Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lazarus awakes

In my garage many years ago, long before I became a Randonneur but around the time I started biking again, I determined to build a third boat (first was a sailboat, then a dinghy). This would be a lovely strip built kayak (yeah yeah, I know, I am now a stripper, Ha ha). I bought a book telling how to do it, purchased a bunch of 1 X redwood stock from home depot, cut it into hundreds of 1/4 thick strips and I was off and running. I worked continuously for many months bringing the boat into shape and fiber glassing the outside and then it went into the first period of neglect. Resuming my labors I found the two shells that would become one round boat had contracted and when I spread them to fit them together a million little bubbles in the fiberglass formed. From here I would need to remove the whole underside fiberglass layer and probably the badly blemished top as well. The frustration and disappointment led to a long period of neglect for this boat now put out of sight and out of mind on the side of the house. After a few years I got the bug to strip the fiberglass off and found a heat gun quite helpful. Then I lost the will to do more and so the boat sat for another year, developing weathered spots on the exposed wood where the fiberglass had separated or yellowed.

Well fair readers, whether it was a desperation to drive away the depression I was having as a side effect from all that has happened lately or some muse was pounding my soul with desire, I took up the restoration of the kayak with a passion over the last week and a half. No more would the unfinished job face me through the dining room window constantly reminding me of my inability to finish. $150 of epoxy from west marine and digging the fiberglass cloth out of a dark corner of the garage and I was started on several days mixing, coating, waiting while curing and repeat. Through swarms of killer bees (interestingly enough bees are most docile when they are swarming and they decided to swarm at my house last week, luckily the activity in the backyard discouraged them from establishing a permanent hive in our back yard and one warm afternoon while I was working on the boat up they flew and off into some neighbors yard down the road to make a hive, it was a once in a lifetime event to witness not being a bee keeper and all), blazing sun, and placid evenings the boat was made serviceable. Five and a half years after starting construction it was finally ready to launch yesterday morning when I caulked the bulkheads in. I still have to finish the seat and the foot pegs, and do a little sanding and varnishing to protect the epoxy from UV but that is it. I determined though as the boat was able to be put into water that Saturday was the day. So after the kid's Easter egg hunt thing I loaded up the kayak and was out to Saguaro lake by 12:30 PM.

Fair readers, I have never paddled a kayak before. I had an inflatable kayak but they are very different animals (I recently had to throw the inflatable out as after 21 years of service it finally gave up the ghost leaving me boatless for the first time since I was 10 when I bought a two man raft with my paper route money). I have to say had I not looked up a few tips online I wouldn't have even been able to get in the boat. Before I even got the boat in the water someone complimented me on it. It was kind of cool. It has it's blemishes from sitting out so long but it is still a beautiful boat if I do say so myself (Of course even mothers of ugly babies think they are cute though). Anyway, I managed to get in it and felt good and realized that kayaks are amazingly tipsy at first. I had heard this but wasn't quite ready for it. This is a good thing once your body adjusts to having this large extremely buoyant addition to your bottom attached to your body. The ability to lean the kayak into waves and away really adds to the seaworthiness of the boat. I managed to adjust pretty quickly and cast my plan to tool around Butcher Jones swim beach for awhile to the wind. Out I paddled along the shoreline into the main lake. I was really impressed with the speeds at which you can paddle a nice narrow and long kayak through the water with little effort. I figure I kept between 3 - 4 mph all day and that is with not having paddled anything in over a year. At one point aiming straight into a rather large wake from a power boat I did manage to bury my bow and get a bit of splash into the cockpit. I made a mental note to avoid going straight into the big waves as I do not have a spray skirt as of yet and filling the cockpit with water was not a good idea as I had my cell phone in my pocket. I paddled further out along the cliffs heading up the lake and every kayak I passed coming the other way (I was the only one going up the lake for some reason (must have been that the afternoon winds were getting ready to start up) commented on my kayak. Comments ranged from "nice boat" to, "your boat is gorgeous" from some nice ladies paddling sea kayaks. Almost everyone had good things to say as they passed. That made me feel good. It made me feel really good.

After I passed the cliffs and entered the upper end of the lake I would be the only human powered boat out there surrounded by large motor boats ranging from little speed boats to obnoxiously large mini-yachts owned by people who can't figure out that San Diego is only 5 hours away and is a much better place to keep a 30 foot cabin cruiser. It reminded my of whitewater at times but I managed to keep water out of the cockpit as I navigated waves anywhere from 2 foot high all the way up to 4 footers. On the way back I would get some real interesting waves when investigating a small cave in the cliff as the waves coming in and the waves going out made for some interesting turbulence. I will have to bring my boys back here when they get cocky in their teenage years about how lakes are soooo boring.
I contemplated on the way back how similar sea kayaks were to road bikes. They both move silently along surrounded on all sides by giant stinking machines belching refuse into the air like so many toxic farts with accompanying noise. Both are extremely efficient at what they do, and both lead to a state of mind brought on through ceaseless rhythm that is almost zenlike, taking the operator to heightened levels of awareness.
Needing a quick break from paddling I ducked back into a nice cove I like on the east side of the lake about a half hour paddle from Butcher Jones. It is a narrow slot in the side of the lake sheltered from waves and noise mostly. Power boats can't go back much as there is a large sandbar about a foot below the lake level extending for a hundred yards or more. Paddling over it looks like one is flying as the rocks and sand pass beneath the hull of the boat. Overhead five hawks are hunting for food on the tops of the cliffs. In the back of the canyon are some waterfowl floating among the cattails and reeds. Life is still and yet ever moving back here. Moving in a nice way. Moving in a quiet way. I breath in the experience and steel myself for the return I must make to the lake full of thrill seekers and stink pots towing them around, and further the return to civilisation and the trials and stresses of life. Besides, my elbow was starting to get sore after nearly three hours of paddling.

All told I paddled 10 miles and was out for just under 4 hours. That is quite a bit of paddling and a proper breaking in for a new boat I think. All day I had been thinking of what to call the boat. I had originally thought of calling it KiMizu which means wood of the water in Japanese. Then I thought perhaps something having to do with trials. In the end being Easter and all I thought perhaps the most appropriate name would be Lazarus as it died for many years before finally coming back to life. So, Lazarus has arisen and carried me across the waters and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come.

Sorry to post something not bike related but I figured this was kind of special.

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