Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My QajaqTC Training Camp Adventure....

Qajaq Training Camp 06

This was an amazing adventure for me. I am finally coming down from my bliss and need to write about my experience while the event is still fresh in my mind.

It was a year ago this month when I started thinking about building another kayak. My search for the right design led me to discover Greenland paddles and rolling. I have now come full circle. From making my first GP, to the discovery of the $200 Anas Acuta, to meeting my mentor Dave Braun, to hitting my first roll, and finally making it to my first symposium….the Qajaq TC Training Camp.

Camp Lookout is one of the best spots for a symposium that anyone could look for. Having two lake accesses, Lake Michigan and Lower Herring Lake, the site has some of the most beautiful views of northern Michigan I have ever seen. We stayed in rustic cabins and some stayed in tents by choice. There were showers and running water so it’s not like we were really roughing it that much.

The food was incredible. It was prepared by Michael Gray of Uncommon Adventures. Seriously, I haven’t eaten that well in many restaurants! I will be looking forward to his cookbook. I was never hungry the entire trip.

Harvey Golden was there reskinning a skin on frame kayak. I was fascinated by the process and took a lot of notes and pictures. I had a chance to talk to Harvey quite a bit at meals. He is very interesting and his passion for kayaks really shows. He gave a great presentation of the history of Greenland Kayaking. I liked his voice. His tone is always pleasant and positive. And although he is more of an expert in our sport than most, he listens intently to opinions of others, offering his thoughts in a non confrontational way. I found him a very positive addition to the event and hope to meet him again.

The mentorship at this event was invaluable. Turner Wilson gave a fantastic strokes class which has greatly improved my technique. Will Bigelow, besides making me laugh till my sides hurt, helped me with my sculling. Dave Braun and Chris Varner also helped immensely with my sculling and bracing. The list goes on and on. There were some mentors I just didn’t have time to meet on the water. When your there, it is an open group. Much of what goes on is one on one. Much of the time I just paddled up and listened to what someone else was doing and then tried it myself.

What I liked most about this experience were the people I met. Kayakers are great. The vibe was positive and relaxed. I can be a shy guy around new people and I felt very welcome here. I got to meet a number of folks I always wanted to meet. Alex Pak was one of them. His site is This guy whitewater paddles in a Tuilik! How cool is that? He also is a rolling master and just a blast to hang out with. Dubside paddled up to me my first time on the water. He introduced himself and gave me some advice on handrolling. He also did some rope demos which were amazing. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this guy a hippie, just minimalistic, if that is a word. I hope I get more time to just talk to him in the future.

Kevin Hill, thanks for the great conversation and the beer. Bruce Stitt, thank you for teaching me my first butterfly roll. You are a great mentor. May Zhang, thank you for your amazing energy. You light up a room and are fun to be around! Keith Wikle, I am glad I finally got to meet you. Bring your pal Matt with you next time and we can talk blogging! Dianne Walker, when you raise your hand we shut up. Sorry you lost your voice trying to speak over us! You have more patience than I. Roy Martin, thanks for letting me paddle your Anas Acuta. I cut out my seat when I got home and it is a much better boat. Margaret Fako and Tanya Stratford, thanks for the good conversation. I was good to meet some locals and I hope to be paddling with you soon. Jeff Bjorgo, your SOF is beautiful. Thank you for your advice and instruction. And Don Goss, it was good to meet another builder to talk to. Your stripper copy of your SOF is beautiful. It was very motivating to me to see something like that up close. You have a wealth of knowledge and now my deepest respect. Nancy Thornton, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! That was all a ton of work I am sure. You are a great mentor and leader.

I would especially like to thank Dave Braun for suggesting I attend this event. You are an amazing instructor and I hope the other paddlers at the event were able to learn as much from you as I have. I hope someday my skills and knowledge will progress to your level so I can help them the way you have helped me. Thank you for being patient with me.

So, Training Camp was amazing. It is a great combination of the kayakers and the venue that make it such a great experience. It ranks up there as one of the best experiences of my life. I will be going back.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Seat cut out....masik added...

I cut out my Anas Acuta seat. I added a foam seat I shaped myself that is 1/4" thicker and I can lay completely flat on the deck now. I also added a removable masik. The masik has made rolling almost too easy. I was testing it by myself so I didn't try hand rolls but I can scull, brace, and roll with little effort now. Amazing. I do have a little trouble wet exiting with it in so I may have to make some adjustments before I make it permanent. Maybe I will always leave it removable so others can paddle my boat easier. We will see. Right now I pop my skirt, knock the masik out of alignment so it sits parallel with my legs, and exit. I tested this once but I don't usually get out of my boat now. I like to just go to my standard roll.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Point Bennett Launch Pics....

Thanks to Jeremie for posting these of my original launch. He has a nice camera and these are the best so far of the Point Bennett.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sorry for anyone this might have bugged. This bugged me a ton. I didn't realize it when I set up with Yahoo, but the domain locked on the url bar and masked the blogger address. Say you clicked on a link to another site, the url bar held my site. If you tried to refresh, it always refreshed to MY blog, not the one you were on. That feature sucked. Sorry about that. I fixed it. Life is good. :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Point Bennett Totally Complete.

I took a few more photos of the Point Bennett. Ava thinks it is a piece of playground equipment. She crawls around on the deck and rocks it back and forth. I hate to brag but I have a cute kid! I also started a gallery of Point Bennett pics at VillagePhotos.

The boat is finally totally complete.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Weight off my shoulders....

I was excited to find out last night that my Point Bennett came in at 45 pounds. I was a little worried because I did endpours and my keel fillets are a little thick. I was hoping it would come in under 50. A person with more experience and patience than myself, could easily make this boat around 38-40.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

James Earl Jones Local Performance....

This is from

We are thrilled to announce that acclaimed actor James Earl Jones (1949 graduate of the Dickson Rural Agricultural Consolidated High School) has graciously offered to do two benefit performances for us, on September 15 and 16, 2006, at the Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee. Tickets ($30) will go on sale September 2 & 3 in Brethren, at our booth during the Brethren Days Festival, and also starting September 11th at the Ramsdell Theatre box office in Manistee.

For more info on this, go to the site

I think I am going to check this out. I have liked him in every role he has ever played. You just can't top Darth Vader though!

I didn't realize it when I was taking these but my camera phone ran out of memory and switched to a lower rez. The pictures just come out as thumbnails. Oh well!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Finally Launched!

The Point Bennett finally hit the water yesterday. It is a medium sized boat, feeling almost like a CLC Chessy from the cockpit, but that is where the similarities end. The boat tracks very well. It gives me confidence to tackle the big waters of Lake Michigan. I does sit a little higher in the water than I am used to, but it does allow me to pack it full of gear without affecting the performance. Also, it allows for a little more foot room and still have flat decks.

Rolling! The Point Bennett rolls as well as my Anas Acuta! I am very happy with my ability to scull, brace, and layback in this boat. I am excited to see what new rolls I will be able to learn in it.

The initial stability is about medium. It seems a hair tippier than some boats I have paddled but the secondary is solid. This proves to be an advantage because my lean turns require less effort and I don't have that scary feeling that I could lean too far and tip.

The Point Bennett is fast! This boat is two feet shorter than my Patuxent but paddles about he same speed. I am not fighting the rocker that I am in my Anas Acuta so it makes for more of a pleasant paddle experience.

I still have to add toggles and hip brace pads but otherwise this project is complete. I want to thank the builders who helped me with this project:

Jeremie Torok
Duane Strosaker
Dave Houser

and my wife for her patience. Robin let me borrow the garage this summer and I think it was a sore spot with her. I told her this was going to be her boat to paddle when we go out and I think that is why she let me do it!

I will miss working on the Bennett at night. At 3am I would sometimes walk out to the garage and just stare at her. I love building kayaks. I need to buy a house with a pole building. A man needs a shop to retreat to. I would like to be able to do some sanding at night. If I could have worked for a couple hours after Robin and Ava went to bed, I could have been done in a couple weeks!

That reminds me. Duane's design is fantastic. The fact he just gives this design away is amazing. If you are not aware, the plans for this boat are free at and are really easy to follow. It seems like a long time ago since I first heard about Duane on the Kayak Builder's board. I was honored to attempt to build his boat and glad to know him. Also, many thanks again to Dave Houser for the encouraging, and humbling, pictures of your Point Bennett.

I will have more pictures soon but Jeremie took them with his camera so we will wait for him to upload them.

Happy paddling!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Launching tomorrow!

Friday, August 04, 2006

First coat of paint.....

I have to wait 16 hours before the next coat. :(

Thursday, August 03, 2006

It's getting really close to launch time!

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