This years 23rd Annual Bark Bay Fishing Invitational was much like the others. Thursday night at the Thirsty Pagan in Superior, sleep at the deer camp, and work our way to CampO on Friday. A wrench was thrown into this well oiled procedure when we stopped in Bayfield to check out ChrisG's progress in remodeling his Boreal Shores kayak shop. As we rehydrated at the Pier Bar, he made the completely self serving suggestion that we leave our boats in Bayfield and strap on a couple of NDK's to play with for the weekend. Not realizing the full implications of our actions, we jumped on the offer, which ChrisG had adroitly worked into the conversation near the end of our 23oz Summit Extra Pale Ales. We rolled out of Bayfield with an Explorer and a Romany Surf on the roof of RonO's jeep.
The wind had been blowing northeast at 15-20mph for about 5 days at that point and was just abating in preparation for its switch to the south and ramp up to 25-30 mph again on Saturday. We launched at Saxon Harbor and headed east into Michigan along the high cliffs that stretched almost to Little Girl Point. We wanted to check out the boats in both the gentle swells and in the nasty clapotis along the cliffs. We were impressed. I was in the Romany Surf and it was as solid as a rock, so much so that I was able to take a few pictures. Ron said the Explorer was solid as well but maybe not as solid as the Surf. We headed back and attempted to surf but the swells just had too much wavelength and we couldn't paddle fast enough to get up on them. We both agreed that Nigel had made a couple of pretty interesting boats.
The BBI was going full bore when we rolled in around 8pm. The Karl O Rolich Memorial grill was full of Copper River Salmon and Cornish game hens for the traditional continental style 10pm supper and the Leinenkugels was flowing like water. Better than the water to the sauna actually, since there were some issues with getting things rolling after the winter. When I got up the next morning I was able to enjoy breakfast with the guys that were still up from the night before and then a couple hours later with the guys that actually went to bed before dawn. We fired up the sauna for some post rolling warmth and launched the NDK's in Lake O' Brien to see how they performed upside down. Once again we were impressed. I had played with a Romany Surf at the mentoring gig in St Cloud the weekend before. Its a big boat and even I had almost too much room in the cockpit at 6'4", 225#. That's why closed cell foam was invented however, and the boat rolled superbly on both layback and forward finishing rolls. The back rim of the cockpit on both boats is placed a bit farther back, which allows better lay back for a large, elderly, inflexible individual like myself. Ron reported that the Explorer was also an excellent roller. The KingOfIronwoodIsland joined us on the lake in his CD Storm for the traditional mile circumnavigation and was prepared for some rolling instruction, but was distracted by a golf outing with three Croatian gentlemen, and was not in any sort of rolling condition upon his return.
Sunday found a south wind gusting to 35mph. Tracking, turning, rough water handling, and back and forward finishing rolls had been tested but no real surfing tests had been performed. We notified ChrisG that his Explorer and Romany Surf would not be back just quite yet, and launched next to the ferry dock in Bayfield. It reminded me a lot of back country telemark skiing, the endless slog up the hill followed by the euphoric 5 minute run down it. We hammered into the wind and waves for what seemed like forever and then turned and surfed back. Both boats got up on the waves nicely and gave us some lengthy rides. The craft were then returned to Boreal Shores and performance was discussed over South Shore Nut Brown and the fresh Whitefish basket at Morty's, which had opened for the season the day before.
So.......anybody out there wanna buy a Q Boat? P&H Capella 169? How about a Nordkapp or a Posieden?? RonO and I both agreed that we absolutely need these Nigel Dennis kayaks but space and money constraints would force us to alter the makeup of the fleet rather than grow it. We have no threat of German naval expansion like the one that caused the rapid expansion of the Royal Navy before WW I, but I'm sure if you give us a couple days we can come up with some equally compelling arguments; they escape me at this time though. I guess the root of the problem is that we both have more kayaks than we need but not as many as we want. It is indeed a vicious circle.