Patti and I would like to thank each and every one of you for supporting the Kayaksailor project. Your kindness and friendship is wonderful. We have been super busy building sail rigs, answering e-mails, and of course paddle-sailing as often as possible! Its been an amazing year.
Our work shop in full summer mode
Patti at the Kayaksailor control center
One of the great things about kayak-sailing is taking our boats to interesting places. Just the other day we took a wonderful kayak-sailing/ camping trip to Waldo lake Wilderness Area.
“A “is home (Hood River) “B” is Waldo Lake
Where in the world is Waldo Lake you say?
This gem is nestled high in the Cascade mountains of south central Oregon, about a two hour drive south-east of Eugene and about four and a half hours south of Hood River. 314km (195mi)
Waldo is the second largest lake in Oregon with 25.9km of surface area (about 10mi). It’s not huge by any means, but it’s pretty special, partly because it’s said to be one of the clearest lakes in the world with underwater visibility as much as 37 meters (120′) on a clear day. Apparently, it holds the world’s record for lake visibility at, 47.9m (157′). The reason for the clarity is that the dissolved nutrient levels are extremely low, due to a lack of significant inlet streams.
Considered an alpine lake, Waldo is about 1.76km (5800′) above sea level. Most say that the best time to go is in the late summer or early autumn, when the cooler air temperatures subdue the pesky mosquito population.
Thankfully, authorities banned the use of gasoline outboards on the lake, so it has become something of a west coast paddlers mecca. And, since we had never been there, it was high on our to-do list!
After discussing the adventure with our friends Dan and Deb, we all decided to hit the road for an extended weekend.
The drive there became unusual when this amazing thunder/hail storm passed over the Cascades just as we entered Redmond and shook our little pickup truck like a child’s toy.
Oregon storms can be strong!
Outside Redmond we stopped to refuel. Parked next to us was this huge monster vehicle. Oregon is such a crazy place. It’s filled with so many naturalists who enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors, and others who just thrive on noise and mayhem. Welcome to the the wild west! Wonder what this thing would look like with kayaks strapped to the roof?!
The skies began to clear up a bit as we left the town of Bend and the remainder of the drive was quite pleasant.
We arrived at the lake, met Dan and Deb, and chose a camp site. As luck would have it, the clouds returned and we ended up pitching the tent in the rain 🙁 Thankfully, Patti fired up the propane stove and cooked us a delicious hot meal. 🙂 Yum!
Nearly every tree surrounding the lake is covered with a hairy lichen (Bryoria Capillaris) which gives them a somewhat eerie appearance, especially in the late evening. During the day however, the forest takes on a more whimsical appearance, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Charlee-girl came along and was in dog heaven sniffing for chipmunks. Not to worry, she’s too old and slow to bother them much.
Sunny skies and a light southwest breeze greeted us the next morning. After breakfast, we headed out to explore the lake! Even with the cloud cover, the water reflected the characteristic blue hue normally reserved for open oceans.
Even though it was only blowing about five knots, we were able to traverse the large northern section of the lake with ease. Dan and Deb decided to paddle the shoreline, while Patti and I ventured out into the deeper water where the wind was a little stronger.
In certain sections, the lake’s depth it’s over 122 meters (400′). That’s pretty deep! even for coastal standards.
Back at camp Dan showed us his cool little wood cooking stove that he made from recycled tin cans. It is very efficient and fun to stoke. It will boil a pot of water quickly, and you can even roast marshmallows over it after supper!
The next morning brought picture postcard skies and amazing glass calm conditions. The absence of sound and clarity of the water, as well as the sheer beauty of the day made for a spectacular paddling experience. Some days are just perfect for paddling. Please take a moment to click on the photos below to see the enlarged images. It was truly amazing!
There were times when the reflected clouds seemed more real than the ones in the sky. The enveloping silence was complete. Our boats glided over the surface of the water and our hearts were lifted.
We wish you were here to share the experience with us. Is that a postcard cliche?
The water clarity is all that we expected, and more. Shadows from our boats on the lake bottom could easily be seen many meters down and at times gave us all the odd sensation of floating in air.
It was fun to look down in the depths, wave, and see our shadow waving back.
It seemed odd that we didn’t see a single fish. They say the lack of nutrients in the water severely limits all aquatic life, but I thought we would have seen at least a minnow.
At the the far south end of the lake we all stopped to rest on this beautiful little beach. Dan and Deb cooked lunch over their wood stove, while Patti and I stretched our legs and explored a bit of the shoreline.
Gazing out over the lake, it struck me how few people there were out enjoying the water. I mean, here it is, a gorgeous summer weekend, the weather’s perfect, and there’s nobody in sight. What a treat!
After lunch, as we kicked back, a gentle south wind began to blow. It seemed to be whispering to us: come out and play! Answering the call, we returned to the boats, and headed back across the lake.
Patti and I sailed across a sea of perfect azure blue. Actually, she glided faster than I did. Intermittent paddle strokes were needed to keep up with her. Her slender skin-boat, with it’s reduced wetted surface area, slips through the water easier than my “fat” plastic kayak. Did I just say fat? I meant “big boned”. It would have been nice to have had the 1.6m², but I forgot to bring it. Oh well. I guess I’ll take the back seat this time.
These are some pics from the trip back.
I’m trying to catch up to her.
Hmm… She’s moving fast!
Finally I’m able to paddle beneath her to get into some clean air. But I felt lazy and didn’t stay there for long.
I think Patti likes sailing faster than me.
The breeze eased up a bit as we approached shore.
What a day!
At night we gazed up at the sky and watched for shooting stars. Then we crawled into our sleeping bags and let sleep overcome us.
We packed up and drove across the high desert prairie in the morning. All the way back to Hood River.
The contrast of the mountain moisture to the dry desert is striking. It’s a beautiful drive.
This Summer we traveled to northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia to do some exploring. It’s an amazing place to paddle-sail with vast amounts of protected water and abundant sea life.
Sailing with the humpback whales was a completely new experience for us. Witnessing the sheer size and power of these amazing creatures, especially in such beautiful surroundings, left us in awe and profoundly changed.
I’ll try to describe the experience, even though my words can’t do it justice.
You are paddle-sailing in a beautiful deep bay. We’re surrounded by the distant cry of gulls, and the gentle, rhythmic sound, of sea water, lapping against the hull. The sky is a soft hazy blue. Around us, are gently rounded evergreen mountains that seem to be reaching up to the cottony clouds, which appear to be slowly moving from west to east. The weather is mild, tee shirt weather. The sun is on your cheek and you are very comfortable, sitting in your kayak, happily sailing along, intermittently humming that tune that’s been stuck in your head ever since hearing it this morning.
To your left, you notice some movement. A bald eagle leaps off a high tree limb, causing it to spring back with the release of its substantial weight. It flies along the shoreline with powerful wings flapping intermittently. The glide is graceful with wings, outstretched. It may be searching for a salmon, or heading back to the nest. you don’t know, but as it soars, your eyes follow, and across the water, in the distance, you think you see the lingering spout of a whale. A faint misty-white line that shoots high into the air, slightly swirling at the top. It looks just like that drawing of the whale you remember seeing as a child. That’s pretty cool. Which way is it moving? Then, searching for another, you see something on the surface of the water near Patti’s boat. A log? The head of a sea-lion? Maybe a harbor seal — you can’t tell. Then it disappears without a ripple. Probably a seal, you think. Patti shouts, “Did you see that seal? It was checking me out. I think she is curious about the sail. She’s been following me for a little while”.
A steady breeze has been blowing for the last several minutes and you’re holding an nice beam reach of about five knots. It’s easy sailing. The air is warm. It smells slightly of brine. Just then . . . you feel . . . a sensation. It’s primal, like the feeling you get when you know that you are being watched, and look up just in time to see someone staring at you. Suddenly, the surface of the water bulges to your left and a huge whale rises from the depths and blasts out a loud, long exhalation of breath. PHOOOOOOOH!! A powerful breath, a mammal’s breath, a really big! mammal’s breath. You’re startled, frozen in a moment of shock, not sure what to do even if you could do anything. The breath sounds oddly familiar, almost human, like the sound you make when coming up to the surface, after trying to swim the entire length of the pool underwater, only it’s much louder, and deeper. The moment passes in slow motion. Then, the inhalation, the blowhole closes, and the creature gracefully submerges. Wow!! is all you can say. Wow!… Wow.. Did you… see that..? Did you see that? Did the whole world see that?!! We look at each other and smile in amazement. Wow. Awesome.
Experiences like this shock us into connection with our surroundings, instantly transporting us to a place where we are aware. We look at the birds and the trees, and everything for that matter, with new eyes.
I’ve thought much about our whale experiences in British Columbia. After researching the topic, and in retrospect, we probably should have made more of an effort to avoid being in the path of the whales, for their protection as well as ours. We have since learned that staying a minimum distance of 200 yards away is prudent. It’s actually a law in Canadian waters.
Even though these are baleen whales, which feed on very small sea creatures by sifting water through the baleen filter, I could not help thinking of the Jonah story, especially when one would surface nearby with its mouth wide open!
The thought of a whale the size of a bus lifting our boats into the air is not very appealing. But in truth, we never felt threatened by these intelligent creatures, though more than once they unexpectedly surfaced near enough that it indeed caused a startle.
When immersed in the sounds made by the rippling water being parted by the bow, or feeling the sensations of the sea breeze quietly whispering in your ear in a way that only the sea air can, you feel you are observing the true nature of things. Which is, of course, that we are part of a bizarre, energy-filled, and incredibly beautiful system.
Natural environments seem to have a way of conveying this. While the gentle breeze whispers it to you, finding a whale next to your boat shouts it loud and clear!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
Please feel free to leave a comment. We love hearing from you.
Springtime has finally arrived in the Northern Hemisphere! Even though it has been a relatively mild La Nina Winter in Oregon, with some spectacularly sunny days mixed in with the normal clouds and misty rain of our wet season, we welcome the sun and warmth with open arms.
It has been quite a while since my last blog post so I will do my best to fill you in on what we have been up to.
Patti’s truck with Spring back orders ready to ship
Patti and I have been hard at work answering e-mails and building sailing rigs for kind people all over the world. We thank each and every one of you for your support. People are starting to find out about us!
On the weekends and after work we’ve been trying to squeeze in as much paddle-sailing as possible.
Orchard in bloom
You may not know that the sail loft is located in the lower half of an old farm house. We rent the house from a local orchardist and live upstairs. The place is surrounded by thirty beautiful acres of pear trees, and for a few weeks each Spring the blossoms transport us into a magical wonderland of cottony beauty. We enjoy this time of year very much. As an added bonus, the loft is only a few minutes from a terrific launch site on the Columbia River.
Patti and I have been having fun paddle-sailing in the Columbia. Our new skin boats are a real pleasure to sail.
For some reason Springtime seems to activate an instinctual fishing gene in some people. I’m not sure why, but the vernal change has this effect on me as well. On Saturday, while Patti dug up soil in our food garden, I felt compelled to head up to our local mountain lake for some trolling.
This small but lovely body of water holds a healthy population of rainbow and native bull trout, both of which respond well to trolled flies.
One of the tricks to trolling under sail is being able to control ones boat speed. It’s often easiest to regulate the speed of trolled baits while sailing to windward. By turning a boat up-wind and sailing on a very close reach, the boat speed will decrease. To pull the bait faster, one just needs to bear off the wind until the desired speed is reached. For trolling on a beam reach, a simple adjustment to the main sheet is often all that is required. The sheet may need to be let all the way out in order to keep the boats speed slow enough for trolling. I find that sheeting the sail all the way in, and effectively stalling the foil, can also be a good way to reduce speed, especially if heading down wind. This “stall” technique goes against most sailboat racer’s instincts, but for fishing, especially for slower fresh water fish, a slow speed is often needed.
Can you see the nest?
Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day with a clear sky and unseasonably mild temperature. One of the attributes of this little lake is an audible purity that results from a total absence of motorized craft. The only sounds that I could hear was the gentle swish my paddle blade dipping into the water, the occasional trout splashing on the surface, and a chirping song of ospreys (fish hawks). I could clearly hear what sounded like two baby ospreys calling from a nest high in a tree on the west bank. It seems that some ambitious bird lover had somehow climbed to the top of this incredibly tall tree and nailed together a wooden nesting platform for them.
What a relaxing day. There was one tense moment though. It happened just after I hooked a fish. It’s funny how crazy things seem to happen at the moment of hook up. I can remember several occasions while flats fishing in the Keys, when a hungry shark would apear as soon as I hooked into a big fish. And then there was the time my pants fell down while fighting a big bluefish on Long Island, but that’s a story for another time. Anyway, back to Saturday. Where was I, oh yeah, so I turned the boat into the wind and had just started reeling in this nice little trout when, with the corner of my eye, I saw momma osprey diving down from a nearby tree top with her wings folded back and talons extended, aiming for my fish! In a moment of heightened awareness I thought, oh no! she is going to take off with the fish! I immediately called out in an alarming yell, YAAH! YAAH!, in an attempt to break her concentration. At the very same moment I was trying to push away the thought of trying to reel in a fish hovering several meters above my head. Luckily, the scare tactic worked and she broke off her dive at the last possible moment. Whew.. That was too close. The fish came to the boat quickly and I released it back into the clear blue depths. Needless to say we were both relieved.
After a leisurely drive home I arrived to find Patti covered head to toe in soil with a big smile on her face.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
By the way, we plan on taking some fun high wind paddle-sailing videos this season and maybe even some paddle-sailing instructional videos, so stay tuned. And, please feel free to subscribe to this blog if you haven’t done so already. There is a subscription link in the right hand column.
As some of you may know, in addition to sail design Patti and I also like to design and build kayaks.
While waiting for our aluminum Kayaksailor parts to arrive, we decided to take a trip to beautiful Anacortes, Washington to visit our friend Corey at his traditional skin boat shop, The Skin Boat School. Patti wanted to reshape her boat by giving it more rocker, adding sheer and taking out some of the volume and I wanted to make mine a little less beamy and also take out some volume. We originally built these high volume boats for extended paddle-sailing trips but as it turns out, we use them mostly for day sailing.
Building a skin-on-frame kayak or “qajaq” is the original, and some consider best, method of kayak building. Many think that this form of boat building has likely been practiced for several thousands of years. Our boats have urethane coated nylon for skin and waxed polyester twine for lashings. The Inuit peoples used seal skin and sinew, but aside from these differences, the basic building technique is remarkably similar.
Skin boats are really cool. The Inuit craftsmen were very skilled and developed these incredibly sophisticated boats with limited resources. Not only was the qajaq an essential tool for the Inuit hunter, enabling them to bring food home in the extremely harsh environment of the far north, but the boats had a spiritual element to them as well. A qajaq is more than a boat. It can be viewed as an animal of sorts with a back bone, ribs and skin. When the paddler, or paddle-sailor in our case, enters their boat, they become the spirit of the animal. Working together as one.
The advantages of skin-on-frame boats are many, but probably one of the most alluring is the weight. A sixteen to seventeen foot boat can weigh as little as twenty five pounds! or about 11.3 Kg. Patti can pick up her boat with one hand. Try doing that with most modern plastic boat! On second thought, don’t try it.
During our stay we lived in the school’s lovely skin-on-frame tree house. It’s a very peaceful and friendly place.
At night we heard Coyotes jibbering and a pack of wolves howling on the distance. Corey says that the wolves belong to a neighbor who breeds them in captivity. He says they all are confined, but I have to say that the sound of a howling wolf pack is a powerful and a hair raising experience. I now understand the level of respect first peoples gave them. We think that we are on top of the food chain, Ha.!
The first order of business was to peel off the skin. We used a heat gun to release the parts of the skin that were stuck to the frame.
Next we cut the lashings and went to work removing and adjusting the ribs, trimming the gunwales, and repositioning the keelson to adjust the rocker. We shape our boats the traditional way, “by eye” and “feel”. I had to cut the deck beams on mine to reduce the boat’s beam.
The frames are pegged and lashed together. No metal fasteners here, just artificial sinew and knots. Lots and lots of knots!
At night it dropped below freezing a few times and Patti dressed our older companion Charlee-girl in her fleece shirt to stay warm. Charlee is looking down the stairs of the tree house trying to figure out a game plan to get down. She can still negotiate those stairs!
Once we finished reshaping the boats, it was time to put on the skin. Knowing when to stop tweaking the design of the frame is always a problem for me. I always want it to be perfect. It’s so easy to make a little adjustment here or there. I’ll just keep adjusting until Patti tells me to stop. We give each other balance.Sewing the skin is simultaneously tedious and therapeutic. It takes some practice to get a nice smooth, tight stitch. The Inuit would wet their seal skins while sewing but luckily we can work our cloth dry.
Patti uses a beautiful more traditional Maligiaq stitch, while I use a rolled cross stitch.
We put our heart and souls into all our creations, And with skin boats, a little blood at times.
These are some of Patti’s cells decorating her bow. It’s always good to keep track of where the pointy end of the needle is. 🙂
We chose to remove the rudder and change the stern shape of our boats. Since she purchased her Squamish, Patti has been getting back into rudderless sailing. I think that I will join her. It takes a little more skill, but that’s good, it’s all fun!
Here the cockpit is waiting for attention.
The coaming is the last thing to be sewn in place. The front rests in the curved masik and the rear rests on the flat deck beam.
After work, we explored some of the shoreline of the Island of Fildago on which Anacortes resides. A glorious full moon illuminated the evening sky. This is a spectacular part of the world, and so many beautiful boats in the harbor! Below are some classic pulling boats we came across. I can’t resist admiring the sweet lines of a well designed hull.
After the sewing was finished, we dyed and urethaned the skin. Here Patti shows her skills spreading the two part urethane “goop” with a spatula. It takes multiple thin coats and a steady hand to get that mirror shine.
Most people use tan color dye to give their boat a traditional skin color. Patti and I like to take the path less traveled. We chose different colors for our boats. Paddle-sailing traditional skin-on-frames isn’t the norm either, but it sure is fun! The mix of the modern with the traditional brings something new. I painted a wavy blue dye design on my boat. It won’t be easy to see on the water but it has a cool organic feel to it.
Patti chose a beautiful blue green. Her boat has feminine curves that are pleasant to the eye. This shot shows the results of Patti’s remarkably smooth urethane finishing job.
I always like the view from inside the cockpit. The white cord seen running fore and aft goes through a primitive pulley in the bow and is used to pull the forward float bag into position. The only metal hardware used in the boat are the stainless screws that hold the adjustable foot pegs in position.
While the urethane cured, we went hiking on a beautiful trail about ten minutes from the shop. The rain forest is a remarkable place to explore. Lots of rain and lots of life! Even in winter the amount and variety of vegetation is warming to the soul.
It’s easy to feel connected to the environment here. The humidity holds the sweet organic aroma in the air.
We need to come back here and sail this coastline. There are so many cool places to explore. Deception pass is just around the corner. Even though the tidal current rips at times, our sails can definitely help fight it in case we miscalculate a tidal change.
The water is very clear and stays at a nearly constant 8.8 to 11.3 degrees Celsius (48-51 Fahrenheit) year round. It’s cold but definitely doable with proper thermal protection.
A short distance away is Rosario beach. A pole sculpture depicts the spirit of Ko-Kwal-alwoot, “The Maiden of Deception Pass”. If you want to learn her story, e-mail me and I will gladly send it to you.
When we arrived back from the hike, the urethane was cured enough for us to strap the boats to our trusty pickup so we could start the five hour drive south to Hood River. We love how the light shines through the hulls giving them a stained glass appearance. In this shot you can see the swedeform shape of my hull with the cockpit positioned aft of center. Also visible is the center foredeck stringer on which the Kayaksailor main body tube will rest.
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