I learned a few things on a four-day solo outing on Lake Powell (Lake Foul) in February. Most importantly, I learned that it is still possible for this 58-year-old non-fitness-oriented man to have a decent adventure and get some good exercise, all of which I can assure you I would NOT be having without Hobie’s Mirage Drive (I wouldn’t be kayaking at all, if it weren’t for the Mirage Drive). There is no way I personally would have attempted such a trip paddling or in a SINK.
Another thing was that it was indeed possible to go for four full days and never see another boat or another human soul. Later I learned this was because the patrol rangers were all at training and the saner public was scared off by the forecasts of high winds and snow.
This was my first time overnight camping in my new Adventure. I learned that, despite what many kayaking books and articles say, the overall weight of the loaded boat does indeed matter once on the water. I was rather heavily loaded, thinking the weight didn’t matter, and immediately found the difference. Instead of being able to average my usual 4mph over the day, I only managed 3mph, even without winds. This makes me yearn for a Kevlar Adventure. Next time I’ll leave a lot of unessential gear behind.
I went about 25 miles uplake from Bullfrog. Temps in the unseasonally warm 40s. Sandblasting winds at night, but the really bad forecasted winds in the day didn’t show up—until the third day, when they turned into unrelenting 25-35 mph headwinds. I had to make it home by the fourth day to get to work, so I knew I didn’t have the luxury of sitting things out. As I have learned before, you can sit out bad winds on Lake Foul for several days and never get a break. So I had to go through it.
I wasn’t overly concerned, since I’m experienced in waves (seems boring without them) and was well-prepared with the following (and happy to have every bit of it):
• Winter-weight polypropylene long underwear under a 3/2 full wetsuit with a 2.5 mm wetsuit jacket over that plus a paddling jacket and waterproof pants over that
• Neck gaiter, toque, and waterproof hat
• Neoprene gloves
• 5 mm wetboots, polypropylene liner socks, wool socks, SealSkinz Waterblocker waterproof/breathable socks (took off my shoes and outer socks at the end of the day and my feet were perfectly dry!)
• A 9-foot leash to tie myself to the boat (essential in the wind, to avoid having to watch your boat quickly blow away if you capsize!!)
• Two quick-release knives attached to my PFD
• Waterproof VHF with auto position reporting GPS on my PFD
• Harmony sea sponsons on the side for extra peace of mind (I carry these all the time, clipped on eyelets fixed for that purpose)
• Reentry stirrup affixed to an eyelet on the side and coiled at the ready (I use a 9-foot NRS river strap). In prolonged cold water immersion, strength in the arms is the first to go, and being able to use your legs to boost you up can make all the difference. Plus, for this old guy, it’s almost essential anyway.
The screaming winds seemed ridiculous at times, barreling down the alleys or squirreling in off the cliffs at odd angles, but the waves couldn’t get too big because they only had 2-3 miles of fetch in the longer exposed alleys, so they only reached three, maybe four feet, much smaller than they would be if I were on the ocean. (More open areas of the lake are more dangerous, with 6-foot waves.) But about every fourth wave went right over my head with 48-degree water. Curiously, I wasn’t cold except for my feet.
My previous experiences with attempting to paddle in strong winds were reconfirmed: I couldn’t do it without extreme effort. At one point I needed to get off a beach directly into the wind. I made it about 15 feet paddling and then got stopped. I quickly jammed in the Mirage Drive and motored away happily.
I made 14 miles in one 7-hour day with constant headwinds. It seemed a lot slower than that, crawling along those long, sheer cliffs, but still a lot of fun, in a perverse sort of way, with all that bashing about and a good story to tell (here). I couldn’t dare to take a rest, for I would have been blown back to my starting point. Eventually, as I tired, I found I could almost go to sleep. The Adventure, with the big sailing rudder, tracked so straight despite the headwind that I could lean my head back on the seat, close my eyes for a while, and only once in a while look up to give a small adjustment to the rudder.
I generally do not recommend kayaking on Lake Foul. It’s in a fantastic desert, but in the warmer season it can be a truely awful experience: oodles of lewd, crude, dangerous, drunk people whizzing about in high-powered craft with no concern for life or limb or decency. I count your chances of getting run over fairly high. Even if you survive, you are destined to camp in the now-65-foot-high “dead zone” of drowned and reexposed lakeshore in every houseboat’s dumped trash or fire pit, if you can find a campsite at all. But in February, chances are you’ll have it almost to yourself, and it is the closest water to my home where I can really stretch my legs.
If anyone can explain to me how to post images, I'll put up two or three. Bon voyage.
p.s. Winds can get freaky there. A park ranger told me about a houseboat that was moored with several lines in a canyon when a wind picked it up completely out of the water and dumped it back onto its top (http://www.performanceboats.com/pb-open ... owell.html
). In another incident, the front half of the park service patrol RIB was shoved down completely underwater by a freak gust.