“The Race”, Rhode Island & New London

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.18.58 AM

A couple weeks ago on a Tuesday I took the Long Island Railroad from Brooklyn to Greenport, NY.  I brought my Feathercraft Heron folding kayak along with camping gear and supplies and paddled up to Orient Point and spent the night near the ferry terminal there.

The next morning there was a heavy dew and not much sun so it took a while for everything to dry out.  I finally packed up and paddled east towards the southern most point of Plum Island.  The tide was coming in and I had to paddle against the current as I crossed the south side of Plum Island, which I later found out is called “Plum Gut”.   There are many large signs posted on the island warning everyone to stay out.  I think I could have stopped on the rocks below the bluffs at the eastern end of the island if I really needed to stretch my legs but I was still good and just took a short floating break near there instead.

I then headed towards the gull islands and encountered more current which forced me to paddle at almost a 45 degree angle to the right the line of sight so that the 2 islands would stay lined up, with the Little Gull light house appearing to rise out of Great Gull Island.  Even as a I paddled at an angle I was still being pushed to the left into the sound.  After a time I was pushed into an area of choppy water that seemed to slow my progress even more although I was still slowly gaining on the Great Gull.  Eventually I noticed that the water was much calmer even further to the left so I moved over and was able to pick up a little speed and finally came around the back side of Great Gull.  There are signs here too asking you not to land as it is a research station.  I did stop briefly at the platform out over the water there since I really needed a break after battling that current.  There is a gang way that connects the platform to the island but it looked like it had been blown down by a storm and there was no sign of researchers on the island that is covered with white bird blinds that they use for observing the birds up close without disturbing them.

Next I paddled the short distance to Little Gull through some pretty turbulent but very manageable water.  I had planned to eat lunch there and thought I might even stay there over night as a worst case scenario but I found it to be inhabited by many gulls, their nests, carcasses, and poop.  To top it off the fog horn at the light house there was emitting a  loud tone every 30 seconds or so.  After landing I grabbed my food bag and headed to the rocks on the south side of the island where there was some obstruction between  me and that horn so I could eat in relative peace.  There I saw a number of seals swimming in the swift currents, smaller grey ones that kept looking at me and one larger darker one with a long snout that I took to be the bull or maybe it was another species all together.

According to the chart high tide at Little Gull was supposed to be at about 2:30 pm so I decided to wait until around that time before continuing east to Fishers Island.  The currents around the island seemed to lighten up just a little bit though it didn’t seem like it was going to get very slack.  Just before 2:30 I decided to try to paddle to the green buoy just to the east of the island to get a feel for the current.  I figured the worst case I could go right back to island and wait for more favorable conditions.  I pushed off and tried to get close to the buoy to observe how the current was running around it but I found it hard to get very close since I was being swept past it towards Fisher’s Island so I decided to just go with it.  The current was pushing me along and also pushing me into the sound so I again paddled at an angle to my line of sight destination that was now the lighthouse at Race Rock just off of Fishers Island.  The seas were pretty choppy at times and less so at others and the waves seemed to change direction until they were coming from directly behind me and got very intense at a couple points about half way to the Rock.  I was later told that standing waves in this area can get as high as 6 feet, I think they were more like 4 when I went through and thankfully there weren’t that many large waves until I reached a much calmer area as I was able to discern more and more details of the lighthouse on the Rock.  The current also changed so that now it was sweeping me out to sea instead of into the sound and the lighthouse that had appeared to be moving to the right across the visible sections of Fishers Island was now moving to the left.  There were many fishing boats around this area, a little further out to sea, and I later learned that this area is called The Race where the really big fish are to be found.  I think if I had paddled a little further out closer to those boats I wouldn’t have had to contend with such strong standing waves as I did trying to keep on a straighter line to the Rock.

The current wasn’t as strong any more and I was soon scaling the long ladder to the foundation of the lighthouse at Race Rock where I could have kissed the concrete.  I then made the short crossing to Race Point at the western end of Fishers Island where I decided to spend the night as it is a very lovely spot and also popular with the locals as I soon discovered.  I met one guy there with his family who was also a kayaker and suggested paddling across the Race to Gardiner’s Point.  It looks interesting but I’d hate to get there and find it’s another sea gull hell like Little Gull.  That’s a pretty long crossing!

The next day I took it easy and stayed at another spot suggested to me near the other end of Fishers Island and the morning after I under took the crossing from there to Napatree Point in Rhode Island.  There was a lot of current there also but it was mostly in my favor again.  The biggest challenge was avoiding the many power boats that speed past Napatree.  The long beach there is really nice except for maybe the dead power boat that’s beached there.  The little tourist town of Watch Hill just past that is very nice and not obnoxious and I stopped there for more bottled water and a big deli sandwich.

For the rest of the day and the next I continued east along the coast of Rhode Island until I landed in heavy surf near East Matunuck State Beach trying to find some place to spend the night.  A local there was very helpful and suggested going into the pond nearby to find a spot so I paddled through the breachway and found a little beach near Jerusalem.  I paddled around the connected ponds looking for a better spot but eventually another local told me the the best place was the little beach I had already found, known as “Dog Beach”.  It turned out to be very nice and I found a little hide away in the trees away from the water where people walk and picnic.  There was a white hawk that perched in one of the trees there before sunset making it’s peeping noises apparently not very disturbed by my presence.

I had originally planned to continue on to Cape Cod but the coast seemed to be getting more and more populated as I was heading east so I decided to turn back towards Napatree Point and Connecticut where the surroundings are a little more natural.  I was really tired of looking at beach houses at that point.  It only took me a day to get back to Napatree and I enjoyed being able to explore it a little more than I had the day before.

The next day there were predictions of 100% chance of very foul weather and I was woken by the first drops of rain on my face at 5:45 AM.  I packed up and headed into the moorage at Watch Hill and had breakfast at the diner there.  As I ate the rain started falling hard but had subsided a bit by the time I left so I headed out towards the north west.  I paddled across the channel that lets out of the Pawcatuck River without realizing it, normally there is very heavy boat traffic there but this day I was the only boat on the water and passing the nature preserve after that I really felt like I was out in the wild.  The wind was getting a little stronger and the rain harder as I passed the end of Sandy Point island towards Stonington.  There I was exposed to heavier seas and there were 3 tiny sailboats out in Stonington harbor and a power boat zipping back and forth between them.  One of the boats tipped over and the sailor was clinging to the side of it in the water.  The power boat sped up to it but didn’t interfere as the sailor righted the craft and continued the course that the sailboats seemed to be following.  I also saw a big trawler coming into Stonington from the sound and that was the only other boat I saw on the water that day.

I used the sea wall at Stonington as a shield from the weather as I approached the small bay that I would have to cross on my way to Mystic which seemed like it would be a good place to get lunch.  The waves got worse as I headed towards a small rock island in the middle of the bay.  The cormorants moved to the opposite side of the island as I paused barely out of the wind there to check Google Maps to make sure I was heading to the right point behind which I would find the short cut into Mystic River.  I set off again and the waves became even worse at times.  The hiss of the heavy rain drops falling on wind blown waves was stark and mesmerizing.  The crossing was very short and I was soon out of the worst of the weather and making my way into the Mystic river where I found a slick new restaurant with convenient docking that wasn’t the quaint New England water front venue I had imagined but was very accommodating anyway.  The Guinness and Irish coffee were very nice also!

There I used the AirBnB app on my phone to find a room just outside of Mystic near the river.  The worst of the weather had passed, the predicted lightening never materialized but the wind had gotten even stronger and after trying to paddle back out into the harbor I decided it would be much better to just spend the night indoors.  My AirBnB host was incredibly accommodating and setup an air mattress for me in her living room since her spare room was already rented out.  In the evening she drove me and the other guest, a travelling glass blower, to Mystic Pizza for supper.

The next day was sunny again so I launched from the river dock where a local family had so graciously allowed me to leave my boat over night.  The wind was still kind of strong and I confronted very choppy but manageable seas while making my way to Bluff Point which is another area of natural beauty.  I stayed at the far end near the U. of Conn and a small airport whose planes flew low over head but at least not that frequently.  There I decided I wouldn’t head any further west along the Connecticut coast since it seemed to be getting very populated again.  I went into New London the day after which is a pretty industrial little port though it has a very nice water front strip of cafes and docks separated by train tracks.  I had a second breakfast, bought a few items at the organic market and scoped out the docks.  There is a large floating public dock that doesn’t seem to be used very much at all that’s a minute walk from train, bus and ferry stations. A very convenient transportation hub indeed!

I headed back towards Bluff Point and then to Mystic Harbor and Napatree and Sandy Point again.  I had a lobster roll at Abott’s along the way, a local institution, and on another day had lunch at the Cooked Goose along the Pawcatuck River.  On my way back west I stopped at the tiny hamlet of Noank at the tiny public dock and beach there.  It’s very quaint with just a few tiny shops including a very convenient bakery coffee shop next to a liquor store and also a huge old white church that seemed kind of out of place there.

I stayed on Bushy Point again, there are a couple spots on the little island there.  The day after that I headed into New London again on the last day of my adventure.  I tied up at a tiny floating dock there and had lunch at the Exchange whose deck directly overlooks the little dock so I could keep an eye on my boat while I ate the pizza that was pretty decent but not great.

After lunch I paddled the boat to the big public dock again where I unloaded and disassembled and packed the boat.  The dock is a bit high for kayaks but I managed to unload without too much trouble though it was a little challenging.  With most of the gear removed it was very easy to lift the bow onto the dock, even at that height, so that the stern teetered up out of the water and I could then rotate the whole boat onto the dock.

After I got everything packed and rolling I managed to get it all over to the Greyhound bus station only to find it closed!  It was supposed to be open from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm and I was supposed to retrieve my will call ticket there that I purchased online earlier.  The train station office next door was open and the nice lady there wasn’t surprised that yet another person was asking about the Greyhound office that was closed when it was supposed to be open.  She told me I should have just gotten a ticket from her on the commuter train to New Haven and change there to the Metro North to the City.  I called the Greyhound complaint line and they told me I could just show the driver my ticket reference number and photo id and it would be ok.  When the bus did show up half an hour late the driver started to give me a hard time about it and saying it wasn’t his problem that the office was closed.  Finally after scrutinizing the receipt email on my phone he reluctantly let my onboard.  That and other things like the way he was driving led me to the conclusion that he wasn’t having a very good evening.  At first I wanted to give him a little piece of my mind about customer service when we were safely arrived at the Port Authority where he couldn’t kick me off the bus any more but by the time we arrived almost 2 hours late at 2AM I was over it and just wanted to get a taxi home and go to bed as soon as possible.

Besides crossing the Race and riding the rain storm it wasn’t an incredibly challenging expedition though paddling most of the Rhode Island coast in one day was pretty strenuous.  I crossed from Noank to Napatree one day, and back another which didn’t take too long going with the current.  My next expedition will definitely be in some place that’s much more wild.  I heard there’s a water trail in Maine that’s quite nice.  Besides Cape Cod maybe the rest of the New England coast is just too developed and so many beach houses and suburban power boaters who don’t understand what you’re doing get to be tiresome after a while.  If I were to kayak Rhode Island again I’d go through more of the breach ways and explore more of the ponds, there’s usually more nature to be found in them, unlike the ocean front that is dominated by beach houses and large public beaches with just a couple notable exceptions.

Things that worked really well this time out were:

  • My home made Pemmican energy food / protein bar / meal replacer. The saturated fat packs time release energy and more of it than any sugary bar. I kept some on deck at all times to avoid paddling on an empty stomach. You never know for sure where and when you’ll be able to prepare or procure your next full meal. Recipe to come…
  • Larabars! A great sweet treat when the pemmican is getting monotonous. Very impressive list of ingredients, no sugar, no junk.
  • My home made, just add water, gluten-free pancake mix with buckwheat and TigerNut Flour. I’m not anti-gluten per se but these ingredients just have more nutrients than wheat.  They were great with clarified butter I made from grass-fed butter and raw honey! Recipe coming soon…
  • Home made dehydrated salt pork!  Very easy to make and perfect in scrambled eggs made with Ovaeasy Egg Crystals.  Even after being carried around for 2 weeks the pork still smells and tastes fresh!  The pre-cooked bacon they sell these days is a good choice also.  Boar’s Head makes a nice one.
  • My home-made, ‘soffritto’ based beef jerky cooked with organic orecchiette, sun dried tomatoes and garlic.  Jerky is easy to make at home but you have to use very lean meat so of course this dish gets a generous dose of olive oil and some of that butter too.
  • Buffalo Trace White Dog. At 125 proof a little goes a long way.  Concentrated liquor is easy to carry, just add water.  A comparison of the effects of white spirits to those aged in wooden barrels could be the subject of another post.  This is powerful medicine!
  • CC Pocket AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio.  The weather was hard to listen to but helpful, some of the NPR talk shows weren’t too bad, and I got to catch up on the world of party/power mix radio! (“Where are u now that I need ya?”, “Watch me ne ne.”, etc…)
  • Sea to Summit Mosquito Net. Actually kind of a pain to get it stretched out comfortably but still a lot easier and a tiny fraction of the weight of a tent. I brought a silnylon tarp along also in case of rain though I only used it twice as shelter on very windy beaches.
  • Trolling with floating lure and sinkers on a simple foam winding board.  Caught a porgie first time out then the lure got snagged and lost.  I’m replacing it with this one that’s a little bigger: Rapala Original Floater 11 Fishing lure. I got the board in Croatia, they sell these things at any tackle shop in the Mediterranean but I can’t find any like this with Google.
  • Kokatat Tropos Light Storm Cag did the job in a heavy storm: acts like a poncho on land and perfect protection on the boat as long you’re not trying to paddle into strong winds.  I wasn’t worried about being seen with the bright orange cag as I am sometimes in the dark grey Heron.
  • My electric bilge pump system described in another post.  It was very helpful after some of my surf launch and landing mishaps. A kid working the chandlery in Greenport said the pump itself seemed excessive but I find it’s perfect, that boat can hold a lot of water.
  • Big cheap duffle bag that held all the parts and many accessories for the Heron, except the skin that I just rolled and strapped around the duffle bag.  That sat perfectly on a standard kayak cart that has a bar that flips down for a stand like this one but without the strap in the middle, the bag needs to sit down in there.   Much cheaper and easier to handle than Feathercraft’s own wheeled bag system and I like the dual purpose for the cart, though I only used it for the assembled boat once.  Probably wouldn’t work out so well for air travel.


Drying out my gear at the dock in New London before packing.

Drying out my gear at the dock in New London before packing.

All packed and waiting for the bus.  I should have taken that train back there instead.

All packed and waiting for the bus. I should have taken that train back there instead.

My response to “Patagonia; In Search of the Hidden Glaciers” regarding portable nutrition for expeditions: animal fat and Pemmican!

I was very attracted to this video as a general type of expedition I might like to undertake some day:

Patagonia; In Search of the Hidden Glaciers from Erin Bastian on Vimeo.

Looks like an amazing adventure in spite of the foul weather. I must admit though that I was a little horrified by their choice of provisions and I left a comment on Vimeo to that effect.  It’s interesting to see their apparent elation when they finally get ahold of some “real food” in the form of a nice fresh fish!

I was pleasantly surprised when Erin from the expedition replied wanting to know what kind of alternative provisions I would suggest. Here’s what I sent her:

Hi Erin,

This is Eric from the Vimeo comment about your provisions and my suggestion is generally take a lot of fat and cut way back on carbohydrates, especially sugars. According to information I can find the energy from 1 gram of fat is measured at 9 calories while 1 gram of carbohydrates is only 4 calories. This alone is great news if you can switch to carrying calories that weigh less than half of what you would normally carry!

Now what kind of fat to bring?

Vegetarian alternatives include, EVO, Avocado Oil, Cocount oil, and others. If you’re using pre-packaged freeze dried meals you can at least give each one a heavy dose of olive oil just before eating.

Traditionally though explorers and adventurers would carry animal fats, like Salt Pork, Butter and Tallow. Butter can be clarified so that it keeps well without refrigeration, and bits of salt pork can be used for cooking egg crystals like the OvaEasy brand that I highly recommend for the taste alone. Butter can be put in or on anything including those freeze dried meals also.

The nutritional value of animal fats can be very high if the fat comes from organic grass-fed animals. Grass feed is they key here, I don’t have any supporting research handy but you can easily Google that.

Now when it comes to Tallow it can be used to fry anything, and that’s why people used to love the taste of McDonalds french fries so much back when they were using pure beef tallow in their friers. It’s even better with more exotic and nutritionally dense root vegetables and plantains but of course it’s not so easy to carry those things on extended expeditions.

The best way to consume large amounts of grass fed Tallow on expedition is to bring along lots and lots of Pemmican! I believe Lord Shackleton is quoted as saying “we should have brought more pemmican”. I always say you can never have too much pemmican. Now it is an acquired taste but when it’s prepared properly and you’re really hungry the taste becomes very easy to acquire. The way I make it with generous amounts of dried fruits and nuts along with raw honey and pink salt make it much more palatable. Preparing it with raw meat makes it much more nutritionally complete and dehydrating the meat and saturating it with fat means it can keep almost indefinitely without refrigeration. You could carry little else on your expedition and be perfectly satisfied and healthy at all times and the other foods you bring would just be for a little variety. Now I’m not so sure how much you should rely on a pemmican with a lot of fruits and nuts but I know for a fact that North American natives and European explorers would survive on Pemmican made with meat and fat only for months and even years at a time.  I also know from experience that I can eat fruity, nutty pemmican all day without getting that nasty feeling I get from eating more than 1 or 2 Cliff bars, that “I ate too much Halloween candy” kind of feeling.

A diet of mostly pemmican can be augmented with different things like the egg cystals and pork I mentioned and also with something else I’ve just started using: a soup or stew made with beef jerky. I do not use a commercial jerky as they all have too much sugar and spices. I make my own with a marinade based on Sofrito (pureed onion, carrot and celery) and black pepper. I just break it up and boil it in my titanium mug for a few minutes with sun dried tomatoes and you can add any other dehydrated veggies you have. It will taste simple and watery just like that though, it requires a good amount of butter or olive oil added just before eating to make it into a satisfying meal.

As a luxury I also like to take along some cured meats like dried sausage/salami and well aged cheese like Manchego or Pecorino and some greek olives. Powdered drink mixes based on organic fruits and vegetables are not a bad idea either, this one seems promising: https://aloha.com. Dark chocolate is another great and highly portable delicacy as you probably know already. A gluten free bannock mix is another nice treat if you have a dutch oven to bake it in the coals of your camp fire. I’ve been experimenting with using an aluminum “caldero” as a light weight alternative to a traditional cast iron dutch oven. It works very well for frying and making scrambled eggs. It’s a bit heavier than a non-stick Ti frying pan but I think it works much better.

So there in a nutshell is the state of my current thinking on portable nutrition. It is still evolving but I think I’ve really got the basics down now, Pemmican is really key. I’ve been working on a how-to article for my blog that I will publish soon and send you the link. Also I want to point out that a high fat diet takes a little getting used to and you should try to transition into it gradually before you start your next expedition.

And here’s a great article about traditional high fat diets that has been very influential on my thinking recently so you don’t think I’m just making this stuff up 🙂  http://www.meandmydiabetes.com/2010/03/23/steve-phinney-on-pemmican-and-indigenous-diets-will-become-public-in-2-weeks/.


I used to take a lot of bread and pasta on my so-called “expedtions” in more civilized regions. As you can tell my thinking has shifted considerably in recent years 😉

Sardinia Kayak Tour, August 2012 – part 1

For this tour I did about half the coastline of the island.  It might be possible to do the whole island in a month but I was more interested in enjoying myself.  As I’ve noted in another post here I eat “dinner” in the afternoon, and “supper” in the evening.  “Pineta” is Italian for a grove of pine trees that grows near the water at many parts of the coast.  At many places where I stopped I went for a dip in the crystal clear Mediterranean waters.  The satellite maps at the end of each day show where I stopped for that night.

Day 1, July 31st

In the afternoon I vacated the 2 bedroom apartment I had been renting in Santa Maria Navarrese for almost 3 months.  The last of my Airbnb guests had left and  I had already sent most of my luggage to Barcelona where I would meet up with it in September.  During the day I had walked some supplies down to “la Pineta”, the beach bar where I had been keeping my boat, a brand new dark grey Feathercraft Heron, since May.

During my final preparations near the beach the diminutive, ancient Sardinian priest who always hangs out at the bar there came up and asked me a few questions in Italian, like if my huge straw hat was from Mexico, where I was from, etc…  and then wished me a good trip.  I took this as a sort of blessing and good omen and finally set off around 6PM.

My first stop was only 2 hours away at Portu Pedrosu, the hidden cove at the some times treacherous cape of Monte Santu that I was already very familiar with from previous excursions.  There were not so many moths harrassing me during my supper as there had been on the previous occassions so it must have been a temporary phenomenon linked to the insects’ reproductive cycle.  The small trees there are just big enough to hang a hammock so I was very comfortable.


Day 2, Aug. 1

The next morning the sea at Monte Santu was unusually calm.  I decided to skip Cala Goloritze and take a short cut to the shore further north.  As I approached the boat traffic became heavy and big wakes swept water into my cockpit a number of times.  My electric bilge pump removed most of the water very quickly every time.

This morning I realized that my nearly brand new Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 waterproof camera had stopped working so unfortunately there are no more photos until much later in the trip.

I stopped for dinner at a tiny beach with a small sea cave that I had used for the same purpose more than a month ago, at which time there was nobody there.  This time there was barely room to beach my boat with all the tourists there.  A group of young people asked me a few questions and I thought they were Italian at first but they turned out to be from Albania.

I cooked a packet of instant Rissotto and threw in a can of tuna for a satisfying, if not quite gourmet meal.  After eating I headed north again and enjoyed many amazing views of the cliffs and mountains that meet the ocean in that area knows as the Golfo di Orosei.  I found a cave with a small opening that opened up into a huge gallery with stalactites at the far end and a small Madonna icon hung in front of them to turn the place into a natural chapel.

Not far from there I found another narrow cave opening at the bottom a huge nearly vertical crack in the cliff face.  I went inside and followed it more than a hundred meters back into the rock face as it got even narrower and amplified the waves making things challenging until after a point where the waves began to dissipate.  At the end it was getting quite dark and a small boulder blocked the kayak from advancing any further.  I could have continued on wading and/or swimming another 20 meters or so, maybe more, I couldn’t be sure and decided to turn back rather than risk getting stuck so far underground.  I pulled the boat backwards with my hands on the rock face and as it got wider and wavier I was able to back paddle and got out relatively easily since I was trying hard to keep the boat straight in reverse and not get stuck at an angle.

I continued north to arrive at the popular beach Cala Luna around 6:30PM.  I staked out a spot behind a big rock, the only place on the beach where you get some protection from the 7AM sunrise as I knew from a previous stay there.  A young, friendly couple of Spanish rock climbers came by and asked me if it was OK to camp on the beach and I replied that many people seem to do it, though I wasn’t sure how legal it really was.  A number of people showed up later to sleep on the beach so we weren’t the only ones plus there were a few sailboats moored off the beach where people slept tossed by the swells that were crashing onto the beach that evening.  I was glad to be on solid ground myself though it would have been nicer if there had been trees to hang my hammock instead of sleeping on the air mattress that I had also brought.


Day 3, Aug. 2

In the morning the French hippie family that had camped near me seemed a little perturbed at the amount of time it took me to pack up and vacate the spot behind the shade rock and they finally ended up taking refuge in one of the many huge, dank caves that characterize one side of Cala Luna.

After I finally got on my way I found a number of other small sea caves on my way north along with too many power boats again.  I also went into the sea cave entrance of a large system of caverns that seems to be quite popular with tourists who are brought there in large boats that dock at the mouth of the cave.

I continued north as the cliffs and mountains receded and stopped at the small marina town of Cala Gonone.  It’s definitely a bit bigger and more touristy than Santa Maria where I stayed.  I had an opportunity to stay there back in May but instead opted for the smaller and more local town further south.  By August I had come to realize that in Sardinia bigger and more touristy is actually better, up to a certain point at least.

Fully loaded again I headed north towards Orosei.  After Cala Gonone there were almost no power boats at all which was refreshing, but there was absolutely no breeze either which was not refreshing at all and I started to sweat profusely in the relentless Sardinian sun.  I finally made it to the long pinetta at Marina di Orosei where the terrain was now completely flat and stopped there to cook a late dinner of spaghetti, tomato sauce and the chicken cutlet I had purchased at Cala Gonone.

After dinner I headed north again past more beaches and pinettas and decided to stop at the very last substantial pinetta that I could see on the satellite map, near the mouth of a small river.  When I got there I found to my dismay that the pine grove was completely fenced off and though the fence was down in one or 2 spots I decided not to go in and instead found a few more pine trees at the other end of the dirty beach there in a much moew open and presumably public area.

Becuase of the river mouth the beach was quite popular with beach fisherman and underwater spear fisherman alike.  I met one Sardinian man on vacation with his wife and his cheeky teenage son and daughter who tried to parrot his English which was not bad at all.


Day 4, Aug. 3

After packing up I headed out of the pines down to the beach where spear fisherman were already active.  As I paddled north I experienced severe irritation near my armpits due to crystallizing salt water and had to stop at the first beach to dig my tiny tin of Bag Balm out of the back of the boat in order to treat the rash.  After that I made a point of rinsing down every evening with fresh water that I carried in my MSR Dromedary bag which was no longer any good for drinking water at this point as it imparted a nasty chemical taste  (a known issue with this product).

After this I reached a more arid zone with many beaches and fewer pines, mostly just Junipers and other bushes.  There were many people out but the beaches were not obnoxiously packed, there was a lot of space for everyone.  I stopped to cook spaghetti with clams in a shady spot under a large Juniper bush.

After this I paddled past an extremely rocky zone that extended for a number of kilometers.  I think I only saw one person in this whole area.  As the afternoon progressed the Scirocco wind got stronger to the point where I was able to put up my mast and sail northward until I finally passed the lighthouse at the cape of Comino where I entered a very different area than what I had seen so far.  Generally things looked a bit nicer and the rolling hills reminded me of northern California with groves of green trees surrounded by meadows of dry, tan colored grass.

I passed a barren island on my right, and headed left towards the shore past 3 large yachts tied together.  I wanted to check out an area of high dunes with Juniper trees nestled among them.  As I pulled up to the beach a man standing there took off running.  It seemed strange but I guessed he had been just taking a break from his exercise and just happened to start up again at that moment.  I had also noticed a couple of men standing on top of the highest part of the dunes as if they were on guard duty or something, strange.  As I approached the dunes I noticed more men here and there, no women, and by then it was apparent that I had stumbled across an unofficially designated gay beach.  I decided to scale the high dune anyway and after I had found the summit the guys that had been standing there suddenly left, I guess I was not their type, lol.  Not wanting to intrude on this scene any further I quickly made my way back to the boat and the open water.

A bit further north near Santa Lucia I found a public park in a pineta with huge trees, picnic tables, and segregated recycling and trash cans everywhere.  After I setup camp I heard the sounds of drums echoing throughout the forest.  Apparently someone was practicing and stayed just until it was very dark then drove off again.  Later a group of Sardinian teens showed up in a car to sleep at the tents that I had noticed setup there earlier when I arrived.  Luckily they weren’t obnoxious.


Day 5, Aug. 4

I headed north again and stopped at La Caletta for water and supplies.  In the port I found a boat ramp that was fenced off but it was easy enough to climb around it.  In town I was able to get online, check my email and buy a disposable waterproof camera, which did not survive the trip, so no photos yet 🙁  I also found a really cool little ‘enoteca’, or wine shop, where I bought a bottle of high proof Filu e’ Ferru (Sardinian home style distilled wine leavings, like ‘grappa’) at 50% alcohol.  I noticed that in La Caletta there were absolutely no public trash receptacles any where in town, not on the streets nor at the port/marina.

Back by the port I had a light lunch of square pizza slices by that I had found at a very nice but sweaty little bakery and then headed back out onto the water.  By this time the Scirocco had come up and was pretty strong again so I hoisted my sail and let it hurl me northward.  I was getting a lot of water in through the cockpit with the following seas but the bilge pump handled it nicely every time.

As I approached a point to the north the wind direction would not allow me to clear it with my downwind only spinnaker sail so after getting very close to the beach I took the sail down and paddled out though the chop to a point where I could hoist it again and make it past the rocks.  I continued to sail north as the wind weakened to the point where I finally took the sail down again and started paddling.  I didn’t get far before the wind came up again so I again hoisted and sailed.  I reached an area with long, crowded beaches punctuated by an irregular rocky point that was not crowded at all and home to an even nicer pineta than the one I had camped at the night before.  I used the water bag to shower with soap this time.


Day 6, Aug. 5

I headed north again, this time without the sail.  The region become more arid as I progressed and I finally stopped for supplies and dinner at the small tourist port at Puntaldia.  The power boats in this area were getting pretty dense again while the yachts were getting bigger.

Puntaldia is an artificial community of condos and a mall like shopping area that were all built at the same time, in the same style, to appeal to some affluent tourists.  I had pizza for dinner there, a luxury in Sardinia and most of Italy, where most places don’t fire up the wood ovens until the evening.  A few restaurants will use an electric oven in order to offer ‘pizza a pranzo’ (pizza for lunch).  It’s not as good as what you get from the tradtional wood fire but it’s cheaper than getting the usual 2+ course dinner that most restaurants offer as the only mid-day meal option.  The many pizzerias in Santa Maria Navarrese never have ‘pizza a pranzo’.

At this point I had to head east in order to make it around the cape of Coda Cavallo, which means “Horse Tail” in Italian.  The seas were very heavy at this point and they were made much worse by the wakes from the large boats the were coming around the point and heading back towards Puntaldia.  I was travelling to the far left of the boat lanes so I would be closer to shore and make it easier to turn my bow into the wakes of boats that were passing me in the opposite direction to my right.  Pointing my bow into the wakes so often kept moving me closer to the boat lanes and I kept having to angle in towards the shore to try to get further away from the boats again.  It was not a very pleasant paddle until I finally got around the point.

When I made it around to the north side of the point I found a beach on a wide shallow bay that looked like a power boat parking lot with what seemed like a hundred boats or more.  Apparently this place was the source of all the traffic I had encountered on the way there.

Beyond this bay I found a small cove with a kind of private looking beach and housing development but with no posted signs or anything.  I landed there and the people seemed to be nice and there was a friendly family atmosphere so I figured there’d be no problem to setup my hammock in the back of the open pineta there for the night.  After supper and sunset I went back down to the now nearly deserted beach to relax a little.  There the guy who was apparently in charge of the beach told me that I needed to leave because because it was all private!  I asked where can I go at this time?  So he relented and said ok, just for the night.


Day 7, Aug. 6

At 8AM a much older and politer man asked me how I had slept and then asked me to get myself and all my stuff back down to the beach as soon as possible since apparently some of the householders in the community had noticed my light at night and complained.  On the beach, which is technically public, I met the younger fellow from the previous evening who was much nicer now and full of questions and compliments for me, the boat and my adventure.

From here I headed to the south side of the island of Molinara, a hunk of rock uninhabited except for a few goats, 3 of which I observed on the slope on the far side of the island.  One of them was all black which I felt should be meaningful somehow, just daydreaming.  I saw some interesting rock formations while the sea was pretty calm with gentle swells while the sky was over-cast giving me some relief from the summer sun.

From there I headed to the west end of Tavolara island where I landed on the sand bar and was greeted by 2 older Italian women who were very friendly.  I walked over the sand bar and noticed that the north side of it was mainly deserted and would be a good place to cook my afternoon dinner so I paddled around to that side to cook a little spaghetti alla putanesca.

After my meal I decided to circumnavigate the island.  Near the eastern end I found some type of military installation with a very tall steel tower with extremely long wires hanging from it to the massive rock outcroppings that surrounded it.  I didn’t get close enough to this area to be able to read the signs warning boaters not to get any closer.

At the south eastern corner of the island I saw a huge natural arch carved out of the cliff face towering high over the waves among boulders where I tried to find a little shelter.  The south side of the island was all cliff face affording a little shade here and there from the sun that was back in full force by this time though getting lower.  I had hoped to find some sea caves among these cliffs though I only found one which I attempted to enter but the swells were going so high up and down the sides of the cave walls that it didn’t seem wise to proceed and I backed out of there before I even got past the entrance.

I returned to the sand bar where I had a beer at the beach bar and then headed further down the strand to camp on the beach.  There were a few very large yachts moored just off the beach there including a massive, ostentatious double masted sail boat with a British flag that pulled in just after sunset.


Day 8, Aug 7

From la Tavolara I headed northwest into strong head winds towards the gulf of Olbia.  I was planning to cross the gulf to Golfo Aranci on the north side but I started to feel rather weak and a little ill so I stopped at the first beach I could find on the north side of the peninsula that defines the south side of the gulf.  I found a tiny piece of beach between large boulders next to a small beach with a few people.  I pulled in there as it was the perfect little kayak port with over hanging Juniper bushes that I used to hide out from the sun.

I had just planned to rest a while but instead of feeling any better I started to feel a little bit worse.  I wasn’t sure what the problem was but now I’m pretty sure that it had to do with being out in the sun all afternoon the previous day without a drop of sunscreen.  This was just the first time the sun got the best of me.  I was very tan at this point and I only burned slightly.  I felt fine the previous evening so it seemed strange that it would hit me the next day.

Near where I had landed I found a bunch of very cheap and totally empty small tents set up between small trees.  It seemed like they were meant for a large group of small children.  On the other side of a dirt road paralleling the shore I found a series of lovely hidden camp sites nestled amongst the boulders and trees.  Many spots had been creatively landscaped with smaller stones and one had a simple wood table.  There was even an excavated latrine where the inhabitants had used charcoal from campfires to cover their business.  This whole unofficial campground area was completely deserted.

After cooking my dinner by the beach I moved back up into the camp area hoping nobody would show up to claim the space.  The types of objects and tarps that were still hung up there seemed to indicate that the usual inhabitants were regular Sardinians, as opposed to Italian hippies or other tourists.  I setup my hammock for an afternoon nap then cooked a little supper and slept there the whole night without interruption.  I was almost glad that I hadn’t been feeling well otherwise I wouldn’t have found this unique place.


Day 9, Aug 8

Feeling better but still not %100 I decided to cross the gulf to Aranci which took about 2 hours.  There I was able to procure excellent quality supplies and was pleasantly surprised by the cordiality of the beautiful young Sardinian woman behind the deli counter at the supermarket.  When I was loading everything up back on the beach I was overwhelmed by a group of small children who had a seemingly endless stream of questions.  One kept asking me what happens if you flip over as if not willing to accept my assertion that I never flip over 😉  I didn’t really have the energy to try to explain a ‘wet exit’ and re-entry to a small child in Italian at that moment.

I decided to look for an afternoon pizza again and found a restaurant for that was not too far away on the beach.  When the pizza arrived I could see it was not fresh at all.  It was a plain pizza cooked the previous evening and then re-heated for me after adding the requested toppings.  It was ok but I did complain to the waiter who played dumb and ran away.

From Golfo Aranci I headed east and in less than an hour I had found a very cute little beach with a lovely park and pineta just behind it on a low bluff about 5 meters high.  There were a number of people there but not too many since the closest parking was maybe a kilometer away. I rested there during the afternoon and camped there at night.  There was a house nearby but the inmates did not bother me directly, though I over heard their shouting argument during the evening and their 2 dogs that were prowling the area barking at different things for a long time though thankfully not at me.


Day 10, Aug. 9

This morning I was feeling even better and headed west around the point that defines the northern edge of the gulf of Olbia.  It was quite early and I saw some fishing boats so I let out my fishing line to do a little trolling with the silver spinner I had used with a little luck previously in the summer.  As I went around the point I was surprised to see a huge tuna jumping out of the water ahead of me.  Neither it nor any other fish hit my lure.

As I headed east along the peninsula, behind Aranci now, the west wind started to pick up.  I finally reached a small bay on my left at which point the wind was quite fierce but I decided to fight my way across anyway and try to find a place to cook dinner on the western shore out of the wind.  I finally made it across after dodging power boats among the waves as I approached the shore that was acting as a wind block as I had predicted.

This area was all very expensive private property.  I noticed waterfalls coming over the low cliffs at the water’s edge which seemed quite out of place.  When I investigated them more closely I found them to be fed by large man-made tubes.  I guess that was to supplement the artificially green grass and sandy beaches that these kinds of developments usually have in this part of Sardinia.   Apparently those that occupy real estate in this area don’t want to be subjected to the typical, arid Sardinian landscape.

I found a rocky piece of shore under a Juniper tree just outside a fence where I was able to cook in the shade.  I was fairly comfortable but it kind of felt like camping by the side of the road in a ditch next to a private golf course.

From there I headed north taking advantage of the intermittent protection from the wind that had, if anything, gotten stronger in the mean time.  I quickly reached the end of the point where I didn’t have many choices of direction.  To the west on my left there was a larger bay but the wind was much to strong to make any forward progress in that direction.  I decided instead to head north, across the wind, to a small archipelago of barren islands in the middle of the big bay.  I knew that would be challenging also but at least I’d be able to make decent progress.  Before I headed out I put on my spray skirt which was absolutely necessary with all the strong waves that were soon washing over my deck.  I would have wasted too much battery power trying to use the pump instead of the skirt, not to mention the time and concentration wasted on turning it on and off.  As usual the height and strength of the seas were intermittent and as it got stronger I turned my bow into it and as it dissipated I headed more northerly, though aiming my bow well to the west of my intended landing point to make up for the effect of the wind blowing me sideways to the east.  I believe this wind was a Maestral whose dramatic energy I would encounter again later on my journey.

The crossing was a little scary though mostly exhilarating and it didn’t take very long before I was in a protected cove between small islands.  I found a tiny sandy beach where I could rest in the shade of a small bush with my feet in the water.  In the evening I moved to an isthmus between 2 other small islands as that was the only level, sandy spot I could find to sleep on.


Day 11, Aug. 10

Without any shade I got up with the sun at 7AM and after breakfast headed north again.  The west wind had stopped over night.  The day before I had noticed that this bay was populated by a number of huge white yachts.  This morning I counted at least 25 of them, some were hard to differentiate as their silhouettes merged together in the distance.  I guess if you own a mega yacht and take it to Sardinia for the summer you want to see and be seen by all the other mega yachters there.

I reached the shore again on the north side of the mega yacht bay and found some interesting rock structures there including a towering boulder split in half that I paddled into.  I almost made it out the other side but smaller boulders blocked the way so I had to back paddle out again.

I needed supplies so I stopped at the next port, Porto Cervo.  It was soon obvious that this was the home base for the mega yachts and the center of the infamous Costa Smeralda, playground of the rich and famous.  It was hard to find the supermarket at the back of the outdoor shopping mall.  I was practically invisible as I made my way though the maze of high end boutiques.  I bought a salad and a whole roasted chicken which I ate in the small Juniper grove next to the commercial center, the only other person there a young female employee on a cigarette and cell phone break.

As I packed up to leave an Italian man with his family asked about my boat and my trip, clearly able to appreciate what I was doing just by seeing the kind of boat I had even though it was dwarfed by the massive crafts at the marina.

From here I headed north and west around the rest of this ’emerald coast’ area, fake beaches, grass and palm trees everywhere.  As I headed into a long bay stretching to the south I passed the Phi beach club where perfect young bodies were taking in the sun on massive wicker chairs like thrones.  As I headed further south into the bay all of a sudden I was in Sardinia again and as I checked different beaches for a good campsite I was subject to the blank, mute stares of the locals.  I found a nice little beach with a pineta not too far up on the bluff behind it where I was able to sleep very comfortably except for when I was awakened by a barrage of fireworks that went off very nearby at around 11PM.


Day 12, Aug. 11

I slept late in the shade of the pineta and eventually made my way back down the cliff to the beach below.  I packed up the boat and headed to the end of the bay where there was an estuary at a river mouth.  I tried to enter a series of lagoons through a shallow channel but soon found they were much too shallow to navigate, even in a kayak.  I went back into the bay and headed west until I found the actual river mouth which is much deeper.  About a kilometer up the river I found a place on the right bank where I could land and enter an open gate into a cork oak grove where I cooked putanesca again.  The river itself smelled a little funky but back in the trees there was no smell.  After dinner I sat in the shade on the river bank watching clam diggers and fish jumping in the dirty water.

I then headed up the west side of the bay to Cannigione which is a real Sardinian town with the kinds of shops catering to local tastes you find all over Sardinia.  I must say that Sardinians produce some of the best cheeses in the world and their cured meats and wines are top quality also.  At many deli counters you’re given the choice between the Italian or Sardinian version of a product.  You choose the Sardinian if  like me you’re willing to pay a little more for better quality.  I found some really great bread in town also.  Everything was much better quality than anything I could find back in ritzy Porto Cervo.

From the town I headed north to a campground on the western shore but when I got there it seemed so obnoxiously over crowded that I couldn’t imagine actually sleeping there so instead I headed out across the boat lanes back to the same pineta on the eastern shore where I had camped the night before.  After I had unloaded there again a large extended family group of Sardinians showed up and setup camp right on the beach at sunset.  They didn’t bother me as I again slept well above beach level in the pineta but there was loud, live blues music wafting in across the bay from I don’t know where that forced me to use earplugs to be able to fall asleep.

Day 13, Aug. 12

The next day I slept kind of late again then after breakfast packed up most of my stuff and hid it between some bushes and a stone wall at the back of the pineta and paddled across the bay back to Cannigione to have my clothes washed at the laundry there.  After a little shopping and pasta at a nice little outdoor restaurant I headed back to the pineta to hang my clothes out in the sun to dry.  At that point the pineta was over run with locals who were apparently reinforcements for the group that had camped out over night.

I eventually decided to move my camp to the cork grove on the river at the back of the bay.  There I noticed a group of tourists riding around the marsh on horseback. I found a really nice spot with the smell of wild herbs in the air and cork trees close enough together to hang the hammock.  The only problem was that there was an unusually dense population of mosquitos there that began to attack me en masse.  I hurried to bathe in fresh water from my Dromedary bag since getting wet and soapy always provides very effective yet temporary relief from the little monsters.  After I dried myself I applied insect repellent to my entire body and lit up 2 mosquito spirals thereby solving that problem so that I could eat my supper in peace.

Soon after eating I heard the sound of a small moped racing through the grove which soon reached the spot where I was relaxing in the hammock.  The driver shone his head light on me and started yelling “non si puo!” (it’s not possible!).  The issue was that he had let his horses loose in the grove and for some reason my presence was incompatible with theirs.  I didn’t think to ask him at that moment whether he believed that they were a danger to me or I to them or both.  I ended up re-hanging my hammock outside the gate that was now closed, by the river between 2 eucalyptus trees.  At least the river was much less smelly in the cool night air than it had been in the heat of the day.


Day 14, Aug. 13

I woke with the rising sun and the site of more clam diggers wading in the shallows of the river.  I packed up and paddled to Cannigione again and bought some very nice supplies.  From there I headed north and out of the long bay towards the island of Caprera.  There was a lot of boat traffic around the southern tip of the island and as I approached it and felt like I was close enough to be out of the way some other boat would come along and decide to cut it even closer to the point and pass in front of me.  I had another close call from one of these yachts whose driver didn’t even look back as it sped away.

I finally landed on some rocks on the east side of the point and got out to explore the abandoned structures there which turned out to be some kind of former military installation.  I paddled to the east side of the point and hauled my dinner supplies up to a series of open and relatively clean rooms in one of the old buildings at the fort.  The dead wood I tried to cook with was from some kind of bush that doesn’t burn very well so I had to scour the area to find just a little dead juniper in the nearly barren landscape.  I finally had spaghetti with clams again.  Meanwhile there were a few other people wandering around the fort grounds inspite of the entry prohibited signs that I had also ignored.

From there I headed north around the east side of the island while the sea got rather rough but not too difficult to deal with.  I eventually reached an amazingly beautiful point with 2 small beaches and a seemingly endless array of weird rock formations punctuated with juniper trees and bushes.  The number of boats and people there was excessive but it was already early evening and they were starting to leave one by one.  The beaches were still too crowded to even land so instead I found a little spot to tie up the kayak in calm water while I explored some of the rocks as I waited for it to clear out some more.

As the last people left I paddled to one of the small beaches where it seemed like I would be able to hang the hammock on two junipers but I couldn’t make it work due to some rocks in the way so I ended up sleeping on the sand instead.


Day 15, Aug. 14

I was awoken early in the morning by a lady with a very loud voice, dressed in what looked to me like a tennis outfit.  She and her male companion who swam briefly didn’t stay on the beach very long and I was able to go back to sleep.

Another couple came ashore in a dingy from a small yacht that was moored just off the beach.  They were very polite and careful to try not to wake me as they headed inland to do some trail running.  I had met the man briefly the previous evening and after I had breakfast I got to meet both of them as they returned to the beach on the way back to their boat.  They were very friendly and spoke English fairly well.  I found out they were from Milan and they invited me stop at their boat for coffee after I had packed up my kayak.  The man whose name I forgot was very envious of my solo tour as it seemed he was starting to get cabin fever from being cooped up on that yacht with his wife, kids, their friend and her kid also.  They had sailed to Corsica from Genoa and then south to Sardinia.

After a little extra breakfast I bid my hosts ‘arivvarderci’ and headed north along the east side of the island.  I found more abandoned military structures, some of which I explored, a few of which seem to have housed squatters some time in the recent past also.  I made my way around the northern tip of the island where the shore line was very chaotic with large boulders.  I climbed one to a shady cave that I had seen from the water that was kind of hard to get to, otherwise I would’ve had lunch there.  There was no good place to take the the boat out of the water either, it was getting tossed around quite a bit by the waves as I looked down on it from my climb to where I had tied it to a rock.

On the west side of the island I came across a series of coves and near one I spied a boulder that had space under it that had been walled off with smaller stones leaving a very low entrance way.  I figured that would be the best place to get out of the sun and it worked well enough as a dinner spot though the ceiling was rather low and the loose wall of stones didn’t blocked some air flow since these structures are setup by Sardinians as a way to escape the cold winds of winter.

Heading further south I found more coves and a huge abandoned resort that must have been the club med the people from Milan had mentioned that morning.  I eventually paddled under the bridge in the middle of the causeway that joins Caprera with Maddalena and then headed into a shallow bay where I found a public park with a lot of pine trees where I could camp.  The was a house on a knoll just next to the pineta whose residents became very audible at times during the night, along with some kids in a car who were blasting this heavy, depressing music that sounded like a bad impression of Pink Floyd.


Check back for part 2 where I continue west towards Porto Torres and finally have some pictures I took myself.

Northern Lights Aleut inspired paddle review, manufacturing quality, paddling style and Aquabound Manta Ray


I liked this paddle for a little while.  One thing that most reviewers mention which is worth mentioning again here is that it is really like 2 paddles in one with the 2 different faces, the convex one for normal strokes and the slightly concave side for when you need or want more power.  I used the power side a number of times in following seas.  There are many other reviews out there that describe the virtues of this paddle so I won’t get into any more of them here.

I was a bit disappointed with the manufacturing of the paddle though.  For one thing if you’re lazy like me and sometimes let the paddle float in the water next to the boat while attached with a paddle leash then the paddle blades will actually take on water.  Many times I could hear water sloshing around inside the blades and had to let it slowly drip out later.  I tried to make a habit of not letting the paddle float in the water for any amount of time but I was still getting water in the blades if it was in the water for any more than just a few seconds.  If you’re practicing rolls or wet exits the blades will definitely take a on a lot of water.

I also found that the blades didn’t fit that tightly where they slide onto the center piece, or “loom”.  The screws that secure the blades had to be tightened more than once until I stopped getting any flex at the joints.  Even after they were super tight I still seemed to detect a very slight flex though I’m not 100% sure about that.  I can say that the way the thing was held together didn’t inspire quite as much confidence as it should it have.

I ordered the paddle directly from NL and the first one they sent me was clearly defective.  There were bits of plastic rattling around inside one of the blades that also appeared to be slightly curved and not straight as it should be.  NL was quick to send a replacement that did not have the same defects.  I did notice however that the joints where the blades meet the loom were not so smooth.  There was about a millimeter offset in some places in no consistent pattern.  I was not sure if this was a problem or not so I asked NL about it and they said it was definitely not normal and promised to send me another one.  This one took much much longer to arrive after reminding them a couple times.  When it did arrive it was no better or worse than the one it was supposed to replace in terms of the offset at the joints though they told me they had checked this one personally before sending it to me.  One of the blades on this 3rd paddle seemed rather loose compared to the ones on the previous paddle so I ended up using the 2nd one instead of the 3rd just because it felt more solid.  I also realized later that the joint being slightly uneven is not an issue because my hands are always on the blade part and are not gripping or sliding over the joint.

After a little use I noticed other things I didn’t like about the paddle, things that probably would not be issues for other kayakers who are more used to Greenland and/or Aleutian paddles.  Immediately I found the paddle allowed a lot of water to drip into my cockpit so I started using a spray skirt even when I didn’t really need it.  Also there was nothing I could do about my hands being constantly wet.  Again someone who is used to this kind of paddle already knows about these issues and knows how to live or deal with them.  I don’t think I can do either, at least not in the summer.   I think that these kinds of paddles are better suited to colder conditions when you’re always going to use a spray skirt and gloves anyway.

For some reason it also seemed like the paddle, or the way I was using it, was causing more water than usual to slosh into the cockpit under choppy conditions.  I also felt that I was dragging the paddle through the water as opposed to using it to pull the kayak forward.  Again this is probably just me and my technique.  It seemed to work much more efficiently with a faster, shorter and lower angle stroke but it’s pretty clear to me now that I just don’t like to paddle like that.

It got to the point that I was starting to lose interest in paddling because of this paddle.   I ordered a 215cm, 4-piece Aquabound Manta Ray to use instead and when it came I immediately felt much more comfortable with it.  Last summer I was using a Werner Ikelos in the same length but it seemed like there was just a little too much paddle blade surface area for me as I experienced a lot of stress in my shoulders and some flutter when I wasn’t careful with my stroke.  The Manta Ray has nearly the same amount of surface area but I find it much more comfortable with no flutter ever.  The difference may have something to do with shape of Aquabound’s blade.

I wouldn’t recommend buying one of the Northern Lights paddles unless you’re already familiar with Greenland or Aleutian style paddles and appreciate the qualities of “stick” type paddles.  They’re just not for everyone as I found.  If you do decide to go for one hopefully they will have worked out the manufacturing issues by then or maybe you’ll just be luckier than I was and get a better one as there seems to be a lot of variability between individual paddles.  NL recommends buying from a dealer as opposed to purchasing from them directly and I definitely second that recommendation as NL was a bit difficult and just kind of weird to deal with.  I do appreciate the fact that they didn’t require me to send back the defective paddles before sending replacements, which was very nice, so you may want to take that into account when deciding who to deal with, though on the other hand I have no idea if that’s their policy or just how it happened with me for some reason or no reason at all.

Monte Santu, Portu Pedrosu, Golgo, Nuraghe Orgodùri

The cape of Monte Santu is a point on the east coast of Sardinia where towering cliffs meet the sea, funneling wind and waves in a such way to make sea conditions very rough and challenging for sea kayakers in comparison to the areas just to the north and south of it.  Luckily there is a hidden cove called “Portu Pedrosu” right at the roughest part where you can take a break, stretch your legs, and even camp for the night as many people do even though it’s technically prohibited to camp or bivouac anywhere in the area of Baunei.  It’s also a good base for hiking up into the surrounding landscape though hiking is pretty strenuous in this area at this time of year for people like me who don’t perform so well in high heat and humidity.

I spent last Friday night there and then on Saturday I paddled a bit further north to Cala Goloritze, one of the most scenic beaches in this part of Sardinia.  Most people arrive at this beach by driving to the high plain up behind Baunei, an area called “Golgo”, where they park their cars and hike an hour and a half down 500 meters in elevation to the beach.  Boats are not allowed to land there as at other beaches but kayaks are ok.  My plan was to leave my boat there at the beach and hike up to Golgo with a back pack with everything needed to stay over night and attend the “Sagra di Capra” or goat festival being held there that evening outside the historic San Pietro church that resides in the middle of Golgo.

The hike was pretty rough in the summer heat but not so bad since it was already after 4PM.  At top there is a parking/camping area and small cafe that sells over priced drinks and water which I was counting on to rehydrate myself after the trek.  After that I walked about a kilometer to the church/fair grounds just in time to get on line for the roasted goat feast.  They were also offering a plate of local cheeses so I decided to get one of each.  The strips of goat flesh on the skin were greasy tasty but the actual meat inside was very dry and tough and I over heard a man commenting that the goats were too old.  The cheese was quite tender on the other hand.  The fresh ricotta was amazing and there were a couple very nice pecorinos and a soft smoked cheese that was so strong that one bite burned my mouth to the point where I couldn’t taste any of the other cheeses afterwards.

After eating I headed through the brush to a nearby tree covered nuraghe to setup my hammock.  I lost my shirt along the way and had to scramble through the dry stream beds again the next morning to find it.  Once I was setup I put on the spare shirt I had and walked back to the church, this time along the road, to check out the evening’s entertainment.  On stage a man was playing traditional Sardinian songs on accordion along with more modern material accompanied by electronic rhythm tracks.  Much of the performance was pretty far from traditional but there were many opportunities for people to practice their traditional Sardinian dances, mostly teenage girls dancing with each other.  There was a large, well-served bar where all the men folk were standing around discussing whatever it is they discuss.  I enjoyed a few cups of home made aquavite di vinnacia (“abbardente”, “filu ‘e ferru”) and then headed back to my illicit camp site.

In the morning I was awakened by a small heard of goats who stood around staring at me while the bells around their neck jangled making it impossible for me to fall back asleep so I finally had to get up and scare them away.  Just getting out of the hammock was enough to send them scurrying as they seem to be pretty skittish animals.  This area is home to a huge population of domestic animals wandering around freely: goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, donkeys and even a few horses.

After a little breakfast of cereal biscuits I packed up and headed back to the church to maybe catch some of the religious procession scheduled for that morning though mainly I wanted to retrace my steps and find the shirt that had dropped off the back of my pack the evening before.   Luckily I didn’t have to go too far back into bush to find where it had fallen.  I suppose it was lucky that it hadn’t been eaten by goats yet either!

I returned to the church and had some water and saw the end of the procession where they take the efigy of San Pietro out and carry him around.  I bought two small brass livestock bells from a vendor there as souvenirs and headed back to the cafe at the trail head that leads back down to the beach.  I had an amazing mozzarella and tomatoe sandwich with a Coca Cola, something I never drink, but at noon the heat was such already that it seemed like something I needed.  The walk back down to the beach was almost worse than the walk up the day before as the sun was higher and hotter and I always find going to down to be more difficult, although less strenuous, than going up.

After transferring my load from my pack back into dry bags and launching the kayak again I headed back south towards Portu Pedrosu again.  Not far from the beach I stopped at a little sea cave to cool off.  As I paddled into the cave the cold air from inside hit me as a very welcome relief.  I beached the boat inside and took a little swim.  I also climbed out of the above water entrance to the cave, jumped off the rocks into the water and swam back in though the water level entrance.

I spent two more nights at Pedrosu.  I took a little hike the next day but it was so humid and still that I was exhausted and feeling a little ill again after just 2 hours with only minor ascents.  On Tuesday morning I headed back out into the wind and chaotic waves at Monte Santu but I didn’t have to battle the seas very far until conditions got much calmer just to the south.  I felt much more comfortable out there on the waves than I did out on the trails.  I had enjoyed a couple hikes back in May and there were a lot of tourists in the area at that time specifically there for hiking and trekking.  There’s not much of that now though there are still some die hards.  At this time of year the best place to be is in the shade or on the water, or maybe lying on the beach in the sun and moving as little as possible.

Below are pictures of Nuraghe Orgodùri which is not very well preserved being mostly caved in and filled in but it’s still an interesting place as just a huge pile of rocks covered with big shade trees. The cove shown is not Portu Pedrosu, but the next cove just north of it called Portu Chuau which is also very protected but not the best kayak landing.

Emberlit Gourmet – beach cooking in Sardinia – simple pasta recipe

It’s official, the Emberlit Stove is my favorite camp stove (so far)!  It’s not as hi-tech as the Bushbuddy I used to have but it’s a lot more practical in terms of packing and feeding the flames.  You can find many reviews for it on the internet so I won’t get into all it’s virtues here.  I just want to share some of my techniques for cooking with it or any other camp stove you care to use.  I do not recommend alcohol burning stoves although some swear by them because they do not get hot enough to cook pasta properly and nobody like chewy rubbery pasta, right?  When my Bushbuddy got lost in the Adriatic Sea I tried gas cartridge stoves for a while and although I think they’re nice to cook with I don’t like worrying about how much fuel I have and accumulating a collection of half used cartridges at home that have no use except in case of some natural disaster.

The way I cook is not at all practical for backpackers unfortunately but it works very well for kayak or bicycle touring where you can afford the extra weight of fresh ingredients plus some cans and jars.  It also helps to be touring a relatively civilized region where you can stop for fresh supplies every few days at towns/ports with real food stores, especially for fresh Italian bread!  I have tried adapting my techniques to freeze dried ingredients with mixed results.  Fresh is the way to go if you can swing it.

One thing I want to point out is that the Emberlit will get as hot as you want it to as long as you feed it liberally and continually.  The more wood the better.  Depending on the type of wood I can usually get enough into the front port to maintain the internal inferno but when that doesn’t cut it I like to drop a few extra sticks down inside from the top.  It’s important for the sticks you’re feeding it to angle up through the port into the stove.  You may need to dig a little hole in the sand in front of the stove to facilitate this or just put the stove on a flat rock.

Simple Beach Pasta


  • Pasta (of course)
  • Salt
  • Fresh onion or garlic (one or the other, don’t use both!)
  • Olive oil
  • White wine
  • Fresh ground black pepper or red pepper flakes (one or the other, don’t use both!)
  • Dried Pasley, Oregano, or Basil (again, only one, not all)
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese

Optional Ingredients:

  • Fresh vegetable
  • Canned tuna
  • Small jar of clams
  • Dried sausage or salami or ham

To make this I use a 2 liter Snow Peak titanium pot and a non-stick MSR frying pan.  Any measurements I mention are very approximate.

In the pan add a tablespoon of olive oil or more and crushed garlic or chopped onion.  Saute the garlic until it starts to change color, but don’t let it get brown! If the stove is burning very hot this will take less than a minute.   You can just hold the pan above the flame and swish it around without actually resting the pan on top of the stove.   You’re not really trying to cook the garlic, you just want to permeate the oil with the garlic flavor.  If you use onion then saute until translucent which will take a bit longer.  If you’re not sure which one to use then go for the garlic, it’s more versatile, portable and everyone loves it, but don’t use too much, you don’t want to over power the other flavors in your dish.

When the garlic or onion is done cool things off in the pan with a few tablespoons of white wine.  If you’re on a longer tour then just carry a whole bottle though I use a little plastic squeeze bottle for shorter trips.  The pepper of your choice goes in now too.  You could add a tiny bit of salt now also though you could do without it since the pasta should be well salted and the cheese is pretty salty also.

You can add either a jar of clams or some fresh vegetable (not both) at this point and cook until tender.  If you’re using green beans this will take a long time though if you use leafy greens or brocoli it will only take a couple minutes.  If you’re not adding anything else at this point then just simmer the wine/oil mixture until the smell of alcohol is gone, usually after a couple minutes. If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan keep simmering to boil some of it off, you don’t want your pasta to be swimming later. Set the pan aside with a cover on it to keep junk from falling in there.  Nobody likes sand in their food!

Now place the pot with water on the stove.  You should have more than enough wood ready to get it up to a boil and keep it there long enough to cook the pasta.  When the water starts to boil add a very generous amount of salt.  Don’t worry about this since most of it will stay in the water.  We’re talking a few tablespoons here, depending on how much water/pasta you have.  The idea is that that pasta should taste salty itself before adding sauce.  You can use a spoon to taste the water.  It should taste as salty as a light soup.  After the salt throw in the pasta and the put the lid on the pot.  Keep it covered until it starts boiling again.  It’s very important that the water keeps boiling as much as possible until the pasta is done so that it turns out properly ‘al dente’.   Stir often to ensure even cooking and to avoid pieces sticking together.

When the pasta is still very ‘al dente’ drain it, anyway you can!  Using a lid is normally the most convenient thing but it can be tricky.  Use some kind of rag or something to avoid burning yourself.  Drop the pasta into the frying pan and add the parsely or basil and the cherry tomatoes sliced in half.  You can add canned tuna here if you want also.  Put the frying pan back on the stove and cook for another minute or 2 until the pasta is ready.  The tomatoes should remain intact, you just want them to get hot, not turn them into a sauce.

At this point you’re done unless you have some cured meat to stir in.  I don’t like those things to get cooked, just warm, so they go in at the end.  Also I would add oregano now if you didn’t use parsely or basil.  I think that dried oregano is better when not cooked while dried parsely and basil really need to be cooked just a little to reconstitute them.  If you can get fresh herbs feel free to use those instead.  In many parts of the Mediterranean you can find wild herbs growing in abundance.

Last but not least top with cheese, but leave it off if you used tuna, they don’t mix.  If you have a grater then that’s great!  Otherwise just shave off thin flakes with your knife.  Pre-grated cheese is never a good idea, especially when you’re away from your refrigerator because it will go bad very quickly.  I solid chunk of hard, aged cheese will keep very well without refrigeration for a very long time, even if it does get a little moldy just cut off the mold and it’s still good, trust me 😉

I want to stress that it’s always best to keep the dish simple and not throw in too many ingredients.  If you use both garlic and onion in every dish then every dish tastes like garlic and onions.  You get more variety if you use garlic in some and onions in others.  Likewise with herbs and spices.  Use only one herb (parsley, basil, oregano, etc…)   and only one spice (pepper: black, red, white, etc…) in one dish.  It’s nice to carry at least 2 different shapes of pasta also for more variety.  In Italy they eat pasta every day but manage to have a lot of variety by using different shapes and keeping the recipes simple so that every dish is a different and distinctive combination.

I recommend a meal like this with a lot of pasta in the afternoon.  This meal I like to call “dinner” as people used to do before the Industrial Revolution, though you can call it lunch if you want.  To me lunch is a much lighter meal you have when you don’t have the time or resources available to have a real dinner.  A big meal with lots of carbs in the middle of the day will give you energy for paddling, cycyling or trekking for the rest of the afternoon and then you won’t be quite as hungry at night when you can have a lighter meal that I like to call “supper”, again as in the olden days.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to eat a big dinner in the evening just before bed time.

Unfortunately this plan doesn’t always work out, especially in the fall when the days are getting shorter and you don’t have as much time to stop for a big meal in the middle of the day and still make your destination before nightfall, so do what you have to do, but in general I try to avoid feelings of exhaustion on the trail by fueling up well before getting out and on the move.

Su Sirboni – kayak touring in Sardinia

I’m told that “su sirboni” mean “the wild boars” in Sardinian. I did not see any while I was there. I did see amazing rock formations in red granite and darker volcanic rock along with one of the nicest white sand beaches you’ll find anywhere and another beach made up entirely or dark stones with a character all it’s own. The pictures tell the story:


After starting out in Santa Maria Navaresse and heading south and battling heavy seas around Arbatax things start to get a bit calmer in the afternoon as I pass Cea. My destination is in the distance:

The next day I stopped to take a break on a beach just north of Su Sirboni with a cute little Juniper tree:

I didn’t take any pictures on the beach at Su Sirboni where I had lunch so here’s the satellite image. The buildings there are a small vacation village that has been shut down, I dont’ know why. The beach itself is very gradually sloping white sand, which somewhat rare in Italy where most beaches are more more pebbly.

I finally had the pleasure of meeting Francesco Muntoni from Cardedu Kayak. I had heard a lot about him, he’s a big proponent of sea kayaking in the Ogliastra region of Sardinia. This day he was out with a student conducting a private lesson:

Private beach for me! With volcanic rock:

Here’s my Feathercraft Heron on the stone beach at Coccorrocci:

Looks like there’s a good place to hang a hammock up there:

Nice hang!

Looking south along the beach:

Next day on the water, lots of red rocks:

Many interesting shapes in the rock. Some remind me of a big 3D graffiti tag rendered in stone:

I had been trolling a little spinner behind the boat on my way back north. As I prepared to stop for a break I reeled in the line and as I was doing so this little fish hit the lure. I let it go as it was rather small. Later on, just north of Torre di Bari I hooked a much larger fish that put up quite a fight as tried to reel it in but eventually got loose before I had a chance to see it. I had pizza for supper that evening at Cea:

Heading north, the cape on the right is Arbatax and the cliffs far beyond that mark Capo di Monte Santu:

I’ll be in Sardinia for 2 more months so a lot more pics to come. I would’ve had some sooner but my Canon Powershot D-10 died on me. The above photos were taken with a new Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 that I finally got to replace the Powershot after finding out there was no way to get it repaired in Italy. Hopefully it holds up better!

Live Recording of Street Choir in Baunei, Sardinia

Sardinians love to carve faces on stone and wood. This is next to a spring water trough on the highest street in Baunei.

 Click here to get the MP3

I may start another blog for this kind of stuff but for now I think it’s not too out of place here.

Yesterday there was a street fair in Baunei, the next town near where I’m staying in Santa Maria Navarrese.  It is perched on the side of a mountain nearly 500 meters above sea level and is the traditional center of culture and population in the area.  It’s a maze a narrow streets and hidden stairways with stone walls that are centuries old juxtaposed with more modern clay block construction.

At one location last night the men of the Coro Montesantu had prepared a traditional meal of fava beans with pork and very generous amounts of amazing home-made red wine.  They took breaks from serving hungry festivalers to harmonize together out on the street and at around midnight launched into a solid, un-distracted half hour set from their repertoire which I was able to record fairly clearly.

This mp3 contains one of the more upbeat numbers from the middle of the performance and also the very last song of the night.  At the beginning there is a short sound bite from earlier in the day when I was recording a sound check at another location in Baunei.  An older man asks jokingly in Italian “Is the party here?”.

The songs are not in Italian though, they are all sung in the Sardinian language that many people here still speak very fluently, even younger people.


(Audio recorded with Sony PCM-D50 and it’s built in microphones)

Grabner Discovery 2 inflatable kayak review and comparison with Incept Tasman and Feathercraft Heron

Ready for adventure!


The Grabner Discovery line consists of 2 boats that are a hybrid between an inflatable and folding aluminum frame kayak.  It seems that Grabner has a lot of experience with inflatable boats and that part of this kayak is well designed and made with very durable high quality material.  Unlike most inflatables that have 3 air chambers these ones only have 2, one on each side while the frame components eliminate the need for a bottom chamber to keep the hull rigid (more on that later)

In the spring of 2011 I purchased the larger of the 2 Discoverys, the Discovery 2, for better cargo volume and weight capactiy.  Before purchasing this boat my only kayaking experience had been touring with an Incept Tasman 1 person inflatable so it’s inevitable that I should compare the two.  A major difference is that the Discovery 2 is an over 18 foot long tandem model that can easily be adapted to solo use whereas the Tasman is Incept’s solo kayak model at only a little over 14 feet long.    I found that the Grabner would glide through choppy water much more easily than the Tasman which would only glide easily on very calm water.  Whenever conditions got a little choppy it felt like the Tasman bow was getting bounced around a lot and thereby detracting from forward momentum.  I think though that the Tasman surfed in following seas a bit better than the Discovery since the longer boat is also more flexible (again, more on that later)

I liked how the Tasman has built in pressure relief valves and the input valves are accessible from inside the cockpit with a hand held pump so you can easily top off the air while on the water in order to maximize hull rigidity as much as possible.  With the Discovery there are optional inline pressure relief valves that I found very useful while pumping up the chambers without a pressure gauge.  The 2 valves are not accessible from the cockpit, though maybe they would be in tandem mode but then maintaining maximum pressure shouldn’t be as important in this boat that has a frame to help maintain hull rigidity.  I still think it would be nice though to have built in valves just to eliminate the possibility of damaging the air chambers when the boat is on a beach under the sun when you’ve stopped for lunch.  As it is you have to remember to manually let out some air in those conditions.

My Incept Tasman in Hvar, Croatia! It wasn’t hard to lift it out of the water there, one end at time, while still loaded! Being completely inflatable does have some advantages…


I like the spray deck for the Discovery which attaches to the hull with 2 velcro strips and a number of small metal hooks that fit in tiny holes in an extra layer of rubber on both sides of the boat or can be left off entirely for paddling on very flat water.  Although these hooks are quite numerous once in place you only have to undo a few of them to access the generous cargo areas behind the seat and in front of the foot pedals.  I was concerned that some waves might  wash up under the deck and contribute significantly to bilge water but I found this was not the case at all and even though a little bit did leak in from time to time it was very minimal.  In contrast the Tasman has a spray deck that is permanently attached on one side and with a zipper on the other side which is quite long and affords even better access to the cargo areas.  I had quite a bit of trouble with water dripping off of my paddle onto the this zipper and into the boat pooling right in the seat so I often ended up sitting in a pool of water which wasn’t a pleasant experience.  It seems that when Incept manufactures these boats they are supposed to punch 2 small holes in the section of rubber that connects the zipper to to the side air chamber BUT somehow they had neglected to do the boat that I ended up buying.  Many months after the problem was identified they finally emailed me instructions on how to punch these holes myself but before I got around to actually doing it I had bought the Discovery and had mostly forgotten about the Tasman which I later sold on Craigslist.

When considering the Discovery’s aluminum frame it would seem that Grabner has much less experience in that area.  I don’t think they designed this frame as well as they could have.  Their implementation makes the boat rather fragile and a bit too flexible.  You cannot pick it up by a gunwale, you need to use either a kayak cart or have two people carry it from either end or risk damage.  I was also able to move it very short distances by “walking” it along the shore, lifting it alternately from each end, always fully unloaded of course.

The frame consists not only of aluminum tubes but also 3 large interlocking rigid plastic floor plates.  They do a good job of keeping the hull rigid as long as they are pushed together very tightly which depends on the rigidity of the aluminum frame.  I found the latter to be the biggest flaw in Grabner’s design.  The aluminum tubes are connected with short plastic connectors that seem quite rigid but can get significantly bent out of shape especially in the 2 most critical joints along the hull in the bow and stern.  I believe that handling the assembled boat out of the water on the cart and also trying to use the storage shelf provided to me by my kayak club caused both of these joints to bend to the point where the hull line was very noticeably not straight and insufficient pressure was put on the floor plates so that the boat felt weird in the water as the whole thing had become very flexible!  I procured replacement plastic connectors from Grabner but they were soon bent out of shape also.

I was becoming somewhat disappointed with my purchase at that point and I decided that the only way to salvage my investment would be to replace the plastic connectors with a more suitable material, at least the ones in the 2 critical, high stress joints.  I think that the connectors should have been made with aluminum though Grabner told me that when they were considering different materials they ruled out aluminum as they felt that could cause difficulties in separating the tubes.  I had extreme difficulty separating these joints where the plastic pieces were very bent and deformed and ended up drilling one of them out!  Feathercraft makes some of the best aluminum frame kayaks in the world and they don’t seem to have any problem using aluminum connectors to connect aluminum tubes, they just recommend to put some lubrication on them periodically which doesn’t seem like an unreasonable burden on the end user.

The outside diameter for these connectors is about 21mm or 13/16″ which is not a standard size for aluminum tubing or even wooden dowels.  I ended up having dowels custom made from white oak by a local wood shop that was only willing to accept such a small job because business was slow at the time.  (I hope they’re doing better now!)  I replaced 4 of the plastic connectors with the dowels that I had coated with spray on polyurethane and found them to be much more durable holding up well over a 2 week expedition from Brooklyn to Montauk Long Island!  The poly didn’t hold up so well on the 2 joints along the hull that were often exposed to bilge water but at least they didn’t get bent out of shape.  I might try marine varnish instead of polyurethane if I ever feel like working on this frame again but I’ve since realized that seat posts for older bicycles are just about the perfect size at 13/16″ and as they are made out of stainless steel shouldn’t suffer from the salt water so much as long they are greased or lubricated.

Another issue with the Discovery is that the shock chords that keep the tube segments connected when disassembled became unhooked.  This was not such a problem because I would have had to unhook them myself anyway to replace the 4 bent plastic connectors,  bow and stern, along the hull and under the deck .  There are only 4 other connectors in the whole frame, making 8 total, and those are 2 each in the gunwale tubes on each side of the boat.  The chords on those are intact and the other ones are easy enough to place when you consider the layout of the other frame parts.

At the time I purchased the Grabner boat I was enticed by a very substantial discount they were offering on a 2nd quality boat with some purely cosmetic defects in the rubber.  I have never noticed these defects myself.  This unit was one of only a few number of remaining stock which is all gone now.  I don’t know if Grabner plans to manufacture any more Discoverys ever, though if they do I hope they try to correct some of the issues with the first models.

Now if I had known at the time that Feathercraft had just come out with an all new model I might have passed on the Discovery but I didn’t find out about the Heron until a few months later.  I was aware of their K1 model that was extremely suitable for my activites but more expensive and some reviewers mention it being a little slow.  I knew of their Khatasalano model as well but that seems too sporty and unstable for me since my principal kayaking activity is expedition touring.  I think I also used to favor inflatables because of their simple assembly but after all the hours I have spent messing around with the Grabner Discovery frame I now welcome the opportunity to work with a better frame designed and built by the experts in aluminum frame folding kayaks.

So then about a year after purchasing the Grabner, with my sights set on a summer spent paddling in Sardinia, I went ahead and ordered a Heron.  I got it through Folding Kayak Adventures in Colorado instead of directly from Feathercraft in Vancouver in order to save on foreign transaction fees.  Hopefully this is the last high end travel kayak I ever have to buy for myself.

Having already received the Heron and assembling it twice I’ll say I’m very impressed, especially when comparing it’s frame to the one in the Discovery!  Yes there are many many more sections of aluminum tubing and more connectors, but most of them are shock corded together and the ones that aren’t are color coded in a way that eliminates any possibility of confusion during assembly.  I am very impressed by one feature in particular where the whole frame length can be adjusted to 5 different possible settings in order to make it fit as tightly as possible into the skin and keep the boat rigid.  I’m told that the skin can expand and contract depending on temperature and moisture and I’m assuming you may have to stretch it further after it has been well broken in, but we’ll see…

At this point I can’t compare how the Heron handles on the water because I am still just a warm weather kayaker and the water is pretty cold around Brooklyn this time of year.  I do however like the bag and cart system I got for the Heron much better than what I got with the Discovery.  The Discovery bag is very flexible with only flaps and straps with buckles to close it up but then it’s never really sealed because it has no zippers like the Feathercraft bag which while not as flexible is perfectly suited to the boat, with plenty of extra space for extras like a Northern Light aleut stuyle paddle, bilge pump and inflatable pfd.  Removing the voluminous sea sock that Feathercraft provides I’m also able to fit in a Wheeleez mini kayak cart with it’s fat wheels deflated and shoved side by side down into the bottom of the bag.

For the Discovery I had purchased the optional Ekla convertible cart provided by Grabner that can be used as a luggage cart for the kayak bag or as a kayak cart for the assembled kayak.  This is a great idea but in practice it ends up being a little too bulky and awkward for either application.  As a luggage cart the wheels are too big and rub against the bag as they roll.  It would be ok if they were positioned differently but that would require even more aluminum tubing and make the whole thing even more bulky than it already is.  This thing is capable of other configurations besides these 2, presumably for other applications with other types of equipment though I have no idea what they might be.

For the Heron I purchased their optional pack cart that attaches to the outside of the kayak bag converting it into a wheeled piece of luggage.  It is very light and simple and can be taken apart and stowed inside the bag itself when you get to the baggage counter 😉  I can’t really imagine checking in the full Discovery bag and cart.   Feathercraft also offers a folding kayak cart but it’s not super light weight and the wheels don’t look suitable for many types of terrain so I instead opted for the Wheeleez mini which is supposed to be a bit lighter and should be able to roll over many more surfaces, including mud and sand.

It might seem that a comparison between a Grabner Discovery 2 and a Feathercraft Heron is somewhat unfair considering that the Heron costs more and they are actually 2 different types of boats.  In reality though the Heron doesn’t cost that much more than what the brand new first quality Discovery 2s were going for with comparable accessories added on and although the Discovery is an inflatable and the Heron is not they both have aluminum frames, are about the same length, weight and capacity, pack to about the same size and are suitable for the same kinds of expedition touring adventures.   I’ve learned quite a lot here and it seems to me that there is still room for innovation in the field of light weight, high performance, high capacity, collapsible expedition touring kayaks.  Hopefully others can learn something from my experiences here also.


How to break-in & stretch a pair of boots: Zamberlan Tofane

So I figured that if I needed a new pair of heavy duty hiking boots I might as well invest in good ones that are built to last with welted soles that can be replaced when they wear out.  There aren’t that many choices in this category these days though some of the best are made in Italy by Zamberlan.  I first tried their Sella model and found them to be quite comfortable but just much more boot than I think I’d ever need.  I returned those and ordered a pair of their Tofanes.  These also felt very comfortable and quite robust but a bit more reasonable for my average on and off trail hiking and treking needs.

Now that I’d decided to keep them it was time to start breaking them in.  It didn’t take long to realize that they were a bit too narrow for my relatively wide feet.  They felt fine around the apartment but you can’t really judge a pair of shoes until you walk a mile or more in them, past the point of no returns.  I tried loosening the laces and that helped a lot on the width but made them feel pretty sloshy allowing heel abrasion and blister development.

Since it was too late to do anything else I decided I had to do something more than just walk around in them in order to get them to the point where I could use them on an actual hike or trek.  Any shoe repair joint can stretch leather shoes for you with the instruments they have at their disposal but the results are going to be variable and arbitrary.  I figured I could do a better job myself with my feet as my only tools.  I started by making a conscious effort to spread my feet wide and press back against the pinch I was feeling on the outer sides of the boots.  That helped a little.  I also wore the boots while seated and pressed hard against the sides.  That helped even more and soon most of the pinch around the widest part of my foot was gone but they still felt way too tight further back around the narrower part of my feet.  This is when I got really aggressive, balancing and walking on the outside of my feet during parts of an extended walk.  My feet were killing me after that, the right one took 2 days until if felt right again. I think I could have done permanent damage if I had kept it up much longer.  A couple days after that I tried the boots again and now they felt as if they were custom made for my feet with no pinch at all even when laced as tight as I could get them!

If anyone wants to try this I would suggest a somewhat more gradual course of action, don’t ruin your feet just trying to break in your boots.  Also I’m sure the quality of the leather used by better brands makes them more apt to stretch and conform to your feet sooner or later.  I’m sure that the way I did it made it happen a lot sooner.