Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rolling the Aleut II

Last year RangerMark and the GreenThumbChef decided that they were getting "too old" to hoist their vintage Valley Aleut II double kayak on to the roof of the car. Those of us who accompany them on the annual fall paddle trip heartily agreed with that assessment, having lifted the bright yellow fiberglass Aleut II many times, both empty and fully loaded. Early on, the craft had been christented "the Lead Bananna", a very apt name for this hernia inducing double kayak. Having a double in the group can be very handy. Its great to have the extra space and carrying capacity, especially for things like a large dutch oven for single pot meals for six, fresh non dehydrated food, and of course an ample reserve beer supply. If someone gets injured or suffers some malady like cous cous poisoning, they can relax in the front seat and the group can keep moving to the next camp or back to the launch. So when our two friends began to mull over the idea of purchasing the very same boat in carbon fiber/kevlar layup, they were heartily encouraged. We all enjoy spending other people's money, especially me. I should have gone into a political career with a knack like that, but felt that my private life might not lend itself to the close scrutiny needed to be a successful politician. I just don't have the unerring moral compass of a Ted Kennedy, the fiscal acumen of a Rod Blagojevich, or the keen and incisive intelligence of a George Dubya though. We did manage to persuade RM and the GTC to pull the trigger however, and they ordered their boat with custom fitting that they have learned, over the years of paddling, suit them well .

When it arrived from Valley this spring it had none of the ordered features. Its a puzzle how that could happen on a special order boat but it did. A deal was apparently reached with Valley and the distributor to pay for the ordered modifications and the boat has been at Northwest Canoe since then. Dennis and George confided to me that they were more than a bit nervous hacking into a brand new high end boat before it had even hit the water but they did and it looks pretty damn good. I picked it up last evening and we took it to Long Lake for a test paddle and an attempted double roll before I deliver it back to its rightful owners tomorrow.

This is one big honkin' boat. Its 22' long and 26" wide and one of the best rough water doubles made. I don't know what it weights in the carbon fiber/kevlar but it feels about the same as my old CD Scirocco RM. RonO and I were a little nervous when we got in but knew if we didn't attempt the roll that we would get no end of grief from the ManFromSnowyLegs, our video cameraman. The first thing we noticed was how low in the cockpit we were. This made us even more nervous about hitting a layback roll but we also both commented on how comfortable the position was. Ron thought he could paddle all day plus in that seat. It was also as stable as a bass boat but the hull gave you the feeling that you could go through some nasty crap with no trouble whatsoever. The big wooden rudder was controlled by the pedals which had been moved to the front cockpit, but I was too tall to get my feet on them anyhow so we just controlled the boat with sweep turns.

It was time to quit stalling and tip the thing over. The BemidjiIntelOfficer was there in her Aquanaut LV, either for moral support or harassment when we had to bail. Ron and I gulped, set up, and over we went on the count of 3. And up we came just as smooth as silk. No one was more surprised than we were. We did it again just to make sure it wasn't a fluke and headed for shore.

The boat will be delivered the the shores of beautiful Chequamagon Bay sometime tomorrow. I may have modified my opinion a bit on the whole double concept, the divorce boat as many say. It sure is a dream to paddle and as comfortable as a Lazy Boy. We love having it on the trips and who knows, maybe one of these years the VOR and I will jump in and take it for a spin.

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