Monday, June 21, 2010

The Water You Want In Your Hatch

It is imporant to keep hydrated while out on a long paddle, especially during hot days.  To accomplish this, we started out by buying rubber rings attached to a clip.  We would buy bottled water and slip the ring over the neck of the bottled waters and clip them to the deck lines on the front deck of our kayaks.  We soon found  a couple of problems with this solution.  One being that it cluttered our front deck.  The second problem was that in order to drink, we had to stop paddling.  It was very difficult to unclip the bottle from the deck line, unscrew the cap, drink, screw the cap back on, and re-clip the bottle to the deck while trying to keep up with a group or in rough waters.  The third problem was that on hot days, even if we froze the bottled waters the night before, the ice soon melted and the water heated very quickly.  The result...  we weren't drinking nearly enough water and we needed a better solution.

Recently we customized our kayaks with hydration packs.  We can't take the credit for this idea, but when you see a good idea and it works, why not copy it?  We went out and bought ourselves a couple of Camelbak hydration packs.  The long drinking hose let us be able to drink leaving our hands free for more important stuff, like paddling.  However, attaching the pack to our decks still left us with two problems, a cluttered deck and warm water, but we weren't finished.

Now, I know this solution isn't for everyone, especially when it comes to step number one... drilling a hole in your kayak.  Since this idea was originally my dad's and both of our kayaks were originally his until they were appropriated by us and because we were afraid we might screw something up, we let dad drill the hole.  I decided I wanted my pack to be kept in my day hatch, so I chose a spot directly behind my cockpit that was within easy reach. Once the hole was drilled we inserted a Ferrule, 5/16", Screw Down Deck Bushing that we purchased at West Marine.  We used silicone sealant to seal around the bushing and the screws.

We had also purchased extension hoses for our Camelbaks.  We inserted the extension hose into the bushing, making sure the adapter was inside the hatch.  The hose fits very tightly making the hole waterproof.  In fact, we needed to spray 303 on the hose and work it in.  It took quite a bit of effort.   

We attach the hose from the Camelbak to the adapter inside the hatch.

We place the Camelbak inside the hatch and cover.

Walla!  We now have a hands free hydration pack, an uncluttered deck, and best of all, because the water sits on the bottom of our kayak which is usually (for us) sitting on cool or cold water, we have cold water to drink all day long! 

I created a little loop to stick the end of the hose through from left over hatch straps and the screws from old rudder hardware that I removed since I have never had a rudder on my kayak.  My boyfriend was able to wrap a strip of velcro around his hose near the end which sticks nicely to his spray skirt.  These finishing touches are helpful in keeping the hose from falling into less desirable waters.  

So, what if we are going rolling in the pool and don't want to bring along our hydration pack?  We found 5/16" cork that can either be placed into the hole in the bushing if the hose is pulled out or into the hose itself to keep the water out and our hatch dry... or as dry as it can be with repeated rolling.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New State-Of-The-Art Kayak Launch

I came across this article about Windsor Castle Park in Virginia.  After major renovations, one of it's cool new features is a state-of-the-art kayak ramp.  The ramp is V shaped, has rollers on the bottom and sides, and handrails so that you can launch your kayak from the top of the ramp and gently roll right into the water without ever getting wet. 

This new ramp will be great for disabled kayakers who have trouble getting down ramps or with launching from uneven shores.  I am not sure how getting back up it works?  It seems it might be a bit tougher, but with handrails, maybe you are able to pull yourself up?  That shouldn't be too hard what with all the arm strength we have acquired from paddling.  :D

I couldn't help but to look at this ramp and think of how fun it might be to ride down.  I would add some more ups and downs, some twists, and maybe even a loopdy-loop...  Ok, maybe I just need to get back to the ocean or take up whitewater.  LOL

In all seriousness, I think this ramp is very cool and will help to make kayaking more accessable to all and for the sometimes lazy paddler (I'm only very rarely lazy :P), just easier and more enjoyable.  I hope to see more of them in the future!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I Am My Mother's Daughter

There were times growing up when I wished that I was adopted.  I had hoped that somehow, possibly this woman's genes would not become my own.  That I could rightfully say "No! She is not my mother!".   I mean doesn't every child or teenager wish this at some point?  Alas, there is absolutely no doubt about it.  I am my mother's daughter. 

People that know my mother instantly recognize me as her daughter by my facial structure and if that doesn't click with them, as soon as I let out a laugh they recognize the connection.  I have inherited her sensitive skin, her forgetfulness, her ability (if you can call it that) to ask a question and never hear the reply.  I have inherited her stubbornness, her refusal to admit to pain or sickness if it means having to pass on a much loved activity, especially if that activity involves kayaking.  I have inherited her overwhelming curiosity to poke my head into every cave and tunnel and to ride every pour over without thinking of the possible consequences beforehand, and to urge others to follow, because in my mind if I can do it surely they can too.  Thankfully, I have also inherited my father's cautiousness, with often over rides this urge!

But sometimes it is good to be my mother's daughter and I am thankful to take on some of her traits.

Mother/Daughter Synchronized Rolling

I was able to view this in slow motion.  Not only is the roll synchronized but we roll in the exact same way from the stroke, sweep then brace (which is what we think we do, when we really created a combination of the two and made our own stroke), to how we roll up on our back decks. 

Is it possible to be too much like your mother???

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Roll Practice

Last Thursday night we headed to the pool for roll practice. We have been going regularly since last October, either to practice rolling, practice rescues, or to practice strokes, edging and bracing, all in the comfort of a warm heated pool.

I was able to get my first roll last October with the help of my dad over two pool sessions. KK2 is still patiently waiting for his roll to come and is still as bound and determined as ever to nail it.

It has been eight long months of trial and error. The most frustrating part has been in modifying his boat.  With each new modification we thought "Finally, we have it! This is gonna work!", only to find out at the next pool session that yet more tweaking needed to be done. Ugghhh!

So how do you roll a kayak without legs and shorter arms you may ask?  Well... we are still trying to figure that one out. The biggest problem he had was staying in the boat.  Even with legs you need a thigh brace to press against to keep you in position, without legs and having a wide open cockpit the first thing that is going to happen when you go over, sprayskirt or not, is you are going to fall right out. We found this to be just as problematic when attempting an assisted bow rescue.  He would reach for the bow of the assisting boat and slide right out of his kayak.

To remedy this problem we knew we had to make the space inside tighter, tight enough to keep him in but not too tight as to restrict him from being able to wet exit if needed. This balance proved to be hard to find. 

To start we found a board to place in front of him.  We measured the inside of the cockpit and cut the board so that it fit snugly. We sanded, then sealed the board with a few coats of marine quality varnish and set it in place. Next we secured the board by bolting in a 1 1/2 inch piece of aluminum angle iron cut to length.  Then we added a thin layer of foam to the front of the board for comfort and cushioning.  We attached it with Velcro so that it can easily be replaced if it gets too worn.

Now it was time to pad the rest of the cockpit, so we headed to California Canoe and Kayak for outfitting foam and lots of it!  We depleted their stock a few times before our project was complete (knock on wood). They also gave us a discount because we bought so much of it! Love you guys! Dragon Skin also became out best friend. It works great for moulding the foam to the size and shape you desire.

We glued foam to the sides of the kayak shaping it to fit his body as much as possible. Of course this required some trial and error to get the shape right and keep him evenly seated in the middle (Which reminds me of a story for another time about testing any new modifications in a pool or calm lake before heading out to test your skills in the ocean on the day after Christmas... Oops! Splash! Brrr!!!). 

Finding the right glue also became a challenge. Some turned to milk when wet, others just peeled away, even though all were said to be waterproof and for use with plastic and foam. We found that the best glue to use was Barge Cement. That stuff holds up amazingly well!

After the sides were completed we wedged big pieces of foam into the back behind the seat because when he was upside down the seat would move up and he could slide and turn underneath it.

Looking good, right!?  Think we are finished? Not!

My dad had a great idea to make use of the extra cockpit space and to limit the amount of water that would need to be drained in the event of capsize.  He found a plastic welder to weld a piece of plastic on top of the open cockpit.  We got some poster board and created a template for them including a hole to insert a hatch cover. To prep the boat for the welders, we glued foam to the top of the board to give the plastic a good fit and glued thin foam to the around the bottom and sides of the board and the kayak to prevent water from coming into the new hatch from the cockpit.
This hatch has proved to be very useful.  It can hold a lot of stuff and is easily accessible.  The sprayskirt also fits nicely over it so we did not need to create a new sprayskirt and he doesn't have to go without one.  Now he can fit a lot of gear in his kayak, which I am more than willing to let him carry, after all the extra weight in front will help balance out the kayak making up for the lack of leg weight, right?  That's what I keep telling him anyways.

Even after all of this, he was still turning inside the boat, so we added small triangles of foam to the corners behind the seat.  Then we found the seat would still flip up and he could twist underneath it, so we wedged in more foam behind the seat closing off any gaps making it harder for the seat back to move and flip.  We used silicone sealant to seal around the board and plastic, but it still seems to leak in places so this will be a continued project until we get it right.

Now that we have the boat looking and feeling great, it's time to get the roll down! 

My dad has been working with KK2 from the beginning, he is a wonderful teacher, always patient and optimistic.  Just as with the boat, there has been much trial and error in figuring out how best to do the roll.  KK2 is mostlty ambidextrous.  Determining which side is dominant depends on what he is trying to accomplish as both of his arms are shorter than most peoples and each has different levels of dexterity.  His wrists and elbows do not move the same as most peoples and each one moves at varying dgrees and angles.  This made it difficult to determine which side we should work on first.  We finally determined to start with his left side.  As I am right handed and haven't found my offside roll yet, this means we won't be able to roll a double kayak, or divorce boat as they call them, anytime soon.  Which is fine as we love the freedom of having our own kayaks and being able to talk and see eachother on the water and be able to go where we want when we want.

Next we had to figure out what sort of stroke to use.  Too much of a sweep or skulling would cause too much twist making his body slide sideways in the boat.  At that angle it is impossible to do an effective hip flick.  Even with all the foam we added, when wet it gets slippery allowing for some twisting.  We had been taking video of his progression and attempts to see what was working and what what wasn't.  My dad suggested that we make a copy for a friend of ours, Bryant Burkhardt, who is a kayak instructor and instructor trainer so that he could take a look and possibly offer some suggestions.  Unfortunately the DVD we made for him didn't work on his player and at the following session he was teaching so he didn't have the time to watch what we were doing.  Last Thursday, however, he wasn't scheduled to teach so he dropped by just to take a look at KK2's progress and to offer some much appreciated tips.  Thank you, Bryant! 

One suggestion was a storm roll which required deeper water and couldn't be tried in the 3 1/2 ft deep pool we were in.  He suggested practicing using a paddle float to help him get the paddle to the surface and get the feeling for the motion of the paddle and the roll.  We found he could do a sweep then brace to get up.  Occasionally he still twists in the boat but has gotten very comfortable underwater and can now readjust himself then set up to try again.

After much practice, his rolls are smoother and he is using one quick fluid motion.  Stay tuned because video of KK2's first roll unassisted will be coming soon!  We just know he will finally get it and all of his patience and determination are finally going to pay off big time!