, I expect overall it'll be too protected, at least until I get to White Water Bay, and there will probably be some tight spots that will not accommodate the height of the mast or width of the outriggers.

I've got turning down pretty well, tacking and jibing. It's amazing what a little shifting of body weight does to help with the turns.

Today (Sunday), I got back on the lake early, about 7 AM without the sail rig, and managed a good 20 mile paddling workout. Then it was off to friend and paddler John Desiderio's surprise 60th birthday party.

Happy Birthday John.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sailing sailing over the .....

It's going to be another great weekend at the lake with 10-15 mph SW winds today, and 10-15 NW with 25 mph gusts tomorrow, highs in the 50s. I think I'll keep the reefing in and work on skills and comfort level, maybe do some motor-sailing (need to paddle too). I've been reading all I can find on small boat sailing, and I thank everyone who emailed me support and advice, from how to both correctly spell 'jibe', to how to actually do one :)

That I've not updating my training log since the holidays does not mean I'm not training, just not logging it in (software issues), though truth be told, I've not put in the hours paddling I've done in previous years training for the EC. Guess it means if the winds aren't favorable, it'll just hurt more this year. I have always found it easier to stay fit (and have fun) with definite goals, and for me that means registering for events. I'm definitely one who races to train, but still always a cruiser not a "real racer".

My 2007 racing schedule looks like this :
3/3-11 - WaterTribe Everglades Challenge
5/6 - White Lake Sprint Triathlon
6/9-10 - Tour de Cure 150 mile bike ride for Diabetes
7/24-28 - Missouri 340 paddling adventure race
8/12 - BikeFest Century Ride
9/8-9 - MS150 bike ride for Multiple Sclerosis
Sept/Oct ?? - Lumber River Race
Oct ?? - Suwannee River Race

I see the boys in Team RAF are finally starting to train for the EC, and even have a race scheduled this weekend. The Krispy Kreme Challenge, a 2 mi run, eat a dozen donuts, finish with another 2 mi run, hmmm, an interesting start :)

I'm off to the lake, will report back later on my sailing/paddling weekend.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My 2nd Trial Sailing

And not as much fun as Snore's. Check out this video clip of Bill Herrmann's (WaterTribe name SnoreBringGator) 2nd sea trial off Everglades National Park in his new Prijon Wildwasser Sail Rig. This is not his second time kayak sailing, just his 2nd time sail training with this rig, his new sponsor for the Watertribe Everglades Challenge this year. Last year, Snore completed the 2006 EC in the same setup I'm paddling and sailing, a Kruger SeaWind with Balogh sail.

It was a sunny, cold (45 F), and windy day, NW 12-15 mph with gusts 20-25. I was toasty warm in thermals, fleece, and drysuit. There was lots of chop, and white caps.

Starting out a little nervous, I left the beach with one reef in the sail. The 33 sq ft sail has the option of 2 reefs. The first mile was uneventful, I was averaging about 4.5 mph, and feeling pretty good about it, I decided I didn't really need the reef. This time out I had really filled the inflatable amas tight and felt very secure with them.

The full sail was much faster, and out in the middle of the lake I was now sitting in the boat on one cheek, holding onto a little red rope as if my life depended on it. My GPS recorded a max speed of 8.6 mph, mostly I was averaging 6.7-7.2. I was sailing N, with enough wind off my right shoulder that my windward ama was high out of the water (no amount of shifting seemed to level it off), but still the downwind ama was not burying. However, no matter what adjustments I tried to make, the whole bow of the boat would dive and bury into the water. This I did not like. And there was this constant humming noise. What is that all about?

I sailed 4 miles, then decided to turn and paddle back. I had planned to do this 2-3 times, I'd get some good sailing practice and a good paddling workout up wind. I lasted one round trip. It was the fastest 4 miles down I'd ever gone in a Kruger, and the slowest 4 miles back up. After finishing the 8 miles, my overall average speed would have been faster had I paddled the whole way. Of course that included all the time I spent trying to get the boat to turn around.

Turning was not an easy thing to do. I must have tried to turn 4 or 5 times. Tacking into the wind like I had read about, and even with a running start, but, I would get to this point where the boat would not turn anymore, and, not move either. Paddling might have helped, but I was still holding onto that little red rope. Eventually I decided to try turning the other way, a jive (I think). I thought I had read that turning away from the wind is not easy, and it wasn't. I did finally make that turn, but it was pretty ugly as I fought the sail which wanted to wrap around the mast the wrong way.

On the return trip, I had hoped there would be enough of a W wind to let me sail a little, but not so. With the constant gusts, I was not feeling comfortable about tacking back and forth on a beam reach, and it was looking to be a very cold wet ride that way. Trying to paddle upwind, I felt like the sail was really working against me, so I finally pulled over and took the sail and mast down, deciding to leave the lee board and amas on. I have no idea why I thought this would be good practice, it was just a lot of work.

In the end, I was exhausted both from the stress and the hard paddle, and only 8 miles. I don't think I really had fun, and I don't think I liked it. Maybe I should just paddle.

And then I saw Snore's video. I'm not quite ready to give up yet.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

First Time Sailing

It was a very quick up and back to Illinois, luckily staying east of the bad weather in the Midwest, and returning home by noon on Monday. Stan and Dana are wonderful hosts, and entertained me with photo's and video's of paddling trips they've done on the Buffalo River, and on the Yukon River, where Stan joined Verlen Kruger and friends, celebrating Verlen's 80th birthday on a 2000 mile journey to the Bering Sea.

When I arrived home, we were having record high temps in the 70's, with winds 10-12 mph. Paul and I quickly drove to the Lake for my first sailing lesson with the SeaWind with Balogh Sail Rig.

Truth be told, it was not love at first sail. I was very nervous. It's going to take me a while to get used to it all, and learn to trust the amas. I have to admit to more than one minute of wondering why I'm not just paddling.

I'm still thinking this gives me the best of it all, sailing when the winds are up, and paddling when not. I've got 7 weeks to adjust so should have lots of time. I need to learn how to reef the sail while underway, take down the mast and remove amas while in the boat, and most importantly, find out where my comfort level is in conditions.

And there will be lots of experimenting in how best to set up and pack the boat for the Challenge. The SeaWind has a much larger cockpit compared to the Dreamcatcher and will require many changes to what I'm used too (i.e. where to put the compass, the GPS ... ).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Weekend Travel

I'm off to Illinois to pick up a Kruger Seawind with Balogh Sail Rig. I'm so excited (and thankful) that Stan has offered to lend me his canoe. I plan to listen to an audio tape of the book "Thirteen Moons" by Charles Frazier (author of Cold Mountain) to keep me company. It's an 880 mile drive each way.

Meanwhile Alan and Trey of Team Velocity, a semi-pro catamaran racing team rooted in Raleigh NC, at North Carolina State University, are on their way to Key Largo with Trey's Nacra 20, for the Multi-hull Nationals. Team Velocity keeps a blog with photo's and video of their events (Santa brought Alan a new Pentax Optio WP20 so they should come back with some nice pics).

While Alan is out sailing (gotta keep those sponsors happy), the other members of Team RAF are planning to keep working on their WaterTribe boats, possibly even painting the hulls. I know the colors they were thinking of, I'm not telling :)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Glutton for Punishment?

It's all for fun! Having decided to paddle/sail the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge in Class 3 with a Kruger SeaWind and Balogh Sail Rig, I need a Class 1 paddling race.

The world's longest non-stop river race.
Kansas City to St. Charles, Mo
July 24-28, 2007

I had read about the Missouri River 340 race last year, WaterTribe alum Marek (Wayfarer) and Dawn Keller (TurtleWoman), both participated last year, and Marek's well known fit2paddle blog often has pictures and postings about the race. It would be a lot of fun to paddle in a race where the water is moving in the direction your paddling.

The MO340 website says "The Missouri is believed to be an Indian word for "community of the large canoes." It seems to be the mother river, if for no other reason that length alone." It is a fast river. Sounds just perfect for my Kruger Dreamcatcher.

In describing the race they say:
Imagine a race across the entire state of Missouri, just you and your boat thrown against 340 miles of wind, heat, bugs and rain. This ain’t no mama’s boy float trip. This race promises to test your mettle from the first stroke in Kansas City to the last gasp in St. Charles. Just entering it will impress your friends. Finishing it will astound them… and winning it? Well, you always thought you were sort of a legend anyway, didn’t you? It’s time to prove it.

The Missouri 340 is an endurance race across the state of Missouri. Competitors will start in Kansas City and finish, some of them anyway, in St. Charles. With numerous towns and hamlets, the course offers plenty of opportunity for resupply while enroute. The Missouri River is also incredibly scenic and isolated in some stretches, with wildlife and beautiful vistas to rival any river in North America. But if you're trying to win this race, you won't have time to enjoy any of it.

Participants are allowed exactly 100 hours to complete the course. There are nine checkpoints along the route where paddlers are required to sign in and sign out. Cutoff times will be associated with these checkpoints based on the 100 hour pace. Failure to miss two consecutive deadlines is grounds for disqualification. To finish this race in 100 hours is a huge accomplishment. Only 2/3 of the teams were able to do that last year.
My husband has coined a new name for it, the Misery 340. What can I say, we all have our own definition of fun. I'm still working on the logistics and haven't sent in the registration yet. I'm considering a tandem invite (Kruger Cruiser of course), else I'll go paddle in the solo female division.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Kruger Canoe Sailing

After my last post reporting my intention to paddle/sail a Kruger Seawind canoe in this years WaterTribe Everglades challenge, I searched for some photos of a Kruger with Balogh Sail rig, these taken during last years EC.

Photo at right shows a couple Krugers starting the Challenge at Tampa Bay.

Brian Weber (aka DaBiscuit) paddling into checkpoint #1 with sail down. Brian keeps up a nice blog named Captain of the "O Dark 30" journaling his training and paddling. More about Brian in a future posting, he's a pretty interesting guy.

Kruger canoe sailing the beautiful waters of the Gulf.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Change of Plans

What a beautiful day on the lake, unseasonably warm, perfect winds. I took my Kruger Dreamcatcher out for a 25 miler, paddled into the wind then sailed back with my downwind PAS.

My plans were to get a good workout, and spend the time thinking about how best to do the 2007 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge (EC) in March.

Family and friends have been encouraging me to consider entering in the kayak/canoe sailing class. I've done the EC three times previously, twice in my NDK Explorer, and the last time as part of the 1200 mile UFC, in the Kruger Dreamcatcher with Pacific Action Sail.

This year I plan to include the Everglades Wilderness Waterway (WW). This adds an additional 30 miles to the challenge and is a 99 mile inland water route through mangrove forests, advertised as a 9-11 day canoe trip. In WaterTribe, doing the full WW during the EC gets you an additional trophy, the coveted alligator tooth.

Then Stan Hanson (aka Etcheman or Canoeist144, one and the same), fellow Watertriber, Kruger paddler, and friend, offered to lend me one of his SeaWinds with a Balogh sail rig. Stan has been encouraging me to experience all that a Kruger canoe has to offer. Kruger's really aren't kayaks, and they're certainly not your standard canoe. They are really unlike any paddle craft you've likely paddled, yet as comfortable, efficient, seaworthy and convenient as any canoe or kayak that has ever been paddled. Paddle/sailing with the Balogh rig is just another example of a Kruger canoes incredible versatility.

I'm gonna do it, 2007 EC in class 3. I'm off to Illinois next weekend to pick up the SeaWind and start learning to sail. Look out Bill (aka SnoreBringGator)!

Isn't it amazing how generous and encouraging Kruger folks are. Verlen would be so proud. Stay tuned for more about Stan in a later posting.

On a different topic. Alan came home this evening to celebrate his 21st birthday with us. The boys from Team RAF have packed up their tools and almost completed hulls and are returning back to school (NC State). They still have some work to do to complete their Wa'apa sailing canoes, and prepare for the EC. They'll be pretty busy over the next 2 months. They did a great job keeping their blog updated with their boat building activities over the holidays.

Sigh, it wasn't so long ago...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Reflections and Resolutions

This holiday weekend has allowed time to reflect on the past year and work on resolutions and goals for the new year.

Last year brought adventure and excitement with my participation in the WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge in March, and then some great family time with a 2 week reunion visiting my parents and sister in Hawaii in July, and then change, our last child went off to college in August.

The family change was actually my biggest and hardest challenge of the year, I mourned the loss of our family life for months. Then as both our kids returned for the holidays (completely independent young adults), I found myself pleasantly surprised to realize and discover that during this transition and mourning, Paul and I had actually begun starting our new life as a couple, rather than as just Mom and Dad. Our family life is not the same as it was, and this is okay. Now instead of mourning my loss, I find myself looking forward to the changes, enjoying my children as the wonderful adults they have become, and the next phase of my life with Paul. As it should be, my biggest resolution will be to continue to work on this, my personal life as wife, mother, daughter and daughter-in-law.

Somethings of course will never change, my love of adventure, paddling and camping. As for races and challenges, as usual I have in mind more ideas than will actually be possible. In March, I'll race the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge again, this time my son and friends will also be in the race. I'm considering the Missouri 340 in July. Every year I consider the Yukon River Quest (this year they have added a division that would make the Kruger legal), but it's so far away. I'll also participate in the MS150 bike tour in New Bern in September, something I've done for the past 3 years.

There are now more shorter day kayaking races then ever before. This year I'd like to spend more time in my NDK Explorer sea kayak and get involved in some of these events. I still do not consider myself a racer, and my seakayak is certainly not a racing kayak, but these events are lots of fun for all paddlers, racer or cruiser alike.

Paul and I plan on finishing the skin-on-frame kayaks we started a few years ago, I'd really like to finally get that chest sculling down (Santa brought Dubside's rolling video). We're even talking about building a small sailboat for the two of us to enjoy together (I never could convince him a double kayak would be fun). And we're talking/planning a family back-packing trip in the mountains this summer.

I'm thinking (actually dreaming) about adding an OC1 to the fleet. This could begin a whole new area of single blade racing for me. Outrigger canoe racing seems to have become very popular these days, but hasn't quite made it to NC yet.

I will not resolve to try and loose those 20 lbs, again :)

And I plan to continue my blog, though it may become even more a personal journal, continuing to encouraging others to be active and seek adventure in their lives, particularly those of us in our middle and later years. Your never to old to live and love life in an active and healthy way.

Here's wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year, full of life, family, and adventure.