The first weekend in May finally brought decent weather to the Twin Cities area. Despite a Thursday with 80 degree temperatures in the middle of April, our weekend weather has been fairly cold and cloudy. We both had the weekend off, so we headed off to the lakes to try out our new Advanced Elements Expedition inflatable kayak. Although a bit windy, it was in the mid- to high-sixties with loads of sun.
Inflation took only 15 minutes or so (my practice runs in the living room helped speed things along). I’m happy to say that I don’t foresee any problems with a solo set-up and launch. Provided I can haul everything to the launch site, the kayak has plenty of storage for the duffle bag, foot pump, dry bag and more. This way, I don’t have to inflate everything and then return to the car to store the “extras” after inflation.
We launched from a dock on the northwest shore of Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. There were a steady stream of canoes and kayaks putting in and launching from the floating dock. I had planned to do a launch from shore, but there were gaggles of geese that were not too keen on that idea. Luckily the dock worked out wonderfully.
I had no trouble getting in or out of the kayak from the dock, so I pushed off and paddled around in the launch site. I neither flipped nor sank, so I figured that was a good omen for the day. Retrieving the camera from my wife so that she could lay out in the sun, I headed out to paddle around the islands and get a feel for the kayak.
My first impressions are that the kayak is quite comfortable and has fairly good storage. Given its width of over 32″, it is extremely stable. The tracking seems fine, but I think I may need to brush up on my technique before blaming any directional issues on the kayak. The wind was fairly quiet near the launch site, although I figured I was hitting 10-15 mph winds out on the lake.
Having traveled around a few of the small islands in Lake of the Isles, I decided to head west to the connecting waterway that leads to Cedar Lake. This connecting waterway is very quite and still, with a few bridges to go under and some homes close to shore.
I had passed a “real” kayaker launching his touring kayak. He said, “Oooh, an inflatable. Cool.” With a quick nod, he glided out for Cedar Lake. I could keep up with him without too much trouble, but I believe he had a more efficient kayak and technique. As he was decked out in a full waterproof suit, I imagine this wasn’t his maiden voyage.
Overall, the short trip was quite pleasant. I’ve paddled around this area quite a few times with rental kayaks, but I’m glad to say I enjoy my inflatable more. The seat and footrest are far more comfortable than any rental kayak I’ve used. Quietly drifting in the kayak would be incredibly awesome, but I’m afraid I would fall asleep and wake up in the bushes.
Having paddled for an unknown amount of time, I decided to head back and see if my wife had grown impatient with my wandering. I later found out that I had only been out for about 30 minutes at this point. I’m looking forward to some far longer trips this summer with a few supplies to help me along the way.
My arrival at the dock was fairly uneventful and dry, with the exception of me almost hitting a little girl in the head with my kayak as she came up to see what I was doing. I thought her mother was going to be upset, but she seemed unconcerned as they waited for the father to drag their canoe down to the shore.
Now for more good weather and some more extensive inflatable kayaking in Minnesota! I’ll probably stick to the Lake Calhoun/Lake of the Isles/Cedar Lake area for the next trip, as it is familiar and convenient. We are planning a canoeing/kayaking trip to the Boundary Water Canoe Area, but those plans still solidifying.