This column was first published April 19, 2008

First off, here’s a big thanks to all of you who turned out for last Saturday’s Paddle Smart Safety Symposium at the Y on Second Street in Bangor. By all measures the evening was the best yet. Comments from some of the more than 225 attendees back that up.

We gave away a sea kayak (a real big thanks to Old Town Canoe for providing us with the Necky Elaho) to Richard Honold of Brewer, a pair of Thule Hull Raiser J-craddles to Richard Thomas of Bangor, a small packbasket made and donated by Gerald LaPointe of Bangor to Vince McEwen and a kayak storage sling to Heather Leach. We also gave away a couple of kid’s life jackets, several dry bags as door prizes to folks who stayed to the end and a whole bunch of helpful information to everybody.

Hopefully, Jeff Owen imparted some tips for you Kenduskeag warriors for this morning’s annual race. If you dump attempting Six Mile Falls, perhaps Dan Pelletier’s demonstration in the pool gave you tips for making it safely to shore and back on your way. He’s part of the crew in the Gumby boat, so keep an eye out for him and give him a big ol’ thumbs up as you pass him. Hopefully he has patched the green character well enough to keep him standing for the race. Last Saturday when I talked to Dan, he told me the inflatable Gumby was passing wind.

I caught part of Shawn Waite’s Power Point presentation, his step-by-step construction of a stitch-and-glue kayak. It’s a masterpiece, something I’d be afraid to paddle for fear of putting a mark on it. It got me thinking, again, about building one myself. Now I just have to imagine where I’d find 70 or so hours to do the work.

Dave Mention of Maine Island Trail Association packed some 60 people into his presentation on where to go and what to see on the nation’s first and oldest water trail. There are now some 130-plus islands and shoreside sites you can visit if you join the organization. Membership gets you the annual guidebook, which comes out in May, for these islands and campsites. Contact them at Maine Island Trail Association, 58 Fore St., Suite 30-3, Portland, 04101-4849, call 207-761-8225 or go online at and check them out.

Karen Francoeur, owner of Castine Kayak Adventures, and her team of assistants kept audiences entertained and informed on how to select a kayak for the type of paddling you plan to do and how to rescue yourself or others when you capsize.

And for those who showed up for my talk on making the transition from lake to ocean paddling, many thanks! It seemed to go well (from my vantage point, I think I saw only a dozen or so who fell asleep), especially since it was getting late and the room we were in hovered somewhere around 110 degrees!

Behind the scenes, making the whole event possible, were Mark Goff and his wife, Anne Powelson, and Ryan and Trish Simpson, who did lots of detail work and coordinated a whole flock of volunteers to make the evening flow smoothly.

Finally, a special thanks to the Y and the organizations and friends who turned out yet again with displays and booths – Epic Sports, the Coast Guard, Marine Patrol, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides and Instructors, Dave and Deb Morrill with their huge map of the coast, the Girl Scouts, Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Club, Penobscot River Restoration Trust and more.

Seasonal maintenance

With the symposium behind me, stage fright allayed and my life back to “normal” Sunday, I turned my thoughts to organizing all the copies of paddling-related articles I’ve managed to collect over the past few years (many of which I handed out Saturday night) and turned my thoughts to a little boat maintenance.

I’d dragged my Sirocco kayak to the evening’s presentation, a prop, if you will, and noticed when I was dusting it off for the show that the bungees behind the back band needed replacing.

Lacking a more pressing chore, I put the boat in the ceiling slings in the garage so I could work at eye level, cut a piece of the old bungee (for size comparison) and headed to Epic Sports where I made a major purchase – 63 cents’ worth of new bungee cord.

The bungee cord fastens to the cockpit coaming to keep the back band upright so you don’t sit on it when you enter the boat. Since the thin cord passes through two small holes on either end of the back band, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to thread in the new elastic. But a piece of shiny electrical tape proved just the ticket. I used about four inches of it, folding it lengthwise around the old butted to the new. Then I used the old to pull the new through. It took a little pushing on the taped end while I pulled gently on the other end. It worked swell. I wiped a quick application of 303 Protectant on the outside and that boat was ready for the season.

The next chore is taking the other two kayaks out of their winter hiding place and giving them the once-over with a wet sponge, wax and 303. Anything frayed will get replaced, anything loose will get tightened.

I’ve already (well, pretty much) checked over the rest of my gear. Lights have new batteries and their waterproof gaskets have been checked, strobes have new batteries and work when turned on, paddle ferrules are clean and tight. The only big task I have left is to replace an ankle gasket in a pair of dry pants. As soon as the dogsleds haul the part in, I’ll report to the store and pick it up. I’ll let you know how that repair job goes. It looks easy on paper, but I’m sure I’ll find some way to screw it up or make it an adventure. Stay tuned.

In the meantime one of these days real soon, I’ll take a close look at the paddling clothing with an eye to preventive maintenance. The metal zipper on the drysuit needs to be cleaned and the ankle, wrist and neck gaskets will need a wiping with 303 Protectant. Ditto for the semi-dry top’s wrist gaskets. If I can find the bottle I know I used to have, I’ll spray all the paddling jackets with 303 High-Tech Fabric Guard that helps restore the water and stain repellency.

By then, hopefully, the ice will be out of Pushaw Lake and I’ll take another maiden voyage and a new season will be under way. This year I hope not to break any bones and enjoy some fine paddling in the warmer months.

Now all I have to do is drag out all that camping equipment and check it out…

Jeff Strout’s column is published on Saturdays