Kayaking the Great Salt Lake, June 1 2013

Dave

Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
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Joined
May 5, 2012
Messages
1,722
Ask anyone who grew up along the Wasatch Front about the Great Salt Lake and they'll mention bugs or the notorious "lake stink" smell. In the minds of most, the lake is the toilet bowl of the Great Basin. But if you look hard enough, there exists an odd sort of beauty to it. Growing up in south Davis County, I was able to witness more than one epic Great Salt Lake sunset.


Buckland Flat by ashergrey, on Flickr

The puddle, a remnant of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville, is a major migratory stop-over point for millions of waterfowl. Several of the smaller islands in the lake serve as rookeries. The most easily accessible of these is Egg Island, a small rock outcropping not far from the larger and much better-known Antelope Island.

During low water, it's possible to walk or wade from Antelope Island over to Egg, but state park rules prohibit setting foot on it. Paddlers can skirt the shores by way of the Antelope Island marina with little effort. It seemed a good destination for the rechristening of my skin-on-frame kayak.

Dark clouds of brine flies walled the causeway on the drive to the maria. Swarming curtains of them rose at least seven feet high. They painted the front of the car, along with everything else in their path, black.

IMG_1773.JPG


Soon after putting on the water, the engine of an F-16 from Hill Air Force Base roared over head. I craned my neck, looking ahead of the sound to catch the warbird rocketing west. Moments later, two others pursued it through the crystal-blue over the green lake, likely heading for the Utah Test and Training Range.

Float 1920.jpg


Thousands of birds floated as far as I could see in any direction. They flapped and squawked as I bobbed nearby, or dove under the surface to avoid my passing.


Red-Necked Phalarope by ashergrey, on Flickr


Double-crested Cormorant by ashergrey, on Flickr


American White Pelican by ashergrey, on Flickr

Gulls, grebes, herons and pelicans either call Egg Island home or stop over on their journeys between the arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. They swarmed the rocks like ants on a hill.


Crooked Neck by ashergrey, on Flickr


Black-Crowned Night Heron by ashergrey, on Flickr


California Seagull by ashergrey, on Flickr

With time to burn, I paddled back east toward the marina. Off to the south, the thump-thump-thump of rotor blades reverberated off Frary Peak. A UH-60 Blackhawk appeared from behind the island.

Blackhawk.jpg


It chugged north up over the marina, turned two low circles there then shot overhead to the north-east, doubtless bound for Hill.

After the Blackhawk departed, I spotted one of the two bridges on the causeway. They allow water to flow through from Buffalo and Farmington Bays into the northern end of the lake.

Causeway 2 1920.jpg


Salt stains on the deck... thankfully they wash off with a little splash of fresh water.


Under the Causeway by ashergrey, on Flickr

The flow under the bridge is subtle, but present. I had to paddle against it to hold position. This is when I noticed the water. In and around the marina it carries a heavy load of algae and bio-matter. The flow pushing north under the causeway appeared much more clean, relatively speaking of course.


[PARSEHTML]<iframe src="http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php?q=http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3847512/GPS/Egg_Island.kml&t=s" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" width="800" height="800"></iframe><br><br>[/PARSEHTML]There's a story behind the story of this float.

I "built" the frame for this kayak nearly two decades ago, as a teenage boy scout. The quotation marks are appropriate, as most of my building was actually done by adult leaders. I provided light sanding and a lot of standing around. As a result, important design decisions were made without my admittedly uneducated input.

It is far from a traditional design. Open-cockpit skin-on-frame kayaks are rare. The open cockpit adds convenience and comfort, but reduces utility on anything but flat water and limits control.

The original covering consisted of canvas painted with water-based latex house paint. While still lighter than plastic, wood or resin boats of similar size, this design proved heavier than necessary. I twice as a teen paddled it from Sheep Creek to Cedar Springs Marina on Flaming Gorge Reservoir, a roughly 20-mile trek. In the intervening years, several other scouts who followed me borrowed it to do the same.

As is often the case with borrowed goods, the other scouts left my kayak worse off than they found it. When I started planning for my Labyrinth Canyon trip, my hope was to use this kayak. I pulled it down from the rafters of my parents' garage where it had hung unused for years to find it in a sorry state.

IMG_1650.JPG


Maybe, I thought, I can rehab this ugly little boat. Layer upon layer of latex paint peeled from the skin. The wood frame felt brittle and dry. It would be a lot of work. It sat a couple of weekends before I conceded rehab was out of the question. Out came the razor.

IMG_1663.JPG


Fiberglass patches covered numerous holes incurred over the years by inexperienced overzealous paddlers. The bow and stern were both heavily glassed. Tearing the brittle fiberglass apart with pliers chunk-by-tedious-chunk took far too much time.

IMG_1669.JPG


In its original form, the kayak had a wooden keel attached over top of the skin. It provided a convenient rub strip but also looked pretty terrible. In its place went a cedar strip lashed to the keelson, to be contained under the new skin.

IMG_1675.JPG


The frame drank two heavy coats of teak oil before it started to repel water once again.

After much research, I opted to reskin the frame using ballistic nylon from Spirit Line. The original canvas skin had been attached by way of staples and duct tape. It proved functional, but ugly. The new version instead has hand-stitching using artificial sinew.

IMG_1685.JPG


The process of stretching and stitching the skin consumed many hours. More than once I threatened to set the whole contraption on fire. Abrasive fabric rubbed skin raw. My knuckles ached for weeks, giving me a nice preview of the arthritis I'll probably endure later in life.


To waterproof the skin, I used Spirit Line's two-part polyurethane. It's an obnoxious substance with which to work, but looks a fair sight better than the old latex paint job.

IMG_1731.JPG


To celebrate the kayak's return to service, I splurged on a new paddle. The Bending Branches Navigator caught my eye, but good reviews of the Werner Camano won me over. Thanks to an REI 30% off sale, it also had an inaugural outing on the Great Salt Lake.

I'm still working out the best way to add conveniences like toggles and deck lines to the boat. All told, I'm into the repairs about $250. Not bad for a lightweight touring boat that can be solo launched. Time will tell how durable this updated design will prove to be.

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uintahiker

Adventure Guru
Joined
Jan 20, 2012
Messages
719
Nice TR! Have you heard anything about the petroglyphs on Antelope Island? I've heard they're on the west side and accessible via water. I'd be interested in hearing if anybody has tracked them down.

Nice boat too- I want to make one someday.
 

TannerT

Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
Joined
May 15, 2013
Messages
589
Nicely done! Well I've traveled around and I agree that the sunsets from south davis county rival and beat most sunsets anywhere else. I have been in the planing stages of building my own cedar canoe for quite sometime so the second half of the TR got me excited. As soon as I have a place large enough to build it...I will...oh, yes I will. Thanks again for the report and the awesome photos as per usual.
 

Dave

Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
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Joined
May 5, 2012
Messages
1,722
Nice TR! Have you heard anything about the petroglyphs on Antelope Island?

I've heard rumors the west side of the island has its secrets... but nothing concrete. It's a deceptively large stretch of land. On a map it doesn't look so big but it really is huge. I'd love to hear from someone who knows.

I have been in the planing stages of building my own cedar canoe for quite sometime so the second half of the TR got me excited.

There's a satisfaction to building a boat, but it is a ton of work. More than once I threatened to just set the whole thing on fire and be done with it. At least some of that went away though when the first person I saw at the marina stopped to ask me about it.
 

pixie1339

Desperately Seeking Sandstone
Joined
Jan 21, 2012
Messages
1,692
Pretty cool! Despite all the frustrations encountered building it, there's got to be a deep sense of pride for having done it. Watching the video of you stitching up the skin in fast motion was neat.:)
 

TannerT

Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
Joined
May 15, 2013
Messages
589
There's a satisfaction to building a boat, but it is a ton of work. More than once I threatened to just set the whole thing on fire and be done with it. At least some of that went away though when the first person I saw at the marina stopped to ask me about it.[/quote]

Although the leprechaun on my shoulder does tell me to burn things I'm glad to see that you did not heed the temptation. Thanks for the forewarning.
 

Duke

Mountain Carver
Joined
Feb 19, 2012
Messages
382
Very nice. I used to get Sea Kayaker magazine when I lived on the coast of the East China Sea years ago. One of these had an article about a solo run around Antelope Island. that guy had two squirt bottles on the front deck sitting at the ready to rinse his eyes in case he went in. At the time I was assembling a "stitch n glue" kayak from Pygmy Boats. On first glance in your pictures I was trying to figure out if your boat was one of those, but yours is obviously even better.....since it is "one with a story".
 

Artemus

I walk
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Joined
Jun 25, 2012
Messages
4,400
Great! Two stories in one! Thanks, I love the boat story. I REALLY love the birds. From this post and others here at BCP I notice you are also a bird lover Dave.
 

Dave

Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
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Joined
May 5, 2012
Messages
1,722
I REALLY love the birds. From this post and others here at BCP I notice you are also a bird lover Dave.

Thanks! I wish I were a better birder... I have to cross-reference the pictures for most birds when I get home to figure out what they actually are. That's part of the fun of learning though.
 

Artemus

I walk
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Joined
Jun 25, 2012
Messages
4,400
I am an up and coming ornithologist as well (haha). Here is a fun recommend, just finished "The Kingbird Highway" by Ken Kaufman. THE Ken Kaufman about his Big Year hitchhiking around America to see 674 species in ONE YEAR. Wild! Great read. 4 stars. I think I am hot shit because I know all 30 species in my back yard :facepalm:
 

gnwatts

Member
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Joined
May 19, 2012
Messages
1,825
Nice shots, and the boat is very cool.
 
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