12/28/2016

Maiden Voyage

My feet and a very pretty view.
My kayak had been hanging in the garage for a couple of weeks just looking forlorn as I waited for free time and the weather to cooperate in letting me take her out on the water. Finally got my chance yesterday. Mostly cloudy, highs in the upper 60s, very light winds. About as good conditions as one can hope for in late December.

Ready for launch
Without much fanfare, the SS Guacamole took her maiden voyage on Shearon Harris Lake around 2:30 PM yesterday. I was only on the water for about an hour and a half, but it was a lot of fun and I learned several things.

A picture of my left foot
Another picture of my left foot
First, I didn't capsize the kayak so that's a success! Even for this newbie, the Guacamole seems to handle pretty well. I didn't have any problems controlling her, although she takes pretty wide turns. I figured out that I can get her to turn more tightly by reverse paddling on the side of the turn. I don't have a lot to compare her to, but she seemed to ride kind of like a Cadillac – easy-going, cushy, comfortable, but not very agile and kind of ponderous feeling. The FeelFree Corona is supposed to be a very stable kayak and I've seen YouTube videos of a dude standing on one. But I didn't feel confident enough to attempt that, especially in December. Maybe in the spring when things warm up, I'll attempt it near the shore and if I capsize I can use that as an opportunity to practice re-entry while on the water.

A picture of my right foot. Yeah, I'm stone-cold crazy.

I can see now that a decent headwind will be pretty tiring solo paddling this big boat. I get the feeling that two paddlers would make it easier to propel, assuming those paddlers can be sufficiently in-sync. But I'm fine with the amount of effort required even when solo paddling because it's not that bad and one of the reasons I wanted a kayak was for the exercise. For fishing and exploring the water with my family, it'll be great.

A selfie: Contemplating how to best photograph my feet
I learned a couple of things:
  • No matter how careful you are, you're going to get wet. Now, I didn't have any illusions about that, but actually getting wet in December reminds you of it. If nothing else, the paddles are going to drip a lot of water on you. It didn't help that I forgot to install my scupper plugs! I realized it just as I was putting in, but the plugs were at home so I just accepted that for the first trip I'd be sitting in some water. It wasn't that bad actually. For the most part, the seat kept me out of the little bit of water that got in the boat, but having the scuppers plugs will keep everything more dry.
  • Kayaking works muscles that I generally don't use much. Even with that short time on the water, I feel some mild muscle aches today. Nothing bad, but enough to make me aware of it. During that time, I did hustle it across the main channel of the spur of the lake that I was on. Twice – there and back. That's probably a couple hundred yards each way and I did it quickly without stopping because that channel is where the power boats zoom down the lake and I didn't want to be dealing with them or their wakes on my first trip. 
  • I haven't rigged the Guacamole for fishing yet, but it's clear that I'll need to place the rod holders thoughtfully. It would be very easy for the rod holders to get in the way of my paddling! I'm installing flush-mount Scotty holders, so if worse comes to worse, I can remove the holders when paddling long distance. But it would be better if they just didn't get in the way.
As I wrote about in my first kayaking post, I put a lot of thought into making it possible for a single person to load, transport, unload, portage, launch, and store a big tandem kayak. I'm happy to report that that objective was achieved very nicely.

The hoist I use to store the Guacamole is very easy to manage for a single person. The only thing I don't like about it is that it raises and lowers one side of the kayak and then you have to manually level the kayak before you raise/lower it some more. That slows things down, but it's still a manageable system.

For transport, the Yakima Sweetroll carrier works exactly as I hoped it would. The carrier has four supports for the kayak that attach to the car's roof rack. It can attach to automobile manufacturer racks as well as Yakima racks.

Yakima Sweetroll carrier
The rollers have 4-way hinges so they can adapt to and cradle many different hull shapes. The rear supports have rollers that allow you to roll the kayak from the back of your car onto the carrier.

Rear support with roller
There is one minor complication with loading my particular boat onto the Sweetroll. The FeelFree Corona has a built-in "wheel-in-the-keel", FeelFree's signature feature that enables a single person move this big boat without a cart. But with the Sweetroll carrier, the idea is that you pick up the bow of the kayak and place it on the rear of your car. Then you go over to the stern of the boat, lift it, and guide the boat into place using the roller supports. The problem is that the wheel-in-the-keel could roll your boat right off the back of your car before you get around to the stern, crashing your kayak onto the ground!

The solution, which I got from a YouTube video, was to attach a carefully measured safety rope between the rear towing hook on my car to the stern of the Guacamole. The rope is cut to a length that will keep the kayak from rolling away once I get the bow onto the back of the car.

Safety rope attached between the car's tow hook and the stern of the kayak
So the way it works is I roll the kayak behind my car, with the stern centered behind the car and the bow angled off to the driver's side and overlapping the rear of the car. Then I attach my safety rope to the car's tow hook and the kayak's stern handle using carabiners. I also have a small rubber-backed rug that I place on the rear of my car to keep the kayak from scratching the car.

Ready to lift the kayak's bow onto the rear of the car
Once the kayak and safety rope are in place, I lift the bow of the boat and rest it on the back of the car (on the rug). Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of that. Then I go around to the stern and the safety rope keeps the boat in place until I can get there. I lift the stern and push the boat onto the carrier supports and then adjust the placement of the boat so that its centered on the supports. The rollers on the rear supports make all of this very easy to do.

Since I only lift one side of the boat at a time, and never the entire 80 lb boat at once, it means that I'm never lifting more than 40 pounds at a time  That's a very reasonable amount of weight, and totally doable by a single person.

After the kayak is place on the carrier supports, then I just have to attach the carrier straps and the bow/stern straps. Strapped down, the kayak was very stable and stayed in place perfectly to and from the lake.

Packed up and ready to go 
So, the Guacamole's been christened and her maiden voyage is in the books. I'm glad I decided to not complicate things by trying to fish on my first trip out. But I'm chomping at the bit to do it! I've been studying the nautical maps of my lake and staying abreast of the fishing reports so I have some ideas on where to try my luck. I've just got to get the Guacamole outfitted...

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