Archive for June, 2010

There are many many routines that I have per day that help me do everything from ensuring I don’t forget gear to helping me maintain a disciplined camp site including food storage that is as bombproof as possible.  Packing the boat for instance has changed in only a few ways since the very beginning of the trip which makes it quicker to load and easier for me to know if something is different and figure out why.  This blog will describe a few of the routines so you can get a picture of what kayak camping is about in order to explore the amazing wilderness of Alaska and BC.

“You ain’t never gonna fit all that stuff in there.” – friend in Port McNeill marina

How I fit all the stuff in Her Majesty Turtle

How can you possibly bring  items like a laptop, an electric shaver, a SLR camera, and hundreds of zip locked bags of food on a kayaking trip over 5 months?  There are so many issues to deal with, especially having emergency gear reachable from the cockpit, managing the corrosive effects of salt water, the potential flooding of the cockpit or some hatches, the magnetic deviation that metallic objects such as tent poles can have on my navigational compass.  Once a 30 mile paddle with George and Jeandrew became a 40 mile paddle in one day because of a compass that was deviated due to tent poles in the hatch beneath it so that lesson is still with me.  All of these little factors come into play when sorting dry bags, packing the boat, and so on.  Here is how I pack each hatch:

Rear Hatch: Tent, Rain Fly, Ground cloth, poles, stakes, tennis shoes, sleeping bag, 1st bear can, dry suit, and rope for hanging.

Day Hatch: Cooking Mess Kit, SLR Camera, Books, Pelican Case with Sat and Cell Phones, Flare gun, headlamp, bear spray, first aid bag, and repair kit.

Cockpit: 10L Dromedary bag for water, rope for bowline and tying up on shore, and a Gatorade bottle for peeing (tied down with elastic to the seat).

Front Hatch: 20L bag with Surplus food, Coat, clothes, netbook, electronics (MP3 player, spare batteries, etc), 2nd bear can, water filter, spare fuel, toiletry bag, rain pants, Nalgene water bottle, dirty clothes bag, Noah’s Tarp, and fuel bottle.  No strongly magnetic objects in this hatch to limit magnetic deviation of compass.  To be safe, metal objects should be farther than 3-4 times there longest dimension from the compass. Test to be sure by bringing objects close to the compass and then removing.

Deck: Rear side with 2 dry bags with lunch and snacks in one and sleeping pad/duct tape/mosquito head net in the other, and my Crocs attached with carabineer. Front side has spare paddle, and deck bag with chart case, bilge pump, float, maps, camera with pelican case, suntan lotion, and air horn.

Life Jacket (PFD): 1.5L water bag and tube, VH-F radio, strobe light, SPOT device, ACR PLB for back-up, emergency blanket, Laser Flare, Cliff Bar, swabby in zip lock to clean camera lens and glasses, knife, whistle, signaling mirror, and two Orion flares.  My baseball cap is attached to the PFD so I dont lose it in the wind. 

Water Filtration

This one is easy but essential to prevent guardia or other protozoa.  Boiling water would be far too fuel expensive for this long of a trip, so I much prefer filling up in towns, filtering from streams, or getting water straight from the glaciers.  I have two 10L dromedary bags, a Nalgene, and the 1.5L bag, so a total of 22.5 liters which can last me two weeks if need be.  But I normally just fill the one 10L bag and that lasts me 2-3 days.  BC and SE Alaska have water streams abundant and most charts indicate the major flows.  And near the glaciers, water filtration isn’t even necessary because I was at the source.  Any other time, I used my ceramic MSR filter, as seen in the picture.

Food Storage

So this is the food storage system to prevent bears/raccoon et al. from getting to food and toiletries.  (A) Bear canisters to the bottom right, and (B) hanging bags between trees.  Normally I only have to hang sfuff when I have surplus at the beginning of each leg to the trip and after that everything fits in the bear cans.  Recently I was lazy and left the bags in the kayak hatch and before I fell asleep, I heard a thump on the kayak, followed by silence.  The next morning I saw that the fuel bottles which were in the cockpit had fallen all over the place and there were some scratches near the hatch…probably a black bear in the area.  I saw scat nearby.  I’ll stick to hanging the bags.

This 2 to 1 rope tension system is very handy to hoist food bags high above the reach of bears without shredding your hands on rope.  It essentially reduces the weight lifted by the person in half.  Grizzlies especially can stand to 9 feet and reach very high.  Black bear have been known to climb trees, so the idea here is to suspend the food between two trees and have the bags around 20 feet high.

There are many many many more routines that I’ll eventually write up, but now it’s time for me to get packed up for Leg 4 because Kim is arriving soon and it’s time to paddle!


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I named my Valley Aquanaut HV "Her Majesty Turtle"

I love this kayak!  Her Majesty was made in Nottingham, England by Valley Sea Kayaks, one of the most world-renowned sea kayak makers for performance in rough seas, expeditions, and long standing quality.  As a larger paddler, the key thing that I wanted was assurance of a wet reentry in rough conditions which the spacious cockpit of the Aquanaut HV kayak has.  Second to that, I wanted high storage capacity and as much speed as could still be got given the first two needs.  After sitting in one at Jen Kleck’s Aqua Adventures shop, I knew it was a good fit.  It fits three bear cans if need be and I’ve been able to bring all the miscellaneous items of gear simply because they fit and I can still keep 4 knots on flat water.

Her name is now Her Majesty Turtle for many personal reasons.  Since I’m living out of this vessel for almost six months and have left my apartment, she is like my turtle shell.  And since she is made with a high strength Kevlar-carbon layup she is as strong as a turtle shell, built for rough treatment and speeds about the same as a sea turtle, 3-5 knots.  It was recommended by a friend named Trish to have a gender neutral name to avoid the bad ju ju that comes from a maritime history of lady named boats that have shipwrecked or sank.  Therefore “Turtle” appeals.  Yet the commanding respect of “Her Majesty” was too funny to ignore and fits with my laptop, which I called “My Precious” throughout grad school.  While deciding between them, Kim asked, ‘why not have both names?’  And that did it, hence, she will be known as Her Majesty Turtle.


I had a few typical modifications made to my kayak although this already superb expedition kayak already had excellent features that I’ll discuss as well.

Aquanaut HV Features That I Admire

  • Curved bulkhead behind seat for quick and complete emptying of flooded cockpit.
  • British style sea kayak – skeg, good rocker, and fish-shaped design for stability. Very sporty and responsive giving me lots to continue learning from as I progress as paddler.
  • The skeg cable has an extra 3-4 inches near the hand deploy slide that can be utilized in the field if the cable kinks in the exposed section between skeg and hull.  Therefore you only need a replacement skeg kit if the described extension option isn’t adequate or the skeg blade is lost.
  • The details like strength building lamination under all the fasteners for deck rigging make it easy to change out the deck rigging many times without incurring leakage or damage to the holes.

Keel Strip

For most fiberglass or carbon kayaks, the keel is still the area that will be impacted the most from launching and landing and scrapes to the hull because it is often the first and last in contact.  This is really a materials problem where the gel coat above these materials doesn’t deal well with abrasion.  So I decided to add more layers to the keel which is frequently done for expeditions where a lot of damage is expected. 

The red keel strip was added to the hull

I went with Sterling in Bellingham, WA, based on a good recommendation.  As a kayak designer and repair guy for the best kayakers in the world, Sterling gets a firsthand view at failure modes for boats and can improve on them with his designs.  Some of the insights I liked were the off center skeg to reduce damage, ideas about flooding day hatches, and reducing cable kinks for skegs, which I personally dislike after replacing Solveig’s skeg cable (my plastic kayak).  An impressively, Sterling was able to color match the red trim color perfectly.

Sterling and I with Her Majesty


Skeg Loop

A quick job, this thru hole and rope loop help me clear the skeg of those nuisance rocks that bind the skeg from deploying instead of having to pull out a knife and clear it.  It is very useful when a friend is nearby and can pull on the loop to deploy the skeg while on the water.

Skeg loop for easy pull down


Compass Addition

A permanent compass at the fore deck is very valuable for tracking and navigation.  In Ryan’s back yard, I confirmed its calibration at 0 and 270 degrees magnetic against my other marine compass to be sure that it worked properly.  I should have done 4 directions, but the other compass hadn’t even been checked that well.  I did it by putting the 2nd ‘good’ compass far out along a 0 degree line made using other measurements and ensuring that the new Brunton 70P also read o degrees.  Then I aligned the lubber lines with the kayak and some distant points that I added.  Finally I fastened it to the boat with a little help of 3M sealant.  I used ¼ inch stainless screws instead of the ½ inch screws provided with the 70P Brunton compass on the recommendation of Rob Avery, and that was a very valuable recommendation because as it happens, the screws did come all the way through the Kevlar layer and if they were another ¼ inch long, they would certainly scrape me or gear at some point.

Checking and Fastening Compass

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Yogihead Promotion for CauseToPaddle

As I enter the final two legs of my adventure I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to send you a special offer courtesy of Jeff Shiffman, friend and composer of “Yogihead” (www.yogihead.com or http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/yogihead-innovative-music/id350700553) – a particularly amazing set of tracks Jeff has composed and produced himself for anyone seeking to deepen their yoga practice or simply love ambient music to work, create or even paddle a kayak to. 🙂  My favorite tracks are Home and Overture.  Jeff is a good friend of mine in LA and is very generous to help fundraise for MedShare with his talents.

Jeff has already received a number of positive accolades and critical support for his fresh approach to this genre and I am very honored to have his permission to offer you a free digital download copy of his album as a gesture of Jeff’s support to CausetoPaddle.  

For your first, or additional donation to Medshare of $10 or more through the Causetopaddle portal, you will receive direct from Cause To Paddle a download link of the Yogihead album for your enjoyment next internet check in.   You will also receive a thank you letter from Medshare for your tax deductible 501 (c) 3 donation. If you’ve already made a donation and would like the link, please email me or Kim and we can send it to you.

Think of it as a bit of Good Karma for the Cause 🙂    http://medshare.donorpages.com/BoxesofHope/expedition/

Some of Yogihead reviews:

“…delights the ears as it soothes the brain” – yogabear.org

“…perfect music to put on whenever I need a break from the stress of my workday.”

“Yogihead is hot. (take) a ride within your mind, on your yoga mat, or into your bedroom.” –beginwithin.ca

“…provide(s) a yoga practitioner with a great background for asana or meditation practice.” –yogabuddhist.com

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