Advice on preparing for trip

Time for more advice

– Last Updated: Sep-23-07 11:35 PM EST –

Almost one year since my initial post and time to hit you guys up for some more advice. Please be patient reading this as I really value the advice here.
An update on where I am:
I have taken a couple of whitewater classes as well as several flat water/surf classes. I am pleased with my boat control and basic paddling skills. Have not gone the BCU route but as a frame of reference, I am comfortable with all the 2 star stuff, much of the 3 star control stuff, plus have a pretty solid (not quite bombproof but getting closer) roll - both sides, can re-enter and roll as well as scramble in solo. Not as comfortable with multi-boat rescues. Taking a boating skills/seamanship class now to improve my knots, navigation and understanding of "rules of the road" as much of the paddle will be in heavily travelled waters.

Conditioning wise I have done several long day paddles (20 plus miles) on both flat water and rivers, but have not yet done more than two days in a row. I paddle about 3 times a week, but still most of my paddles are in the 5 to 7 mile range after work or on a weekend morning.

Camping skills remain pretty limited - no kayak camping to date and only a few overnight car camping trips in the last year.

Equipment -
Liquid Logic Pisgah (14' plastic rec/tourer)
Island Kayaks Expedition (18' glass seakayak)
Carlisle fiberglass paddle
Eureka Solo tent - Zeus maybe?

Paddling Skills Question

– Last Updated: Sep-23-07 11:41 PM EST –

I feel pretty comfortable with boat control and have tried to get out in conditions equivalent to what I expect for the trip. Have paddled in winds up to 20 mph on flat water and on the James about Richmond. In the Expedition, I am comfortable in up to about 3 ft chop. Still working on paddling efficiently in following seas. Really big weather and I would do everything I could to find a spot to tuck away on shore until it clears. Should be only one long (about 3 miles) open water crossing - the rest will be relatively near shore. I am leaning now toward paddling around the mouth of the Bay and taking out at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach - flexible depending on timing. Will invite some of my paddling friends/instructors to join me for the ocean section.

Are there paddling specific skills that I absolutely should have but have not mentioned?

Equipment Question

– Last Updated: Sep-23-07 11:29 PM EST –

My plan is to switch boats during the paddle. The Pisgah could do almost everything, but it is a bit of a pig for long flat or even textured but slow stretches. Will use the Pisgah down to Richmond; paddle through what I feel comfortable in the Pisgah and portage the rest. (Need to find someone to guide me through here - looking to run it on the easiest lines, not play). Would like to run more of the rapids in a ww boat if levels are manageable for my limited ww skills. Below the last of the Richmond rapids will swap out and use the Island Kayaks Expedition for the rest of the trip.
Any concerns on boat choices?

I will invest in a carbon paddle prior to the trip, but have hit the paddling budget limit for at least a few months. Have been thinking of going with an Onno due to the great comments and customization/probing questions from Patrick. Any concern if I ordered early in '07 with getting it based on your past experience? Other paddle suggestions - I paddle unfeathered with a semi-high angle stroke. Like the feel of a larger than average touring blade, but have not done multiple consecutive days with one.

Aside from the tent (which I'm not married to - just got it on clearance); I don't have much equipment specific to the trip. Suggestions with space in mind for:
Camp stove
Sleeping Bag - looks like the trip will be in mid-May now, so temps below 40f not likely and possibility for warm sticky nights.
Pad - bought a Thermarest closed cell pad, again not married to it but like the idea of being able to store it on the floor of the cockpit.
Storage - aside from some drybags, don't have much. Should I be looking at boxes also or stick with a variety of bag sizes?
Other Stuff - VHF radio or weather radio, GPS, flares or other VDS, EPRB? (not so worried about brands/models more interested in opinions about wether the trip dictates these items)

Conditioning Questions
Need some help in developing a workable training regimen. I know I need to do some long, slow distance but hard to find the time between family, work and house. I am going to commit to at least one two night shakedown before the weather gets too cool and another one in the Spring with 30 plus mile days.

I am pretty comfortable paddling 15 miles in about 3.5 hours on my home lake; should I put in the extra hours to push that to 20 plus on a weekly basis and building gradually over the winter above that? I’m confident that I could paddle 30 miles in a day on that lake - just a matter of time and seeing the same houses over and over. But, are weekly long paddles likely to improve my ability to put the long consecutive days in?


– Last Updated: Sep-23-07 11:41 PM EST –

Actual advice posts have been pretty thin lately, so thought I'd give everyone plenty to chew on for a few days. :-) Seriously, thanks for the advice. I have used the search feature, paddling friends, teachers and my own experience to form ideas on much of this stuff, but always interested in fresh takes and your responses specific to this planned trip.

I'm sure that I am overthinking this whole thing, but have promised my daughter that I will do everything I can to make sure I am well prepared.