Sunday, March 21, 2021

Small modifications equals big comfort?

Only 55 days/8 weeks remain until the big put-in on the Missouri River at Three Forks, Montana!  Most of my planning is complete and I'm way ahead of things (that thought actually panics me, I know I'm missing something on my to-do list!).  I thought I'd use a few of my upcoming weekly pre-trip posts to summarize the improvements I've made on my canoe since last September.

From the moment in 2011 that Scott Smith, owner and manufacturer of Superior Canoes, delivered my Superior Expedition (a closed deck solo rudder canoe), I've known there were little things that would make paddling her more comfortable.  I love the overall design and handling of the canoe and she's perfect for flat water trekking on big water like the Missouri River.  A long distance trip requires long periods of seat time and that's when a small inconvenience in the layout of the cockpit becomes a growing irritant.

Every time I've sat in the seat of my boat one glaring deficiency became immediately apparent, stowage and placement of small gear is severely lacking.  There's a built in map stow area to the left of the seat but no place to put a drink cup, GPS unit, weather radio, etc.  I didn't have time to work on ergonomics prior to my paddle down the Lower Missouri in 2011.  For the 2021 trip on the Upper Missouri I spent several months researching and installing upgrades to the cockpit.  A summary of what I've done follows.

Down River Stash Bag
• A Stash Pocket (see photo) from Down River for holding my marine radio and coffee cup/water bottle.  I considered other means of stowing items but the rudder cables that run past the cockpit seat are exposed.  The solution was to install an under deck line from which to hang the Stash Pocket.  Having a hot coffee at hand will totally rock the start of the paddling day!

GPS unit & UnderDeck Bag


• The UnderDeck Bag from North Water (see photo).  Compared to a kayak, the cockpit of the Superior Expedition is fairly open.  This allows for rapid stowage and removal of equipment but results in a large area of dead space ahead of the padder.  My setup uses the bag's quick-releases and a set of #2 Nite-Ize S-Biners to hang the UnderDeck Bag via rigging in the open cockpit.


 GPS Navigation & Safety:
• I continue to be amazed at the ease and convenience of handheld GPS units.  The downside, however, is that the small screen is hard to see while out on the open water.  This is exasperated by the fact that there's no place to set the GPS unit.  Usually I place the GPS on the canoe floor and either stoop or periodically pick up the unit when I need to view the screen; difficult tasks when paddling in strong wind or current.  My first thought for a solution was an under deck attachment and swing arm to mount the GPS unit.  That configuration, however, would be impede my paddle stroke; not a good solution.  It was clear that the best situation would be to mount the GPS unit between the paddler's legs with the screen in an elevated position.  To do so would require a glue mount thus creating an obstacle when egressing from the boat.

SidePort below seat
RailBlaza under seat extension arm for GPS

My solution (see photos) was to attach a RailBlaza arm on the underside of the canoe saddle/seat bottom using a SidePort mount.  The system extends forward between the paddler's legs where the GPS unit is attached to a Fish Finder Mount.  When entering and exiting the boat the GPS/Fish Finder can be set aside so its not obstructing the padder's movement.  We'll see how well this system works on test paddling outings in the next few weeks...

Cockpit facing to stern

Seat, removable GPS mount, map stowage

• For my 2011 trip I purchased set of Navisafe Portable Navigation Lights.  I wanted to be prepared for any needed night paddling situation (due to escaping hot weather, strong winds, etc.).   

My Navisafe lights attach via strong magnets through the boat deck.  The result is a precarious assembly that can easily be knocked loose.  My solution was to modify my lights by attaching their magnetic base to a RailBlaza Attachment Adapter.  This gives a firm mount while allowing the light to be removed when not in use.  The mount for the front tri-color light is a RailBlaza QuickPort (see photo) while the rear (white) Navilight 360ยบ is mounted using a RailBlaza Expanda Track (this allows threading of the rudder elevator line –– see photo).

Rear light over rudder rope
Front tri-color light

That's enough for now.  Look for upcoming posts about decals, hull protection, sail installation, electronics/communication package, food, and my equipment list.

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