Friday, March 30, 2007

Critters on the Wacissa and Rethinking a Rudder

As mentioned in a previous post, I decided to have the optional rudder put on my Prijon Motion, following a battle with wind on the Gulf earlier this week. I picked it up from the outfitter today and took it to the Wacissa to try it out.

If I had ever written about my feelings regarding rudders, I would have to retract it all (how fortunate that the subject has never come up!). There’s always debate going on regarding the relative merits of skegs vs. rudders. Since both my Impex kayaks have skegs, I have always fallen on the skeg side of the argument.

I started out with the rudder up since I was in the channel leading from the boat ramp to the wider part of the river, and the wind was calm. However, soon after launching the wind came up and the boat began to weathercock so I decided to give the rudder a try.


I deployed it and pressed on the gas-pedal-like attachment to the footpeg and the boat immediately straightened out. It was like someone had come up behind it and turned it to face directly downstream. I was amazed.

Basically it’s like having a steering wheel that you operate with your feet. I can see how this could be a serious crutch if it was always deployed—why use the paddle to rudder, or do J-strokes or sweep strokes when you can just press a foot pedal? But I like using the paddle to maneuver the boat under normal conditions, so I brought the rudder back up when the wind died down. Here’s the advantage to the rudder, in my opinion: Say you are paddling upstream against current, and the wind is coming at you from the left, at about the 10:00 position. You have two choices—you can stop your forward momentum to use the paddle to rudder the boat to face upstream (and in the process you will either stop or begin to drift downstream) or you can paddle with renewed vigor only on one side (which I was doing in the Gulf a few days ago). With a rudder, you can use both paddles to maintain your upstream momentum and still get the boat facing upstream.

A skeg does much the same thing, though not so dramatically. I now like them both.

I went into Blue Spring. I came to a little blue heron sitting on the limb of the tree that that extends over the channel.

It flew toward the spring as I passed below it. I followed it. I drifted near to it in the spring area and parked in the surface growth to watch it and photograph it. It found something of interest in the sky overhead.

Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

I decided I had taken enough photos (there were more than those two, I just liked them best) and so I decided to sit there till it moved away from me so as not to startle it with sudden movement. Well, instead of moving away from me, it moved toward me as it looked for a snack in the water.

I took one more—

--and then slowly backed up to leave the spring area.

And who should appear on that same tree that spans the channel? Sure looks like my friend from my last Wacissa trip…

Got lots of photos of him as I passed beneath, at which time I heard him (I’m guessing at the gender, looks like a him to me) scamper down the tree and into the woods.

I had gotten to the river at 3 pm (had some pesky work to do this morning so the fun part of the day didn’t even start till well after noon) and so I didn’t go far downstream.

I discovered that the rudder is also useful for executing U-turns in current.

I had seen lots of male wood ducks on the water—through the binoculars, that is. They sure are skittish. Then I came to a pair that let me get at least a little close—close enough to get a photo, anyway.

Later, in another section, I was able to capture another photo of one. What a lucky day!

These Suwannee Cooters were enjoying the sunshine as I went by on my way back to the boat ramp.

A good day, I’m pleased with the new rudder. Maybe I can take it back to the Gulf again next week. Stand by.


Floridacracker said...

This is my first visit here. Wonderful photos! Thanks for taking us along on your adventures.

Ol' Lurker said...

I just arrived here via Pure Florida and instantly became a fan. Great photos. Great site. I'll be back often.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Yes, me too -- this is an excellent blog, called to my attention by the Florida Cracker. And like others, I, too, shall be back.

vicki said...

Yes- here from FC, thank you both. Beautiful post! Wonderful photos of the little blue heron. I'm interesting in reading back in your archives as we are new to Florida and just beginning explore our area by kayak. This will be great reading.