Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Maiden Voyage of the Liberated Sturgeon

We talked to the guys at Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Charlotte about getting the canoe and told them what we needed it for. My worry was that the canoe would be the standard MSRP ($1600) plus about $700 for shipping. That's what most of the other places were quoting me. GOPC wasn't most other places. They were already placing an order from Old Town Canoe and so they just added my canoe to the order. Then they gave me last year's price. And they didn't charge me shipping.

My $1600 canoe cost me $1400, brand new, delivered to their Charlotte location where they were kind enough to load it onto the roof of the truck.

If you're in North Carolina and need some outdoor gear, check out the Great Outdoor Provision Company first. They deserve your business and you deserve their awesome treatment the extend to their customers.

Now, special thanks and mention to the retailer aside, I'll get on to the test voyage of the "Liberated Sturgeon".

We took the new canoe to Latta Plantation and got the hull wet. Unfortunately, we picked exactly the wrong time and rolled out to the launch just as the afternoon wind was kicking into high gear. We faced a 15 mph headwind from the start, which changed into a crosswind as soon as we got accustomed to it, and then became a crosswind from the other direction just as we were adapting to the first crosswind.

The result was lots of waves, lots of getting blown off course, lots of getting turned when we needed to go straight, going straight when we needed to turn, and even traveling at a forward-sideways angle no matter what we did. In short, it was frustrating.

But it was still fun. We got a good workout and saw how the canoe handles choppy water and high wind.

What came next was the real test. A few days later we put in at the same location in the early morning. This time the strong wind was a gentle breeze and the choppy lake was flat water. We cruised leisurely, crossing the lake and heading upriver for several hours. The view was spectacular, the weather was nice, and the new canoe sliced through the water like a blade.

On one of our brief land excursions, Tasha found an old bayonet in excellent condition which she plans to clean up and sharpen.

At the northern end of the lake, there's a sandbar just beneath the surface of the water that extends several hundred yards like a giant shelf. At its edge, the bottom drops sharply to unknown depths. Paddling over this drop-off that lies just beneath the clear surface is like walking on a plate of glass that extends over the edge of a cliff. You know you won't fall off, but that sense of vertigo seizes you nonetheless. It's frightening and exhilarating at the same time. I can't explain it better than that and you really can't understand what I mean until you paddle over the edge and feel that sensation for yourself. Just know that it will give you a chill every time you do it.

I'm not sure how long we spent on the lake, I didn't bring a phone or a watch. We had the sun to show us we had time to make it back before dark, and our bellies to tell us when to eat. I didn't want to know what time it was or how long we were there. Maybe it was five hours. Maybe it was forever. It was fun and I'll do it again next time I'm in town.