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About billvoss

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    Being upside down in my kayak is better than my best day at work
  • Birthday June 12

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    Hollis, NH

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  1. billvoss


    You probably want a helmet that meets standard CE EN 1385 CLASS I/IV – Helmets for canoeing and white-water sports. As far as I know there is no separate Sea Kayaking specific standard. Personally I've settled on the Sweet Protection Strutter helmet mainly because it fits my swollen head better than any other helmet I've tried. It was in fact the only helmet Zoar had in stock half a decade or so ago that I could comfortably fit on my head. Obviously your head is probably slightly different in size from my head. Personally I'm glad the Strutter doesn't have drain/vent holes because I occasionally use it as an impromptu bucket to dump water, usually over myself to cool off. Lack of holes also prevents the sunburn stripes that some of the very well ventilated bicycle helmets I've owned in the past are prone to allow. Sadly, I must also advise you to only purchase helmets from reputable merchants. Apparently fake helmets which look like the real thing but don't perform like the real thing have become an issue. For example this recent NPR report about bicycle helmets, and this Youtube Motorcycle Helmet example.
  2. billvoss

    Latex Care in the Non-Kayaking Commuity

    When I was training as a drysuit scuba driver, they taught me to use my hands to pull the opening wider as though it was a rubber band before pulling my head through when putting the suit on or taking if off. They said the latex has lots of stretch available in that direction compared to the minimal stretch available in the other direction. They did NOT want students ripping their rental suit's neck gasket! This NRS YouTube video calls that "widening the opening with your hands:"
  3. I plan to join you at Comella's on Tuesday, May 21st. 2019, and I have RSVP'ed going. Unfortunately, I will not be bringing a kayak yet, because I'm still trying to comply with the surgeon and physical therapist's guidance. -Bill Voss
  4. billvoss

    Paddling Woods Hole

    I have repeatedly been tempted by your Woods Hole postings, but then Google Maps reminds me to allow two and half hours for the drive down from NH. Once I allow time to get up and moving in the morning and add some cushion against arriving late the time I would have to set my alarm gets absurd. Especially for a night-owl like myself. While your accommodations offer is very generous, that changes the event from a common day trip to a rare "discuss with wife" overnight/multi-night trip. To drum up interest part of me thinks you should offer an afternoon trip. That does make the drive-time/paddle-time ratio pretty severe. However, especially as a spring trip when some of us are not really up to a full day on the water, it might get some participation. If you want to use the afternoon paddle as a hook for longer events, the afternoon trip could also meet at your house for a "bag lunch" before the paddle. That would give you a chance to show off your accommodations offer, and let paddlers look before they jump into a multiple-day commitment. Unfortunately, I'm currently under doctors orders to not resume kayaking yet after back surgery. Once I do start kayaking again I'll need to build my endurance back up like an L1 beginner. So I personally don't expect to paddle Woods Hole until 2020 at the earliest.
  5. billvoss


    I was a bit shocked a few years back when a group very close to shore with lots of tiny islands and a bit of fog but only moderate seas proved unable to to maintain radio contact. On the bright side the Coast Guard has much larger antennas mounted much higher above the water. However, the Coast Guard system was designed assuming antennas 6 feet above water level, and even with that assumption their coverage maps shows lots of radio coverage gaps close to shore. See https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=mtNds Various sources say a DSC alert has a 15% to 25% greater range than a voice call, and it appears that actually transmitting a DSC alert takes less than a second. A DSC radio is supposed to then send another alert every 3.5 to 4.5 minutes updating the GPS coordinates if available until it receives a DSC acknowledgement. However, the most interesting thing I discovered researching this post is that if you have a recent DSC radio, you can get an automated VHF DSC test call response from the Coast Guard! So you can test for yourself if the Coast Guard would receive your DSC mayday! Assuming the Coast Guard receives your GPS coordinates, your little handheld might not reach lobster boats you cannot see, but the lobster men will certainly hear the Coast Guards "All Ships" broadcast which will probably bring them into your sight at which point your radio probably will reach them. Unfortunately my current radio is too old (the manual is copyright 2009), and it does not support the test call feature. It may be time for a new radio.
  6. billvoss


    I have to disagree with the only paddle if you would still paddle without your X-device philosophy. If I followed that rule my kayaking would be limited to small warm bodies of water where I was reasonably confident I would always make it to shore unless my body or mind failed so spectacularly that I didn't want to be resuscitated. Everything I take with me kayaking can fail. My mind, my body, my kayak, my paddle, my drysuit, my PFD, my electronics, my companions can all fail. My first week of sea kayaking was a fall course in Maine when ocean water temperatures were near their yearly peak. After that course I read the books Sea Kayaker's Deep Trouble and Sea Kayaker's More Deep Trouble. Those books changed my priorities. Instead of starting off by buying shinny new sea and white-water kayaks, my first major purchase was a Kokatat Drysuit, my second major purchase was a DSC-VHF radio with integrated GPS, and a PLB was not terribly far behind. Other priorities to purchase brand new were multiple replacement copies of the exact same high-end helmet as the older versions took hits, and high flotation PFDs with lots of pockets. Too this day my kayak's have come from Craig's List or I've built them myself. I have indulged in some nice carbon-fiber paddles, but I definitely consider those paddles luxuries. I reordered my priorities because too many of the Deep Trouble stories involved more than one of the following: One or two paddlers (three to sea remains my minimum). Paddling without adequate thermal protection (my drysuit is non-negotiable on the open ocean if the water is too cool for extended swimming in a speedo). Without any radio to signal for help or with the radio inside a kayak they watched blow away. Not listening to weather reports at all, or trying to beat the weather to stay on a tight schedule. Never tried even a paddle float self rescue, or only tried it on a calm pond with unloaded kayaks and often only with somebody else years ago. Never tried an assisted rescue, or only tried it on a calm pond with unloaded kayaks and often only with somebody else years ago. Never learned to roll a kayak, or never rolled a loaded kayak in conditions, or haven't ever/recently practiced rolling this kayak. Poor navigation skills. Waiting too long before they called for help. The biggest one of all, not being willing to be the first at the put-in to say "We shouldn't launch now." So I say if you wouldn't launch without your X-device, great! Just remember to check your X-device at the put-in, and abort your launch if your X-device isn't with you, or isn't working. I would also suggest trying to avoid all the other classic mistakes I listed above.
  7. billvoss


    When on the ocean I normally carry a DSC-VHF with integrated GPS and a PLB with integrated GPS. I follow the old rule if it is not on your person you do not have it, so they are both attached to me, not my kayak. I've had my VHF fail during radio tests. The PLB has never failed a self test. I need to replace the old cell phone I used to carry for 911 calls. The "waterproof" box it was in flooded and killed the phone. Though other scenarios are far more likely, my basic worst case PLB scenario is that somehow in very cold water I fall back from the group and unzip my relief zipper, then I hurt an arm, get separated from my kayak and from my companions in heavy fog with wind and current pushing me away from shore, my relief zipper still isn't securely zipped, and nobody hears my calls on the VHF. With a functioning PLB in New England I would probably survive the experience. Without one I might be written up as "an experienced kayaker.... condolences to his family. "
  8. billvoss

    Radio Listening Watch

    I do not carry my VHF on Walden Pond or most other bodies of fresh water. I normally carry my VHF (and PLB) on the ocean. Whenever I carry my VHF radio I follow the monitor 16 rule. My radio is a DSC VHF radio, so I also automatically monitor for DSC distress signals whenever the radio is on. I have not yet paddled on the ocean without following the "3 to Sea" rule. If the group is using a designated channel, I add it to dual watch or multiple channel watch. I am willing to set the squelch high enough that I only hear Coast Guard and local voice broadcasts.
  9. billvoss

    Radio Listening Watch

    Yes my standard operating procedure is to follow the monitor 16 rule.
  10. I will only be there in spirit this year. Back pain currently prevents me from driving that far. Have a great time.
  11. billvoss

    Thanksgiving Weekend at Walden

    I am still under "No kayaking" orders from my MD because of sciatica. So I will not be attending Black Friday. 😢 I won't be buying any pool sessions either until my doctor lifts the restriction.
  12. billvoss

    Thanksgiving Weekend at Walden

    I'm interested.
  13. billvoss

    Walden Wednesday & Cape Falcon F1

    Welcome Kegzy, I look forward to seeing you at Walden in the future. Most years Walden does continue into the fall. Though the park closes earlier as the days get shorter which around now eliminates the after work participants. At the moment I’m sidelined with a sore back, and October 3rd I’m scheduled to drive down to Delaware for the annual Delmarva Paddler’s retreat. So I personally am probably finished attending Walden evening sessions for 2018. After the Delmarva Paddler’s retreat I usually have to wait for pool practice sessions to get regular rolling practice. However, while the day of the week may change, and next year’s sessions might be cross listed with AMC, I certainly hope the Walden Pond tradition will continue in 2019. A bit about my experience. I built my first F1 at the Delmarva Paddler’s retreat in 2010 in one of Brian’s workshops. I damaged it in 2014 and promptly built a replacement F1 in my garage. I don’t have much experience with “factory” kayaks, but I definitely like my F1. I use it at Walden. I use if for surf sessions. I’ve used it at reversing falls. I use it for day paddles. I have not used if for multiple day trips. It has been my go-to sea kayak since the fall of 2010. I think I was very lucky to have built an F1 at the end of my first year of sea kayaking. The biggest upside to any kayak you build yourself is the emotional satisfaction of paddling something you did build yourself. A possible upside to skin-on-frame kayaks is they can be custom built to fit you well, and can be customized to individual preferences. Skin-on-frame kayaks are generally light weight compared to most kayaks. Homemade kayaks definitely attract attention and conversation. “Did you build that yourself?” “How long did it take?” “What is it made of?” “How much does it weight?” Some days I think that is a good thing, sometimes when I find myself listening to a long story about the non-kayak boat some stranger's uncle built it seems like a negative. The biggest downside is a skin-on-frame kayak does NOT have a BULKHEAD! I can dump the water from a kayak with a rear bulkhead in seconds, but it takes a lot longer to remove the water from a skin-on-frame kayak, even if the skin-on-frame kayak has huge float bags. So the skin-on-frame paddler needs to be prepared to spend more time in the water (dry suit suggested), and needs to be prepared to train their rescuer on how to deal with a kayak lacking bulkheads in the midst of an emergency situation. A sea sock can immensely improve the no bulkhead problem. I have tried sea socks on Walden pond, but I have not yet found a sea sock that I’m willing to use on the ocean. Though some skin-on-frame kayakers swear by them. F1 specific issues. If you have read Brian’s websites, you know the F1 is a fairly stable kayak, has low drag at casual paddling speeds, and is quite maneuverable for a sea kayak. The F1 is not fast in a sprint, and has a very high back deck. That high back deck makes layback rolls more challenging, though my F1 really likes forward finishing rolls. The F1 is great and horrible for surfing. The F1 loves steep waves, and on medium to big steep waves you have a much better chance of being able to reverse direction on the wave than the longer sea kayaks. The F1 seems to be great for those huge Pacific ocean waves I’ve only seen in pictures. My surfing experience is mostly limited to the two to four foot beach break waves I usually encounter in New Hampshire. In those conditions my friends in longer sea kayaks can usually begin surfing before the wave becomes steep enough for my F1 to play. So I setup to catch most of my waves much closer to the beach than my surfing friends. Unless you are an expert surfer or have a very reliable roll surfing tends to cause out-of-boat experiences. Unless you are using a sea sock which stays on you are in much better shape using a kayak with bulkhead than a flooded skin-on-frame kayak during an out-of-boat experience. During day paddles in bumpy water, the F1 is better at some wave conditions than longer kayaks, and longer kayaks are better than the F1 in some wave conditions. That mismatch can mean the F1 paddler is working a lot harder or having a much easier time than their longer kayak companions. You will care more about scraping any kayak you personally built (skin-on-frame, stitch-and-glue, or stripper) on rocks and even sand than you would a kayak you bought. This can be an issue surfing, but also during rock play, or even simply day paddles. The F1 is a short high displacement sea kayak. Especially if you are a big guy like me, that means your F1’s draft is probably deeper than any of your paddling companion’s which sometimes means you hit bottom hard where your companions didn’t scrape. One huge disadvantage of any custom built kayak is that unlike a factory kayak, you cannot take it on a test paddle. I was fortunate that I fit my first F1 well. I also made some minor tweaks to my second F1 that made me fit it even better which is rarely an option with a factory kayak. Last fall I built a Baidarka style skin-on-frame in another Delmarva workshop with a different instructor. To my extreme surprise, my Walden test paddles have not yet been successful enough for me to take the Baidarka on the ocean. That is a totally different experience than what I experienced with the F1. I might have to build yet another kayak before I will have a comfortable alternative to my F1. Some meetup, AMC, and even NSPN trips will specify that kayaks must be longer than an F1, and/or must have a bulkhead. They are generally trying to exclude beginners in plastic tubs which lack bulkheads. So leaders generally waive those requirements for me in advance, or don’t challenge me on it when I show up with an F1. However, most of the leaders I paddle with know that I have a reliable roll, teach rolling, and also like to surf. Your experience might be different. Though in general leaders tend to assume (sometimes incorrectly) than anyone who built their own kayak is a fairly competent paddler. Despite the downsides, I personally am very glad I went with the F1. I don’t want to discourage you from doing the same. However, I do want you to go in with your eyes wide open. It is a very nice kayak, but perhaps not quite as nice a kayak as Brian thinks. I know a number of local paddlers who have build F1 kayaks, and many of them used the F1s regularly for a year or more. However, I don’t know anyone else locally who is still using their F1 as their primary kayak. They have all gone to factory kayaks. I find it difficult to imagine switching to a factory kayak, though I’ll admit some of the http://www.sterlingskayak.com/ offerings look worthy of a test paddle. For now I avoid the test paddle temptations, and enjoy paddling sea kayaks I built myself. As for skirts get a custom skirt for your F1, where you send in a tracing of your coaming showing where you sit in the kayak. Get one with a neoprene deck and a neoprene tube. The downside of the various deck fabric reinforcement options is they do not stretch as well as a simple neoprene deck, which increases the probability of the skirt popping off during a roll. So don't think more is necessarily better for fabric reinforcement, though a little around the edges is usually not an issue. Both http://www.sealsskirts.com in upstate NY and http://www.snapdragondesign.com in Washington state make good custom skirts. I’ve had good experiences with both companies. Bill Voss
  14. I'm not going to make it this week, sore lower back. If anyone goes, have fun without me.