Incredible Journeys

Eddy’s got answers on epic kayak trips, UV clothing and canoe packing

Eddy, the beloved boating guru in Canoe & Kayak’s print magazine, has come to life on the website. This story featured in the August 2007 issue and was written by Frederick Reimers and Sam Moulton.

Illustration by Aaron McKinney

What’s the most epic sea kayak trip ever?

In 1987, Ed Gillet paddled from California to Hawaii in a Necky Tofino double. 2,200 miles. 63 days. Alone. He ran out of food on day 60, and because his legs had atrophied, had to crawl up the beach when he landed. Impressive, but not as monumental as Hannes Lindemann’s 72-day solo expedition from the Canary Islands to the Bahamas 31 years earlier. The crazy German’s Klepper folding kayak was filled with so much food and water that it took him weeks just to chow enough of it to have a space to lie down in, and he once spent a day and a half clinging to the outside of the boat because the water was warmer than the air. His book, Alone at Sea, describes the boils and hallucinations in terrific detail, which is why, along with the Worst Case Scenario Handbook, it’s mandatory reading for all Eddy’s new girlfriends. But even more epic than those two trips was Franz Romer’s completion of the same feat, 30 years before Lindemann. According to Time magazine’s May 7, 1928 issue, Romer launched from Portugal with 55 gallons of water and 590 pounds of food aboard his 21-foot folding kayak. The intrepid German stopped off in the Canary Islands, and then made the 58-day jump to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Determined to make it to New York City, he made a “short” jaunt to Puerto Rico, outfitted his kayak with an outboard motor and launched for New York. Tragically, he left an hour before a hurricane warning was posted and was never heard from again. Kind of like most of Eddy’s dates.

Clothing with ultraviolet protection: marketing gimmick or high-tech skin saver? What’s wrong with just plain sunscreen?

Sunscreen doesn’t always get the job done. According to Dr. Perry Robins at The Skin Cancer Foundation, you have to wait 20 minutes before chemical sunscreens become effective—that is bind to the skin cells—and once they are, the protection is only good for 80 minutes at most before you have to reapply. Second, sunscreen is less effective than clothing at blocking UVA rays, the kind that scientists believe may lead to premature aging of the skin. In other words, using sunscreen, you might not get skin cancer, but your cheeks could end up as supple as the dashboard of Eddy’s ’92 Grand Am. Now, clothing, here’s the deal: Doc Robins says that a plain white T-shirt has an SPF of 7, and when you get it wet, that rating goes down to three. Darker fabrics are better (the test is to hold a garment up to the sun and see how much light leaks through). A nylon poncho would top the charts, with an SPF of 1,700, but can be a little warm on summer float trips. So, if you’re heading someplace especially sunny, a chemically treated shirt with a rating of 40 UPF (similar to SPF but taking UVA rays into account) might not be a bad idea. As for Eddy, he’ll stick with his black Night Ranger concert T with the huge, completely opaque decal on the back.

On a canoe expedition, should I tie my gear into the canoe or leave it loose?

Because a capsized boat with packs tied in almost always turns bottom up in shallower rapids (trust Eddy on this one), packs or pack straps can get snagged on submerged rocks or branches and actually increase the chances of your boat bear hugging a rock. But, aside from bony rapids—and portage-intensive lake country, where all the strapping and fastening business slows you down—Fast Eddy ties ’em in. Why? Firmly tied-in packs increase the buoyancy of your capsized canoe. Plus, you don’t have to scramble all over the river to recoup your wayward belongings, and risk losing something vital, like a fondue set. Canoe tripping guru Alan Kesselheim agrees. “When things went wrong, every time I can remember, I was glad to have things tied in, or, when I didn’t, I wished I had. I just have come to make a habit of it, sort of like seatbelts.” Kesselheim’s book, The Wilderness Paddler’s Handbook, has detailed info on a few different tie-in systems. Just remember: Use quick-release knots or carabineers, and have a knife handy in case you need to cut your gear out in a hurry.

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