NB – photo/caption alignment is unreliable in this version of WordPress editor.
Last Saturday, 31 October 2020, I paddled my new-to-me Long Haul Mark I kayak for the first time. I put in at Estill Springs City Park – an easily accessible primitive launch site – dirt, no real ramp, park where you can. Before leaving the house, I’d already planned to put in and paddle to the right – toward the populated by lake houses banks of Tims Ford Lake and as far as the Loop. I thought the water levels at the lake would be winter-pool low, so didn’t think I’d get far if I paddled up toward the dam at Woods Reservoir.
When I got to the put in, the water level looked sufficiently high to paddle in either direction, but I carried on with my planned route. There was a headwind to paddle against in the direction I chose, but I hoped that would have the wind at my back on my return trip.
Before getting to the water, I had to solve two new problems. The Long Haul Comfort Seat in the Mark I tends to flip forward – a circumstance that cannot but cause problems when the paddler enters the cockpit. I fixed that by using a small bungie cord. See the photo, below.
The second problem, and one I should have considered more fully when assembling the kayak Friday, was that I needed to move the rudder pedal assembly forward from where I originally pinned it into place in the middle of the bow keelson’s track. Mark Eckhart, in his instructional video for the MK I assembly, recommends attaching the rudder pedal assembly before the forward frame half is inserted into the hullskin. The reason for this, as I learned, is that the attachment track and the pins that secure the assembly to the track are most easily accessible while the frame half is outside the skin.
Saturday morning, before loading the kayak onto the car, I decided to move the assembly closer to Rib No. 3 because at 5’9-5’10”, my legs might not reach much further forward while underway. Thought it was better to reach the pedals even if slightly uncomfortable than to not reach them at all while on the water.
I almost didn’t get the assembly reattached. I sweated and prayed a good deal but my efforts were ultimately successful. I then adjusted the number of chainlinks for the rudder cables at the carabiner on each rudder pedal. Less annoyingly difficult than what went before.
An older problem long since solved is getting a heavy, wood-framed folding kayak onto a car’s roof rack. Ralph Hoehn suggested this to me years ago. Open the car’s front door, lift the bow end of the kayak and set it on the top of the open door. Then lift the stern end onto the car’s rear crossbar. Then the bow end onto the front crossbar. Make adjustments, secure the kayak, go. Here’s an illustration – bow end on front door, stern end on back crossbar:
Immediately after I got underway, I felt the tension in the left rudder pedal give way with a sound that seemed to indicate something’d broken. I got out of the kayak at shoreline and, negotiating the spraydeck’s opening with arms, head, shoulders while using my teeth as a third hand, I counted out the cable links and re-fastened the chain to the left pedal’s carabiner. Nothing had broken, I’d just failed to make secure the connection before I left the house. Thought I had, but was mistaken. Getting that corrected was more difficult than solving my rudder assembly placement earlier in the day.
In an online forum, I noted that I felt weak or out of shape when it came to paddling this kayak for the first time. In the last ten years or so, I haven’t paddled regularly. When my son got old enough to miss me when I was gone all day, I started cycling instead.
Part of the problem was I used an unfamiliar paddle for the first time Saturday, too. I bought a 240 cm Werner Camano paddle from Ebay early last month knowing I’d be getting Mark I.
As I think back about it, I would have been better off using my old Eric Renshaw Greenland paddle or even my heavy Aqua-Bound paddle. 240 centimeters is too long for this solo kayak. 230 or 225 would be better for me. The Werner’s a nice paddle. Lightweight, strong. It’ll work for my RZ-96 or even my old Grumman canoe.
It took me a while to feel like I was equal to paddling, controlling the Mark I. The kayak is 15′ 10″ in length and 28″ wide. The manufacturer’s website says the kayak weighs 69#, but I think that’s without rudder/pedals and the seat. It’s pretty heavy.
After paddling past the rail and highway bridges at 41-A, I found the robotic, ab-crunching torso rotation reliant paddling style that has always got me out and back again even when feeling so worn out that paddling felt like a clumsy, tedious slog.
I do lift weights most days a gym, but the artificial practice of strength training with machines and free weights is crap compared to using my muscles to do real work in the real world. Paddling versus weights – paddling’s better. So’s cycling.
The Long Haul I don’t paddle as fast as I did my old E-68. It’s more immediately stable than the E-68. Because I wasn’t totally comfortable with my connection to the kayak at the rudder pedals or with my knees against the gunwales and also because I wasn’t comfortable with my new paddle, I didn’t try to lean the kayak or do any braces. Maybe next time with a shorter paddle.
All in all, counting breaks for bladder relief (out of sight of any lakehouse residents) and a lunch stop, I was probably on the lake for about four hours. My paddling experience was pretty awful due to being out of shape and out of practice.
I saw a grove of trees standing in shallow water with oddly shaped trunks. I saw some great blue herons, other birds I couldn’t identify, some turtles. Mossy rocks.
I paddled out to the Loop, then explored a backwater accessed through a tunnel under the highway that leads to Loop Drive, I think it’s called. I passed numerous palatial lake houses. One of them reminded me of the Apple Barn restaurant and shops in Sevierville. On the way back to the put in, I saw a bald eagle. The picture didn’t turn out very well. The bird looked alert and oriented, a beautiful creature.
By the time I got back to Estill Springs City Park I was glad to see the car again. Got some dirt or sand on my back deck – no idea how that happened.