The Old Sea Dog’s Gear Locker [28]

The OSD has shaken off his jet lag and emptied out his bag of goodies from the US. The haul was pretty small, really. He picked up some camping and bushwalking gear from REI, but wasn’t tempted to buy anything in the kayaking line. Turns out that the kayaking equipment is cheaper and better here in OZ. They are so backward in the US that they think that olives are what you put in martinis! (The OSD says he could have financed his whole trip if only he had taken a few hundred of the little beauties to trade with the locals.)

The niftiest things he found were (1) “Hefty” brand sealable plastic bags with slide closures, (2) Mariner Kayaks, (3) a new pouring spout for Sigg bottles produced by Trangia.

The OSD carried his faithful Trangia at all times, impressing the North Americans almost as much as olive cleats. MSR is the Trangia distributor in the US, with the result that few Trangias are to be seen in the shops. REI doesn’t stock the whole stove, only burners.

The OSD found fuel for the Trangia plentiful in the form of HEET, a methanol-alcohol mix sold in automotive stores as a gas tank moisture absorber. Drug stores (chemists) also stock isopropyl alcohol, but care must be taken to get 100 percent alcohol rather than the common 70 percent variety (mixed with water.) While in your local drug store, you can pick up a Magellan GPS for $US200. The OSD didn’t do this. Try as he might, he couldn’t think of any reason to buy this glittering gadget just to find his way from Eden to Nadgee.

Warning to air travelling kayakers in Canada

The OSD was asked at the Vancouver check-in if he had a stove in his luggage. The truthful OSD said he did. The airline lady wanted to confiscate the stove. She said she had already snapped up several that day. The quick thinking OSD replied that his stove was not one of those nasty petrol burning, fume dispensing MSR’s, but a benign Trangia which consumed water soluble alcohol. The OSD had previously taken the precaution of washing out the stove and Sigg bottle thoroughly. They smelled clean as the driven snow and the OSD was allowed to keep his beloved cooking gear.

The OSD found air travel in the US less stove conscious and far cheaper. He booked all his flights after he arrived in North America and was able to get deals like Seattle to Anchorage for $US96. The secret was to ask for “Flight Specific” bookings with Alaska Airlines. With no noise curfews, airlines fly day and night to keep their expensive equipment earning dollars. Flight Specific bookings are verified reservations at unpopular times like 2 AM. But, hey, to save a couple of hundred bucks….

The OSD had been toying with the idea of buying a folding kayak for his trip and was very glad he didn’t. Everywhere he went he found he could borrow or rent a kayak. He did carry his Alan Wilson folding paddle. Even that wasn’t necessary as the rental paddles he encountered were generally Werner Little Dippers.

The OSD had the opportunity to try a number of Yank kayaks. In general, he found them pretty ordinary. The exception was Mariner Kayaks, which have invented the term “Niftiness Quotient” as a guide to quality. Mariner gives itself a very high NQ, and the OSD agrees.

The OSD dropped in to see Mariners Cam and Matt Broze on Seattle’s Lake Union and paddled almost everything in their shop, including a Khatsalano.

The OSD’s Niftiness List of Kayaks paddled in the US:

Note: All the fibreglass boats sell for about $A2,600 or more!

  1. Mariner Coaster – surf/fun boat
  2. Mariner MAX – general purpose (The OSD liked them both)
  3. Mariner II – fast cruiser
  4. Mariner Express – general purpose
  5. Cadence LP (Rented in Alaska, Used on four day, 80 km paddle around Douglas Island, near Juneau. Comfortable, roomy, easy to roll, reasonably fast)
  6. Sealution (Plastic boat, borrowed in California. Responsive, easy to roll)
  7. Dagger Seeker (PB, rented in California. Fun to paddle, hard to roll.)
  8. Tyee One (1950’s design fibreglass, borrowed in San Juan Islands. Pleasant, stable, basic kayak.)
  9. Prijon Seayak (PB, rented in Alaska, paddled for a week in Prince William Sound. Slow, not much storage space.)
  10. Aquaterra Chinook (PB, borrowed in California. Better than swimming, but only just.)
  11. Khatsalano (Folder, very expensive. Fast, but unstable. Seat wobbled from side to side. Not a fun paddle.)

The OSD went on two paddling trips. He accompanied Richard Larson to Prince William Sound and later paddled solo around the Juneau area further south. The PWS trip was fairly complicated logistically. (See accompanying article.)

The OSD’s Juneau trip was much easier to organise. He merely rented a Cadence LP for $US35 per day (including paddle, spray deck, PFD and dry bags) from the Juneau Outdoor Center. The OSD paddled away from town and was in the wilderness within a few hours — Eagles, seals, leaping salmon, humpback whales, but no bergs, bears, bugs or bogs. (He did, however get stranded on a sand bank for 6 hours, waiting for the tide to come in. The tidal range is 5 meters!).

The Douglas Island circumnavigation or nearby Admiralty Island (Beware the big brown bears) are good options for paddlers not wishing to tackle the expense and logistics of Prince William Sound or face the traffic jams and expense of Glacier Bay. There are LOTS of other glaciers in the area for those who are determined to paddle in the ice. (Which, the OSD admits, is kind of fun.) A tour boat in Juneau will take kayaks and kayakers to Tracy Arm for $US175.20 per person round trip.

One bit of gear which the OSD found very useful on his trip was the Internet. Through this electronic marvel he was able to stay in contact with OZ. He often visited the NSWSKC home page, a wondrous collection of information put together by techno-nerd (meant in the nicest possible way) and ace paddler Jim Croft. Not only does it contain a plethora of stuff about the club, it also has lots of general interest sea kayaking items. Inspired, The OSD got himself on the Net as soon as he got home. His address is: Talk about gear! 28,800 bauds per second modems with V.32bis Data Modes and V.42 (LAP-M) Error Correction….Oh well, muses the OSD. There was probably a time when stretching a seal skin over a wooden framework was considered a great technological step forward which caused much headshaking and clucking of tongues. Still, he remembers with fondness the simpler days of the recent past when technological argument revolved around the relative merits of non-offset paddle blades versus offset.

Happy paddling.