Ririe Reservoir, Idaho

Today I got out with some of our kids to explore and play on a nearby reservoir.

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The paddle boards proved a huge hit.

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We hauled two paddle boards across the back of Northern Cross.  The didn’t move an inch.  

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We offset the fins and placed the paddles across the top.  

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Bennett loves to drive.

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The older kids blasted the tunes inside the cabin.  We all had a great time.

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The cabin cover proved an excellent place to get out of the sun.  By removing the filler boards, you still get good air movement through the cabin.  

Parting Shot:

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It doesn’t get much better than this folks.  A great time was had by all.  

What we learned:

  1. The paddle boards were a total hit.  By tying up to a dock, it allowed the kids to play on the boards and explore the area.
  2. With the bimini up and cabin top installed, we had a huge amount of shade and a great place to lay down and get out of the sun.  With the filler boards removed, we still had excellent air flow through this area.
  3. Music as provided by the teenagers, keep things hopping.
  4. Food out on the water is essential and keeps everyone happy.
  5. The boat works as well as a transport tool and it does and exploring rig.

Summary:

My kids had so much fun on our Skiff America.  It was very rewarding for me as the builder to see my kids having so much fun on a boat I built.  I’m very impressed by the design and functionality of this simple, affordable water craft.  We spent $9 dollars in gas for this excellent outing.  Amazing, just simply amazing.  Kilburn Adams, thank you for designing this most excellent boat!

Skiff America at Hebgen Lake, MT.

Hebgen Lake is a beautiful, large mountain lake minutes out of West Yellowstone.  Jennifer and I spent Friday exploring this beautiful lake.

Check it out:

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The cabin offers tremendous wind protection with the front filler boards in place.  The lap trays worked extremely well for multiple uses.

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The No Feed Back Steering system allows you to steer by shifting your weight.  This makes it very handy when motoring.  

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Here I’m standing in the cabin footwell, steering by shifting my weight.  This was a lot of fun.

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Mountain Dew happens to be my preferred beverage of choice.  

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The front cushions provide a great place to kneel.

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The bow breastplate is a great place for observing wildlife.  We came upon several large pelican colonies.  

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First Mate takes her turn at the wheel.

What I learned:

  1. The boat is extremely versatile.
  2. You can steer from the wheel, or by standing in the cockpit or footwell and shifting your weight.
  3. The bimini is fast to deploy and a must have for sunny days.
  4. Lap trays are very handy for a variety of task when a built-in table is too big.
  5. I motored for 4.5 hours and burned approximately 5.5 gallons of fuel.

Summary:

This boat is going to be an excellent tool for exploring our mountain lakes.

Travel Cover is Complete

Check it out:

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The Bimini is folded back and resting on the motor cover, under the travel cover.  

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I love the way the travel cover wraps around the outboard.

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I secure the back of the boat to the trailer using 1″ river straps.  They run under the hull and attach to D rings welded to the trailer.  This prevents the boat from shifting from side to side.  And, nothing is rubbing on the side of the boat.  

Benefits of a travel cover:

  1. It keeps your boat clean from dust and flies when stored inside your shop.
  2. Your boat is ready when you are.  No need cleaning the boat  before each use.
  3. It keeps road grime from spraying all over your boat when the semi trailer passes you.
  4. It keeps the UV rays off your upholstery and bright work when traveling.
  5. It keeps prying eyes off your belongings when parked.
  6. It keeps rain out of your boat when traveling or parked overnight.
  7. If that’s not enough, it’s just the right thing to do!

Summary:

Today, I got the compass and stern tow hook installed…photos to follow.  I now just need to attach my registration numbers and get in the water.  It snowed here last night in God’s country.  So much for global warming.  

Bimini, Cabin Top and Cushions

Northern Cross is back from the upholstery shop.

Check it out:

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Cabin top in stormy weather configuration, buttoned down for the night.  The vertical bulkhead panels are velcro’ed around the edges.  

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The cabin top secures with snaps…

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wrapped down around the cabin walkway.  

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I wanted a longer flap than normal on the front filler board, to keep water out of the cabin when driving down the road.  

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Cabin entrance with rain panels removed. The bug panels also remove by unzipping from the cover at the top edge.  

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The bug netting snaps back out of the way for easy entrance.  

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Bunk cushions were made from 3″ dense foam.  They fit beautifully and still allow great access to storage below.  

Now for the Bimini:

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Bimini in the up position.  It rests across the hand rails of the motor cover when traveling.   I also have a travel cover that fits over everything that I’ll show in a later post.  

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Bimini in the up position.  I held the Bimini forward in the cockpit to offer more protection when standing and motoring.  It’s about 6′ in length.  

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After looking things over, we decided the best place to mount the Bimini, was directly onto the oak handrails.  This widened the Bimini and kept the bars out of way of my elbows while also providing a little more shoulder room.   It should also keep a little more water out of the boat.  

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Stainless fittings secure the aluminum uprights.  I applied lock tight to the screws to prevent them from vibrating out when traveling.  

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The Bimini was secured by screwing the webbing directly to the tubing.  Though this might work fine , it didn’t seem secure enough to me.  

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Instead, I decided to wrap the webbing around the tubbing with simple knot.  

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I then replaced the screw to keep the webbing from shifting up or down the tube.  With the webbing wrapped around the tubing, it’ll be much more secure.  

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I used stainless pad-eyes to secure the forward webbing straps.  

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The aft strap was secured in a similar way.  

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And, there you have it.  Secure and solid.

Summary:

I’m now adding a compass to the bulkhead and a tow hook to the transom (for rescuing stranded ski boats on the reservoir).  I’m all but done folks and it feels so good.  I’m looking to get back on the water for the official launch early next month.  

Family Cycling with DaVinci Grand Junctions

I love a lot of outdoor pursuits.  Things like:  backpacking, cycling, sailing, RV’ing, hiking, outdoor photography, rafting and nordic skiing.  Near the top of this list is cycling, even better yet might be family cycling.  When I speak of family cycling a few challenges immediately raise their ugly heads.  You already know what the issues are:  Things like keeping the kids happy, keeping the kids hydrated, keeping the kids on the right side of the road and keeping the kids motivated to push the pedals.  At a young age, their attention span is simply too short, they lag behind and become uninterested.  In fact, one of the biggest challenges of cycling with kids is keeping yourself from screaming at your kids instead of enjoying your kids.    

So what’s the solution?  Although not the only solution, the best solution from my way of thinking is a tandem.  Yes, a bicycle built for 2.  The benefits of the tandem riding with your kids are:

  1. Your child never lags behind
  2. Your child never feels like they’re too slow
  3. Your child never swerves out into the road
  4. Your child feels like they’re part of a team, cuz they are
  5. Your child doesn’t need to navigate
  6. Your child doesn’t need to shift gears
  7. Your child doesn’t need to brake and/or steer

This leaves your child free to sing and tell stories as you cycle along at a much faster pace than otherwise possible.  And, sing they will.  Trust me, I’ve owned four tandems in my past and always been amazed at how children open up while riding a tandem.

But, tandems companies have fallen by the way side over the last decade or so, leaving fewer and fewer manufactures.  Subsequently, tandem prices have risen significantly and many families have chosen to forgo this most excellent form of family togetherness. Additionally, many tandem manufactures have decided to cater to the high end performance market, leaving the availability of family tandems even further behind.  As I have scoured the market for what I feel represents a great family machine for a fair price, I’ve found one offering that seems to stand out amongst the others.

First, Let’s review my family tandem criteria:

  1. Tire size accommodation:   This is hugely important and rarely address by manufactures.  Idaho has a ton of great off road trails.  You simply cannot ride these trails with a 1″ or even a 1.25″ tire, yet few manufactures understand this or at least care to address this critical issue.  I’ve tried on several occasions to get CoMotion Cycles to widen the legs of their Periscope (which otherwise would make an excellent family tandem), without success.  I refuse to buy a tandem that won’t allow good tire clearances for different trail conditions.  If you can’t run a 2″ tire, many of our trails would be utterly unridable.  Why say no to these trails?  Why not allow for wider tires?  How hard is it folks?  Truth is, it’s not hard at all, they’re just stuck in their corporate ways.
  2. Adjustability for different rider heights:  Frames with small stoker positions help fit a wider range of riders.  This can be accomplished by several tandems once the kids reach about 10 and above.
  3. Rack compatible:  What if we want to run the Great Allegheny Passage?  We’ll need both tire clearance and a full complement of panniers with possibly even a trailer.  Versatile tandems offer a plethora of mounting points for bicycle touring.
  4. Value oriented:  Still a lot of money at $3,500 each.  But, I wasn’t happy with the cheaper options offered by KHS and Raleigh.  They simply didn’t fit the criteria stated above.  For a quality built versatile tandem, you’ll need to spend around this amount (at least that’s been my experience).

Here’s what we settled on:

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Meet the DaVinci Grand Junction.  This quality tandem, developed by DaVinci Cycles out of Colorado, will be our next wonder horse.  Given our family size, we needed two.   One bought one in size Small, the other in size Medium.  My wife can captain the small, while I can captain the medium.  This will allow us to attend tandem rallies and experience other trails with our youngest children in the stoker position.

Benefits of a Grand Junction:

  1. Tire widths accommodating a full 2,1/4″ knobby.
  2. Independent pedaling:  DaVinci uses the term “independent coasting”.  This allows your child to stop pedaling to eat a granola bar, shed a jacket or take a drink, while you continue pedaling.  If they get tired, let ’em take a break while you continue to make forward progress.  This may prove very beneficial with younger stokers.  With linked pedals…they stop and you stop.  I would prefer to keep moving forward even if it means only under solo power.
  3. Drop bars for efficient crossings.  I prefer drop bars for road riding and non aggressive off road riding.  Think multiple hand positions.
  4. Disc brakes for smooth control on the down hills.
  5. Good stand over range accommodated by sloping top tube.
  6. Steel Frame:  I would always choose a good chrome moly frame over an aluminum frame, especially when comfort is on the line.
  7. Quality:  DaVinci is an quality American company whose products will last a lifetime.  You can also pick up the phone and speak to them any day of the week.

Check out their web site for a host of other advantages.  I’ll do a full review of these tandems once we log a few hundred miles.  Let’s just say on paper, I’m sold.

Is it worth the expense?

You’ll need to answer that question for yourself.  As for us, we’re dreaming of doing the C&O Tow Path and the Great Allegheny Passage with our kids.  That trip alone would make this investment totally worth it to me.  Add on all the local rides, along with tandem rallies and family cycling works out to be a very affordable form of family recreation.  Let’s do this another way:  For the price of one cheap ATV, you could buy 2 family tandems and do a ton of family riding, with very little continued expense.  Your ATV will require yearly Off Road stickers, oil changes, tune-ups, a trailer to haul it and a tow vehicle to pull it.  Not to mention another garage to store it.  The list goes on and on.  Family cycling teaching your kids a much healthier lifestyle.  It teaches them to enjoy the simple things, to experience and appreciate nature.  The quiet things of life that are so desperately missing from their daily lifestyles of texting and tweeting.  And, might I add a much more sustainable lifestyle going forward.  Yes, to us, it’s definitely worth the expense.  

 

 

Fire Extinguisher

After looking at other options, I decided to mount the fire extinguisher under the port side bunk, next to the battery.  Maybe this is a bad idea, if the battery explodes, but I can move it later if needed.

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I used the battery strap to secure the fire extinguisher.  There is room to slip the extinguisher out without loosening the strap.  Notice the (2) 12V receptacles near the upper edge of the photograph.  These will be handy to charge digital devices when motoring.  Remember, the 25 Yamaha has an alternator for charging when motoring.

 

Front Storage Hatch and Garbage Bag

Still finishing up loose ends with Northern Cross

First up:  The Front Storage Hatch

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I applied a liberal amount of silicone around the hatch prior insertion.

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The O-ring kept coming off the hatch plate, so it also got a dose of silicone.  I screwed the hatch into the front bulkhead using 1/2″ SS screws.

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This could prove to be a great place to add some ballast for trim if needed, or other things you rarely need to access.  

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Just need cushions and I’m ready to go.

Next up:  The Garbage

You always have garbage.  Drink your pop…need somewhere to throw it.  Eat your sandwich…need somewhere to throw the napkins.  Toast off the licorice…need somewhere to throw the wrapper.

My criteria for the garbage:

  1. Conveniently located
  2. Secure, so it won’t blow overboard
  3. Simple
  4. Cheap
  5. Easy to replace

Check it out:  (I stole this idea from my sailboat)

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You start with a small soft sided storage bag, secured with a carabiner and a pad eye.  The draw string/toggle keep the bag closed during travel.  

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You stuff the storage bag with disposable grocery bags.  You have hundreds of them lying in the bottom of your kitchen drawers.  

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You secure the bag using the carabiner.  When the garbage gets full, tie off the ears and toss it in the garbage at the ramp.  Simple, cheap and effective.  

Great News:  Northern Cross goes into the upholster shop Monday morning.

The upholstery shop will be doing 4 things for me:

  1. Sewing a bimini
  2. Sewing the cabin cushions
  3. Sewing the cabin top
  4. Sewing a travel cover

…Stay tuned for a softer, more comfortable Northern Cross

Securing the Coolers

I always had a plan for the 2 small coolers that were designed into the U seating.  Today you can see the final outcome of this idea.

Here it is:

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The basic bungie ties off behind the seat longitudinal and snakes up and over the Igloo logo on the cooler.  This logo causes the bungie to place downward pressure on the cooler and keeps it properly located.  

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The seats hang into the cockpit a few inches, hence the coolers tuck under quite well.

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Looking straight down off the cockpit seats.  

I plan to use one cooler for cold drinks, the other for snacks and sandwiches.  

 

Securing the Motor Cover

One item that needed attention was the motor cover.  When traveling, I didn’t want the motor cover to flop forward and spring the hinges.  I also wanted a way to keep the cover from blowing forward when motoring.

Here’s what I came up with:

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I first added 3 eye straps to the inside of the slosh well.

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I then attached a bungie cord to the top eye strap and added a carabiner to the opposite end.  I secured one end of the carabiner with shrink wrap.  This leaves the opposite end for attachment.  

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This is the “ready to raise the motor” configuration.  Notice I added shrink wrap to the ends of the bungie cord to keep it tidy.

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When the motor is completely raised, the bungie cord keeps the motor cover from blowing forward.  

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This is the “motoring around the lake” configuration.  When cruising, I can clip the bungie cord to the bottom eye strap and keep the cover from blowing forward on the water.  Both of these configurations are about 12″ apart, hence the tension is comparable in either position.  

Even in the “motoring around the lake” configuration, I can raise the motor several inches…if I come across a shallow area.  The flexible bungie offers movement to accommodate some lifting of the motor.

Summary:

I love trying to get things right on my boat.  These little things make the overall experience so much better.  If you take care of the little things, the big things seem to take care of themselves.