Folbot Aleut First Report

Aleut View Forward

Today, I paddled my new 2003 Anniversary Edition Folbot Aleut for the first time.  Most of you know this already, but the Aleut is Folbot’s 12′ single kayak.  Here’s a link to information on the Folbot line-up of folding kayaks that I think was current when the company went out of business last year (2016).  Weighing about 40#, it’s easy to put on the car’s roof racks.  I used a couple of cheap foam blocks to protect the hull.  The boat’s aluminum frame, probably aluminum in general, ‘feels’ more fragile to me than my previous folders’ wooden frames.  The Aleut’s gothic arch cockpit is huge – it seems even bigger from the inside.  I used a bungie cord to keep the seatback in place.  I remember reading on the old Folbot Forum that the style seat my kayak’s got consistently annoyed users by falling forward when they entered the cockpit.

Aleut Lakeside

The Aleut has zero rocker, is beamy, has a lot of primary stability but I was unsure of its secondary stability so I edged to turn with caution.  It was a little breezy today and I found the kayak didn’t turn into the wind much; no rudder today nor was one needed.  The kayak seems sturdy, stable, not bothered by boat-wake or small wind-waves.

Compared to Campsis Radicans, my old Pouch E68, the Folbot Aleut is pretty slow.  Surely no more than six miles did I paddle this afternoon, but I had no real plan except to put the boat in the water and paddle it around a bit.  It took me a mile or two to remember how and begin to paddle efficiently.   The kayak’s D-rings for perimeter line are placed where I carelessly and repeatedly whacked them with the paddle.  Altering habitual form to avoid that will take at least conscious effort and another excursion to effect.  My form today was sufficiently poor that one of my elbows hurts.

Aleut Beached

As you can see from the pictures, I overprepared – spare paddle, a couple of dry-bags with stuff I might need, a second lunch in case I got hungry, a bilge pump, a bilge sponge, about a gallon of drinking water in a Viet-Nam era military collapsible canteen.

I rode my ’07 Jamis Supernova this morning and again this evening after supper.  Being active outside feels good.

Aleut & Supernova

Elk River in the RZ96


Last weekend, my good friend Eric drove out to Stepford from his home in North Carolina to visit with us.  He’s my son’s godfather and I’ve known him since we were at seminary in the Nineties.  You may recall that we last saw each other at Ashville, North Carolina, in January of this year when we exchanged gear – Pouch E68 and Razesa road bike.  The plan was to paddle at least one day during Eric’s visit, possibly two.

We got a late start Saturday.  If you’ve never tried to accomplish a task with an interested and active young child around, you won’t understand why it took so long to get the kayak assembled.  I hadn’t done anything with the RZ96 since patching the hole in the bottom it sustained during a short Duck River paddle from Henry Horton State Park a couple of years ago.  Hole repaired, I carefully packed the boat away and stored it in the better of my two sheds.  I was interested to inspect the repair and hoped the patch hadn’t pulled loose during storage (although I very carefully followed the patching instructions).  When I opened the bags, I inhaled the smell of varnish from the boat’s frame, a restorative reminding me that I a waterman.

Water’s low at Tims Ford and Normandy, but Woods Reservoir is always full.  The bridge at Prairie Plains Road is a long drive, but worth it to paddle upstream the Elk River from what is, essentially, the top of Woods Reservoir (the bottom being, of course, down by the dam if you mentally reckon things the way I do).  When we drove down the rutted hillside road to the dirt parking area, I saw only a couple of pickup trucks backed in by the trees on the right, and noticed that someone, possibly the county sheriff’s department, has placed what purport to be surveillance cameras on a phone-pole, also on the right side as you drive in.  I backed Thursday up to the ramp and we took the Great Blue Heron off its racks.  Got the gear out and in the boat, and rigged the rudder.

As we were doing that, what might have been a family group consisting of one adult male, two adult females, and several children pulled in to the parking area in a small pickup truck.  One of the kids had a great mohawk.  I’m too old, now, for a mohawk, but I’d like to get my hair cut like that maybe once more in my lifetime.  The people from the pickup truck moved off to fish from under the bridge, over to the left.

The last time Eric and I paddled the RZ96 was around Thanksgiving maybe five years ago Normandy Lake.  We’d put in at Barton Springs boat ramp and paddled around Negro Hill and straight on up the branch beside the mouth of which, in high water, is a small island.  I remember we paddled against a headwind and cooked a camp lunch on the rocks partway up before continuing as far up as water level permitted.  On the way back down we umbrella-sailed using my old green and white Roundup golf-umbrella.  I recall the November hillsides looked tiger-striped with shadows and orange fall leaves still clinging to the wooded slopes.

Here’s a picture of Eric about to take a picture of me taking a picture of him at the put-in – neither snapshot showed our best likenesses:


Last Saturday at the Elk River put in, however, it was hot and windless, the foliage full and green, the water likewise a murky green common to the lakes in this part of Tennessee.  We paddled upstream, past the group fishing on our left.  I wondered whether I’d remember how to paddle a kayak, but it was not a problem.  I used my $100.00 Eric Renshaw Greenland paddle, and Eric used a 230 centimeter Werner Skagit.  A few years ago, I intended to install backbands to replace the Stasi torture devices Pouch included as backrests.  I wish I’d got that done.  Still, as long as I remembered to take responsibility for my own posture and correct for my peculiar leaning bias (I wonder whether the same portions of my brain failed to develop properly that, when damaged in some people who have strokes, produces Pusher Syndrome or its mirror-image), I was able to paddle without too much pain for most of the journey.

After awhile, we came upon two couples in separate row-boat style craft lazily paddling.  I don’t normally snap photos of people I meet while exploring because I don’t like to be photographed, myself.  Eric had no such scruple and took a picture, but much in the way of detail is obscured by distance.


For about an hour we paddled upstream. At one point, the water was shallow, but deep enough for us to pass over the rocky and weedy bottom. I’ve noticed this on other trips, that the water of the Elk appears a milky blue in color maybe a mile up from the bridge at Prairie Plains Road.


We continued until our backs were sore past the point where we discerned the river’s current and decided to turn back around and head downstream.  Then we kept paddling upstream to see if there was a place just around that bend and then the next bend to get out and stretch.  Finally, our progress was completely impeded by fallen tree across the river too low across the water’s surface for us to get the kayak under.  Actually, looking at that picture at left, it appears we might have been able to get the boat under the tree there at the right bank.  Truth is, we didn’t notice, and it may’ve been too shallow there.


On the way back, having found no convenient place to get out of the boat to stretch my back, I raised and secured the rudder, then sat on the seatback swiveled to receive my overlarge buttocks.  I experienced great relief at the lower back and paddled thus for awhile.  Along the way, we saw some pinkish-purple wildflower in bloom.  We saw a great deal of driftwood.  We saw an otter swimming and I noted its peculiar pointed ears, like those of a cat, but smaller and wider set.  We saw one or two great blue herons in flight.  Eric saw a couple of turtles, but I saw none.  I saw no fish except minnows at the put in swarming about in the bathwater warm shallow.


I don’t like being photographed, but have been working on a fake smile for those occasions when the ordeal is unavoidable.  Eric shot this one over his shoulder, without looking.  It is less self-aggrandizing than the one wherein while paddling I assumed a heroic three-quarter sort of profile while pretending not to notice the camera.


Back at the put in, we witnessed a young couple that’d been drinking something with alcohol in it jump off the bridge into the green water.  They swam back and waded ashore, the woman saying she’d touched the bottom and the man saying he’d managed not to.  By the time Eric and I got back to the house, my wife had prepared a dish of kale and Italian sausage along with a dessert made with almond-flavored cream, blueberries and mandarin oranges.

LATER:  Here’re a couple of pictures of Eric that are better than the two above.  I took them the day after we paddled the Elk River – a week ago last Sunday:

Eric riding Miyata 610

Eric-at-SGBF Eric gave a brief talk about ministry to street kids at SGBF during his visit with us

Eric riding a 1981 Miyata 610

Friend’s Visit, RZ96 on Woods Reservoir

My best friend, a fellow who lived at the top of the steps at SBTS, same dorm, same floor that I infested during my time as a Southern Baptist seminarian, is visiting this weekend. I’ve asked him to be my son’s godfather, and we’re having a baby-dedication service at the Cafe Church tomorrow.

Eric injured his back not too long ago, so today we didn’t paddle far at Woods Reservoir. I’d planned to paddle to the lake’s south shore, then left and under the causeway, maybe stop for a sandwich or something at Morris Ferry Dock, and on up the Elk looking at the scenery and talking about the nature of life on earth. However, with Eric’s injury and the wind blowing from south and west at 20 mph, we paddled right upon reaching the south shore. Eric tends to paddle with his arms, we hadn’t worked out a cadence yet that prevented paddle clashing, and we were headed into the wind, more or less. The crossing took awhile longer than it usually does.

On the other side we turned right, ate the sandwiches we’d brought, and paddled along the shore, out of the wind, then around a point where windblown, white-capping chop could be seen past two pilings that once supported a duck blind. Into the wind we continued along the shore until we reached a fork, and allowed the wind to push us slowly drifting as we ate more of the lunch from the cooler. We found a shallow place where Eric was able to get out, walk about, and stretch his back.

We poked around in the shallows looking at turtles, trees, some frogs jumping. We paddled against the wind back out to the lake, proper, then out toward the middle. There we ate some oranges, throwing the rinds into the water. Some floated, some sank. I rinsed my hands off in the lake.

Crossing to the rec-beach, Eric sighted along his paddle and pretended to empty a clip on full-auto at a distant motor boat headed our way. I looked at the boat, thought, “Excrement,” and said, “Dude, that’s the police boat, we’re gonna get hassled.” The officers, however, stopped where they were, and we paddled on. We were not even hassled when we tied up at the rec-beach courtesy dock.

After resting our aching backs laying flat on the sun-heated dock’s abrasive coated surface for awhile, we got back in the boat and paddled back to the put-in.  Under way again, it seemed we had developed a  cadence that resulted in no further clashing of paddles as we made our way along the lake’s north shore.

I’d brought along a Klepper paddle, at least 40 – 50 years old, and Eric used my Renshaw Greenland style paddle.  The Klepper’s about 245 cm, and the Renshaw maybe 223.  Probably, for this boat, I should have a 240 cm paddle for the stern paddler, and a 230, 235 for the bow.

Predictably, there were some people fishing there near the 850. I reckoned they’d just have to cope with our noisy and fish-disruptive presence. We exchanged polite small talk with them, a shaved-headed white man of indeterminate age, and a stout black woman with a tattoo on her bare upper right arm. I heard the woman say to her companion as I sponged out some of the RZ’s bilgewater, “Look at that – he’s got a farmer tan.”

“Better than a tattoo or the skin cancer I spent my sun-tanning youth working on,” I thought. Pretty funny, actually, the things people say.

We managed to get the RZ (at 18′, it’s longer than my car) up on the roof-racks. Inverted, so it rested on the coaming for better support than it would have had hull-down due to the distance between the racks. I tied it down pretty tight, but the wind blew the kayak around a bit as I drove back to the house. I’ll probably need to buy some longer straps in order to really secure the boat laterally. I did not move forward or back while driving.

The process yesterday morning of getting up, getting the paddling gear loaded up in the car, getting to the put in, getting to RZ96 assembled, getting on the water a lot later than is for me the norm, served to inform me that I am an obsessive freak when it comes to paddling. I over prepare; have goals related to getting on the water early; distance and destination; expectations for those who accompany me on my travels. I experience anxiety if I’m not on the water early. No wonder I have a hard time finding anyone willing to kayak with me.

Eric said he’s always been the same way about cycling trips – not really about fun, but about distance goals, endurance, preparation, and slow-burn annoyance with others who didn’t seem to take the activity as seriously.