Meet Beryl – she’s green ! ( I am allowed to give my boat a name, it’s a tradition of mariners I believe.)
I have had a sore shoulder, sprained my thumb badly and suffered a bad cough. OK there are remnants of ailment, but it is time to stop the excuses. It is nice sunny day it is about time to test out my new self bailing PackRaft. I headed out to Warrandyte to do some practice. I’ve booked a 4 day meet-up at Mount Robson, an 11 day trip on the Tatshenshini river in Canada and plan to do other trips, so the gear has to be right.
- packing everything in to the raft both on the cargo deck and inside the hull.
- my dry suit, undergarments, shoes.
- paddling a distance
- seat height
- bikerafting – yes/no ?
- walking with the loaded pack
Lots of gear to load.
The gear loaded inside the raft very well. The TiZip was airtight and allowed me to get a lot of gear inside the pontoons. The deck cargo bag had loads of capacity easily holding by spare shoes, water bottle, bag of food and a few other bits and bobs. The only improvement I can think of is a loop to assist in unzipping – the TiZip is quite firm and it was hard for me with my damaged thumb as well. The diy crowd have thought about it, see this site to get a clearer picture of what I mean. Hopefully a simple improvement like this can make its way commercially.
Deck Cargo bag, raised seating.
I raised the seat height using my polyethylene foam sleeping mat to about 250mm upon suggestion from Mark Oates (he is an inspirational teacher: some great Youtube videos, Vimeo and Exposure presentations are made by him on packrafting). This kept me from continually sitting in a puddle of water (one of the not so good aspects of a self-bailer especially in wintry waters). The stability was still good especially with a loaded hull. I cannot be so certain with an lighter load on white water and the higher centre of gravity – we’ll see in Canada ! I think with a inflatable seat atop the floor pad I can fine tune the height to what I am comfortable with. The deck cargo bag is fantastic. (and note the bed roll used to increase seat height)
Dry suit and undergarments.
The dry suit was warm even when immersed in the freezing river water. It is a tad heavy at 4kg, the brand is top notch a Helly Hansen, but I need to compromise a durability for weight I think. I would love to have a lighter one, but it is hard to justify the purchase of a new one . Unless I can get a good sale / exchange or prove my continual usage another one won’t happen.
I have some Sharkskin paddling pogies, they function well. Also a Sharkskin vest and trousers. Though I have the polar micro fleece undergarments( Macpac and Kathmandu) I’ll take them for additional insurance. I’m also taking merino undergarments in case it gets super cold. (my comment on the pants/top is that it would be good to have a bib and brace or connector between the two as the pants tend to slip down – more an issue when I’m kiteboarding near the general public.)
Dressed for battle ! Note I’m using some old trail running shoes for river shoes is useful, they drain well are light and have excellent grip. I think they will work instead of neoprene water boots. I’ll scout answers on the forums before finalising that decision.
The raft paddling went well despite the shortened stroke with the bike on it. I’ve yet to test it in serious water, there hasn’t been sufficient water levels to do it and my injuries would have curbed any opportunity. Maybe a wild day on the bay will suffice. I do feel super comfortable with the thigh braces and can lock in hard and at the same time exit quickly.
I ran out of time to test the walking, but I did that a few days ago walking 8km with a load of 22kg. I found the load quite heavy and will need to lighten it somehow, especially since there is no food and water in that content. I padded the sternum area further on my harness using exercise polyethylene foam matting to provide pressure relief. (see my earlier blog entry for back pack set up.)
- Note to check destination and map. l plugged into my navigation system Warburton when it dawned on me that I got it wrong. So re-route I ended up at Yarra Junction instead of my intended destination. The Yarra river is but a creek round Warburton and it was also quite narrow at Yarra Junction . There was a mild current, but nothing of danger especially with the number of trees in the water.
- Rivers have mud and plenty of it. I did not bring anything to clean the gunk off – remember to take a sponge and bucket or something to clean up ! (actually I have a Silnylon water bag but it is in my luggage !
- My paddle strikes the handlebar of my bicycle.
I had to shorten my stroke a lot to paddle. After checking this website “The bulk of a bike strapped to the bow limits your ability to reach forward with the paddle, so it makes sense to use a slightly longer boat than normal to maintain an efficient paddle stroke.” Bikerafting is perhaps not a goer for Canada as there is little time for refinement. I could experiment by moving the back brace rearward and forgoing the foot brace (or adding another cushion).
I toyed with the idea of using a folding bike, unfortunately the ones I would need are pricey and over 2000USD and I don’t know how they’d go with 22kg or more of gear. I just missed out on a Airnimal Chameleon Folding Bike on Gumtree for $500AUD, it would have been the ideal experiment. I am quite taken with the Helix bike design too, and hope they manage to manufacture it (another opportunity missed – it was on KickStarter at $1200 for a titanium bike in 2015,now it’s 2019 price over 2200USD). I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more opportunities !
Picture below – on the water laden with 40kg of gear – see how the handlebar is within paddle striking range:
- Bicycle mechanical issue – I didn’t put a spacer in the disc brakes. The brake handle was squeezed perhaps whilst tying the bike on. I did not have any tools other than a pedal spanner so that put paid to any tests loading the gear onto the bike as I could not separate the pads.
- I had issue with the foot anchor rest tearing its anchor and deflating. A replacement was sent to me, this time I did not anchor it as I felt the same failure will occur (there is only one loop to hold in place and no give in the holding strap so it won’t take the load of a braced leg). It’s a silly design, I’ll need to work on securing it in a better manner as a loss of it or another failure is a real nuisance in white water.
The foot anchor pad tore from its single connection point and semicircular shape. The semicircle makes it fit inside the bow but easy to rotate on the anchorage. If the pad deflates or the floor flexes, the inelastic strap will also put a high load on the connection point when you brace your foot against it. A much better idea is to use elastic connection straps and two on the sides. Its inflation hose is quite long – the jury is out on it being beneficial.