Thursday, May 15, 2014

Camping on the Columbia: Part I

Camping on the Columbia: Part I

This is a rather long blog entry, so on the behest of my editor I am putting it out in installments. Links at the end of each one to lead to the next part.


I am getting ready to go on my first kayak camping trip and I am thinking that my Journey is just too damn small to be carrying gear. I mean, I like the boat. It goes fast. It is light and easy to top on the car and such. But I feel so low in the water when I am paddling. Really low. So low I feel like if I add another 50 pounds of gear (and water) that I might be more like a submarine.

Some of the guys out out on the Bachelor Island paddle this weekend agreed with me. But they also pointed out that submersibles don't have to worry about the weather. (remind me to write up the Bachelor Island Paddle)

The other thing that was this weekend was the Alder Creek Spring Paddle Fest. My partner and I headed over there to check out some kayaks. Cause. You know..... I might want a bigger boat to go camping. My partner was actually more interested in a play boat. Something for the surf. (you know, for doing this). I also would like a shorter boat for playing in the surf. We are rapidly running out of room in our garage, however, even with the boats being slung from the ceiling.

Knock the sand off your feet.

There were 3 interesting boat vendors there. We looked at Current Designs a few weeks ago and were underwhelmed. My partner suggested that I look at TideRace and Valley. We hit the Valley guy first. I asked him for a boat for going camping and fitting my 220 pound manly frame. He had me try out the fit of an Etain he had sitting in the sand.

“But knock the sand off your feet first. It is really hard to get the sand out of the boat”.

Geeze fella. It is 11:00 in the morning during an event that is running for 2 days and you have your boat sitting in the sand on the beach for people to try out and you are worried about it getting “sandy”. You have a problem. That and I didn't fit. I guess Valley boat designers don't understand the entire nature of a manly sized man. With girth sufficient to lift manly burdens and do laundry and such.

“It is too small”.

“Oh, the hip pads come out. Now try it”.

I got back in, “It is still to small. You got anything bigger? I also would like a larger entry. How long is this cockpit?”

“I don't know. It is the standard size.”

“The standard size? You telling me I won't fit in any kayak what so ever?”

My partner chimes in, “The sizes are listed on your website. I was just reading them on the way over here”.

“Oh, I don't read those things. I don't like to know the measurements. Just another thing to get wrong.”

We left. My partner thinks that the Aquanaut is a bigger boat for me but the no-sand-no-meaurement sales guy said they were discontinued.

Turns out the Eddyline guy was much nicer. They had boats down on the water and quickly pointed me to the 2 boats “larger than a Journey that would fit my butt”. They were very frank and friendly about it. So let me tell you what they got:


I liked the Fathom. The feel of the seat and entry was pretty much like Journey (4 inches shorter on the keyhole entry. A little hard on my poor old knees but I could get in and out). The boat is a foot longer with a day hatch (a waterproof compartment that you can reach into behind you without having to get out of the boat). Fathom is also more narrow than Journey with more wobble. Wobble can be good, by the way, it makes the boat more reponsive and fun. The main thing that the salesguy was saying about the Fathom was that it was FAST. I agree with that. It felt really light and fast on the water. Very fun to paddle. I was a little concerned about the smaller cockpit and getting out of the boat and all so I put on my dry suit, got a safety spot from my partner (in the Low Volume Fathom) and did a roll and wet exit. No sweat. Didn't even piss off the salesguy. Quick note on the Fathom LV. Too small for me. My partner didn't really fit into it either.

The salesman wanted me to try Denali. He said they built it just for me. It is a BIG boat with a BIG cockpit. It was easy to get into. I had trouble finding the foot pegs at first. The guy that had been in the boat before me had evidently been 7 foot tall. “He was the other guy we built that boat for”. I like the Eddyline guy. This boat was just too big for me. It is the sort of boat that I would recommend for any of my 250-300 pound friends, however. And it was a very nicely built boat. My problem with it was that I just couldn't get my knees to connect with the knee pads unless I bent my legs a lot more than I wanted. So, just a big nice boat. Large tall persons... have a look.

Next we went walking back down the beach because my partner really wanted to try out one of the surf and play boats that the Valley guy had. We figured we could sneak out in it before he saw us. We lucked out, they had a different guy there. He hooked us up with a cool one piece wooden paddle (Can you say Expensive?) and sent us out in a grey Gemini SP (sports play)(not small person). This is a shorter maneuverable boat. Sort of heavy, though, as it is made to bounce off the rocks in the surf and such. My partner really liked it. Have to figure out where to hang another boat in the garage.

Some people make any boat look good. 

Oh. And then, of course, you have the kicker to all of the this. The cost. These are all $2700 to $4k boats. So best pray for a big tax refund.

I had this great brainstorm idea for my up comping kayak camping trip (which was how we started this little story, as you may recall). I will rent a Fathom from a local shop for the trip. If I really like it, I will trade in Journey and get one. What a great idea. Too bad I can't find anyone that has a nice boat like that in their rental fleet. Bummer. Wait..... Scappoose Bay has the entire Eddyline line in their rental fleet. Now we are talking. I will give them a call tomorrow. (Which is going to seem like right now to you, my loyal reader, because I am writing this over a multi-day period. Isn't that special?!

The good news is that they have one. The bad news is that they don't rent for over night adventures. Losers.

I have been packing all of my stuff into waterproof dry bags and laying them down along side my Journey and wondering if things are going to Fit and Float. That is what I need. For everything to fit and float. According to the Eddyline website I should be fine. The boat has a carrying capacity of 375 pounds. I weigh 220. Camping gear must be under 50. perhaps 10 pounds of water and food. That adds up to under 300. So I should be above water by 75 pounds. Hmmm.

So I packed up my Journey and all of my gear and headed out to the Kayak Portland annual swap meet. I had signed up to be a safety boat to keep people from drowning while they are testing new boats. When I got to Willamette Park (the one in West Linn, not the one in Portland) at 9:30 the parking lot was already filled! I thought, “Wow, I guess all 125 people that RSVP'd for this event are already here”. But it turned out that there was some kind of girl's softball thing going on and that was taking up all of the parking. Did find a place in overflow and walked over to the event. I took this little muddy trail that winds along the river from the main boat ramp to the park. When I emerged from the underbrush I was looking at the row of kayaks that people had placed in the grass for sale. And one kayak just jumped out at me, it was a beautiful blue Tempest 170. Just like my partner's only a different shade!! I love these boats. And here is one for sale. And it looks just like my Other Kayak Friend's Tempest. Hey, there is my Other Kayak Friend. What a coincidence.

Hmmm, Nice Boat for Sale.

A handmade Wood SUP vendor
Other Kayaks for Sale

Nice little trailer..... 

It turned out that the OKF and her hubby were at the event selling her Tempest so that they could afford to get a Cetus (insert link here) that they had their eyes on over at Alder Creek Kayak. They have had matching Tempests for awhile but she can't quite keep up with him and wanted a faster boat. I think in this context faster implies a better speed to effort ratio. So she was selling and the price was right and I just couldn't resist. Made her happy to sell her baby to a friend and made me happy to get a well maintained and loved boat that I could use for camping. And since my partner is on a beach in San Diego today, I just bought it. Then I used it for safety boating. Didn't even take Journey off the roof of the Subaru.

Which would you rather paddle, The boat or the log?

Me in my New Tempest 170. It is very slimming, No?

Really Ugly Goose looks on

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