Sunday, May 17, 2009

Review: Bluehole OCA

  • Large planning hull is wide and stable
  • Soft chines make side surfing easy
  • Weighs 80 lbs. – maybe more

Length: 15’2”
Width: 36”
Rocker: 2”
Paddler Weight: 100 lbs to 1000 lbs


Yesterday, I ran the Locust Fork as it fell from 4 to 3.5 in my grandfather’s Bluehole OCA. The boat was produced in 1975, has some Royalex damage on the underside of the hull, but still floats. It has an old Birmingham Canoe Club sticker on it. My grandfather was a member back in the 70’s when LRC was suicide, Bull Dog Bend was the place to go, and the Locust was for experienced paddlers. The last time I’d paddled this boat on the Locust was some of my first whitewater trips, so it was good to reconnect with the original.

The boat was outfitted with a 72” airbag in the front, and knee pads for comfort. I bought that airbag in ’01 from Grainger at Alabama Small Boats – I assume he’d had it on the rack for while.

I was surprised at the speed of the old boat. Turn it on a chine, give it a forward stroke and the boat takes off. Arriving at eddies was easy; catching the eddy was a different story. I’m used to harder edges on a canoe that whip into the eddy; however, the soft chines of the OCA plow straight through the slow water. To get the boat to whip around required a strong bow draw. Even then, you needed maneuvering room.

The large planning hull makes an awesome surfer. Side surfing at ender hole was a good 12-second ride. Since I didn’t have a rear air bag, the boat stern squirted and flushed me out. The recovery process took 3 other boaters, and about 5 minutes. All of whom I thank again. I surfed the boat on a couple of other front surfing waves. The downside to playing in the OCA is the exhaustion from muscling the boat around.

Other than the play, the boat ran the river flawlessly. It always took to my commands when moving down rapids. On Double Trouble, I moved from right-to-left behind the top hole, and into the eddy easily. Above the river right hole on Tilt-a-Whirl, I caught the eddy, ferried across, perused on down, and took on minimal water. On Powell Falls, I got a little ambitious and ran the right bump. Everything went as planned, until I flipped on landing—my fault.

Overall, the boat was fun to reconnect with. It was easier to paddle than I remembered, and made for a fun day. In the future, I’ll probably pull the OCA out a little more.

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