Kayak Rescue GLP

The Great Lakes Paddlers group held a kayak rescue and safety clinic on Kent Lake July 7th.  There were 17 people signed up and in addition Rob Taylor and his wife showed up to assist.

The weather was great, hot and sunny, the water warm.  Patti Pape led the training and went through wet exits and re-entry in deep water.  Then a few techniques of re-entry with the aid of a friend were practiced.  Towing was demonstrated and with each technique each person got an opportunity to practice.  At the end of the class there was also some rolling practice.

I picked up a new entry technique which was called the heel hook, I found this easier than the cowboy entry.  As always it’s always best to be able to roll and stay in your kayak, but you have to get to that point and also know how to get back in if you exit unexpectedly.

I would recommend this type of training and tune up to anyone that is serious about kayaking.  The cost was free so how much better can you get than that?

Remember to get out there and Start Kayaking

Kayak Entry and Exit Techniques

Getting into and out of your kayak can be embarrassing if not done right and you end up in the water and not your kayak. You don’t have to look graceful doing it, just have to be effective at staying out of the water.

Kayak Dock Entry or Exit
If you have a dock for entry that is close to the water, I find this the easiest and best way to get in and out of a kayak dry. The technique is simple but there are a couple of pitfalls to keep in mind. First make sure you have what you need in the kayak or within reaching distance. Most important is knowing where your paddle is and not losing it. If you are a beginner kayaker, you can use a paddle strap / cord that keeps the paddle loosely attached to your kayak.

Last  fall I was getting in at my dock and the paddle was on the dock (no strap) and I was in the kayak adjusting the foot peddles, not paying a lot of attention to the dock, it was a very windy day, and before I knew it, I was away from the dock, the water was not deep but cold, so I did not want to paddle with my hands or get my feet wet. Glad there was nobody there to see me, pretty embarrassing, so I had to wait until the wind blew me side ways to my neighbors dock, then I could get back out and go get my paddle. Fortunately the wind was in the right direction rather than blowing me out in the lake. This is perhaps another reason to have a back-up paddle attached to your kayak (another tip).

The dock technique is to sit down next to your kayak (don’t let your kayak get away from you, use a rope or cord attached to the dock if you need to). Then put your feet in, turning your body towards the bow of the boat, and then quickly move your butt from the dock and into your seat while still holding onto the dock. Make sure your weight is distributed correctly so the kayak does not roll to the side during this maneuver. Moving quickly is effective in keeping the kayak stable. To get out just reverse the actions getting your butt out of the seat and onto the dock with your feet still in the boat. I have even used a belly flop onto the dock and a roll, at times when I’m tired, this also works. Just not pretty. The proper dock technique can be practiced at the pool session in the off season. I will cover other entry methods in following blogs, those however will require warmer conditions to practice.

Sitting In Your Kayak – Many new kayakers are not used to sitting in a kayak and may not know how to adjust their recreational kayak seat properly. The best position for kayaking is an upright position.  Most recreational kayaks have seat back supports that can be adjusted. Remember a kayak is not a ghetto cruiser and having your seat back adjusted all the way back is not what you want, otherwise you will have a sore back. Adjust the seat back so that it forces you to sit upright. If adjusted correctly you will be using your abdominal muscles to sit upright, you won’t be leaning forward. The balls of your feet will be on the foot pedals and your legs will be rotated outwards against the sides of the kayak and under the side pads if your kayak has them. When you purchase a kayak look for kayaks that have pedals, if it does not have them, then look for another model.

Getting in and out of your kayak from shore.
Some people will tell you that you can have your kayak perpendicular to the shore with the front of the kayak on shore or on a ramp to get in then push off.  I have never found this method to work for me, too much effort to get the kayak off the shore when you’re in it.  So I am not going to cover that method.

This method works on a sandy beach, a rocky shore line, on a ramp, or a river bank.  Line your kayak up parallel to the shore in enough water to float the kayak.

Put your paddle across the back of the cock pit on the deck, the rest of the paddle is on shore.  You will be placing your weight on the paddle such that the pressure is on the part on shore using your hands about shoulder length apart on the paddle shaft.

Now there are two ways to get in from here.  One is to sit on the shore and swing your feet in then keeping the weight on the paddle quickly move your butt into the seat.  The other is to straddle the kayak with your legs over the cock pit then when lowering your butt into the seat keep the weight on the paddle on the shore to stabilize the kayak, the once your butt is in the seat quickly pull your legs into the kayak.  This second method only works if the cock pit is large and the opening in front of the seat is big enough for you to get your feet in after you’re seated.

To get out basically do the reverse of which ever method you used to get in.

One way you can keep your feet dry, the other make sure the ground is dry before sitting down if you want to keep your seat dry.  Either way just a little practice and you can look like you know what you’re doing and not dump yourself into the water.

Look for a certified instructor for basic kayaking techniques who can show you all the correct ways to start kayaking.

Port Austin Sea Kayak Symposium

The second annual (and there will be a third) Port Austin Sea Kayak Symposium was held June 17 to 19, 2011.   There was a new visitors center in town for registration. Not many people made it up early Thursday as it is a 3 hour drive from Detroit for those that worked all day.  The town was very quiet during the day and not into summer mode yet.  I was able to get a paddle in before the first scheduled event at 6PM.

RKC Instructor Staff

RKC Instructor Staff

Thursday night a wine and pizza gathering was held in the state park in the pavilion where we watched the sun set and enjoyed the food, wine and people, meeting the staff and participants.  The pizza from the town pizzeria was excellent, and I eat too much, the wine was also too good.  I had a headache Friday morning.

Thursday Wine and Pizza

Thursday Wine and Pizza Party

Port Austin Harbor On Lake Huron in Michigan's Thumb

Port Austin Harbor

The weekend went off without a hitch, the weather cooperated as much as can be expected for Port Austin and Lake Huron in mid June, it was sunny in the PM after only one morning of fog, other than that it was mostly sunny 65 to 70 degrees. The instructors Steve and Cindi from Oregon considered the weather fantastic.   I would have gone for maybe 5 more degrees but not complaining.

Foggy Lake Huron

Foggy Lake Huron

Steve was one of the designers of the Wilderness Systems Tempest Kayak he gave a lunch time talk on boat design and on Sunday demonstrated many of these principals for a  small group of fortunate people out in the Lake Huron waves and wind.  The level of instructor experience was awesome, all instructors were just excellent.  All were very down to earth, approachable, willing to answer any questions or show any technique.

Lake Huron Kayak Instruction

Lake Huron Instruction with Steve

The kayak symposium was put on by Riverside Kayak Connection.  I’m told it was smaller than last year but I did not mind, the ratio of student to instructor in many of the classes was almost one on one.  This year RKC did not advertise as much and there was a competing Symposium in Wisconsin on the same weekend.  Tiffany the owner of RKC also celebrated her 40th birthday at Saturday night’s dinner and cake was passed out to all who attended the dinner at the 1984 Bank restaurant.

Port Austin Beach On Lake Huron

Port Austin Beach On Lake Huron

The weekend had at least 5 different classes at each time slot Friday and Saturday , then Potpourri on Sunday morning (work on anything you want with the instructors).  The time slots were 9:30AM to 11:30AM, lunch provided with a talk noon till 1:00PM, then 1:30PM to 3:30PM and 3:45PM to 5:30 PM.  A very full day if one signed up for each class time like I did.  I learned so much during the symposium, I’m going to forget some skills but will do my best to practice them all.  I am a better paddler after the weekend than before.

Port Austin Kayak Symposium

Port Austin Kayak Symposium Lunch Break

The classes were on the following topics: Boat Control, Rescues and Towing, Forward Stroke, Advanced Strokes, Bracing Traditional, Euro Rolling, Kids Kayak Classes, Advanced Rescues, Traditional Rolling and many more.

Cindi kayak Instructing

Cindi Instructing On Forward Stroke

The Forward stroke class was one where I learned that I had picked up some bad habits, and Cindi helped me change them, I learned how to paddle much better, more speed, less effort.

Kayak  Boat Control Class

Kayak Boat Control Class

We even had a visit by the Coast Guard out in the bay, they stopped us to talk and pass out identification stickers for our Kayaks.

Port Austin Kayak Boat Control Class

Port Austin Boat Control Class

Steve had us do experiments that showed us how our boats weather cocked in the wind, how you easily turn up and down in the wind, compared how all the different kayaks reacted in the water due to their design.

Sunday Paddle and Lesson On Lake Huron

Sunday Paddle and Lesson On Lake Huron

I would highly recommend this event for anyone who wants to learn how to start kayaking, or tune up their skills.  The people were all great, I went alone and made many new friends, and never felt alone at anytime.

Port Austin Shoreline On Lake Huron

Port Austin Shoreline

Lake Huron Shoreline Rocks

Lake Huron Shoreline Rocks

Port Austin Sunset Over Lake Huron

Port Austin Sunset Over Lake Huron

Greenland Build 2011 Launch Party – Start Kayaking The Huron

Well the Greenland Kayak build is officially over for 2011, now is the time to get the kayaks into the water and start kayaking. We took a paddle from Portage Lake to Zukey Lake Tavern and back on the Huron River chain. What made this more difficult is the water was just at flood stage being at record highs the past week, so the current was strong going up to Zukey. How high the water had been was obvious. I think I remember there were 11 kayakers making the trip, some were new to kayaking and they did fine. It helps having more experienced kayakers to provide guidance and tips.

My kayak was paddled over to Portage lake, a 30 minute trip, but I found out it was not yet tuned right for a longer paddle, so I opted to take one of my other kayaks for the trip. All the other new Greenland boats did fine, looked good in the water. We had some pitchers at the Tavern, and returned back to portage for a BBQ and of course more beer. It was a very hot day over 85 degrees and very humid. I went through two water bottles on the way there and drank lots of water in addition to the beer at the Tavern. Lots of water was poured over my head on the way there to keep cool, clearly one of the hottest days yet of the spring, hotter ones followed during the week after the party. It felt like summer so everyone enjoyed the heat.

You will see in the video our fearless leader Gerry, cooled off with a roll, also showing off his kayak skills. A great group of people made the build and lots of good friends joined the party. Unfortunately some people were out of town for the event, we will have to schedule another event to get them out and paddling. The summer is just getting underway. Lots of time to start kayaking.

Anyone from the party or otherwise have a comment to make, please do so, I love comments – so does Google…

Greenland Boat Hits The Water

We had three Greenland boats on Little Portage, two were virgins, first time in the water to Start Kayaking. The later level was higher than I have ever experienced it.  We had to walk in water to get to the dock.  Getting in the Greenland boat was a little tricky, but with a dock it was easy putting the paddle behind you for stability.

We paddled down to the dam, the current was very strong going under McGregor bridge, Bill was going to checkout the portage next to the dam but decided against it due to the current.  Later in the day there was yellow caution tape across the entire river to keep you away from the dam completely including the portage.

The more we paddled the better the Greenland boat felt, it is very light and accelerates quickly.  I did not have a back rest yet so I was pretty uncomfortable due to that issue, had a sore back afterwards for days.  I have a back rest now that appears to work well.  Also found a spray skirt on sale at the Kayak Corral for the small cockpit.

Greenland Boats

Greenland Boats

Start Kayaking

Greenlands Ready For Water

Greenland Kayaks

Getting Ready

Putting In

Putting In

Greenland Launched

Greenland Launched

Greenland Exit Technique

Greenland Exit Technique

Loading up vehicles for transport home after the paddle, no flips, no problems, a very good first paddle for two of the Greenland Kayaks.

Greenland Kayak Carriers

Greenland Kayak Carriers

How was your first Greenland launch experience?

Spring Kayaking – Start Kayaking

Hey the waters high, the temperature warm, time to start kayaking if you have been thinking about it.  I paddled early Saturday morning and it was very relaxing and peaceful.  The power boats are not out in force yet, many wait till after the Memorial Day holiday or until schools out before they get onto the water.  So get out there and enjoy while it’s calmer.  I got a good workout and preparing for my 2 hour paddle to Zukey Lake Tavern the first weekend in June – the Greenland Kayak Launch Party.

Finally it was warm and not raining to get the final coating on my Greenland Kayak, it’s ready for the water now – hitting the water this week to do a check out and set-up paddle.

Getting Ready To Start Kayaking My Greenland Boat

I have four coats of Dura Tuff polyurethane coating on my Greenland kayak, I’m not happy with the look so wanted to add one last coat.  Unfortunately Michigan weather in the last week has been less than optimum to put on the coating outside.  Then once the last coat cures,  the fun begins to get the boat in the water and tweak it in, getting the seat position right.  There is a celebration paddle coming up in a few weeks  (June 4) and I have to get used to the new boat fist.

I have already kluged up a storage position in the garage.  Mounted the Greenland kayak it in front of another boat, the kayak is so light it is easy to lift into position by myself.  I still have one boat yet to get up off the floor – 5 kayaks in the garage so far.  One plastic kayak to get properly stored, I bought a pulley  system to mount it on the ceiling.

Kayak Garage Storage

Kayak Garage Storage - Four Boats Here On The Wall

Greenland Kayak Build Ends Abruptly

Well our Greenland Kayak build is officially done for this year as the Livonia warehouse lease expires.  There was a flurry of activity in the last week to get as much done as possible before the move out.  A few of the people that were behind in schedule came on strong and got skin on their boats before the group broke up.  Three of the boats got to the sealing stage before going home.  Last Saturday was spent cleaning and moving.  Dates for the paddle party were thrown out for comment.

We had lots of wood left over, some bought by builders,  some saved for next year.  The rib stock was excellent this year.  There were lots of empties left over as well from the build process.  There is likely lots of money there in the Michigan bottle return fee.  Monies will be settled up later, the deposit and some insurance fees should come back.  We think we left the building cleaner than we found it.

Many people are putting on the final coats of poly at home.  I’m up to four coats myself, going for five coats total.  If you are just now catching the blog, go from the beginning 14 weeks ago.  Now is the time to start kayaking and enjoy the sport.

For most people there will be some adjustments to the boats to get them to be just right for paddling.  I am adding a seat and a back rest, foot peddles are a possibility.

Enjoy the below pictures of the final week and move out day.


Skinning the boat before time runs out

Two Greenland Boats Being Skinned

Skinners until the end

Greenland Coaming

Using the machines before they go

Coating The Skin

After a few coats of Dura Tuff Poly

Greenland Coaming Work

Greenland Coaming in Fabrication

Greenland Plug in

A new Kind Of Plug-in Hybrid

Greenland Kayak Going Home

Greenland Kayak Going Home

Kayak Locked and Ready to Roll

Locked and Ready to Roll - First Time On Rack

Greenland Kayak Cutting Tent

Cutting Tent coming down

Greenland Tools Being loaded

Moiving Out

Checking out the rack for the Geenland Kayak

Checking Out The New Rack

SOF Kayak

Finished Kayak Going Home

GreenLand Build Complete

Loading up all the stuff

Just like paddling - great technique

Just Like Paddling - Great Technique

Empty - Greenland Boats Gone

Getting Empty


Room for More?

Truck Packed

Moving to Beaverly

That’s it the build is over , building is empty and cleaned, many trucks full of stuff, two going to one garage, launch party being planned for June.  I’m putting on more coats of sealer until I’m happy with the coverage.  Rack built in the Garage for the new arrival, now there are five kayaks in the garage, six boats total if you count the Zodiac.  I don’t like boats as you can tell.  CraigCat in the water already on the boat lift.  Let the summer begin, lets start kayaking.

Enjoy the series, or not? Let me know by making a comment.

Greenland Kayaking Building Week 13

Getting close to the end of the Greenland kayak building session, now up to week 13 and the end of April.  Many of the boats are getting their skin sewn on, skin dyed, and the first boat got a seal coat (one of three coats).  The pressure is this week to complete the kayaks as May 7th is the last day at the rented Warehouse in Livonia Michigan.

Two sewing techniques have been used.  One method is using two sash cords to wrap the skin (ballistic nylon) around tensioning the cords down the center of the kayak.  Then a “X” or cross stitch is used to bring the two seams together.  This makes for a very nice seam if done correctly and kept straight.

Basting the Cord

Basting the Cord

Cockpit Batten

Cockpit Batten X Stitch


Greenland Kayak X-Stitch

Finished Greenland Stern

Finished Greenland Stern

It does appear this X stitch is a slower technique than the one shown in videos on SkinBoat.org web site.  The other technique using a batten to use as a reference to keep the seam straight and uses two stitches to close the gap.

Dyes were ordered from Skin Boat; amber, copper, and gray.  The copper looks red at the moment prior to sealing.  The dye operation is tricky as it is difficult to get a consistent color in the nylon along with the shrinking operation.  The dye was applied with a rag rubbing it into the surface.  The dye first dissolved in hot water with 10-15% vinegar added to the liquid.

To shrink the skin after the dye is applied, an iron at full heat is pressed on the top surface.  Care must be taken that any wood under the skin is not heated with the iron as it changes the color of the dye/skin.  A heat gun was also used for the shrinking operation.  I discovered that the saw horse holding the kayak after dying left a color mark, so others should take care to minimize the contact surface while the dye is drying.

I put the first sealer coat on my boat using a polyurethane called Dura Tuff.  It is a nasty operation requiring 65 to 70 degrees and lots of ventilation.  The material gets very sticky by the end of the coating operation.  Care must be taken to keep it off your hands and not breath the vapors.

Next week will be the last blog of this Kayak building series, please let me know if you enjoyed it by leaving a comment.

The Southeast Michigan Kayak Builders (SEMKB) group will be looking for people to build next year.  I recommend adding about two weeks to the length of the build, starting earlier in January.  The group is also loosely known as “Skirts and Skins.”

Again, let me have some comments about the series.  Bored?  Like it? or Hate it?

Sewing the Skin

First Stitch Done

Other Sew Technique

Cross Stitch Technique

Greenland Sewing Complete

Greenland Boat Complete Ready for Dye and Sealing

Shrinking After Dye

Drying and Shrinking Skin After Dye

Post Dye

Post Dye

Dye Day Afternoon

Dye Day Afternoon

Wood Canoe

Wood Strip Built Canoe Ready To Go

Canoe Going Home

Wood Canoe Going Home

Canoe Leaving

Canoe Leaving

Easter Weekend Greenland Kayak Building – Week 12

The Greenland style kayak “skin on frame” building is now about cutting and sewing the skin.  Four boats are getting skinned a fifth is ready for next week.  The sewing is a learn as you go process, we are using the method shown on the Skin Boat Site. There are several methods to sew, this one shown on the skin boat site appears to be quicker and easier to keep the line straight and get the skin tight.

Start Of Skin

Start Of Skin - Greenland Kayak

First the skin is laid over the Greenland kayak frame, folded over and creased. Then skin placed back on the boat with the crease on the keelson.  A clamp is added to hold the skin in place.

Sewing The Ends

Sewing The Ends

Next the front is stitched, four inched measured back on the stern and marked, bow taken over stern stitched at the line, taken off, bow put back on and the stern is pulled and stretched over the stern.

Pinning and Cutting


Push pins are used to keep the bottom tight, skin pulled tight and pins added to keep the skin stretched and wrinkle free. This is done on both sides the entire length of the boat.

Cutting Skin

Cutting Skin

Excess material is removed with a soldering iron to cut and fuse the skin, a smelly operation unless you like burnt nylon. The material left is 4 inches beyond the center batten. The batten is added to be a guide to keep the sew line straight, then pulled out later. Starting the knot on the port side the stitches are made one have inch intervals starting at the center of the batten and at the starboard side edge of the batten, pulling the sinew thread tight after each stitch.

I am not very good at sewing, stuck my finger with the needle several times,  many band aids to keep the blood off the skin,  lost track of which stitch I was doing and had to pull it back out more times than I want to admit.  Think I have the hang of it after sewing the front deck.

Bow and Stern Sewn

Greenland Kayak Bow and Stern Sewn

First Stitch Complete

First Stitch Complete

The excess is cut again to be ready for the final finish stitch folding over the two material ends and hiding the port side stitch.

Cutting The Excess

Cutting The Excess

Canoe Build

Wood Strip Canoe Build

Canoe Strip Build

Canoe Strip Build

Sanding the Canoe

Sanding the Canoe

Almost ready to start kayaking, when are you getting in the water again?