Contact us

  • Home
  • Tag: right kayak for right type of water

The “experienced” kayaker

How many times have we read the phrase, “They were an experienced kayaker/paddler”? This seems to be a term used by reporters posthumously as they write an article of a paddler who was involved in an incident. The authors of the media release tend to receive this information from family members, onlookers, or perhaps the paddling partner who was also involved in the incident. Majority of these stories we read recount the tragic events which took place. The details seem to be constant, wrong boat for the conditions, improperly dressed for the elements, and not prepared for what they encountered.  The ripples of comments which go through respective paddlers and kayak instructors are endless. For most, we feel accountable – could we have made a difference? What can we do to in the future to educate the general public?

Social media stages numerous postings, pictures, and comments from the “Average Joe”, which display a large percentage of people who paddle incorrectly. These pictures show not wearing a PFD, paddles upside down, disregarding nautical rules, and improperly dress for the water conditions.  Those new to the sport, view these with eyes wide open and may use these as their reference tools for learning. What’s the harm in that, right? Well, many things. In the past years, I have joined many social media sites which focus on kayaking. My primary reason for joining these sites was to use these as informational resources for future paddle destinations. I am selective on becoming a member on some of the sites out there. Much like fact checking fake news reports, one should also ask pertinent questions when seeking specific paddling related topics. Manage to do a bit of research of the person posting, or even the main topic.

Let’s define the term, experience and then experienced:

Experience – as a noun, 1) practical contact with and observation of facts or events. 2) the knowledge or skill acquired by experience over a period of time, especially that gained in a particular profession. 3) an event or occurrence that leaves an impression on someone. As a verb – 1) encounter or undergo. 2) a feeling.

Experienced – 1) having knowledge or skill in a particular field, especially a profession or job, gained over a period of time.

What makes a person experienced, in this particular discussion – an experienced kayaker? An experienced kayaker is one who has logged many countless hundreds or thousands of hours in the seat. Paddled in conditions relative to the surroundings – in all aspects (paddling in winds existing from different directions, waves, various wave heights, wave direction, currents) and waters (open water, inland lakes, rivers, creeks, and rapids). They know limitations of both their kayak and themselves. There is apparent risk when undergoing any form of kayaking, and for majority of people in this sport, they understand this. Implementation of a risk assessment for your paddle adventure is a means in which those skilled in the sport, do not place themselves within a hazardous environment. A risk assessment focuses on many different aspects: paddler skill level, weather, type of water, known area of paddle, knowing your paddle group, and health conditions (just to name a few). Paddlers take these aspects and make sound and reasonable decisions for the destination in mind. This a continuous and ever-changing assessment during the paddle – as kayaking is never a static experience. For those who don’t understand this, should not call themselves, “Experienced paddlers”.

Understanding what limitations both you, your gear, and your kayak possess is a characteristic in experience. First timers in the kayak have many different ways in which they learn:

1) There is the hands-on approach – and just try (Doers)

2) The watch others/read procedures – and adapt to what needs to be done (Watchers)

3) Those who get ‘lessons’ from others – who may not be very proficient (Seers)

4) Then those who seek out professional training from a qualified individual.

Numerous times, I have been on the water and witnessed a variety of simple disregard to personal safety while on the water. I primarily paddle the open waters of Lake Michigan – and I have my go-to places I fully enjoy. As this body of water has its challenges, it also has many hidden factors which at times goes overlooked to the novice paddler. There are currents, [at times] rip current, various changes of water temperatures, off-shore winds, just to name a few. Encountering paddlers in this body of water without PFD’s physically on their body, kayaks ill-suited for large open bodies of water (lack of bulkheads, or float bags) which could quickly take on massive amounts of water from the waves, improperly dressed individuals who don’t understand about hypothermia, and lack of communication to others – should there be a need. I find myself conversing with as many of these individuals as I can. Attempting to plant a seed of knowledge, and hopefully make them think about their actions – and hopefully change their future paddling endeavors. Sometimes, this works – other times, I get shrugged off by the individual. One notable occasion happened this year. The air was around mid-70’s, water temp was 61, light off shore winds, waves about a foot. My buddy and I were dressed for immersion (had splash top, neoprene bottoms and boots), plus our usual open water gear – VHF, flares, first aid kit, cell phone in a water tight box, food/water, etc). We were playing with rescues (solo and assisted), and he notices a kayaker in the far distance – well off shore about a mile out. I suggested we go out and say hello. As we were getting closer, my buddy stated, “I don’t think he is wearing a PFD” – I commented, “Well maybe it is flesh colored.” The closer we get, my buddy then stated, “Actually, I don’t think he is wearing a shirt either.” We eventually intercept this guy about ¾ of a mile off shore. He was in a rec boat, no skirt, no PFD and wearing only shorts. He was in his early 20’s and muscularly built – as apparent from his arm paddling technique. We chatted to him for a long time, and almost blocked him from advancing anywhere on the water (not-intentionally – but reflecting back, guess we did). After a few minutes talking about safety on the open water, he was open to conversation. I had offered we paddle back to shore with him (as escort) and he generously agreed. Along the way, he reflected on his decision to paddle that far away from the shore, and realized that probably wasn’t the best idea – as he never really looked back behind him and see how far away he was from the shore. He also noted the off shore winds actually shoved him further out than he ideally wanted to go.

Instructors offer professional training and share their experience to those willing to seek out better techniques, increase their skills, and learn how to become a safer paddler. The good ones will be able to provide you many different techniques and approaches which offer a safe, effective, and efficient outcome. They understand you may not have the talent on day #1 to take on something way above your capacity – and they will not place you in apparent harm, or make you do something you are not willing to attempt. Understandably, some of the things instructors have you to practice/demonstrate are for your well-being. An example of one of these would be a wet-exit with a skirt. This is can be a freighting experience for the first time. Having a veteran instructor by your side as one does this offers a massive advantage for the first-timer.  The instructor has many methods in which they can act upon if events turn south. Should one attempt a wet-exit without someone knowledgeable at the ready, there may be a terrible end result. Same can be said with paddling dynamic waters. Having a person who understands the water trail, it’s complexity and features; offers guidance, first-hand knowledge, and safety to the adventure.

Experienced paddlers are those who have taken precautions to ensure their life, and the lives of others are not placed in immediate danger, or that of the unseen. Prior to the adventure on the water – they plan. Information is gathered well before even leaving the house. Weather reports from several sites is collected, to ensure there is no surprise. The location for the paddle, if not known, had been researched fully. Water temperature reports and conditions are reviewed to ensure proper clothing will be worn and wave height or cfs is not beyond one’s capabilities. Upon location, the paddler surveys conditions, and if doing a river, will scout the entire river (or make planned stops to get out and visually scout). If new people have joined them in the paddling outing – they ask many questions about their paddling abilities. They ensure everyone has proper safety items needed for the trip. A paddle float plan will be constructed and initiated, and communication to loved ones has been made. While on the water, they collect data continuously and ensure all participants are comfortable. Communication while on the water is paramount – both to each other and others not in your group. If an event happens while on the water, participants understand and are competent for reacting and acting upon anything which may happen (capsize, medical issues, or needing to be rescued by USCG). After the paddling adventure, they ensure everyone is safe and sound, and all gear is accounted.

Yes, even with the best planning, and precautions taken to ensure a safe paddling environment – things do happen. Everyone can experience a bad outcome – no matter what your experience is. However, statically speaking, the person who did not take precautions, went well beyond their comfort level or didn’t seek additional training tends to be those mentioned in a posthumous news report. Before you claim to be an “Expert” or “Experienced”, be prepared to follow up your claims.

Pike Lake Essentials class

Join us as we provide training for the Pike Lake State Park. This is a joint venture event, as we are delighted to partake in Smoky the Bear’s 75th birthday.  We will gather on the north end of the beach – just look for the kayaks.

 

Intended for the amateur paddler (one who has paddled a few times in the past) and would like to increase their knowledge and expertise on the water. Kayaking is more than just moving your kayaking in a straight line. This 3 to 4 hour session will provide skills to maneuver your kayak around obstacles, using simple body moves to maximize turns, and paddle control.

 

Prerequisite for this class is a basic understanding about kayaking (getting in/out – how to paddle forward/stop/reverse, and stability in a kayak). For complete topics covered, please refer to the essentials skills page.

 

Class size will be limited to 12. Training will take place on Pike Lake, a quiet, protected inland lake. Please dress for the cooler water temperatures, have a change of clothes/towel in your car. Should you need to borrow- the use of Kayak, paddle and PFD are included in the price (please indicate this on the registration page. There are kayaks and gear for the first 8 who require these items.

 

Please also register for this to ensure there is availability. Cost $60.

Kayak Essentials Class

Intended for the amateur paddler (one who has paddled a few times in the past) and would like to increase their knowledge and expertise on the water. Kayaking is more than just moving your kayaking in a straight line. This 4-hour session will provide skills to maneuver your kayak around obstacles, using simple body moves to maximize turns, and paddle control. We will have on shore training before actually hitting the water.

Prerequisite for this class is a basic understanding about kayaking (getting in/out – how to paddle forward/stop/reverse, and stability in a kayak). For complete topics covered, please refer to the essentials skills page (https://silentwake.com/your-skills-training/kayak-essentials/).

 

Class size will be limited to 10. Gear, if needed, is available for up to 8 participants – and is included in the session prices.  Training will take place at a local, quiet, protected inland lake. Please dress for the cooler water temperatures, have a change of clothes/towel in your car.

Located at Random Lake, Wisconsin – This Lake has a circumference of nearly 3.5 miles. Majority of this lake has houses surrounding the boundary – with a few exceptions near the northern side, where it has a more of a marsh like feel. There is a restroom present at the shelter – and fresh water available. The parking lot has a short distance away from the beach area/swim area. Majority of time, the boat traffic is either jet skis or pontoon boats. There will be ample wildlife to explore and to view during our included paddle.

 

Please also register for this to ensure there is availability. Cost $60

Cosmetic scratches making your boat look old?

how to fix the minor scratches in your fiberglass kayak

For those of us who have fiberglass yaks understand how beautiful they can be when they are shiny and new. Keeping them that way, can be a bit of a strain, especially if you really want to paddle frequently. I personally will have minor scratches which will appear wherever I have attached my back up paddles, Camelback, or other items I frequently place on my deck. Mainly this happens near my backup paddle, as I take them out of my paddle britches. Every once in a while, I will have to do a little maintenance and give that yak some TLC.

Today, I will show you a step-by-step process for getting rid of those minor scratches and making your yak better than before. There will be a few items one will have to obtain in order to make this happen, and I will suggest a few other items which speed up the process.

 

Step 1: Wash your kayak with either a dedicated marine soap, or car wash soap. Using a microfiber towel and a little elbow grease will really ensure you get it fully clean. Rinse with lean water, and let it air dry. A shaded place and a fairly warm day is ideal for this kind of work.

Step 2: After the yak is dry, assemble your items and ensure you have plenty on hand, as you may go through your fair share. Water will be your friend as you go through this nerve-wracking process. This process involves using sand paper on the fiberglass. But, not the traditional type of sandpaper one would use on wood products. This is wet-dry sand paper, and it is normally found near the automotive section, near the filler compounds and body work

.Depending on the depth of the scratch a variation of grit may have to be used. For scratches which have depth – and can be felt when one runs their fingernail across the scratch. It should feel much like feeling the edge of a dime I would consider this a minor scratch, and use the 400 or 600 grit paper. If it feels like an edge of a quarter, use 100 or 200 grit paper. For cracks and deeper gouges, this article will be of little use – as this is a more involved process. I had used the 400 grit for this project.

Word to the wise, work on small areas when sanding, only do an area of about one-foot square before moving on to the next area. I learned this mistake a few years ago and it took me a long time to complete the task at hand.

Step 3: Spray down the sandpaper with copious amounts of water, and/or spray the area you are going to work on. Begin to use small circles on the scratched area, and continue to spray.

When you do this correctly, the color of the fiberglass will ‘bleed’ – THIS IS NORMAL. Don’t panic!!! Just keep spraying some water on the area to get rid of the fine particles, and also give the sandpaper a good spritz from time to time, and rotate the area of paper you are using.

Step 4: Once you have roughed up the area with sand paper, the area will look hazy and dull. Rinse the area with water thoroughly. This will look very similar to the picture below.

Step 5: Grab an application cloth, or one can use the applicator which comes with most wax containers. I have two choices in which I may use, a rubbing compound, or a polishing compound. The Rubbing compound has more grit than the polishing compound. If one decides to use both on this project, use the rubbing then the polishing. Since there are micro fragments of fiberglass and other particles of material being removed with these two products, unsure you have a dedicated application cloth for each item.

Step 6: Once you have decided to use one compound over the other ( I went for the polishing one in this case). Apply this compound much like one would polish the car. I always think of that scene in which Mr. Miyagi states, “Wax on, wax off”. One may see a bit of the color bleed through onto the cloth during this process. It does a ‘soft sanding’ on the fiberglass.

Step 7: There might be a slight sheen to the area after this has been dried off – but you aren’t completed just yet. Time for application of wax (car wax works just fine). Same application process as the previous method – just be certain you are using a clean application cloth.

Step 8: So, it is pretty shiny after the application of the wax and the use of a towel. But why not up the game a bit more and put a real gloss on the deck? For the final process, I break out the electric buffer/polisher and a pad (once again use one specific for the wax). I may apply a fine layer of wax over the entire kayak a few times and then buff it out once I have completely done with the smaller areas.

Step 9: Stand back and enjoy the work which was completed. I usually have to do this process a few times a year, but really don’t mind. It gives me a closer perspective of problem areas, and I tend to check the deck lines and cords, and tighten up screws if needed. One thing which will make this process easier (which is clearly not what I did) is to remove the deck lines and cords – or replace them during this time. Otherwise, one will have to constantly move the lines and cords out of the way from the wax and the electric buffer.

This section of area took nearly 30 minutes to completely make look fairly new again. The time to complete a whole yak is a case by case situation – but shouldn’t take more than 3 hours when done correctly. There is nothing like paddling around with a show stopper finish on your kayak, and making heads turn. Have pride in your yak and make it last for years to come.

 

 

For the Padder Within…

The Skeg and Rudder Explained

Kayak group

So many kayaks….

As you look at different kayaks, you may notice something a bit different with each of them. Some kayak models you come across may have a device on it which you may know of the name, but do you really know what it is used for – or how to use it? Today, I will be covering the difference between a skeg and rudder.

 

What do they do

To fully understand the dynamics of how these two function. Let’s first get a little technical with understanding basic physics as they act upon kayak hulls. Painting a picture of the paddle environment: calm winds, still water, no current, no waves. As a kayak sits still on the surface of water – there is equal pressure exerted along the entire hull. Since there are no opposing forces (mother nature/movement within the kayak), that kayak will continue to remain [almost] perfectly still. When we paddle forward, we are basically trying to ‘fly’ a kayak, with the water being our sky (might be a reason we sit inside a cockpit). Many laws of physics were used when designing kayak hulls as well as airplane wings – there is similarity between the two designs. Much like a taking off from a runway, in order to get that plane in the air it works by four main forces: Thrust (our paddle power), Gravity (the weight of our kayak and ourselves), Lift (high and low pressures on the hull), Drag (that wake the kayak produces). Active paddling creates all these forces directly upon the kayak hull. As we move forward on that calm water, the bow creates a high-pressure force upon the hull. The water passes under us and breaks surface tension, and creates a low pressure and turbulence at the stern. This can be clearly seen at the stern as it creates a wake, and at times, some bubbles can be seen. This has a reverse effect when one paddles backwards – the low pressure will be placed upon the bow, as the high pressure is now at the stern.

Without opposing forces at play (winds, waves, current) and with a really great paddler in the cockpit – with the ‘perfect’ paddle form and paddle stroke- that kayak will track [mostly] perfectly straight. Let’s throw an opposing force of wind into play on that same lake. The winds have pick up to 10 mph from the north, and we are paddling to the west. Without any change in our paddling technique (paddle stroke, edging, or shifting our weight) the tracking of that same kayak tends to veer towards the direction of the wind. What is going on here? This is called weather cocking. This is a perfectly natural effect which most, if not all kayaks will have. Remember that low pressure you are creating when you paddle – imagine this as a slight anchor dragging your stern, with wind this becomes more noticeable and apparent. When you stop paddling into this wind and come to a complete stop, eventually your kayak will rest with either the port or the starboard side facing the direction of the wind.

 

Differences between the two

So, how does one manage maintain directional control when there is a wind? One can either work strongly against an opposing force, work with that opposing force to your benefit, or just give up and go home. Personally, I like to work with the opposing forces and work with nature – mother nature and the water will always win, as she is the boss!

Which brings us back to the topic at hand. The skeg and rudder assist the paddler in maintaining a straight paddling direction. There is a slight mechanical difference between the two and what actions they can perform. Both are located near the stern of the kayak, and are manually deployed by using a mechanism attached to either cables or rope.

The skeg is a stationary item – meaning, it does not move in any other direction other than up (stowed) or down (deployed). The skeg can be adjusted in its depth in the water when deployed. A fully deployed skeg will provide the best forward tracking abilities, however decreases lateral adjustments made by the paddler. For the paddler who wishes to have tracking as well as more directional control and adjustments – deploying it half way or not fully deploying it will provide this outcome. The directional control is up to the paddler as they either edge, change paddle strokes, or shift their weight.

skeg stowedA skeg deployed

The rudder is usually mounted on the top deck of the stern. It has two positions – either stowed, or deployed. When deployed, direction is controlled by pushing on the foot pegs (or tipping your toes forward) on the same side one wishes to go. Pushing on the right side fully will place an angle onto the fin and creates resistance within the water – pushing you in that direction. A constant pressure on both feet will keep the rudder straight.

the Rudder

 

When to use them

When is the best time to use them, and how does one use them to assist when paddling? Best rule of thumb to know is when traveling with the wind in your face (and that is the direction you wish to go) leave them stowed. Like I had mentioned before, the kayak loves to be paddled into the wind, and will be drawn towards that direction. For winds to your back (downwind), deploy your skeg or rudder to maintain that straight line. For broaching winds (from the side), one may want to find what degree/depth in the water works best for the skeg. When using the rudder, a slight continuous push of the foot peg on the side the wind is coming from will keep you straight.

When launching and landing, it is highly advisable to stow these BEFORE you get close to shore. They can be damaged by the shoreline, can injure people, or can injure you if there are breaking waves and you become separated from your kayak.

 

It is clearly your decision  to have a kayak with a skeg, or a rudder (or both), or if you wish to use them while paddling. A skeg will maintain your course and provide the paddler the ability to play with boat control. A rudder can be used as a tool to help grasp the directional control abilities of the kayak without heavily relying on paddler skills. Whichever one you choose, experiment with them – find out how they can assist you in your paddle experiences.

 

For the Paddler Within….