Wednesday, August 12, 2009

41 North Participates in Sustainability Summit

This week, approximately 500 business, civic, and community leaders are gathering in downtown Cleveland for the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit. To goal is to develop a 10-year action plan that will support business growth and protect the environment. Among the participants is Jason Bristol, co-owner of 41 North Kayak Adventures, who hopes to stress the critical role clean water, healthy beaches, and an accessible Lakefront with opportunities for outdoor recreation can play in revitalizing city life.

For more information on Sustainable Cleveland 2019 check out the following links:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Backcountry Barista

There's nothing quite like enjoying a cup of well-brewed coffee in the wilderness. For me, it's not a luxury, but a necessity for jumpstarting my morning. As with all my food choices for sea kayaking trips, I try to strike a balance between ease of preparation, weight savings, minimal clean-up, and taste.

Since I'm a stickler for a good cup 'o joe, I've tried just about every imaginable method for backcountry brew. Here's a quick run down on how to get the best caffeine fix on your next multi-day trip.

GSI Java Press

Even in civilization there are a large contingent of cafephiles that swear a French Press is the best way to brew coffee. So, it shouldn't be surprising that a lightweight Lexan press would result in a pretty good cup of brew.

GSI Outdoors--maker of all sorts of camp kitchen equipment--makes a Lexan Coffee press that comes in 10oz, 33oz, and 50oz sizes. Add a tbsp of coarsely ground coffee to the press. Pour boiled water (but allow it to rest a bit to come down in temperature) from your campstove over the grounds so they are completely saturated as you fill the press to the fill line. Let it sit a bit until a foamy "bloom" forms on the top. At that point, plunge the filter down slowly and steadily. Then pour your cups.


You get great flavor, but there's a price to pay. First, is output. Even the 50oz size will only produce roughly 4 12oz cups of coffee. If you're in a group, you'll be serving in batches. Another problem is the waste generated. Grounds need to be scooped out, then packed out with your garbage. The Press itself doesn't weigh much, but does take up some space, an issue if you're low on storage space in your kayak.


Ease of Use = B
Flavor Factor = A
Quick Clean-Up = C-
Output to Effort Ratio = D

The Coffee Sock

This little contraption is basically a cotton or hemp filter with a drawstring closure that you soak in a pot of hot H20. The sock takes up little or no space and can be stored right with your coffee. Simply place a coffee sock with 1 tbsp of coffee per cup of water in the pot. Let sit and serve. You can produce a decent quantity with just one filter.


Flavor tastes like coffee from a sock. Clean up is a pain, and you have to pack out your spent coffee grounds.


Ease of Use = A
Flavor Factor = D
Quick Clean-Up = C
Output to Effort Ratio = B

Single Cup Filters

Miniature filters that enable you to attempt to replicate a drip coffee machine right in your own mug. The include plastic and metal filter versions. If you drip in slowly, flavor can be alright. Clean up involves tapping out ground, then swishing with water.


Better flavor than a coffee sock, but the single serving aspect means that unless everyone in your group has their own filter, there will be a queue of caffeine-deprived campers staring at you as you prepare your brew.


Ease of Use = A
Flavor Factor = B
Quick Clean-Up = C
Output to Effort Ratio = B

Brew Bags

Brew Bags are teabag style filters that can be purchased in the coffee aisle.
Just like tea, you simply boil water and jiggle the bag in the cup. One brew bag per cup.


Flavor is terrible. This is partly because the method doesn't bring out the best in the coffee, but also because the companies that produce the stuff tend to make pretty flavorless coffee to start with. If you like watered-down coffee of the ilk that you get in the waiting rooms of your local tire store, then you'll be happy with this stuff.


Ease of Use = A
Flavor Factor = D
Quick Clean-Up = A-
Output to Effort = A

Cowboy Coffee

Forget filters. Simply pour coffee into a pot of boiled water and let sit. Methods for filtering out grounds range from dropping a little cold water over the top to force grounds to the bottom of the pot; "slinging" the coffee pot (this works only with a proper tea kettle with a lid and handle) in wide circles so that centrifugal force pushes the grounds to the bottom; or pouring through a bandanna.


Tastes like boiled coffee, with the added joy of picking out grounds from your teeth for the duration of the morning. Clean-up and plenty of waste produced. Also, pouring off hot water, filtering through a bandanna, and especially "slinging" all come with the potential for second-degree burns. Blatant sexism: don't cowgirls drink coffee too?


Ease of Use = B
Flavor Factor = C-
Quick Clean-Up = D
Output to Effort = B

Instant Coffee: Mt. Hagen Organic v. Starbucks Via

Freeze-dried instant coffee is the obvious choice for simplicity, but up until recently the taste was so bad as to make it a last resort. More recently, a number of fuller bodied instant coffees have made their way to the market. Mt. Hagen makes an organic instant coffee that isn't too bad. But I was very impressed when I was able to try a sample of Starbuck's new Via Instant Coffee. Available only in Chicago, Seattle, and London at present, you can order online. The price is a little more than other instant coffee; the Mt. Hagen sells for around $8 a jar and produces 60 cups while Starbucks Via is $10 for 12 cups.


Mt. Hagen, add a teaspoon to a cup of hot water and serve. Starbucks Via comes in single serve pouches.


For Mt. Hagen, the flavor is better than every other method except the French Press. For Starbucks, the flavor--in my opinion--is better than all the other method; price is the only drawback. Each cup will cost you $0.83. Not bad compared to the $1.75 you'd pay for a cup at Starbucks, but still much higher than the $0.13 per cup for Mt. Hagen.


Ease of Use = A+
Flavor Factor = Mt. Hagen: B+ v. Starbucks: A
Quick Clean-Up = A+
Output to Effort = A


For my trips I'm now leaving the French Press behind and packing in Starbucks Via. With the weight and space I'm saving, I'll be able to have room for an extra bottle of wine...but that's a subject for a future blog.

Happy paddling!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thirty mile per hour current isn't that bad! Just don't get out of the boat...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Return from Pictured Rocks

A group of seven paddlers from 41 North paddled Grand Island and Pictured Rocks for seven days. During this time the group experinced near perfect weather, were exposed to Bald Eagles, Loons, Herons, Ducks, and Bears.

For more read on.

The group left Munising Tourist Campground and began paddling around Grand Island on our way to Trout Bay.

While enroute to Trout Bay we passed the Light House across from Sand Point. The Government abandoned the house many years ago. Recently a private group purchased the lighthouse and has began to restore it.

As the group progress along Grand Island the cliffs began to rise.

Even on Grand Island the cliff faces began to show some of the coloring of the area.

As the day progressed and the temperatures rose we stopped to play in the falling water often.

We also got to cruise through a number of sea caves throughout the week.

Two happy paddlers after rock gardening.

There was time for play and rock/cliff jumping.

One of the many unique formations we encountered during the week.

A view through the arch at Lovers Leap.

A view of the Mosiquito river and Beach. We all discovered that camping at sites along Pictured rocks was very different than camping on Grand Isle.

View from the beach of our last night before returning to Munising.

I found it very difficult to do justice to a weeks worth of adventure in these paddling areas in a short blog. We took over a hundred pictures each worthy of being in this blog. I hope you would talk to one of us on the trip and ask questions as I know I was effected and improved by this trip and the people on it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

"Kink-Free" Skegs by P&H

Last year, P&H launched their new "kink-free" skeg system. The system combines the best of both worlds: the ease of maintenance of a rope skeg with the precise trimming found in cable skegs. Moreover, the system is lightweight and fully field maintainable. While some kayak companies are making things more complicated (pneumatic skegs, for instance), I think the P&H approach of simple solutions for simple problems makes a great deal of sense.

Like anything new, however, there's a bit of a learning curve involved as people learn how the new technology functions. In my travels this summer, I've come across a few paddlers who've said they find the new skeg difficult to deploy. As it turns out, every one of those individuals was engaging the click slider on the skeg the wrong way. As soon as I showed them the correct technique (pushing forward to unlock the slider, not squeezing the trigger!), they were thrilled.

To get the word out, I put together this little video going over the system, how to deploy it, and how to adjust the tension on the skeg. Considering I was able to remove and replace the skeg system with one hand, while filming with my digital camera in the other, I'd say it's pretty easy...even for a guy with two left thumbs like me! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thermoformed Kayaks Reviewed

Thermoformed Kayaks: The new material to revolutionize paddle sports, or just white noise?

While there are a number of kayaks made from thermoformed plastic (e.g, Perception/Dagger's Airalite and Eddyline's Carbonlite 2000) the overall popularity of the boats for performance use appears to be limited and I, being one to always want to test things for myself, recently had the chance to paddle a number of these boats and after a little research have come up with a sort of pros and cons view on these kayaks.

I recently put thermoformed kayaks from Eddyline and Hurricane Kayaks to the test.

The Product(s): The first kayak I paddled was the new Eddyline Fathom LVand while I had my doubts about the boat before taking it out I was thoroughly impressed with the boat from start to finish. The first thing I noticed when I picked it up was how light it was. At 15 and a half feet the boat weighs only about 45 pounds. Unlike some of the earlier thermoform boats I had paddled in the past the Fathom had remarkably little of the flex that is normally associated with thermoformed boats. The other boats I paddled were the Eddyline Falcon (18' 50lbs) and Nighthawk 16 (16", 49 lbs), both of which I was equally pleased with, and a Hurricane Kayaks Tracer 16.5 (16'6", 46 lbs ) and Tracer 15.5.

The Pros: Thermoformed plastic seems to have hit the proverbial nail on the head as far as quality in initial product goes. Along with my testing of these boats I questioned seasoned paddlers about their own views and skepticism's of thermoformed boats and while a number of concerns were brought up the predominant flag was excessive flex in the boats' hulls. While thermoform boats do have more flex then a fiberglass or composite boat their overall strength is quite formidable. As testimony to the strength and durability of the material you will find that most new cars no longer have heavy steel bumpers but a thermoformed piece of plastic instead and if that isn't enough proof then feel free to watch this video of blatant abuse to the hull of an Delta Kayak:

Thermoformed kayaks in addition to being lightweight have the added attraction of being considerably less expensive (between 2400 and 2800 dollars for touring boats) than the typical fiberglass or composite boat which runs between 3000 and 4500 dollars. Also unlike the typical rotomolded polyethylene plastic kayak the thermoformed plastic kayak is much easier to repair once some substantial damage such as an actual hole is inflicted. Yet another lesser, but still beneficial feature is the UV fade protection included in many thermoformed plastics.

The Cons:Now to the bad news... while the benefits of the thermoformed boat are numerous and impressive the boats as a collective group have some considerable downfalls, the most notable being not all thermoformed boats are created equal. While companies like Eddyline have worked out nearly all of the problems with the material more recreation oriented companies like Hurricane Kayaks have produced less than top notch products ie: the Tracer 16.5 & 15.5 which I also paddled and found to have an unacceptable amount of flex throughout the entire boat, effecting its performance. This flex was also present in the thigh braces, making edging uncomfortable and unstable. The next downfall comes in the event of damage resulting in a leak. While the boats are easy to repair you will need to have a rep. make the repair in most cases and the more significant problem arises when water gets between the different layers of plastic allowing liquid to work its way to all parts of the boat and cause future problems.

The Breakdown:The bottom line is that these kayaks--with continued improvement--might revolutionize the kayaking world...but not just yet. Sorry if you were looking for decisiveness. The fact of the matter is these boats need work (some more than others, * cough cough*) in certain areas. However for the most part thermoformed boats should appeal to a wide variety of people such as those who are worried about weight for solo loading but don't want to put out the dough for a kevlar boat, or for those who need a boat that has some of the performance characteristics of a fiberglass boat but don't need the price attached to them. Overall I think thermoformed boats will gain prevalance in the upcoming years but for many hardcore/old-school paddlers fiberglass will remain the standard.

Product Pics & Links:

Eddyline Fathom LV:

Eddyline Nighthawk 16:

Eddyline Falcon S18:

Hurricane Kayaks Tracer 16.5:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Human-Powered Cities!

Too much carbon monoxide for me to bear.
Car after bus after car after bus
after this my lungs will be so f***ed up.

Cake, "Carbon Monoxide"

This has nothing to do with kayaking, except in the sense that all human-powered vehicles share a certain kinship. Check out this short film about Bogota, Columbia's "Ciclovia." Each Sunday, the city closes 90km of roads to cars, and opens them up to cyclists, skaters, and walkers. I was struck by the way communities are transformed (re-formed?) when their residents aren't simply speeding past each other at 40mph. Cleveland gets a mention here for its own small steps in this direction, the "Walk and Roll Cleveland" movement...but this film shows what could be possible.

MLK Boulevard will be closed for cars on August 24th. Now if we can only close our Lakeshore to jet-skis every Sunday, that'd be some progress!