Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I wanted to touch on today before talking about canoes.  I didn't say it was cold yet.  Well, it was cold this morning.  You'll see the snow blowing if you look closely to the pictures.
The area you are looking at in the shot above is the southern end of the river and it's experiencing a white-out.  This is crazy weather.  The wind picked up enough to drive the snow sideways and create some interesting water conditions.
And, I just planted climbing roses at home in the yard just yesterday.  I have to cover them when I get back as its going to 22 degrees tonight. Below is my attempt to put motion into wildlife shots.  I may start doing this more and more.  I kind of like it.  It lends realism and a sense of reality to a flat image.
Ok - I'll just put two turkey shots in this blog.  Honest.  I have never seen so many turkeys in my life as I have up here along the Holston River.

Things like this make me wonder.
 They also make me curious.
The shots below are unique I think.  This is a fox squirrel I saw along the river bank at the Holston River this morning.  He was on the move back in the brush and I stopped the boat in a dead-fall and waited until he came in front of me.  He knew something wasn't right as he stopped half hidden behind a tree.  Only his head showed through a small opening in the brush.  This is where the 500 mm lens is great and it really shines.  I can surgically focus through the small hole eliminating all the brush clutter and focus on my intended victim.  The 300 mm lens would have never worked in this situation.  The plus is that I have a larger image with which to work with on the computer as far as cropping is concerned.  Anyway - here he is.
Look at him carefully.  Have you ever seen a squirrel (an eastern squirrel) with white ears and muzzle?  If that isn't odd enough; the top of his head is solid, rich black.  This is very, very odd.  It's odd enough to make me call a critter biologist about it.

Notice how that lens poked right through that hole in the brush and between two trees to allow me to manually focus on this little jasper.
The white fur covers his nose and even extends down around the tip of his mouth.  This is indeed odd.  The ears aren't trimmed in white - they "are" white.  Oh well --
Gotta throw an antique building up here.  That old building looks like how I'm beginning to feel this morning.  It's really cold!
Now, what can I say about canoes?
17.5 foot Esquif Mistral
You may or may not have run across the canoe in the shot above on this blog.  It is an Esquif Mistral which is made of Twin Tex, a very light and strong material that when laminated creates a very sturdy material for canoe building.  It takes rock strikes wonderfully without tearing and is, in general, one of the strongest materials used in canoe building.  The Mistral is a bit hefty at 61 pounds but, it's not the heaviest canoe out there.  The widest part is at the center and measures 37 inches between the gunwales (pronounced gunnels.)    The gunnels are the top edge of the sides of the boat front to back.  She measures 15 inches deep from the top of the gunnels to the floor.  That's a lot of carrying capacity.  The rocker is a bit radical for a flat water canoe.  It measures 3.5 inches at the front (fore) and 2.5 inches aft (rear).  A bit more about rocker in a second.  I like to see wood when I'm paddling a canoe.  It's a symbol of quality and I like the feel of wood and it's easy on the eyes.  All my canoes are ordered with ash wood trim.  All that brown you see on the boat is ash trim.  I will show you some good shots of the ash trim on the Attickamek canoe coming up.  What's rocker? Rocker is the lift on the keel (underside center of the canoe) at both ends of the boat.  Most canoes, depending upon whether they are river or flat water canoes, are designed with their ends curved up.  This "curve" usually starts about 7/8ths of the way along the bottom to each end of the canoe.  The reason for rocker is this:  Flat water boats are required to move over and hold a straight line across the surface.  They are tripping canoes or expedition canoes.  Minimal rocker (curve) allows more of the length of the boat to be in contact with the water thereby resisting the efforts of the canoe to veer to right or left during paddle strokes.  Remember - for every action there is a reaction.  A paddle pulled back alongside a canoe on the left side will create energy that will push the front of the canoe to the right.  If the rocker were more radical (increased upward curve) the canoe would essentially be shorter with less material touching the water with the added disadvantage of less canoe material to create resistance against the surface to impede the movement of the boat to the right.  Whewey!  Got that?  A canoe with minimal rocker will hold a truer course as the full length of the boat is in the water and will resist that pesky breeze that is trying to push the front of the canoe to the right or left.  Paddle control is vital but, I won't bore you with that.  You're probably bored by now anyway.
This brings us to the Attikemek.  By the way - Attikemek is named after the Attikemek Indians.

This canoe is made of carbon/kevlar.  The Attikemek weighs in at 48 pounds.  This is the canoe I currently use and you've probably seen pictures of it in use on the Holston River or Beech Creek.  It is a very light weight boat and she's greased lightning on the water.  This boat has the best glide I've ever seen.  A single paddle stroke will set her in motion, even upstream direction, and she'll keep forward motion longer than any canoe I've paddled other than the Champlain, which is a similar boat.  Now, the Attikemek has a rocker that measures 2 inches at the bow and 1 inch at the stern.  That's not much rocker.  this means that the boat is sitting in the water it's full length.  In other words it requires less paddle correction to keep the boat travelling straight.  The distance between the gunnels is less than the Mistral, measuring 37 inches.  She's more narrow. Humm!  This helps make her fast.  Less width is less bottom to push across the surface resulting in less restrictive friction.  The measurement from the top of the gunnel to the floor is 15 inches.  Both the Mistral and the Attickamek will carry a lot of weight in gear.  Again - I had my Attickamek rigged with ash wood trim all over.  See below.
The above is a shot of the top of the gunnel looking straight down at it from above.  The slots are for strap attachments to tie off gear in the canoe.  Notice that the gunnel is created from two curved pieces of ash wood.  These boats exhibit excellent craftsmanship.

 Above:  The seats are made of woven cane attached to ash wood.  The fit and finish are excellent to say the least.  Below is another gunnel shot taken of the area just past the strap slots.  Notice the square looking rise on the floor.  That beveled square is sandwiching a foam core that gives the canoe buoyancy if it should tip over - heaven forbid!
Below is the forward deck.  It is identical to the aft or stern deck.  Look at the fitment of the ash wood trim.  This area of the canoe constantly draws my eyes to it as I enjoy the river banks.
You've heard of portaging a canoe, I'm sure.  The act is accomplished by grabbing the canoe by the gunnels, one hand on each side, and hefting the boat to one's shoulders and sitting the canoe down upon the back of the neck.  That part of the canoe contacting the neck and distributing the canoe's weight to the carrier is called a yoke.
The cut out part of the yoke fits to the back of the neck with the rest of the wood contacting the shoulder area.  You can imagine why weight is a factor when selecting the proper canoe.  The only time I use the yoke is when carrying the canoe to the truck from the water.  The lakes in Tennessee are not connected together and negates the necessity to carry a canoe upon ones back, at least I don't need to.  The front of a lake canoe is usually sharper than a river canoe.  Lake canoes have to cut through the water and wake and still maintain course.  The blunted bow edge of the river canoe is designed to bounce into and off of rocks, limbs and any other obstacles that may be on the water.  River canoes are an entirely different animal.  The Mistral is termed a river/flat water canoe.  It's bow line is not as sharp as the Attickamek.

Note the textured appearance of the kevlar boat below.  They are truly beautiful.  The build material is bonded together with a epoxy resin coating.  The entire boat is protected with layers of gel coat.  This is beautiful stuff but, it does have it's down falls. 
The exterior gel coat is a delicate material, sort of like paint.  Gel does not resist abrasion at all.  If the canoe is put down onto a concrete boat ramp it will get a scar in the gel coat.  If it touches rocks or gravel while beaching the boat - it's scarred.  This is one reason I acquired a twin tex boat (Mistral).  That material is not covered with a gel coat.  Twin tex is tough stuff.  The shot below is of the bottom of the Attikamek.  This canoe is of the shallow arch design.  Without getting into a big explanation - the bottom is not flat nor square but is designed to be curved with rounded sides.  This allows the canoe to roll over waves and water irregularities will remaining streamlined and offering little resistance while screaming over the surface.
The canoe below is an Esquif Attikamek.  It is very similar to the Champlain, which I can't seem to lay my hands of the Champlain photos right now.
A word about rocker on river canoes.  River canoes are designed with maximum rocker at bow and stern.  This allows the canoe to be turned and twisted on the surface very quickly with minimal paddle effort.  Rapids with boulders, dead-falls, bridge abutments and floating dead hogs require a boat that can alter course with a single or a series of fast paddle stroke to avoid crashes.  They are usually designed with greater floor to gunnel measurements in order to remain dryer inside.  Everything I have mentioned in this entry is only a minuscule of information pertaining to canoes. Operating a canoe correctly requires a specific skill set that can only be attained by actually paddling canoes repetitiously.  Classes in canoeing are recommended.  Classes in canoeing will definitely eliminate a lot of the apprehension surrounding canoe paddling by a novice and more importantly, will teach one how to be safe in the boat.  That's a biggie.  So - why did I buy a 16 foot kevlar boat and a 17.5 foot twin tex boat?
Let me go over one more issue - primary and secondary stability.
Primary stability is how stable the canoe is when entering the boat.  Secondary is how stable it is while paddling on the water.  The kevlar boat does not exhibit great primary or secondary stability.  It's acceptable but not great.  Good paddling skill is really essential to maneuver a kevlar boat safely.  Really it is!  Those boats are not forgiving in the slightest but, it's not a big deal for a skilled canoeist.    The big 17.5 foot, wide canoe has excellent stability all around.  I have even stood up and stepped to the opposite end of the canoe and sat down in the seat and paddled the other direction with no problems. I can't do that in the Attickamek or the Champlain.  Both those canoes remind me of a dry leaf sitting atop the water.  The heavier, wider Mistral displaces water and is wider on the bottom making it very, very stable.  So, why did I get two boats?
Most of my paddling is done in one day.  I like to make time and I have even paddled the Champlain the entire distance around Cheoah Lake in 8 hours without stopping.   The feather weight kevlar boat was appreciated.  As for the heavier Mistral - there's only one reason I bought that boat.  See below:
It was all about him.  I couldn't take my boy canoe camping in the kevlar boat due to the stability factor.  The Mistral was rock solid and was a wider, longer boat.  Douglas had all the room he needed to lay down if he wanted.  He could walk about and it mattered not.
Lifting that boat constantly caused me a lot of back issues.  I was crippled for a time over tossing that thing on my shoulders.  I even bought canoe wheels to get it to and from the water.  A canoe trailer was eventually purchased so I didn't have to heft it to the top of my truck cap.  It was a good canoe.  When  Douglas left me I had no further use for the Mistral and sold it.  That boat was purchased for him.  I now wish I had it back.  As a matter of fact I'm considering the purchase of a Mohawk royalex lite canoe in a length of 17.5 feet.  They are very stable and half the price of the Esquif product.   The lake shorelines where I live are solid boulders.  A canoe made of royalex is just the ticket.  Of course the wood trim would be replaced with plastic but I'd consider it a usable, utility boat and wouldn't worry so much about it.  My kevlar boat will never touch the water of Cherokee or Douglas Lakes.  I'll go to the French Broad River that flows into Douglas but never will I put that beautiful kevlar boat in the stone quarry or the mud hole.  By the way - look at the bow of the Mistral in the shot above where it touches the water line.  See the upward curve at the water line.  That is part of the "rocker."

I mentioned earlier that the most dangerous time in a canoe is entering and exiting the boat.  I meant it.  The light weight kevlar boat, as I stated, is like a leaf on the water.  For every action you do - the boat will have a reaction.  I never drive the boat onto the shore due to the respect for the gel coat.  I pull in sideways and step out onto the shore.  There's the trick.  As one stands, bent at the waste to maintain a low profile, and lifts one foot out of the boat and plants it on land - the action will simultaneously move (push) the boat away in the opposite direction.  A rocking motion of the boat will ensue also.  It's tricky.  Getting into the boat is easier but, one must use care.  In the case of the much wider, heaver Mistral - it's not an issue.  One can stand easily and even pole that boat up river.  Entrance and exit is a no brain-er.  The trade off for stability, it seems, is the weight factor of the boat itself - et: lifting it or moving it to and from a campsite.  The thing is to become very familiar with the boat and think out the moves your going to make before you make them.  It's all practice and knowing the boat.  I wouldn't recommend a kevlar boat for a first time paddler even though I did start with one.  I learned on the Esquif Champlain which does not have great primary or secondary stability.  After becoming skilled in that craft - all the rest of em are cake to paddle.   Just thought I'd mention that and I do love kevlar boats.  I'm just pointing out a couple idiosyncrasies.    

Well - that's about it.  Bored yet?  You ladies probably are.  I have some great outings in mind if this cold, windy, snowy weather straightened out.  Please stay tuned in.