The Zen of Canoe and Kayak Rigging


There is a lot more involved with canoe/kayak racing and expeditions than training up, getting the right gear and hitting the water. Many outside of our communities know little or nothing about rigging. This are the changes and additions a paddler makes to their craft to smooth the sharp corners of the experience and allow the racer or explorer to focus more on racing or exploring. For instance, I add battery powered bilge pumps to almost all my racing boats and the cockpit of my expedition kayak. So, if I take a wave or if for a myriad of other reasons my canoe or kayak fills with water, a simple flick of a switch and all the water inside the boat is pumped out. All the while I can be paddling. This is really great in rough seas as well as on a river where stiff gunnel-t0-gunnel competition means lots of paddle splashing into boats.

I also spend a great amount of time adjusting seat height, angles and padding, which means I can be as comfortable and efficient as possible for the best strokes. Foot braces require some honing, lights need to be installed for night racing and jug holders are glued in within easy reach for hydration without losing a valuable stroke. Installation/adjustments of rudder or changing a fragile factory rudder with a bomb-proof custom rudder worthy of being dragged over rocks during a fast portage is a must.

All the rigging necessary for racing and expeditions would require an entire book, so what I wanted to convey is that while some consider rigging to be drudgery, I really enjoy it. I get a few cold drinks and set the boat on sawhorses under a shade tree in my backyard, then get some tunes going and drag out all my rigging tools and supplies. This is a conglomeration of tubs and containers holding valuable pieces andparts that I may use “someday” and then, surprisingly, I actual do. Over the three decades of canoe racing and one decade of expedition paddling, there are some tried and true riggings that I have come to rely upon.

When repeating these tasks, I improve upon them, subtly and with a slight difference, based upon what when right or wrong during the last race or expedition. Once completed, and I have a fully rigged boat, I feel stronger and more equipped to take on whatever obstacle was thrown in my face during my most recent race or expedition. What comes to mind is that post-apocalyptic trimaran piloted by Kevin Costner in the movie “Waterworld”. It looked like a piece of junk, but when it was needed for some quick action, he had it rigged and ready to fly.

Captain Kevin obviously spent the same hours under a similar proverbial shade tree as mine, honing, experimenting, trial/error and succeeding to eliminate variables obstructing his goal.

This morning, I sauntered out into the dewey wet grass in bare feet with my insulated stainless steel camping cup of joe and started tinkering and rigging. By lunch, the new pump was installed, new and stronger jug holders, boat numbers, foot brace and bow handle – all ready to race. Not only will I have a great time at the race, but I really had a nice time rigging.

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