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Canoeing

Gear Talk

Bent-shaft canoe paddles vs. straight-shaft

May 13, 2011
steve_21

“What’s the degree of bend in this paddle?”

As you may remember from the summer of 2010, I wrote a couple of articles entitled “My favorite questions as an outfitter.” And while the above question may have been in contention for inclusion in that list, it might be a good inquiry. My first reaction was to think this guy was some kind of gear geek, and had been reading too many canoe forum paddle posts. But in reality it is a question that should be answered.

Let’s start with the basic, bent-shaft canoe paddles vs. straight-shaft canoe paddles.

In the early 1980’s canoe racers discovered that they could increase their stroke efficiency by bending the shaft of the paddle between 12 and 14 degrees. The bend changes the mechanics, and creates a stroke where the blade of the paddle stays virtually upright through the arc. The transfer of power from the paddle to the water is almost entirely horizontal.

Through the arc of a straight shaft paddle motion you have three transfers of power. As the paddle enters the water much of the effort is pushing down on the water. In the middle of the stroke you are pulling horizontally. And at the end of the stroke you are lifting up on the water. Mimic the motion sitting on a chair and you can visualize the arc and see the transfer of power.

Therefore, when somebody asks about the degree of bend in a paddle they are really asking, “is this the most efficient paddle you have?”

How do I measure for a bent-shaft paddle?

All other variables being equal, the bent-shaft will be about four inches shorter than the straight shaft paddle. The quick and dirty method is to sit on a bench, turn the paddle upside down, and shoot to get your nose right to the bend in the paddle. Other factors like seat height will affect the length, but this is the best place to start.

Which paddle is right for me?

Bent-shaft paddles work well for a canoe team that is going to paddle with the hit and switch method. Which is taking four to six strokes on one side of the boat and then switching to take four to six strokes on the other side of the boat.

If you are a j-stroker, like myself you may prefer the straight shaft paddle. I have found the twist of the j-stroke with a bent-shaft paddle to be a bit too cumbersome. Yeah, yeah, I know. All you bent-shaft converts have no problem with the j-stroke, I am just stating this old guy likes to j-stroke with the straight-shaft paddle.

What if I was to suggest this? How about a 12 degree bend for the bowman and a seven-degree bend for the sternman?

In the end it is a personal choice. And who really cares how you propel your boat, just get out on the water!

Photo and Article By: Brad Putney. “Captain” Brad Putney considers himself an inland waters guru after spending 40 years on the lakes of Minnesota. The Captain likes to say he has been at the helm of everything from a ten-foot inflatable to an America’s Cup yacht. Mr. Putney can be found at the Duluth Pack Store, helpfully dispensing free advice. He has degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota. Please contact at: truenorth@tds.net.

The Lowdown

2010 Fall Photo Contest Winners!

October 29, 2010

Wow, do we have some talented Duluth Pack fans! We had a hard time sifting through a ton of great photos.

We enlisted the help of professional photographer Ed Wargin to help us pick the top three photographs. A big thank you to Ed, you had a tough job!  Click here to find out more about Ed and his award winning photographs.

Don’t be discouraged if your photo didn’t win a prize, a few that didn’t win will definitely be on our website or next catalog so stay tuned. Drumroll please…..

The winning photo and winner of a $100 Duluth Pack gift card is Takashi Isaka of Japan with this beauty. Ed commented that this photo has “good composition and color and just feels like a Duluth Pack kind of day”.

Choice #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second place photo and winner of a $50 Duluth Pack gift card is…. Jeff Evans and his faithful companion Darby! Ed liked “the warmth of the dog and the bags in the background”.

Choice#2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And last but certainly not least the winner of a $25 Gift Card is Kat Ramsland! Ed loved the “joy and celebration of a family being outdoors” while using their Duluth Pack bag. Congrats to you and your family Kat!

Choice#3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We just have to throw in a few honorable mentions!

alaska 2

 

 

– Thanks Ben M. of AK, be looking for this one in the catalog!

 

 

 

bike

 

 

 

– Jason B. loves our #51 Utility Pack as much as we do!

 

 

 

 

packbasket

 

 

– Our versatile Pack Basket. We love the urban setting, thanks Amy T.!

 

 

 

woodencanoe

 

 

 

 

– Beautiful Canoe – thanks Heather C. (some folks in the office now have this as their screen saver!)

 

duluthpmom

 

 

 

– We know Kat already won 3rd place but we had to showcase this beauty too!

 

Family Spring Summer 2010 113

 

 

 

 

– We love the matching sweatshirt and shoes in this photo by Taylor A.

 

 

Our hats off and thanks to all who entered.  We are honored by your loyalty to Duluth Pack! Keep those cameras handy for our next winter photo contest.

The Lowdown

Join Us! – The Wilds of Atikaki Wilderness, Manitoba

September 14, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Whitewater and Quiet Wilds of Atikaki Wilderness Area of Manitoba by Fred Sproat
6:30pm – 8:00pm, Duluth Pack Store, 365 Canal Park Drive, Duluth, MN 55802

Come learn about a unique trip in this amazing place with few rules and fewer people, not far from Duluth, MN

fallsAtikaki Wilderness Provincial Park in eastern Manitoba is a refuge of wildness unparalleled by the Boundary Waters or Quetico. It is a place of few rules and fewer people. Fred Sproat recently lead a 23-day canoe trip through the park in search of whitewater fit for canoeists and soli- tude only dreamed about in the lower 48 states. The numerous creeks and handful of rivers running through Atikaki connect numerous lakes. The goal of the trip was to paddle the Pigeon River from its start on Family Lake down east to Lake Winnipeg. With rapids of every size and constantly changing riverbanks the Pigeon is an eclectic mix of the park’s other landscapes. Jack Pine dotted cliffs give way to tamarack sprouting swamps with groves of aspen and birch marking the transitions. The sea- soned canoeist will revel in the opportunities and experiences available within the park, while the less skilled paddler may be doomed to long ordeals and painful lessons.

Fred Sproat is the Outreach Coordinator for the University of Oregon’s Outdoor Program.

Registration: FREE

The Lowdown

Quitting Time at Duluth Pack

October 28, 2009

LAKE SUPERIOR AFTER HOURS CANOE PADDLE PHOTOS HERE!

Internet worlds collide or more like intertwine when I posted on Twitter about my after work canoe paddle adventure on a calm Lake Superior. Folks wanted to see photos (or maybe proof).

Duluth Pack has been in Duluth for 128 years and I am sitting in the factory where we have been hand making our products since 1911. The factory is a mile away from the head of Lake Superior.

This Lake must be taking seriously, we picked a calm day and stayed close to shore and never took off our life jackets.  On one of the last days of summer, you realize what a special place this is.

Canoeing, Techniques & Advice

How To Measure Your Canoe Paddle

July 23, 2009

Does your canoe paddle fit properly? Are you in the market for a new paddle and unsure what size to buy? Well we hope this will help you find that perfect paddle!  There seems to be an ongoing debate with our staff on how to properly fit one for a paddle, so in the interest of staff unity, (and my sanity), I am including both methods!

#1

The first method, “the chair method”, involves sitting in a chair and measuring the distance between the seat of the chair and eye levelTake that measurement from the seat of the chair to eye level and add 18 for a bent shaft and 24 for a straight shaft. Take that measurement and use that to measure the proper length for your shaft and grip of your paddle only, not the blade.

This method works best for the straight shaft paddle.  Straight shafts work best for rivers (easy maneuvering) and for windy days on lakes.

#2

The second method, “the kneeling/canoe seat method”, involves kneeling on the floor with your “rear end” 6″ off the floor.  Hold the paddle upside down with the handle on the floor.  When the paddle is in this position, the blade of the paddle should begin around nose and eye level.

* If you are measuring for a bent shaft paddle (best used on lakes) deduct 2″-4″ from this length.

If you have another method we would love to hear about it (and debate it’s merits)!  We hope this helps you find that perfect paddle for years of paddling enjoyment!

Canoeing, Techniques & Advice

Paddling with Kids! Fun, Easy Tips!

June 25, 2009

We have concluded our river-a-week series for the year. There are an infinite number of rivers,  too many to discuss, so we may have to venture back to rivers next spring.  For now, it’s time to move on!

This is a favorite subject for me! Paddling with my family is one of my favorite pastimes. With a few helpful tips, I have learned it can be an enjoyable experience for all.  First off, you have to make sure your child has ample water and food. I pack a waterproof bag with items just for him that I carabiner to the side of the canoe for easy access.

In the bag, I put a few small toys he can play with in the canoe when bored. I also place some snacks and candies just for him.  He loves looking in the bag to pull out his next surprise. We also play a lot of “I Spy” games, 20 Questions, and other fun games to pass the time.  Another important factor is to pack enough clothes that they are comfortable in all situations. Pack long underwear, swimsuit, rain gear, and a change of dry clothes. One fun thing to pack has been an umbrella! The smaller the better. He has used the umbrella as a fort, sun shelter, rain shelter and the most fun, a sail! Binocularsare also a hit. Kids love to spy all kinds of wildlife.

We also bought a kids sized paddle so they can feel like they are helping out and to train them to take over some day. Make sure you stop a few times a day on your journey so your child can run around, burn off some energy, and stretch their legs.

One other tip to keep them interested, is to provide them with there OWN set of maps in a waterproof case. They love to follow along and feel like they are important and in control of navigating. I have found by following these few simple tips we have all enjoyed our paddling trips and can’t wait to plan the next! Please leave comments about tips you have used for an enjoyable family paddle!

Canoeing, Rivers

River #5 – Namekagon River, WI

June 18, 2009

After writing and paddling a “river a week” for a bit now, one river keeps coming back to mind, The Namekagon River in Wisconsin. This river has it all, especially for an overnight/several day trip. Few rivers have such accessible campsites that are even equipped with picnic tables!

We started the river 33 miles upstream from Hayward, not many paddling books cover this stretch since it is mostly doable only in early Spring.  Over two seasons we have done down to where the river meets up with the St. Croix. This wild and scenic river has very limited development,great campsites, and plenty of wildlife including one of my favorite photos of an eagle (thanks J).  There are plenty of Class I rapids and riffles to keep everyone satisfied. The higher up you go on the river the less people you
will see. We have done this trip each year in mid May. It is a great family trip and also a good trip for beginning paddlers. The Namekagon River Visitor Center has always been extrememly helpful to us. Please give them a call before you head out at 715-635-8346.

River paddling is a great way to connect with your friends and family! A captive audience!

 

Have any of you done this river? We would love to read your story and see your photos!

Canoeing, Rivers, Trip Planning

River #4 – Little Indian Sioux River, MN

June 11, 2009

The Little Indian Sioux River is mainly located in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  The most popular route on the river is traveling North off the Echo Trail.  For this trip we headed South, upstream (entry point #9). This was also a special trip because it was our first ever Father – Daughter trip.

The river is lazy and winding and there is minimal flow, so allow enough time in the day if you are going into Bootleg Lake. A few spots on the river were shallow, I would recommend doing the trip earlier in the Spring or after ample rains. The trip is
doable anytime of year, it just may take a little more effort. There are  two rapids to portage around in the first section, the first being a short 8 rod portage but an impressive “falls”. The second portage is longer, around a rocky stretch of rapids. You will probably encounter a beaver dam or two on this section.  After several miles we veered off onto the Little Pony River, a smaller, narrower river that leads into Bootleg Lake.

Bootleg is a quiet lake with 2/3 campsites. After one night on Bootleg, it was a portage back to the Little Indian Sioux River. We had heard stories about this portage being tough to find. We hugged the shoreline until we made out a path, I jumped out to scout it out, we were in luck, it was recently cleared by the US Forest Service (thank you)!  Double portaging allowed my Dad and I some bonding time (on the non-pack carrying leg).  The MVP from this trip was my Rambler Pack, which we used as our food pack. We hung it from a tree where it was rained on for 10 hours, the next morning it was dry!

Once back on the Little Indian Sioux we wound back and forth so many times I started to get dizzy!  On this section, I spotted my first muskrat, that followed us (or dodged us) several times. After several miles, we exited off the river, onto a long portage that brought us into windy Little Trout Lake.  After a brief respite on Little Trout Lake, we headed into Trout Lake and soon there after exited onto the small, serpentine Pine Creek that leads into Pine Lake.  There are a few long portages off this creek that lead to other less explored lakes but this creek is frequently used by fisherman from Trout Lake. Off of Trout Lake you have a small portage around some picturesque rapids. Pine Lake was the first time we didn’t have a lake or river completely to ourselves. We did enjoy our last night out with a late afternoon paddle around the lake.  At the far end of Pine Lake you can still see evidence of the timber industry, with abandoned railroad posts, from a former bridge, jutting out from the lake in an eerie pattern.

The last morning after another portage, we arrived at Trout Lake and our ride home. The trip was peaceful, with such unique landscape, I will definitely add this to my list to do again. Also, this river trip meant a great deal more to be able to share it with my Father. Thank you Dad for the company, and Happy Father’s Day!

Signed, the Cribbage Champ

Canoeing, Rivers, Trip Planning

River #3 – The Little Fork, Northern MN

May 28, 2009

The great thing about paddling rivers is not just seeking out the grand majestic Mississippi or St. Croix Rivers, but to explore smaller rivers near your home or off the beaten path.

That’s what we did this week. The Little Fork River is a smaller river that is located from the Minnesota and Canadian border and continues for about 100 or so miles. Smaller rivers often have little development which was the case with the Little Fork. We spent the day watching the various landscape of pine trees, farmland, and wooded banks. We followed a river otter for a half mile and watched several eagles and an owl!

The one “challenge” about paddling rivers is the shuttling. When you get out you need a way to get back to the beginning. We took two cars to the drop off, dropped off our canoe and locked it to a tree. Next we both drove to the take out and left a vehicle, then drove back to the put in with our gear, unlocked the canoe and took off.  Often, more popular rivers, will offer a shuttle service. In the past we have even locked a bicycle at the take out and someone biked back to the put in vehicle.

The sections we did had it all, slow quiet water, a few Class I rapids, two Class II rapids and a Class IV-VI Hannine Falls (which yes, we did portage). We lingered long enough to snap photos and a video.

 

Another important thing about rivers that I have mentioned before is, ALWAYS SCOUT RAPIDS.

Even if you have done the rapids a hundred times before, a downed tree, log, or other obstacle could have recently wedged its way into your path.  Remember, Get Out and Scout!

Canoeing, Rivers, Trip Planning

River #2 – A Trip Down the St. Croix

May 19, 2009

 

This weekend 7 of us (3 canoe teams) are heading down the St. Croix in WI & MN.
We had planned to start at the beginning of the river at the Gordon Dam, but low waters deemed this section “challenging”.

At the last minute we opted for a lower section, always check water levels before heading out. We put in at the C.C.C Bridge (a few miles north of Riverside Landing) and we took out at the St. Croix State Park Main Landing.This section is wild and scenic. It can get low so check water levels.  There are easy riffles and rapids and a steady flow. Campsites were very nice (watch out for ticks!)

Despite rain on the first night, snowflakes on the second morning, and 35 mph wind gusts, we all had a great time! Without portages you can bring along a cooler and treat yourself to great meals.  Each canoe team was responsible for their own breakfast, lunch and snacks. For two nights on the river, 2 teams each took a dinner, and the 3rd team provided dessert and an appetizer for each of the two dinner meals. We ate well!

The MVP’s of the weekend went to our tarps, with the rain and wind it made
camp-life bearable.  Runner-up went to our knee-high wader boots. It was so nice to have dry feet all weekend and to be able to get in and out of the canoe without having to be next to shore. Also, in low spots, it’s easy to jump out, pull the canoe along, and jump back in. Dry feet!

We saw a lot of eagles, herons, osprey, deer, owls and turtles! We only saw one other boat until the take out, we had the whole river to ourselves. The earlier you can plan a river trip the better. I would recommend the St. Croix as an easy beginner trip.