Quick Update

Yesterday morning, I drove up to Knoxville and bought a 2003 Anniversary Edition (also, apparently, the Expedition Edition) Folbot Aleut – a 12′, 40# folding kayak.  This is the first solo boat I’ve owned in several years.  I essentially quit paddling when my son got old enough to miss me and be bugged by the fact I was gone most of the day every Saturday and some Sundays.  Now, he’s been asking to go paddling with me.  I’m still working on, but more seriously now, rehabbing the Pouch RZ96.  This afternoon, we plan on paddling the canoe – an 18′ 1974 Grumman. Gear’s all packed and ready.

My son and I set up the Folbot yesterday afternoon – it was pretty easy compared to the only other aluminum framed folder I’ve had, and super lightweight compared to my wood framed folders.  I got some Harbor Freight super glue gel to stick down the keelstrips that’re coming loose.  Maybe will get that done today, too.

Still sober – about 32 years now, I think.  Still bicycling – working full-time again has cut into my pedaling time, but I’ve been leaving a bike at the office during the week to ride at lunch.  An easy 4.27 mile route, but better than not riding at all.  Recently also been getting up really early Saturday and Sunday mornings to ride to the gym, spending a couple of hours strength training, then back to the house.

I’m amazed I was able to remember my L/P for this site.

Here’s one of the seller’s images of the Folbot Aleut. I’ve still got to get my photo editing software sorted out on this computer.

Folbot Aleut


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

Saturday at Woods Reservoir

The Great Blue Heron, my Pouch RZ96 tandem kayak, beside the boathouse dock at UTSI

The Great Blue Heron, my Pouch RZ96 tandem kayak, beside the boathouse dock at UTSI

In my behemoth tandem folding kayak, one of my nephews and I paddled Woods Reservoir today. It’s a great boat – stable, relatively fast, extremely sturdy – but its seatbacks are instruments of torture. I have been planning to buy backbands to replace them, but my wife objects to most kayak-related expenditures. Since Seventy-Six came to live in our house, my wife and I haven’t had the RZ out this year. This is only the third time I’ve had it out this year. So, I’ve been putting off the purchase.

My nephew’s a tall, 13 year-old kid. I made him helmsman today, but I think his mind wandered. He frequently had us steering out into the middle of the lake, or into an overhanging tree. We saw pine needles looked as long as railroad spikes. Pine spikes.

Gnarly pine needles - I would hate to drift into them - might lose an eye and have to change my name

Gnarly pine needles - I would hate to drift into them - might lose an eye and have to change my name

We ate our lunches seated on a Woods Ski Club dock. Three teenage girls repeatedly jumped off a nearby dock, and swam nearby.

Three startled ducks take flight

Three startled ducks take flight

We startled some ducks, and they took wing.

We watched a short-winged biplane performing stunts high up overhead. The plane’s engine stalled, and the silent aircraft tumbled down toward us.

“Are you going to move?” my nephew asked.

“Nope,” I thought, “No way to tell where it’s coming down, and anyway, the engine’ll catch.” The plane’s engine came to life again as its pilot completed the maneuver, faster than the time it would’ve take me to voice my thought.

A somewhat neglected day-sailer tied up at the UTSI boathouse dock

A somewhat neglected day-sailer tied up at the UTSI boathouse dock

We rested again at the UTSI boathouse dock before continuing to the boat ramp near the Rec Beach. At the boat ramp my nephew tried to catch small fish hatchlings in his empty Vitamin Water bottle. The crayfish he tried to get fell apart, having been dead but intact poised pincers open for no telling how long. A surprisingly large fish startled him, then swam around us as we got our gear together on the dock.

RZ96 Backpack Photos

This morning Eric and I disassembled and repacked the RZ96. I thought it’d be a good time to try using the long packing sack as a backpack. Heck, it’s got should straps sewn on. Once I got it onto my back, the bag wasn’t too heavy or awkward. Three intentionally goofy, commented photos are here. Well, at least photos two and three were intentional. That first picture is something else.

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.

Several Things

First thing is the image above – I’ve been meaning to scan front and back of this calendar page for weeks, now. Morass. Turns out to have been derived from a Dutch word. Funny that the example sentence is an adoption sentence. A baby’s a good outcome. We didn’t find ours among the rushes, however, I’m hoping to have him out in the RZ-96 with us by September, when the weather’s still fine but not as punishingly hot as August. Seven months – should have a good baby pfd by then. I like this one from Salus – have a look at the demo-video.

Today Frasier, the ninth season on DVD, arrived. We already have the other seasons, so this completes our collection. Although I enjoy the show, sometimes I can’t watch because I’m too embarrassed for the protagonist. Sometimes I get up and leave the room before Grammer’s character makes the gaff I know is coming. I know, it’s silly. Probably not DSM-IV behavior, but strange. We hadn’t seen the first two eps from season nine, and I was able to sit through them both in their entirety. Cricket hunting. That was funny. Grammer played Frasier sometimes like a cross between Herman Munster and Jack Benny.

Another thing about Kelsey Grammer – doesn’t he bear a striking a resemblance to the late Bob Hope. I suspect they’re related.

Yes, I know my dad was not what is known popularly as a saint, although there’s a possibility he may have fit the biblical def – I’ll have to wait and see. I was still pretty steamed when I wrote that blog entry. When next I vent about family here, I reckon I’ll have to expect family to read it. D’oh!

Caution-Lady’s a little worried about the weather for camping this weekend – 50% chance of thunderstorms Friday, and 40% chance that night. She’d like us to stay in a motel that first night, then in the tent Saturday overnight. Getting her to camp-out at all is a big step, and probably more so with our infant son. I’m still debating bringing the redboat (a single) or the blueboat (a tandem). The tandem takes up a huge amount of space, even when packed in its bags. Either way, if we take a boat, we’ll have to rent a van or SUV. I’ve got to get that taken care of today.

Then gotta get my expedition headshave for no-hassle camping hair.

Weighed-in yesterday (it’s now Tuesday morning), and hit 169.4 (or something like that) on the scales fully clothed, although I had emptied my pockets and exhaled. Up 1.8 pounds from last week, but then I wore light-weight shoes, t-shirt, and shorts.

Good Monday on Estill Springs Slough

After a brief rest and stretch, back into the stream of things

I’ve taken some family leave to spend time with my lovely wife and squally infant son this week. It’s also allowing me to make up some time paddling.

Most mornings, I arise about 5:15 – 5:30 a.m. I make a pot of coffee. For the past several weeks, I’ve been eating oatmeal (I ran out of yogurt one morning, and thought, “what the hell? I’ll try oatmeal”), so I put the kettle on to boil. Enter to win a boat at www.paddling.net. Check email. Look at the Internet news.

Babies grunt in their sleep, make odd, unhealthy sounding noises breathing; they smile in their sleep, open and roll their eyes, fuss and then quiet themselves. This morning, my wife brought the baby out for me to feed so she could sleep another hour. Fed him, then held him until he slept, and put him in his bassinet. I love being a father.

Later, once the little guy was sleeping soundly, I got dressed for paddling then remembered I’ve been wanting to order some flotation bags for the E-68. I telephoned Folbot and ordered the oversized Cooper bags. I apologized to Wanda for associating her name with the bags in this thread. The Swift Canoe bags I bought in 2005 from NRS were never entirely satisfactory, and now lose most of their air, one of them after an hour, and the other after two or three hours. For Christmas I got a bag that also provides dry storage, but still doesn’t fill up all the space in the E-68’s stern section.

Estill Springs City Park - a good place to put-in

Saturday afternoon I tried car-topping the E-68 to make sure it was a workable kayak transport solution. This morning I set out for Estill Springs City Park, or, if the water level was too low for that dirt ramp, the parking lot at Estill Springs Church of the Nazarene.

Volvo Meets Poucher-Boote

I haven’t paddled that part Tims Ford/Elk River since last June, with my wife in the RZ 96. At that time, the water was so low we were able to paddle only as far upstream as the farm houses on your left before you reach the bridge at Spring Creek Road.

All that was left of the house that is gone

Today, the water was up to its customary level for this time of year. I was able to paddle past Spring Creek Road, past the ruined footbridge, around the bend, and almost to within sight of the last bridge before the dam at Woods Reservoir. On my way upstream, I passed by the place where there’d been a tumbledown house inhabited by poor white people the last two or three times I’d been past, but this morning I heard the sound of a bulldozer where the house had stood. All I saw of it was a rusty piece of lawn furniture set upon the high bank.

The river’s current became discernible above Spring Creek Road Bridge, and was certainly in evidence at the footbridge piers. Before I got to within sight of the final bridge, however, I found the current too swift, and the rocky bottom too near the kayak’s keel. Turning the rockerless 16.5′ Campsis Radicans in midstream felt like one of those flying loops performed by an antique biplane looks.

A place to stretch where stream once flowed

I paddled back to where a very small creek flows in to the Elk, got out, stretched. To my right a spring gushed forth a small waterfall, and to my left the place where a small stream no longer flows.

On my way back downstream, I explored the sloughs now flooded, which were completely dry last June. I’d paddled them before, but now they are full of the weeds that grew up when the waters receded. I ate my lunch at the “steps” across from Estill Springs City Park. Dunno, but I think the structure is part of the foundation of a former railroad bridge. The Union army probably blew it up during the War Between the States. I can’t find it on any maps. Rain fell, and of course the wind blew against me, as I paddled across the bowl-like portion of river/lake toward the rail and auto bridges that cross the water at the Nazarene church.

The Best Farmhouse

Then I paddled into Tims Ford Lake proper, past the Nazarene church, Taylor Creek branch, and Rock Creek Branch. Found a shiny “Happy Birthday” balloon, popped it, and stashed it with my lunch trash to take home and throw out. On my way back passed the best farmhouse I’ve ever seen – just a plain 1950s brick house beautifully situated. Passed a shack that’s only a year or two old that’s probably worth more than the house I live in.

I’ve uploaded a gallery of photos from today’s paddle. They are in chronological order, and can be found here.  Contrast Good Monday with Rotten Friday

Another Sail Rig…

Instruction-sheet for Folbot\'s famous lateen sail rig.

A gentleman from Louisiana has offered to give me one of these sail-rigs. Hoping to pick it up in May or June. I believe it will work with the RZ-96.

My first boat, a 1967 Folbot Square-Stern that consistently bloodied my hands and took time I didn’t have much of in my attempts to render the craft useful, came with one of these sailing rigs. I pretty much gave the boat away to a fellow who wished to use it at his friends’ North Carolina beach house. He said he had experience with these boats, and wanted it for sailing. A couple of months after taking charge of the ancient behemoth, he sent the following pictures:

I wish I’d kept the boat, if only for the red sail.

Here’s a very interesting page with photos of 17′ Folbot Super (no longer manufactured – Folbot now makes and sells the Greenland II).