On another warm, sunny morning of April 21, I loaded my used (but new to me), sleek, sexy, narrow, long, and fast Nigel Dennis Romany Excel sea-going kayak onto my Jeep roof racks. Due to my avoiding exercise for several months due to arthritis in my left hip, followed by surgery, followed by more than a month of recuperation, my body was in poor shape. My physical condition was weak and my cardiovascular system was not strong. I had to struggle to get the boat lifted onto the roof.
I went to the lake at Martin Marietta County Park, for practice, because i have another trip planned there this coming Sunday to paddle with three other friends. I went to the first of four boat launches, the one with rollers.
Unloading the boat from the Jeep roof was another test of my strength, and I just barely passed. After carrying the boat from the parking lot to the dock, I was so exhausted that I had to sit for a while. Not an auspicious start. I had successfully pared down my equipment from my last canoe trip before the surgery, so loading the boat was not too bad.
When I got on the water things did not improve much. The boat is so unstable and tippy that my muscles stayed tense the whole time. Just sitting still in the kayak made me tired. Paddling forward was even more exhausting. I made it about a mile around a point on the lake and to the back of the next cove. There was a beach with another entry and exit place made of sand. I tested myself by getting out of the boat, onto the shore, back into the kayak, and paddling away. I passed this test with no dunking, but again I was exhausted.
I found that relaxing and paddling considerably slower helped the situation a lot. I was less tired upon returning to the beginning point, but still worn down. I know the kayak is narrower and less stable than my canoe, which I have been paddling for 55 years and with which I am totally familiar. But, I have also developed an opinion that it is not as tippy as I am paranoid about. I think that if I keep paddling it then it will always be tippier than my canoe, but I can learn to get used to it and not be so tense and paranoid. And hopefully not get so tired. We will see when I do it again this Sunday.
Latham Whitehurst Park
On the warm, sunny afternoon of April 20, I drove to Latham Whitehurst Park in Croatan County to find canoe and kayak launch sites and program them into my Garmin Montana 750i hand-held GPS. It was a three-quarters-mile hike through the woods and swamp to the Upper Broad Creek landing.
I was able to program the information into my GPS successfully. It was a pleasant afternoon outdoors.
On the early spring warm and sunny day of April 6 I drove from New Bern to Bogue Banks (Emerald Island to the Chamber of Commerce type persons). About halfway down the island to the west of Fort Macon is the Salter Path beach access. It is my favorite access because it is free to park and some of the spots are in the shade. It is also a moderately long way from the towns of Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle, so the beach is less crowded and the sand dunes are undeveloped.
I will let the photographs speak for themselves. The day was pleasant and restorative for me. It was the first day for me in many months when I did not have to make some big decisions or do something constructive or difficult. Relaxation in the sand, sun, wind and surf.
On the chilly but sunny Saturday afternoon of March 11, 2023, I pulled my canoe out of the storage shed and upgraded some outfitting. It already had yellow floatation bags permanently installed in the bow and stern. And it already had a purple bag and green river dry bags. The dry bags served two purposes. When paddling they are filled with empty soda pop bottles to provide light and cheap flotation in case of a turnover. When canoe camping then the bottles are removed and replaced with camp gear for the overnight stay.
But all those bags are covered with dozens of straps with loose ends that flap in the wind while riding on my Jeep canoe racks so as to whip the Jeep roof and make an awful racket. The loose ends are also dangerous I case of a turnover and could wrap around an arm or leg and cause an entrapment. It took me a couple of hours to trim and tape off the ends of all those straps.
Then I moved on to adding carabiners to my kayak deck cords to hold a paddle handle and make a self-rescue device with a paddle float. Many kayaks are manufactured with a groove in the deck under bungee cords to hold the paddle handle. My Romany Excel does not have the groove, so I had to invent my own system.
On the rainy, chilly Saturday of February 25, 2023, I wanted to paddle my kayak or canoe. But the last couple of times I tried that I found that my sore left hip, which is scheduled for joint replacement surgery in a couple of weeks, interfered too much with my balance and flexibility. So, I tried biking the Neusiok Trail in Croatan National Forest, to see if it was more manageable.
This was the section to the north of where the trail crosses NC Hwy 306. I was able to bike, but poorly. Despite the national forest being essentially flat, and the trails mostly smooth, with no rocks, I found the Neusiok to be surprisingly rough. Most of the trail was crenelated with endless pine tree roots which were high, hard, and lumpy. Plus everything was wet and slick; the trail had mud puddles; and there were some stump holes.
I never fell over or hit the ground, but I came close dozens of times. In the end, I felt too unstable to keep on with the project. For the next month and a half during my hip surgery and recuperation I will need to fall back on walking city and county park trails, and YMCA workouts for physical conditioning.
In addition to my Garmin Montana 700i GPS, I also navigated with the All Trails app on my cell phone. It worked great! I can recommend this app enthusiastically. The app found the trail and my location quickly, is accurate, the map is easy to read while on the move, and is considerably easier to operate than the Montana. But the Montana is still a necessary tool for outdoor trips because it operates by satellite access when outside of cell phone range; it allows the exchange of text messages with folks back home; and sending 911 SOS requests.
New Bern, NC, is not right on the sea-coast; it is inland about 30 miles. But it lies at the junction of the Neuse River and the Trent River. Its waters are stained dark with the tannin from the cypress and oak trees. The land is mostly swampy. Everywhere that I have lived the outdoors people there engaged in a wide range of activities. New Bern sportsmen and women have the most uniform interest in that more people here kayak than any other activity by far. Right downtown just a few blocks from the Tryon Palace are several pockets of swampy wilderness where I can paddle.
In the early afternoon of February 21, I canoed one of those pockets. The put-in and take-out were in the parking lot behind the New Bern Town Recreation Department. The trail followed Lawson Creek to where it joined the larger Trent River, which then joined the much larger Neuse River.
The trip held several significant elements for me. First, I had recently sold my canoe and kayak, trading up for lighter and sleeker boats of each type. This trip was my first in the new canoe. It had many features similar to my prior canoe, but it was lighter and wider, with harder chines, which changed the handling characteristics. Second, I had spent right many hours changing the outfitting to hopefully store and deploy my gear more efficiently and smoothly, like the pump, bladder, paddle float, map, and so on. Third, I have had for several years a technical and complex Garmin Montana 700i GPS, but I had just recently read the manual, gone through all the screens and programed the functions to suit my needs. I wanted for the first time on this trip to test the GPS by marking waypoints, planning a route, and following it “live” on the water. Fourth, at 70 years of age and needing a second hip joint replacement surgery, I am getting less steady in all my sports. I was nervous that I would lose my balance and fall into the chilly creek, necessitating a long, cold, difficult self-rescue. Lastly, the older I get the less strength and stamina I have, so I have to sometimes dial back my expectations of speed and distance covered.
This trip was a mixed bag of results. I am glad I went because I made significant progress in assessing my and my equipment’s capabilities and needed improvements. But several things failed, including one item miserably.
The new canoe worked well. The lighter weight made it easier to load, unload and haul around by hand. The extra width and harder chines made it a little more stable.
The outfitting of equipment was somewhat better, but not good enough. I used a hiking day pack in place of a true, sleek, deck bag. It was clunky and slid around too much. I will need to replace it with a real deck bag. I still need to test my self-rescue invention of two C-clamps with two paddle-handle carabiners to use with a paddle float and get back in my boat. The water bladder with a hose worked better than a screw-top canteen.
The Montana 700i was an idiotic bust. I had spent many hours over many days programming all the functions to suit me. Then the night before this paddle trip I plugged it into my computer and upgraded the operating system and the maps. When I tried to use it on the water nothing was working right and the icons were all mixed up. The GPS tried to route me back to the put-in by leaving the creek and traveling down city streets! Later that evening I called Garmin support and found that the program has a glitch. When the customer does an upgrade then it resets the whole GPS back to factory settings! How completely stupid! To me, that makes the device nearly worthless. I gave the staff person a firm tongue-lashing. He apologized profusely and offered me a $120 discount on a related product that may work better.
My balance was less sure than some years ago but acceptable, I suppose. I wobbled a few times but did not fall into the drink.
My fitness and stamina were unacceptably low. After about a mile and a half hour, my arms and shoulders were so sore that I could hardly paddle. Also, my back, hips, knees, and ankles were stiff and uncomfortable. I will need to take many, many more paddle trips to build up my strength and flexibility.
I am glad I went paddling, but I have a lot of progress to make.
A few years ago, I learned a valuable lesson in outdoor skills and life skills from Eustace Conway at Turtle Island Preserve. I was taking one of his classes on making fire by friction. The instructor, who was not Eustace, showed us how to find the materials in the woods and make a base, spindle, bow with string and handle. After our half-dozen class members had finished making the tools, the instructor showed us how to work the pieces and try to make a fire. Unfortunately, he did not show us the physical technique. All of us casually sawed away on the spindle with the bow for about five minutes, but nothing happened.
Then Eustace came by and observed us. Without saying anything, he took my equipment and started to work. He put all his body weight on the handle, which was about five times more pressure than I was exerting. Then he frantically sawed the spindle with the bow, which was about five times faster than I was sawing. Within about 30 seconds he had a coal and smoke.
The lesson that I immediately learned, without Eustace saying anything, is that he exerted about 10 times more intensity than us students were using. He concentrated on the task and bore down tremendously hard. That was the difference in making the fire or having cold food.
A few years later I saw a different kind of example of this same principle of intensity. I was deer hunting in a double tree stand with my friend and professional dear land manager Hank Forrester serving as my guide. When a buck came into view, I somewhat casually aimed at the center of his torso and fired. My bullet sailed over his back and missed entirely. Fortunately, the deer was not spooked, and he only ran a few feet. Then he came back to the original spot where he was feeding. Hank whispered to pick out a specific hair on the deer’s body just behind and above where his front left leg joined his torso. He said aim for that hair and shoot. It took me a few seconds to figure out how to find an individual hair in my telescope out of the thousands of hairs on its body. I remembered Eustace’s lesson, got way more intense, bore down on finding that hair, and pulled the trigger. Boom! My bullet pierced the buck’s heart and he hit the ground dead.
A third and different kind of example of intensity was with my buddy Bill Booth while trout fishing in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness of the Wind River Range in south central Wyoming. A young cowboy who worked on the active ranch where we were sleeping each night was guiding us by horseback to a small, high-altitude fishing spot called Blueberry Lake. The trail was exposed and sketchy. The horses occasionally lost their footing and stumbled a little bit. If they had fallen down the mountain it might have been fatal to us riders. I was constantly aware of the horse’s stability, or lack thereof. Or, when I was not worrying about the trail, then I was enjoying the high-altitude scenery and long-range views.
Bill, on the other hand, was concentrating on getting ready to fish. As we rode the horses to the lake, he was already rigging up his rod, reel, line and lures to be ready to fish. As we slid down from our saddles and tied off the horses’ reins, I took my time casually rigging my gear. Bill hit the ground with his gear already prepared and ran to the lake. He threw in the first cast of our group. Boom! Within a few seconds he caught the first fish of the day. Unfortunately, the ruckus caused by catching the fish spooked the entire lake and put down all the other trout. The three of us made cast after cast the rest of the day and never had a single bite. Bill was rewarded for his intensity and focus.
This same kind of intensity can work on all kinds of projects. If you are working on something and are not getting good results, then maybe if you get more intense and bear down harder you will find success.
For sale Nigel Dennis Romany Excel Kayak
Length 16 feet 8 inches + width 22 inches + weight 65 pounds
Cockpit rim outer 35.5 inches long x 20.75 inches wide.
Cockpit rim inner 33.75 inches long x 18.25 inches wide.
Cockpit circumference rim outer 95 inches + rim inner 91 inches.
Seat back to rim 5.75 inches.
Fiberglass body with 3 storage hatches with waterproof rubber covers.
Skeg with raise & lower handle by cockpit.
Seals Spray skirt + Seals cockpit travel cover
2 Malone kayak saddles to carry on roof rack (not included).
Used and excellent condition.
Professionally refurbished and all components are new or like new.
Cost new $4,350.
Sale price $2,350
For sale Dagger Reflection 15 canoe
Royalex hull light blue / green + wood gunnels, thwarts, seats, decks & handles.
Kevlar & epoxy bow & stern skid plates
Length 15 feet + width 34 inches + center depth 12 inches + weight 68 pounds
3 formerly woven cane seats replaced with woven nylon strapping.
Can be paddled tandem from 2 end seats or solo from center seat.
6 closed cell foam kneeling pads
Multiple D rings glued to interior bottom to attach flotation and gear
Multiple D ring lash points glued to interior hull.
Bow & stern hull fiberglass & epoxy skid plates.
Hull has no holes or deep scratches.
Used and good condition
All components functional.
Model discontinued; similar models cost new $2,000.
Sale price $800.