Long Haul MK I Float from Smooth Rapids to VFW

River turns left ahead

Note that all images and captions are aligned center in editing mode.

Last Saturday I paddled the Barren Fork/Collins River from Smooth Rapids at McMinnville to the former VFW lodge just outside McMinnville. I got to Smooth Rapids a little after 11:00, dropped off my kayak and gear, then the guy who runs the place met me at the VFW parking lot where I left the Volvo. He said they had some scheduling conflicts for shuttling that day.

Smooth Rapids McMinnville

The VFW lodge is now owned by somebody trying to run a barbecue restaurant. It didn’t look “Open” on Saturday but there were a few people around back who said they were preparing for a charity auction that night. I spoke with them because I needed change for a 20 in order pay the honor-system parking fee of five dollars.

That’s the foot brace. Underneath, you can see rudder pedal assembly. Those little pins left and right are a bear to insert while the kayak’s assembled – see my first post about this kayak. Also, note those Body Glove water shoes – they’re like buckets for bringing water into the boat.

I paddled Saturday without the rudder, leaving the pedal assembly in place but clipping in the foot-plate supplied by Long Haul. The foot plate ‘covers’ the rudder pedals. The bow gunwale halves come with a strap and clip for it pre-installed on either side. The top clip should be hung from the bow deckbar between ribs 2 and 3 during assembly. I didn’t but was able to attach it without much trouble when I deflated the sponsons some to remove the spraydeck. When I’d got underway, I found I hadn’t tightened both sides the same. You can see some slack left side in the picture, above.

By mistake I grabbed a 220 cm paddle from the paddle-bin instead of the 225 I’d planned to use. Turned out 220 cm is plenty long enough for the Long Haul Mark I. Without the spraydeck, the kayak’s gothic arch cockpit is easy to get into and out of.

Not far downriver from Smooth Rapids

Last Saturday was warmer than the previous Saturday, so I wore shorts, quick-dry undergarments and a short-sleeved shirt as well as Body Glove foot-shaped water shoes with drain holes. Those water shoes acted like little buckets and shipped a lot of water every time I got into the kayak. The week before, when it was about 10 degrees cooler, I’d worn splash pants with a pair of Chota Mukluk Light shoes, kept the spraydeck in place, and the kayak stayed very dry inside.

If you float the entire route I paddled, it’s supposed to take about four hours. I completed the section of river in about two. I paddled most of the way and felt disappointed it hadn’t taken longer. On the other hand, I wasn’t really enjoying the experience – no fault of the river or the kayak.

The temperature was warm and the skies mostly overcast, but without rain or even mist until the drive home. The river water was pretty cold and I wasn’t dressed suitably for immersion. The kayak’s Comfort Seat stayed inflated this time and was pretty comfortable. I’m undecided whether to move it forward. May leave it where it is for a while.

Lunch stop – I think I’d already eaten the Larabar by the time I got here.

My heart wasn’t really in it last weekend – I was feeling glum about the recent national election. I’m not feeling excited about it today, but I remain hopeful that recounts, independent IT data scourers and the courts will result in a Trump win.

But I say that in order to explain in part why my experience on the water last Saturday, while not crap, wasn’t a lot of fun for me and I found myself just thinking about getting to the take-out and heading back to the house.

Without the rudder, I found I had to make a lot of corrective strokes to keep the kayak pointed in the direction I was looking. It tended to driftcock or weathercock or leecock or whatever the right term is.

I leaned modestly to put the kayak on its side a bit to turn more quickly. Stability for this didn’t seem too worrisome. Feeling connected to the kayak for me was a problem relative to leaning, though. In a couple of places where the river’s elevation dropped and turned, the Mark I proved maneuverable enough to pretty easily left then right.

Although it’s natural to hook my knees up under the curled tops of the middle cockpit rib, No. 4. They’re not as good as carlings, but they’re okay. I need to better adjust the foot brace, and I do plan to move the rudder pedal assembly as close to Rib No. 3 as possible when I next assemble the boat.

There’s a narrow channel just right of that fallen tree, the Mark I turned just fine and didn’t scrape bottom.

The water was running high enough I never had to get out of the kayak to pull it through shallow water over rocks. At one point the hull scraped a rock. Later, back at the house, I noticed part of a keelstrip’s black outer coating had scraped off. The hullskin’s previous owner had applied a lot of Aqua Seal. It’s started peeling off all over the hull and looks terrible but I don’t think that’s much of a problem.

Coming out the other side of that channel mentioned in the previous caption.
Fall Colors

During my brief trip downriver, I saw several great blue herons. I saw one bird that looked like a cross between a blue jay and a woodpecker. I saw two fat groundhogs shuffling fast along the shoreline. I saw a fish surface quickly. I don’t recall whether I saw any turtles.

Pallet up in the branches of that dead tree center photo. Pretty colors, sky, trees even if the composition looks a little Gilligan’s Island.

I saw a weathered wooden pallet about halfway up in some tree branches near where the Collins River flows into the Barren Fork. Snapped a picture of that.

Short video small waterfall Barren Fork R.

At one or two points during my float, I wasn’t able to hear any man-made sounds. I let my ears find their focus listening to a small waterfall on my right. Wind sounds in the many trees’ dry leaves also accompanied my paddle’s rhythmic splash.

At the takeout I had a hard time getting my kayak on the Volvo’s roof-racks on the steepish-for-that-purpose concrete boat ramp. About halfway up the ramp is a flat spot for turn-off, but I thought it imprudent to drag the kayak that far. A fellow paddler who arrived a little after I did helped me get the boat on the racks.

Concrete ramp at VFW Lodge. If you look close, you can just see the curled part of Rib No. 4 which is useful for bracing knees against.

When I set out, I thought I would stop on the way home for a cheeseburger. I’d been wanting one of those Burger King Impossible Whoppers. I like them because I don’t feel heavy and polluted like I do after eating an ordinary fast food cheeseburger. But I didn’t stop. I’d had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a Larabar about a half hour after getting on the river. That was enough until supper. I have some work to do figuring out my caloric needs.

Reformation Day Paddle

Paddling toward Hwy 41-A

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.

Problems

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.

This short bungie keeps the seatback from flipping forward

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:

Door loading/unloading trick

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.

Paddling Impressions

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.

That’s my Ebay 240 cm Werner Camano paddle

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.

Rail bridge foreground and bridge at 41-A

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.

Shallow grove

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.

Estill Springs City Park put in

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.

Dirt? No idea how it got there
Inexpertly tied painter knots

Long Haul Mark I

The Long Haul Mark I Kayak I purchased earlier this month. First assembly 10/30/20.

The kayak arrived in boxes last Wednesday and I only had time at lunch to unbox the parts, stow them in their bags. My wife noticed them in the garage when she got home in the afternoon.

Longerons, keelson halves, gunwales, yellow spraydeck. Looking top-down into the packing box.
Bags, ribs, rudder assembly, Comfort Seat.

I got the kayak at a bargain price. Mark had sewn a new deck on a customer’s hull but the fellow found it unsatisfactory – had to do with the rubber bash-pads either side of the cockpit – he thought they leaked, over-applied Aqua-Seal to the seams. Looks awful. Mark, the manufacturer, hypothesized the rubber pads stiffen up and form concavities with deck fabric inboard their inner edges allowing some water to pool there and seep in through the deck seam. Since I’m not an ocean going paddler crossing several miles between mainland and island fairly often, the hullskin will probably suffice for my uses. And the keelstrips on that hull – keelstrips on top of keelstrips.

Again, regarding the bargain price – Mark assembled the frame from odd parts remaining in his workshop. So they don’t all match – I’ll post some photos when I get a chance to illustrate what I mean. A few Klepper parts mixed in. Some had been finished with Line-X versus varnished. I have a maroon seat. Yellow spray deck and a gray skirt to go with it. Klepper rudder modified slightly.

Because I have been working from home, when there’s a hole in my schedule, as long as my documentation’s caught up, I have some freedom relative to time use. Yesterday, in my spare time and during my lunch hour, I assembled the Mark I for the first time. I think I’ve got the rudder pedals further forward than is going to work well, and I’ll have to correct seat placement. Hopefully will get a couple of hours on the water today.

Lately, instead of Star Wars expanded universe novels, I’ve been reading the Galaxy’s Edge series. From the Star Wars universe I first read the work of one Karen Traviss – Republic Commandos series, a few others, a lot of thought put into the Mandalorian background, language, culture, history, planetary dispersion, etc. Good character development, not too preachy. A good friend of mine refers to her characters as “the Fett Brothers.”

A few weeks ago, I had a look at her blog and saw an entry about a novel she’d published in late 2019 entitled The Best of Us. I’ve reviewed it on Amazon. Like a Mitford novel with actual peril, guns, spies, spaceships, aliens, artificial intelligence – by “like Mitford” I mean not alarmingly fast paced with good depth of character development, a “richness” (although I don’t like using advertising copy words) to the novel’s “texture” (another one of those words) that is unusual for Science Fiction and is an element of Traviss’ work that sets it apart.

Since Ms. Traviss’ next installment has not been published yet, I’ve passed the time reading a lot of the other novels from the series. I’ve reviewed on Amazon Anspach and Cole’s “Madame Guillotine” – can’t figure out how to get the blog posting software to underline. Pretty good critique of contemporary political culture in the U.S. and Western countries, particularly. If I have any criticism of Anspach and Cole’s work, it is they tend to over-use elements of contemporary popular culture. For instance, the “Ready Player One” thing from their “Gods and Legionnaires” novel – second in the Savage Wars series. That said, whichever of them wrote the parts about Southern California in the 70s to the 80s got it right. I remember it from my own childhood and youth.

That’s the sticker corner in my boatshed. My Article 19 sticker’s going on the car.

New Folding Kayak

If you’ve noticed, in the Flickr feed at main page’s left side is a photo of a blue folding kayak. That is a Long Haul Mark I solo boat with expedition hull and associated accessories and I should be in possession of it by month’s end. In time to do some Fall paddling before freezing weather sets in. This week, I’ll send my Bombergear Radiator drysuit in for service and should have that back about the time the kayak gets here. So looking forward to time on the water in a single that’s faster than my Aleut. Got a second hand Werner Camano paddle from Ebay a week ago.

Update 10-23-20

The Mark I is scheduled for delivery next Wednesday. 🙂

Last Saturday, 10-17-20, I sent my ancient BomberGear Radiator drysuit to Drysuits Plus, Inc, in Texas for needed repairs. It’d been folded up on a shelf in my bedroom closet for about the past 10 or 11 years. Gaskets both brittle and gooey. I thought the suit would be fine in that temperature controlled environment. I was wrong.

The postal service still hasn’t completed the delivery. Mail-in voting? Yeah, right.

A