Kevlar worn toes

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Last night I had an opportunity to meet, or rather a coincidental encounter, with an iconic canoe designer and an iconic (at least at the ADK forum) solo canoe bushwhacker. The former being DY, the latter being the Conk.

Previously I had asked Mr. Curtis about having a kneeling thwart installed in my Kee and having finally got the part from Swift, was eager to get the process going. I met him at Canadice lake last night after work as he is there most every Thursday night in the summer to demo his boats. I suppose I could have installed the thwart myself as it only requires some drilling and riveting but I was more confident Dave would place it closer to the ideal position than I would.

I did not plan on paddling so I left directly from work having strapped my boat on the night before... needless to say I was wearing a collared, heavy cotton shirt, leather shoes, and long, heavy cotton pants. The temperature gauge in my car was reading high 80's on the way down.

When I got to the lake, at around 6:30pm, I found a crew of familiar (to me), yet unacquainted faces sitting with Dave and his wife. I recognized Conk and DY although both seemed to have much less hair than any of the pictures I had seen of them (not balded, just well groomed). Neither were quick to introduce themselves, both seemed rather aloof of me, and I was not very forward about impressing myself upon them. It is rather an awkward situation when you recognize people from pictures whom you have never met, and have read or heard a great deal about them.

Dave laughed at me for some reason when I walked up and asked where my wife was, etc... I was alone, and have been a bachelor since last Thursday due to her being in Boston visiting her brother and being brainwashed, I mean trained, for some sort of new, experimental teaching method. My wife is usually the more social of the two of us and we are often together, so again, I felt a bit awkward and tried to make light of the fact that the lake was as smooth as I had seen it in some time. The extreme heat was somewhat a result of a lack of wind and thus made for some excellent paddling conditions. At that point I was wishing my wife was there and we could take the Kee down to the south end of the lake and look down through the glassy water to the jungle of sea plants and try to spot fish and turtles swimming about as herons and ducks loomed on the shoreline. Such was not the case though and Dave was up and ready to load my boat on the trailer.

I decided I should make clear I recognized the Conk and his boat, the green Kestrel, which I knew happened to be one of his boats from reading his adventure stories. I prepared myself for the "changing countenance of the Conk" but found that he happened to be rather docile in person. Much like myself, rather aloof, but much more soft spoken. For some reason I expected his voice to be more grizzled and gnarly, with coarse laughter... but I suppose I just associate that persona with people who smoke cigars and pipes... it is rarely the case though.

At this point DY was thoroughly inspecting my boat and Conk had recognized it as the one that had an encounter with a loon. My poor brain was struggling with trying to be introduced to DY, which Dave then mentioned who it was (but I already knew), unloading my boat, trying to find where the loon had speared it, telling DY what I thought of the Kee, listening to what those guys were saying, etc... It was all kind of a blur. I recall DY saying he was going to get a Kee for himself and disagreeing with me about how the Kee and the Eagle paddled, and then he disappeared...

I suppose that is where the leprechauns come in?

After my boat was unloaded and reloaded Dave convinced me I should go out on the water. It wasn't hard to do. I wanted to go out, but I would have much rather gone out in an Eagle or my Kee with my wife. Conk had no interest in paddling tandem and I wasn't sure about paddling tandem with someone I didn't know. I'm not very good in a solo boat, I've been in one all of one or two times before then, and I didn't want to be a drag on Conk's paddle time. I decided, after a little prodding from Dave, that I'd give the Peregrine another try. Seeing that I am pushing 210+ lbs since the 7 months I have been free of the tobacco leaf, I don't think many of the other smaller boats would fit me very well. I had been in this Peregrine before and although it probably fits me from a weight standpoint, I think it may be a touch wider than I would like for a solo... but I don't really know?

Having none of my recreational gear with me, neither a paddle nor vest I borrowed those items, ditched my socks and shoes, and rolled up my heavy pants. It was still a million degrees out and I was sweating profusely just making the smallest of movements. My extra insulation brought on by recent nicotine withdrawal coupled with country club style work clothes did me no favors. There were quite a few fish hooks left in the area and luckily for me going barefoot, Dave's wife had picked most of them up - so I escaped that first obstacle in making it to the water's edge.

After that it was getting into an unfamiliar boat, and getting myself into an unfamiliar position (kneeling) without going into the water. I almost did mind you. It takes a bit of grace and some flexibility to get your legs under the seat, none of which I seemed to posses at that moment. Once I got into the boat it then became the challenge of moving the craft with an unfamiliar (but nicely made) paddle and settling myself into a stable, and somewhat comfortable position. For any of you who normally sit in a tandem and haven't been in a kneeling solo boat, this is much more difficult and painful than it looks. Everyone swears you get used to it. I felt much more comfortable after being out in this boat for about 1-1/2 to 2 hrs... I know it would come with time.

Then the next challenge was catching up to the Conk who was gracefully gliding along like a swan about 100 yards away from the launch. I managed to get my large bird of prey moving across the water, and somewhat straight and finally caught up the little green Kestrel.

At that point I started querying the Conk about paddling techniques and how to turn the boat, etc... I think I overwhelmed him but he gave me a few tips - mainly really keeping my paddle shaft as vertical as possible, which I knew, but apparently wasn't doing enough... some of it I suspect is me being a bit rigid in an unfamiliar boat. But I loosened up eventually, and I even started to feel comfortable at some points. I still cannot turn very fast or go full tilt straight - but I didn't expect to figure that out my second time in a solo boat.


It was then story time out on the water. Conk told me tales of his camp, bears, the Adirondacks, and canoeing. I didn't have much to contribute but I always enjoy listening to other people tell tales of their experiences.

Occasionally Conk would rocket off with a splash and a flash of green would dart away in front of me. I don't know if he was bored, or just playing around. Try as might I couldn't make the boat I was in go that fast and straight at the same time, so I'd follow at my own pace. I did manage to pick up significantly from where I had started though.

Eventually I couldn't feel my feet and I learned how to stretch my legs and get on and off the seat while in the water. Again it isn't as easy as it sounds. It takes a bit of balance and contortion to get your legs where you want them. Learning that alleviated much of my stress and bought me another hour in the boat. I assume with more time and practice I could stay out for longer and longer stretches.

The one thing I did notice, and hadn't thought of before is that Kevlar is extremely unfriendly to bare skin. I did not have any shoes on and my kneeling mat did not extend to my feet so my toes took a significant beating. I had asked Dave what the T-shaped kneeling mats were for and he told me for your feet. Well, I didn't have to ask why after I got back to shore. My feet are RAW!

All in all it was a good time though. I got some more seat time in a solo canoe. Met two of my canoe heros - one from the design end, one from the application end, and got to paddle around on some of the best water I have been on at Canadice. Glad I went out!
 
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I am sorry to seem unsympathetic but DY never gladhands people. He waits till engaging in conversation and even then might not say "Hi! I am DY"! You missed an opportunity to present your name and say how pleased you were able to meet. And then you would have been able to ask questions comfortably.

Your paddling will get better. None of us was born knowing how to paddle. It takes water time.. You think DY's first boat was his best? I suspect not :)

Next time feel free to introduce yourself and don't worry about asking the "correct question". I mentioned in front of 50 people last week at the Adirondack Canoe Symposium that DY had designed a mistake I once bought and called the boat (a kayak) evil. He was right there giving the Q and A session. He is not easily flustered nor insulted.

Mark ACS and Solo Canoe Rendezvous on your calendar for next year. All the usual principals will likely be at one of the other. Charlie Wilson and DY are getting to look alike in their maturing years ; CEW will always be a little shorter.
 
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I need no apologies. I am not very forward in most cases.

I previously recognized 'the Conk' at an ADK symposium I was at but he was talking and doing stuff with other people - apparently my wife recognized him as well and talked to him a little bit while I was out in a boat. I am not one to force my presence upon anyone.

If I want to know something, and I think you have the answer, trust me I will not be shy about asking. I didn't have any burning questions for DY to answer... next time I'll prepare a list :p

If the time presents itself when DY and I have a conversation then so be it... I am not expecting him to be doing jumping jacks and gladhanding me because I own a boat he designed. I did tell him I liked it - but I know a lot of people like his boats...
 
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I need no apologies. I am not very forward in most cases.

I previously recognized 'the Conk' at an ADK symposium I was at but he was talking and doing stuff with other people - apparently my wife recognized him as well and talked to him a little bit while I was out in a boat. I am not one to force my presence upon anyone.

If I want to know something, and I think you have the answer, trust me I will not be shy about asking. I didn't have any burning questions for DY to answer... next time I'll prepare a list :p

If the time presents itself when DY and I have a conversation then so be it... I am not expecting him to be doing jumping jacks and gladhanding me because I own a boat he designed. I did tell him I liked it - but I know a lot of people like his boats...



Sounds like you and DY are two of a kind.. It's all good. I read into your post that you thought he was a little "aloof". So am I When you and I meet we are apt to share something about paddling and life before introducing ourselves. So it goes..we are all just people not rock stars.
 
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Even rock stars are people... well most of them I think.

Speaking of which a friend and co-worker of mine just happen to run into Lou Gramm (of Foreigner) right here in Rochester, his home town and apparently where he lives now.

Reportedly he was very grab-handed and friendly. He is a popular guy, and apparently likes to make the most of it. Good for him...
 
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Back to your toes. Sox are good. I can understand not wanting to paddle in business sox though. Every year paddlers go through thigh dermabrasion at Adirondack Canoe Symposium. That pesky sand.. It gives a good rub though and cheap ie free.
 
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Oh I plan on wearing my water shoes when kneeling from now on... Even those are not impervious to the sand. That tends to get trapped in there and tear my feet up just as bad.

I used to wear Keen closed toe sandals but they were worse. Still searching for the perfect foot gear for the boat. I see a lot of people wearing those booties, especially when it is cold. Another thing to add to my list, and X2 because everything I get, I must also get for my canoe partner...

And I don't want to take my chances with hooks either...
 
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Oh I plan on wearing my water shoes when kneeling from now on... Even those are not impervious to the sand. That tends to get trapped in there and tear my feet up just as bad.

I used to wear Keen closed toe sandals but they were worse. Still searching for the perfect foot gear for the boat. I see a lot of people wearing those booties, especially when it is cold. Another thing to add to my list, and X2 because everything I get, I must also get for my canoe partner...

And I don't want to take my chances with hooks either...

If you join the pious canoe kneelers society you will find many paddle in sox. And carry ack ugh.. I can't bring myself to say it.. CCCCCrocccs in the boat. Yes those cheap plastic shoes. It IS possible to kneel in them. As for portaging...well noo..

Yes I do wear booties but at ACS for a whole week of kneeling..I wore CCCCCr...those things. Bootie stink is not much fun. I do use them sometimes especially when the toesies could get cold. If you have nice feet you might be fine with booties.

The trouble is that between you and your partner you will have enough water shoes to bury Imelda Marcos if you do as I have done. Chota boots, booties for the drysuit, Crocs, seldom used Keens, trail runner Merrells, an LLBean watershoe I got sometime in the past...etc. Choosing footwear is harder than choosing a boat IMO.

Lucky are those that stay seated and have the agility to dry foot out of the boat in LL Bean boots. Which does not work for kneelers. Worse is when the kneelers have to portage..thats when my Merrells shine for me. Footwear is so personal. What works for one often does not for another.
 
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CROCS!! My 25 year old daughter states that she believes condoms are 95% effective for birth control, pills are 98% effective, but CROCs are 100% effective.
Oh to be young again!!
Dave
 
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I have had the pleasure and privilege to hang a bit with Conk, Curtis and Yost. If you are interested in canoe design, theory, development and craftsmanship I can’t think of a better trio. Maybe add Charlie Wilson for composite materials, schedules and history.

To issues of the flesh and comfort; I feel for you paddling heavily garbed on a hot summer day and can’t help there. Or maybe I can; I keep a set of season-specific spare clothes in my vehicle year round. A pair of old shorts and tee shirt don’t take up much room, and a flannel shirt and old wool pants not much more for off-season spare garb.

As far as the abrasion comfort issues you have several choices. The large T or wedge shaped mats are most helpful if you are making major position changes in the canoe – heeled over, freestyle or etc. Smaller kneeling pads are less bulky and can easily be repositioned to pad your feet or knees as needed.

I like CCS pads.

http://www.shop.cookecustomsewing.com/category.sc?categoryId=8

The downside is that they are loose (you could tie them in via the corner grommet, but in a capsize that could be awkward). And they are one more thing to remember to pack, and one more thing to portage.

I just install permanent minicel padding, shaped to fit, in those places my personal comfort dictates.

I want padding for my knees, whether kneeling or seated. For seated I glue in “knee bumpers” just under the inwales. If those are sized so that I can brace my knees with legs comfortably spread, I can lock into a seated position using a foot brace. A back band keeps me from sliding aft and provides lower back support for some blown disk issues.

I pad the foot brace crossbar (pipe insulation) for tootsie comfort and pad the area where my heels rest below the bar as well. It’s probably just my own physiology, but the part of me that gets most uncomfortable on long-duration paddles is my heels.
 
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Yup, I need to get a kneeler pad like those CCS ones for the Kee. I don't know that I'll be doing any trips solo, just playing around in ponds when my wife isn't available. Maybe someday I will do solo canoe trips, but I suspect I'll have a dedicated solo boat before that day comes.

I still like sitting and being in a tandem better... I was out at Canadice again today with Madame and the Eagle and the water was glassy. We went down to the swampy end and hunted for turtles. I found one; a big 'ole snapper, actually out in the deeper waters away from the weedy parts... his nose was sticking up just out of the water when I spotted him. We glided up along side of him and he didn't care for us so he dove. I could see his fat body through the water and his dragon-like tail surfacing as he dove down. We waited for a while and circled around looking for where he would re-surface but I didn't spot him again. You usually only get one shot with spotting turtles in the water... after they dive they are usually tricky to find again.

Herons and ducks loomed as I had anticipated from before. The heron we pushed out the weeds made some loud croaks as he took off the first time - he sounded like an old man waking up from a nap. A mother duck was squawking frantically on a log with about 5 ducklings huddled near her. We saw some sort of bird of prey, a hawk I thought, but perhaps a falcon or osprey (too far for my weak eyes to distinguish), up in a dead, leafless tree - I suspect that is why mother duck was making such a fuss.

Anyway I should throw some spare play clothes in my vehicles but I have 3 right now, and it never seems I know which one I will be driving. My miata and F150 cannot accommodate canoes (the miata could probably carry a hornbeck ;)) but lately it seems I never know when someone will be coaxing me into a boat. Best I be prepared. :D
 
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Glenn MacGrady

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Crocs? Sox? Not for us he-men of the wilderness.

Those giant T-pads seem so inappropriate to me for a kneeling paddler, unless you are just doing day diddling on duck ponds. They are expensive, heavy, clumsy to carry, and make it harder to get your feet out from under a low bench seat. I want the bottom of the canoe to be slippery back there so I can slide my feet backwards and forwards. Rubber shoes on rubber mats impede that for a kneeling paddler.

Kneeling paddlers on low seats have far fewer footwear choices than seated paddlers. You have to have footwear that has a flexible sole and a flexible instep (which is the top of the foot). Nothing really beats neoprene water shoes or neoprene booties for this quality, and the neoprene instep also provides cushioning for the tops of the kneeler's feet. However, neoprene footwear can be a little uncomfortable in hot weather, and they may not be the best portaging or walking footwear if the soles are too thin. I have four different neoprene styles that work for me, from low cut water shoes to high boots.

Sandals often are too inflexible because they have soles that are too thick, and some will hurt a kneeler's toes. You need a closed toe box and a flexible sole on a sandal, and I finally found one of those.

Sneaker-like or running-shoe-like water shoes seem like a good idea, but just about all of them I've tried have insteps that are too inflexible, usually made of some unstretchable petroleum fabric. The first version of the Salomon Techamphibians are the WORST SHOES FOR ALL PURPOSES I HAVE EVER OWNED IN MY LIFE. I would need a rant to list all the bad qualities. However, this season I bought a pair of Merrell Current Glove zero drop barefoot shoes, and they actually work well for kneeling even though they don't flex like neoprene. You can still get this product at Sierra Trading Post for about $50 if you catch the right coupon.
 
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I have a pair of Merrell Maipos that have worked for three seasons quite well, kneeling and sitting and portaging. Of course they are discontinued. I never portage in booties..the soles are too thin and flexible booties are tiring. I am getting weak in old age but still portage some 5 k a day.

The Techphibians were disappointing but workable. I did not buy a replacement (first generation). They survived four weeks of Wabakimis unmaintained portages but the heel cup was too shallow, the soles did not grab boreal leather lichen well and the ports tore the hell out of the sides. The laces were quite nice till they laced nothing together. It was a nice feature that you could lower the heel and actually sort of slide out of the shoe for kneeling paddling.
For tripping I too have glued in knee pads as I don't need another item to portage. I do like the Cooke Custom Sewing pads for river use and day tripping.

Rubber shoes don't impede movement on a fabric coated pad. Most good pads use a nylon jersey. That argument is invalid. I agree that flexy soles are needed for a kneeler.

So long all for a while. I am packing booties and hiking boots and yes Crocs for the next month. Will be on Lake Superior in my Monarch. Booties during the day, Crocs at night, hiking boots for the Coastal Trail. But no kneeling.

The bottom line is that you do not have to make do with the seat that came with your boat. Raise it, lower it to your wishes.
 
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YC I saw those Crocs in one of your trip report pics... I then started to wonder about you ;)

Crocs are what my F-I-L wears and the closest thing he would do to canoeing is the lazy river at six flags.

I like my backpacking boots for hiking (and portaging) and being at camp. Nothing can beat the support of a backpacking boot and when I carry, I carry the boat and my pack in one shot, my current rig is about 70+ lbs. Non-supportive boots won't cut it.

I have Teva Churns for the boat. They aren't bad. Decent grip, drain well, and enough support to carry just the boat. They do trap sand in them though.
 
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Yep. Crocs strap to the outside of the pack for portaging. Not good to wear them while portaging. I like them in camp with nice new dry wool sox. Decidedly unfashionable. I don't care..I am not in a popularity contest. The shriekier the color the less apt I am to use them...hah...that was supposed to read the shriekier the color the less apt I am to LOSE them.. :)
 
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I've been using Vibram Five Fingers and quite like them. Solo paddler split between sitting and kneeling.
 
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