A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Maine sea kayak

August 8, 2009
Emilie Phillips

We went out today with the North Shore Paddlers Network. Tyson had paddled with them twice before. This was my first time. I think there was one guy there whom Tyson had met before.

We started from Orr’s island and paddled up the bay to Little Snow Island. The paddling was not eventful. But it was a calm lovely sunny day wandering among islands on the Maine coast. This group seems to paddle at a good pace, but we had no problems keeping up in our tandem.

Two people had skin on frame Greenland kayaks, and tons of people had greenland paddles. Tyson got Doug to swap paddles for a bit so he could try the greenland paddle. Barb also joined in to give instruction. After listenning to Tyson’s commentary, I decided to try too. For those of you who have not seen a greenland paddle, it looks like not much more than a stick. The blade is only 3~4 inches tall but a bit longer than a standard blade. The whole paddle is about a normal length. The paddle does not look capable of propeling a boat at any speed. It turns out that the blade is shaped like a wing, so you actually get an impressive amount of force out of the paddle. The one issue I kept having was that I would get the lift off the paddle pushing it down — not exactly what you want in a tippy kayak.

One of the two guys in the skin on frames, Fred, kept playing around and doing balance braces. For this manuver, you roll your boat over so that your body is in the water perpendicular to the boat, and you balance just right so that you float at the surface and can breath. Tyson and I had seen this on an instructional video and had tried to achieve it in our solos a number of times, but with no success. So at lunch time, Tyson convinced Fred to give him lessons in Fred’s kayak. I was impressed at how quickly Tyson figured out the balance brace with the paddle. Fred was there to help when he tipped too far over, and Barb joined in with the suggestions for improvement. Then Tyson tried the balance brace withou a paddle. He managed to get that too. So then Fred suggested trying a roll that’s a modified balance brace with the paddle. That went ok. And finally they tried the roll with no paddle. That one Tyson almost didn’t get after a couple of tries and some help. I was really impressed. Tyson managed to pick up all these things we had found impossible in our boats.

So then Tyson made me try too. I did not have high expectations. Tyson is generally better at rolling than me, and these greenland techniques look hard. First was the balance brace with the paddle. I start by laying on the back deck of the kayak with my head down. Then I rotate my body off the kayak into the water keeping my head down, my back arched, shoulders parallel to the surface, left knee down, and right knee up. I’m busy concentrating on all these things when I notice everyone is laughing. I manage to ask what’s so funy while not tipping myself further into the drink, and they said that I was just making it look so easy. I had suceeded on my first try. So then I did the other side — same result. No paddle — well the brace went fine, but I never did get back over the boat without help. The new roll — easy. The hand roll — easy. The video evidence suggests people were laughing the whole time. Maybe it is just the boat, or the paddle, or the instructor or something. Then we bandaged up my finger from where I scrapped it on the bottom and hurried to catch up with everyone else.

On the way back, there was a guy playing bagpipes on shore. That was nifty.

We got back before a bunch of the other people. The last stretch had a headwind and that slowed some folks down. So I convinced Tyson to try a balance brace in the tandem with me. Fred was there and offered to help, which was a good thing. We managed the balance brace once, briefly, but then did not figure out how to coordinate coming back up, so Fred had to help there. The second time I concentrated harder on balancing, but apparently Tyson was balanced underwater and was busy trying to get back up while I was trying to hold the boat’s position. Fred ended up counting off to get me to come up when Tyson was trying to.

Apparently Fred builds traditional Greenland kayaks. He had brought one low volume one that he suggested Barb and I try. it was 16 7/8 inches wide and 19 feet long. The deck was obscenely low. I almost could not wiggle into it. I’m not sure what I thought of the boat overall. It is a different style than I’m used to. But I was impressed with how stable it felt for its width. With a little higher deck, I could possibly grow to like such a boat.