It’s time for the first installment of what I think will be a recurring theme of this blog.
Welcome to installment #1 of “Random Thoughts from my Kayak.”
I headed out this afternoon in my Nelo 510 to get in my first paddling miles of November. The weather was a chilly 45 degrees F but it was a sunny day with no wind. I wore my 1/2 wetsuit and it was plenty good but at the end of my paddle when the sun went down behind the trees, my feet and fingers got chilly.
Now on to my random thoughts:
- The Nelo 510 is not a good Fall/Winter training boat for flat water. In fact, no ski really is. The nature of the beast is you will always get water in the bucket area of a ski and once the feet and the butt get wet and cold, things become a bit uncomfortable. Add to that the fact that the bow of the Nelo 510 collects leaves like a Hoover vacuum cleaner and you’ve got a recipe for a less-than-optimum Fall workout. While the water display on the front of the boat when a leaf gets stuck is quite spectacular, akin to the fountains at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, the excitement wears off quickly once you realize how much the dazzling water display is costing you in terms of speed and efficiency. I perfected a technique of quickly slamming my torso straight back while pulling on my legs to lift the bow out of the water to clear leaves, but that saps additional energy. Therefore…
- There will always be room in the quiver of boats for a fully decked kayak for winter training. I’ll be back in my Thunderbolt-X and Cobra Viper for the rest of the winter. I like keeping my feet and butt dry and they seem to collect less leaves because their bows are much sharper.
- I tested out a new fitness watch that a company sent me for free in exchange for a review. The iWownFit P1 has built-in GPS and actually counts paddle strokes as steps! A full review of that watch will be forthcoming, but it appears to be a credible offering for kayaking.
- I wore the Amazfit Bip fitness tracker on my right wrist. Its GPS locks onto satellites quicker than the iWownFit and strangely, it counted paddle strokes as steps on my right wrist when it did not count them as strokes previously on my left wrist. Strange.
GPS tracks from the iWownFit P1 and the Amazfit Bip
5. Spotting an American Bald Eagle is always exciting. Always.
I had a customer who purchased my plans for the compact, DIY kayak ergometer reach out to me to ask if it is possible to use the computer from the Nordic Track to track time, speed, distance, etc.
He was not the first person to ask.
The short answer is absolutely yes!
The longer answer is I do not show you how to do this in my video plans since 1) It is relatively rare to find one of these devices with a still-working computer 2) The computer types vary greatly and 3) Many times the magnetic sensors are missing and even they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The Nordic Track computer mounted on my kayak ergometer, right in front of the flywheel, underneath my lower legs. I used Velcro to secure it to the main deck and I drilled an additional hole through the deck to run the wire from the underside.
To use the computer, you will need the magnet that is mounted on the flywheel shaft and the sensor for it.
Three types of the various magnet assemblies (that I’ve come across–there may be more) used on the original machine. The magnet is the silver cylinder mounted into the black sleeve and the sleeve was mounted on the shaft of the flywheel.
As you can see, some of these magnets were on a sleeve that clipped to the shaft and others were fully encased and more securely mounted on the shaft. It is not uncommon for the “clip on” type to be missing from these old machines.
Sometimes these sleeves will fit onto the shaft on the final kayak ergometer machine and sometimes they will not because there is not enough room between the flywheel and the side rail.
You might have to shorten the length of the black, plastic clip-on housing or remove the magnet entirely and glue it to the flywheel shaft. As far as I know, the magnet itself was always the same length and it will fit, but the sleeve that holds it might be too long.
The sensor is easy to identify as it will be mounted on the underside of the deck of the original ski machine, mounted very near where this magnet rotates, and have a wire running from it. It is typically mounted with 1 screw through its bracket.
Me holding the magnet next to the sensor (with the wire) on its original bracket
Once you mount the magnet onto the flywheel shaft, then it is a matter of figuring out a way to mount the sensor very near the rotating magnet so it senses it with each revolution of the flywheel. You might have to remove the sensor from the original bracket and get creative on how you mount it.
In my case, I removed the sensor from the bracket and hot glued it onto a nail that I pre-bent at a 90-degree angle so I could mount it.
Sensor mounted next to the magnet on the shaft of the device, photo taken from underneath. Notice the sensor is hot glued to a nail bent at 90-degrees and then driven into a small shim I attached to the inside of the side rail.
One more view of the mounted computer sensor from underneath the device
So as you can see, yes, the computer from the Nordic Track ski machine can be used on the ergometer, but there were so many variables and variations on the original equipment it was impossible to show you how to do this in the instructional video.
You might have to get a little creative, but the computer is worth the effort since it allows you to track time, speed and distance and maybe even heart rate if yours came with the heart rate sensor/clip that plugs into the computer.
# # #
Back to Massive Friday Night workouts as we ease our way back into bulking season.
Looking to analyze your wing paddle stroke but you don’t have a self-following drone or a friend with a power boat and video camera? Try this DIY kayak ergometer to analyze your stroke on land and indoors.
All it takes is a homemade ergometer and a video camera with tripod.
Learn more at: https://bit.ly/2t7m5Ew
I find this one interesting as I now weigh what I did 5 years ago, but my body composition is entirely different. Yes, I dropped a lot of weight and now got back up there in a very good and different way.
It is not about weight on a scale!
Last Saturday I paddled on our local Rivanna River at the highest level I’ve ever paddled it. The Palmyra gauge was somewhere between 3800 and 4000cfs when 3 paddling friends and I launched at 10am from just below the South Rivanna Reservoir.
I knew for sure the river had crested overnight and was dropping, so I felt confident at this level.
The rapids under the railroad trestle became standing waves that were Class II+ – Class III. I was paddling my Nelo 510 surfski in the most challenging conditions yet and I stayed upright the whole time. The bucket filled with water at least 3 times, though, and I learned to open the drain before entering a set of large rapids.
One of our members capsized in the largest of the rapids and her boat had very little buoyancy since there was no foam or flotation in it anywhere. This could have been a very serious situation but we rescued her and her boat, though getting it out of the water to drain it was a challenge with so much water in it.
We arrived at Riverview Park and then I paddled back upstream to Darden Towe Park where FLOW: The Arts of the Rivanna River Renaissance Festival was taking place. There were artists set up along the walkway along the river and there was a boat decorating contest.
It was most enjoyable and I think my favorite were the Earlysville Bluegrass Boys, 3 brothers who are very talented musicians. I wish I could have stayed and listened to them for hours.
I then paddled back down to Riverview Park with a few other paddlers with decorated boats and then joined the after-party at Rivanna River Company.
I came away concluding the Nelo 510 is probably the most versatile boat I’ve ever owned.
And this celebration of our local river is a wonderful event I hope continues. It sure came a long way since last year.
I recently caught up with Salli O’Donnell who earlier this year completed the Yukon 1000 Canoe Race, the longest canoe race in the world, with her teammate Paul Cox.
I simply asked her to share her experience with you.
“The hardest thing for me [is] to try to summarize not only 1000 miles of the most amazing stretch of nature I could ever want to explore, but how to include or exclude all the other facets that overwhelm ones senses during so.
After a long day of airports, planes, delays and lost baggage, we arrived at our hotel in the small mining town of Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory. It was not long before midnight on Thursday, July 19th and we were already exhausted. My paddle partner Paul Cox – who flew in from Atlanta, GA and I from Norfolk, VA – connected in Vancouver for the final flight into Whitehorse. We were about to embark on what is billed as ‘the longest canoe race in the world,’ the Yukon 1000.
Friday morning we met the Kevlar Seaward Passat that would be our home and ‘wheels’ for a good 8 days. This is a type of boat that neither Paul nor I had ever been in; we had a lot of ‘getting to know it’ to do!
After a few hours of deciding how and where all the gear, food and water we would need for this race would be configured, we took it on a 12-mile test ride. After discovering and fixing some major issues with rudder control (thank you Team Kiwis!), we felt a bit more comfortable. The rest of that day was spent gathering supplies and food for the race.
This is truly an unsupported race in that we must carry all we will need for the full extent. There are a few little pockets of civilization along the 1000 mile course but we are not allowed to take advantage of any of them unless we’ve an emergency, which also means we forfeit the race.
Saturday was full of boat adaptations, race and safety briefings, gear checks, satellite phone configs and tests (which were later sealed and only could be used in emergencies) and last minute purchases.
My favorite boat adaption was my footboard.
Being mostly a surfskier, the idea of having to use widespread foot pegs for 1000 miles was not thrilling. I searched the surrounding area until a found a decent plank of wood that would span the pegs, then I duct-taped closed cell foam pads to its base on either end – it made a fantastically strong and stable footboard for me to drive against.
Sunday morning the race began at 7am. The water on this part of the Yukon River is crystal clear and pleasantly cold (when it is hot out). Within the first mile, we settled into 3rd place and for the next 20 or so miles, we had a nice push from the river. Then came Lake Laberge, a 30+ mile stretch of open, slow and potentially choppy water but at the far end it necked back down to the river and we were cruising at 10 to 11 mph!
Unfortunately those speeds didn’t last too long but it sure was reinvigorating to have them and periodically over the next few hundred miles we would see them again.
Late in the afternoon, we came across the 2nd place team, Team Hobo Squad. They had stopped to get a bite to eat and were surprised to see us come by. They scrambled to get back in their boat and eventually caught up to us – they were definitely faster than us. We went back and forth a couple of times but by mandatory stop/camp time they were ahead of us.
As part of the race rules, we must stop and make camp for a minimum of 6 hours every day. The race managers said the beginning of this 6-hour stop must fall between 11pm and midnight, but they would allow a little leeway on either side of that hour. The Hobos stopped around 10:45 and, although they offered us to join them, we pushed on to find our own spot…and later wished we had accepted their offer!
About 30 minutes later – tired, wet and cold – we found our spot. Paul changed into dry camp clothes and I threw on a wind breaker. We unloaded our gear and set up camp. For safety, we had to position our food and water away from our boat and tents. In doing so, I noticed numerous moose tracks and bear prints, a skull and other bones, fur etc. I mentioned this to Paul and he, too, had come across some on the other side of his tent…we were NOT in a good place!
After looking around more, we realized we were in a ‘killing field’ (aka a good place for bear and moose to enjoy their supper) and knew we had to re-position. Aack, that night we learned a lot about properly scouting out our potential campsite before investing too much time and energy into it! Oddly, that first night was our most mentally challenging night as it seems from that point on our rationale appeared to be more intact.
For the next couple of days, we went back and forth with the Hobos because they occasionally took breaks to get out of their boat, we didn’t.
On the 2nd night, we camped with them on the same little island just past Fort Selkirk although they reached it first. It was on that 2nd day they asked if we ever stopped and, in retrospect, we should have lied and said that we did! They quickly adjusted their strategy and we did not see them again – or any other racer – until the morning of the 4th day.
By this point, the waters of the Yukon River had already been insulted by the confluence of the White River. Around Race Mile 364 (afternoon of Day 3), it was mesmerizing and sad to see the silty plumes of the merging White River obliterate the beautifully clear Yukon waters. From that point on, not only did we listen to the hissing of the silt as our boat glided along and our paddles dipped in but we had to find clear sources of drinking water to filter as the silt was so pervasively thick that it clogged Paul’s water filter in less than 2 seconds.
To make matters worse, we ran into our first of several fires at the White River confluence. Visibility was not good, smoke was thick, burnt flotsam everywhere, water now silty white and hissing – not my most favorite portion of the race.
Day 4’s anticipated highlights were passing Dawson City (Race Mile 440) and entering the United States (Race Mile 532). Dawson City is the race’s only supported drop out point. Up to then, we knew if we had any issues and needed to pull out of the race, as long as we could hobble to Dawson City, we’d be taken care of.
After seeing the Hobos off and on in the distance on the morning of Day 4, we stopped to filter some water at a clear creek just past Dawson; we did not see the Hobos again until that night. We paddled through another huge section of fires and smoke and finally crossed into Alaska, 11 miles farther we arrived at Eagle. It was within the mandatory stop window that we climbed up the steel stairs to Eagle, found the phone and called US Customs to announce our arrival into the United States. Not wanting to make camp there, we pushed off for the island across the way and came across the Hobo’s camp. They invited us and we joined them for a windy, windy few hours of rest.
Day 5 was full of fires, wind and rain. We thought we saw the Hobos late in the day (they confirmed they did see us) but that was the last glimpse of them until the finish. That night we found a comfy little place to camp, enjoyed taking in the beautiful surroundings, then tucked ourselves away for a nice little rest. Little did we know how dramatically different the next couple of days would be.
Up until this point, the Yukon River carves a path through mountains and bluffs but on the morning of Day 6 we hit Circle, AK (~Race Mile 700). For the next couple hundred miles the Yukon River meanders through an area referred to as ‘the flats.’ There are no mountains nor bluffs to slow down the winds and the river itself works its way around multitudes of islands and sloughs that are transformed annually by the spring’s ice movements. The river gets very wide, several miles wide, with competing currents that you had to fight against not to be taken down a path adding miles to your race.
Unfortunately, we did not read this section well and by the afternoon of Day 6, we were passed by Team Kokura and later by Team Independence Poland. We went back and forth with Poland and even camped together on the same little beach that night but since they arrived there first, they left there first the next morning. After that, we saw no one until our finish on Day 8.
By the way, we did see much wildlife along the way – eagles, moose, bears, beavers, links, and wolverines. There were 31 teams that applied for this race, 14 teams accepted and 13 teams completed it. At the finish, the race managers were there to greet us with a Yukon River chilled beer, a race T-shirt, a commemorative coin, pictures, interviews and assistance in unloading our gear.
The logistics they endured to put on this race for us was phenomenal and I only hope I can return and do it again.”
# # #