64: New boat!

I started the cabin for many reasons, one being to give my shoulder time to finish healing this summer. Now, I feel like I'm taking a break from the cabin to play with boats, instead of the reverse. Times change and perspectives shift!

About a month ago, at a canoe slalom race in which I piloted a heavy tandem whitewater canoe upstream and downstream through gates with Abel, hands militantly in his lap and away from the gunwales after I pleaded with him not to grab them, hollering "up up UP" for red gates (upstream passage only) and "down down DOWN"!" for green ones, I bought a wildwater racing kayak from a friend, Mary Ellen.

She had purchased it for flatwater paddling and exercise and quickly discovered how unfriendly the racing hulls can be -- although a wildwater boat offers much more secondary stability than an incredibly tippy flatwater sprint boat, they still aren't everyone's cup of tea.

My background is in whitewater, and the cabin has served well to distract me from a full return to steep creek boating, but my track racing background, love for speed, proclivity for competition, fondness for sleek light gear, and knack for niche sports drew her to me.

Flimsy by any standards, long and thin-walled, narrow in the beam except for the winged stern with its pointy tips on each side designed only to achieve the Olympic committee's proscribed minimum width, tippy beyond reasonableness, fast, hawk-like, this boat would be mine to paddle, race, or just look at. It looks like a long-nosed wasp, with a fat stinger of a thorax-shaped stern. The bow resemble some type of missile, its long skinny round bottom and pointed deck like an arrow, built to travel fast in a straight line on the long axis -- no turning in mid-stream -- destination-fixed.

The hull is thin, its walls crafted from epoxy-impregnated kevlar. Light. I need to hang it outside, in partial shade and protected from rain and all-day direct sunlight but still vulnerable to some UV. The boat was naked when I bought it and tested it. Built to racing spec, she had clear coating but no frivolous extra weight in cosmetic paint. I could see through her -- see this picture of my legs during some experimental rolls on Bear Lake the day I tried her out with Mark, him in his beautiful hand-built kayak and me in a craft through which you could see my legs, us gliding 2.3 miles in just 20 minutes to Sols Creek Falls.

Gliding around in Mark's "Night Heron" that he built with his own hands:

So I spent this weekend up to my elbows in expensive, toxic, highly-glossy two-part green epoxy. With TBC stickers, it looks sponsored and ready to race down river in support of my favorite brewer, through class 2-3 which may feel ever so much more challenging in a vintage racer built for only one thing, with none of the ultra stability offered by a modern whitewater boat. But fast as ever. If I flip and roll, or swim, well maybe instead of doubting my skill they'll all reckon we drink too much of the stuff we're marketing, and talk about how good it must be.

New paint and decals!

Living here, I actually have several opportunities each year to race it. NOC, right down the road, hosts races every spring, even Olympic qualifiers. See schedule and lots of resource information here!

Abel has been incredibly interested, and beyond charming this week -- with no direction or help of any sort from me, he built his own boat, in the foreground, while I prepped and painted mine. Fast as mine might be, his is the best:


  1. Now that's the kind of chilhood I remember. The imagination knew no boundries and was a lot more fun then computer games, plus you actually had pride in making something and learned in the process without knowing it.

  2. Here's hoping the cold holler will be a good place for that. My 13yo nephew, a great kid, visited and played video games nonstop. He doesn't read, either. In my dreams, the boys will spend their hours outside, and sneak to the cabin and read Twain, too. That was me, at that age.


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I use this blog to chronicle certain aspects of my life near the Smokies. I'm building a cabin. I kayak. Sometimes I bike.