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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Test Paddling the Tarpon 140

Usually, when a person insinuates that they've outgrown their kayak, they mean they've become so technically experienced and skillful that they've exhausted the capacities of their particular model and are ready for a more advanced craft. But in my case, I've literally outgrown my kayak (thanks carbohydrates and saturated fats) so that when I set sail now, it looks like I'm the commander of a submarine.

So last week I reserved a Tarpon 160 for a test paddle, thinking that, hey it's November, and the Columbia River Gorge up around The Dalles ought to provide the ideal choppy-water test environment.

But not only did I have to settle for a Tarpon 140, about the only wave I saw all day was the three or four that were produced from this tug and barge assembly.

The Tarpon 140 is a 'sit on top' kayak which I guess is kind of like saying it isn't really a kayak. What it looks like it has going for it is a back deck (not pictured) that looks like it could easily carry an ice chest with 144 ice cold beers...

...and a cup holder. 

But the other attractive thing about sit-on-top kayaks is not being encased in a tiny cockpit. While it is true that the sitting arrangement in a more traditional sea-kayak is designed to make you one with the boat - to facilitate instinctive responses to wind, wave and gravity - the sit-on-tops often allow alternative postures, like 'cowboy', 'side-saddle', ...and in some cases even standing up (not 'doggy' so much), not to mention quick exits (sometimes much quicker than you'd think). For instance, I paused in the middle of the Columbia for a picnic lunch under the warm November sun, turning sideways to reach my cooler, legs dangling in the cool (O.K., cold) water, preparing turkey and smoked Gouda cheese on crackers and drinking an (unfortunately) vinegary Riesling (almost perfection). 

It is no small thing to be able to instantly bail out of your boat (which is not the same thing as 'bailing out your boat' which you also don't have to do with a sit-on-top owing to something called scupper holes), in my case to take occasional treks inland for photos, something I'm increasingly reluctant to do in my other kayak.

Geysers of tall grass erupt out of the scorched earth.

Click on images to see slightly larger versions

To me, it seemed easier to put the boat up on edge for maneuvering (I think because the seat is higher it's almost like having leverage) but I suspect it is also easy to lean too far, and that's a hypothesis that I'll probably explore more fully in the summer. I was hopeful that the Tarpon 140's 14 foot length would still make it a noticeably faster, easier boat to paddle (that's why I wanted the 16 foot version), but if it is, it is a small increment up from my 12.5 foot boat. 

I am still not in any danger of growing tired of this scenery.

Last time I rounded this corner into Hell's Gate, I had a visually painful journey squinting into the setting sun, devising methods to tack against the photon stream without going blind. So this time I launched considerably earlier...but forgot about the loss of daylight savings time. 

...and yet a merciful cloud covered for me with a fortuitous eclipse (An odd coincidence that had me wondering if it was probably just me playing with gravity from a 5th dimensional tesseract some time in the future).

It's like,
The sun exits,
sighs with relief,
and sun breath ripples across the water
reminding various ducks
and kayakers
it's night-time
be vigilant
or relax


Click on images to see slightly larger versions

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