Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Back Ta Work, Ye Scurvy Dogs

After our relaxing canoe trip, Greg and I returned to work. Greg has been putting in a lot of time doing finish work in preparation for painting the hull. He's still got a few areas that he's not happy with, but we're seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I can't wait!

Last week we installed a skid guard on the bottom of the hull. Since it's a flat-bottomed boat, it's designed to coast to shore, allowing our more dainty passengers to go ashore without getting their feet wet. In order to protect the hull, we've installed the skid guard.

The installation process was pretty straight-forward, but required some precision. First we sanded the area where the skid guard would be placed, and then cleaned the area with rubbing alcohol. Then we test-laid the skid guard, and once we were happy with the layout, we traced a pencil line around the skid guard, so we'd know exactly where to lay it. We then applied part one of the two part adhesive. Part two is applied directly to the skid guard from the factory. After this, we were finally prepared to install the skid guard. This process was a little tricky, because the bond is instantaneous. We ended up a little bit off from the line we drew, but it still looks okay, and it will definitely perform to our expectations.

Once again I neglected to bring the camera with me, so you'll have to wait in suspense for a little longer before you see the changes.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Boys' Trip 2007

Not So Hard Anymore

Our trip ended a little earlier than we expected. We anticipated three full days of paddling, three full nights of camping and a fourth day that consisted of a couple of hours on the river. Since the river flowed a little faster than we had calculated, our canoeing came to an end toward the end of the third day.

We weren't really interested in setting up the tent, and we didn't feel like driving back, so we did what any hard-core 30-something group of pioneers would do... we rented a cabin.
Upon our late arrival, we all took to our now-familiar chores. I started a fire, so we could cook our dinner. (Yes, I really did... we cooked our steaks and pork chops over an open fire.) Greg took a nap, and Darin took a shower. Okay, I did my chores... they slacked.

Hint to inexperienced downriver paddlers: Some sort of fire starter and waterproof lighter can literally save your life. It definitely makes life easier.

Okay, okay, we're not as hard as we used to be. But it certainly doesn't take anything away from this year's trip. We had a relaxing couple of days (despite the ticks and setting up a tent in the rain). We took things at an easy pace and saw the wonder that nature offers us daily, yet we overlook because of the hustle and bustle of life. We saw bald eagles galore, clear water and ran some mild rapids. Did we cheat a little on the last day? Yeah. But who cares. It was our trip, and we enjoyed it.

Let me leave you with a reprise of the slideshow... judge for yourself.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Boys' Trip 2007

Cab-Forward Design

As our trip went on, our load got progressively lighter. Each meal, beer or soda brought made our canoes progressively more back-heavy.

This wasn't a real problem for me, because I started off nicely balanced, and I was able to adjust the load a little more than Darin and Greg were. But Greg was especially ass-heavy by the last day of paddling. With the first foot of his boat out of the water, it was difficult to slice through the river, and the term "shallow water" grew increasingly liberal by the day. On our last day, Greg decided that he could no longer tolerate the poor weight distribution and moved himself to the front of the boat. His weight was more evenly distributed than it had been all weekend, but he lost a little bit of control.

Hint to inexperienced downriver paddlers: The farther back you are in the boat, the easier it is to steer, but weight distribution needs to be considered as well.

Stay tuned for the next episode... "Not So Hard Anymore"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Boys' Trip 2007

Tick (Toc)

Bugs are an unfortunate aspect of camping. Mosquitoes, ants, biting flies and ticks are inconvenient at best, and at their worst, they can absolutely ruin an otherwise pleasant trip. We were surprised to find a virtual absence of mosquitoes and flies, but I don't remember ever seeing so many ticks. We first noticed the nefarious bloodsucker after waking up from our nap on the first day of the trip. There were several ticks stuck to the outside of the tent. Darin is creeped out by ticks, so he immediately went outside and doused himself in bug repellent. Unfortunately for him, we were using mosquito repellent, which had almost no impact on the ticks. Either that, or they were more hungry than repelled by our bug juice.

After Darin realized that the ticks weren't impacted by the Off, he went into obsessive-compulsive mode, visually inspecting himself for the parasites almost non-stop. In all honesty, Greg and I checked ourselves periodically too, but nowhere nearly as obsessively as Darin did.

Hint to inexperienced downriver paddlers: Make sure to pack plenty of bug juice. There is little that can ruin an otherwise awesome trip like an insect infestation.

Over the course of our trip, we picked dozens of ticks off of ourselves every day. But aside from this, the trip was relatively bug-free.

Tune in for the next episode... "Cab-Forward Design"

Monday, June 04, 2007

Boys' Trip 2007

(Almost) Drowning in Ankle-Deep Water

One of our ongoing contests (for lack of a better word) is determining who falls in to the river first and/or most often. We are experienced paddlers, but alcohol, inattention to our surroundings, or riding with inexperienced paddlers has led to someone taking an unexpected tip into the drink on virtually every trip we've ever made. This year was no exception, and this year's winner (loser?) is Greg, hands down. Greg was the only person to take an unexpected bath this year, and he managed to do so 3 1/2 times. (I'll explain the 1/2 in a bit.)

Three of his river baths occurred in a single day, and two happened in such a rapid succession that it almost counted as a single fall. The consumption of alcohol is almost a requirement for our trips. We're legally intoxicated from the time we wake up until the time we go to bed, and occasionally we forget to moderate our consumption, which makes for a hysterical trip.

On our first day, Greg got a little too tipsy and got hung up in shallow water because he wasn't paying attention. When he realized he wasn't going to be able to paddle his way out of the shallow water, he got out of the boat, promptly lost his balance and ended up flat on his back. Yes the water was only ankle-deep, but he somehow managed to soak himself from head to toe. I saw the spectacle and promptly pulled out my camera to commemorate the occasion. I was a ways downriver and had to zoom the camera to its full extent to get the shot. I was laughing so hard while all of this was going on that he managed to stand up by the time I snapped the picture.

Realizing that a wet body, cool air and a gentle breeze are a bad combination, Greg decided to put on his rain coat in order to preserve body heat. As soon as he got his coat zipped, he lost his balance again and fell flat on his back, taking a second bath. Greg was a trooper, but the alcohol and the cold caused fatigue to set in. Knowing that our stopping point wasn't too far away, I sent Darin ahead to find us a campsite, and I stayed back with Greg. This allowed us to find the closest available camping spot, while taking care of each other.

Hint to inexperienced downriver paddlers: Always pay attention to the river. If you do end up going in the water, make sure to stay warm. If you can, change into dry clothes. If you can't, add some layers. A raincoat is a good way to stay warm, and hypothermia is your enemy. If someone does go in, the safest thing to do is stay with that person and make sure they're safe and warm.

A half hour or so later, Greg and I came to the spot that Darin had snagged for us. We pulled to shore, got out of our boats, and Greg promptly took another bath. As we unloaded our gear it started to rain. It was a warm spring rain -- far warmer than the water -- but Greg was soaked and miserable. We set up the tent during this brief downpour, crawled into the tent and promptly fell asleep.

It was our first day on the river, so we were all sleep-deprived. We had set up camp by 2:00 PM. We slept until about 6:00 PM, cooked our dinner, and were back in bed by 9:00 PM, sleeping until noon the second day.

Stay tuned for the next installment... "Tick Toc"

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Boys' Trip 2007

Nice Canoes

The first group of paddlers we encountered was a troop of Boy Scouts. Greg, Darin and I were all in the Boy Scouts, and we credit scouting for our love of camping and canoeing. In fact, we all earned our canoeing merit badge during the same trip to summer camp.

We mentioned to the young scouts that we all belonged to their organization as boys, and a brief conversation ensued. One of the kids commented on our canoes and was quite impressed when we told him that we had built them ourselves. After a few minutes we commenced with our journey, saying we'd see them again when they caught up with us downriver. (After all, they were young and energetic kids, anxious to paddle; we are older paddlers, more interested in allowing the river to do the majority of the work.) Sure enough, they caught up to us within a half hour.

When they caught us, we got quite a laugh out of their lack of experience. Right around that time, the river started getting shallow, and they were constantly hanging up in the shallows. Our superior experience (and my shallow draft) allowed us to navigate the river without any problems, but the kids were continually getting out of the boats and hauling them over the sandy bottom. The only person in the troop to not get hung up was one of the two adult leaders. Like us, he tended to paddle at a slower pace, knowing he'd catch up to the kids when they tired out or got caught up in shallow water. The leader was the only one paddling solo, and said to us that he wished that he'd brought kayak paddles like we did.

Hint to inexperienced downriver paddlers: If you're paddling alone, a kayak paddle is an invaluable tool. It's far more efficient than a canoe paddle.

During the course of our trip, we met up with dozens of fellow paddlers... college students, families, retired couples... the list goes on. We had two other groups who commented on our boats and were very impressed that we had built them ourselves. We finished the boats a little over three years ago, and have taken them on our last four boys' trips. They were a lot of work, but the finished product was well worth it. We have pride in our craftsmanship, and we don't have to rent canoes anymore. But the icing on the cake is hearing comments on our boats, years after finishing the work.

Stay tuned for the next installment... "(almost) drowning in ankle-deep water."

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Boys' Trip 2007

Day I: The Drive Up

Part of the reason this trip will be memorable is how smooth everything went; from packing to paddling, this trip was easy-going. I usually work the day that we leave, choosing to pack a little at a time over the course of a couple of days. Greg is the exact opposite. He takes the day off, but doesn't start packing until the last minute. The result is that I usually get over to his house around 7:00 PM, we leave sometime between 10:00 PM and midnight, and arrive sometime between 5:00 and 7:00 AM.

This year I got off of work a little early, so I was at Greg's place around 4:00, and we were gone by 6:00. Greg and I usually meet Darin at our destination, but this year our travel route took us right through his neck of the woods, so we stopped at Darin's place along the way. Darin has a vacuum sealer, so we vacuum sealed all of our meat; we also pre-cut and sealed some of our veggies. I wasn't as impressed with how that turned out, but it certainly was convenient.

Hint to inexperienced downriver paddlers: If you are going on a long trip, freeze the meat that you will be eating later in the trip. The meat and ice will both last a little longer as a result. This is something we figured out during our third year or so. Vacuum sealing it will add even a little more life to the meat, and it will also prevent meat juice from getting into the cooler.

We drove through the night and arrived in the little town of Trego around 4:30 AM. This was pretty good, considering how much time we spent at Darin's place. By the time we got there, we were pretty tired, so we slept in the cars for an hour or so. (By the way, I don't know why Greg was so tired... he slept during the majority of the drive.) After our brief nap, we got directions from a gas station clerk and headed to our destination. This is what we saw upon arrival...

We weren't sure if the guy had a double blowout, or if he somebody "borrowed" strategic parts of his vehicle. Either way, we were a little bit nervous about leaving our cars there after that sight, but it turned out okay in the end... our vehicles were intact.

Stay tuned for the next installment... "Nice Canoes"

Friday, June 01, 2007

Our Annual Diversion

You may recall from a post I made around this time last year that a couple of friends and I make a yearly boys' trip, which consists of canoeing, kayaking, camping and whatnot. (Whatnot = drinking) Last weekend we had our 2007 trip.

This year's trip took place on the Namekagon River in Western Wisconsin, and it was one of the best trips yet. The current was smooth but fast in the beginning, with a surface so calm that you could see reflections of the foliage off of the river in certain places. The air temperature was a few degrees cooler than in my neck of the woods, but it was still comfortable. The water temperature was also cool, but not frigid. We had a short downpour the first day... a warm spring rain. The water was clear enough to see the bottom and we had some mild rapids on our last day. 2007 will undoubtedly go down in history as one of our best trips ever. Over the next few days, I'll post some of the highlights.

For those of you who can't wait, here's a slideshow of the trip.