Tag Archives: Inflatable Kayak

A Thanksgiving adventure – Kayaking the Willamette River


A Thanksgiving adventure – Kayaking the Willamette River

Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. This is my first year being single in half a decade, and thanks to the COVID Pandemic it’s also the first year that I can’t travel, and don’t have any friends still in town. I’m flying solo, have a ton of vacation to burn, and am feeling energetic...

Friday, 27-Nov-2020

Many years back, my friend Mike bought an inflatable Kayak.

A few weekends afterward, we christened it The Bogmaster 3000, after we spent a day on the Androscoggin river, up in Maine, paddling around an exploring the various estuaries and (unsurprisingly) bogs all along the shoreline. Since then, Mike and I took it out more places than I can count… and he took it out on his own for enough adventures that I still have a sense of lingering jealousy.

So I bought my own.

I mean, I hadn’t really planned on it, in my defense. But this summer I finally got to go backpacking regularly again, and saw so many beautiful alpine lakes… the thought of just floating around in the middle of them was too much to bear. Since then, I’ve kept an eye out for a small, lightweight, packable kayak that I could bring with me on backpacking trips.

Well, I finally found one.

The Klymit lifewater dinghy.

Doesn’t… doesn’t sound that badass, does it? Yeah. Not the coolest name out there, I’ll freely admit.

But you know what? It weighs in at 3 lbs. 4lbs, with the paddle. It packs down to the size of two nalgene bottles. It’s easy to inflate, and the paddle collapses down nice and small.

What more is there to want?

I posit: Nothing.

I actually got it in the mail a week or two back, but I simply hadn’t had the time, energy, or interest in taking it out onto the river yet. Thanksgiving, though, instilled in me a beautiful sense of serenity and relaxation – exactly the mindset that called for floating around on a crisp sunny day.

I could see my breath in the air, and the folks hanging out on the boat launch definitely gave me a few side-eyed looks as I inflated it, and cast off into the light mist. I had a tee-shirt on, but everything I was wearing was warm and synthetic – easily enough to keep me warm if my maiden voyage went the way of the Titanic, and something went wrong.

Nothing went wrong, thankfully – though it was cold, there were no icebergs to be seen, nor any sharp or pokey objects that could puncture my noticably unarmored hull. One downside to a lightweight inflatable Kayak / raft is that the skin has to be super-thin in order to save weight… which meant I was definitely a little bit paranoid about my first jaunt into the water.

It went pretty well, I’d say 🙂

Acadia 2012 – Pirates of Acadia Sound


Ed Note: It’s not actually Acadia Sound.  It’s correctly named “Somes Sound”.  All references to Acadia Sound have thus been edited.  Is it weird that I write these editors notes, even though I’m both the editor and the author?  Meh.

Mike owns a Kayak. I’ve mentioned it, and some of the adventures that have occurred within its inflatable hull, before. But when we were talking about when to head up to Acadia, we realized the scope of what this inflatable kayak actually mean – we could explore any of Acadia’s waterways, without worry of trying to find a place to rent the kayaks.

Thus, on Sunday morning we pulled out a map. Actually, first we went and hiked up The Beehive, a mountain hike that involves a lot of steep rock scrambling that’s aided by large iron runs in the cliff. But after that, we pulled out a map and started ticking off places we’d already been, and places that kayaks weren’t allowed. In the end, that left us with about half a dozen spots that we could explore, not including the outer coastline – we decided against that since neither of us really wanted to test an inflatable kayak in ocean swells.

Since we had a half dozen possible spots, we went with the scientific method to choose our launch point: we’d start driving, and drop into the first one that looked cool. Simple and efficient, and that’s how we found ourselves walking into an extremely high-class art boutique, asking the owners if we could park in their lot while we explored Somes Sound.

Unfortunately they did mind, since they’d technically be liable for both the car and us launching from their docks, but they were nice enough to point us towards a local boat launch that bordered on the marina at the end of the sound. We drove over, inflated the Bogmaster 3000, packed in our lunch and camera, and headed out into the “open ocean”.

Our travels took us through many adventures, but the first was the most dangerous… not in terms of getting hurt or anything, but in terms of self control: we were paddling through one of the major marinas, and there were boats tied up all around us. Tied up and just waiting to be plundered by a pair of buccaneers such as ourselves. See, I had my hat. And that hat? That hat is awesome. And with an awesome hat, comes a strong urge to become a pirate… and if you happen to be on a “boat” already? Well, that urge becomes almost too much to handle.

Thankfully, Mike kept us true to course by distracting me with the one thing that could distract me from good piracy: Rock climbing! The opposite shore was almost all perfect straight-sided cliff faces, and Mike and I aimed the Bogmaster 3000 for a small spot that looked like a low enough angle for us to clamber up and tie up to for a bit of land-based exploration.

The clambering around on rocks and ledges was quite fun, but The Captain (Mike) and I quickly longed for a return to the nautical life. And so, after failing to find the playboy mansion (which we totally expected to find) we returned to the Bogmaster 3000, untied from the cliff, and headed back into the “open ocean”.

As we paddled away from the cliffs we set our scopes on a medium-sized island shoved right in the mouth of the bay that we were in – we had been getting a bit hungry, and it seemed as good a spot to land and have some lunch as any. Unfortunately, we weren’t the first to decide that island would be a good spot… as we pulled into a small cove, we saw a large sign barring our way,


Damn. So instead, we charted a course around the island, and into the open waters of the main bay of Somes Sound.

Out here the water turned into the kind of chop that a pirate lives for – not enough to make the paddling hard or dangerous, but just enough to make us feel like we were actual sailors on the open sea. We were aiming for a small beacon in the distance… a small little buoy gleaming orange against the dark blue of the water. As we sliced through the oncoming waves we started singing a bit of a sea-shanty, falling deeper and deeper into the dangerous waters of “pirate talk”.

By the time we moored up to the buoy (that’s right. We moored to it. I pulled the anchor line and lashed that thing to a bolt on the buoy like a true sea dog) we were completely infected by Pirate Talk. Mike actually recorded a few minutes of our trademark inane banter, where I called out what was happening and possible piracy targets (in an excellent pirate accent, I might add), and Captain LeVasseur bellowed out orders with authority that rivaled that of Barbosa himself.

It was such a level of inane fake-piracy that I could feel Blackbeard rolling in his grave, getting the Queen Anne’s Revenge ready to burst from the waters just to shut us up.

And so, since the first-mate’s job is always to protect the captain and ship, I called for us to cast off from our mooring and continue our nautical adventures… to the tune of slightly less piratical banter.

The hour was starting to get late, and more importantly it was starting to get cold, so we headed back towards the small local dock that we’d launched from. On the way we attempted to board a sailboat that was cruising around between Eagle Island and the shore… but unfortunately a kayak can’t really keep up with a sailboat, much less run it down when the wind is blowing strong. After two failed attempts at pulling along side and demanding their wine and women, we turned towards the nearby shore to do a bit more exploring before heading back to dock.

This time, we stayed and paddled around a small cove instead of actually going ashore. The reason for not going ashore? We were in the middle of a small “kelp forest”, where the seaweed grew thick in these awesomely cool pillars that you could see through the clear water of the bay. Mike pulled out his GoPro camera (waterproof, of course) and took a few most-excellent underwater shots while I paddled around the small cove.

The kelp entertained us for almost 15min, but unfortunately it was in the shade… and the day was starting to wane quite chilly, especially for those of us on the water without jackets on. And so we started making a beeline for the docks. On the way we tried pirating another row-boat that we saw cruising around, but his head start left him docked before we could get close enough to shout a challenge… and challenging a docked boat just isn’t the same as a boat on the water, so we held off our assault in favor of simply getting to shore.

The nice thing about an inflatable kayak is that it’s easy to store in a smaller car. The bad thing about it is that, instead of simply washing it off and putting it on a rack, it takes almost half an hour to deflate everything and stow it away in its travel bag. Thankfully we weren’t in any rush though, and packing the Bogmaster 3000 away gave us just enough of an extra appetite for the meal of the night: heading into Bar Harbor and devouring an entire rack of ribs, a 1.5lb lobster, a plate of fries, a beer each, and a plate of Quesadilla’s as an appetizer. A worthy meal of worthy pirates. Or, at least, attempted pirates.

Map for the Map:
A = the Marina
B = our tie-up point and land-based adventures
C = Eagle Preserve Island
D = tying up to the buoy and playing pirate
E = Attempted piracy numbers 1 and 2
F = exploring the kelp forests
G = Attempted piracy #3

The pirates of the Androscoggin




Mike bought an inflatable Kayak. An inflatable kayak. Let that sink in for a moment, if you will.

I mocked him mercilessly for being impetuous with random purchases, but to be honest I was amazed that he had found something that awesome and then had the foresight to actually acquire it.

When I first saw it on Friday, I was impressed first at how small it packed down, for a full Kayak, and secondly about how heavy the damn thing way… this isn’t some small air-mattress material, this Kayak was made out of some pretty stern stuff. Thirdly, I was impressed with how much stuff came with this Kayak… oars, a sail, inflatable seats, a pump, and a whole bag of extra goodies that you may or may not need someday, such as spare valves and rope and a patch kit. Anyways, we packed it all up into Mike’s tiny little Eclipse and headed up North to the Loj.

For the launch point of the Kayak’s maiden voyage (it was still unnamed at the time), we picked a small pull-off by a reservoir that was separated from the main Androscoggan river by a small set of train tracks. We figured that it’d be easier to launch and get used to the kayak itself in the calmer waters of the reservoir, instead of trying to navagate a river right off the bat. So we pulled out the pump and unrolled the kayak, filled up the seats and snapped the oars together. In all, I think it took us about half an hour to actually get the kayak from a “fully packed” state to a “totally sea-worthy” state… not bad, when you think about it.

And so we launched out into the clear water. At first our biggest challenge was learning how to paddle together, instead of simply smacking each others oars out of the air every time we tried to dig deep into the water. Once we had that figured out though, we went about getting used to the other unique things about an inflatable kayak – moving out seats around, re-adjusting the placement of our gear, and making sure that the camera we brought along wasn’t constantly towing behind us in the water (yes, it was waterproof).

Once we were finally settled in and used to the kayak, it was time to break out of the protected reservoir and start exploring the mighty river before us. Portaging the Kayak over the train tracks was actually quite easy, since it’s just filled with air, and so we were tearing down the main river in no time, Eastbound for the ocean. Except… we didn’t want to go to the ocean, and there was a huge dam set up across the river in front of us. Hmm. So after trying out the sail quickly (there wasn’t really enough wind to make it work), we stowed the mast away again, broke the paddles back out, and continued on our exploration of the river Westbound from where we had launched.

We paddled for a bit before noticing a pretty nice little portion of the bank that could work as a perfect boat launch, and decided to get out and stretch our legs a bit. We pulled the kayak up onto the bank, made sure it was far enough up and wouldn’t float away, and then hit the dusty trail. We didn’t hike too far, but it was a nice little excuse to work our legs instead of our arms, and there was some rather pretty scenery that we got to check out on the way around. But this is a kayaking adventure after all, and so before long we were back at the Kayak.

We ate a quick lunch of packed sandwich wraps, drank down some water, and relaxed in the sun for a little bit before pushing off the bank and back into the river. The exploration was getting a bit dull, until we noticed a little inlet off the starboard bow… either a stream or a little river feeding into the main river that we were on. Unfortunately, the first few stream-heads that we checked out didn’t go very far before either pettering out or becoming too choked up with branches and vines. But on our third attempt, we finally found one that appeared deep and wide enough to actually go a good ways in. And so, like all the great adventurers before us, we aimed the bow towards the stream and ventured inland.

We paddled and poled, using our oars to push ourselves along and to push submerged logs out of our way. We moved at a snails pace, but we did move… slowly but surely farther and farther into the bog that we found ourselves exploring. The stream kept alternating between open brackish waters and tightly claustrophobic sections enclosed by vines and fallen trees… but we pressed on until we finally came to the end, where the bog was fed by a few small mountain streams running in over the rocks. Here we moored the Kayak off a fallen tree, and disembarked to venture a bit farther on foot.

Our adventure inland didn’t go too far, but we did make it in far enough to find a few rather interesting cliffs, an inland marsh, and a whole ton of spent shotgun shells and a slew of destroyed pigeons (not the bird ones, but the clay things that you shoot with a shotgun). The area was connected to a small dirt road that some of the locals obviously use to come out, get drunk, and shoot stuff… and by the sounds of people yelling nearby, we had a feeling that Saturdays like today were their favorite time to come up and fill some random area’s with bird-shot. So, after maybe half an hour on land, we headed back to the kayak yet again, pushing off just as we saw a truckload of teenagers with shotguns rolling past above us.

By this time, the kayak had been officially named: “Bogmaster 3000”. Getting out of the bog proved to be much easier than getting in, probably because we had already poled away all of the main sunken logs, and smashed away the low-hanging dead branches that had blocked our path earlier. Before long we were back on the open waters, pushing westbound again.

We wanted to get as far west as we could before turning around, since the wind was heading east and we hoped to set the sail and let it take us back to where we had left the car. We still did a bit of exploring though, and had a few interesting run-ins along the way. First off, came my personal favorite quote of the weekend:

<upon seeing an inner-tube from a car tire washed up ashore>

“Avast Capt’n! If’n we commandeer that vessel, ye can be a Commodore instead of a Captain!”

Second off, we ran aground. Thankfully not completely, but we did run into shallow enough water that the current was too strong to keep us going, and the water wasn’t deep enough to really dig our paddles in… so we had to bail overboard and haul the kayak along. Yep.

After we finally brought ourselves out of the shallows we decided we’d come far enough, and so set the sail up and got ourselves ready to shred down the river. We were as ready as we thought we were, but when the first gust hit us, we didn’t know what to do. Mostly because that gust didn’t do anything. The sail billowed a bit, pulled on the ropes, and…. we barely moved. Actually, the Bogmaster spent more time spinning like a leaf down the river than tearing down like a sailboat. We never gave up on the sail completely, but to be honest we did spend move time steering the kayak back to straight than we spent having the wind pull us down the river… I think the current really did that.

But it was fun, and it was relaxing, and before too long we found ourselves back by our original launch point. We had hoped that coming back into the reservoir, without the current from the river, would let the wind carry us a bit better, but no such luck was to be had, and we ended up paddling our way back to our impromptu dock. We found some tree roots that formed perfect stairs, and so before long we had the Bogmaster 3000 all the way on the grass, ready for deflation and re-packing. A fun end to a rather stellar adventure-filled day.