Some accessories for Puisinniaq

Recently got Skinboats of Greenland (Ships and Boats of the North) by Greenlander HC Pedersen and decided to make some accessories. I built two more skinny sticks. I used some scrap Corian I bought on eBay to make “whale bone” tips and edges on one, and ipe scraps for the hard edges on the other. I also got hold of some faux ivory, removed the deck bungees and added carved tighteners and spacers, and then crafted a practice harpoon and made a faux ivory point in case I meet any styrofoam seals on the water.




Launch of the Puisinniaq

Seal Seeker” was christened and launched for sea trials yesterday in Plum Island Sound off Pavilion Beach in Ipswich. Seal Seeker is an 18-foot KudzuCraft skin-on-frame design, the Long Shot, with a few modifications:
1) More extreme bow overhang.
2) Bow and stern Valley Canoe-style rubber hatches.
3) Grab lines along gunwales.
4) Padded seat.

Editor David Eden: I used 10-oz ballistic nylon and two-part polyurethane colored with rusty earth pigment to simulate seal skin. That and the hatches added to the final weight. I couldn’t get the cockpit rim to screw together from underneath as directed, so I ran 1 1/4-inch silicon bronze screws in from above. The screws to hold down the hatches are also silicon bronze, and the staples to pull the skin taut around the openings are rust-proof Monel. Tammy, who paddles an old Necky Arluk 1,8. said that she thought the Long Shot was a terrific design and paddled more easily than many of the boats she has sampled! Her only complaint was that her hands rubbed on the cockpit rim. I said that the Long Shot was designed for heavier people like me, but that KudzuCraft had a smaller version for lighter people, the Short Shot. Maybe the next build…?
The really depressing thing is that I am SMILING in all the pictures. No wonder everyone thinks I am a grouch!
In some of the photos, you can see my “whalebone” rub keel, made from a nylon carving board. There is one in the stern, as well.

The finished frame. So pretty, I hate to skin it.
Hauling out of the “workshop,” our screen porch.
An old paddling friend, Peter Moore, who came down with his wife, Alicia, to share the fun!
“I christen thee Seal Seeker.” Have to get that translated to Greenlandic…
Tammy and I and Peter and Alicia share some bubbly.
Off I go. Although you can’t tell from the photo, there is some nasty stuff, little boils and refracting waves off the point to the right background, where the Ipswich River meets the incoming tide, which is pushing through at this point at about three knots.
First run. Stable, dry, tracks like a train, steers like a cow. I was hesitant to lean hard without a sprayskirt, but the boat is hard to turn It may be the bow and stern rubrails. which accentuate the keel. Tomorrow, I will wear the skirt and lay Seal Seeker right down on her cheeks. There is a line of sandbars almost straight ahead of me. 22 years ago, while waiting for a date with the lady whom I was to marry, i was surfing off them in a fog one October morning. I glanced to my right, and there was a seal surfing the clear wave right next to me! Never before or since – we were the only living beings on the water that day, And so – Seal Seeker. (Update – I found a website that will translate English to Greenlandic. The very nice site owner, Nuka Møller, translated Seal Seeker as Puisinniaq.)


Juniper Run, Florida



Paddling through the primeval Florida jungle.

We flew down to Florida early December on a jaunt to use a Jan. 1 deadline timeshare. We ended up in Palm Coast, which lies between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach and just south of St. Augustine, on the Atlantic side. The Matanzas River ran outside our front door, and the beach was a toll-pay over the bridge. 

It is an area of Florida with which we were unfamiliar. We have paddled in the Everglades, Miami, and Sanibel. We have run several articles on the Keys. We have reported on WaterTribe’s Ultimate Florida Challenge (race around the state) but never covered this area.

It was not looking productive. None of the many Florida kayak guidebooks written over the past 20 years, had much on this area, except for St. Augustine. To the south the Canaveral Seashore is known, and to the north, Cumberland Island, Georgia, but not much in between. So we went to our Florida source: Kayak guru Ken Fink, who retired to the Tampa area several years ago with his wife, Joan. They still return to Maine in summer.

Ken responded immediately, and spoke of how they prefer to paddle the fresh water flows and springs in Florida (less crowded) and the ocean in Maine. He gave us several suggestions and particularly recommended Juniper Springs run. It turned out it was only an hour from Palm Coast, so Juniper Springs it was.

We crossed from the coast west to Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest, about an hour’s drive. Juniper is one of four notable springs in this area, the others being Alexander, Salt, and Silver Glen. (Silver Glen Springs was featured in the first chapter of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ classic youth novel, The Yearling, published in 1938.)

Juniper Springs is unique in that the National Park Service has a canoe/kayak concessions for a seven-mile run down Juniper Creek to see up close the Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area. They pick you up at the end on an hourly schedule.

The combined daily water flow from Juniper and Fern Hammock Springs is about 13 million gallons, which assures a swift push down the creek.


Tammy standing in front of the main spring.

Jupiter Springs is a gorgeous place and historic. It was a Civilian Conservation Corps project in the 1930s, whose gratefully employed workers under FDR built a lovely mill wheel and house, a concrete amphitheater surrounding the spring. It has a campground, .75-mile barrier-free interpretive nature trail, and camp store.

You are supposed to get on the water by noon, and they say it takes three to four hours to make the run. It took us exactly three and we probably could have done it in less, if it weren’t for back issues with the sitontop.

The springs formed millions of years ago. A shallow sea that once covered much of Florida formed layers of limestone from compressed coral reefs and shells in the ancient sea. Acidic rain seeped into the limestone and formed caves and underground channels. The limestone bedrock that collapsed formed the springs. This natural geological system, called Karst Topography, includes interesting features like warm springs and aquifers.

The water temperature is a constant 72 degrees year-round, and the springs pour millions of gallons of water from the aquifer daily. You can see where the water boils up out of the aquifers, like a water hurricane.


L. Alligators are a danger if you are not wary. R. Under the jungle canopy.

It is common for animals such as turtles, alligators, snakes, raccoons, eagles, ospreys, herons and egrets to hang out in these areas. In the jungle, but seldom seen in the day, are bobcats, coyotes, grey foxes, and possibly even the nearly extinct Florida panther. Alas, we saw several turtles but no alligators. They must have been withdrawn into their winter hiding holes because of the chilly weather. In fact, we saw little wildlife other than a fawn disappearing into the woods, a great blue heron, several red-bellied cooters (a type of freshwater turtle), as large as small platters, sunning on partially submerged logs, some zebra longwing and viceroy butterflies, a few bluegills and a large school of what looked like freshwater American shad, which are certainly found in the nearby St. Johns River. (Freshwater fishing in this part of Florida is fabulous, by the way, and is certainly worth looking into if you are in the area with more time time than we had.)

The current pushed us along swiftly, and I loved ducking down to avoid overhanging limbs. NPS had neatly sawed off most of them for a non-obstructed run for this very popular tourist attraction. Most people have a float trip mentality, and you do actually have to pay attention to get around some limbs, logs, and haul yourself out of the brush on the side.


T. It looks serene, but the current could be fast and the obstacles many. B. The only flowers blooming at this late season were these unidentified asters.

Early December, there were only about five parties out on the river, but in high season 35-50 parties haul down the creek. It must be kind of crazy on the water, although you know you won’t get any drunk yahoos because of bag checks at the start.

The collision of National Park Service concession mentality and wilderness experience aside, Juniper Springs is an absolute marvel and a wonderful antidote to New England winter.

In summary, if you find yourself in mid Florida on either coast, we highly recommend a jaunt inland to Juniper Springs.



Late Fall Paddle

David paddles Mark 1

Long Haul makes some distance.

Paddling under the oak leaves.

November: an absolutely beautiful late fall paddle, unusually warm. It also happened to be Veterans’ Day, so we had our own parade. We took the Long Haul folding kayak that Mark Eckhart recently shipped us from Colorado to try for a spin out around our usual promenade. Out the Hay Canal and toward Hog Island.
We wore shorts and long sleeved shirts and neoprene socks, our only concession to the not-at-all cold water paddle for this late in the season.
The Mark 1 is more used to seeing the icebergs of Greenland or the whales of Baja. It has been to some of the wildest places on nearly every continent. Here it only had to cruise through the marshes. But what a pleasure it was. The workmanship is really fine, and it’s nice to be in a canvas and wood cocoon. As Mark says, he’s a wood guy, and is a firm believer that you have a much better chance of putting a wood frame boat back together in the wilderness.
The cockpit is small, ideal for keeping out breaking waves, and high, but your elbows reached below at just the right height. The rudder was a gem, so easy to manage. The boat itself glided along splendidly, just itching to get some serious miles under it.
It was an appropriate boat for Veterans’ Day. Mark makes a double version for the U.S. Special Forces, the Mark II Commando.
The afternoon colors were amazing: gold, yellow, orange. Wildlife seen: two great blue herons still hanging out, a short V of Canada geese, ducks (unIDed) flapping skyward when approached by kayak, the usual comorants, and a raft of 30 skittish buffleheads. Clearly migration is still on. Only one other boater: a fellow in a rowing shell that made quick work of the Hog Island circumnavigation. The paddlers and rowers once again united in owning the waters.

The Lakes of October

Second Connecticut Lake

Wood duck house in Scott Bog.

Squam. Chesuncook. Moosehead. Newfound. Winnipesaukee. Sunapee. Champlain. George. Saranac. Lows. Bog. Those are the evocative names of lakes we’ve covered in our annual “Lakes of October” issue.
Initially, it was a novel concept for sea kayakers to paddle on lakes, but bright foliage, distant mountains, and tamer water conditions in the off season were the draw.
One set of interconnecting lakes we cover for the first time in this October issue. I became familiar with them last year when looking up the details on a race called the Endurance Challenge, which includes kayaking across two lakes, mountain biking, and mountain running, over hundred of miles of wilderness up and down. The race takes place in the Connecticut Lakes, high in northern New Hampshire on the Quebec border. The Fourth Connecticut Lake is the origin of the 410-mile Connecticut River. You can take a steep up and down climb, past Canadian customs, to see this tiny beaver pond where the longest river in New England starts.
We highly recommend this semi-wilderness kingdom high up in New England, well known to fishermen for the brookies and rainbow trout and to birders for the migrations, but less well known to kayakers. We researched the lakes in August when everything was still green, but it should be gorgeous up there now…

September’s Second Summer is Coming

The path starts to narrow.

Fall wheels in on swallows wings and croaks of great blue heron. It is still August, but the signs are there. We had paddled in the Connecticut Lakes high in Northern New Hampshire last week while it was still summer. Now we were back in home territory, paddling through a ten-foot high tide at 5:32 p.m. and sniffing the change in the air.
We take the inner route around Hog Island and finally our kayaks are too long to make it around the narrowing twists and turns and we hop out and pull them across the marsh and back into open water on the other side.
The colonial ghosts are still asleep at the Choate house, but a modern family walks up the path to the summit where Richard and Mine Crane, donators of Crane Beach and Castle Hill, are buried overlooking the Castle Neck River. People are zooming around the marsh in motorboats, one jet ski, one sailboat, two kayaks, a family is at the duck hunting shack – the first time in 15 years we’ve seen anyone there.
Everyone is doing last-minute summer water excursions, like cramming for a deadline. But, no worries, lots of good paddling days ahead, as we look forward to September’s second summer. Enjoy!

Tempus Fugit

Summer paddling continues in the beautiful Ipwich marshes on the long days. Each day, you get three major chances to get on the water: early morning, sunrise about 5:30; a long stretch of day; and evening until sunset at about 8:15 (and beyond with headlamp). This tide cycle (high tide around 9 p.m.), we have been favoring the evening.

Imagine going out with a couple of friends, and arriving on an island with a dinner picnic in full swing. That is what happened the other evening. Most had arrived by motorboat and consequently had tucked in gourmet fare, fine wines, and wood for a blazing fire on this island situated at the crossroads of two towns, so it’s easy to meet up. Also, the current is swift, and there is rock underfoot, in an area of mud and beach, so it’s a favorite spot for both fishermen and terns.

Evening entertainment was watching the terns dive. Then we all put our feet on the club motto etched in stone and buried on the shore. It turns out the motto was put together by a group of lads whose high school Latin recall was a little bent. Here’s what they came up with: Insula Sugit, Viridis Fugit. Island rises, green flies. The latter part refers to the greenheads that plague boaters in the marsh in July. They were remarkably at bay, it has really not been a bad season for the little buggers, at least around here. Cranes Beach has only had up the “Greenhead Flies, No Refunds,” up a couple of times so far this July. Hurray!

The trip home in the gathering dark, with a cooling breeze pushing the day’s heat away, our bows cutting the still, black water, was the perfect end of another fantastic evening paddle.

* Time flies

Full Moon Paddle


Moon Tracks

A wavery moonlit path stretched ahead, drawing me along, like I had been put under a spell. I couldn’t turn around! The evening was so warm and summery, but the lure was the light: Tiny wavelets fractured the moon, the glowstick drew the bow, the fireflies twinkled to the top of the huge fir trees, the moon snuck through the branches, a light spray of stars, bioluminescence slipped off the paddle, the land flew by.
Facts: Full moon July 11. High tide at 11:42 p.m. Tide height ten feet.
I followed the moonlight path to high, fir-covered Hog Island, then around the island, to the dark side. The 17th Century Choate house was shrouded in darkness, its colonial ghosts busy elsewhere. The weekend guest cottage was empty, no one swinging from the hammock. The cabin cruisers on the inner beach, dark.
I stepped up the paddle cadence, and booked, pausing at the empty osprey nest to see if anyone had moved in since my last visit. No. I paddled by Gravelly island, cairns nearly under water, then swung down the Hay Canal. At the landing, I slipped on the wheels and pulled the kayak out, rumbled down the road, up the driveway, and to a sleeping house. It was midnight!
Do you have a place where you have lived and kayaked for more than 20 years and NEVER paddled under a full moon? Then you should change that. The next full moon is Aug. 10, high tide around midnight. See you there.

Osprey Are Coming Back

Viewing an osprey nest from an acceptable distance.

It used to be if you wanted to see osprey in Massachusetts, you went to the Westport River. It was well known for an osprey-recovery program started in the mid-1960s by a local couple, Gilbert and Josephine Fernandez, who took the initiative to build several nesting platforms on tall poles. They theorized that the osprey’s comeback might hinge on nesting spots provided by humans to replace all the trees that had been cut down.
The Westport River is no longer the only osprey real estate. Essex County Greenbelt in our neck of the woods has created a “colony” of ospreys in the past five to ten years. Greenbelt has even launched a popular webcam where you can view the nest of Allyn and Ethel who hatched a chick around June 1. Way to go, Allyn and Ethel!
We were out paddling recently and passed by another active nest (not on TV) near Choate Island, as seen in photo. The platform was installed privately on private property sometime after 2005, and has definitely been active since 2010. Last year, this osprey pair successfully fledged three young.
Dave Rimmer, Osprey Program Director for Greenbelt, noted that after a recent survey, what he and his crew discovered was mostly encouraging: four nests with chicks in them; two nests abandoned.
Accomplishments to date in Essex County:

* Installed eight new nesting platforms and repaired countless others on Greenbelt and other properties
* Created Osprey Watch and coordinated monitoring of approximately 25 active osprey nests in 2013 using Greenbelt staff and more than 15 volunteer citizen scientist nest monitors
* Installed a webcam in 2013 at the Cox Reservation Osprey nest in Essex and fed a live stream to the Greenbelt and other websites
* Installed two informational kiosks in 2013 about osprey biology and conservation
* Banded 13 Osprey chicks and placed satellite transmitters on two juvenile Osprey in 2013 as part of a long-term research project on Osprey migration with lead investigator Dr. Rob Bierregaard

Go the, click on Osprey Program, and check out the webcam.

Kid Kayak Valet Service

After many years in the same family, one of our local boat stores changed hands this past spring. Fernald’s Marine sat on the edge of the Parker River, near Plum Island, Mass. Everyone drove by Fernald’s, because it was right on the main route to Newburyport. The store had large glass windows that resembled a 1950s garage so you could windowshop the inviting small craft such as canoes and day sailors as you drove by. Almost everyone bought their first canoe there, me included. Eventually kayaks showed up, inspiring all those passing to get on the water.
This past April a wonderful family bought the place from the Fernalds who ran it for three generations. On a nice sunny, summer Sunday in June, Matt Yablonowski Northeast sales rep for Confluence, came for a couple of hours to let the locals try out kayaks. One bonus of having a family buy the place, is the purchase brought with it four strong, polite, cheerful, energetic teenagers and their friends. Matt got lots of help schlepping kayaks to the dock, then helping people get in, plenty of young, strong hands to hold the boats steady for the dock launch.
What is kayaking without some schlepping? What is the first question many of us ask when buying a new kayak? How much does it weigh? Maybe the trick to aging boomer kayakers are not the continually evolving gadgets that help us get the kayak on the roof of our cars, but borrowed teenagers. Kid Kayak Valet service.