April 23, 2009

Kayaks for Beginers

When I was growing up all I would see on the local rivers were canoes. On the lakes canoes were seen along with the power and sailboats. I still see canoes on the water but there are 3 times as many kayaks.

They have several advantages over canoes:
Most are less expensive than canoes.
They are smaller and lighter.
Easier to load/unload and transport on your vehicle.
Most kayaks are very stable and comfortable.

The hardest thing to do is select the type of kayak to purchase. The kayak you pick depends on what kind of water your going to be paddling on.

Class 1 water would be a lake or a slow moving flat river, like the Connecticut River in Hartford.

Class 2 is faster moving with rapids but the river is easy to negotiate, like the Farmington River in the Collinsville area.

Class 3 has fast moving water with very difficult rapids that require experienced boaters and/or pre-planned routes through the rapids. Some of the narrow parts of Salmon River during high water periods are considered Class 3 water.

Class 4 is raging rivers, think of the Colorado River.

Class 5 is narrow chasms, waterfalls and other extreme water.

To paddle around a lake or big flat river you will need a kayak with a keel, (a ridge or groves along the bottom), so that the boat tracks well in the water. This makes it a little harder to turn the boat, but without it the boat is at the mercy of the wind. I have been pushed sidewise/backwards on a lake in a kayak without a keel.

Most rivers have sections that will have Class 1, 2 or 3 depending on surrounding terrain. A section of river that might be a Class 2 in July, might be a Class 4 in April after a heavy rain. Most kayaks will be alright in Class 1 and 2 water, but I would strongly recommend lessons before attempting Class 2 or higher rivers. The Appalachian Mountain Club (www.ct-amc.org/ct/index.shtm) has several classes and Collinsville Canoe and Kayak (http://www.cckstore.com/) is a good place to get purchasing advice and kayaking lessons.

There are several highly specialized kayaks available for Class 3 and above. These boats are very small and are deliberately made to tip over easily. Their size makes them very maneuverable and quickly right-able when they get flipped over. This flipping back upright is called an Eskimo Roll and takes quit a bit of time to perfect.

Kayaks have many vacation uses. In addition to sight seeing, they can be used for camping, diving, fishing, exercising and reaching otherwise remote locations. I spend my kayak time bass fishing at the local lakes or paddling the whitewater of the Farmington River.

If you have any questions or want to talk kayaking send me a comment and I’ll get back to you.