Monday, March 23, 2009

Quest for Fire

As I mentioned in previous posts, I am taking safety very serious and trying to plan for any eventuality, given that I am travelling in a very populated area I don’t think I have to worry about most of this stuff however, I would much rather know what to do in a situation should it occur.

I know how to start a campfire many different ways, I did grow up in north country after all but somehow I don’t think throw a bunch of gasoline on some wood and throw in a match is going to cut it if I happen to be stuck somewhere and need to create one quickly.

Recommendation is to bring at least 2 methods of creating a fire, I am bringing 3 and debated on a 4th but think that’s a little too over cautious.
· Bic Lighter
· Waterproof Matches
· Swedish FireSteel

The waterproof matches I stored in a waterproof matchbox, looks like lipstick container with an O-Ring to seal out water. I also put a striker inside as these matches are not self starting.

Swedish FireSteel has a huge cool factor. Plastic key with a metal rod (ferrocerium) that when you strike it, showers a blast of sparks around 3000-5000 Degrees Celsius. Enough to light a fire even in bad conditions and also works wet.

Also considered a Magnesium stick which essentially does the same thing, you scrape off little shavings (Magnesium isn’t combustible in solid form) and then light it with the provided striker flint. Even though the Magnesium stick is cheaper, $5 vs. $15 both are reasonable.

I read that the magnesium shavings are prone to the wind blowing them away and does take a little extra setup for scraping the shavings so went with the FireSteel as it seemed like less of a pain.

Essentially I’m lazy and if you need to start a fire you have to find Tinder to light it with, really don’t want to go scavenging around if I don’t have to, found a great little way to make your own that is cheap and will do the trick really well.

Take cotton balls (must be 100% cotton) then cover them liberally with Vaseline and then store them in a zip lock bag. If you light a cotton ball without Vaseline it goes up like paper, fast like in seconds and not very hot, not something you want to start a fire with. Vaseline is petroleum based so it burns nicely.

To use, split open a cotton ball to expose the part that doesn’t have Vaseline on it, light it with match or FireSteel and voila, burns for around a minute and very hot, plenty enough time to get the fire going. You can split the cotton ball in half and light 2 fires with one cotton ball. Added bonus is the longer you let the Vaseline set in the more waterproof it becomes.

I tried it out last night a few times with my FireSteel just to know how to use the thing and it works perfectly, first strike almost every time and no more than two. Don’t try this indoors kids nor without parental supervision, this thing throws a lot of hot sparks.

Good rules to know

Came across a couple of “rules” I thought were worthy of posting.

Rule of 3’s
· 3 minutes without oxygen or medical assistance
· 3 hours without shelter from the elements
· 3 days without water
· 3 weeks without food

Common sense but the point is, don’t drown, don’t get badly hurt, make sure you have shelter if you need it, drink 7x more than you eat but do both.

120 Degree Rule

Chances of hypothermia increases if the combination air temperature and water temperature is less than 120 degrees. I.e. Water 40 degrees, Air 70 degrees then total is 110 so there is still a good chance of hypothermia. Dress appropriately for weather conditions.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Initiation

Only one way to make this “trip plan” seem more like a reality, open up the wallet and lay down hard earned cash for things you wouldn’t buy otherwise.

I live close to Bass Pro in Vaughn Mills. I stopped in and got this party started, browsed around for about an hour first checking everything out. They have a good stock of various equipment and didn’t find the price much different than Coast Mountain Sports so that was comforting. Now just had to decide what to buy, took the approach to buy supplies in groups of similar items, i.e. safety, cooking, accommodations, etc… Today I went with cooking, something simple, unless of course you consider the 3,000 or so different items.

My goal was to purchase everything required to cook and eat with except for the stove itself as I’m still deciding which one I want. I was drawn to a cookware package called Bugaboo Camper, nice convenient package that contained everything and folded up nicely, pots, strainer, frying pan, cups, bowls, plates and nice little carry bag. For once impulse didn’t take over, the thing was a set for 4 and I’m just one so the extra has no use for me. Also a little bulkier than I would have liked seeing as I am going to be strapped for room, seemed like the right decision. I know they sell a backpacker version of this set but none in stock and I am not about to wait.

I went with a set from MSR called the Blacklite, comes with 2 pots, frying pan, lid and two pot holders, they also have these little absorbent cloths that sit between the pots for storage and second as dishcloths. About half the size and weight of the Bugaboo and didn’t contain as much, seemed good enough for me. I also needed a few other items to make a complete set and went with whatever I could fit into the Backlite pack so everything can be carried in one package, see, I’m thinking like a camper now.
· Plate
· Bowl
· Cup
· Utensils (Folding Knife/Fork/Spoon + case)
· Can Opener
· Mini Spatula

Here is a picture of everything packed up, the knife on the table is just a reference so you can gauge size, it stands about 5-6” high and has everything included in it.



Here is a picture of everything un-packed.



Cookware/Eatware/Utensils, Done.

Might add a small wooden spoon ;)

Window Shopping

I’ve spent so much time planning, reviewing articles and watching videos, thought it was about time to get my butt off the couch and make a trip to an outfitting store and check some of this stuff out for real.

I was going to a watch a buddies band play on St. Patricks day and had to drive by Coast Mountain Sports at Markville Mall in Unionville. As I was a little early, figured I would stop in and see what they had, was impressed with this store and selection, not everything was on display but seemed as though you could order whatever they didn’t have in stock.

I’m more of a “Hands On” type person and total impulse shopper, was difficult not to start buying stuff but figured it was the first outfitting store I’d been in so wait and compare another day, was cool to walk around and go, need it, need it, need it. Yup, I’m hooked so far.

Was a productive trip from one aspect, they had a number of polycarbonate (fancy name for plastic) recreational kayaks and I spent some time looking them over, realized a number of things that were just guesses up to this point and now have validation of sorts. They only had up to 14 foot kayaks and they looked like a canoe with a top on them with very little storage room, definitely going with 16-17 foot and plastic is out, just looks too fat, heavy and meant for what they are, paddle around for a day here and there. I’m sure there are high quality versions out there and no offence to anyone who has one, just not for me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Estimate

Figured it was about time to see how much this “little” trip is going to cost me. Seeing as I have zero equipment at this point, most of it I would term “get into the sport tax” and there is significant re-usability with most of what’s on the list, except for lock pass and perishable items like food.

First, compiled a detailed list of everything I could think of so far, my wish list if you will (post full detail later) didn’t put much thought into whether I actually needed it or could borrow from someone else, just wanted to know if I had to go out and buy all this stuff, what was I looking at? Using online camping stores I added the estimated cost of each item and typically went on the higher end of quality, you get what you pay for.

Total cost all in was ~$5k CAD. A little more than I expected but again, this was worst case scenario, lots of wiggle room. Went through and scaled down list to absolutely required items and some of the nice to haves, this brought cost down to around ~$3k. Figure total cost will end up somewhere around $3k which is still reasonable considering $1k is for kayak rental itself.

If I end up not enjoying this trip/sport, going to have a nice little garage sale come August.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Plan Complete

That pretty much covers off everything I could think of so far, I will continue to refine this plan over the coming months and looking forward to warmer weather now more than ever.

Push the Limit

I intend to watch weather forecasts religiously, any sign of questionable conditions and I will be parked safely on shore with nothing but ground under my feet.

Unfortunately, no amount of planning ahead can eliminate the possibility that conditions may change at any time. This is my biggest concern, having a nice day and boom, all of a sudden wind and large waves, KM away from shore, wind pushing me into more open unpredictable water, or worse yet, capsizing and not being able to rescue because I’ve never been in that situation before.

My last training task before the trip is to “push the limit”. The plan is to pick a day where the wind is blowing and the waves are crazy, and get out on Georgian Bay and see what it’s like. Specifically, how does the kayak react in waves, against the wind, with the wind, etc., I also plan on capsizing numerous times and practice rescue techniques in extremely bad conditions. My thought process being I want to know what to expect should it actually happen instead of being faced with the situation with zero experience. I will not be doing this alone, I’m not an idiot, I will have a spotter with me in a boat should assistance be required. Safety is my first concern.

I read a great article on estimating wave sizes. When you are in a regular boat, you are high above the water so it takes a very large wave to obscure the horizon. In a kayak, you are very low in the water, all it takes is a 2’ wave to obscure the horizon, a good technique to estimate wave size (yes I did this) sit on your kitchen floor and look at the top of the counter, it’s about 3’ high, now imagine that coming straight at you one after the other, now look at the fridge, it’s about 6’ high and you don’t want a 6 foot wave coming at you in any boat let alone a kayak.

Test Drive

In theory, at this point I should be comfortable enough to take the kayak out for my first solo trip.

The plan is to pick an extremely calm day and head out on Georgian Bay for the day to get my “sea legs”. I choose Georgian Bay because I’m familiar with the area and one less thing to worry about, there are many family and friends around with boats who can come get me if I screw up badly. Created a Google Map (on sidebar) for the intended practice route.

Prudence dictates that I should pack the kayak completely and make it an overnight trip, If I can’t stand doing a two day trip, I’m not going to be very happy after 15 days. Haven’t decided on this one yet, just want to put everything I learned into real practice and get a feel for it.

This is also my first opportunity to figure out how many km/hour I can do without overly exerting myself, I can then adjust my trip plan to accommodate.

Back to School

Ok, so I know where I’m going and what I’m taking with me, guess it’s time to put together a plan on learning how to use “The Coffin”, don’t worry, I haven’t lost sight of the fact that I’ve never done this and have almost no clue what I’m doing. I’ve watched hundreds of youtube videos on all the techniques so I have a general idea what I need to know however, not na├»ve enough to think I can just show up one sunny morning, throw everything into a kayak and set sail for 15 or more days armed solely with what I’ve watched on a computer. I’m going to need some instruction and training.

My plan is to spend a few weekends prior to the actual trip getting some real experience by someone who knows what they’re doing.

First Weekend will be focused on learning techniques required, this isn’t about going out for leisurely paddle and I don’t care if I move 30 feet away from the dock, I am going to practice these over and over until they sink in and become second nature, or as much as they can be over a single weekend.

What I need to learn quickly,

Entry - Tippy little things if you don’t do it right, first task is getting into that little cockpit without falling flat on my face every time, need to know how to beach launch, shallow water entry, how to get in off a dock.

Wet Exit – Something about being strapped into boat upside down under water and panicking because I don’t know how to get out. I do know this, don’t let go of paddle, rest against waist, put hands over and tap on the bottom of the kayak, this is to signal others that I need assistance to rescue (again that term) I will be by myself but figure might as well learn proper technique. Pull skirt strip forward, run hands around skirt to remove it then slide out. Remembering at all times to stay with boat and paddle.

Landing – Should be the reverse of getting in the thing in the first place, still need to practice it though, also need to practice getting the kayak up on shore and secured properly. Especially over rocks, never know where I’m going to need to land.

Self Rescue Techniques – I see this as the most important thing I need to learn, how to get back into this kayak in open water when I do capsize, notice I said “do” not “if”, hope for the best, plan for the worst. There are many ways of doing this and I’ve watched them all, I plan trying them all and learning a couple that work really well for me and practice over and over so that I’m comfortable with both equally.

Paddle Technique – I’ve paddled many a canoe, I know most of the strokes and I’m not really worried about this one, I do want to learn proper paddle technique to reduce the fatigue factor but I figure after a day on the water I’m going to pretty much know the basics.

Bracing – The whole point of learning proper bracing techniques is so I can prevent having to do the whole self rescue thing in the first place. Plan to learn low brace, high brace and sculling.

Rolls – As with the bracing, why have to do a wet exit and self rescue if I can just flip the thing back over and keep going. It also sounds like fun as long as I don’t have to do it with 3 foot waves coming at me. I also plan to try and learn how to do it without the paddle just in case.

Want to use a kayak as close to what I’m taking as possible and this is also
a good opportunity to hopefully try different ones so I can better choose which one suits me best. Initially I plan on practicing with an empty kayak but at some point prior to the trip I am going to load it up and do it all again, fully loaded kayak behaves differently than an empty one.

I don’t want any surprises I’m not prepared for, or at a minimum ones that I could think of before being out there.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Gear

I still have no idea how you are suppose to fit all this stuff in a kayak, oh well, it seems you can if you pack it right, which I gather is appropriately placing the heavy stuff for balance and then stuffing everything else where it can fit without throwing off the balance. Only way to know for sure is to actually pack it up and see.

Until I know otherwise, this is my running list of items. The pain seems to be you have to unpack this stuff every day and then pack it up again in the morning, oh well. Once I know what can fit, I will create a specific packing list, everything has a place and I hear you don’t want to go searching a different place every day.

CAMPING GEAR

Tent
Ground Sheet
Sleeping Bag
Sleeping Pad
Folding Chair
Mini Table – First to go if no room
Waterproof Lighter/Matches
Fire Starter
Lantern
Compact Stove
Stove Fuel
Cookware/Plates/Utensils
Garbage Bags
Waterproof Dry Bags

WATER

Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink. July heat, need to bring enough clean water, doesn’t need to last the whole trip at there are many places to fill up, want to store at least 3 days worth and will bring water purifier/filter as backup. Will also have a water bottle handy, this is where I hope the day hatch comes in handy for accessibility to more water. Do not want to get dehydrated.

PERSONAL ITEMS

Toothbrush/toothpaste/Floss
Deodorant
Biodegradable Soap/ Shampoo
Toilet Paper
Towel
Razor
Advil
Lip Balm
Bug Repellant
Sunscreen
Log Book to document trip

FOOD & CLOTHING

Haven’t given much thought to this yet, obviously I will be needing some, how much and what specifically, remains to be seen.

Electronic Equipment

I’m a geek at heart, not that ready to be one with nature. This is a list of electronic equipment I will be bringing along on my trip. Dry bags or special waterproof cases will be used to protect from the elements where needed.

IPOD – I am spending a lot of time alone, having a little music is almost a must, otherwise, I am going to start talking to myself. H20Audio has a great line of waterproof earphones and protective cases, link on sidebar.

Blackberry – yes I said it, will turn off email and bringing this for three reasons, first I need some method of communication when I get to my final destination, second, I plan on updating this blog throughout the trip and don’t feel like searching out internet access. Last, safety, if I am crossing a big lake like Simcoe I want to call in to a friend with an expected time to call back, if they don’t hear from me then something has gone wrong.

Camera – Plan on taking lots of pictures and don’t want to deal with developing so bringing my digital.

Waterproof Video Camera – I have one, might as well put it to use, link on sidebar.

Solar Charger - Last check electrical outlets are a commodity out on the water, link on sidebar.

Safety Equipment

Still trying to figure out how you are suppose to pack all this stuff, plus camping equipment, food, clothing and water in that little boat. Here is my list of safety equipment, some of this mandated by Canadian Law, like that would make a difference to me, remember that rule, if you don’t bring it, you will need it.

PFD (Personal Floatation Device) - We used to call these things lifejackets, I will be wearing this. Not only for the safety factor but plan on getting one with lots of pockets so I have somewhere to store half this stuff.

Spare Paddle - Don’t want to be caught out in the middle of a lake with a broken paddle, this one will be a two part paddle which will store under the deck rigging. Recommended placement seems to be on the back deck.

Paddle Float - Little inflatable lifejacket for you paddle, that or used to stabilize the boat to make it easier to get back in if you fall out.

Bilge Pump – If you flit these things over they fill up with water, need a way to quickly get the water out when required.

Sponge – Took me a second to figure out why you need a sponge, what? I have to clean this thing a lot? Turns out they absorb water pretty good and useful for getting water out of the kayak that the bilge pump couldn’t. Somebody was thinking.

Paddle Leash – Connects you to the paddle so you don’t lose it, number one rule, stay with paddle and boat. Pretty sure I’m going to drop this thing a couple of times.

Throw Bag – Rope, never leave home without it.

Duct Tape – You can use this stuff for anything.

Charts/Compass/GPS – Need to know where I’m going.

First Aid Kit – Self Explanatory.

Handheld VHF – Emergencies and provides weather updates, stored in PFD

Skeg Cable – Everybody says these things break frequently, so bring a spare.

Kayak Repair Kit – Remember those rocks I mentioned” they don’t mix with fiberglass.

Flares – Handheld, stored in PFD.

Strobe - Can you see me yet? Attached to PFD

Whistle fox 40 – Noisemakers, cool, whistle needs to be pea less, they don’t work wet. Attached to PFD.

Headlamp – In case I get stuck out at night, also provides hands free lighting at camp.

Waterproof Flashlight – Get’s dark at night.

Ditch Bag – This is a dry bag that is accessible quickly just in case I have to abandon ship. Contains essential survival stuff like waterproof matches, dry clothes, energy bars, sheet for warming, mini first aid kit, etc.. May be some other stuff, haven’t put together a complete list on this yet and will update once I do.

Multi-tool Knife - Never know when you need one

Lodging

The plan is to camp out every night, this should not be too much of an issue as each lock allows boaters to camp as well, hopefully there will be room for little ole me. I have a few months to work out alternative camping spots (next research task) again, hope for the best, plan for the worst. Might be a worth alternative to 3 foot docks.

Not against staying in a lodge or hotel every now and again, I can think of worse things than hot shower, warm meal, good drink and a warm bed followed by a leisure day at some lakeside resort, especially if the weather turns crap. Will play by ear and see where the wind takes me, hopefully not literally.

Almost forgot, you need a lock pass to use the Locks and I’m not into the portage thing, they are inexpensive and full pricing is on the Parks Canada website (see sidebar)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Navigation

Getting into a kayak, turning on the GPS and saying to myself “ok, little magic box, which way do I go?” just doesn’t sound very adventurous. I plan on navigating this trip the old fashion way, ok semi-old fashioned, chart and compass. One of the few things so far I generally know how to do, something I don’t have to learn from scratch. Yippee. I did pick up a great book called Kayak Navigation (see sidebar) and it’s really good.

I will be bringing a handheld GPS for two reasons, first it does a really good job of tracking where I’ve been, speed, route, etc and while I plan on keeping a manual log, having this electronically stored will help in case it becomes a hassle. More importantly, it’s a safety issue, if you don’t bring it you will need it, there is rule about that somewhere. I have been caught in dense fog on a lake before on a snowmobile, it isn’t fun and one of the scariest situations I have been in. I don’t plan on going out into fog but who knows what can happen when you are out there. In this situation, GPS will defintely be coming out.

Why Solo?

There is no real reason why I’m doing this solo, just haven’t asked anybody or know anyone that would be interested, that may change before the actual date and I welcome the company.

First thing, which was repeated over and over in almost every article I read, don’t go out alone, comforting isn’t it? Any sport/activity caries some level of risk, instead of shying away from it, understand the dangers and prepare for them as much as you can. It’s not like I am out with sharks in remote secluded area, this is the trent severn waterway in the height of summer season and a million boaters around, which may be the real danger.

There were many articles with people who have chosen to kayak solo as well, one lady circled PEI, another circled New Zealand, guys circling Vancouver Island and if you are looking for something to read pick up the book “Paddle to the Amazon” father/son, 12,000 miles, I read that years ago and it was a great story, might have to re-read myself, I digress...

There are four main challenges I can think of with doing this by myself.

Safety

This is the big one, I’m out there alone so if anything does go wrong I have to figure it out and deal with it by myself. My only real concern is capsizing in stormy weather and not being able to “self rescue” still find it comical that they call getting back into kayak from the water a “RESCUE” oh ominous. I will be doing separate posts on how I am going to prepare for this.

Storage

I still have no idea how much stuff you can pack into a kayak, when you read different articles I get the impression you can pack a lot of stuff if done correctly. Will have to play that one by ear and wait till I get my hands on one to try it out. What I do know is that I have to pack everything I need which means I have to be more selective on what I bring. If there was another kayak you can spread things around, I carry stove and someone else doesn’t have to and can carry something else. I will be doing separate posts on what I’m bringing and how I’m going to pack it all. The good news is that there are many towns along the way so I can always stock up along the way.

Logistics

I’ve read that the Trent lock system is not overly “friendly” for kayaks, picture scenario. Pull into a lock for the night and want to setup camp, first I have to get out of the kayak, difficult on a dock right beside you at waist level, a lot of the locks have cement walls three feet high, sure that will be fun, if there is space at all given middle of summer boat season. Then I have to figure out how to get everything out of the kayak onto shore from 3 feet down, then figure out how to get the kayak secured for the night, then do it all in reverse the next day and every night thereafter. When I think about the Port Severn Lock there isn’t anywhere to pull up on shore without going over rocks and I hear kayaks don’t like rock. With another person you can team up for this stuff. Don’t really want to rely on the grace of strangers so still trying to figure this one out.

Company

Sure I will meet many nice people on my travels, however, I will be spending a significant amount of time alone paddling by myself, doesn’t really bother me but having company would help pass the time, at least I don’t have to argue with anyone about where to go and what to do, that’s a bonus, see bright side to everything.

"The Coffin"

I read somewhere you have to name your kayak, nothing has really stood out as of yet so temporarily I christen thee “The Coffin”, how’s that for a morbid thought, let’s face it, these things do somewhat resemble a coffin. A more appropriate and less sinister name is forthcoming.

Who knew there are more options with kayaks than there are with cars. After reading review upon review, upon review, I have narrowed it down to the point where I have a general idea what I’m looking for. This is by no means a review of anything (newbie remember) and I’m sure the guy at the kayak store who has more experience than I do will set me straight.

Rent vs Buy? Easy decision, I’ve never done this and can’t justify spending 3-4k on something that I’m not even sure whether I’m going to enjoy or ever want to do again. Rental rates seem reasonable and should run in the 35-50 a day range. Second reason, after spending 15 days paddling, I should have good idea what I like and don’t like. If I want to purchase one after that then I have a better understanding of what I’m looking for. There is a kayak rental place called Swift Canoe/Kayak right where I’m starting, how’s that for convenience.

16-17’ Touring Kayak, anything below this would be more recreational and not have the cargo capacity/stability required for an extended trip, anything larger than that would be too much for novice paddler and the wind starts to be more of a factor.

I’ve read numerous articles debating the pros/cons of fiberglass vs kevlar/composite and they all contradict each other, sure fiberglass is a little heavier but does that really matter when I am packing 100+ pounds of gear into it? I don’t plan on portaging. Other than that, experts seem to go both ways on which one is more durable or perform any better than the other. I view it like golf clubs at this point, I’ve played with $200 set and $3000 set, the later was lighter, which made it easier for the golf cart and the $200 set hit the ball just as well even though they weren’t as sexy.

I’ve also read numerous arguments on the safety of Sit-in vs. Sit-On-Top, I know one thing with absolute certainty. I do not plan to spend 8 hours a day for 15 days being wet. Sit-In it is.

To hell with initial stability, I want something with good final stability, damn, almost sounds like I know what I’m talking about. Initial stability (from what I gather) means the thing is stable when you are sitting still, final stability is that it’s faster and more maneuverable when you are actually paddling. You can’t have both unfortunately, so while good initial stability is perfect for beginners, I think I will quickly pick it up and don’t plan on spending much time sitting still and I have great balance. I will take every bit of extra speed I can get.

I want something with a little higher bow, not necessarily for the extra cargo room but more so the thing doesn’t dive through waves. Not something too high that the wind blows it all over the place. Definitely want a skeg to help with tracking (go straight baby) but undecided on the rudder.

Dual cargo holds are pretty much standard but I am hoping to get one with a 3rd day hatch, I read somewhere that if you are paddling alone it’s difficult to get to the forward or rear hatches, seeing as there is nobody sitting beside me to get something out if I need it, I think the day hatch will come in handy.

As far as paddles go, feathered for sure but what style, material, length etc, will figure that out once I’m at a shop with someone who knows what they are talking about.

Those are my general requirements as I see them, we will see what the experts recommend.

Timing is Everything

Seem to have overlooked the timing aspect. Tentatively, I plan on leaving on or around July 12th. My two boys are away at camp in Algonquin for the month of July doing their own canoe excursion. This should leave me enough time to do my trip and be back in time for spending some vacation time with them. It’s also a convenient time from a work perspective.

Route

Total distance is just north of 400km, the actual Trent/Severn Waterway is 387km but there is a little extra added on to go into Lake Ontario if I make it that far. Estimated paddling days are 15 which is in-line with what I’ve read elsewhere and lines up with my math. Let’s hope the weather is nice.

To figure out my “Trip Plan” I first had to figure out what a reasonable number of KMs per day would be, typical touring Kayak is capable of 5+km/hr, under ideal conditions. I’ve read a number of articles where it states the average paddler is in the range of 1km per 15 minutes which equals 4km/hr. I would put myself in the “average” bucket at this point and used this as my rule of thumb, reasonable or otherwise I had to pick a number.

The plan is to average between 25-30kms/day which is consistent with what I have read by experienced paddlers. Given a 4km/hr baseline and goal of 25-30km/day, this would mean a range of 6-8 hours of paddling per day. Plan is to be out paddling by 8am each day and start looking for a camping spot (if not near a lock) between 2-4pm, setup camp, swim, make dinner, relax, sleep etc.

While this trip has an intended destination and I am planning a complete route, this doesn’t mean that I am going to follow it, I view it more of a guideline, the last thing I want is any pressure with regards to how far I get, how far I travel each day or where I end up camping each night. There are too many variables and if I wanted to follow a clock I will stay at the office, life is too short. if I like a spot, I may stay longer, if I don’t feel like paddling on a given day, I won’t, if the weather is too crazy, or if I’m just not enjoying myself then I am just going to call it a day, come home and put the motocross gear back on.

I have created a Google Map (see link in sidebar) which shows the planned route for this trip.

Starting Point

Every trip starts with a generic plan on how to get from point A to point B.

In this instance, the first question that came to mind was where is point A and B? Limited set of choices really, either start in Trenton or start in Port Severn, does it really matter? Generally speaking I suppose it doesn’t. I decided to start in Port Severn and do the canal in reverse, here was my thought process.

In each scenario somebody (brother+bribe) is going to have to make a trip to Trenton, either to drop me off to start or pick me up after, so no real benefit in either case. Would make it easier on said person if they just dropped me off in Trenton and didn’t have to co-ordinate the pickup but this isn’t really about them now is it.

Elevation gets higher from Trenton to Balsam Lake and then descends to Georgian Bay. Stands to reason that water flows to the lowest point, therefore starting in Port Severn means I will be going against the current 1/3 less of the time. How much of a difference (if any) is unknown but sounded logical enough to me.

There is some comfort in ending this trip in Port Severn as it’s my home town so I am extremely familiar with the area, beautiful spot and many places to stop after a long journey. On the flip side, do I really want to end my trip in an area I know like the back of my hand? Seems anti-climactic don’t you think? Secondly, because I am familiar with the area it gives me the first 20+kms where I don’t have to think about where I’m going, even better.

Lake Simcoe is the only lake that scares me, it can be very unforgiving and conditions can change in the blink of an eye. The wind comes out of lake Couchiching and so I figure it will be easier to get across that way, if the wind picks up I don’t think it will make any difference which end I start from, I don’t plan on being out there if the wind is blowing but you can never tell what nature has intended.

So there we have it, Port Severn It is.

Introduction

How it all began...

Typically my summer vacation consists of a few days scattered over the summer to play golf, ride motocross and the odd boat ride down in Georgian Bay. This year, I wanted to do something a little different and actually take a real vacation.

I grew up and spent most of my formative years in Port Severn, which is the last lock in the Trent and surprisingly, the only lock I have ever gone through. I did ride the original Marine Railway when I was a kid (when it was still in operation) but haven’t been on the current one, kind of sad considering I have been to Big Chute about 1000 times over the years. Seeing as I own an inboard/outboard with a sleeping cabin, I thought the idea of doing the Trent Severn Waterway sounded like a good plan, at least to be able to say that I’ve done it once.

Now I had my vacation idea, time to do a little planning. Little did I know at the time that my simple Google search “trent severn waterway” was going to lead me down a completely different path.

I came across a blog about 4 people from Elliot Lake who travelled 1100km over 42 days, through Georgian Bay, down the Trent Severn and up Rideau Canal in two Kayaks and a Canoe. What I found more inspiring than the trip itself was the fact that these four people ranged in age from 59 to 70 at the time, amazing. Blog can be found at http://spanishdonkey.blogspot.com/ it’s a great read.

Anybody who has known me for any length of time knows, when it comes to modes of transportation I live by a simple philosophy, “If you can’t push start, pull start or kick start it, I don’t want to ride it” so even now, a month later, I’m still not sure why this blog got me thinking that paddling for days on end would be something I would consider in the first place, but it did. So it’s only fitting this trip is dedicated to them.

The more reading/research I did, the more interested I became until eventually, what started out as leisurely cruise with all the comforts has now become a solo kayak from Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario, while 700km shorter than what the Spanish Donkey group accomplished, I do have a job after all and can’t be taking 2 months off ;)

Decided to keep this blog primarily because there are thousands of Kayaking articles, reviews, stories etc on the web, however, I found very few that were specific to the Trent Waterway and fewer still that went into much detail on planning for an extended excursion when you are a complete novice. Hopefully this will provide a different perspective than somebody who actually knows what they are doing. Who knows, maybe this will provide motivation to others.

For the record, I grew up on water and have done some canoeing but have never sat in a Kayak let alone tried to paddle one.

Here we go!