Cold Water – Outside Canoe, Good – Inside Canoe, Bad

Nice feedback again after Saturday’s post. Two paddlers are making plans to join me on the river for a portion of the trip and other readers sent in some great stuff. Here’s a lovely watercolor by Ted Young, Minnesota artist. Can you identify where this was painted? Mystery!

by artist, Ted Young

I’ll include the details at the end of this post. Ted loves this particular spot and so do I. I’ve watched cold clear water flow into this slough from the big lake and hours later warmer, tea-colored water flow out – through the same inlet/outlet. If you’ve been there, let me know about it.

I had two readers ask about content. Evidently they mistake me for some sort of jokester type and wondered if and when I would include some “blue humor” in the post. My rule is that if I wouldn’t want my grandma to read it, you won’t find it here. Of course she passed on several years ago and isn’t doing much reading now anyway. A reader with less prurient interests in this adventure sent this gem. Pop Wagner cowboy poet, songster, and trick rope artist passed along his favorite river song, Buck Ramsey’s, The Brazos River. Check Buck out on the Smithsonian site where you can purchase and download what you like. Thanks, Pop.

Cold Water

I had to answer these two questions before I could get very far in planning this trip. How do I increase the probability of a safe, open- canoe paddle on Lake Superior and in the event I wind up in the water, how do I increase the probability of getting safely back in the canoe and/or to shore? Experienced paddlers and equipment makers/dealers have been extremely helpful and today I’ll pass on what they shared with me regarding the first question.

Cold water – Outside Canoe

If the lake doesn’t look safe, don’t go out on it. Build wind-bound, stay-safe on the shore days into your trip itinerary. Carry a weather radio. Storms on other parts of Lake Superior can influence the paddling conditions where you are miles away from any bad weather. Stay close to the shore, but not too close. Stay a swim-able distance from the shoreline but be aware that rebound from waves hitting rock walls will converge with incoming swells and make conditions dangerous. Consider flotation bags.  Check out spray decks. A spray deck on the canoe will not only help keep you and your gear dry during rainy stretches it will also help deflect wind. Add a kayak style paddler skirt and you may deflect some water in rough conditions. Practicing wet exits in safe conditions until you get it right is the best way to insure that the spray deck and skirt protect you rather than trap you in the canoe.

Two Spray Decks I liked

I found two dealer/makers that were generous with their time and had, what I felt, were great products. They have differently engineered solutions. North Water based in Vancouver, British Columbia offers a tie down style cover that can be customized for one, two, or three paddlers. North Water products are in most serious paddling oriented stores. Their product is well described, heavily endorsed and they take the time on the phone/email to get it right. Cooke Custom Sewing is a husband and wife business located in Lino lakes, Minnesota. Dan Cooke offers a snap down style cover. His covers can be customized and either installed at his workshop or by the customer. He too, is well endorsed by experienced arctic paddlers and Dan himself is an active paddler and instructor in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area. Both systems require drilling through and along the hull of the canoe to install the tie-down loops (North Water) or the snaps (Cooke Custom Sewing). The idea of drilling through your hull is horrifying to contemplate (seems counter-intuitive to improving safety) but necessary to provide a means to connect deck to canoe and remain tight and secure in nasty conditions. How much dough are we talking about here? Substantial. The North Water solo paddler starts at $534 with a 15% additional charge for the lightweight pack cloth fabric. Dan’s solo model starts at $395 and he only uses lightweight pack cloth. Because I was thinking longer term beyond this solo trip I had both manufacturers give me options/prices for a cover that would both go solo and tandem. That way, Lois and I could enjoy the benefits of the deck on our Boundary Water’s outings together. North Water’s designed one cover to do it all. The cost using pack cloth was about $950. Dan suggested two decks, one solo and the other tandem. His package price was under $900. I went with Dan. He’s designed his products with Minnesota waters in mind. Big water, rivers, snag infested streams, frequent portages are all considered in his lightweight design.  He’s also a local guy and all four of you, your canoe, the skirt, Dan and your own bad self can all be in the same place at the same time to make sure it’s right. That said, both systems looked great and each maker can, and if you ask, will tell you more about the pros of their design and the cons of the other.

Send on any comments regarding the post. Let me know your cold water, big water paddling tips. I’ll show photos of the deck Dan’s made for the Mad River when it’s done. Next post – maybe something like, Cold Water – How dry I am.

Okay, here it is. The mystery place in Ted’s painting…..drum roll…..The Slough, Big Bay Beach, Madeline Island.

For your enjoyment, a clip to mellow out on entitled, Canoe Ballet


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