I have had issues with mine in the past. In the 2010 Everglades Challenge off Sanibel ours didn’t update for several hours during severe weather. Probably the time we would have needed it the most.
Here is an article about how the use of a SPOT device left much to be desired. Four people died. Lots of lessons to be learned. There is one very good point towards the end. Any electronic beacon should be regarded as imperfect last resort. Better to manager the risks you take well before you ever need one.
The Suwannee River is an important part of the WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge. Last week I went up and met some (Florida) West Coast Trailer Sailing Squadron members for a couple days of paddling. I took the Loon and had a great time doing some easy paddling in the Mayo/Brandford area. I also lent the boat to our host Ted so he could experience the unique and enjoyable experince of paddling a Kruger boat. He had some back/shoulder issues that were making kayaking paddling difficult. The Loon and light weight ZRE paddle didn’t cause him as much pain.
Water levels were a little above 8 ft around Branford. Perfect for an easy paddle. The springs in the area were also accessable. We stopped at a few and had a great time. The video shows Ted swimming through a tunnel in Peacock Springs. Convict Springs which is a small river resort was very enjoyable. They serve lunch and beverages Friday – Sunday. I recommend making a stop here if your schedule permits.
Jarhead and Whitecaps contacted me last week asking about the Wekiva. I made a few suggestions and they planned a trip. Yesterday evening, despite some heavy rain, I loaded up my Loon and went out to meet them.
Heat and rain are never a good combination for staying dry. I launched from Wekiwa Springs State Park. Its a couple hundred yard walk from the parking lot to the water and I was quickly sweaty underneath my rain gear. Wet inside and out is not an optimal way to start a paddle so I am going to have to work on that in the future. It probably didn’t help that I had a layer of cotton clothes underneath the rain gear. Some higher tech microfiber may have been a better choice.
This was my first opportunity to try out my ZRE Light carbon fiber paddle. I liked it. I am not sure if I was able to feel the benefits of such a light paddle on short trips but I think it will have its advantages on long distance trips lasting several days. Paddling behind Whitecaps I noticed he had a much different cadence than myself. When he sped up he made fast short strokes. At least the looked shorter than mine. I am not sure how short they actually were because he is a big guy and it could have been deceiving. Still very interesting to watch someone with so much experience.
Had a great time hanging out with these guys. I showed them Wekiva Island which is a local lauch spot and bar then followed them to their camp site at Buffalo Tram for some more conversations about paddling and other mutual interests but unfortunately I had to go home for the night. I had about a 4 mile paddle back to my truck in the dark. At 10:30 PM I was the only person on the river. There were lots of orange glowing eyes watching me along the way. Including one 5 – 6 ft gator that didn’t want to move out of the way. I slapped the water hard with my paddle and this gator barley moved. Once next to him I hit him in the tail with the paddle and he only moved away slowly. I am not sure if this gator had been fed by people during the day and he wasn’t afraid of people or if I was a new night time curiosity. Still it was spooky.
Other than the gator incident paddle the Wekiva at night and alone was a surreal experience. A combination of awe and fear. I had the river to myself and that very few people ever experience something similar. In between the good thoughts I was very aware that there are some big gators in the area and that I was no longer on the top of the food chain. I wasn’t sure if I was better of moving through the area very quietly or making lots of noise. If I was quiet I was concerned that I might spook a gator and get flipped as it spooked under the boat. Making noise, especially paddling quickly, only made me seem like some sort of wounded animal in the water. I experimented with banging on the hull with my paddle to announce my presence and that seemed to be a reasonably intelligent idea but the banging got old quickly and ended up seeming silly. Eventually I just moved on and spotted the eyes using my head lamp.
Equipment issues, that’s one of the reason I did this quick trip in the rain. I wanted to see what worked and what didn’t. My first issue was with my little canoe portage cart. It didn’t fit my boat well. Where a standard canoe has a flat bottom the Loon is rounded and it would not stay well attached. I need to fix this if I intend to do any portaging. For this trip I ended up carrying my canoe and gear. My spray skirt was good for light rain but not the heavy stuff. Especially when I am not in the boat. The hole for my torso turned into a funnel when the boat was in the back of my truck. The biggest issue this caused was water collecting in the bottom of the boat Gear had the potential of sitting in standing water. Everything is in dry bags but I would prefer it wasn’t floating in water. One other spray skirt issue I ran into was that I can not reach the front and back combing on my Loon when on the water. On my way back to the truck it unexpectedly started to rain and I didn’t have the skirt on my boat. I attempted to get it connected but its just out of reach. In open water that could be a big problem. I also found that my headlamp I use for sailing on bigger boats wasn’t sufficient for paddling. I needed something that would illuminate 20 – 30 ft in front of the boat. I tried putting a flash light on the deck but it lit up the front of the boat more than my path. The last think I had happen was my rudder cable got stuck on a GoPro sticker mount. That will have to be removed. Luckily Jarhead was next to me and could fix it for me. But solo and in open water this would be another problem.