Sunday, October 26, 2008
Bughead on Lake Superior
First of all, I need to apologize for passing on that weather forecast for gale force winds and 9'-11' (3-4M) seas at the end of my last post. I should have remembered my own rule for fall and winter storms: The length of time spent talking about the storm is inversely proportional to the severity of the storm. This 'major storm' had been talked about since Tuesday and, of course, fizzled out like a cheap Chinese firecracker string. The famous Halloween Blizzard of '91 on the other hand, began as a rainstorm with a minimum of weather hype and we wound up with 36" (1m) of snow. To the best of my knowledge, this rule has never been broken in the field of weather forecasting in the Lake Superior basin. This meant of course, that I did get to paddle this weekend and try out my brand spankin' new Bughead tuliq that arrived in the mail last week.
I've kept my eyes open for a 3mm neoprene tuliq for the Q boat and a couple folks mentioned Bughead. A couple others suggested I could make my own. The thought brought back childhood memories of building such famous WWII battleships as the Graf Spee, Bismarck, USS Missouri, and the Yammamoto. I remember reeling down the hall to the dinner table, intoxicated on Testors glue fumes, on a number of occasions. As much as I'd love to repeat that fine experience with the neoprene cement, I knew I didn't have the time or temperament to complete such a project and that it likley would qualify for the 'irregular' rack once it was done. I finally looked at the Bughead website as the weather grew colder, gave them a call and left a message on the machine. The fact that at least a half dozen people I know were featured in the 'raves' section of the site increased my confidence in the product. Scott, one of the owners, actually called me back promptly when he got my message. The proper sizes were communicated, PayPal activated, and a couple weeks later I had my tuliq. Its a nice gray color that almost perfectly matches the deck of the Q boat. The VOR says that when I go seal hunting the seals won't stand a chance because I have the same color scheme as a Navy destroyer, a stealthy gray that blends in with the water and sky on these cool, overcast, almost November days.
There were no seals near Port Wing on Lake Superior Saturday however. I'd left the hunting camp when Pod and TheKingOfIronwoodIsland headed to their bowstands. I had the Port Wing marina all to myself; all the boats were out of the water and the only souls around were a mother and her young son strolling on the breakwater. There was an offshore wind and the water was a bit nippy, just the thing to test out my new piece of gear. To begin with, everything fit. The stout spray skirt bead fit my cockpit coaming perfectly, the sleeves were long enough for my gorilla arms, and the hood fit my XL noggin just fine. The hood has a unique cinch system. Unlike most tuliqs, the cinch is at the bottom of the hood and there are velcro pull tabs to help seal the hood to the corners of the eyes. I paddled out of the breakwater where the Flag River entered the lake and saw the little boy and his mom at the very end. I waved at the little guy and as he waved back I went over. This was my very first time with a 3mm tuliq and I was amazed at how I couldn't feel the cold water, other than on my face and hands which were freezing. I didn't feel any water coming in and continued to do a variety of rolls. I even did a couple of fairly decent static braces, although with the 2'-3' seas I did get a face full a few times. I had the camera along and tried a crook of the elbow roll with the camera in my hand instead of my trusty seal skinning knife and you can see the results below.
I love the tuliq and plan in giving it a good workout at the Annual Grouse Slaughter at CampO this weekend. As I've mentioned before, no grouse have been harmed for years at this event but its an excellent official start of the serious deer hunting season as well as the site of the famous Mimosa Political Debate on Saturday morning during election years. The tuliq should keep me warm in these cold water rolling exercises and is a great great addition for the serious Lake Superior paddler.