too late now

With only a few days to go to the HCC, I did a final training paddle last night.

After much effort over the last several month’s trying to get my seating all sorted out on the new boat, and finally getting the comfort all sorted out literally a month ago, I had to bite the bullet and concede that I simply did not have enough time or even any Night paddles under my belt to go for it.

So, Sunday morning, I did a few checks on the old boat and discovered that the Rudder cable I didn’t snap during the RPM was literally hanging together – only 3 strands of wire in the rudder cable were left intact!. So a few hours cutting the cables out, fitting the Dynema rope and adjusting saw it all back together.

Unfortunately, this meant I didn’t get out on Sunday, so that left Monday evening.  Conditions were not great (again) with 20-30km/h winds, but in Ol’faithful, I hardly noticed.

I put in a 2 hour paddle, 16.7km, at a tad over 8.3km/h.  Not as fast as the new boat, but never any concern about coming out either.  I certainly realized within a few minutes the limitations I have been working with for the last few years – and yes, I really did miss the extra deck-height for the leg drive – and also missed the full foot-plate to actually get the leg drive.  This is something that I will be addressing and retro-fitting a full foot-plate!

This was the first time I had paddled my old boat since the RPM and whilst it is very comfortable, after paddling the new one, it was immediately obvious as to all of the reasons why I wanted another boat to remove the shortcomings.  Yes, the lack of room for leg drive, the lack of a decent support (full foot plate) to achievie the leg drive, the very wide deck making the catch difficult (read needing quite a long paddle) and finally the hull design being a big limitation – the maximum hull-speed I could achieve was 10km/h for a very short burst but only with a 30km/h wind gust from behind!

With nowhere near the preparation that I wanted, I will have to be content with a fairly slow trip down the river, knowing that now I have the seating/comfort sorted out I can keep working on improving my technique and becoming comfortable and confident in more varied conditions.  There is always next year, and the upside, I now have a full year to really get stuck into getting to know a new boat!

Knowing that I am literally limited to a slow trip, I have been able to finalize my Race plan, and all being well, I expect to do it in around 14.5hours total, a 4pm start and finish just after 06:30am

Seating – nearly there

Well after continuing to try a few different things over the last couple of outings with a little bit of success the previous outing, again I tried several different things.

First off, last week, I tried a high back-strap and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was – it eliminated one of the issues I was having.  This strap is literally a bit of 30mm webbing, some rubber tubing slipped over it and a quick release clip that goes around you and slips over the cockpit coming at the front – you have something to lean back into.  Whilst it provided the required support, it was only partially successful in so much as the cockpit coming is quite small, and it kept slipping off.  If I was to use this as a long-term solution it would require a pair of saddles be mounted on the deck to hold it in position.  This would then become a little unruly in the event of a capsize – it would potentially be something that tied me to the boat, so hence the need to look again.

This week, I decided to try my original 40mm thick closed cell foam that I got for the bottom of the boat that proved to be way too much and too high for such a narrow boat and use it in a different way.  I actually put this in front of my original back band and thus spread out the vertical support behind me.

To my surprise, I found that it seemed to work quite well.  It like last week addressed one of the issues I was having, so a step in the right direction.

With this in place, I needed to keep making some minor positional adjustments as well.

Again, after about 30 minutes I was getting a numb leg, again, looked at my seat to see what I could change.  This time, I removed some of my padding.  I took out my bean bag from between the foam and the lambswool.  The bean bag was the saviour on my other boat – it was what finally got me into the comfort zone.  It was interesting to note that this time, it proved to be the hindrance.

So, tried again and found that things were improving to the point where I finally feel comfortable.  There is 1 last things that I will do and that is dto double-up on my sheepskins next week, and to also add a very small foam under my heels.  So, yes, starting to get down to the 1% items to get me as comfortable as possible for as long as possible in the boat!

The other un-expected result of the tiny changes to the seating were that I was also able to play with the paddle length – I was able to shorten it by a massive 3cm.  This moved my paddling from my arms back into the core.  Now I have to re-mark my paddle with my hand positions!

Conditions were what I would call pretty good, but not perfect with around a 20km/h wind – and coming from a 45deg to me no matter where I was paddling.  Always good to be in some conditions that are a little bit difficult to keep you on your toes!


So, a plot from the GPS is in order.  Yes, a lot of stop/start on here – did a lot of changes to the seat and foot positions in my attempt to get everything just right.

The good news was that when I was moving, there was only a little bit where I was not exceeding the 9km/h average – which I have not seen since the first week of being in this boat, so some real progress is being made.

So, at the moment, I have less than 5 weeks to go, and til have a few more things to sort out before I decide if I think I can tackle the 111km in this boat or pike out and go back to old faithful!

I grabbed a couple of quick snaps with my phone camera so I could see how it looked before stripping the non-permanent parts out when packing up.  Quality of the phots is not the best, but at least they show the main things.


Above – the lambswool seat and foam back rest.


The foam base, with the lambswool removed.


The back rest without the foam, and the foam base.

It was really good to actually get everything so it was comfortable, and I’ll continue adding or subtracting components until I get it where I need to be.

Now I am where I am, I will look at getting some night paddles in – and see how I go.

It just goes to show, don’t give up or even dismiss taking a radically different approach to what you have been doing and even what was working for me in another boat.

Inaugural Murray Downwind

Well, with the Christmas Race clashing with Exams, and over the last several years copping a horrid headwind, we decided to move the event and also move the location for the Social Marathon on our calendar.  Well, we picked the middle of August – because it didn’t clash with anything, and usually the wind is not too bad.

We also picked a nice 24km section of the river where we could run the event in either direction depending on the predicted wind direction.   Both ends have reasonable Parks, Facilities and BBQ’s – The Locations are – The Long Island Reserve at Murray Bridge and the Woodlane Reserve at Woodlane.

It was a great plan, but in the end we only had a few entrants by the cut-off date so we made an executive decision to make it a social event – cancelled our safety boat and got paddlers to “buddy up” then paddle the distance and share a BBQ lunch at the other end, as all the paddlers who nominated are quite experienced.

Then the weather reports also predicted we would have some wind as well, and the direction dictated that we should head upstream.  As it turned out, the wind was quite strong – between 20 and up to over 35km/h, probably gusting up to 40+ but at least it was at our backs the whole way.

Given that there is now only 10 weeks left until the HCC, I took my new boat and decided to give it a crack, after having paddled it only 3 times in Westlakes and doing only about 30km in total in it.

We all met up for a 10am start.  A couple of slower paddlers left a bit early, and the rest of us went past them around the 6km mark.  Yeah, it was a bit windy, so I was a tad cautious, taking my time somewhat.  Around the 10km mark, the wind was pretty strong, with a decent wind-swell on the river – some of the bigger wavers we well over 0.5m, then to add insult to this, a fishing boat flew downstream adding about another 0.5m of wash to this from the side – like sitting inside a washing machine!

As my spray deck had not arrived, I was paddling an open cockpit and took on a bit of water.   We found a convenient semi-protected shoreline and pulled in for a few minutes so I could empty the excess water out of my boat before we headed back onto the river.

We were going along OK, the wind was dropping a little and the wind-chop was not as bad.  The 2 others paddling with me were just that tad faster than me and got away from me – I just couldn’t keep up!

All was going quite well, until at 20.3km from the start, when I was leaning back a little to adjust my seat, with the paddle in the water taking a stroke on the left, I suddenly found out how cold the Murray is in the middle of winter! Yep, and unexpected wave knocked me over – happened very quickly!

So, making sure I held onto my paddle (Andrew, I do need to get my spare paddle-leash back from you!) and boat, after the initial shock, I grabbed my pealess whistle (attached to my PFD) and started making some noise, in the hope that the other’s who were ahead of me and down wind would hear me and come back.  No such luck – they were probably about 1km ahead of me at this time.

I was almost in the middle of the river where this happened,  so slowly I made made my way towards the willow covered bank.  I could not get anywhere near the bank, but did manage to find a submerged willow to stand on with water up to my mid thigh level.  It took me around 10-15 minutes to get to the edge and at least get 1/2 out of the water and semi-protected from the wind among the willows.

Fortunately, I had decided before setting off to put my rubber paddling pants on – and about this time with the river only around the very low teens in temperature I was pretty thankful!

I knew that there were still the 2 slower paddlers behind me and a few minutes later, I could hear them coming, I kept blowing my whistle, but they were upwind and had already spotted the boat sticking out from the willows.

With their assistance, I was able to get most of the water out of my boat, maneuver myself a little bit more along the submerged willow and get back into the boat, and finally paddle out into the River again – and as I found out later, nearly 30 minutes after taking a swim!

The cold was unbelievable! as soon as we started paddling, I noticed that I was totally exhausted after being in the water.  We kept going looking for a convenient place where we might be able to pull into the bank so I could empty the rest of the water – as having several liters of water slopping around in the bottom of the boat does not make for a stable platform in my condition!

We spotted a likely bit of bank only to find that the water was very deep – so had to keep moving.   We noticed the bank opening up around 500m ahead thinking that would do – and yes, it did – we were at the end!

I got a hand out of the boat, and dried off and donned some warm clothes whilst waiting for the BBQ to finish cooking.

Even though, I had my first swimming lesson from my new boat, I was actually pretty happy with the day out.   For 1, I now have paddled in some pretty horrid conditions and actually done OK with it (up until 20.3km mark).   I still need to work out exactly what is not right with my seat, but the changes I had made are getting closer – at least I was able to sit and paddle for nearly 3 hours (sans the 8 minutes of emptying water at the 12km mark).

Yep, I even discovered that I do not have any chance of doing a re-entry in this boat.

There were 2 positives to this capsize – even though I was in the water for quite a long time.

  • There was nobody around with a camera to remind me 🙂
  • We took reasonable safety precautions in our paddling – PFD, and having other paddlers not too far away to assist in case someone got into trouble.


Yeah, not so fast, but given the conditions, I was pretty happy with it for the most part.  I was sitting around the 8km/h mark until bad things happened, then a tad slower being very careful for the remaining 2km.

Murray Downwind Map


You can see on the Map the 2 spots where I stopped, and the yellow dot at the end.

Now, I know how to fall out and know that it can happen very quickly, I just have to concentrate a little more next time 🙂


New Boat…

Finally, After having arranged for delivery of my new boat with one of the other entrants to the RPM, and being crook then having nothing but really crap weather for the last month I was finally able to get my New boat out on the water.

First off — it looks great!


My aim was simply to get it into the water and determine my seating position as well as try and sort out what I need to do to make it comfortable for me.

And it floats!_IGP5706-4

And I didn’t fall out!


It Sits quite nice on the water – fairly low, so unlikely to have any real issues with wind._IGP5743-41 It might be 22″ wide, but it looks narrow underneath me – and hence the need for a custom boat!_IGP5773-71 (1)

Yep, Still looking good _IGP5817-110And the best part… Even with the dodgy temporary seat….

speed_plot_20140706Did a short (2..4km) paddle down to the footbridge – into the wind (about 20km/h) and then with the wind behind me.

All things considered, being the first time I paddled this boat, that is 130mm narrower than my other boat, a temporary and very uncomfortable seat, a paddle that is not quite the right length, I still managed to see a decent turn of speed!

Put up a few more pictures in my Gallery as well.

Now, to get to work and do the little finishing touches – mount the GPS, add the cleat for the rudder cable and of course, Sort out the seat so I can sit in it for more than 30 minutes without the dreaded numb bum and legs.

If you are looking for a new boat – be it one of his already proven designs or a custom boat, then be sure to check out what Greg @  Sladecraft has – you will not be disappointed!


With just a few days until the RPM, the HCC entries have opened.

Well, I have put in my entry already, because if I wait until next week, the motivation might be down just a bit for a few weeks.

If you are not doing it yourself, then get behind the event and sponsor a paddler – well not just ANY paddler – sponsor me!