Kayaking on the Hudson

Friday, April 29, 2011

Kayak Review: Cortez 15ft. by Dagger

Dagger is well-known for their whitewater kayaks.  I truly believe that their touring kayaks are highly underrated.  Most of their touring models never quite caught on, so you can buy them on the used market very cheap.  The Cortez is a kayak that just has so much to love.  It’s 15ft.-not too long, not too short.  It is a fully equipped sea kayak designed for a smaller paddler.  It handles like a true sea kayak with medium initial stability and high secondary stability.  It comes with a rudder, dual bulkheads & hatches and full deck rigging.  The cockpit is set slightly farther forward than most kayaks, giving the feel of a smaller boat.  It isn’t particularly light weight or fast but it is a good all around touring kayak.  My friend who paddles one takes it everywhere, including down the Delaware River.  15ft.  55 lbs.
Lou in his Cortez kayak- paddling with it full of water.

Pros: Good fit for a smaller paddler.  Handles a variety of conditions well.  Relatively inexpensive on the used market.

Cons: Like all Dagger kayaks it is prone to dents and must be stored and transported carefully.  A little on the heavy side.  Can be hard to find one as not that many were manufactured.

See you on the water, 
Don Urmston

Saturday, April 16, 2011

3 Keys to Hydration While Kayaking

One of the biggest dangers while kayaking is dehydration.  You are sitting out in the sun, baking and losing water as you sweat.  It takes effort and time to stop and get a drink; so many people just keep on paddling.  Here are 3 simple techniques to keep you hydrated:

1-      Stop every ½ hour and take a drink break.
2-      Use a hydration pack, like a Camel Back.  You can store the pack behind your seat, on the deck under the bungees, or on your back.  Having the tube handy means you can take a drink without taking both hands off your paddle.  This is key in high winds.
3-      Try alternating water and sports drinks (like Gatorade).  The sports drinks will give you key electrolytes that are lost when you sweat.  For extended trips, I use a mixture of 60% water and 40% Gatorade.

If you don’t stay hydrated, you will run out of energy.  This could prove disastrous if you find yourself in rough conditions.  So stay hydrated and stay safe.

See you on the water,
Don Urmston

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kayak Review: Sea Lion 17ft. by Perception

Sea Lion Kayak
The Sea Lion was one of the first roto-molded production sea kayaks on the market.  They haven’t been produced since the mid 1990s, but many of these kayaks are still around and still for sale on the used market.  These may be labeled as Perception or Aquaterra brand.  These are humongous sea kayaks—over 17ft. long—and weighing in at over 60 pounds!  The outfitting is minimal: dual hatches, some deck bungees and usually a rudder.  The seat is basic plastic, but comfortable.  I added new thigh braces, new deck bungees and deck lines to my Sea Lion for about $50.  
The old style hatches on the Sea Lion still functioned perfectly

Despite the size of this kayak, the performance is quite good.  The hull is stable, yet responsive and the size means you can go for an extended trip and bring along every item you want.  The Sea Lion is a bit slow to get going because of the size and weight, but once it gets up to speed, it cruises along and can handle any rough seas you encounter.  The hull shape gives it decent initial stability and very good secondary stability.  The cockpit is comfortable, but small enough to give you good control over the kayak.  You can get a good brace with your thighs.
I added deck lines and bungees to my Sea Lion kayak

The best part about this kayak is that you can buy one for around $500 or less!  Just make sure to check it closely for fading, cracks and damage.  If it has been well cared for, then a Seal Lion will still have many good years of paddling ahead.  Mine was made in the early 1990s and it looked like it just came out of the showroom!

If you want a full-sized sea kayak, but don’t have much money to spend, this might be a good a kayak for you.
This kayak fits a wide variety of paddlers.  I am 5’7” and had the foot pegs on the closest setting, so I’d say 5’7” or taller.
Uses: Sea kayaking.  Not good for tight spaces, creeks, marshes, etc.

See you on the water,
Don Urmston

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Paddling Gloves

Some people love them, other people hate them.  I’ve tried several of them.  The basic idea of paddling gloves is twofold.  First, there are gloves that are designed to cushion your hands and prevent blisters.  Then there are gloves that are designed to keep your hands warm.  My best advice is to try some for yourself, and then you decide.  Here is what I have learned…
Half-finger kayaking gloves

Half-finger gloves.  These are used to prevent blisters and help you hold on to your paddle.  They work pretty well, and some people swear by them.  I don’t use them much anymore because once they get wet, they stay wet.  Your hands get all pruned up.
Full-finger kayak gloves

Full gloves.  Same as half-finger gloves, but a little warmer.
Neoprene kayak gloves

Neoprene gloves.  These are all about keeping your hands warm.  They do a pretty good job at it too.  They are a bit awkward, and mine started leaking at the seams pretty quickly.  I also found that they did not keep my hands warm enough under 40 degrees.
Neoprene kayak mitts

Neoprene mitts.  My latest attempt at keeping my hands (which are always cold) warmer in cold weather.  I find these to be much warmer than the gloves.  The obvious downside is a total lack of dexterity.  You have to take them off to complete any tasks that require fingers.  Despite the inconvenience, these are the only thing I’ve found that is truly warm.

An alternative to gloves is to use Yak Grips, which is a neoprene sleeve that goes over your paddle.  I’ll post more on those later.

See you on the water, 
Don Urmston

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dry bags, dry bags!

If you are going to kayak for any length of time, you will need some dry bags.  Dry bags are just what the name implies- bags that keep things dry.  They come in all kinds of sizes are can be used for anything from your cell phone to your lunch to your sleeping bag.
Giant PVC dry bag that I use to carry kayak gear to and from my car

Dry bags are made from two basic types of materials.  First there is the PVC/Plastic type.  These are very tough and can also come in clear so you can see what is in each bag.  The down side to this type is that they are fairly stiff and can be tough to pack.

Nylon dry bag.  I use it for my sleeping bag when kayak camping.

The other material is nylon with a water-proof coating.  This material is much more flexible and can be rolled up smaller to save space.  The down side is that this material is not quite as water-proof.  It does fine for normal use, but if it sits for a long time in water, it will eventually soak through.

The different sizes of dry bags can be used for many items.  Here are some examples.  I’ll refer to the picture so you get an idea of how I use some of mine.

Some of the many dry bags that I use for kayaking.

5 liter – This is the smallest one in the picture.  I use these for first-aid kits, toiletries on extended trips, food, wallet and cell phone, etc.

10 liter – This is right behind the 5 liter in the photo.  Same uses, but I also use these for extra clothing.

15 liter – Front left in the picture.  Great for clothing and gear.  This one is clear plastic so I can see what’s in it.

20-25 liter – This is the orange one in the picture.  This one is nylon and has a relief valve.  This makes it perfect for clothing.  You can roll it up really tight and it takes less space.  I like to pack my clothing in multiple bags just in case one leaks or gets lost.  (Yes, I’ve lost one on a trip!)

30 liter – This is the blue one on your right.  This can be used for clothing, hiking boots, gear, a sleeping bag, or whatever I need it for.  I also carry an extra one of these just in case.  The one pictured here functioned as my hatch cover for a trip down the Delaware.

50+ liters – The far left gray bag is a nylon bag I use for my tent and sleeping bag.  The giant yellow bag can be used for canoe trips (it has shoulder straps), but I use it mostly for carrying gear to and from the car.

See you on the water,
Don Urmston

Friday, April 1, 2011

Choosing a PFD

PFD stands for Personal Flotation Device and is just a fancy way of saying Life Vest.  The #1 rule of kayaking is always, always, wear a PFD.  It is not very often that you will find yourself falling out of your kayak, but if you do, it’s usually because something has gone wrong.  A PFD might be the only thing standing between you and drowning. 

There are many good PFDs on the market, so all you have to do is find one that is comfortable for you.  Make sure it is not too long, or it will hit your seat back or cockpit and then will ride up on you.  This can be uncomfortable and dangerous.

The best PFD for you is the one that you will wear every time you go out paddling!

See you on the water,
Don Urmston