Monday, September 26, 2011

More On The Hooksett Wastewater Treatment Plant Disks

There were a couple interesting articles in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune this week about the spill this past March that released millions of plastic waste water filtration disks into the Merrimack River.  The first article is about the steps they are taking in Hooksett to prevent something from happening again.

Taking steps to prevent another disk incident in the Merrimack

The second article is about a gut from Merrimack MA who has picked up 12,000 of the disks on a short stretch of the river.

The 12,000 Disk Man

Sadly, despite the new measures put in place and the cleanup efforts of many I fear we will be finding these disks in and along the Merrimack for years to come.

Seals Sneak Spray Skirt Review

When I purchased my new kayak earlier this month with plans for taking it into the ocean I knew I would be needing a spray skirt.  I went back and forth regarding getting a neoprene or nylon model but finally settled on nylon as every time I see someone trying to attach a neoprene skirt they always seem to be struggling or asking for help.  Since I spend a fair amount of time paddling solo I needed something easy to get on.

After a bit of research I settled on the Seals Sneak Spray Skirt.  This skirt is advertised as a recreational skirt for light to moderate conditions.  It has a lot of great features but at the top of the list is that it can be purchased for under $90. 

Some of the features of this skirt are:
- Detachable Suspenders
- Tensioned deck stay
- Zippered Front
- Mesh Pockets
- Comfortable Neoprene Waistband

I had a chance to use this skirt a few weeks ago in some pretty windy conditions in Boston Harbor.  The waves were between 2 and 3 feet.  A few waves washed completely over my bow and to the skirt's credit I stayed dry.  This is a very comfortable skirt, I have used other skirts without suspenders and they never seem to stay in place.  The zippered front of this skirt is really nice feature.  This allows to to get at the contents of your cockpit and you can just unzip it and step put of your kayak without needing to reattach.  Another nice feature is the pockets allowing you to keep waterproof items close at hand.

Overall a great spray skirt for short money.  Probably will need to upgrade in a couple years if I ever plan on open ocean kayaking but I think this will server me just fine for years to come.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Boston Harbor Kayak Trip - Thompson and Spectacle Islands

View Boston Harbor Islands in a larger map

One of my goals for this season was to put my kayak in the ocean.  One of my co-workers kayaks pretty frequently in Boston Harbor and we have been trying to schedule a trip all season.  Finally this weekend our schedules meshed and we were able to get out there.  Our plan was to put in in South Boston and paddle to Thompson Island and then on to Spectacle Island.  I have been checking the weather forecast all week as it was supposed to cool off a bit. I was not concerned about the temperatures as much as the wind.  Up until Saturday night the forecast was saying 5 - 10 mph winds.  When I woke up Sunday morning the forecast changed to 15 - 20 mpg winds.   Supposedly my new kayak is built for this kind of weather so I headed out in spite of my better judgement.

We arrived at Pleasure Bay Park at 9am.  Pleasure Bay Park is located on the South West corner of Pleasure Bay on William J Day Boulevard.  There is a good sized parking lot at the park and a short walk down the beach to the water.
Beach at Pleasure Bay Park looking toward Thompson Island
The wind wasn't too bad as we headed out but about a quarter of a mile into our paddle to Thompson Island it started really picking up.  The wind was blowing at least 15 mpg right into our faces.  This made paddling a bit of a workout to say the least.  The paddle across to Thompson Island is just over a mile.  Thompson is a private island that is currently home to an Outward Bound Education Center.  We hiked around the island a bit and saw some of the climbing apparatuses...not for one afraid of heights.  Historically the island was home to a farm and trades school from the early 1900s to about 1970.

Thompson Island looking toward Boston
North East side of Thompson Island looking toward Spectacle

After hiking around the island for a half hour or so we headed over to Spectacle Island.  We paddled around the northern tip of Thompson Island straight across to Spectacle.  The trip across was just under a mile and a half and we were again going into the wind.  We also needed to cross a shipping channel.  This late in the season the boat traffic was pretty light but we did need to wait for a ferry and a large pleasure boat to pass before we made our way across the channel. 

Top of North drumlin looking toward Deer Island

North drumlin looking at visitor center and Long Island

We landed on Spectacle Island just to the left of the pier.  Spectacle Island has an interesting history.  In the mid 1800s it houses a couple hotels that were closed due to illicit activities.  It then became a horse rendering facility and a city dump which was active until almost 1960.  In the 1990s the excavated dirt from the Big Dig Central Artery Project was used to cap and resurface the island.  The island opened to visitors in 2006 as a recreational park.  There is a ferry that runs to the island is Spring, Summer and Fall.  The island also has a visitor center with a seasonal restaurant / snack bar.   There island consists of two large hills or "drumlins".  We hiked to the top of the north drumlin and the 360 degree views were great.  The city skyline on one side and the outer harbor islands on the other.

After hiking back down we headed back to South Boston with the wind at out backs which made the paddle much much more enjoyable.  I was really able to test my new kayak on this trip in conditions that it was made for.  My paddling partner who kayaks in the harbor almost exclusively has a kayak a bit shorter and higher volume than my Avatar and I found myself having to stop and wait for him.  This was in no way due to my superior paddling ability but exclusively the speed of my kayak.  I am very impressed with how fast it is especially in rough conditions.

Total distance of this paddle was about four and a half miles.  We were out in the harbor for about 3 and a half hours.  We probably spent less than 2 hours actually paddling the rest of the time was spent exploring the islands.  It was great to finally get into the ocean and experience some real waves and rough conditions.  There are about a dozen more islands out in the harbor to explore. I just wish the season wasn't coming to an end.  Looking forward to getting out there at least once more this year and will have something to look forward to in the spring.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Perception Avatar 15.5

When I started kayaking last year I never would have anticipated being the owner of three kayaks in just a year, but here I am just having purchased a third kayak.  Over the past couple months I have found that I seem to be outgrowing my 11 foot Necky.  I still love my Necky and it is perfect for small winding rivers and trips under 10 miles.   But for trips over 10 miles I find that I am reaching the limit of my little boat.  I also have been really wanting to get into the ocean and my Necky is just not the right boat for that type of trip.

So over the past couple months I have been scouring Craigslist looking for a nice, inexpensive, used sea kayak.  My criteria was something around $500, over 14 feet in length, with a skeg or rudder and generally something that I could grow into.  Last week there was an ad for a Perception Avatar, I looked up the specs and read the reviews of the boat and it seemed like it would be a great fit for me.  It met all of my criteria and was being offered at a good price so I headed over to take a look and ended up coming home with a new boat.

From what I can tell the Avatar family of kayaks were manufactured from 2003 through 2008.  They include a 16 foot composite version, a 15 foot 10 inch plastic version and a 15 foot 7 inch plastic version (which I purchased).

The specs on the boat are as follows:

Length: 15' - 7"
Width: 23 1/4"
Weight: 54 lbs
Cockpit: 34" x 19"

According to Perception, the Avatar was designed with the Greenland style in mind and reflects progressive thinking by our touring boat designers.  Brent Reitz was very instrumental in the design of the Avatar.    The Avatar features a multi-chine hull design that relies on its graceful sleek hull design for turning rather than a rudder system.

First Impressions:

I took the boat out for for my first trip this past Saturday.  I wanted to paddle waters that I was familiar with so I headed down to the Merrimack River in Methuen for the 10 mile downstream paddle to Haverhill.  My first disappointment with this kayak is that I found that my kayak cart will not fit into either the bow or stern hatch.  I was able to easily fit this cart into the stern hatch of my Necky.  The stern compartment is taken up by the skeg box and the bow is fairly shallow making it impossible to fit anything tall inside.  I believe this is due to the Greenland style design.

Getting into the water I immediately noticed that this kayak does not have the initial stability that the rec kayaks that I usually paddle do.  The boat felt pretty twitchy as I was heading out and took a couple miles to get used to.  I was also paddling into a pretty stiff wind which was pushing me around more than I expected it to.  The wind shortly settled down and I settled into a nice rhythm.  I could tell that this was much faster than my 11 foot necky.  I could get it up to speed faster and it has a really good glide to it.  I had to make some seat and foot adjustments along the way to get comfortable but once I was locked in I found the boat to be very comfortable.  Especially the seat which has a great Geltech seat pad. 

One aspect that will take some getting used to is that I could not position my feet vertically on the foot braces as I am accustomed to.  The bow is so narrow that I needed to angle my feet outward in a V to fit comfortably.  When reading reviews of the Avatar one of the complaints about this boat is if you wear over a size 12 shoe your feet won't fit.  Not an issue for me though as I wear a size 8.

I was hoping to try out the skeg on this trip but the mechanism is a bit sticky and needs to manually be pulled up and down.  I will need to do a little maintenance on it in the off season. I was not sure if I was going to feel too confined with the much smaller cockpit in this boat, made even smaller by the thigh pads.  But I quickly got used to it as I was able to lock my self in and really feel connected to the kayak.  Before I knew it I was at my take out in Haverhill and I noticed it took me quite a bit less time to get there than when I took this trip just a couple weeks ago.  I checked my GPS when I got home and found that the Avatar is significantly faster than my Necky Manitou.

I last paddled this route in my Necky on August 26th.  It took me 2 hours and 23 minutes with and average speed of 3.9 mph.  This past Saturday in my Avatar it took me 1 hour and 46 minutes with and average speed of 5.2 mph.

Overall I am very happy with my Perception Avatar 15.5.  It is a very fast boat that will allow me to get out on longer trips and into the ocean.  This is a boat that I will be able to grow into.  I am really looking forward to longer trips and my first trip into the ocean.