Sunday, August 2, 2009

Final Thoughts

Gear and food 3,OOO dollars,  Kayak Rental 6OO dollars, Lock Pass,  80 dollars, 15 days on the water in the most picturesque landscape imaginable, PRICELESS!

Funny how at no point was I ever more than 2 hours from my house or 3 hours from where I started and yet, a different world.  

Having grown up on the trent waterway and georgian bay area, can only imagine what seeing this for the first time would be like for other people. Stunning in every way.   I missed so much zooming by in a speed boat all these years and now have a new appreciation for the beautiful area where I grew up.

I would recommend this trip to anyone regardless of skill level, it will not disappoint, add another 5 days to truly appreciate, with 30k a day you are paddling almost all day, stop and smell the roses so to speak.    I don't regret a single thing with the way I did it,  would add a few days if doing it again.

A few thank you comments are required and deserved.  The scenery and challenge only makes up half the memories, the people along the way are just as important.

To all the family, friends and co-workers for all their support, was great having you along and was a great feeling, you were there for every moment.  

To all the amazing people I met along the way,  may the wind be at your back and clear skies on all your future journeys.

To the dedicated people who work at the locks, job well done and you helped make this trip a success.  

To the Hillier family,  for the cold beer, great conversation, dinner and just being a familiar face on my long trip.

To the Elkie family, for the much needed day off when it was needed most, was amazing and the hospitality was incredible.  Will never forget.

To all the inconsiderate boaters who swamped and sprayed and just generally had no respect for the little guy, you have given me a new appreciation for respecting kayaks and canoes.

There are a few questions I get  asked the most...

What do you think about being alone that long? Nothing actually, it's kind of weird, 90% of the time my mind is blank and just take it all in, very refreshing actually, don't worry about going solo and being bored, you won't be. 

Would I do it differently?  Not one thing, I spent months planning this trip, didn't forget anything, need anything, want anything or felt as though I was "roughing" it.   Planning pays off, I've included a lot of info on this blog related to the planning side. Hope it helps. 

Would I do it again?  Absolutely, was fantastic, next time I'm bringing a date though, would be nice to have someone else to enjoy it with, no offense Kyle, you were great company and an amazing Nephew, blast to have along even if just for the last few days. 

What's the next trip?  Ah, the big question, you will have to wait and see, I will be doing one yes and will be just a little bit more extreme and remote, had time to think about it once I determined I was enjoying so much, time to step it up a notch and you will be like wtf? Are you nuts? Already planning. 

My final thank you goes to four people I have never met.  The "spanish donkey" team from Elliot Lake Retirement home.  You inspired me to do this trip in the first place and I only hope that one day you read this blog and/or we meet, the first of many adventures to come and I owe you a debt of gratitude for that.    If you don't know who the "spanish donkey" team is or why this trip was dedicated to them, go back and read my introduction.  

Hope you have found this blog useful and at times mildly amusing. 

Until  next time......

Swift Canoe/Kayak

To all the staff at Swift Canoe/Kayak in Georgian Bay.  Thank you for all the assistance in making this a memorable trip, it was very much appreciated.  

If you are looking to rent or buy a Kayak, I recommend this place with 5 stars.

Real cutie behind the counter too, ok me being me I had to throw that comment in. No offence intended and not looking for any discounts.

Post Review - Navigation

You literally do not require maps, compass or  gps for this trip.  Bring them if you like but wasn't required.  The trent map fold out you can get from any lock was more than enough.

Trent waterway for the most part is clearly marked and there are only a few spots where you have to stop and think about it. 

I did have gps on my blackberry and it was helpful, used it to gauge where I was not really for navigation.  If travelling at night, recommend gps of some sort, on water in familiar area at night is fine but in areas you have never been, everything is different, not a time to get lost or disorriented.   I also had a handheld gps which showed speed and distance traveled, either don't bring or stowe and don't look.  Found myself constantly checking it, how fast am I going, how far have I gone, turned mine off after day and a half.

Here are some tips.

Simcoe, when you come out of the Orillia Narrows and follow to the left, you will  jump a few points and then will just see horizon line in the distance, looking straight across you will see what looks like a point in the distance (barely) wasn't sure if I had to go around it, it's an island and the channel is to the left of the island. Just head for it and when you get close enough to make out the island head to the point on the shore to the left and keep following shore to channel.  Needless to say, if weather is up and Simcoe can pick up quickly I might suggest hugging the short instead of being 5km from shore in bad weather.

Canal lake, the lake splits around a big island on the opposite side, stay on right side, you will see a bridge with like a half moon tunnel, just go under it.

Balsam lake, when you come out of canal, just head to 12 o'clock and you will hit the island, depending on wind either go right and around point, way the markers go, or go left and around the long way.  Rosedale is on opposite end of island at the far left.  Update: Best to go left and around the island and not right, where the waterway goes, shorter and easier in the wind, learned that in the 2010 Trip.

Cameron lake, almost no markers so at first hard to tell if you should go down left or right side.  Fenelon Falls is down the end on the left, look for white buildings on shore and head for them,  when you get to Fenelon Falls make sure you enter lock between the two markers (red triangle and black square) there are rock walls that line channel on both sides, can't cross over if you miss and will have to circle back.

Bobcaygeon, when you leave and come out of channel, it looks like you go straight towards the left, don't. Go right and follow the big island on the left. Don't get discouraged, looks like a long way, channel is not that far down pigeon lake on the left.

Peterborough, when you come out of Ashburnham lock you will see markers leading into Peterborough on the right and will automatically head that way, at least I did.  The next lock is straight towards the bridge on the left not in Peterborough.

Bay of Quinte, when you come out of Trenton you will see markers heading towards the island on the left,  run parallel to the island and you will see the markers in the distance to the entrance to Murray Canal.  Red triangle.  At first you think you have to go down right shore because there aren't many markers past the island.

The above are the only spots where I had to think about where to go


I started this blog as a resource site for other people, from the perspective of someone who has never done a kayak trip before.  

There were some unintended consequences though which I didn't fully realize at the time.

Great way at the end of the day to think back on everything and smile from everything that occurred that day, I looked forward to posting details and it also passed the time and gave me something to do at least once a day for an hour or so.

Was amazing to have people following along and it felt as though they were all doing the trip with me, comments were always a great motivation.

I read back and the memories flood in, feels like I am back on the water.   Highly recommend keeping a log of your trip, even if just handwritten notes, I didn't keep notes, just thought about the day later to remember things but whatever works for you.

I hope that those following along enjoyed my updates and for those that find this site later,  that it provides some useful information for your own trip, which was the intended purpose.


Other than the pictures and memories which will last a lifetime, I picked up two souvenirs which I think are pretty cool.

On my day off in buckhorn, I was given a handmade wrist bracelet from the Elkie girls, cool reminder of my time at oak bay.  Thanks for making it for me girls, it is way cool, still look at it and go, hmm how do they get it to look like that, still wearing.

My brother while waiting for Kyle and I to show up found these two little polished rocks on the shore in lake ontario,  he gave us each one as a reminder of our trip together,  not like my brother to be sentimental and was very thoughtful, I put my rock on my mantle for now, he said I'm suppose to keep it in my pocket as a reminder when I get back to busy schedule, I will just end up throwing it at someone and don't need the lawsuits.   Thanks bro. 

Post Review - Trip Plan

Couldn't have planned it any better.  

Highly recommend doing the trent backwards, exactly for the reasons I mentioned in my original post. 

The current can be very strong, buoys were almost horizontal in some spots, this was especially the case in the home stretch where there are lots of power generator damns and they had the gates open.  I wouldn't have wanted to battle the current for that long.   Doing it backwards means over 2/3rds of the waterway you will be going with the current.

I may have fluked out, wind was my friend for almost the entire trip, this was extremely helpful on some of the bigger lakes like simcoe, balsalm and especially rice lake. I got a sense from locals and the lockmaster that the prevailing winds are typically in that direction, take advantage of it.   If that's not the case, don't blame me! 

The only negative would be that if you start from trenton side, the scenery starts out pretty crap and just gets better as you reach the kawarthas and just keeps getting better, going from port severn means that it starts gorgeous and gets pretty dull at the end.   In my opinion of course.

Post Review - "The Coffin"

Needless to say, after 15 days ii fell in love with my kayak, named it the "coffin" as a joke until I could figure out a better name and it just stuck,  never bothered to figure out a new one.

Went with a fiberglass 17 foot north sea with a rudder, rear and front hatch.  This thing was spectacular and rode the waves like a missile, at no point did I feel as though it was out of control, even in large waves and gale force winds.   I wouldn't get the third day hatch though, just takes up space and you are limited to how you can pack kayak.

For this trip I would recommend fiberglass or composite, plastic  is just too heavy, you are going to have to be lifting out of the water a couple times a day, lighter the better and you will appreciate the difference.  

While I paddled with the rudder up a bit, I preferred steering with feet,  especially in high winds, recommend having a rudder even if not going to use it all the time. 

If renting, double check that the seals from the cockpit to the hatches are properly sealed, silicone them good if they are leaking, mine wasn't too bad but my nephews basically had no silicone seal and any water made it's way into the hatches. Could be dangerous if capsized and the hatches fill with water.   The hatches on mine didn't let water in once. 

Bring a set of ropes and marine bumpers, lot of cement walls and while I rented mine, treated like it was my own, didn't want scratches and the bumpers really helped.  I tied mine to deck rigging when needed,  next time will use carabiners to make them easier to attach.  I stowed them on rear deck near rudder, out of the way and never noticed they were there. 

Recommend a paddle leash, didn't drop paddle but found that it made a great kayak anchor. Pull up to dock, lie paddle on dock and leash would hold kayak there, beats tying up all the time, works well on rock islands as well.

Get a good seat, mine was a little older kayak because I needed the extra space, they didn't have newer high capacity ones available at the time of my trip.   Pick up a padded cushion, I used my towel folded a bunch of times for extra support, was needed.

Had lots of day storage in the cockpit, in front of feet and behind seat, allowed me to carry extra stuff so I didn't have to get out and find it all the time, my umbrella and rain gear was stowed beside the seats, very convenient.

Post Review - Lock Camping

What can I say, phenomenal, the grounds are maintained by parks canada and the views are spectacular.  

They charge about 5 dollars for camping if you arrive by boat, didn't have one lock master ask for payment and would have paid instantly had they. Well worth it.

Some locks have firepits, though most don't  the few that do also provide firewood, nice.  

They all have ample picnic tables which make eating and relaxing so much better.

All have washroom access, while no showers they do have washrooms and sinks, much nicer for brushing teeth and cleaning up.  They all provide you with washroom lock code or key for after the lock closes. If you think you won't be at a lock by closing, any of the previous locks will call ahead and they will arrange to get washroom access ahead of time. 

The only downside, some are very difficult the get kayak out of the water, best to get out kayak and see where the best place to camp and take out is before locking through.  Ask the lockmaster, they have people going through all the time. They may even recommend the next lock.  Canoe docks are the best but very few locks have them, sometimes you have to get creative and you can count on a little work and sometimes a lot of frustration.  The lock staff were always willing to help if not busy.

There were almost always people around and very social, enjoyed very much.

Post Review - Items for next time

There are a few things that I would have brought if doing this again.  

Camera, only had my blackberry camera and quality is crap, so wish I had brought digital or even waterproof disposable ones, next time.

I would get a good waterproof deck bag to store stuff, didn't really need it but would have been handy. Saw one before I left and almost picked it up. Wish I did later.  Not a biggie.

Sail, oh yeah baby, I was in good wind and a sail would have been perfect and a lot of fun and a break from paddling.

Porable hammock, would have been sweet to setup and nap on a little island somewhere or at camp. 

There was room for the above items.

Post Review - Packing

Still surprised everything fit into that tiny little kayak. 

The key, smaller is better, easier to stuff small articles rather than large ones as they can fit to fill all available space.  When picking out your gear air on the side of compact, as an example, big bulky sleeping bag is just taking up space, get one that is compact ans can be compressed.
Have a specific packing plan and stick to it, know where everything is, pain to have to constantly go, now where is my stove now when you stop for lunch everyday.  I packed my kayak the exact same way every day and could easily find what I was looking for, also made packing kayak each day easier,  didn't have to think about where everything went.  Made all the difference. 

Once my nephew Kyle joined, I had to reorganize the gear across two kayaks, was annoying to have to go through 4 hatches just to find something and the next day I made sure I had a new packing plan for both. .

I carried a big canvas army bag, I used it to move gear from kayak to camp and back, meant I could make fewer trips, recommend carrying something similar, makes things easier and you don't have to walk back and forth a 100 times at the start and end of every day. 

Didn't pack too many things on the deck, rear deck I stored marine bumpers and spare paddle. Front deck I stored bilge pump and water bottles.  I also had a drypack bag I stored on front deck which contained electronics and wallet.   I would store hat and gloves on either deck with no rhyme or reason, just out of the way and I was fine.

Kept a little tuperware container in kayak which contained snacks for the day.

Post Review - Waterproof

Assume that everything at some point will get wet.  Make sure you have proper waterproofing for all gear, especially electronics, sleeping and clothing gear.  If you can afford it,  commercial dry bags are amazing and really provide good protection.   Double bag or ziplock everything that isn't. A little planning can save you a lot of hassle dealing with wet stuff

Bring a couple of white garbage bags to pack up wet or dirty laundry, don't mix with clean dry clothes, musty smell just sucks and doesn't go away unless you wash everything.

Waterproof paddlejacket is a must!  Rain and bad weather isn't an issue if you are dressed properly, dry and warm. Worth the cost.  

A good pair of water shoes, will be walking in water lots and a good pair of water shoes help. I went with water running shoes instead of sock type water shoes, they were perfect.

Do not forget a sponge, only way to get all the water out of kayak and hatches and good for cleaning your boat.

Get a mini umbrella and keep in kayak beside seat, great for those little storms that pass through or to get rain gear on without getting soaked, also good at camp when raining.

Post Review - Electronics

I had my ipod and 2 blackberry devices in a waterproof box. Worked great and never got wet, most times my cell phone was in my life jacket.    Having internet access and gps was great as was the ability to update this blog and keep in touch with people. Bring, just leave work at home, which I did.

Only used my ipod a few times paddling and not once at camp, could have done without. Definitely get waterproof headphones, got mine wet 4 times and glad they still work, for now. 

Vhf radio I only used to check weather forecast and typically did that in the morning and at night, didn't really check it during the day. Was nice to have.

Charging, the energizer mobile battery chargers are amazing, used them to charge devices for the entire 15 days and these things worked flawlessly.  Make sure you bring enough batteries but there are lots of places along the way to get more. I went through 20 or so.

Post Review - Clothing

Bring lots of quick drying shirts, long and short as well as quick drying shorts for paddling.  Be careful with anything cotton, stays wet for hours, doesn't dry easily and drains body heat when wet. 

Pack nice warm clothes for camp, you will want to be comfortable and after a long wet paddle, nothing feels better.  If you can, try and bring at least some respectable clothes for going out dinning, don't want stares sitting in nice restaurant.   Baseball cap works wonders. 

I found rolling clothing made them pack smaller and also helped with the wrinkle factor, don't mix dirty clothes with clean!  Everything will get musty. 

There are places along the way with coin operated laundry mats, I used the one at fenelon falls to make sure everything was clean. 

Bring a pair of paddle shoes and another pair for camp, wet shoes at night suck, I had sandles that I had for camp and paddled with them as well when other shoes were soaked, feet will prune up bad in wet shoes.  Get something with hard soles for paddling, you are pushing a lot with feet and without protection it's going to hurt after a bit.  Don't paddle barefoot, uncomfortable.

Bring one of those wide brim canvas hats like the guys on tv in the wild.  Wear while out on water, keeps the sun off and rain won't drip down neck or face,  drys quickly too.

I could take or leave paddle gloves, does offer protection but if wet then hands stay wet and they soften up and blister easier.   I rarely wore mine after the halfway point, keep hands dry as much as possible.

PFD was very comfortable and provides back support while kayaking, I only wish I got one with more and bigger pockets, when I buy my own, will make sure it has them.

Paddle jacket, paddle jacket, paddle jacket, it will rain and if you want to be dry and comfy, get one.  Worth it.  Make sure it had rubber wrist and neck clasps to keep the water out.

Post Review - General Stuff

Not specific enough to warrant it's own category so lumping these together. 

Sun Block, get it and use it, especially on overcast windy days where you don't notice how much sun you're getting. Paddled for two days feeling the effects of too much exposure to sun, not fun.

Lip balm, lips started to chap, have some available so you don't get cracked lips. 

Lighting, get a good headlamp, makes organizing in the tent at night so much easier, if you have to paddle at night you're going to need it anyway. Also had a handheld flashlight but rarely used it.   Bring solarcain just in case, helps if you need it.

First aid, thankfully only needed the bandaids, glad I had it with me though, only thing I added along the way was waterproof bandaids, helped with blisters that started to form,  prevented full on open blisters.   Whew.

Bugs, the only mosquito bite I got was dropping off the kayak at the end, bring good deet and pickup mosquito coils for the pesky ones that get into the tent.  Pick up a coil burner, like a little ashtray that you put the coil in the middle between two fireproof screens, worked wonders and you don't want to be burning tent down.   I didn't have an issue with mosquitoes, deer flies or blackflies, were almost non existent.   They were only out around dusk or early morning. 

Post Review - Lessons

If you have never been kayaking. Take a lesson, I was comfortable learning as I went without any lessons but wish I would have learned proper paddle usage first. 

Had to learn on the water and by the time I fugured it all out I had put a lot of  stress on my wrists and never really got better, had to battle through that the entire trip. 

I never did learn or attempt a self rescue, never had the need, wouldn't recommend that though, learn ahead of time.

Other than that I didn't find it overly challenging to pick up, pretty straight forward and skills progress quickly, kind of have to though.

Post Review - Sleeping

I slept like a baby, sure the outdoors and the workout had a lot to do with it but make sure you have the best and most comfortable sleeping gear you can manage. 

My biggest piece of gear was my sleeping pad, so glad I could fit it in, very comfortable and felt like I was sleeping on a bed. 

Don't underestimate the joy of a good pillow, there are lots of compression pillows and they are good, again sleep is your friend.

I have a synthetic mummy bag and a silk liner, I would probably preferred a standard bag because I like to stretch out, mummy bag was a little confining but managed just fine. 

Also make sure you pack your favorite sleeping gear, mine is cotton pjs with cotton tshirt and wool socks.  Was never cold, never wet, never uncomfortable.

At all costs, keep this gear dry no matter what you have to do.  Sleeping in anything wet is just not fun, thankfully I never had to.

Post Review - Tent

Love my tent,  easy to put up in any condition, lots of ventilation, folds up quickly and packs easily.  Held up to wind, rain and thunderstorms, didn't get wet once after tent was set up.

Recommend a 2-3 person tent if by yourself, the extra room was perfect for putting all the stuff in and not feeling confined. 

Having some pockets and gear loft is also very handy. nice, stored umbrella and flashlight in side pockets, have two,  and other things in gear loft.
The guy lines seemed to get in the way on sides of tent, ended up laying paddles across stakes to remind me not to walk into them. Get reflective tape on lines if you can to make easier to see at night.

My only real complaint would be that my tent is not fun to put up in rain, will get rain inside because it has a detached fly, rains inside before you get the fly on, then you have to mop up all the water inside. Make sure you have a tent footprint to protect from rain runoff and wet ground.

Post Review - Food/Cooking

I won't go into an itemized list of food I brought, bring what you want and there are places along the way where you can re-supply if needed.  Would stay away from perishables though.  Pick up a couple of the just add water food bags you can get at any camp store, they are a little pricey but a nice change here and there, really easy and very tasty.

I had two food bags, a soft insulated cooler bag which I put all canned good like soup, stews and fruit as well as all the snacks.  I stored this in the cockpit in front of the footpegs, still had plenty of room to stretch feet.   The other bag which was just one of those recycled bags from the grocery store which had everything else, pasta, sauces, breakfast, pancakes etc.  Took everything out of the packaging and stored in ziplock bags.  Worked perfectly. 

Never felt like I did without food, ate lots and have stuff left over, didn't have to resort to rating toothpaste or anything.  There are many restaurants along the way and I took a break now and again from cooking to eat there instead, usually just for dinner. 

My stove worked like a charm, once I got used to lighting it, was very quick.  Stove didn't simmer well though so had to keep an eye on it, wasn't an issue.   I also had an emergency stove from canadian tire that ran on hexamine tablets, found this great, could cook pasta on my stove and sauce on the other, I used this quite a bit and was sometimes easier for just boiling water or heating up soup.   Didn't cook as fast so I could start water boiling while setting up camp and come back later to get it.   Pick one up, very cheap and you will use it.   I brought 48 tablets and had plenty left over.  They can be a pain to get started in the wind but I managed. 

I brought two 32oz fuel bottles and only went through about 16oz in total, probably because I was using the hexamine tablets a bit.   Lots of fuel left over.  Could get away with 32oz bottle if one person but the extra bottle adds a little security and takes up almost no room.

Bring at least two pots,  I always had two going, one for dinner, one for water for coffee, or to cook sauce.  I could have left plate and bowl at home, ate out of the pots because I didn't want to clean a million dishes. Make sure you bring biodegradable soap and dishcloth of dome sort for cleaning. 

Make sure you have a wooden spoon or something to stir, spoon will work but didn't want to scratch the pots. 

Collapsing bucket was good for washing dishes but eventually I just went to the lock washroom to clean everything in a sink.   Would still bring one though. 

Bring a can opener,  most can goods I picked had tab pull openers but some didn't, need to be able to open food when hungry, I had one on my knife and worked fine.  

I wished I brought a strainer to drain pasta, improvised using a ziplock with holes cut in it, still would have been good to have. 

Stored all food secured in kayak overnight, didn't want critters coming into tent, I heard dryer sheets like bounce will keep them at bay, can't confirm though, will bring next time anyway.

Didn't have to resort to hanging food bags, wasn't a concern, check with lockmaster on the critter situation.  Lovesick and swift rapids are the only ones that had bear reports and raccoons I saw at a few. 

Post Review - Water Supply

I had my water filter but found I only used it on long water crossings where I couldn't fill up at a lock or marina.  Was nice to have for that purpose and recommend one even if only for peace of mind. 

I carried a 1000ml nalgene and 500ml sports bottle strapped to desk and usually a couple of water bottles or juice and gatorade behind the seat.  Typically went through a liter every couple to three hours and almost exclusively drank water with the odd gatorade when available.

The locks all have drinkable water and you can fill up at any one of them, I also found that a few had bottled water which they would give you if asked.  They were always willing to go fill bottle for you if needed.

I also carried a 2.5 gallon collapsible water carrier and filled it up at camp for cooking and drinking, didn't carry it filled in kayak, took up too much space and weight.

Never had an issue finding water, would recommend carrying extra on the otanabee, wouldn't even trust my water filter on this river and only a couple of spots to get along the way.

Work Pool!

I stopped into the office on Friday and had a pretty good laugh, they had a “Where’s Jeff” office pool going. They posted my trip itinerary and had this little picture of me that they would move along as I progressed through the trip.

There was a sign up sheet where people could bet on different things related to my trip, you know the standard stuff, which day am I going to pack it it, What day will I break down and just get a hotel and my personal favorite, which day will I lose my Blackberry.

Congratulations Cynthia on winning the pool and the certificate posted on your office window made me laugh pretty hard. Thanks for having confidence.