Inflatable Canoeing Adventures - Buy this eBook!

Most of us can relate to the fun we had canoeing at summer camp when we were young. But that was nothing compared to the experience of whitewater kayaking that came next for me. I have always loved canoeing, though it always seemed difficult to participate. It has only been in the last decade that the development of inflatable canoes has made a big difference. You can more easily access rivers, you can store a canoe in your car, you can even take them on a plane. They are very light, very cheap, with little loss of functionality. Perfect for weekends away or campervan holidays. Social networking was the other big change. You can now use Facebook, etc to join canoeing adventures in your local region or abroad.

Inflatable Canoeing Adventures - view the table of contents! Click here to download the table of contents for this eBook, available for just $US7.95.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Safety on the river

Inflatable canoeing I would suggest is safer than other forms of canoeing for a number of reasons, though the risks of rivers should never be under-stated. This accident report pertaining to the death of an 18 year old girl on a NZ grade 2 river highlights the negative perception attached to rivers. There are several important facets to safety on the river:
1. Awareness of river conditions - Research is required before entering a river. Most Western countries have a canoe guide, i.e. Whitewater NZ is available in most NZ libraries. Similar guides are available in other countries or states.
2. Awareness of river hazards - do you know where the difficult rapids are? Do you know the latest warnings? Has the river been in flood, perhaps presenting new risks after boulders or logs have moved? If you are unsure of how rivers work, you are less likely to anticipate risks.
3. Awareness of how river hazards or risk vulnerability can change - The river is a dynamic system; it is always changing. The changes can be gradual (as under normal water flow) or rapid (as in cases of flood), so if you are considering canoeing after a long time or after flood, you should consult local canoe groups, or scout rapids for risks.
4. Preparedness for conditions - Has there been a river flood lately? Do you know the river height, and how changes in river height impact the river.
5. Support in case of mishap - good if you have a cell phone or ready access to a road

Please read the following accident report to acquaint yourself with some of the risks of canoeing. On a positive note, some of the benefits of inflatables are:
1. A non-fixed canoe means there is more leeway for a person to escape if you are trapped between a canoe and a hard place, as an inflatable is less likely to deflate quickly
2. A non-fixed canoe is light so you are less likely to fall over and injury yourself, i.e. If you are portaging around a rapid or to/from the river.
3. A non-fixed canoe is far more comfortable to sit in because it is an air cushion offering you a greater range of seating or lying positions.

On the negative side:
1. Inflatables need to be pumped up - this can be exhausting if you are in a hurry or unfit. On one occasion my hand pump was wet, so it was very difficult to pump. There was resistance in the up and down stroke which made pumping tiresome. So avoid getting your hand pump wet. The other option is to use a foot pump or a car based unit.
2. Inflatables exposure your butt to the 'hardness' of rocks. If there is a very sharp protruding object like glass, street wire (protruding from concrete foundations perhaps), you are more exposed. I have hit rocks with enough force to feel a rock. In the canoe you have two layers of defence - the air chambers in the base of the canoe, and the air chambers of the air seat cushion. I have felt rocks barely though these layers of cushioning, so ensure you have adequate air pressure. I carry a pump on the river and pump up the canoe if I am waiting for others. It takes no time at all.
Andrew Sheldon

Biosecurity threat posed by inflatable canoes

Biosecurity warning for inflatable canoe users. Inflatable canoes are an excellent means by which to enjoy a river. They are particularly useful for recreational users or 'explorers' like myself who like the idea of pulling out a canoe from the car and running the river.
This convenience however should not discourage people from being responsible. Inflatables are a potential biosecurity hazard if they are not properly cleaned. Recreational canoeing poses a threat to wildlife is a canoe is taken from one river (region) to another, and more particular from one country to another.
In NZ there is currently no didymo in the North Island rivers, though the first occurrence was reported in the South Island rivers in 2004. The sad reality is that recreational fishermen and canoeing enthusiasts are leading the efforts to protect rivers. The flipside is the risk they pose to these rivers. I would suggest that inflatable canoes pose a particular risk.
When a fisherman stows his gear is is likely to dry out so the didymo is likely to die. A canoeist is similarly likely to dry out their wetsuit and other clothes, if not wash them. The prospect of spreading didymo is increased by inflatable canoes because:
1. The waterproof plastic can trap pockets of didymo (algae) laden water in the folds of the canoe
2. The waterproof plastic prevents evaporation and drying of the canoe

For more information on didymo in NZ refer to this brochure. Similar precautions should be taken in Australia and other countries. Island nations like Australia and NZ have for a long time been safe from such scourges. It would be nice to preserve them.

It is very easy to clean an inflatable. Simply follow the following steps:
1. Deflate or inflate the different pockets/compartments of the canoe away from the river
2. Wipe down the canoe with a dry cloth before and after your canoeing experience
3. Fold or unfold the canoe away form the river
4. Identify any water within the canoe and dry - both when stowing and unstowing your inflatable
5. After your canoe trip ensure you leave the inflatable to dry in the sun. I would suggest drying in a way which allows all water to drain out. After most water drains, after 30 minutes move the canoe to avoid water accumulation. You can do this at the river or at home for convenience.
6. Wash and dry the rag that you have used to clean the canoe
7. Remove any sendiment or leaf little that might accumulate in the inflatable.

The problem I have with this Didymo Awareness campaign to protect NZ rivers has been conducted is the lack of information in this brochure about cleaning your equipment, cand the lack of email contact info if you have questions, etc. Not everyone lives in the area. Travellers from overseas might want more information. After all this algae was spread to NZ by either Europeans visiting or NZ'ers returning home after a canoe or fishing trip in Europe.

These risks may apply to any river or country so its important to be aware of the general risks of using inflatables.
Andrew Sheldon

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Canoeing the Otaki River, Manuwatu Range, North Island, NZ

The Otaki River (grade II-III) is a lovely scenic river on the North Island of NZ. The river is an excellent introduction to grade 2-3 whitewater, and provides very good access if you need to exit the river prematurely. The river’s rapids are not huge, and are well-spaced for beginners. Some rapids comprise rock gardens, which will not bother the technically -competent canoeist, but otherwise present only a nuisance. Beginners should take care to avoid potential snags, where the river current flows around tight corners; taking the canoeist potentially through trees. It is a small risk for the skilled canoeist.
Otaki township is a good place to meet, as there are several cafes in the centre of town. There is an outdoors-canoe shop opposite two coffee shops. If you are interested, there is a community market every 1st and 3rd Sunday in the month.
The river access is from the south side of the town. Take the exit road East just south of the Otaki River and drive to the ‘Bridgeview’ Bridge. The exit point is right after the Kaitawa Rd turnoff/bridge. This is where you should leave your exit vehicle, as you will need to get back to the point of river entry. I suggest using a GPS waypoint to identify this location on the river, as its easy to miss the exit. If you can identify the bridge, the exit is just 10m from the top of the rapid on the left above the ‘Bridgeview’. Take care on the track up to the road as it is steep. I suggest carrying the canoe on your left shoulder to avoid falling/slipping off the slope/steps.
There are a number of places you can enter the river, as there are a number of bridges crossing the river. Otaki Forks and above presents good entry points. The entry point is actually not on the Otaki River but a tributary. We entered at a campground after a Dept of Conservation (DOC) gate, however this gate is sometimes locked. Regardless, anywhere around here provides a suitable entry. We canoed the river at a river level of 2.1m, though apparently higher water does not make much difference to the water grade, though it is faster. It tends to drown the rock gardens, making it easier to navigate. The rapids are grade 2-3, though they tend to be easy grade 3 because they are discrete rapids, and not particularly difficult technically. i.e. Large standing waves require some good balance.
Once again I used a Sevylor Tahiti inflatable canoe on this river and it was well suited to the conditions. The steep valley walls means that wind does not present a problem. The shallow gravel river also posed no difficulties. I think you could comfortably canoe this section in 2.5 -3 hours. We were in at 10am, and out by 2pm, however we were a large group and people were taking their time, playing in the rapids.
Andrew Sheldon

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Inflatable canoeing on the Manuwatu River, NZ

The Manuwatu River cuts its way through the Manuwatu Ranges, immediately NE of Palmerston North, 1 hour from Wanganui. The lower section described provides a suitable place to learn canoeing with instruction. The best support comes from one of the local clubs, or even scout groups for kids.
Entry point: There are two possible entry points.
The 1st entry is along the Masterton-Napier road crosses the river at Ngawarupoa(?). This upper section is grade 1-2, though it hosts a lot of willows, and for that reason good techical skills will be required to canoe this section. Entry to the river is easy because the river is crossed by the public road.
The 2nd entry for the second section starts just above the gorge. Coming from Palmerston North, there is a bridge as you emerge from the gorge, take a track off to the south. This track is through public common area. Drive along the track until you reach the river.

Our group mostly used fixed hull canoes and kayaks, however I was using my inflatable Sevlor Tahiti canoe. This river is not really suitable for inflatables in one respect - it is very windy under most conditions. The Manuwatu Ranges is home to many of NZ's wind farms. For this reason, it is not suitable. Contrary to expectation, the gorge area is not always sheltered from these winds, but can actually act as a conduit for them. If you are using an inflatable I suggest judging whether its better to follow the edge of the river (for shelter) or stay mid-stream to utilise the speed of the current. It is also advisable to use both seats, so your canoe sits lower, or to place a heavy carry bag in the front. Otherwise try to position yourself in the middle. If you sit at the back the front tends to catch in the wind. The more you can distribute your weight along the canoe the better. The less water in your canoe the better, so tip out any water if you stop. There were a few areas where we were fighting winds.

This gorge is not particularly scenic, though it was a good river to introduce my partner to canoeing. It was also a good opportunity to test two canoes that we had bought 2nd hand. Fortunately both worked, except for a slow leak in one compartment. Clearly the previous owner was too lazy to fit it. I have found you get a leak about one-in-ten times I go canoeing, and its easier to fix a leak than portage a fixed hull canoe around a rapid. Try slipping on some rock with a heavy canoe compared to a light air mattress.

If you are interested in learning more about how to canoe with inflatables - we have written an eBook on the topic - Inflatable Canoeing Adventures. We have used these Sevylor inflatables in Japan, NZ and Australia so far. The attraction is the functionality of the canoes, their lightness and compactibility, so you can pack them in the back of a car or even take them on a train, as I did in Japan. I think activity like canoeing adds an extra dimension to a holiday experience. i.e. Like mountain biking across the Himalayas. I'm not writing a book about that though...pity the sucker who does.

The following map provides location guidance.

View Canoeing trips in a larger map
Andrew Sheldon
Wanganui, New Zealand