Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Trip Summary

Will be posting a final trip summary over the next couple of days.

Gear Reviews

Included detailed reviews of all my gear on last years blog if interested, these reviews are related to new items I brought this year and my perspective after field use.

Gear Review - Kayak

Rented a 16'2" Seaward Cosma Fibreglass Kayak from Mountain Equipment Co-op.


Only complaint I have with this kayak is the size, it’s a lot smaller than the 18’ Current Design kayak both in terms of storage space and cockpit room.  Still packed everything (including the kitchen sink) however, would have been an issue if I was solo this time because I pack a lot of stuff for 2 weeks.  Had to fully pack both kayaks and there wasn’t that much more than what I fit into one kayak last year.  Extra space makes all the difference and will definitely be going with a 17’ or 18’ high volume when I purchase.  Would have also been nice to have a little more room behind the seat for storage, was pretty tight.

Now the good stuff..

Kayak is amazing in rough water and as stable as a rock that doesn’t sink, at no point did I feel like the conditions were above the limits of the kayak in any way.

For the most part tracked straight in the wind with very little wind cocking and was much better with the rudder deployed,  rudder smart system was ok and preferred it over the standard push rudder pedals, did however have to play with it a number of times to get the adjustment just right.  

Glassed in hatches from the cockpit made all the difference in the world, nothing got wet in the hatches and they also have the rudder cables coming out of the top of the kayak instead of the bottom so they aren’t sitting in the water leaking all day, more manufacturers should go this route.  

Extra large front hatch is also a blessing, hate those little 8” diameter openings where you have to figure out how to stuff square stuff in a little round hole.

I have paddled enough kayak styles now to know what I want to buy.

  • 17’ – 18’ High Volume
  • Kevlar/Carbon construction
  • Proper adjustable seat with room behind for day storage
  • Rudder with Smart Rudder System with guide lines on top
  • No 3rd day hatch
  • No 4th deck hatch
  • Full Size front hatch
  • Recessed deck hatches
  • Deck mounted compass

Gear Review - Electronics

Garmin Dakota 20 GPS

Amazing little device, did a full review before leaving but now after using it for 17 days on the water, unit is amazing.  Didn’t have any problems and worked perfectly.  battery life wasn’t bad, got two full days of paddling (on all the time) out of alkaline batteries and more with my rechargeable ones.   Did hear bad reviews on screen glare in the sun but not once did I feel like I was twisting around to see the screen.  Kept it in my PFD and it got wet a few times, waterproof is always good, never had any issues or condensation build up on the screen.  Get one, you won’t be disappointed.

Was loaded up with Garmin G2 Vision charts for Lake Huron which includes Georgian Bay and up to Lake Simcoe, these maps have amazing detail and lots of additional information on marinas sights and such. Original BlueChart version for the rest of the Trent waterway just lacked extra info for marinas but had everything else required.

I do have full GPX route plans I created before leaving if anybody wants to save time creating them.  Just email me and I will send them.

Olympus Stylus Tough 6020 Camera

Lived up to every claim the marketing people brag about, this camera is great, you never have to worry about it, waterproof, shock proof, crush proof.  You just clip it on and take pictures when needed, if it gets wet so what, if you ding it around so what, mine looks like it just came out of the box like the day I bought it.   Battery life is phenomenal, I brought two batteries and switched out at the halfway point when the first one went down to about half.  I did have the charger with me just in case and topped up near the end but didn’t have to.   Much better than using my Blackberry camera like I did last year.   Was stored in my PFD pocket for quick access and attached via carabineer just in case I dropped it. 

Brunton ACD Summit

Cool gadget but didn’t need it, was ok to know the wind speed but if you had to check then you probably shouldn’t be out there in the first place (Lake Couchiching) temperature, yup hot out, what more do you need to know, current flow? so what, paddle harder. Storm Indicator? Reason I picked this up was the alarm when storm approaching, did pick up a storm one day but you would have to be Helen Keller not have seen it coming.   I much prefer my UHF Radio with marine forecasts.

Pelican IPod Waterproof Case (i1015)

Worked perfectly, the only downside with this case is that you can’t adjust anything once it’s sealed up, you have to open to adjust volume or skip/pause songs.  For the price I can live with it, there are more expensive types that allow you to do it but Pelican makes the most waterproof cases so I’m going with name recognition. Suited my needs perfectly.   Add a Silica pack to though as the heat from the iPod will cause condensation if in direct sunlight.

H20 Audio Surge Waterproof Headphones

Generally speaking they worked well, did have one issue where there was a lot of static after getting wet, cleared up pretty quick (blast on full volume to pop the speaker membrane) but wouldn’t have expected it with waterproof headphones.  Better option over dunking my Bose headphones from last year which still aren’t working properly. Sound was ok but don’t expect the same quality as a good set.  Was nice not to worry about dunking them, which I did a few times.

EGO iPod Sound System (Waterproof)

Julie brought this one and it was amazing, it’s a waterproof speaker system for your iPod, sound was great and she would just strap to deck and press play. I want one now.  Battery life was great, only changed once during the trip on the second last day.   The only downside is they don’t have a version available for the iTouch or iPhone, means you can’t adjust on the fly like you can with the older iPods, still fits and works but you do have to open it up to adjust songs.  External volume controls work fine.  Was great to have music at camp over dinner or in the tent at night.  Great alternative to headphones and the thing floats to boot.

Gear Review - Camp Gear

Therma-Rest ProLite Plus Sleeping Pad

The sleeping pad I brought last year was way too big, was nice as it had memory foam but very difficult to pack up everyday.  Therma-Rest is the standard and mine was as comfortable as anything, slept great.  Self inflating and rolled up easily.  I did however not use the packing sack designed for it, they expect you to roll it up like when you bought it and that just isn’t happening unless you want to mess with rolling it 10 times.  I opted to use a regular dry bag with more room, would roll it up and then use a strap with a clip to hold together and then just slide it into the dry bag.  So much easier.  Plus side is that we used the original stuff sack to store our paddle jackets, worked out nicely.  Would still like to try out the Neo-Air version.

Chinook Technical Outdoor Dreamer Pillow

Already had a Therma-Rest compression pillow and the thing is comfortable,  was shopping in Peterborough during our 2 day break and saw this one and looked cool, so bought it.   Self inflating like the sleeping pad and wasn’t bad, the only downside is that air expands when heated so you get it just right then off to sleep, half way through the night it expands and becomes uncomfortable.  Is more durable though and worked great for lounging in the grass or in Julie’s case, a knee pillow.  Was cheep so was worth a try, still prefer my original.

Gear Review – Writing Material

Rite in the Rain Notebook

Last year I found myself replaying the day and trying to figure out what happened or cool things I saw,  eventually I started keeping notes on my Blackberry but was a real pain and always concerned about dropping in the water. This year I picked up a waterproof journal to keep notes.  Just kept on the deck of the kayak and would jot down notes or use to take an email or give out our website.   I joke with Julie that next time we print business cards.

Inka Pen

Well you need something to write with, one of those write upside down, in the rain any temperature type of pens.  Attached to PFD and could just pull it out the holder and take notes on above mentioned waterproof paper.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pictures - Day 1

Stopping for bio break after picking up "Coffin II" and "Bucket"

Julie - see if she still likes me after 17 days...

Julie about to leave Port Severn

Jeff about to leave Port Severn

Julie in the water for the first time

Setting GPS for Trenton

Coming into Big Chute, Julie doing just fine

Waiting for our ride to the top

Jeff on Marine Railway

Julie on Marine Railway

Vew from the top of Marine Railway

Big Chute Marine Railway

Random spot to stop and rest, find em when you can

Random stop on some old dock, time for swim

Swift Rapids, camping here at end of day 1

Our first night, clear and warm out

Pictures - Day 2

Our first campground

Getting ready to set off for day 2, current here we come

Looking around for the Banjo kid when we stopped on this random spot on the shore

Coming into Sparrow Lake, wind starting to pick up
Julie thinking these waves are big, wait till tomorrow

Julie happy to have Sparrow Lake over with
Sign looks harmless enough, this is the starting point for adventure day 3

Pictures - Day 3

Not a lot of picture taking on day 3, we were more concerned with keeping the kayaks right side up in the wind and waves.

Overlooking lock, camp is at the end on the right

Getting ready to pack Kayaks, such a sunny morning

Some random island to get out of the wind for a break
Julie happy to be off Couchiching for a bit at a day camp

Checking GPS for alternate camping spots and waiting for the wind to die down, hard to tell from picture but was blowing into our face at 35km, took two attempts to round the point on the left and then 6 foot waves. Looking back should have stayed at this kids camp
Julie not impressed that Ojibway Marine won't let us use 5 feet of all this grass, acres of it all around, nope, go back out on the water please, we don't allow tents. Amazing day out except for the crazy wind

Pictures - Day 4

Packing at Bolsover after skipping Lake Simcoe, thanks again Dan for the rescue. You can see some of the places you have to figure out how to get back into the water, especially with 4 foot high cement walls everywhere.

Heading out to Canal Lake, one of the rare pictures where I'm not looking at the GPS with a cigarette in my mouth, Julie likes to take those pictures.
Pulling into Kirkfield and calling it an early day

Up Please! Last lock that brings us up, all the rest are down and we paddle with the current

Our stop for the night
Very steep staircase, 53 steps to be exact and the same number as Big Chute, the things you do when you have lots of time huh. Our camp ground is half a click to the left down the warf.

What goes down must come up.. I can paddle for 12 hours but have to take 12 breaks to get to the top of the staircase and Julie laughing all the way, "let's go Jeff, almost there"

Time to clean up, had to go into this little alcove, open dam 20 feet on the other side with swirling current and not good for swimming

After leaving my tent pole at home, made one from a stick and duct tape
Julie doing her "duties" setup that tent girl.

Worst camp site ever, only place to get out was near the service area where they keep all the junk, even then had to pull kayaks up 3 foot cement wall. Can see the rain falling but not near us

Pictures - Day 5

On the way to Balsalm Lake, 10k

Taking a break, bored and want some waves

Julie figures out how to get feet on deck to rest, very happy now
Out on Balsalm and not a wave in sight

Heading to the northern tip of Grand Island
Taken the next morning but we hit Fenelon Falls

First real dinner
Freaky toupee dude

After dinner traditional tourist shot
Our camp for the night