Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dreaming of a Trip

Bryan Hansel's recent solo kayak expedition from Port Huron Grand Marais, MN, in 45 days has me dreaming of paddling trips. Bryan's trip was nearly 1300 km and traversed the length of Lakes Huron & Superior. Now, that sort of thing is more than a little out of my league, and I don't envision myself taking off from my family for a month and a half, but, an adventure on a more reasonable scale is worth dreaming about.

Specifically, I've been thinking a lot lately about a circumnavigation of Lac La Ronge. Lac La Ronge is a large lake about 380 km north of Saskatoon, straddles the edge of the Canadian Shield and is surrounded by boreal forest. The southern portion of the lake is sandy and wide open, while the northern portion is rocky and full of granite islands. It may not be "Great Lake" big, but it's still pretty darned big at approximately 35 km across from the town of La Ronge on the western shore to the eastern side, and about 65 km from a bay in the southwest to the exit of the Rapid (Montreal) River in the northwest corner. It's large enough that standing on the shore in the town of La Ronge and looking ESE to the open lake, you see nothing but horizon.

View Lac La Ronge Circumnavigation in a larger map

A circumnavigation that generally follows the shoreline but is not strict about following the bays and completely skips Hunter Bay would be over 220 km. One could cut this down somewhat with a few more shortcuts in the northern portion of the lake, but at some point you would jeopardize being able to call it a "circumnavigation". Hunter Bay is a large lake unto itself (~18km x 19km) and adding a circumnavigation of the bay adds another 68 km to the trip.

Because of the large open nature of the lake, especially in the south end, I think this trip is best suited for sea kayaks rather than canoe. If you can figure on 25km per paddling day, the trip would take about 9 days. Add on some days for rest and being windbound, and we're at about 12 days even without Hunter Bay. It seems possible to do it in less time (30 km days, for instance), but that allows less time for fishing, repairs, rest & recovery, etc. and I would be reluctant to count on it. I should be able to carry 12 days of the food in the kayak, though I will probably need to pack more lightly than I am accustomed to. There are a few points where road access is nearby and so egress in case of trouble or re-supply are both possible. Overall, much of the lake should have a fairly remote feel to it, but there may be the occasional motor boat around, especially in the northern end of the lake. Lac La Ronge is a popular fishing destination so it would have that safety net of not being completely isolated.

I don't know if a trip of this scope would ever be in the cards, but it can be fun to plan regardless. In the meantime, I will keep working on my paddling skills in order that when the opportunity to take on a challenge like this, I have the skills to allow me to do it, and to do it safely. Perhaps I should start off with a mini-expedition, such as the circumnavigation of Candle Lake.

Note: All of the above is pure speculation. I have not gone over the topographic maps in detail and have not engaged in figuring out the logistics of such a trip. Do not use the above information to plan your own trip other than as inspiration!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kayak Roll Practice in Pike Lake

This is my first ever edited video where I spliced together a few videos and a handful of photos, then added a title page and credits pages. The videos and photos are of me practicing rolling my kayak at Pike Lake this past weekend. It was rather breezy as can be seen and heard in the videos.

To learn to paddle a kayak from a guy that can get back upright in his kayak most of the time, visit

Update: I've been getting some great feedback on my mashed up technique from the folks over on Click here to see the discussion.  An important point is that the above is NOT a how-to video. This is just me practising, and apparently my technique is a bit mixed up. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dark Matters

I might be a science geek, but this is pretty damn cool (from PhD comics)...

Dark Matters from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Trailer Design IRL

Last month I posted about the design for modifying my utility trailer and turning it into a kayak and canoe trailer.

I was trying to avoid having to shuttle kayaks in two loads for my lessons (I need 7 kayaks for a set of lessons) and also avoid having to overload the roof racks on my CRV.

CRV with a couple too many kayaks on one roof. The Thule racks are really good but still, I'd rather avoid this.
I took the trailer along with my sketches and required dimensions to a local welder (CJ's Welding near Clavet) and he went to work. About $1200 later (including the replacement of the trailer's leaf springs, which were apparently broken), and I have a trailer that will serve to haul up to 12 kayaks at a time on their sides, or 4 canoes sitting flat.

Room for 4 canoes or kayaks sitting flat. Or, with kayaks leaning toward the pillars there should be room for up to 12 assuming their decks are not too tall. The bars are 78" wide, the same as the Thule load bars on my vehicle. The welder added a plethora of  loops for tie-down points, on the bar ends and at various points on the racks. The racks and the extra tongue bracing are all removable so that the trailer can serve for hauling stuff to the dump and similar mundane tasks. 

My canoe & kayak at 17.5' and 18' respectively are among the longest loads this trailer is likely to see. The rack spacing allows the canoe to fit on the lower rack as well.

Close up of extended tongue with removable brace in place. The pin near the receiver pulls out in order to remove the barce. Note that the re-wiring was not complete at this point. I also want to add a jack to the tongue. In it's previous state the old trailer didn't need a jack because it was quite light. All the extra steel adds a lot of weight and the trailer is now fairly heavy. Plus, I might have occasion to unhook the trailer with a load of kayaks and that will be easier with the jack.

Close up of the trailer end of the tongue. The original tongue bracing is seen on top, and the original tongue was removed and a larger square tubing welded in it's place in order to act as socket for the telescoping tongue. When in short mode, the pins at the corners pull out as well as one near the receiver and the outside brace lifts off. The extended tongue can then slide back into the socket and pinned short.

A much nicer load distribution. My two kayaks on the CRV roof (with Thule racks), plus another 6 kayaks on the trailer (4 on the bottom, two sitting flat on the top bars). The two kayaks on the top of the trailer are relatively short. If I wasn't careful, I could run into a problem with the kayaks on the car hitting the kayaks on the top tier of the trailer.

I still need to figure out the perfect arrangement for ropes or straps for easily securing the load.

The center pillars have been padded with sections of rug to protect the kayaks and the kayaks are resting on foam blocks on the load bars. 
So, let me know what you think of the end product!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

NYC Bike Lanes

Here's an interesting video illustrating some of the hazards of riding in the bike lane. Man, this guy is dedicated to his cause.