Friday, June 26, 2015

Yakety Yak, Float On Back

First, to get this stuck in your head:

Of course it's the Tiny Toons version. I'm not an animal...

As some of you may know, we recently went on a trip to Alaska. Aside from discovering that we would rather go to Alaska for vacation than any beach, we were also able to take advantage of many of the amazing outdoor tours that our Princess Cruise had available. One such tour was a kayaking tour of Ketchikan's Clover Pass.

Scott and I have always loved kayaking. When we were on our honeymoon in Key West, he surprised me with a 9am Kayak tour between the Keys. It was punctuated by meeting some fun people and having a tour guide that literally abandoned her boat to show us conchs, sea slugs, and hidden passages. Ever since, we have talked about getting some boats of our own.

The Alaskian tour with Southeast Exposure really stressed just how amazing being on the water can be. We circled Eagle Island (Spoiler: covered in bald eagles) and came around to an area called Seal Cove where we were greeted by a curious pair of eyes barely emerging from the water (unfortunately, not pictured).

Aside from the environmental exploration, there was also the newness of the equipment we used. The boys were in a two person kayak, which we'd never attempted before.

I managed to talk myself into a one person kayak (I used the birthday excuse). This was my second time in an ocean kayak, but my first time wearing a spray skirt.

By time we had gotten on the bus to go back to the ship, we were already talking about purchasing our own kayaks once we returned to our own great state. Once our bags were in our house and our pups retrieved from their "puppy summer camp", it was kayak research time.

I began where anyone would; I messaged my friend who owns a kayak and asked where he got his. Alex responded by including the brand name, length, price, and of course, color (yellow). I looked it up online and tried it in the store.

The Future Beach Fusion 10.0 kayak is a solid basic yak. It has a non-waterproof storage hatch that is common in many of the less expensive boats. Scott and I went to the store to sit in it (something that I read online was a must, second to actually getting it out on the water). To me, it felt a little wide. I wasn't the biggest fan of the seat, either, which had received mixed reviews and a, "Oh, it's a piece of crap" from Alex.

My next interest was in a Pelican Maverick 100X. This boat came in my favorite color (green) and had some fun storage features I thought might be nice while on the water. Here is the Future Beach (left) and the Maverick (right) next to each other at Dick's.

The Maverick was the same length as the Future Beach (10 ft), but also included extra hatches and a built in dry area. I liked the fact that I could just turn around and retrieve a dry bag from the bungie net area. The seat also won real points, along with the thigh/knee protectors.

All of the reviews were optimistic, so I kept my eye on this guy for a week or two. I was able to talk it over with other people who kayaked in the area, and was met with some tough love. It equated to, "It's a two piece hull. That's not a great idea".

Apparently kayaking down some areas of creeks and streams can lead to getting stuck on rocks, or hitting rocks while doing a slightly "splashier" section of a river. The stress that this puts on the boat means that having a single piece hull is a more reliable bet, especially when repairs for two piece boats splitting are not only not covered by the warranty, but very difficult to get fixed.

The search continued.

I did look at other dealers, such as REI, Caleba's, and Bass Pro Shops, but their selection was either out of our price range or non existent. Besides, we have none of those places here in Lexington, so it would be at least an hour drive to Louisville before I could even sit in one, possibly to find that I didn't like it.

After researching more on their website, I found one that really caught my eye. They had a Perception Swifty 9.5 at Dick's Sporting Goods. Perception is a brand that I had seen many times in my research as a top brand with many different types of boats. After checking out many positive reviews, we once again stopped by the store to awkwardly sit in one while obviously on dry land.

It was everything that I had been looking for! Single piece solid hull, storage, comfortable cockpit size, and a comfortable seat. The half foot shorter hull length meant that it wouldn't track as straight as a ten foot boat in flat water, but it would be more maneuverable in small rapids, which is an option that I really liked. It seemed that I had found my boat (and at $350, the price was certainly right). After another week of research, reviews, and youtube testimonials, I was ready to bring it home.

Unfortunately, we do not have a roof rack on our Nissan (and after a call to the dealership, a factory rack cannot be installed on our model. Super. Lame.), so we had to look into a different solution till we can get our other roof rack option.

That's right. A pool noodle cut in two pieces and a set of cinch straps. It works quite well for now, even making it home from Northern Kentucky on the highway at 70 MPH (Seriously. I set the cruise control and just rode it home.) Not shown are the safety leashes we add to the front and back handles that are attached to the car in case it slides, slips, or falls. It's not going anywhere with our current rig, but a roof rack will make that entire process easier. It'll also allow us to get Scott's boat, which we can't currently transport, so we haven't gotten it yet.

Once the boat was dismounted, it was time to do some light customization. I began by adding some stickers. One for the most amazing cajun food in town, Bourbon and Toulouse, on the back. My Kayak Alaska and Alaska state sticker on the front.

I lightly sanded the area I wished to attach them, then wiped the area down with rubbing alcohol. I then applied the sticker, got rid of air bubbles, and hit it with a hair dryer to heat up the adhesive a bit. I only took these steps because I had been warned that the water would take them off almost immediately, but after three trips, they haven't moved an inch. So far, so good.

Something else that's good are my makeshift knee protectors. They are made of pool noodles and are great for bracing yourself when you paddle. I hope to get proper silicone ones, but for now, this is certainly doing the job.

A couple of dry bags were also purchased to hold belongings. There is a hatch, but it is not a dry hatch. I have considered modifying it, but I am in no rush.

Shot from inside the hatch toward the back of the seat. Behind the camera is a float block.

I took it on a quick run to Jacobson State Park the day after purchase and gave it a good run around the lake. It was very comfortable, easy to maneuver,  and I had little trouble getting it on and off the car by myself.

The next day, I went paddling with Alex at Elkhorn Creek in Frankfort. It proved to be a great day in a great boat.

So now I'm just enjoying it. Kayaks were always something that we had brushed off as something that was something you do when you visit places. Now, we can go out whenever we have a free day and take advantage of the beautiful Kentucky waterways that are all around us. I can't wait for Scott to get his so we can have all kinds of weekend adventures. Someday, we might even see how the pups might feel about joining us.

Till then, I'm just enjoying the time I have to paddle this summer. Storage was simple and has worked quite well, too.

We attempted to take part in the Cincinnati Paddlefest, but were rained out till August 1st.

At least August 1st, you know where we will be...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Story of Three Kubb Sets

One day while on Pinterest, I came across this person who had created this cool outdoor game set and I decided to look into it. Though I can't find the image now, it was full of brightly colored blocks and copper pipes. The game was called Kubb.

Since then, I have learned to play and made three sets.  Hopefully after reading this, you'll be interested in making your own set and enjoying it as much as we've enjoyed ours.

To begin, a short video. I really liked this one because it took you through the rules step by step. If you would like more regulation rules, you can always check out the Kubb National Championship page and download the official ones.

Now that you see how incredible fun it is, it's time to make your own set. We decided to try this over Easter weekend while we were at my parents house in Tennessee (this information comes into play later).

We began by purchasing a non-pressure treated 4x4 and two 1.5 in dowels. Together, at a TN Lowes, these materials cost about $15.

We then proceeded to start cutting our pieces. The measurements are as follows:

10 Skulls= 6 inches tall each
1 King= 1 foot tall
6 Femurs (batons)= 1 foot long each

Once those cuts are made, technically you're finished.

We played a couple of rounds with the set like this to make sure we even liked the game (because we had never actually played it before). It's pretty safe to say that if you're a fan of lawn games, this one is a safe bet as a quick favorite.

But of course, what are a bunch of blank blocks if not excuses for decoration! And these sets lend themselves to being sculpted, painted, and generally personalized to your hearts content. We ran ours through Dad's lathe and took a sander to them to de-bur them.

Once they were finished, they certainly had more personality.

Once we brought them home to KY, I began experimenting with staining them. This was a mistake on my part, as I didn't have a clear idea as to what I wanted them to look like. The stain was a failure, so I ended up having to paint them. This is where I admit that I should have just polyed the set and not tried to do any staining or painting.

They didn't turn out too badly painted. If you decide to paint yours, I recommend a primer (especially since this is raw wood). In the image below, you can see a primed Skull behind the finished Skull.

Things that I have learned since painting my Kubb set:
  • The paint will not look good after your first game or two
  • The paint exchange between the Femurs and the Skulls is significantly greater the more paint that is involved.
This being my first set, though, I was able to learn these lessons before moving on to the next two that I made.

One was for our friend Alex, who had come over and played with us and had a blast. His birthday was coming up and I thought that a set would be a great gift (and it is!).

Remember when I said the fact that we were in TN when we bought the supplies for our last set was important? Yeah, they don't sell untreated 4x4s in Kentucky (or at least in our area). I needed to find another solution.

It occurred to me that the guy in the video above had used redwood timber to make his set. I decided to give that a try. It was cheaper than the untreated TN 4x4, but the 1.5 Femurs would end up being more expensive by at least $5. Different areas have different materials, and sometimes radically different prices. These are just things to consider if you're trying to follow my instructions to the letter.

I clear coated the redwood King and Skulls and gave the Femurs a fun orange striped paint job. Second set: Completed.

Third set:

I was commissioned to create a set for someone for Father's day. It was fun, because I was given a lot of creative freedom. I was told two things: I would like to pay $X for a Kubb set and he really likes the Reds.

Done and Done.

I cut my pieces after sanding the redwood to a slightly less splintery texture, then proceeded with a pretty Reds-tastic paintjob. Everything was then covered in three coats of poly. So far, it's probably my favorite set, even though I'm not a huge baseball fan.

The inspiration was the Scripps Building in downtown Cinci which I had only just observed a couple of days earlier. It was practically the King of the Cinci Kubb-set-like skyline.

I hope that this little story tutorial has gotten you interesting in an outdoor game that everyone can enjoy. I've played it with everyone from my parents in their backyard to random strangers at Keeneland while tailgating. It's an instant classic that will fit in with those cornhole and redneck golf sets.

Good luck creating your own sets! Let me know if you make one (or two...or three...) and I will post your pictures on the bottom of this blog!

Here is the set my Dad made!