If you imagine a 61-year old accounting office administrator's beloved Fluffy, you might picture a snow-white Pomeranian poking its head out of her purse. But Denise Hurt's Fluffy is a 14-and-a-half-foot Chebeague kayak made by Lincoln Canoe and Kayak in Amesbury, MA. Hurt and her Fluffy have bounced down logging roads, meandered down twisty streams, paddled alongside loons, and endured through heavy chop. We got in touch to hear a little more about their adventures.
C&K: Okay, we have to know right off the bat; why did you name your kayak Fluffy?
Denise Hurt: It's white and reminded me of Marshmallow Fluff and thus Fluffy. He also answers to Fluffernutter.
You're clearly smitten. Why do you love Fluffy?
I have several kayaks, but Fluffy's my favorite boat. It's considered a day touring boat, but I've taken it camping with no complaints. I love, love, love it because it felt like home the very first day I test paddled it. It's fast enough to make every trip a breeze, is light (39 lbs including the handy dandy skeg), has plenty of room for a very long weekend’s worth of gear, and let's face it, it's a gorgeous kayak! The folks at Lincoln are all so nice and helpful, which is one more reason to love owning one. It's also a very stable platform for taking pictures, so I get to combine my love of photography with my love of kayaking. Finally, it turns really well, making it good on smaller, winding streams.
Fluffy isn't your only kayak. Why did you buy him?
My sister actually bought Fluffy and was always raving about what a nice boat it was. So, I finally asked if I could try it for a day. She said okay and it was love at first paddle. The minute I sat in it, I knew I had to have one. It fits me perfectly, paddles like a dream, tracks really well even without the skeg, and is so darn pretty! I'd need to save my pennies, but I was determined to get one of my own. In the meantime, my sister decided she liked the seats in the newer Chebeague model better and ordered a new one for herself. So, she sold me Fluffy at a very reasonable price. I would have ended up with one eventually, but because of her, I got to have it much sooner.
You mentioned Fluffy's zip a couple times. How does his speed serve you?
This past Columbus Day weekend, Fluffy and I joined a group of friends on a four-day camping trip near Millinocket, ME. This involved a six-mile, 45-minute drive down rutted, rocky, logging roads just to reach the put in. We paddled through Debsconeag Deadwater and a connecting stream to our campsite at the top of First Debsconeag Lake. I am the only kayaker in this group of canoe camping enthusiasts. In the past, I've struggled to keep up with the two-person power of the canoes. Though the kayak I'd used in the past was steadfast and solid in all kinds of conditions, paddling it fully loaded was like paddling a barge fully loaded with bricks. I really had to work hard. The Chebeague is a completely different story! It paddled like a dream even though I was 20 lbs. of gear over the recommended weight limit for the boat. I had a blast; well, I always do on these trips, but this time I could actually drift a little, glide along, and chat easily with the rest of the group, and even push off ahead a bit if I chose to be alone. For once, I wasn't arriving at the camp site after everyone else had already claimed the best tent sites!
Okay, you were smitten from the first, but was there a moment when you realized it was true love?
It was on the Maine trip when we intended to explore some ice caves. As soon as we left our little cove, the wind started picking up as it often does on these big Maine lakes in October. We got to where the trail was supposed to be and discovered that even if we found it, we weren't going be able to land. The shoreline was just a jumble of huge, sharply pointed boulders, just waiting to eat our boats. It would be difficult enough even in calm conditions. We decided to head back to camp, directly into the wind and a pretty darn good chop. This is when I discovered what a shining gem this boat is. I forgot to put the skeg down, but never really missed it. Fluffy tracked as if it was tied to a tree on shore and being winched in. Water was coming over the bow, the wind was trying to push me back to the other end of the lake, but Fluffy and I were just pushing right through it all. We have one paddling team in the group who sets a brisk pace and whom everyone else is always chasing. I even kept up with them!
Do you have a favorite place to paddle?
Every place I paddle is a favorite place. There are lots of rivers that make me smile just thinking about them: the Ipswich River in Topsfield, MA, the Squanacook River on a foggy fall day, and any river on a nice drizzly one when my friends and I can have the river to ourselves and the wildlife is more likely to share it with us. We are lucky to live in New England where there are lots of different places to dip a paddle within a short drive. Kayaking recharges me and calms me at the same time. There is something about following the flow of a river under your own steam and exploring new waterways that takes one completely away from stressful workdays and noisy and crowded places. You can breathe and think and experience wonder. Add a campfire somewhere in there and I'm in heaven!
-Have a canoe or kayak you love? Be in RIDES or recommend a friend! Contact Katie McKy at firstname.lastname@example.org with "RIDES profile" in the subject line.. Photos are provided by the paddlers.