The first change I had to make was the kneeling block. I needed some high density foam, but a Google search returned so many different variants. A lot of options had trade names and others described the material composition. I eventually found some blocks on Ebay (where else!) described as “High Density Closed Cell Foam Block Buoyancy Canoe Kayak 285mm X 185mm X 75mm”. At £6.99 each and free delivery, I bought two.
So, how does one scoop out a knee and shin shaped hole? How deep should it be?
Whilst my wife was out, I used one of her best dining knives to start it off, making sure I cleaned it and put it back before she returned. It has a fine serrated edge to the blade which cuts the foam really well.
I then used my Dremel grinder to gradually improve the shape making the knee bit deeper than the shin support, which slopes downwards towards the front.
I thought a flat surface on the “floor” along the length of the boat would be required. What I hadn’t realised at this point, is that racing high-kneeling C1s need this because they don’t have a very flat floor to start with.
So, I decided to remove the flat floor and benefit from lowering the centre of gravity by a few centimetres. I used better quality Velcro on the floor of the boat to secure the kneeling block, and grip tape also stuck directly to the floor for the leading foot.
I designed a much simpler board to support a wider trailing foot stop and did away with one of the securing brackets.
This really improved the stability and I discarded the wet suit, but not the BA.
I have started to use the pound on the K&A just upstream from Marsh Benham. It is a short section with good portage points. There is no sewage outfall and it is reasonably easy to get out if necessary.
I’ve got the time down to 6:45 minutes but progress tends to be a big stroke forward and then I loose most of the forward momentum regaining balance with support strokes and straightening the direction. However, it is improving and I haven’t got wet………..yet.
I am clearly leaning too far forward as the pain up the outside of my leg all the way up the thigh increases during a paddle. I can ease it by putting more weight on the knee, but there is so much to think about at the same time, and multi-tasking is not something blokes are particularly good at.
Getting in and out is also a challenge. It’s not too bad when the bank is on the paddle side of the boat and you can push off, allow the paddle to drop on to the water surface and put in a stroke. However, when the paddle is on the water side of the boat, how can you push off and hold the paddle at the same time?
I expect that a competent paddler uses a fluid motion of stepping from the bank into the boat and using that momentum to push the boat off, but I need to establish balance first.
The same applies when approaching the portage, and I sort of launch myself at the first convenient secure surface on the bank and hold on.
Unfortunately there is no substitute for practice, and there is no point being coached or advised until you have mastered the basics. I am hoping for a long, hot summer.