Starting around Halloween of last year (2009) I began to research making a long distance trip by canoe. Since I live in a part of the country (Liincoln, NE) with few rivers to choose from I’m kinda forced to go with the few choices that are available. That basically means the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Thus, my initial plans were to float the Missouri River to St. Louis, MO, and then continue on south on the MIssissippi River to New Orleans, LA. I would then backtrack from the MIssissippi Delta to the Gulf Coast and follow it to my sister’s house in the panhandle of Florida.
As I looked at the maps of the continental U.S. it became clear that the most challenging part of the trip would be the open ocean travel I would be forced to make on the Gulf of Mexico. Thus, I set about researching canoe designs and trying to read as much as possible about which boat to choose for the trip. My Christmas gifts for 2009 were copies of Cliff Jacobson’s Expedition Canoeing and Phil Peterson’s All Things are Possible, the biography of Verlen Kruger.
Reading the chapter (“The Wild-River Canoe”) on canoe design in Jacobson’s book really got me thinking. I’ve always wanted a closed decked boat but would it serve my needs? In other words, was the cost of going with that canoe design justified? I figured I might as well ask the man who wrote the book so I sent Cliff Jacobson an email. He kindly replied to my inquiry stating in part “As I see it, you have a problem because you want one canoe to do it all. Your gut feeling that you need a decked canoe for the ocean is right-on...” He went on to make some really good recommendations but the gist is that the open ocean travel part of the trip creates some issues in regards to how I’ll travel and what difficulties I’ll face.
As I finished reading the biography of Verlen Kruger by Phil Peterson one thing became clear, the Mississippi River below Nashville, TN, is too crowded with barge traffic for small boats, especially canoes. The point that really drove this home was Peterson’s summary (page 240) of the Mississippi River Challenge (2003) that broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest traverse of the Mississippi River from source to terminus (2,348 miles in 18 days, 4, hours, 51 minutes)...”In section between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, heavy barge traffic encountered. Clark [Eid] hates this section and thinks no small craft should ever be permitted there. The barges are getting nasty, winds are high, waves are rough.” When I read that passage I immediately started looking for an alternate way to reach Florida. Thus, I’ve cobbled together what I’m calling “The Route”. The alternate route I’ve chosen will put me more in contact with nature versus the industrialized canal that the Mississippi River has become and will actually shave a few miles off my final mileage.
The last big item I’ve needed to address is what boat I’ll use for the trip. I’ve never purchased a canoe preferring to use whatever was available when paddling a river. Since this is my first canoe and probably biggest purchase I’ll make I decided to go with the decked canoe I’ve been dreaming about for years. In that category there are only a few commercial choices available: Bell Canoe Works Rob Roy, Clipper Canoes Sea-1, Kruger Canoes Sea Wind, and the Superior Sawyer Superior Expedition. I’ve decided to go with the Superior Expedition with the reasons being it is closely modeled after the Kruger Sea Wind (but costing much less), is built in my home state of Michigan, has the features I’m looking for in a closed deck canoe, and will allow me to more easily handle the upstream paddle on the Ohio River (a very big plus!). I plan on placing my order later this spring for delivery at the end of the summer 2010.
So, that’s where the trip plans stand thus far. I need to work a bit more on navigation charts and purchase a few books about the proposed route. I also need to work up an equipment list and a timeline for trip preparations. I’ll post another entry of my blog in a few days/weeks when I’ve got more to report.