The EC in a Pygmy Osprey Triple
By David Wicks - Louisville, Kentucky - USA
Photos and sound by Dan Lockwood.
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Photo by RiverJohn

Photo by RiverJohn

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On Friday March 9th, 2007 Dan Lockwood (SavannahDan) and I (PaddleMaker) successfully completed the Everglades Challenge in a Pygmy Kayak – The Osprey Triple. We traveled from Tampa Bay to Key Largo via the wilderness waterway in 6 days 6 hours and 55 minutes. A previous Duckworks article describes the boat building and first three shake down cruises. The article “Preparations for the 2007 Watertribe Challenge” ends with a statement “There is no guessing how we will do in the race because a lot depends on the wind speed and direction, but our preparations have been as thorough as we can make them.” This article will describe how the boat did, our improvements and additions to the boat and a few comments on our equipment. Completing the Everglades Challenge requires a good boat in good condition and paddlers that are competent at expedition travel and that are in physical shape. Some of our conditioning is described in the above article. We paddled every other day day. It was easier for SavannahDan, who lives on the near tropical Georgia Coast. I live in Louisville, Kentucky and it was down right cold for the month before the race, but it made going to Southern Florida that much nicer.

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Paddlemaker in a Pygmy Golden Eye Hi on Harrods Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River. For four months before the race I averaged 45 miles a week paddling. Photo was taken the week before the challenge started.
(Photo taken by Fife)

This article is not going to be a documentation of the race or a chronological story, several others have already done that for the Watertribe 2007, namely Lug Nut and XLXS . Both came before SavannahDan and I; it will focus on the equipment and our impressions of the race.


The Boat: The Pygmy Osprey Triple:

The Pygmy osprey triple did well. It is a fast and very stable boat. Both the initial stability and the secondary stability is exceptional. We could get in and out of the boat without any cares, kneel in it and even sit on the deck and paddle. Twice during the whole race we felt the need to take down one of the two sails, but that was in 4 foot plus waves and 20 knot winds. In heavy weather the boat sailed well. On the first day crossing Tampa Bay several other boats capsized yet we believe that the Osprey Triple could have gone although even stronger winds and bigger swells.

Click HERE for an audio description of crossing Tampa Bay

We chose our landing sites, so we did not land in surf, but we did paddle through breaking waves several times. Off Marco Island paddling into Caxambas pass; we had an outgoing tide, a 20-knot winds blowing up the channel, which made for confused seas 100 yards out. There were 3 to 4 foot breaking waves along the entire coast, but the Osprey Triple handled them with no problem.

Click here for Dan’s optimistic view of the race

The Osprey Triple tracked well. With the two of us paddling with our full load we could maintain 4.0 to 4.5 knots easily. If one of us switched to a canoe paddle the speed dropped to 3.5 to 4.0 knots. With moderate force we could paddle for 5.0 to 5.5 knots. Going through the wilderness waterway we kept the boat at 5.25 knots for almost 3 hours! In a sprint, one could keep the Osprey triple going above 6.0 knots for as long as one’s muscles held out. We had to go against the tides several times, most notably Indian Key Pass and the Broad River. The kayak sliced through the water and was able to jump from eddy to eddy easily. We could cruise very close to shore then cut across the channel when the pass turned corners.

Click here for a speech on speed.

And here for another on above six knots



Being in the boat for a continuous 18 hours is serious business. We have found that the best way to be successful on Watertribe races is to be comfortable. We had different approaches. On the back band of the pygmy, I put an Discovery Back Cushion made by Seal line. The inflatable cushion fits onto the back band, and then the Pygmy Back Band cover goes over top of it. I brought along the Therm-a-Rest inflatable seat pad that comes with the boat, but did not use it on a regular basis. I found the Skwoosh Kayak Seat Paddling Cushion to be very comfortable. I bought a Discovery Kayak Support Cushion, it is designed to go under the thigh to prevent common leg pain and numbness. It alleviates pressure on the sciatic nerve and blood vessels on the back of the thigh by supporting, lifting and cushioning the thighs. I ended up not using it at all, as on the way down the Everglades Challenge, I bought two Seattle Sports Super Latitude horizontal dry bags. The bags have tie downs eyelets on either end, I used the bags for dry storage in the kayak cockpit. I kept my extra clothes, paddle jacket, lunch, gloves, hats, etc. These bags have hands-free AutopurgeTM valve that automatically purges the air as the bag is compressed which enabled me to use them as the perfect thigh supports. I could sit in the kayak, with the dry bags anchored to the side of the boat, and they would adjust to my leg movements. It was very comfortable.

One comfortable seat! The combination of the inflatable cushion and the back band was great - photo by David

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SavannahDan used a different approach. He used three 5 foot long by 30 inch wide closed cell high density foam pads that he could roll up or lay up in different configurations. One was laid on the hull under him, his heels also rested on it. The other pieces were rolled up underneath him, depending on how many layers he wanted behind him or under him. His system was ultimately very adjustable and kept him clean. It also provided us with pads to lie around on at the campsite.


Triple kayak used as a double:

The Pygmy Osprey Triple uses the same hull as the Pygmy Osprey Double. The difference is that the bow cockpit is pushed forward and the stern cockpit is pushed back enough so a center cockpit can be added. In addition to the bow paddler being a bit more cramped, having the bow paddler farther forward made for a wet ride. SavannahDan, the bowmen said he was continually wet, even though I never saw a wave go over his head. He got especially wet on the way down Pine Island Sound. We had an easterly wind and it picked up the chop. Between the chop and boat traffic wakes, he had waves in his lap on a regular basis. SavannahDan found that if he had a small waterproof bag under the bungee cords in front of him it would deflect the water from some of the waves. One question we had was in would the ride be less wet in the Osprey Double, as the bow cockpit would be farther back from the bow.

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Bag on bow.

The center cockpit gave us a big storage area. Instead of using a neoprene cockpit cover; I made a wooden cover so I could mount the second pacific action sail. We did take many waves over it, and not once did any water leak in. In this center cockpit area, I had five tie down D rings. We secured waterproof bags to the D rings. With such a system, I could ensure that the bags would not interfere with the rudder pedals and with them securely in place the waterproof bags would act as flotation.

A wooden cockpit cover provided a stable platform for the sail. It was held down with four bolts with wing nuts. photo by Landis

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I carried along three paddles, An Epic Mid Wing Hybrid paddle (26.5 oz.); a homemade Greenland style paddle (36 oz); and a carbon fiber canoe paddle (10 oz.). The Epic Mid Wing is a paddle that favors a vertical stroke, the Greenland style paddle is more suited to a low angle stoke and the canoe paddle was a single blade stoke. Having three different types of paddles and three different types of stokes allowed me to switch stems on a regular basis. My wrists never got tired or sore, no blisters on my hands, and I felt rejuvenated every time I switched paddles. In the calm waters of the Everglades, my partner, SavannahDan tried the ZRE Carbon Paddle kneeling in the bow cockpit of the kayak. He found it stable and was able to have a strong stroke. When I got my hands on the paddle, I took a Therm-a-Rest inflatable seat pad, and put it on the deck immediately behind the stern cockpit and gingerly sat on the pad with my legs braced on either side of the cockpit. I found that I could paddle for an hour or two. Sitting up on the deck allowed me to stretch my legs in a different manner and by sitting in an upright position, I changed my back position, which was a nice relief.

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Sitting on the back deck made for an easy paddling seat and it provided a welcome change from the kayak paddle

Click here for to listen to Dan as we paddle by Midnight Pass


Pacific Action Sail:

We used two one squire meter Pacific Action Sails on the race as the Everglades Challenge rules limited us to one square meter per person, if we wanted to stay in class one. The sails worked like a charm on the entire trip even though we were novice Pacific Action sailors. During our pre race party that Savannah Dan and I hosted at Fort Desoto Campground, Landis Arnold, president of Wildwasser, did some fine-tuning of our system before the race. He pointed out that the where the masts were joined in the mast step were not properly secured. We had to drill a few more holes and re seat the screws. The mast step holds the angle of the masts at a consistent angle. If the angle is loose or not set properly, the sail itself won’t be taut and true. Thank you Landis.

Having two of the Pacific Action sails enable us to take down one sail in stormy weather. It was a crude system of reefing sails, as the sails do not have a reefing system built into them. We ended up with three choices, no sails, one sail, or two sails. This was one source of debate between SavannahDan and I. Which sail to take down and when? For example crossing Tampa Bay, the first day, we had what looked like to be 3 foot waves and a 15 to 20 knot north west wind and we were heading south. SavannahDan was concerned that the bow was diving into the waves in front and coming up to his chest. Our speed was averaging at 6 knots; maximum speed surfing was 11.2 knots he felt that we should take down one of the sails. I thought it should be the bow sail as I believe that the bow sail, drives the bow into the water more, and if the center sail was left, it would make the boat more stable. We ended up taking down the center sail. Dan says that theory is that by taking down the center sail it relieves pressure amidships where the bulk of the boat is, and transfers it to the bow where there is less boat. It did make the ride a little more stable, and only reduced our speed by ½ knot and we still had some great surf riding.

SavannahDan and Paddle Maker in Sarasota Bay in the Pygmy Triple with two Pacific Action Sails. Photo by Landis

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Click here to hear Dan talk about sailing at night south of Stump Pass

One thing that we wanted to investigate on the trip was how far we could point into the wind with the Pacific Action Sails. The Osprey Triple is 20 feet long and when fully loaded all or part of the three hard chines on the hull as well as the keel are in the water which makes the boat a great tracker. Then adding a Seaward rudder made for double kayaks, out boat went straight as an arrow. For the first half of the race we never got to test the up wind capability as the wind was from the northern quarter. We enjoyed the capability of adjust to take full advantage of the wind. The sails worked great.

Click here to hear Dan talk about sailing off shore of Fort Meyers south of the Sanibel causeway

Paddling across Florida Bay, the winds changed direction and were blowing from the east or northeast the entire time, in other words we were heading directly into the winds and we did not even try to sail. Another everglades challenge racer, KiwiBird came along the same area that we sailed paddled four hours latter, and she said that she had her sail up the entire time. Both SavannahDan and I concluded that those New Zealand women are just better sailors. When we go to Key Largo, I went sailing with KiwiBird for an hour and gave me a through introduction on how to sail with Pacific Action Sails. The trick is to have one of the masts hauled down so it is very close to the deck and the second mast vertical. During our hour sail, we had the Osprey triple heading up into the wind. With a paddle assist one could sail easily 45 points off the direction of the wind.

One issue we had with the sail was the best way to stow the sail when paddling. With waves crashing over the deck, SavannahDan felt at times, the sail would come loose, and almost act as a sail anchor. We need a better system for ensuring that the sail is tightly furled around the masts and then an easy ty down. One change we would make would be to add small cam cleats on either side of the kayak cockpit to run the sail sheets through, as several other water tribe challenges had done. The stock system that comes with the Pacific Action Sails requires two hands to adjust and is a bit clumsy.

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KiwiBird and Paddlemaker sailing about 60 degrees off the wind after the race in Key Largo.

SavannahDan and Paddlemaker in the everglades camp site Darwin's Place. Photo taken by Tryo. Notice, SavannahDan’s sail is already become unfurled and not tight to the deck.

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Rear bulkhead and flotation:

During our first sea trials near the panhandle of Florida in October of 2006, we did not have adequate flotation. We practiced swamping several times and were not successful at our self-rescue techniques. Waves kept on coming in faster than we could pump and/or bail it out. We had to swim it to shallows and empty the boat when we could touch ground. One time we mis judged, and the Osprey Triple got sideways in the breaking surf on the shore and the waves pounded in and filled the boat 1/3 way with sand in less than 2 min. It was hard to rescue the boat. It took a lot of digging and backbreaking work. We concluded that the boat needs flotation.

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The stern bulkhead and hatch kit works well to provide storage and flotation. It did not leak at all. Photo taken south of Fort Meyers on Lovers Key by Tryo.

Click here to Dan's description of camping at Big Carlos pass on Lovers Key

After returning home from the sea trials I installed the rear bulkhead and hatch cover that comes with the kit from Pygmy. We went back and forth about putting the bow bulkhead and hatch cover. We eventually decided not to because the bow cockpit is so far forward, then with the foot pegs even being further forward that the size of the front compartment would be small. The size of the hatch cover would be tiny and very hard to get stuff in, also SavannahDan wanted to be able to lay down in the bow of the boat. When paddling and sailing for a day trip with limited equipment, I have two kayak air bags. In the bow, I use a bow flotation bag that is about 40 inches long. In the center cockpit, if there are only two of us paddling, I use a canoe center flotation bag. I epoxied D rings to the hull and I strap in the bag. During the race, we filled the area with waterproof bags securely tied in. On either side of the paddler, I have two Seattle Sports Super Latitude horizontal dry bags with tie downs eyelets on either end which hold the bags in securely. We have practiced swamping with this set up and it provides plenty of floatation.


Equipment packing:

We can pack a significant amount of equipment in the boat. In the bow, SavannahDan had four waterproof bags with lines attached.
Who knows what was in his personal stash that took up four bags. The four bags contained clothes for on shore and paddling in temperatures form 30 degrees to 80 degrees. One bag had instruments, charts and safety gear. Then in center compartment we had the waterproof bag 1 - 4 season mountaineering tent, hammock, and lines. Waterproof bag 2 - SavannahDan’s sleeping bag, pad and stuff. Bag 3 PaddleMakers’s sleeping bag, pad, flashlight, and stocking cap. Bag 4 PaddleMakers’s on shore clothes Bag 6: Diner Bag (20 pounds) bag 7 Lunch and Breakfast stuff (20 pounds) and 4 gallons of water. In the stern hatch we had PaddleMakers’s extra clothes, stove, pot kit and more food. In side pouches we kept paddling gear for the night paddling, along with the day-to-day necessities. On deck we had a NRS deck bag where we kept the extra flashlights, running lights, airhorn, Epirb, and other assorted floatsum. Besides our two extra paddles and painters, we tried to keep our decks clean. We had equipment and food to take a full two week self supported expedition, we had sufficient gear to keep us warm down to below freezing temperatures and keep us shaded and cool in Florida Bay and the tropics. At times, I felt over equipped. This could be one reason why it took between 1 and 3 hours to pack every morning.

Click here to hear Dan talk about Round Key in the thousand islands, east of Marco Island

A fully packed boat: We had food for two weeks, clothes for temperatures of 30 degrees to 85, and sleeping arrangements for swamps, beaches, and on board.

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Unloading at the everglades chickees is a challenge. Being able sit on the back of the kayak and unpack made it easier.


Sleeping in the boat:

Who would have ever thought it was possible? Two grown men - SavannahDan 5 foot 9 inches and 180 pounds, and PaddleMaker 6 foot and 220 pounds could sleep comfortably in a kayak? What made it even more amazing was that the first time we did it we had little planning so the boat was not ready. Our gear was not set up.

We left Flamingo around 4 pm with a strong headwind, 15 to 20 knot eastly wind. By the time we got to Dump Keys, we were tired, the wind was not letting up, it was at low tide, the sun had set and the first stars were shinning. We had headlamps, but no good searchlight. Savannah Dan said, “We always wanted to sleep in the boat, so let’s try it.” The western side of Dump Key was sheltered from the wind but still breezy enough to keep away the mosquitoes. The biggest advantage was that SavannahDan got to use his anchor. We carried along a 3-pound anchor and 35 feet of line. To secure the anchor line, he tied a loop around the front cockpit than ran the line through the front grab loop. As paddling partners some time do, I gave SavannahDan some grief over carrying an anchor. He kept on thinking the osprey triple as a sea pearl. This evening proved him right. The anchor allowed us to legally camp in Florida Bay and it was down right beautiful.

Moving one at a time, I sat up on the stern deck and managed to get my sleeping bag waterproof bag and two other waterproof bags from the center. The extra bags were tied on the stern deck, and I blew up the thermo rest pad and put it on the hull. Then I got out my sleeping bag and slipped into to it. I could lie prone but it was a bit tight. SavannahDan had his pads already in the bow, so he removed the back seat band (it was put on with wing nuts) and the front foot pegs, and he was also able to lie prone. We had a good night sleep, a full 7 hours.

Paddlemaker sleeping near Dump Keys in Florida Bay. The Pygmy Osprey Triple was at anchor with two paddle floats acted as outriggers.

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Even though SavannahDan did not think it was necessary, as a precautionary measure, I took the two paddle floats and extending them on either side of the boat almost like out riggers. This was in case of either one of rolled over at night. After the trip, a colleague of mine sold me a pair of sea wings, this summer I plan to experiment with them as I paddle the length of the Ohio River.

As we were anchored right off the channel at Dump Key, we were a bit afraid that a big fishing boat that knew the area would zip through the channel creating a big wake. With our cockpits being open with only about 2 ½ inches of free board, any wave would have made for a quick and wet wake up call.

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The Pygmy Osprey Triple at anchor in at Manatee Pass in Florida Bay


We both woke up at 3 am, the wind was almost non-existent and a few mosquitoes started buzzing. The amazing thing was that it still took us an hour to break camp, even though we were both in the boat. We are not the fastest at breaking camp, most days it took a good two hours. So by being in the boat, we cut our morning organizing ritual in half. We were off by 4 am, and it was beautiful. We finished going through the Twisty Mile just as twilight started coming on strong. The best part of the morning was that we finally found Manatee Pass. We almost gave up, but spotted the sticks at the last minute before heading south and adding 5 miles to our last leg. We paddled on through and stopped in the lee of Manatee Key island and got out of the boat for the first time in 20 hours. This was the first time that we could say, “hey we made it”. The color of the water changed, we saw two small sand sharks swim by.


Getting to the Race and back again:

One of the most pleasant aspects of this year’s race was having on shore help. Mr. Gus Rice drove shuttle for us. We got to Fort DeSoto 2 days early, early enough to have a party for the Water Tribe participants that was there. We got to listen to Snore talk about his boat in glowing terms. We set out Saturday morning from the beach and Mr. Rice took care of the car. If we needed to bail out during the race, he could have met us anywhere on the coast. When we arrived at Key Largo the van was there all set to put the boat and equipment back on ready to drive back 1200 miles to Louisville.


In conclusion:

In conclusion, we can attest to the quality of the Pygmy Osprey Triple Kayak. The Pacific Action Sails worked well and were a joy to use. After paddling and sailing all sorts of boats for over 40 years all over the world, the Osprey Triple is a great expedition boat that is stable, roomy, light and very fast. One strategy to completing the Everglades challenge is to be comfortable. We had the room to bring what we wanted, move around in the boat yet be able to paddle and sail. We finished the race in good spirits. Here is a short video of us reaching the finish line at Key Largo.

The Osprey Triple allows one to take serious expeditions as well as have fun with the family on short day outings.

Chelsea, Graeme and Dakota Wicks paddling the Osprey Triple on a day trip from Marco Island, Florida to Cape Romano

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Pygmy Osprey Triple Kayak is a beautiful boat with fine lines and I look forward to future adventures with it.