rob roberts with a sailing canoe in Montana

Why ‘Scanoodling’ Is Our New Favorite Water Activity

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Outdoor Adventures, Sailing

First off, friends, apologies for the long radio silence. I let the blog lapse while I finished my book (hooray!) about sailing across the Pacific Ocean and the subsequent transition back to the U.S. as new parents. Fingers crossed that it finds a home with a publisher soon 🙂

I’ve also been busy writing for magazines and newspapers. You’re welcome to check out recent stories about travel and adventure-parenting here.

And now to the heart of this post: scanoodling, our family’s favorite new hobby.

Brianna Randall sailing a canoe in Missoula

What is scanoodling?

It’s a word we made up that means dinking around in our motorized sailing canoe. Sometimes we paddle. Sometimes we sail. Sometimes we rev up the 3-horsepower motor.

The name comes from the type of canoe we bought this summer, a 16.5-foot Coleman Scanoe. It’s a flat-bottomed, aluminum-framed boat with a square back that’s durable and roomy — a cross between a skiff and a canoe.

Why we chose a scanoodle

Since we returned from our big trip across the sea, Rob and I have struggled to figure out the best boat to fit our lifestyle in Montana. As water-lovers, boats are vital for increasing our happiness factor.

We have two Alpaca Rafts, super-lightweight inflatable kayaks, which have served us well for short day trips or solo missions on rivers and wilderness lakes. But they’re too small for our family to undertake multi-day trips, and hell to paddle into the wind.

talon in snow with packrafts on clark fork river 2

I used to share a 26-foot sailboat on Flathead Lake, but gave up that share when we set sail for the South Pacific. Since then, I’ve rented sailboats from friends for a few days at a time. But we missed the freedom of going sailing whenever I wanted. Plus, a traditional sailboat makes it tough to visit new places, since you’re either locked into one marina with dock fees or you need a big truck to tow a 5,000 to 10,000-pound yacht.

We looked high and low for good options, including small trimarans that our sedan could tow. Nothing seemed quite right.

Until we came across SailboatsToGo.com. This little company makes nifty sailing packages that attach to most kayaks or canoes. The whole kit weighs under 50 pounds, and can be checked as luggage on airplanes. We were sold, especially since we’re planning to sail through Florida’s Everglades National Park this winter.

scanoe with sail rig

We bought the sailing kit before we bought our own boat, and tested it out on friends’ canoes. Then we found the Scanoe, complete with a little outboard motor, for just $800. Packing up after work one Friday, we drove to Sandpoint, bought the Scanoe, and sailed to a remote beachside campsite on Lake Pend Oreille at sunset, the water like glass under our bow.

It was a match made in heaven.

Why we love scanoodling

  • You can sail UP rivers, not just float down, which is uber-awesome.
  • When there’s good wind, you can fill your sail instead of ruin your arms.
  • And when the wind’s in your face and you can’t sail or paddle, the 3 hp outboard pushes the boat along at a good clip: ~8 mph without gear, ~5 mph fully loaded. One gallon of gas keeps us going over an hour.
  • With the pontoons and leeboards (courtesy of SailboatsToGo) and the beamy, flat-bottomed canoe design, the boat is super safe. We can walk around inside or stand up to fish, and not worry that Talon might topple overboard.
  • It’s a craft that can ply nearly any waterway in Montana. While I wouldn’t take it through Class III+ rapids or into the open ocean, the Scanoe does stay stable even when it takes on water.
  • At 80 pounds, Rob and I can easily lift the Scanoodle on top of our car with the sail rolled up under the crossbars. The pontoons, leeboards and steering oar fit handily in the trunk. (Note: We’re planning to buy a small trailer to make transport even easier.)
  • We can pack enough gear in the boat to stay out for a week and the three of us still fit comfortably.
  • You never have to worry about running aground, since it’s made to be beached.
  • Maintenance hours are negligible and dock fees are nonexistent.

sailing upriver in search of yellowstone cutthroat trout

Where we scanoodled this summer

  • Missouri River – 50 miles over 5 days
  • Lake Pend Oreille – 3 night camping trip
  • Lake Upsata – a day of snorkeling and spearfishing
  • Frenchtown Pond – where Talon caught his first fish
  • Clark Fork River – afternoon floats near Missoula
  • Cliff Lake – 2 night camping and fishing trip
  • Flathead Lake – hour-long joy rides from Big Arm campground with friends and family
  • Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge – across Upper Red Rock Lake and 2 miles up the Red Rock River
  • Blanchard Lake & Clearwater River – after-work jaunts to spearfish and snorkel
  • Next up: Everglades National Park in December!

catching rainbows in cliff lake

sailing canoes access back water fishing brianna randall fishes from the bow of the sailing canoe

Loving Montana Over Labor Day Weekend

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Community and Culture, Hiking, Sailing

Even though the fires make for good sunsets, they’re hell on throats and positive attitudes.  The Friday night before the long holiday weekend over Labor Day found Missoula wreathed in mood-dampening smoke.  We decided to get out of dodge.

Rob, Cassidy, and I took off Saturday to the northern Mission Mountains for an overnight backpack to Mollman Lakes.  We hiked in from the  Tribal Wilderness side, which is straight up (and I do mean straight) from the valley floor.  We drove the little red truck through the forest on a sort-of road, plowing over massive rocks and around cedar branches.

After 5 miles and 3,500 feet, we arrived at Mollman pass and gazed out at the craggy Mission cliffs, and two sinuous deep blue lakes spread out before us.  Our friend, Derek, was already there, and snagged the best campsite.  Three more friends rolled in an hour later.  The dogs were in heaven. One-night backpacks are awesome: our packs were less than 20 pounds, and it felt like we flew up the trail.  We saw a small black bear on a scree field, and plenty of bear poop on the trail.  We only passed two other groups (a regular thoroughfare, compared to most wilderness hikes in Montana): one group were acquaintances, and the other was a pack of Amish boyscouts hiking out from the lakes.

A full moon rose over the rocky cliffs as we joked around a campfire in the cold air at our 7,000-foot elevation.  After three hilarious tries, and two broken ropes, we managed to hang the ~50 pounds of food for 7 people and 2 dogs.

Our friends stayed in another night to fish and laze on rocks, while Rob and I hiked out and drove north another 40 miles to Flathead Lake and our sailboat.

The wind was whipping.   We made it to the east end of Wild Horse Island in record time, docking at a friend’s cabin for a quick happy hour visit.  From the dock, we pointed to Mollman Pass, rising sharply out of the lake to the south, and told them about our night in the woods.

Waving farewell at sunset, Rob and I had a quick sail to the protected Skeeko Bay.  We nestled our anchor in a free spot near shore, counting a record 14 boats already anchored for the night.  Party weekend.  About an hour later, as we were making pasta in the cabin, another friend—our slip neighbor at Dayton Yacht Harbor—hailed us from his stand-up paddleboard.  They’d anchored next to us, and he was shuttling their dog to shore for its evening pee.  I slept well, lulled and comfortable with the gentle rock in Skeeko’s protected anchorage.

We woke up with a hike, a swim, and some knot-tying practice in the cockpit.  Around noon, we headed back to the harbor to pick up another couple of friends (and a dog, of course), heading out for an afternoon of stand-up paddling, beers, swimming, and communal laughter.

All in all, another Montana Labor Day weekend spent exerting minimal labor and receiving much love from our community, our mountains, and our favorite lake.

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