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Great paddling day-trip to Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge

AL DEMANY CHIMAN at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge

I had been scoping a day-trip paddle to Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, for a year and half, but I had never managed to get it to work. Until Friday. I loaded AL DEMANY CHIMAN and headed out to the cute village of Queenstown, MD, on the south bank of the Chester River. Putting in by the town dock, I headed out of the little harbor and lined up the 2nm passage to the Refuge. The Refuge is an island – barely – around which the Chester River sweeps in a big U. There was little wind and not much boat traffic, so it was smooth and quiet.

Once across, I headed around the southern end and meandered along the western side. It was mixed marsh and short beaches for most of the way, sometimes augmented with rip-rap. I saw a number of bald eagles, a couple of adorable little sandpipers, and the usual blue herons. Occasionally I crossed large schools of small fish.

After lunch at the spot above, I passed through the narrows at the north end of the island. This passage was no problem for Al DEMANY CHIMAN or a kayak, but I wouldn’t want to draw much more.

Bridge over the narrows

The eastern side was also lovely marsh, extending further from the woods on this side. There were also more inlets on this side and no rip-rap. I turned up one cow-nosed stingray, but less other animal life until heading back across the Chester, where there were further fish schools.

All told, it was a great paddle. I calculated it was about 13nm and I was paddling for about 5 hours, putting me right on my past cruising speed of roughly 2.5kts. I need more of these…

‘s up? SUP. (as in stand-up paddleboard)

The Chine bLog family is back from a tropical vacation to Puerto Rico. While there, I did get my paddle on: I finally explored the stand-up paddleboard (SUP) phenomenon. No photos exist, this by fortune, not by design. There was a strong breeze and the water was choppy. My windsurfing experience served me somewhat from a balance standpoint, but it was definitely a “first outing” performance. I enjoyed it, made a little progress, and fulfilled a long-overdue need to try this paddling form.

So, what do I think? I don’t see myself rushing out to add a paddleboard to my fleet. The skills and body motions required are unique, and there is no doubt you get a different workout than in a canoe or kayak. I like to take in the surroundings and explore while I paddle, though, and, while there is no doubt one could use a paddleboard in this way, it feels like these craft require more concentration on balance and such than I would care to devote.

It is clear that stand-up paddleboarding is the latest thing in recreational small boating, getting some of the mass-audience buzz that kayaks did 15 years or so ago. If paddleboards continue to be a big piece of the paddling establishment, I would be completely fine with it. From a holier-than-thou, natural-power-purist standpoint, paddleboards are absolutely legit, especially if the lot is liberally sprinkled with non-plastic offerings like Chesapeake Light Craft’s Kaholo. Many people can and should have fun with them, and I hope they do.

This said, though, I expect stand-up paddleboarding to be like windsurfing, not like kayaking. Windsurfing got huge buzz in the 80s and then tapered when many recreational users found the sport too hard to do routinely. Kayaking came on because of its simplicity, particularly with beamy recreational designs. You still see a good bit of kayaking rental traffic because the kayak form is genius in allowing someone to cover some distance without having to get too distracted from the surroundings. I think stand-up paddleboarding will prove to be too hard for the average recreational user to enjoy over a longer term, and this wave will crest and the sport will be left to a smaller number of core enthusiasts. We’ll see what happens, I guess.

Annnnndddd my 2012 boating season is underway at last – AL DEMANY CHIMAN’s keel wet again

We had a nice family paddle at our standby put-in of Mason Neck State Park. Mostly overcast, but warm and calm, good for trying out the rebuilt ama. I’ll have to test it more, but my initial observations are that we working the aft end SEEMS to make her a touch zippier (biased observation noted) and, as planned, water mostly stayed out of it. The main hull is also drier thanks to some touch-up of the skin seams at the bottom of the stems. And fun was had by all. Good to be underway again.

A celebration of a boating season

On Sunday afternoon I took AL DEMANY CHIMAN out for probably the last time this season. It was a stunning Fall day and there were only a few other folks out with me on the Patuxent River. There were some birds about and a couple fish jumping, but, for the most part, things were quiet and autumnal. As I put the boat back on the car and drove home I reflected on what a great boating season it has been.

The story of the season was obviously AL DEMANY CHIMAN. This was her first full season in existence and she gave me all I had hoped she would. From the first paddles in May, she continued to prove light and easy to transport. She took the whole family out and did fine (except for the part where we all leaned to starboard) and even carried my boss and colleagues. From there she carried me and five days gear around Muscongus Bay, ME in what will go down as one of my great voyages. This is the adventure she was built for, whether I had articulated it or not, and she served me fabulously.

The heat of summer and my desire to complete the sailing rig slowed us some,but when September arrived, AL DEMANY CHIMAN became my social yacht. I had some great outings with friends and, a couple times, with friends and sons. She proved a great draw and a fun boat for talking or for fishing.

Throughout all these interactions, I was thrilled with the reception AL DEMANY CHIMAN got. I have been so touched by the clearly sincere compliments she has received. People have been drawn to her and it has been thrilling to see and hear.

It will now be a long wait for the Spring…

Second paddle of the season – Father’s Day in outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN

AL DEMANY CHIMAN, Leesylvania State Park, VAI have now gotten out twice this season in my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, AL DEMANY CHIMAN, a much better pace than with the Peace Canoe, PEACE OF THE PUZZLE. I am really liking the boat, overall. She is light enough for me to car-top myself and easy to assemble at the shore, but, most of all, she paddles well. There is something about that feeling of readying a boat in the water and then stepping in and pushing off for that first glide. I know I dump about 40 gallons of worries in those first few yards.

The outing was at Leesylvania State Park, VA. It was a pretty typical summer morning here – still and hot. A great blue heron sat majestically in a tree and ospreys circled here and about. I wanted to do a long, straight outing to get a sense of speed, so I just crossed the river and back. As best I can figure I did 3 knots-ish going at a modest, comfortable pace. Bigger adventures now await…

Paddling.net launch sites tool – please fill it out

Heads up: Paddling.net has a new, cool-looking tool that shows launch sites on a Google Map and allows you to add new ones. I will be taking a look and seeing if I can contribute; please yours too. This will be extremely valuable when built out.

Kayaking tragedy in the Congo Basin

I just saw this story on the AP wires: Kayakers recount deadly crocodile attack in Congo. Yowza.

The boaters – two Americans and a South African – traveled some 1,000 miles of river this way, through some of the densest concentrations of man-killing wildlife in the world. They were on a quiet stretch of the Lukuga River in Congo, paddling just 4 or 5 feet apart, when a crocodile slipped up from behind and ripped trip leader Hendri Coetzee from his red plastic boat.

This crew certainly knew what they were doing and what the risks were, but this is why nature must be respected.

Spectacular paddle in AL DEMANY CHIMAN – and highly successful all family outing

One of the questions people have had in looking at the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN under construction was “will it hold more than just you?” I confidently said “I certainly hope it will take the whole family.” From the design, I was pretty confident she would be fine with us all aboard, and when I launched her and noted plenty of available freeboard with just me aboard I felt even better. A week ago Sunday, however, the theory got put to the test and the results were perfect.

We took the boat out to my favorite launching spot on Jug Bay on the Patuxent River, in Maryland. Its a spectacular spot – extensive wetland / forest preserve and not too heavily traveled. It was a stunning day, but the river was close to empty. We all go in Al DEMANY CHIMAN and she rode nice and high in the water. We set off upriver and she tracked well and moved along easily. The kids (8 1/2 and 6) played in the water and seemed comfortable in the center section while my wife manned the bow and I the stern. As we moved up-river multiple Vs of geese flew over and a water snake popped up to check us out before darting back underwater. When we got back to the ramp some kayakers were in and Al DEMANY CHIMAN got some nice compliments. It was a wonderful outing. I am really going to like this boat.

Nice piece from NPR: “Adirondack Waters Welcome Paddlers Back”

Good use of 3 minutes. Trust me.

I was thinking of going for a paddle this week…

… orrrr maybe not…

Snow on kayak