Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What's Next?

Julie keeps telling me to go alone next year to do the Georgian Bay trip as she knows that's still on my list and I have it all planned out from two years ago, she also knows she isn't about to do it with me. Have to admit, it's tempting because I still want to do it but in the end I much prefer having her with me on these trips, it's so much nicer to have someone to share the experience with and I couldn't ask for a better paddle partner, 2 multi-week kayak trips under our belt and not one argument or disagreement, we just gel and can't ask for anything better than that. Sorry, Julie Solo-Georgian is out and as long as you are still in we will find an alternative.

There a million places I want to paddle, all in due time... there are two front runners at the moment although that could change between now and next summer.

Georgian Bay with the Kids

We both want to bring our kids, Braedon & Caleb (mine) and Tristan & Jade (hers), that will depend mostly on my kids schedules, they both attend their own canoe excursions into Algonquin Park and next year Braedon has a 60 day trip planned so they may not be able to join us. If it works out then we will use vehicles as a base camp, start off in southern Georgian Bay and paddle a few days in various spots, Honey Harbor, Parry Sound, Point Au Baril, French River, Killarney then ferry over to Tobbermory to finish off. As these trips will be in the inner islands there is less chance of being hit by weather and fury of Georgian Bay waves.

Hudson River Watershed Trail (Albany to New York City)

Not enough time and too many kilometers to do the entire route from Niagara Falls down to NYC across the Erie Canal system so thinking of starting in Albany and following the Hudson down to the Atlantic in New York City, sounds pretty cool and is about the same distance as the Trent trip, ~400km, will need an extra week though as the logistics of travel will need some careful planning and would like to spend some time in NYC, how cool to paddle down and around the Statue of Liberty. I'm in and plus, I want to paddle ocean a bit cause I have my ultimate Kayak trip in mind and will need some experience.

Will setup our new blog once we have made a decision.

Gear wish list for next year

I am pretty well equipped at the moment, a few things I would like to add for the trip next year.

* My own Kayak with padded seat, looking at the Seaward Tyee

* Carbon Fiber Paddle, like the Werner

* Kayak Cockpit Cover

* Kayak Sail

* Solar panel for charging electronics

* Personal Locator Beacon if doing Georgian Bay (FastFind or ACR)

Also going to spend some time and build an app for Blackberry to integrate Google Maps for real-time tracking for the blog, could just get the SPOT but this is a fun project over the winter.

Trip Pictures

Here are some pictures from our trip.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Trip Review - Rideau vs. Trent

Trip was amazing and worth it, glad we did it, however, both Julie and I feel the same way, if you had to sum it up with one statement it would be, we have done the Trent (myself twice) and the Rideau and both of us would do the Trent again in an instant, Rideau not so much. Don't get me wrong, was phenomenal trip with a million memories and there are some definite pluses over the Trent, however, overall the Trent is by far a much nicer paddling experience, for us anyway.


Pretty much even par on this one, as with the Trent, there isn't a real need for detailed water maps, you can literally get away with following the waterway by sight and/or using the little pullout map at any lock station which also includes distances, there are some bonuses with the detailed maps though as they will show many alternative paddling routes, either as shortcuts or to get out of the wind, my GPS was literally used for tracking distances travelled and not for navigation. There are many instances on the lakes where the boat channel sweeps off to one direction across a lake and then turns back in at the bottom, clearly visible on the pull-out maps so pay attention if the wind is up, would hate to fight the wind across only to realize you have to paddle back across it to get into the channel.


Rideau Canal wins hands down on this one, they say there is a slight current but you would never know it, the Trent in certain spots has strong enough current to tip over the buoys and paddling against it can be extremely tiring, for instance, if you leave from Georgian Bay to Trenton they you fight the current for the first 150 odd km to Balsam Lake (almost the length of the Rideau) and lucky to hit 5km/hour, after that the current definitely pushes you along, with the Rideau we consistently paddled at 7-8km/hour in either direction, does make a difference.


Going to be pretty much consistent in either case at least for the last two weeks of July, we had incredible weather on both trips, the only factor would be the wind, all trip reports I read say go from Kingston to Ottawa to take advantage of the prevailing winds, we may have hit an odd time as there was no difference for us in either direction, on the way up we hit wind behind, on the bow, dead in the face and on the way back we hit the same thing, I would still suggest doing from Kingston to Ottawa as there has to be some truth to the statement otherwise people wouldn't be posting it. We just didn't notice it.


During my planning it was fairly consistent, 6-10 days to do the 202km route one way, I picked the middle for a little contingency, however, I would suggest planning for 10 days and enjoy it, 6 days requires an average of 33km/day, you would spend all day in the Kayak and be exhausted every-day, not the best experience in my opinion, also requires that you have pristine conditions the entire way. 8 days will bring the average down to about 25km/day which isn't bad and what I planned on but still, if looking for a nice leisure trip then go with the 10 day trip which gives an average of 20km/day and a much more relaxed time with some contingency for weather and relaxation. I wouldn't do the return trip again personally. With the Trent being double the distance well, a lot may factor in based on how much time you have available so Rideau wins if you are looking for a shorter paddle.

Challenge Level

Rideau wins in this category if you are looking for an easier paddle, for a number of factors, first there are no seriously long gaps between locks, for instance 60k from Peterborough to Hastings, 60k from Washago to Gamebridge, and the various 25-30km stretches in between, definitely in for some longer paddles days and/or creative campsites if you are doing the Trent, on the Rideau there is a 30km section across the Rideau Lakes with 2 provincial parks right on the water and the 40k from Burritt's Rapids to Long Island, also parks/conservation areas along the way, finding a camping spot in those sections is not an issue. Second is there are no truly massive lakes to cross, The Rideau Lake section would be about the biggest you have to cross but even that, the lakes are narrow with many shelter spots and the canal basically follows the shore the entire way, you just have to cross out of Orillia Narrows and look across Simcoe and go, damn, I have to cross that? I can't even see the other side, which is also a plus for the Rideau, the entire trip can be broken up in 5k sections like a target point so you always feel like you are making progress, after 7 hours on Lake Simcoe or going down Rice Lake you are like, argghh, will this lake ever end, mentally it makes a difference, you are like, ok just have to get to that point, ok now that one, etc..

Boat Traffic/Courtesy

I would say as a general statement the two canals are equivalent but the Trent wins by a landslide, there is a lot of boat traffic and probably more on the Trent which seems to be busier, each has their share of idiots who think they own the waterway and will pay little/no attention to how big a wake they throw regardless of how close you may be but what you notice most is that on the Rideau you are in canals and narrow sections more of the time and because the lakes are fairly narrow the boats pay a much bigger role, can't count the number of times we were swamped or sprayed by boats including from the Police.

Now this may sound offensive to some but avoid the Canal the last week of July first week of August as this is when Montreal construction shutdown happens and they all seem to hit the Rideau, I have nothing against French culture (I am French) and have many friends from Montreal but the boating people from Quebec, with very few exceptions were the rudest most inconsiderate boaters I have ever encountered. EVER and I have lived on water my entire life. It seems to be a consistent joke with the lock staff and other boaters, "Welcome to Montreal Week". The first week was the most tranquil paddling ever, was almost eerie and so quiet, we hit that last week though, was like hell opened up and was one speeding boat after another just trying to race each other to the next lock and to hell with anything or anybody who got in their way. Find it funny that pretty much the only two boats the entire trip which made a conscious effort to slow down for us was a 12 foot aluminum boat with a fisherman and a Zodiac dingy with two teenagers, both who throw a 1 inch wake. We thanked them.

Once of the nicest things about the Rideau though is you will run into many other paddlers, I think we ran into 10 or so other groups doing the paddle, 3 on the last day. Always nice because you feel a sense of camaraderie as you have a common interest and can share stories and experiences. I think I saw 2 random kayakers during the 2 Trent River trips.


Trent wins on all accounts, there were definitely some beautiful sections along the Rideau, the Rideau Lakes are comparable to anything the Kawartha's has to offer and the landscapes are breathtaking, the downside is the rest is like a swamp, literally, admittedly we only made it up to Burritt's Rapids but from everything we've been told by other boaters/paddlers, it is pretty much the same swampy view until you get into Ottawa which I hear is incredible. There seemed to be a million little finger lakes off the beaten path and could probably spend a couple of weeks just exploring those and I am sure they are worth every second of the paddle to get there and might be worth a second trip just to paddle around the Rideau Lake area. The Trent also has some sketchy sections, Like the stretch from Peterborough to Rice Lake but as a whole there is so much more to see and the landscape varies dramatically along the way.


No denying that the historical element of the Rideau Canal is amazing, Engineering that went into these old locks, the history and surrounding buildings and architecture are incredible, you sometimes feel transported back in time and it's really cool. There are a couple of drawbacks though, every lock is exactly the same so there is no variation in the experience, get in, go up/down and get out and they are also brutally slow, Kinston Mills, Jones Falls and Ottawa as an example can take anywhere from 2-5 hours to lock through the multiple step locks. On the Trent you get a mixture of everything, Manual, Hydrolytic, Marine Railway, etc., does make it more enjoyable, after the 3rd or 4th lock on the Rideau you are like ok, I've seen it, next is just the same thing and oh wait, 47 more of these things? Wasn't a complaint, just an observation.

Lock Camping

This one goes to the Rideau Canal all the way, this is the way a Lock station should be setup for paddlers, the grounds are by far more spacious than the Trent and there are many options for camping on both the lower and upper sides with plenty of picnic tables to go around. Not once did we feel like we had to struggle to find a landing spot to unload as there are low docks everywhere, such a pleasure over the Trent which is always a pain with 4 foot docks at 99% of every lock. They did start putting in new Kayak/Canoe docks at each lock station, was hit or miss whether they were installed when we got there as they were in the process of doing it, by the time we hit the return route, they were in most lock stations, in some cases they were just put in as we pulled up, shook the installer's hand. They make the trip so much more enjoyable when you stop after a long day's paddle, even without the new Kayak/Canoe docks it was a breeze. Trent could take a lesson from the Rideau on that front. Bathrooms were generally very clean except for some of the very old lock stations in which case the bush was a better alternative and all but 1 (Kinston Mills) had drinkable water. The only downside is that all the Locks seem to be in swampy sections so mosquitoes get extra bad at dusk and trying to find a clean swimming spot is crazy, get used to swimming in weedy, swampy, brownish water, Trent has the nicest swimming at the locks going.

Cost is same as the Trent, 4.90 per person per night if you arrive by water or bicycle, great deal on all accounts and worth every penny, I did notice that they are more strict on the camping fee payment on the Rideau, with the Trent, on both trips combined I paid for camping 3 times, the rest of the nights the lockmaster just said, ah don't worry about it, I don't have an issue paying the cost it was more the approach from the lock staff, was weird, it was like that pesky salesman when you go into a store, can I show you something, 5 seconds later, can you show you something now. Just get out of kayak, ok will be 4.90 per person for camping, come up and pay, sure just let us unpack, half unpacked, ok are you going to pay now, yes absolutely, we aren't going anywhere just trying to get setup before the rain, 10 minutes later, walk over with change purse and form, ok time to pay, that was consistent in almost every lock we stayed at, both Julie and I were like WTF. The Trent and Rideau should offer Camping Season's pass, they offer Transit and Mooring, why not camping, would make things easier.

Lock Staff

Hard to pin-point but there is a difference in the lock staff on the Rideau and the Trent, on the Trent almost every lock master/lock attendant seems to be there to help or offer assistance, just generally enjoy their job and realize that they only have the job due to the tourism industry. On the Rideau the staff just seem more businesslike, it's almost like you feel in the way or that you are putting them out for every question you ask, it's very noticeable. Here are some examples, Jones Falls Lock is a joke, we arrive and politely ask how long the lock will be and he gives some smartass comment about just take a seat and will be there in 3 hours, on the way back the same lock staff person didn't mention that there is no camping at the bottom and let us lock all the way down which requires a portage back up, then gave us flack for wanting to come back up, hello, we have a season's pass which allows us to use as often or as many times as we need to, also didn't mention that they have kayak/canoe wheels to assist in portaging, found that out after, he was generally rude to everybody, not just us.

Then there is the lockmaster at Kilmarnock, we show up on the hottest day on record (138 degrees) baked by the sun and dying for a cold drink, ask if we can put in his fridge he says, sorry no fridge here, uhm hello we know that every lock station because the others let us use them, why would this be any different? Didn't say anything, after he left for the day, one of the other lock people came over and let us use the fridge that "wasn't there" and apologized. This is the same lockmaster that on the way back after we were almost tipped by a speeder, barely said squat to the boater and replied "Welcome to Montreal Week"

There are some very nice staff though so don't want to paint them all with the same brush. Narrows Lock has the best ever on the Trent or the Rideau, this guy made lock staff look good, the rest can definitely take a lesson or two from this gentleman, this was our favorite lock to stay at and it was 100% due to him. Let's not forget the lock attendant in Smith's Falls who risked his life to save another person. Hat's off.


Another one that is hard to pin down and maybe it was just this year's crowd but people on the Trent just seem to be nicer, very few people on the Rideau ever took the time to say hello or even a thank you, many cases of me getting up from my dinner to assist a boater coming into the dock and not even a thank you, even had one take the rope back and re-tie his boat, really? Whether it was swamping us, having generators going all night, you name it seemed to happen on this trip, best way I can describe it is that the Trent almost felt like you were family everywhere you went, didn't get that feeling on the Rideau from start to finish. We did meet some really nice people along the way and not everyone was the way I describe, again, just too many instances of the negative side to be isolated or coincidental, I hope others have a different experience. It was a good thing I had Julie around.


Not really an issue in either case, on the Rideau there are a few spots where you can top up the supplies but for the most part the Locks are isolated from towns. Smith's Falls is probably the best option as the little town has everything you would need Walmart, Canadian Tire , laundry, grocery store etc... There are a few other spots to be aware of along the way which may help as some aren't overly obvious.

There is an Esso Station with lots of goodies at Kinston Mills but it's quite the hike so only if you really need to fill that sugar high or up for a walk would I say go for it, Seeley's Bay, is probably the first stop after Kingston Mills, little fish shop/gas docs, limited food stuff but if you paddle into the actual town which is less than a km up then you have LCBO, Foodland, convenience store etc. parking at the Government Doc is not an issue and it's a 3 minute walk up Main Street to the stores. At Newboro lock there is the little town of Newboro a short walk away, and Westport a little further, at Jones Falls there is a tiny little store, chips, Ice-Cream etc. and does have hamburgers/sausages, At Chaffey's Lock there is a combo convenience store/LCBO and another convenience store at the Opinicon Lodge. As you pass under the bridge at Rideau Ferry (if coming from Kingston) there is a restaurant on the water, just behind that is a comb convenience store/LCBO/Food counter. Next stop is Smiths Falls, there is also a laundry-mart on Main Street just past the Rideau Museum at the Combined Lock (2nd lock in Smith's Falls). Merrickville is a good re-supply stop as well as they have everything you would need and many great restaurants, LCBO is one street west of the main drag kind of hidden away. Park across from lock has showers for 4 bucks and not a bad camping spot at the point but more expensive. At Burritt's Rapids there is Lock 17 which is a restaurant, showers, laundry and small convenience store all built into one, right across from the lock and Fri/Sat has live bands. There are very few Marina's along the way that aren't completely out of the way and not sure what's on the Ottawa side of Burritt's Rapids.

Hope the info helps and don't let anything I have said stop you from getting out there on the Rideau and enjoying the trip, it really is worth it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gear Review - Kayaks

Julie's kayak was a Seaward Cosma, same one as last year so you can check out review from last year if interested.

Mine was a slightly larger boat, Seaward Quantum, overall boat was amazing, at first I though skeg vs rudder would be noticeable but really wasn't, had no issues paddling and with skeg down tracked straight, wind off the bow caused it to windcock a bit but nothing too bad, just had to adjust paddle stroke. For some reason I found this boat to be the least stable when sitting, always seemed to keel over with slightest move, had top really pay attention getting in and out. Was very fast though, even fully loaded, no wind, no current could comfortably paddle at around 8km/h.

I do know I don't want a skeg when I buy mine, only because the skeg and cable take too much room from the rear hatch and can't pack the tent, which is my preferred spot, ended up packing pillows as was the only things that fit, we had four so worked out well.

Still found the cockpit a little cramped with limited storage space, would like a little more room, and a padded seat.

Did find my kayak to buy though, Seaward Tylee, 17' Extra Volume and spacious cockpit, in front of feet (for beer cooler), sides and back of seat, nice boat, the extra volume means I can pack more, smart rudder system, big hatches front and rear, no 3rd day hatch, real hatch covers, not those snap in rubber tupperware things, sexy boat, checked it out when I returned the rentals, looked like I could pack everything I had in both boats into this one, oh and padded seat :)

Might have to go back and finally buy one, renting for the last 3 years has really showed me what I want in a kayak, the Tylee meets everything I want.

Gear Review - Primus Himalaya OmniFuel Stove

Very impressed with this stove, a few things I didn't like which I will get into but overall, can't go wrong. This review will highlight differences with the MSR Whisperlite International as a comparison. While I like this stove over the MSR, MSR is an incredible stove and works like a charm, still used it on this trip.

Primus stove is incredibly well built, solid and sturdy, not once did it feel tippy, unlike the MSR which always sits on a slant until you put a pot on it which is my biggest pet peeve with that stove.

Used a large gas canister on this trip and it lasted about 10 days for breakfast and dinner, not bad, for a week 1 canister should do for two people, bring spare if you are going longer. Certainly prefer gas over liquid fuel now just because it lights instant and burns clean very clean, no black soot like on the MSR which is liquid fuel only.

Simmer on this stove is incredible, it really does simmer, unlike the MSR which has one setting, instant on full blast, sure you can play with the MSR to get close to simmer but once you use the Optimus it's hard to go back.

Do have some complaints though but nothing I would say would stop me from recommending, some may just be me.

Stove is very loud, sounds like a blast furnace, wasn't that much of an issue but when I lit up the MSR I thought maybe it wasn't working it's so much quieter.

Base heat shield and wind screen are total crap, they were destroyed after 3 days??? Wtf! I ended up using the MSR ones as they are still in great condition after 3 years. Would have expected same quality as the stove itself, which is perfect, expected more seeing as the stove is more than double the price.

Once I switched to liquid fuel, which is a plus with this stove as it supports both liquid and gas, the preheat stage was freaky, seemed to be a lot of flare-ups going on, sure it was just me not used to this stove but seemed tricky, unlike the MSR which is dead simple.

Think it burns way more liquid fuel then the MSR, will have to play with the jets and see what happens, for instance used the MSR for entire trip last year and used 3/4 of a large bottle (28oz) this year I switched to liquid on day 12 and for 4.5 days it used half the bottle, hmmmm, think I may have cooked and boiled more this time though so maybe it's just my perception.

Suppose to be able to turn bottle over and it will automatically burn remaining fuel in the line, could never get that to work, will have to go through the manual again and see If I'm doing it right.

Lastly, they have this clever screw in adapter for connecting liquid fuel bottle, every time I detached fuel sprayed everywhere, unlike the MSR where you just pull out connector, sure it's just me so will play with it some more.

Overall, amazing stove and highly recommend, if you don't want to fork out the extra cash though, MSR is amazing as well

Gear Review - GSR Spice Rack

Best one I've seen, has six compartments for various spices in 3 shakers (top/bottom). Was great to have something to take the blandness away from the same food over and over.

Small enough to fit in cook set and costs under 10 bucks. Spices not included

Gear Review - Sea-to-Summit Portable Shower

Another great add, fill with 10L of water and let the sun heat it up, hang from tree and enjoy nice warm shower.

Found was best to leave in sun to warm vs hang and warm, shaded under branches so takes longer, for ultimate hot water shower, fill 3/4 with cold water then boil water for the rest.

You aren't getting a powerful stream (no pressure) but its definitely enough for 2 people to each have a shower, wash up and rinse off, lasts between 8-10 minutes, never counted exact timing.

Well worth it for something that costs 20 bucks and folds up the size of a couple of decks of cards

Gear Review - Portec Hammock

Definitely will never leave home without it, amazingly comfortable, setup is easy, less than a minute if you have two trees and takes up almost no room in the kayak.

Was so relaxing to rest and read a book or take an afternoon nap.

Definitely get the Portec hammock straps which are sold separate for 20 bucks, just wrap around three and connect, done, no knots etc. Also length adjustable.

With tree straps it can span a huge distance, like 20-30 feet between trees, was surprised and happy when really needed it.

Gear Review - Marmot Limelite 3P Tent

I can't say enough good things about these tents, last year we used my 2 person and it was just a little too small for the two of us for a multi-week trip.

Picked up the 3 person version for this year and what a difference, having the second door and the extra room was such a nicer experience for two people, never felt cramped or that there wasn't enough room for gear as well.

Tent goes up just as easy as the 2 person and the thing is storm proof, wild winds, lightning storms and rain, never an issue with anything.

Tent is also very cool, lots of ventilation and didn't have any issues with condensation.

If in the market for a new tent, I highly recommend Marmot, if going solo, 2 person is enough, if two then get the 3 person, both are reasonably priced between 200-300 CDN.

They also have a great 4 and 6 person versions.