For those of you who don’t know – Andrew and I help to organize GetExporing! Greenville, a free Meetup group here in Greenville. The aim of the group is to get people outside more. The group is open to beginners and advanced explorers alike, and we are no drop! We host primarily paddling, cycling, and hiking events. If you’re in Greenville, check out the site here and come explore with us: http://www.meetup.com/GetExploring-Greenville/.
This past Saturday, Andrew and I led a paddle at Dismal Swamp State Park. The park has over 20 miles of canal open to paddling (as well as hiking/cycling trails, a paved cycling path, a very educational visitor center, and an orienteering course). The canals were originally dug by slaves with the intent to drain the swamp and use the land for agriculture. The land wasn’t suitable for agriculture, so it was heavily forested. Now, the trees are back and we get to enjoy the beauty of the area.
We planned to paddle 3 miles up the main canal, then around one of the side canals and back to the boat launch – for a total of about 8 miles. The radar showed that we had about 3 hours after we started until storms started to roll in. The area is prone to severe lightning, so we wanted to be sure we were off the water by that time. The canal was pretty wide, and the water was very calm. The main canal is open to all kinds of boat traffic, so several times we had to pull over to the side to let a much larger boat pass. We did have some rain while we were paddling, but thankfully no storms! We had trouble finding the side canal we planned to paddle, so we ended up just paddling 6 miles – to the end of the State Park on the main canal and back to the visitor center.
Andrew and I chose to paddle the new canoe (obviously!). This was the first chance we’ve had to get the canoe in the water. It paddled so well! It is a little bit heavy to paddle solo, but moved beautifully with two paddlers. Andrew is a much more experienced canoeist than I am, so I am looking forward to spending more time on the water this spring and summer to learn to paddle better!
Since Andrew and I decided to go on this adventure, we have been debating what kind of boat to take on the paddle portion of the trip. We didn’t own tripping kayaks or a canoe, so we would purchase whichever one we decided to use. The benefit of a kayak would be speed and comfort. I am much more used to paddling kayaks, and it would be a faster, more maneuverable boat. The BIG downside is storage. It has been difficult to find kayaks that are maneuverable enough for the river we’re paddling and have enough storage for 8 days. We discussed tandem vs solo kayaks – and for storage space we would have to paddle solo. Canoes are a little bit slower and more maneuverable, but they are workhorses; they could carry all the gear we need plus some. Plus, Andrew has a soft spot for canoes.
We settled on a canoe. We’re paddling the Neuse River – which runs through Eastern NC. There are a lot of farms in the region, so we worry about filtering water that is full of run-off from pig farms. So we plan to carry our water with us. This is the primary reason we opted for the canoe – the storage capacity.
Well, this past week we purchased our canoe! We bought a Mar River Explorer 15 RX. It is a 15ft canoe with a moderate rocker and shallow-v hull. And we found one made of Royalex! A moderate rocker will allow it to cut through waves/rapids easier. The shallow-v hull will make it faster and more maneuverable. The Royalex material is lightweight and durable, but isn’t made any more. The canoe we purchased is a 2012 boat, but we found one that had never been used. We have a few modifications to make – adding kneeling pads, re-mounting the seats, adding skid plates to the bow and stern, and adding deck rigging for storage nets.
We also purchased Bending Branches Expedition Plus paddles to go with it. They’re wooden paddles, with a rockguard that extends 6-inches up the shaft and a fiberglass-reinforced blade. Plus they’re pretty 🙂
Just to make it a week full of paddlesports – we went to a kayak roll session at ECU. I got in a whitewater boat for the first time – and learned how to wet exit and started learning my hip snap (the first step to rolling a kayak). Andrew was test paddling a play boat a friend of his is selling. He decided to purchase that as well – so now we have a whitewater boat to go with our canoe. With the weather warming up, we should have some good days of paddling ahead of us!
Tags: canoe, kayak, MST, paddle