Sunday, March 30, 2008


Well, we got in our first canoe outing of the year this weekend. We don't do any serious tripping or anything, but I love to get out on the water and forget about my high-tech job once in a while.

Speedboats on the lake disturb my reverie, but they're not nearly so bad as a cell phone that rings all the time.

Charlotte's not got the best selection of water for paddling---especially not in drought conditions---but we've been making the best of it, rather than whine about what we haven't got.

Moving to an apartment put a light cramp in my paddling plans: canoe storage space is just not a standard feature in apartments in Charlotte. But a friend generously agreed to store the canoe for a few months, so we didn't have to sell it. I'm driving around with a canoe on top of my truck right now, I want to try and get a few hours on the water before taking my canoe back to storage.

Anyhow, paddling always gets me fired up about paddling.

Last year I decided to carve myself a decent paddle, which has not gone very well. I haven't actually ruined my paddle yet, but progress is slow; and realistically, it'll be even slower now that I've not got a workshop, have gotten rid of almost all my tools, and don't have a dedicated space to work in.

The joys of urban living.

So until my home-made paddle is finished (i.e. for the foreseeable future), I've decided I'm going to buy a decent paddle. Or even better, I'm going to try and figure out a way to have someone else buy it for me.

Random thought: my birthday is next month.

So I've been more and more playing with the "Indian Stroke" when paddling, and I really like it. But I want to get a narrower blade to work with. The standard el cheapo paddles I've seen in the various outdoor stores have really wide blades. Worse, they don't offer higher-end paddles with narrow blades. If you want a cheap paddle, the blade is wide; if you want a more expensive paddle, you either get a bent shaft or some fancy composite construction, and the blade's still wide: there isn't the option of a narrow blade. It seems blade shape is not a configurable option in the various outdoor stores I've checked.

Now to be fair, this is North Carolina. Here "paddling" almost exclusively means "kayak." This is not exactly canoe country. There is much wider selection of kayak paddles than canoe paddles.

But I've spent some time looking online, and I've found a couple contenders for my new paddle. Here are a few I'd really like to try out, not in any real order:

  • Algonquin Guide by Turtle Paddle Works. It has a narrow blade (5.75") and a "Northwoods" grip. It's also got leather whipping for padding if you lever the paddle against the gunwale of the canoe, which I do frequently.

  • Ottertail, also by Turtle. This has a smaller blade than their "Guide", and a more traditional grip. It also costs quite a bit less.

  • Porter's Woodworking has a nice looking Ottertail, but I can't get a good look at it on the site, so I'm not sure it makes it to the finals, although it could be something really special. Still, the blade's a little wider than the 5" I'm looking for. Maybe I'll class this one a semi-finalist.

  • Racine by Shaw and Tenny. This paddle looks really very cool. It's a little cheaper than the Guide by Turtle, and it's got the shape I want: 5" blade and all.

I've seen a few other offerings, but these appear to be the closest to what I want. And best of all, they're all made by small shops. And here's where it gets cool: those paddles all cost less than $150. That doesn't sound impressive, except I was looking at paddles this weekend in the outdoor stores, and they go up to $290. $150 for a traditional canoe paddle is much less than I expected.

I'm leaning toward the Guide by Turtle as my #1 choice, and the Racine by Shaw and Tenny as my #2. Sadly, Turtle won't ship to the USA, so I may have to find a retailer (like Rutabaga) if I go with the Guide. Both of those shops are the sort of thing I like to support: small artisan businesses.


Gwen said...

You could just wait to get the Turtle until you're in Cda. There are more paddling options here, too.

clumsy ox said...

"More paddling options?" I'm not sure I follow you, Gwen.

Kimmer said...

I did the Bowron Lakes circuit a couple of years ago. Now that's a paddling option. 7 days with just a canoe and what you can put in it.

clumsy ox said...

Bowron Lakes looks like a fantastic trip. Kimmer is now my hero. I'm in awe.

Opportunities like that are an excellent case for moving back north.

Shan said...

That's what I was thinking - wait til you're in Canada.

My buddy did the Bowron Lakes and she loved it. I want to try the Sayward chain, myself. B.A. and I were going to do it last year with the kids but got too busy and she ended up on the West Coast Trail again, instead.

Which reminds me I found a nice canoeing lake near Cathedral Grove...Cameron Lake. Looks promising but maybe not enough little inlets for decent exploration.

clumsy ox said...

In actual fact, I posted this largely to hassle Ames; hence my comment about a birthday.

North Carolina is definitely not canoeing country; this is true. At least not here in the Piedmont. Canoeing opportunity is certainly one of many reasons I want to come home.

I can't figure out now why I thought Turtle wouldn't ship to the States. I thought I read it somewhere, but as I've gone back over their site, I can't find that anywhere. Interesting.

One reason I'm finding good paddles so tempting is, the el cheapo paddles already run quite a few bucks. So it's not that much more to put out $125 for the Guide I linked to above.

Ames said...

Does anyone have any ideas on what I could get Ox for his birthday?

Gwen said...

Sorry, I haven't looked at the comments until now.

"More paddling options" just meant that you'll have more opportunities to go canoeing in Canada than you do now.

clumsy ox said...

That "more paddling options" make sense, I just didn't get it when I first read it.

I'm all excited about paddling with Dad again. I'm planning on carrying it on the car when we drive home: I can't fit it into a moving van... so when we get there, I'm going to press Dad into service.

I've missed paddling with Dad for the last 14 years.

If we DO end up in your neck of the woods, we could do some serious extended-family outings. Of course, you guys will need to be patient with your American brother and his family... we promise not to ask when they feed the moose...

Ames said...

No, I want to know. When IS moose feeding time?