Sunday, March 30, 2008

51) Silver Springs

Well, you can ignore the previous post, the canoe cart only made it a quarter of a mile before breaking. However it worked pretty well up until that point.
This is what it was supposed to look like.

The T-joint under the canoe was just too fragile and snapped with the weight of the boat bouncing on it. I will rebuild with a sturdier joint and try again - as always I'll report my findings here. Given that, I must say I am glad that one of my childhood heroes was MacGyver - I would have never made it to the canoe launch without the spirit of Richard Dean Anderson's character guiding me. I even considered canceling the outing, but with gas running around $3.30 per gallon, I would not drive back to Gainesville in shame. This is what I came up with, I simply duct taped the padding to the axle and jury rigged this to the canoe.

Once out on the water, there was a slight mist coming off of the river and I was immediately greeted by a river otter and a family of Rhesus monkeys hanging out at the waters edge, the river gods were smiling on me:) I made it up to the springs just as the theme park was opening (the land around the springs is a privately owned nature theme park, however the river and the springs are protected public property... as long as you stay in your boat you can hang out at the spring for as long as you like! = no admission) I saw tons of amazing wildlife including birds, gators, huge gar, alligator gar, and more, here are a few pics.

This shadowy gar was probably around 4 feet long, these torpedos can weigh up to 50 lbs!

Silver springs is the largest artesian spring formation in the world, and it is definitely worth fighting the current to get to the headwaters. I even got to see the sunken remains of an old native american dugout canoe, while I floated above in my modern day version...too cool. Here are some shots of some of the springs, the white around the opening is sand and shell fragments that are blown up from the depths by the strong flow.

This was a great day paddling, the canoe is a bit squirrelly heading upstream solo, a keel would help, but I want to do some more exploring before I decide to sacrifice the super shallow draft. On my way back to the launch, I paddled over a group of drift divers exploring the river from below, looks like fun.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

50) Portage Cart

Some of the really good (and less traveled) canoe and kayak launches around north-central Florida require portages around a mile long. My back can take some of the shorter trips, but on the longer hikes, I can't imaging getting the canoe and gear in one trip by myself. I googled "canoe cart" and saw some cool commercial carts and some homemade varieties. Well, I made the canoe, so why not the cart. This was modeled after one I saw somewhere online (I did'nt bookmark the site). I cobbled it together with PVC pipe, a threaded rod, and some super-sized lawnmower wheels. All-in-all it cost nearly $60 from the local big box store.
Here is an overall look, note stand that will help single hand loading

This is a close-up of the wheel showing the wingnuts holding them on.

I set everything up so it could be disassembled for stashing in the canoe or in the bushes (maybe I will hit it with a camo paint job!)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

49) Crystal River - Manatees!

I apologize, it has been way too long since my last update, but I figured most people would be surfing this site while daydreaming about/ doing research on building a cedar strip canoe or kayak. I don't think people really care about my paddling trips (except for family and friends), but if you are in the process of building or thinking about a similar project, here is some inspiration from the finish line. I can tell you everywhere I go, I get great comments and questions from people about the canoe... it's a real head turner.

Today it was sunny, but a brisk and windy 53 degrees F in central Florida... a perfect day for manatee sightseeing. Erin and I decided to head down to Crystal River, specifically Kings Bay. We put in at a nice little public park called Hunters Spring Park, a 30 min paddle from Three Sisters Spring (a favorite hangout of the manatee this time of year... and the tourists). If you want to get to Three Sisters Spring from Hunters Spring Park, just head towards Pete's Pier and follow the flotilla of pontoon boats (If you go in January, you can't miss them!).
You can see all of the manatees in the "safe zone" on the left, while snorkelers try to coax them out.

Here's Erin

Here I am

Now I am touching an endangered species (its legal, but one hand only)!

Not captured for posterity, a manatee "farted" next to Erin... she can now cross inhaling endangered species fart off her life list.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

48) Silver River

It has been a long time since I have updated, and of course life has gotten in the way of paddling. Baby showers, birthdays, work, and marathon training have been taking a lot of time (marathon training knocks out one day every weekend - Sunday is my long run day). This past weekend Erin and I went out to the silver river. We put in at Ray Wayside park and paddled upstream to the silver river state park where we had lunch at their canoe launch. It was a 3 mile journey upstream with beautiful views and amazing river scenes. There is no fishing allowed on silver river, and the water is crystal clear, we saw gators, lots of gar and other fish, ducks, turtles, and lots of turtle grass (and a few too many prop scars). Silver springs has an extremely high flow rate, providing a healthy flow in the river. This makes the river about 20 feet deep, and you can see all the way to the bottom. The river just swallows up whole cypress trees when they fall.
Getting out on the river early is key because there is a lot of motorboat traffic as the day creeps on. We decided to turn around at the silver river state park, because it was getting very busy and we still had 2 miles to go to the spring. In fact, launching at the silver river state park would be perfect, you could get up to the spring and relax relatively quickly. Unfortunately there is a 1.5 mile portage from the parking lot to the launch, carrying a canoe, paddles, life vests, recreational stuff, and water is out of the question. That gives me an idea... I need to make a canoe cart, Hmm that would make a good project, stay tuned.
Here are some pics.
A tree in the river.

Cormorants in a tree.

Little gator.


Here is my birthday gift from Erin, a Eagles Nest Outfitters hammock... thanks sweetie.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

47) Splashed - Ichetucknee River

I have lived in Gainesville for a few years now, but I have never made it up to the Ichetucknee river before. Wow, what a perfect place to launch the canoe. The launch was pretty unceremonious we just put the canoe in the water and took off upstream. This river is a very popular attraction, during the summer thousands of people rent inner tubes and float lazily down the river. The river is crystal clear and lined with all sorts of beautiful Florida vegetation. The canoe paddles perfectly. I have read that this design was stable and could carry a decent load, my main concern was the seat placement, I wanted to make sure the canoe was balanced with the difference between Erin's weight and my own. I also wanted to make sure that the seats were not too high, which would make it feel too tippy. Fortunately, all of my calculations were perfect, the canoe was perfectly balanced with both of us, and was not tippy at all, I was even able to stand up in the canoe! The seat design is perfect, both of us were very comfortable. The current in the river is strong, so it was sometimes difficult to dodge all of the floating people when we were headed up river, the current made tracking a bit squirrely. A small keel would help the boat track better, but I did'nt want to sacrifice turning ability on some of the more challenging runs (i.e. Juniper Springs). Overall, I am very pleased with this design and would readily recommend it to anyone.
Here is the canoe on my Jeep.

Erin proves that there are no leaks.

The beautiful Ichetucknee - the haze in the air is not fog, it is from one of the two hundred wildfires currently burning in the state.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

46) Holy Crap! I'm Done!

Well, I just realized that there is nothing left to do. I am done! I feel kind of wierd, I actually looked forward to taking a mental break to work on the boat. What am I going to do now? What is Matt going to do with all of the garage space? I guess I need to start planning some camping trips. Luckily I am in the midst of some of the most beautiful canoe runs in the United States, time to go explore them. I took the canoe out of the garage so I could clean up a bit. I snapped some pictures under Matt's magnolia and was pleased to see some people slowing down to check out my craft as they drove by.

45) Brass Stem Bands

I decided to go with the brass stem bands. They were created by cutting a 6ft half round brass trim piece in half. I then drilled and countersunk holes in the band every 6-8in or so. The band is held in place with #4 3/4in phillips head brass screws. I also ran a bead of silicone under the band and in the screw holes. Overall, I am really pleased with the look and functionality of the bands.