Thursday, 11 October 2012

Mississippi: Lessons learnt so far

Two frozen kayaks
Feathercraft vs. Folbot: When I bought my kayak my biggest concern had been whether I should really spend 6,000 $ on a high end boat. In the end I purchased my dream kayak, the Feathercraft K 1 at a much lower price because I found an exhibition piece and received a substantial discount. I still spent 4,300 $ on it whereas Brian's boat, a Folbot Cooper was less than half the price. But now, only one week into our trip I realise that I have made the right purchase decision. So far Brian has had a lot of trouble with his boat, whereas I didn't have a single problem except a rather long assembly. The Folbot has a rather thin skin and comes without keelstrips and Brian had 3 leaks already on day 2. Although I got stuck on rocks more often than Brian my boat skin does not even show signs of abrasion.  Also Brian's foot pedal broke on day 5. Generally speaking my Feathercraft seems to be much more robust than the Folbot and has a lot of nice little add ons that make life a lot easier like an extra rope, better foot pedals and more space. The only big disadvantage of the Feathercraft is that it is very difficult to pack. But on the flip side both boats have proven to be very stable in high waves.

Brian in Saran wrap
Rubber boots: Although we had seen rubber boots on other paddlers' gear list this was the one item that neither one of us had brought which turned out to be the biggest gear mistake of our trip so far. With temperatures being below freezing getting in and out of the boat without getting your get wet is essential - but impossible without waterproof boots. Neoprene socks and sandals just lead to numb toes. We even tried Saran wrap around our feet but it helped only marginally - and looked pretty weird. So the most important lesson learnt so far is: You need rubber boots for any paddling trip in colder weather.

Packing: The packing and unpacking of the kayak has turned out to be the most annoying problem for both of us. It just takes up so much time and energy that every portage turns into a nightmare. Steep, muddy and slippery banks make things even more complicated. I have become more efficient with packing and every little thing has its proper place now but still the whole process is way too time consuming. Unfortunately I don't have the slightest idea how to make it easier and I guess this is the price you have to pay for paddling a kayak.

Weather: We knew that  our late season trip was sort of a weather risk but the weather has turned out to be a lot more unpredictable than expected. We started out in sunshine wearing T-shirts and shorts and only four days later we had to paddle through heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures. We just hope that the weather improves when we get further south, because the last few cold and rainy days have been rather unpleasant. Basically we are freezing our asses off every night and most of the days..

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