Thursday, May 26, 2016

Paddle Cart

Before I start, we’ve had two new folks join Log of Ibi as subscribers.  Thank you for joining us, and a continued ‘thank you’ to all of you that have been long-time subscribers.  The second-most-recent to come aboard was Anne Muntean, a paddler from Ogden Dunes, Indiana.  The most recent, just yesterday, was Sandy Tarburton, the Membership and Communications Director for Northern Forest Canoe Trail.  Thanks, Sandy.  I’ll be out there paddling while knowing you all will be peeking over my shoulder the whole way, and not feel so alone.

Ibi, a heavier Superior Expedition decked-canoe on the PaddleCart
after the new stainless axle replacement

 I’ve had the PaddleCart ( for quite a few years.  It is everything it was promised to be and has served me extremely well.  On the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a reliable canoe cart is essential, and there has been a long list of carts that have failed to make the grade.  While reading blogs from previous through-paddlers, I’ve seen reports of broken plastic wheels, failed bearings, failed axles, and failed frames.  The PaddleCart is one that has had no breakdowns on the portage trail.  It is rugged, yet light, being made of welded aluminum, and it can be quickly disassembled for storage in any stage of readiness.

The old aluminum axle about to be replaced was
again slightly bent at both ends.

Nothing is perfect, however, and in spite of the dependability of this cart, there have been a couple things I’ve had to address as glitches in R&D.  First, I purchased the Dually, which has four large wheels and tires.  This model greatly aids moving the load through mud, sand, grass, gravel, or normal trail obstructions.  The four wheels also mean you have immediate backup for flats or bearing problems.  I started getting flat tires from sand burrs.  The first thing I did was replace the thin, standard equipment tubes with thick puncture-resistance tubes.  As a further precaution, I installed tire liners like those I had purchased to stop bicycle tire flats, and put them in each of the four tires.  In the five years since, I have never experienced another flat tire.

Buffalo Gal is ready to go with a new axle, and I anticipate
no further problems.

If you order a PaddleCart now, you will not experience this last issue.  The cart was originally all aluminum, including the axle rod.  The projected load capacity, consequently, was low.  I called PaddleCart, and emailed them, saying that they needed to change to a stainless steel axle.  The weight of many boats would reach their load limits while empty, and any camping gear and provisions would make them overloaded.  My aluminum axle had been bent.  A couple paddling friends asked to borrow my cart to bring their boats from the beach, through the state park, and to the parking area.  I found out later that instead of moving them one at a time, they had erred in loading both boats on the cart at once.  I straightened the axle, but with the weakening of the axle from the metal fatigue caused by bending and straightening, particularly with aluminum, I’ve never been able to fully trust the cart since.  I knew I had to get the new stainless axle before attempting the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.   I never received any acknowledgement to my communications, and perhaps others were telling them the same thing, but they did change to a stainless axle.  As a small company, they couldn’t afford to eat the expense of a recall, but they did supply the replacement axle and carriage frame at cost.  I now have 100% confidence that I can portage indefinitely with no further concerns.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Taking Buffalo Gal for a Walk

Buffalo Gal with the NFCT decal on the bow.

Katina Daanen’s “Through-Paddler’s Companion” lists every portage, but more importantly, it breaks each portage into what portion is wheelable, and what is not.  She even breaks some of them down to ‘wheelable with difficulty,’ indicating where roots, rocks, or other problems may make using a cart difficult.  Unfortunately, most of the hand carries, versus portage cart carries, appear early in the trip, and one is 1.3 miles.  Later, the portages are longer, but are mostly wheelable with an appropriate cart. 

With a new hat on top, and my Keen hiking shoes on the bottom,
it was time to give it a shot.

With the canoe yoke done, it was time to make a portage and try everything out.  The wind yesterday was blowing about 20-25 mph, but I tried to make a portage as we took a break from watching the radar for tornado development.  It was like carrying a sheet of plywood on a windy day, as the wind tried to spin me and the canoe first one way, and then the other.  The pads pressed into my neck muscles and caused a lot of strain.  I went about a quarter mile, and was done.  After a bit of thought, I decided the pads must be too close, so I moved them outboard on the yoke so they had a 20 cm separation.

This morning, I tried the portage again before the wind got up to normal strength.  It was only about 15 mph.  The separation of the pads made all the difference in the world.  I walked a full mile with two short stops of 2-3 minutes to give the shoulders a break, one at a half-mile, and the second at about eight-tenths of a mile in.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but upon my return, I took a tape measure and measured the spread on the Adirondack pack canoe yoke.  It is 19 cm, so I know now I’m in the right ballpark, and am happy with the results. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Yoke's Final Touches

The finished yoke.

With the end fittings installed so the yoke can be attached to the gunwales of the canoe, this is what the finished yoke looks like.  (I don’t think you can beat the beauty of cherry wood.)  Instead of probably $110 for the commercially created yoke with shipping cost and hardware, I probably have less than $10 in this, plus the satisfaction of creating it myself.

End clamp detail.  To keep the bar from twisting and coming undone,
the outboard end is routed to grip the top of the gunwale, and the
inboard end is cut to sit over a brass key set into the step or post.

 The pads are two pieces of 4 X 8” by ¾” inch marine Harborlite plywood.  Harborlite is certainly not cheap, but I had this on hand from previous boat projects.  Any exterior plywood with the end grains sealed and the entire block then painted would provide good service.  I contact-glued four pieces of closed-cell foam together to fit on the plywood.  Two bolts were set through the plywood and epoxied in place, and the end grain of the ply was also epoxied.  The bolts are 3.5” apart so they will span the width of the yoke regardless of where the pads cross the yoke.  Two pieces of aluminum bar stock were cut and drilled to fit over the bolts and grip the yoke, and two wing nuts completed the need for quick but secure tightening.  The finishing touch was wrapping the pads in vinyl covered material.  I would have preferred stapling the vinyl on with Monel or stainless staples, but had depleted my supply on hand, and such things are not available in NW Oklahoma.

The yoke and pads fitted on Buffalo Gal, the Mohawk Odyssey 15.

Here’s something you may wish to consider if you haven’t already done so.  In the lower left corner of the picture with the yoke in place on Buffalo Gal, you will see a bright orange sticker.  This is a USCG “Vessel Identification Sticker for Canoe, Kayak, or Rowboat."  The one I have on the boat is an earlier edition of the one pictured, but the function is the same.  Before attaching the sticker to the boat, you should take an indelible marker and provide your name and a couple phone numbers.  The rugged adhesive holds the vinyl sticker in place for years. The Coast Guard, along with Natural Resources departments and police agencies, have had problems for years with finding small craft sunk, stranded, or floating down a river with no identification on them.  They don’t know if the boat has been stolen, if it simply floated away from the shore, or if it means that someone is in distress.  Being able to establish ownership and contact someone with knowledge of why the boat may be where it was found, and if they know whether someone is supposed to be paddling with it, goes a long way to returning lost or stolen boats, or to initiate searches and rescues if there’s no apparent reasons why the paddler and boat have been separated.  The USCG Auxiliary has had the stickers on hand in years past, so they may be the first place to find several free stickers for your craft.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Great Salt Plains Lake, OK

Credit: Google Images
Indian Blankets are the Oklahoma State Flower, and the park
had a great display of blossoms on hand.

We got away for the weekend to take our granddaughter camping at the Great Salt Plains Lake State Park, north of Jet, OK.  The lake is formed by the joining of Medicine Lodge River, Driftwood Creek, and the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River.  In spite of supposedly being fed by three tributaries, the years have been too numerous that all of those have dried up leaving the outflow of the lake as dry as the empty riverbed below.  The outflow is just called the Salt Fork of the Arkansas, and seeing it with water flowing was a pleasant shock.

None of the canoes got to go for the ride as winds were forecast to gust to 25 mph on Saturday, and 30 on Sunday.  Down in the river valley between the surrounding hills, and below the walls of the dam, we could see the tree tops dancing, but we just had a good breeze in the campground.  Even that died down enough Saturday evening for a campfire, and for Maggie to make s’mores.

It would prove to be a wildlife weekend, and guess who forgot the camera.  Grrrr!  That’s the one thing a blogger should grab even before his pants, but I ended up with pants and no camera.

Jean sat at the picnic table Friday evening and watched a doe and two very young fawns.  Being on a major flyway, this area is always great for seeing birds, and this weekend was not going to disappoint.  We saw scarlet tanager, cardinals, orioles, gold finch, and of course egrets and Great Blue Heron, and all day we were fascinated by a pair of Bluebirds as they rushed about to feed their five young fledglings.  Then, each night we were serenaded by nighthawks and owls.  We also got to enjoy a full array of wildflowers that were in bloom in reds, oranges, yellow, white, blue, purple, and salmon.  Next time, I’ll even take the camera.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Making A Portage Yoke

Two of my three canoes came with portage yokes.  The Superior Expedition has an adjustable tractor seat, which if you remove it and put it back in inverted, a portage yoke was fitted to the bottom side of the seat.  My ultra-light Kevlar Hornbeck 14 also came with a removable cherry portage yoke which quickly attaches to the gunwales with bolts and wing nuts.  The Mohawk Odyssey 15, however, has no yoke, and being made of Royalex, is substantially heavier than the Hornbeck.  There were two solutions.  The first is to buy a yoke and mounting gear ($95.00 + shipping for an ash yoke and gunwale hardware from Piragis; or, from Jem Watercraft, the gunwale mounting hardware is $40 alone, without a yoke, or $57 for both yoke and hardware.). Or secondly, make a yoke and buy your own hardware.

This is the whole pattern with the panels taped together and transferred
to the rough-sawn wood.  If needed, you can zoom in for closer inspection.

The first necessity was making a pattern for the yoke.  Neither of the yokes from the other two canoes, due to their proprietary design, would work as a pattern for a classic portage yoke.  Jem Watercraft, however, does have a free pattern for making a yoke.  There is one little wrinkle you need to take note of.  For the pattern to be printed to scale, the printed pattern panels, of which there are five, need to measure 9-inches in length.  The first time I printed it, the panels measured 8 13/16”.  When I realized the printer was set to “fit” rather than “actual size”, just clicking “actual size” corrected the problem.  Not checking the scale will obviously make your pattern useless.  The pattern is printed as five panels, which you assemble by just joining the patterns, A to A, B to B, and so on, and taping them together.

Then, there’s the choice of woods.  Ash is the most common, but cherry is also listed as a choice for those who care more about aesthetics.  My choice was simple.  I have zero ash in the shop, but about 1,000 board feet of cherry, so cherry it is.

The pattern will give you a long yoke that you can cut to length 
to fit your canoe.  This has been planed, had the edges rounded 
with a 1/2 inch router, and pre-shortened a bit.  A bit of wood was 
left for final fitting, as the Mohawk has both sheer and tumblehome.

Here the pattern transfer is done with a sharp stylus, awl, or tack.  To transfer the pattern to the wood, I use two methods.  To transfer a pattern to planed wood, I use carbon transfer paper.  If the wood is rough finished, you can either plane first, or with a hard wood, like cherry, getting rid of most of the wood makes the planing that much easier.  Make a series of dotted perforations along the pattern lines, remove the pattern, and pencil a line to join the dots.  For transferring patterns to smooth wood, there are several techniques illustrated on You Tube.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Camping's Top Secrets

Cover Credit: Rowman & Littlefield

Camping’s Top Secrets: A Lexicon of Camping Tips Only the Experts Know, 3rd Edition,  by Cliff Jacobson
(Pub. by Falcon Guides, part of Morris Book Publishing, Guilford, CT and Helena, MT, 2006, 242 pp. plus appendix and index.)

The book lists subjects from A to Y and covers every potential subject from weather, rigging a canoe, treating drinking water, maintaining, improving, and selecting tents and shelters, animal and insect encounters, cooking, first aid, maps, compass and GPS use, camping clothing, gear, sleeping bags, wilderness ethics, knives and axes, lightning, packs, rain gear, selecting and using line, survival, and an appendix of recommended reading and his list of recommended suppliers and products.  How much more could you seek in a book review, or the book itself, other than to say that these are but a few of the 79 topics covered.  Unlike a lot of book that become dated, with the third edition, the author keeps his information up-to-date with the newest materials and techniques.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Ghost Town 2

This is the easily identifiable Oklahoma-style home of the period,
and many surviving cookie-cutter homes may still be found in almost 
any of the old towns.

The town of Lenora sprang up in the bend of the Canadian River on Cheyenne-Arapaho land when it was opened for non-Indian settlement in 1892.  The first post office appeared in 1896 when this little dot on the map was the largest town in what would become Dewey County.  By 1900, it would have a population of about 400, and at one time there was consideration of moving the county seat from Taloga to Lenora.  It then claimed a hotel, restaurant, two saloons (the mark of any successful Western town), two doctors that would make house calls night or day, three general stores, a meat market, confectionery, drugstore, hardware store, harness shop, a bank, lumberyard, a well-driller, cotton gin, gristmill, a school, churches, a weekly newspaper, and several civic organizations including the Masons, Eastern Star, Royal Neighbors, Woodsmen of the World, and Odd Fellows.  As the world marched by, Lenora withered, and even the post office left town in 1955.  At the time Morris’ book was published, the Methodist church was still in use and a gas station and garage still operated on Main Street.

One of a home's most useful tools just discarded.

There is now little evidence of any of this Land Run prosperity.  There are a couple of the old houses still standing, one of which stands by itself, while another one or two are so entangled in weeds, brush, and trees to be made unidentifiable.  The Methodist church was abandoned for a new one, and I believe we found the old garage with a painted admonition still visible on the wall to keep work areas clean.  Beyond that, even the ghosts have left town, and Lenora exists in name only.

This is the South Canadian River.

Found in the woods near the new bridge is the trestle of the original
bridge that the settlers would have used.  It is interesting in some of
these areas to find old relics.  At one site, I found the remains of the
original bridge trestle written about as the one used by covered supply
wagons carrying settlers and U.S. Army supplies from one fort to another,
like from Fort Reno to Fort Supply and beyond.  If interested, you can
read more of the Fort Supply and wagon train era in archives for June
10,11, and 12, 2012.