My Book!!

One opportunity that the blog has brought me is the co-authoring of a guidebook, Paddling Southern Maine! It is something in which I take a lot of pride! My writing partner, Sandy Moore, and I have created a book with 54 amazing trips that are within about an hour of Portland! Our motto as we wrote the book was wanting to 'get people to spend the day on the water and not in their cars!'

If you want more information on our book please visit www.paddlingsouthernmaine.com. Sandy and I are available to attend/present various functions/events. Please email me at mainekayakgirl@gmail.com for more information!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A River Race: Androscoggin Land Trust.

For me kayaking is about enjoying time on the water and enjoying the world around me... and taking pics of course.  Saturday I kayaked in a different way... I raced!  Well... I participated in a race, and didn't really take it too seriously, but I did not stop paddling for the entire race!


The race was sponsored by the Androscoggin Land Trust.  I participated in the Boomerang Race, a 3 mile paddle, leaving and returning to Festival Park in Auburn.  I have posted about this spot before when I have jouned the ALT for their after hours paddle, which is  August 2nd this year.  (Check out their page for more info!  It is also the place where I have launched to see the Great Falls Balloon Festival.  Click here for a link for directions.

One thing that doing various events continues to reinforce is that people who paddle are great people!  Everyone here was here for a different reason, as far as personal experience, to win, or to experience rapids for the first time...(I did not do that course!)  but paddling brought us all together.  Each of us with a different mindset about  our goals for the day. 

I am really glad I did this!  For me, my goal was to participate and to try to do the full 3 miles without taking a break from paddling.  For me, that was a challenge. I usually paddle then take pictures, paddle, take more pictures, paddle, and look at everything and take deep breaths as my mind resets... This paddling trip was very different! I only had my phone to use for photos... I knew my camera would slow me down!  (wanting to take more pics!)


Most people paddling had canoes or kayaks... one person had a paddleboard and had created a double bladed paddle for that which made him a lot faster!  

This seemed to be the canoe area...


People carried their boats in different ways...

This guy was a champ!  He walked like that for a while with his canoe on his head!!  (Ok shoulders, but still cool!) 

Teh Androscoggin land Trust did well making sure to have people on the river monitoring safety.  Thank you to them!  

There were a couple of competitors who took things seriously.... the fast boats were fast!
 

We all got on the water around 8:40... the race started at 9:00. 


The 'starting line' for all races was this pedestrian bridge.  



Before the race there was a moment of silence for the boy who died in the river this spring.  I thought it was a very classy way to pay tribute and to remind us all of the power of the water.  



I did not take photos while racing... there just wasn't time! 
I finished 6th I think, for my race... which was somewhere in the middle of the pack.. I think... although i am not sure how many people actually did the same race I did.   Now that I have done one race... I can understand how people become competitive with it.  I would consider doing this again, but would do some training first!!  Watch out next year!!  

At the end of the races paddlers gathered in Festival Park.  There was live music and a food truck.  Both were very good! The Androscoggin Land Trust had also organized some raffles.  Tom won a copy of our book!!  Congratulations Tom!


Paddling is and always will be an escape for me... an event like this is very different than my usual paddling.  Something I haven't shared much about here is that I have been working to get healthier, more fit.  While I have been lucky to always have he strength and stamina to paddle... Saturday's race put my endurance to the test.  I paddled non stop for just over 45 minutes.  This included going against the current for half the race.  I did not stop paddling! I am really proud of that.  And, I wasn't overly sore the next day!!  This was a victory for me, testing my physical abilities in relation to paddling.  It was nice to step outside of my comfort zone and do something new. But... I will never give up padding for the sake of paddling!  

Happy Paddling!!  Thanks to the ALT for creating this event!

Paddling Safety, Create a routine!

I was asked to write a blog post for our publisher and decided one about safety made sense.  This is something I had written specifically for safety when my contact in the Coast Guard asked if it was something I could do.  (He sends me the orange stickers to share, of course I said yes!)   I knew that the piece I shared with him would be shared only with those in the Coast Guard and asked if I could share it elsewhere and his response was Yes! So.. here it is on my publisher's blog. 

I know people get tired of hearing about safety, but I am hoping this presents it in a different way that makes sense to people! 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Father's Day


I am so lucky that my dad has and continues to be such an important part of my life.  

In this blog I have referenced my mom more than Dad...that's because it's a blog about kayaking and mom and I spent more time kayaking together than Dad and I have.  Dad, however, has played an integral role in cultivating my love of the outdoors.  
I remember going on many camping adventures with our family when I was little.  We used to go camping in Perry, Maine.  We also spent a lot of time up near Katahdin.  Our family adventures included canoeing. My dad eventually had a small fishing boat and I remember each spring Dad would take it to Stump Pond in Lincoln to test the motor.  I enjoyed going with him.  I would go fishing with him... if you could call it that.  I liked casting the line and reeling in the fish... I did NOT like touching the bait or the fish after it was caught.  Looking back I would bet that fishing trips with me were a lot less relaxing for him than solo ones!  

No matter what I have done in my life Dad has always been there, encouraging me to do my best and to make choices that I think are best for me.  I have never had to wonder if Dad was proud of me, he has always let me know.  He is pretty proud of Paddling Southern Maine!  

Me? I am proud to be his daughter!  

Love ya Dad!!  Thanks for posing for some promo pics!  
(He loves being in front of the camera as much as I do!) 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Loon Review

An HONEST review of the Old Town Loon 126 Kayak 
by Yours Truly

I got my 2017 Loon 126 about a year ago.  (It was a year on April 22!)  At the time I had posted my initial impressions.  Since I have had it for over a year now and have paddled in it for many hours and miles, I want to do a review.  

Some history... 
In a recent conversation with the guys from Shaker Hill, one of them said to me, "You really do love your loons!" This comment was made as I talked about the fleet of kayaks I have... I have FOUR Old Town Loons!  I have my mom's kayak, a red Loon 138 that she got in 1993.  After I inherited it I decided to get a second Loon 138, a green one, so that I could have a kayak I could use to take friends with me.  I wanted my 'extra' kayak to be something stable that people would feel safe in despite their experience and knew most people could comfortably sit in and paddle a loon... so that was 2 Loons... Then I adopted Miss Gladys... and even though the Loon 138s have a large cockpit, there was not enough room for the both of us...  so I kept my eyes out for a tandem kayak... and found one on Craigslist, a Loon 160T.  I took the front seat out and so far it has worked well for us... (I am hoping to share more on that soon, perhaps some upgrades!)  

Then came my NEW kayak... the first time I have had a NEW kayak... my Loon 126!! 
 (Taken at Shaker Hill!)  

Because I spend so much time on the water in my kayak I need it to be comfortable.  My mom's red Loon 138 is a pretty comfortable boat... but it is an old model of the loon and has the very HARD plastic seat.  As I have aged (I am 43) I recognize that my body, especially my back, lets me know when it isn't happy.  I began noticing that by the end of a multi-hour paddling excursion, my back was unhappy.  I began looking at new options a couple of years before actually buying my new Loon!  

Everything I had read about the seats in the new Loon said that it was a game changer!  I had read that the other parts of the loon, it's stability and tracking capabilities were similar to the Loon 138, both of which were important to me.  

So.. on a sunny April day in 2017 I stopped at Shaker Hill Outdoors to touch base with them about the book.  They had ordered some and I wanted to stop in to put my face with my name in relation to the book.  Unbeknownst to me the guy I was talking to at Shaker Hill already knew about me, as MaineKayakGirl!  As we talked about the book he asked if I had seen the new Loons... 
Had I seen them? Yes.  Had I drooled over them? Yes.  Had I seen, in person, the sunset color pattern, the pattern I liked most? No.  
And then there was Russ's MOST important question... "Have you sat in the seat?" 
I honestly answered Russ's question, "No Russ, I have not.  I am afraid if I do I will not want to go back to my old kayak."  
Despite my instincts to avoid sitting in the seat in the sunset color pattern kayak that was sitting there on the lawn....despite having my Loon 138 already on my truck at the moment... my curiosity and desire to establish a good working relationship with Shaker Hill FORCED me to sit in the kayak... on the lawn... in THIS seat!


 If I had been in a cartoon, the moment my backend rested in that seat...the amazing ACS2 SEAT... that soundbyte of angels singing would have been cued along with a single beam of sunshine would have put me in the spotlight!  Seriously.  The seat was so comfortable!  I think in the moment I told Russ I think I could spend the day sitting in that thing and could probably even fall asleep because it was THAT comfortable.  And It still is!   

 So the seat, for me, was THE factor that pushed me to get out my wallet and buy this beautiful kayak.  It was pretty great to buy myself a new kayak... though my emotional attachment to Mom's Loon 138 made me feel a little guilty... but my red loon still gets out on the water once in a while.  And I hope to get her out more this summer.  I am planning to show MORE people how to kayak and the red Loon is my kayaking ambassador!  Actually, when I show people how to kayak I end up in the red loon 138... because it was my mom's, I am VERY protective of that kayak... and prefer to use it myself vs. having other people use it... so newbies get to use the newest Loon.  

Anyway.. 
I bought the OT Loon 126 without having tried it on the water... (If you are new to kayaking, never do this...ALWAYS try before you buy!)  But because of my history with Loons I was confident that it would work for me.  A couple of important things for me include TRACKING and MANEUVERABILITY... 

Tracking.... I feel that the Loon 126 tracks really well. At first I noticed that each stroke of my paddle did seem to slightly change my direction... I attribute that to being about a foot shorter than my 138.  (By the way... most people probably know this, but when kayaks are named they include the length in the name... so the Loon 126 is 12'6" long... a Pungo 120 is 12 feet long... I heard people talking about this last weekend and for some people it was the first time they realized that, so wanted to share!) 
Having paddled my new boat for a year I definitely do not feel that same little pull as I used to.  I think my strokes/style of paddling has adapted to the Loon 126.  I think that I had felt that I needed to paddle a bit harder than I actually have to if that makes sense.  I now feel like I glide well through the water with the Loon and it tracks well.  

Maneuverability... for me this is a characteristic I consider on and off the water. I feel like loading and unloading my Loon 126 is a bit easier than the 138 was... with  just over a foot difference in length, it is easier for me to carry it and lift it by myself.  (That being said, the Loon 126 is 58 lbs., so it is not a light boat, but feels doable for me!)  On the water I also look at maneuverability.  How easily can I turn and how quickly? I am easily able to zig zag in, out, and around obstacles easily.  Sebago Trails recent season kick off on Panther Run was a great example of how well the Loon 126 can maneuver.  We were going under trees and around limbs the whole time and I didn't have to stop and try to calculate how to do it, I was able to do it easily.  (To be fair, I think that happens to all of us, no matter what you are paddling,  after you get used to your craft!)  

Durability...  While I have only had it for a year I think the durability of the Loon 126 is comparable to the Loon 138s.  The Loon 138s I have are well used, complete with some scratches on the bottoms from being pulled up on concrete landings and gravel... The loon 138s have been thrown on top of my truck rack, upside down, without cradles!  (Yes I hear all of the elite paddlers gasping at that idea! but... I did it for years because that's what I could afford and it worked just fine, just added some extra scratches on the top of the kayak.)  I admit the new Loon rests in Malone cradles on my truck rack. 

FEATURES/EXTRAS
I am a loyal fan of Old Town... I believe in their products... that being said, I think some of their bells and whistles could have been designed from a more practical standpoint...

The console/workdeck... I have paddled with friends who have these in their Pungo 120s (Wilderness System).  They are very nice.  The hatch area is a decent size where, when I use it, I keep my bug spray, sunscreen, and snacks.  It is designed so you can keep a portable battery in there to keep your devices charged.  To be honest I have not used that feature, I use it just for storage.  I also appreciate that there is a cup holder on the left side surface, not visible in this photo. 


I am not sure if this year's model still includes this or not.. but mine had a water bottle holder underneath the work deck. I removed mine almost immediately.  In my opinion, not a smart part of the design.  It gets in the way when trying to reposition and move your legs.  It was easy enough to remove!

 One of the things I find challenging, which may not apply to all paddlers, is that with my long legs (and I am not a skinny minny) I have to remove the work deck to get in and out of the kayak.  It is easy to remove and easy to secure it back in place, but... when I take it off it needs to be put in a place where it won't fall into the water... which means it needs to go into the cockpit...this means the space in the cockpit becomes limited.  
If the work deck is in the cockpit I have my legs up and over the edge of the cockpit.  It isn't too hard for me to balance the kayak while I move to retrieve the console and put my legs back in the cockpit to reattach the cockpit, but some people may not feel stable trying to do that.  For more average sized paddlers this may not be a problem, but for larger people (for whom in ways the boat is designed) it will be a challenge.  It would also pose a challenge for people who paddle who may have mobility or flexibility issues.  Trying to balance getting in and out can be enough of a challenge without worrying about an extra piece of equipment to manage.  Depending on your abilities/limitations and preference you may choose to not use the work deck.  In a way... a flip top option or something on the front of the kayak specific to attach the work deck to, would be helpful.
(**Remove workdeck/console while driving.  I am not sure if it would fly off, but it isn't worth the risk!)

 The rear hatch... Love it!  It is water tight and you can fit quite a bit in there, extra clothing, towels, a small lunch bag/cooler.  Great feature! (Oh my kayak cart, if I take the wheels off, fit in there too...)

The cockpit... spacious!  This cockpit has enough space behind the seat for a small kayak cart (at least the LLBean Cart with small wheels) and bilge pump.  It is wide and long. Without the work deck attached it is easy to have your legs hanging over the edge a bit. 



The Front Bungee system... I am NOT a fan.  
They LOOK pretty... I mean look at them, all curved and in those little curved grooves... BUT... They are impractical!

When the bungees are released they don't have enough tension to work as deck bungees... it is hard to tell in these pictures, but.... I do not even keep my bilge pump under them because it is too loose. So.. sadly this feature, in my opinion, is strictly decorative... which I find disappointing.  I have debated about trying to figure out how to add some bungee cords to make it more practical but have not done it yet... because it wouldn't look as nice! 


I should also mention the colors.  They have Black Cherry - a black/red swirl... Cloud, classic blue/white swirls, Lemongrass - a very yellow green color, and Sunrise, the color shown here.
I had seen the color examples online and thought I would enjoy the lemongrass color because it looked like a bright yellow, but in person it is like a dull green glowstick.  The black cherry... was tempting because my Loon 138 is red.. but I do not like it mixed with the black.  I wish there was a solid red... the blue sky is not bad, but don't think it would show up good on the water... so I went with Sunrise... bright sunny colors!


Overall I LOVE the Old Town Loon 126.  I am so glad I have it and it is the most comfortable kayak I have paddled.  I recommend it for people looking for a stable boat that can be used for lakes, pods, slow moving rivers/streams, and protected coves. 

I am not sure if this helps other people with their choices about kayaks. 
Remember, whatever you do, try before you buy!!  Reputable outfitters will make sure you can try them before you invest in them. 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Feeling Humbled and having lots of fun this weekend!

Hello!  I am going to be posting new trips soon, I promise!!  This is such a busy time of year for me but after this next weekend I will have A LOT more time to explore AND blog!  This weekend was spent promoting the book, spending time at both LLBean and with the crew from Shaker Hill Outdoors.

It has been a very humbling weekend... to see our book, something on which we have worked so hard is carried by Maine's most well known outfitter, LLBean, feels really good.  What feels even better is talking with people about the book and about paddling in general.  On Saturday I had a great conversation with a woman named Lori.  She had just bought the book at LLBean and didn't realize the authors were on site.  She bought it because she often paddles solo and wanted to know more places to go.  We talked about why she kayaks and what she loves about it... and I LOVE knowing that the sport of kayaking (and other paddlesports) bring as much joy to others as it does to me.

Today I got to spend the day with the crew from Shaker Hill Outdoors.  They are a family run operation.  There were many people who got to experience paddling various crafts today.  It was SO FUN to see people trying different things.  I think Cindy (who I met at a recent paddle on Runaround Pond and again at Sebago Trails Paddling's opening day paddle) would have won the award for the most crafts tried today!  She tried two pedal kayaks, at least one sit on top, and the new tandem Heron.  How cool to be able to try things before buying them!  And even if you aren't buying them, to be able to try a sport to see if it is something you want to do.  (Of course I would tell you that you ABSOLUTELY want to do it! But I may be a bit biased!)   While there one of the guys who works for Shaker Hill described the book to someone and said he loves how clear things are, specifically directions and parking information.  It does make me want to write another guide... but... that is a lot of work!  I think I would need to invest in a camper first, so that I can really take trips that are further from home, not doable for day trips.  Someday.... (Check out some of the pics from this weekend below! Gladys loved being at today's event, getting all kinds of love from everyone!) 

As part of our promotional work this weekend someone shared a link to a review of our book that I must share here.  Click here for a review of Paddling Southern Maine, written by Peter Jones and posted on www.driftwoodkayak.com/blog .  I am not yet familiar with Driftwood Kayak, but will now familiarize myself with them!  I LOVE this review because I have zero connection to Peter, no affiliation.  I am sad that I had not seen the review until now, but an THRILLED to read it and love the approach he takes to the book.  His review NAILS what we had for goals for the guide... it is so validating to see that someone who knows the sport was able to articulate the points we were hoping people would take away from the book is super gratifying. 

Thank you to Peter and Driftwood!!

Thank you ALL for the support you have given me with the book and the blog.  This blog remains a priority for me, a thing I love doing, sharing my experiences with you.  THANK YOU to my long time Blog followers!!  Remember I LOVE hearing from you.  Feel free to leave comments or send me an email! I am hoping to organize some group paddles this summer and would love to meet even more of my blog buddies!!!

Enjoy the photos below of the weekend's promotional activities!


LLBEAN Paddlesports Weekend!!  
(Sorry for the squinting!!)


Copies are sold in the Bike Boat & Ski Store, NOT in the main store...



Today at Shaker Hill's Demo Days... 
For the record, Gladys gives Shaker Hill FOUR paws in her review!! 
Thanks to all who said hello to her and gave her some love!  She was SPOILED today with affection!  

This is us in the Old Town Next... what is described as a canoe/kayak hybrid.  Sitting up higher on the water is different for me, as I am so used to my kayaks.  I think this would be a great option for a single paddler with canines who don't move around a lot.  Gladys likes to shift positions frequently so that made me feel a little tippy. (Reminded me of canoeing with my sister who liked to rock the boat, hence the end of my canoeing days!)  It tracked better than I anticipated it would.  I was glad to get the chance to try it out!  

This is the boat I was most excited to try today.  It is a Wilderness Pamlico 145T.  (I felt a little dirty for cheating on Old Town!)  I have been looking into an alternate tandem for me and Gladys because the Loon 160T that I have is long, 16 feet, and heavy, 70 lbs.  AND, because it is an older Old Town Loon, it has a hard plastic seat... the seat is not very comfortable and for some reason makes my legs go to sleep.  The last time I used it I used a foam cushion and put a pool noodle under my thighs and that felt much better... so as I have been debating what I should do, the guys at Shaker Hill had me check out this boat.  Again, it is the Wilderness Pamlico 145T.  The stability of this boat is comparable to my single loon and the seat is more comfortable than the one currently in my loon 160T, but not as comfortable as the seat in my new Loon 126...
So... the Pamlico may be a good option for us... but I am not wanting to spend that money right now... as I am hoping to get a little camper... So... I am having the guys at Shaker Hill check out some options for me on my Old Town 160T.... if my idea works out I am going to be super excited! Stay tuned for more info on that!  

This is Cindy, trying out one of the pedal kayaks...


She made it look so fun, that I HAD to try!  (I did not take Gladys on this test run, not sure she would have sat in the back!)   The pedal kayak was...different.  I was up a little higher which was okay... I wish that I could have pushed the seat back another couple of inches, but most kayakers are not 6'6" like me, with most of my height in my legs!  Because of the angle of my legs/feet the back of my teva sandals would 'catch' on the surface of the kayak a bit...which was annoying... so I took off my sandals... the pedals are not super comfy for bare feet... But.. other than that, I liked this.  I prefer the more traditional paddling vs. pedaling, but I can see why people would like it.  It would be a decent workout.  I had wondered how people steer them and today I learned that you steer using the rudder which you operate using a small handle on the left, beside of the seat.  It was pretty easy to learn how to use the rudder and you can go a lot faster using the pedals than using a paddle... but... I think I would be a bit nervous with a pedal kayak on some waterways... the propeller hangs below the kayak, so in really shallow places it may get caught up..(You can pull the propeller up and have it out of the way!) Turning sharply is also not as easy as it is when using a paddle.  Maneuvering places with obstacles would be a challenge... (ALso sitting up higher would make going under things, like downed trees, more of a challenge.)  But for open water, open lakes, I can see why people would like these, especially people who fish!

This is Cindy AFTER she had used the Tandem Heron.  She seemed to really like it and is so thoughtful in why she wants a tandem!  She is looking out for someone who is important to her and wants to make sure that person can continue paddling.  I love it! 

Miss Gladys reminding us all to wear our PFDs! 

As you can see, Gladys was wet and a little dirty after being in the water!

Yes that is a WATER SNAKE... and a big one!  EEK!

Gladys getting some love from Tim from Shaker Hill!

Paddleboarding!  I was so impressed to see people trying it for the first time and NOT falling off.  
#lifegoals

This is a great place to paddle! If you launch from Cindy's Dockside you have to pay an $8 fee... but you get to launch at a place where there is a restaurant...the food smelled REALLY good today!  There is a free public launch not too far... check out this post for more info!

This pic shows 2 girls paddleboarding for the first time.  The guy in the back is Russ from Shaker Hill.  Also in this pic is someone trying out one of the sit on tops. 

Gladys jumped on this board a few times.  Russ said she was trying to tell me something... Someday Russ, but not today!


Super proud of this girl today. She did So well interacting with so many people.  She met a couple of dogs that for some reason wasn't a good mix, sadly... but she did amazing with all the people.  She LOVED the love she received. 

And she was shameless in accepting their affection!  (This is another Shaker Hill crew member!)

End of the day... tired pup. 


EDITED POST: With permission from Cindy L. I am adding a few photos of me from today.  Thanks Cindy! 
This is me with Gladys trying out the  Wilderness Pamlico 145T. 



Her tail would Not stop wagging! 


As we were coming in she jumped on the paddleboard! 

Pedal power! 





I am attempting to post a video here, of me on the pedal kayak... I rarely use the video feature on blogspot, so I apologize if it doesn't work well! 



Thank you to LLBean and to Shaker Hill Outdoors for two amazing days!  
I love that businesses are encouraging people to paddle!  

Happy Paddling... or Happy pedaling?  You decide!