Well, that didn't go as planned

The coating of snow had melted late morning; clouds lifted, the sun came out and the wind was light. The only public access to the lake had been chained closed by the DNR because of the high water, so I figured it was a perfect day to slide my spiffy clean and waxed Fathom LV down the hillside to the lake. It’s steeper than the photo shows; the staircase has 52 steps.

I had carefully walked up the hill earlier, picking up limbs that had fallen during winter storms. But as there are still short woody stubs from brush that had been cut, I thought some plastic sheeting would further protect the hull so I positioned about 20 feet of it.

The kayak was sitting on my lawn with my tow line attached while I zipped up my winter parka. When I slid the kayak forward and it made contact with that plastic, it was like Secretariat leaving the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby.

The boat took off full speed down the hill. I was standing on wet leaves and the initial pull yanked my feet out from under me. Down I went on my butt, hanging on to the tow line, sliding fast behind my boat until thankfully I skidded off the sheeting and managed to stop before I went into the lake after my now launched boat. Then my Apple Watch started buzzing my wrist asking if it should call 911. Yikes and no, no, no!!!

When I mentioned my gravity launch to an engineering friend, he said that fresh coat of wax and the plastic “reduced the coefficient of friction to an absolute minimum and the steep grade presented a high vertical force component…(it went like hell…)” You can bet I won’t do that again.

Retrieved the boat from the water and placed it on stands. The hull made out better than I did. In spite of my parka I managed to get a rope burn on my right wrist and skinned up left elbow (those dratted stubs). Went up to the house, cleaned and bandaged my wounds, donned my drysuit and went paddling. It was delightful because the world is normal again when connected to the water.

Alas, the high water has not only eaten my beach but is taking a toll on the surrounding woodlands.


Ohhhhhh, I am trying soooooo hard to NOT laugh! Great description of your experiment.

Soft, new snow. That’s the ticket…I think.

It was so comical I’m sorry there’s no video. I would love to see it in slow motion.

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Thanks, I needed that…
Now if we could get a watch that warns us beforehand

Without being an engineer, it sounds like your yak was just over eager to get back in its element —You were only taken along for the ride😛

(If it’s any consolation, my dog’s given me a similar butt ride just after I fasten his leash and he tears out the door to pee real bad.):dog2:


Next time just get in the boat first.


I feel your pain. My story of gravity vs friction ended badly for my 2006 Valley Q boat. It was just loaded up on my walking cart made from wheelchair and left it resting at top of drive before joining local trash clean-up of Beaufort River. Dang! no paddle, so I walked away without setting each wheel’s brake to retrieve my Norvoca paddle. Behind me heard minor scraping of gelcoat against shell and gravel drive. Ran towards accelerating boat and cart now halfway down 80 foot drive with tall shrubbery on either side. I have got to get there before it enters street! The stern had just passed over sidewalk when older Buick sedan sent yak cartwheeling in slow-mo aerial spiral. Man those NRS straps are strong! Car kept going and never knew why. I could smell the smashed fiberglass as the flying mass bounced and finally ground to a stop. Had bumper sized hull hole in line with front hatch and lots of further hull gouges and cracks. My deck mounted compass was knocked free. No physical injuries to me. Pride very much wounded. Unknown Buick’s toll. Thank goodness no other cars or pedestrians involved. Repairs made over next few weeks and those new oyster shell scars are just shrugged off.

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What a great story to enjoy with coffee! And you were able to enjoy the paddle

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Out in the backyard
Momma always used to chide,
“Leave those pointy toys behind you,”
when getting on the Slip-n-Slide.

Does the Shechutes River run into Lake Michigan?
Glad you’re still hanging in (and on bowlines) there.

“Seriously Siri!
It’s gravitational scurry.
We’re all going down,
some inna little more hurry.”

Next installment: How Rookie got the kayak back UP that steep slope.

Design refinement: Use a winch to control both descent and ascent.

A kayak with coat of fresh wax
Lunged downslope at speed of top max.
Attached by a tow rope,
The owner felt no hope
For a launch without plenty of smacks.

Well c’mon - not everything we do has to be pretty. With me it seems either I go down on my butt or the boat goes down (usually I blame that on the 303) but not both. This is the argument against multitasking.

I’ll confess to a low friction story I’ve not yet shared. Once a friend and I when out paddling in the very early spring. It was cold and we decided it was time to stop on an island and brew up some coffee. The islands were still snow/ice covered so there was no place to beach the canoe on sand, tie on to (tree roots buried) or even put in a stake to tie to (if we had a stake…). So we dragged the boat up, hauled it over the flat ice covered beach, maybe 30 feet from the river, almost to the trees in the island’s center. We then set off to gather the makings for a twig fire in our Kelly Kettle. I hear a little scraping sound, turned around, and there was a slight-breeze-driven 18’ kevlar canoe swooshing its way down the beach headed for swift open water. And you can bet the race was on. Just barely caught it.
I really didn’t want to have to swim after it, still it would have been better than waiting for what… spring and a rescue by a passing boy scout troop or something? Death by hypothermia is perhaps preferable to death by combined starvation,exposure, and humiliation.
That’s when I started doing this… although this boat is heavier and has a bit of sand to hold it - still better safe than sorry)

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Gee, glad I’m in such good company!

@pikabike Last fall I put the boat on my cart and tried pulling it up. No way was that going to happen. Did get some help and it was carried up the steps.

Yes, with a winch up on top it would be doable. Especially with plastic sheeting. Where it could be mounted is the challenge. I’ve been thinking about it. :crazy_face:

Do you have a tree that you could attach a winch to? While downhill can be painful as you attest to, uphill can be too! How did you get the boat back uphill. Or is it boat bondaged to the dock?

The perfect opportunity to practice rigging a Z-drag!
PS: I bet your engineering friend would find such a display of gratuitous mechanical advantage impressive.

Congrats on not getting worse injuries. It sounds like you also demonstrated that the coefficient of sliding friction is always less than the coefficient of static friction.

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The Fathom stays here at home all summer. No tree in the right spot. Closest strong structure is my front deck. Last fall I had help carrying it up the steps. The summer people have power boats they’ll want to launch now that motors are allowed again so waiting to see what the DNR will do about granting access to lakefront owners. Power boats that go in will have to come out, so I could take it out using the access in September on whatever date they announce.

Am waiting for my dock to be installed so I can stash the boat there more safely. High water has covered what was flat land so now it’s sitting on very low stands at an angle. It’s tethered to a tree in case it’s pushed off the stands by wind.

My Prana is stored inside my back porch. One of the benefits of having more than one kayak.

Another engineer, I see. :grinning:

You could get one of these. I think it has a little trolley car that’s raised and lowered by a winch and cable.

I learned about waxing a hull while loading one on my wife’s car. I don’t remember exactly why, but as soon as I turned it loose, it shot back off the racks and dinged the trunk lid.
I have never waxed a hull again.