Llano River Cruise click here to read or make an observation about this  article
By Sandra Leinweber - Harper, Texas - USA

This past Sunday we tested the River Runner on the nearby Llano River. It is a typical Hill Country river, winding and twisting through rolling hills and limestone bluffs. We had had a good rain a couple of days before, so it was up a bit. Like most of the rivers in this part of Texas, it has a significant spring-fed element, or it might be dry most of the year.

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Matthew and I are ready to go.

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The boat is not quite done; we still have to sand and paint the inside and take care of all the little finishing details. We put a quick temporary coat of non skid paint on the inside floor so we would not slide around on the epoxied wood. It is heavier than I had hoped, but not so heavy that we can’t load and unload—I was surprised that hauling it down a hill seemed harder than up. Maybe I was on the light end going up.

We took the River Runner out of the shop before it was quite finished.

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It has been a while since Chuck and I had to cooperate while riding in the same boat, and at first I wondered if we would make it down the river intact. I was in the front, Chuck in the back. There are not any real rapids on this river, just little drops with often narrow channels and rocky shallow places on either side. My job was to make sure we hit the channels, and Chuck’s job (I thought), was to make sure we made the turn that almost always came once we were through the first drop. I thought he should be able to use the movement of the water and the blade of his paddle to turn us, but he thought I should paddle like a demon to turn us.

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Chuck took this picture of me in the front. There are no rapids here which is basically why he was taking a picture.

“Paddle, paddle, paddle!!!” (Chuck)

“Use your blade to turn us!” (me)

“No, you have to paddle!” (Chuck)

By the time that was all said, we were through the fast part and back into the calm water, several times turned around backwards (which is really pretty fun), still arguing about who should have done what. After a few of these episodes, he said,

“Why don’t you sit back here.”

Yeah! Finally I get to sit in the back and tell Chuck what to do.

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I had to admit that he was right. If the person in the front did not paddle like crazy, the boat got swept toward the bank faster than the person in back could turn it. All that remained on that issue was to establish who was going to be captain and who was going to be crew, who would give the orders, and who would obey. We are still working on that one.

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In the calm parts of the river, we practiced Zen paddling. It's relaxing but not very efficient.

There was one other small problem that we resolved. I thought we needed a directional skeg on the bottom. Chuck didn’t. We are taking this boat to the San Juan River in Utah next month, and he wanted a completely smooth bottom painted with graphite so we could just glide over rocks. Now that we have had it out, he agrees that it over responds to turns, and has agreed to install a shallow skeg to give us more directional stability.

Dean is an avid birdwatcher and paused occasionally to check out the feathered fauna.

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We did not have time to find oars before this test run, and the Llano was too narrow in the fast parts for them anyway, but that is the next thing we will add—7’ oars and oarlocks and sockets. We are both excited about learning to use oars to steer with as we think they will be perfect for the San Juan. We also need some longer paddles—the ones we have are 52”, and we think 60” would be just right.

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Our boat is easy to load onto our faithful Harbor Freight trailer.

This test run was about 7 miles, and it went by fast—less than 3 hours. We were paddling with our friend Dean Mitchell and his grandson, Matthew. They will also be going on the San Juan trip.