Wednesday, May 31, 2006

(just a bad spell of whether)

I have spent a lot of time over the last 40 years on Lake Michigan. I've been out in sail boats, power boats, trawlers and kayaks; and I always check the weather "prediction" before leaving land. All of this has resulted in one strong judgement, which is as follows:

There is no such thing as weather prediction.
This, in turn, has led to the therome that
If it is a good forecast, it will be so.
If it is a bad forecast, it will almost always be wrong.
Now why, do I say so? Am I trying to get people killed out there? After all, that lake can go from calm to ugly in a very short period of time. Well, I say this from all the data I have gathered in my faulty memory.
In the beginning...
I cancelled way too many outings because of a bad weather forecast which did not prove true. Since the summer and traditional water opportunities are few around here, this substantially cut into my time on the water. Time after time I sat ashore while the foul weather never happened.
I look at the forecast, and I look at the radar to see what is west, NW and SW of here and how fast it is moving. I look to see if there is a pressure front approaching. Then I go out and keep my eye on the western sky. As a result, my time on the water has increased enormously.
So, why are things the way they are? Well, I have a theory about that as well (surprised?).
If there is any chance in hell of bad weather and they don't predict it, people could get hurt or, at the very least, angry after being caught in unexpected weather.
If, on the other hand, the prediction is for bad weather and it does not occur, most people are delighted that the bad stuff didn't happen all over them.
See, it's like spinning in politics. Heck, I remember when a forecast was just that, a statement about how the weather would be. They (ever notice, it's always they?) finally realized that there was no way they could predict the weather and introduced the % sign. Now, they say there is a such and such % chance of rain, and they can never be wrong.
What to do:
Get a basic book on weather, or read some of the excellent chapters in kayak books that cover the subject. Then, since you are already responsible for your own safety, figure out what you need to do to be prudent and safe.
Trust me. Autopsy always shows I'm right.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Take a trip, any trip. Make it long, make it short. Go to the same old place, see something new. Go alone, or go with a partner or a group. It doesn't matter. At the end, if all goes well, you will experience the simple joy of coming home. You will return.

Returning has always had historical and even mythological implications in our culture and lore. The heroe returns from his journey or quest. Macarthur said, "I shall return." Loved ones send us off with "Come back safe" or "Hurry home." We wait for the hunter to return to the village with evidence that we will survive a little longer.

No matter what wonders we see or how mundane an outing, it is not complete (to state the obvious) until it is over (or, the Fat Lady sings). No matter how strong the wander lust, there is something in our bones that eventually yearns to return to the start, to go home.

Even our Sunday morning paddles of only a few hours generally end with a gathering for coffee or breakfast where there is closure and a sense of having come through it all together. And when I paddle alone, there is something comforting about coming back and going ashore. Why might this be?

Kayaking, along with Judo, bicycling, rock climbing and a host of other "individual" sports are risk-taking activities. Unlike ping pong, tennis or bowling, one does not need (or even aspire) to win or beat an opponent to feel sucessful. In risk-taking sports it is the danger, itself, that is to be challenged and "beaten". Yet, we know that we can only win temporatily, because we may not be so lucky tomorrow or the next time we venture out. For the very next time we slide onto the water we will immediately place ourselves at risk...again...and the environment will get another crack at us.

Coming home or returning, then, is a small token of a small success. It is the signal for that good feeling to arise and tell us that, at least once more, we were ready, careful, smart or lucky enough to test ourselves against the risk and to have survived.

It doesn't matter how pretty it is, it only matters that we get back to the shore and come off the water at least one more time. As it was said in the Air Force, any landing from which you walk away is a good landing.


Monday, May 29, 2006

A Pretty Darn Good Day

Today has been Memorial Day, a holiday set aside to remember those who perished in war. It was a good day, and I managed to put off the remembering until sunset.

John and I (photo) served, he in the navy and me in the air force.

We paddled on Lake Michigan this morning along with 9 others in the Milwaukee SeaKayak group. The water was 50 degrees F with the air about 70 to 85 F depending on the direction of the wind. At the end, we found some nice clapotis coming off the breakwater and drove through it.

Then there was the relaxed coffee at a local java shop, then home. In the evening, my family gathered, and it was good to be together. There was no talk of war or dead or remembering; and that is how I wanted it.

The house is quiet now, and the remembering is seeping in. I am remembering, once again, the young air men I scraped off the tarmac in Thailand and all the ones who flew off to never return. Some died, some were captured and some met fates unknown.

No one was there when we came home from that ill-run war. Many young people are unaware that such a war even ever occurred. But I remember.

I remember the stories that still tear my heart apart and still wonder what happened to those famalies suddenly deprived of their sons, brothers, fathers and husbands.

I will go to sleep soon, and I will not, hopefully, dream. Tomorrow, I intend not to remember again. I have let all the anger go. I cannot bring those brothers back. And, I know inside, I will remember many times between now and the next Memorial Day (should I survive to see it).

You see, there is a curious and special bond amongst those who have gone to a war, and it is the remembering that honors the dead and (in the case of that war) makes their sacrifice real. In the end, it is my sacred duty to remember.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Not Today

Sunday morning. Perfectly clear skies. Light wind. Warm air. My compatriots are about to launch at South Shore for the weekly kayak paddle. So, why am I not there?

I ache today and have a sore throat. There is a program on cabel about the creation of the atomic bomb. It is Memorial Day weekend, and I am a combat vet (flight surgeon). There has to be about 50 wars going on around the world. I don't know what kind of world my daughters will live to see. I have lots of things on my mind.

So, I am giving myself a doctor's excuse along with permission to lay around and put out a very short blog. Sometimes kayaking isn't the most important thing in the world.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

I have seen the future,
and they can paddle
Quick note for today. Just back from Madison's Brat Day where Rutabaga had a bunch of boats for kids, 7-14, to paddle. Each child was fitted with a PFD, put in a boat, given 10-15 seconds of tips and pushed out into the water. Unfortunately, there was a breeze making things hard for the little tykes.

But you should have seen them! Cautious at first, most were soon stirring the soup with their paddles. Some quickly learned to turn their boat, many paddled backwards.

And the intensity. The concentration on their little faces was intense.

As I recall the poet saying, "I wish I could know once more the seriousness I knew as a child at play.


Friday, May 26, 2006

From the Upper Left Hand Corner

During my many years as a jazz musician I often experienced the joy of playing with big bands. The driving sounds these ensembles created were dynamic and exciting. When we rehearsed, there was the need to go over parts of the arrangments, sometimes many times, over and over until 3 trumpets, 3 trombones and 5 saxes all hit their note within a milisecond of one another.

When the parts were working, the leader would take us through the entire arrangement from the beginning. He would simply say, "From the upper left hand corner." To me, this expression from my musical life has come to mean new beginnings, like a sun rise.

Throughout my life, I have always sought new beginnings, something new to learn. That's how I got my fingers caught in so many cookie jars. Kayaking is one of those jars, and I have found new beginings within the sport itself.

This all came to me yesterday as I struggled with the skin on frame boat I built over the winter. I can paddle it, lean it, brace it, scull it and roll it at will. But it doesn't feel right...yet.

Another beginning, for me, was Instructor Development Clinic (ICE) and the evaluation at the end of that summer. I was still learning, still doing new things, and I was enjoying the company of younger folks. (I used this image of Adam, who was in our class, because his name comes at the beginning).

It occurs to me, as I muse on my life-long habit of learning new things, that this is all part of what keeps me going and stimulates my mind and body. Moreover, I grow from the secondary lessons I get from each new area. When I meet and get to know the people that that discipline attracts , I come closer to understanding how others view the world and how often their views are so very different from mine.

Life has been good to me, I am blessed. I hope to keep learning, next with my Greenland style SOF. But, just between you and me, I most love that feeling that I get when I get it. That rush of nailing a new skill. And, at other times, it is the simply joy of new-found serenity.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Discovery of new species on the Milwaukee Area
(A Scientific Paper)
(This paper, with a p vallue under .001, was turned down for publication by Nature and Scientific American. It is presented here to inform our readers and to stimulate in-depth discussion of life forms on our planet...ds)
The Glendale Sector of The Milwaukee River.
Many known life forms exist in this section of the great river. Its sustanance of life, both plant and animal, is well known and obvious to anyone who has taken the time to observe her. A good example are these turtles sunning 200 yards from Interstate 43.

Because of its value as a scientific,as well as a recreational site, stewards of these pristine waters have created scientific and carefully worded signage to help the public enjoy all the benefits of this body of water.

In the interest of sustaining this wonderful Eden for generations to come, our scientific team (under a grant from major chemical companies and SPRTD...the Society to Prevent River Transmitted Deseases) has begun a careful survey of the Glendal Section. What has been discovered is the subject of this scientific paper.

What has been learned thus far (and these are just preliminary findings) has been nothing short of amazing. We have (and this is the official the main stream press for more follow up) discovered an entirely new subspecious of life which we have tentaviely named

Plasticus Eternium

This serendipidous find was heralded by what, at first, was thought to be an isolated specimen pictured here.

One can see, from its clever green coloration, how this intelligent life form has evolved to remain obvious and successful survival mechanism.

This particular form of Plasticus Erternium (PE) has been designated the filum Brevis Cervicus (literally, short necked).

Interestly, this filum has only been observed moving with the flow of the river and has never been seen going upstream. Other scientific collaborators of ours are already searching the headwaters to try and find young forms of this filum. To date, nothing is known of its feeding habits, however (see next picture) there may be some clues alluding to its mating behavior.

As one can see in the following rare image, several forms of pe have been observed in colonies. This particular photo is valuable for its recording of various colorations adapted by these creatures. It is not known if these are permanent colorations or just seasonal changes that serve to attract a potential mate. In addition, the photo contains other forms not yet classified or studied.

There will be further papers on these fascinating creatures and others still being studied. One example is the Hullus Inversus, a recently observed life form that is believed to be aqautic but has only been observed on shores near the river. It is unknown how it arrives there, its means of locomotion (pe seems to passively use currents) or what it uses for food sources.

Finally, to wet and titalate your scientific sense of awe, a picture of a species, as yet unstudied and clearly different from pe on a cellular basis. Among its differences is the ability of this new species to with stand high temperatures, thus allowing it to survive in hot water. This exciting find is so new that a latin designation is pending, however, our lab has asked the Federation of Aquatic Biologists (FAB) to assign it the name Styro-Magnus Orus. Until this becomes an official name, we will affectionately refer to it as (by translation of its proposed latin name) the Styro large mouth.

Continue to monitor this site for further discoveries.

DS et al

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

For years and years I lived with part of my mind keeping track of my CME credits. These Continuing Medical Education credits had to be accumulated in order to renew my license to practice medicine. It was supposed to be a mechanism to at least attempt to keep doctors abreast of medical developements. The problem was that providing educational opportunities became a huge industry with classes offered in all the garden spots of the world. It was not unusual to see, for instance, a psychiatrist at an OB-GYN meeting because he wanted to go to where the meetings were being held and he needed the credits. But it wasn't always like that in medicine.
It used to be that the Doctors' lounge at any hospital was a magical, pain-free site of education. There, colleagues would gather to chat and share war stories; and, in the process, a lot of teaching went on. There were interesting cases shared and "curb side" consultations exchanged. It made us all better doctors. It drew us closer together as professional colleagues.
This all came back to me this morning when I met JB and Nydia (below) at our favorite java joint for some morning coffee.

As we sat and talked, things felt oddly familar. It was, I realized, like being back in the Doctors' Lounge again. I was with respected colleagues (Nydia took instructor training together, and John was one of our teachers), we were keeping up with things, and we were heavy into CKE...Continuing Kayak Education, talking about clinics and symposiums and what we needed to work on. And, as I thought about it, it was usually like that when kayakers got together, at least the serious ones.

I realized that we were always there to help one another, whether it be with a curb side consult or a helping hand onto an icy shore. I recalled times paddling or talking with Sherri, Bob, Gary and Joel and how often the social talk turned to technique or seminars or practice opportunities.

Although there is no formal CKE Credits obligation, we all still try to get to Carnigie Hall (practice, practice, practice), even seeking out pools in winter in which to work on skills (your's truly sculling my Romany).

Most of you know the old saying that says Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

The idea is, then, to have those experiences in an intelligent, safe way and to continue to strive to be better and safer at what we do.

Some folks will always be happy to paddle inland lakes and slow rivers and, when the conditions are just right, the bigger waters. That's fine. That's good judgment. Some of us, on the other hand, want to stretch, go out in the bigger stuff and even teach. To do so safely, we practice, get curb side consults and critque one another. We are the ones who show up anytime there is a learning oppportunity, and we are the ones who show up to give back when there is a need for volenteers.

It feels good to be a professional again.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What would Life Be Without Images?

The senses, all of them, help make up the holographs we percieve as our world which the Zen tells us it is all an illusion. Yet our brain "know" otherwise. Our brain takes all those smells, sounds, touches, tastes and sights and synthesises a reality to which we can relate. Take any one of those elements away and the reality changes. I cannot imagine how "reality"" appears to one who is deaf or blind. This morning I had an uncomfortable hint.
When I sit down to dump a blog on this site I usually begin by rummaging through the hundreds of images I have captured and stored on the computer. Sometimes I am looking for one to help express an idea I already know I want to rant about. Often, however, I am looking for an image that will stimulate the thought for the day. Today was like that, I needed an image to jump start me. So what happens, the blog server refuses to upload the image. Suddenly, I am blind, and my reality is distorted. Suddenly, I am like an Italian trying to talk with my hands tied behind my back.
How do I get my pithy point across if I have no picture to enter into evidence? How much more will I have to write now that I don't have a picture that's worth a 1,000 words? I cannot transmit smells to you. Same with touch and taste, other than suggesting some analagies.
Hold on, I may have blindly stumbled onto something, I am selling memory short.

I all have a gazillion images stored in our brains. In fact, many of them are holographs complete with the memory of the feel, sound, etc. of the image. All that is necessary is that Itake the time to rummage through those files up in my cranial vault, and I can recapture that moment I completed my first roll, the day I graduated med school or any of an endless number of past events.

Hell, who needs pictures?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bigger is Better
Giant Economy Size
See it on the Big Screen

What is it with us and size? If we have some, we want more. If we have want we wanted, we want a bigger one (no remarks about envies, please). TV screens, cars/SUVs, houses and bank accounts; we want them to be bigger, no matter how large they are now. No matter that they are already more than adequate.

The same seems to be true about our lust for adventure. I know all sailboaters and power boaters go through a cycle of wanting, and often getting, larger and larger boats. The end result is often a case of ending up with a boat that is too big to manage and too expensive to maintain. Disheartened, the owner sells and denies himself the pleasure he had knoown with his first and much smaller boat.

Kayakers, by and large, don't have this exact syndrome. At least I haven't seen any 42-foot kayaks down at the yacht clubs. Instead, we are gear junkies who tweek our lines, scour the catalogues and stores and constantly come across stuff we didn't know we couldn't live without. Or we lust after that new model that just has to be better than the one that just our sorry asses through 6 foot waves and a lee shore.

And, there is another varient of this diseasse that some of us have.

We (some of us) want big environment. What doesn't explode on the motion picture screen needs to explode on our retinas...and get critiqued just as much.

Big water, open seas, bigger waves, spectacular rainbows, storms (see picture above) that are huge and dramatic (and not too close). These things are all woth seeing and experiencing, however, the intense search for them may result in us wearing blinders.

Gazing over a large body while we rush to see what is around the next point, we often miss the smaller and more delightful things the world has on display.

The little musckrat scooting along the river bank and suddently disappearing into his tunnel. The colorful bird almost, but not quite, hidden in the branches while he watches us and waits, in return, to be seen. Or one of the gazillions of flowers along a shoreline that quietly lives out its existance and is availble for enjoyable viewing. The rock polished smooth by centuries of wter washing over it. If only we would look. If only we would see.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Paddle Fest 2006 heads into the Books
(or, the mysticism of giving)

This saturday and, again, today a lot of folks gathered along the less-than-sterile Milwaukee river for Laacke & Joy's paddlefest. This annual event offers a chance to meet other paddlers, take in a lecture or two, attend a film festival, test paddling a bunch of boats and (for many who attending) get out in a kayak for the first time and wonder why the hell anyone would do this vountarily. And that takes me to today's piece of wisdom.

Althought Serri Mertz had assembled a lot of store staff and reps (hell, she had her poor abused husband working), the event was aided by several volunteers who care about kayaking and want to share it with others in a good way. John Browning, Bob Bertram and myself (to name a few) performed saftey duties on the river (Saturday) and on the lake (sunday). Call it vounteering, if you wish. I like to refer to it as a call to service.

It is my judgment that a call to service (be it mentoring or charity, donating money or just lending a hand) is an expression of the finest in people. It is that quiet calling of the Soul that moves individuals to take care of business, to help, to be there for someone in need without any thought of reward and no egotistical sense of having done something wonderful for mankind. Those called to service act without anymore thought than they give to getting dressed in the morning. It is just something that must be done...and no big deal.

This quality seems to be more prevelant as we get older. I do not know why. Perhaps we have made our bones with the world, gotten tired of our materialistic toys (other than our kayaks) and have begun to see the bigger picture.

All I can say is that I find it easier, less stressful and more joyful to live in a world that isn't all about me.


Friday, May 19, 2006

I will be busy all day saturday and most of sunday, and it is unlikely I will have something new for you. to one another. It's about time.
What Pictures Can't Show

Today, I muse about the quiet things I have noticed, quiet things that "called" to me and that I tried to capture on film. Like the scene below taken in a local park near my home.

It was, obviously, a cool and foggy day, and I was the only person in the park (at least, as far as I could see). The image doesns't, and can't, entirely capture the feeling of calm I felt as I walked the park. Nor can it reveal the strange pleasure the setting gave me.

Same with the finch outside my window. He (or she) never shouted (I don't think it even chirped), yet I was rivited by its beauty and agility. And this, too, gave me quiet pleasure. And I wondered if the finch knew how it had touched me.

During both of these experience there was essential silence. No shouting, just visual pleasure and a sense of serenity that I could never capture with a camera.

Then, there was the morning on a lake near Rhinelander, Wisconsin (yes, yes, yes, I was in a kayak). Launching before sunrise, I had let myself get lost in the fog and undulating shoreline. As I glided along, I felt a sense of connection with something greater than myself and, again, a wonderful calmness. Later, I took this image from a hill next to the lake.

This image, like the others, cannot totally capture the moment and, in this instance, the incredible sounds of the loons.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Water...A moving experience

There is something magic about water that moves people to swim in it, dive under it or just sit and watch it.

Thing is, it's always moving. Even a small pond shows shimmers on its surface when the slightest breeze blows.

But it is the the rapids and the falls that seem to capture the senses most. They seem to be the big show. Even a small cascade of a foot or two will provide hypnotic entertainment for one who will but tarry a moment to sit and stare. I wonder why that is.

Perhaps it is just that our brains are hard-wired in a way that calls us to this basic element of nature. Perhaps it is because this is the form of water that satisfies, along with the sense of sight, the sense of smell and hearing. One can smell something in the spray, and the sound is undeniable.

On, the other hand (as the Zen teaches us), it is what it is.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"One Day"

I can't tell you how often I've heard that expression from patients, colleagues and friends. Like a holy mantra, it is spoken as if it were the sacred goal of life.

It is thought that most of us live in the past and the future. We worry about what might or might not happen or we fret over something that we've done and can no longer change. The problem with this way of living is that we are never in the present. We are not here and now. So, life passes us by and, one day, we find it nearlly over and wonder what the heck happened.

Although there is something to be said about appropriately delayed gratification, there is no guarantee that "one day" will ever come. Yet, we often go day to day, begrudgingly working our jobs in the hope of a big pay off "one day". That's when (we believe) we will retire or make that trip or do the whatever that lingers in our hearts awating its turn. How sad when death or disability preceeds "one day".

I just returned from coffee with JB. The weather guy says there will be thunderstorms this afternoon. I have been waiting to get out to Lake Nemahbin to put my skin on frame through its paces. But it is a 40 minute drive, and I feel lazy. I've thought about cleaning out my Blazer and/or the garage. And, there's that stack of books I've been meaning to get to, as well.

Then, I recalled the "one day" people I've met and how most of them never got to that day.

I gotta' go. The lake is anxious to see me.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

f 16 and be there

I have spent many a happy day with my head under a cloth while focusing my 4x5 camera. Those were the days I used to go to workshops with protoges of Ansel Adams where our mantra was, "f 16 and be there." The 16, of course, referred to a lens setting, but it was the "be there" that was important.

Every second of every day there are wonderful things to see on this planet. Be it on the water or atop a mountain, there is a constant evolutin of images created as the angle of the sun and the clouds modify the light. So often I would expose a sheet of film and, as I looked around, saw an even better image just off to the side.

The point is that some somewhere, at any time, there is a breath taking site available for photographing. But you have to be there to get the shot. If you sleep in that day, you miss the amazing golden glow of the sunrise on what in the next few moments would be an ordinary looking hill. We called that the golden moment, and you had to be there at the exact moment. Actually, you had to be there before sunrise so you could have everything set up and ready to go as that moment came and went. The problem was, and will always be, that you can't always predict when golden moments will appear. All one can do is make one's self available and open to seeing those moments when they do occur. You have to be there. This is true of all moments whether they are visual, audio or tactical experiences. You will miss them all if you are not there.

It is the same with life, and it is the same with sea kayaking.

Never mind the season or the weather or the time of day. There is aways water somewhere worth paddling. It may be a local river, lake or pond. It doesn't really matter...unless you're there to experience the moment. And, if you are, your mind can record, not just the image, but the feel of the surge and wind and every other sensory input that is available only to those of us who go out onto the waters of this planet.

Sleep in, get lazy or decide it isn't worth going out because it might rain and you miss that golden moment that will never come again.

So, with apologies to Ansel Adams, "Get your kayak, and be there."


Monday, May 15, 2006

Meet the Paddlers
Another in the series
Greg Fojtik
Greg is a combination brewer (Sprecher), husband, sea kayaker, humorist and craftsman. He is also a neighbor of mine and a great paddling companion. He is usually out with the Sunday morning group (year round) and can also be found on the Milwaukee River in Glendale (we live on opposite sides of the river...hmmmm).
When you first meet and paddle with GF, you get the impression that he is a quite man with little to say. Then, just when you are secure in that belief, he comes out with some statement or other that drips with dry wit (is that an oxymoron....the statement, not Greg?). You will sometimes be treated to one of these quips on the Milwaukke SeaKayakers Yahoo site.
Jennifer, his wife and sometimes paddling companion, seems to be immune to Greg's are his two cats.
It is as a craftsman that Greg always amazes me. Greg builds boats. In fact, Glendale has threatened to rezone his home as a marine manufacturing facility if he builds one more. Just now, he is building one more.
He has turned out a wooden boat and a couple of skin on frames (see pics). Just now, he is finishing a strip construction kayak built from scratch. I tell you, it looks like a fine piece of furniture.
Time and time again Greg has come over and, with seemingly no effort at all, fixed a project that I had managed to turn into a work of garbage. And, he gives of his skills and time generously.
You will want to meet this man, and then you will wonder why you wanted to meet this man, and then--when you least expect it--he will help you or say something off that wall that will make you glad that you did meet this man.
(Run on sentences are a hallmark and regular feature of this Blog site).

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Meet the Paddlers
(First in a series)

John Browning

JB is the man that taught (and continues to teach) me the art of sea kayaking. I met him at Rutabaga when I took my first lessons and soon that learned he lived in the area of Milwaukee where I grew up. When I started coming to the Sunday morning paddles at South Shore, JB was there, and I continued to learn from him. He was also one of my instructors for Instructor Development and an ACA evaluator for my Instructor Assesment.

You will see John at most local events and symposiums. He particularly likes teaching Navigation and is a wizard on the water.

JB was in the Navy during 'Nam. He is married to a terrific gal named Oz who, like my wife, lets him pretty much paddle when he wants. He had a kayaking type store up in Mequon which, according to a well traveled and knowledgable travel agent, "was ahead of its time."

In addition to teaching, JB works at Fiserv near Waukesha. Since kayaking and work do not take up every single waking hour, John recently became an EMT and regularly works 24 hour shifts for Bell Ambulance. The rest of the time he sits around drinking coffee (absolutely loves the know navy guys) and wonders why he is so tired all the time.

If you see this man on the water, introduce yourself and invite his critique. He will make you a better paddler. I know he made me a better paddler.

John Browning, teacher. A man I am proud to number among my friends.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Lots of places
Lots of ways
For those of you who don't paddle in winter (and why not?), this is the beggining of the so-called season. The air gets warmer (gradually) and the water gets warmer (much more slowly), and dusty kayaks emerge from garages to be placed on cars to be driven somewhere to be put in the water (with apologies for the run on sentence).
Although I am on the water year round, I've set myself a fine schedule to keep myself busy this "season". This weekend will be paddle fest at Laacke & Joy here in Milwaukee. I will be doing a traditional paddling presentation (on land. Who wants to roll in the Milwaukee River?) and helping with some "trips". Later this summer, I go on the road.
I will be at the Door County Symposium (sponsored by Rutabaga in Madison) where I will do whatever Nancy tells me to do. Right from there, I head up to Picture Rock National Seashore (Upper Pennisula of Michigan) to look around. At the end of that week I will be teaching at Grand Marais.
In August, it is across the pond to Northern Michigan for the QAJAQ USA camp where us wannabe Inuits spend an entire weekend rolling our boats. The instruction is excellent. Even some of the participants, like AP, are great teachers and have helped me a great deal.
In between I will be paddling Lake Michigan, sometimes from South Shore in Milwaukee (a group goes out 9 am CDT each Sunday) or, if the surf is up, off of Kohler Andre State Park (south of Sheboygan). Finally, there will be saturdays at Lake Nemahbin (I-94 near Delafield) to practice strokes, rolls and rescues and to just cruise around. Finally, there will an occasional paddle on the Milwaukee River, maybe out of Mequon where there is now a pair of bald eagles.
I usually paddle an NDK Romany on the lake, an Arctic Tern (wooden stitch and glue boat I made) and, for fun, the skin frame I made last year (the topic of a future blog).
See you on the water?

Friday, May 12, 2006

To act or not to act
That is a good question
It happened a few days ago when Greg and I were out on Lake Michigan just off Bradford beach in Milwaukee in our skin on frame boats acting like Inuit wannabes. It was fairly warm, in the 60s, and we were enjoying our 2nd (in my case 3rd) childhoods while in search of norwalls and polar bears. Then we saw an all too common unfortunate site.
There were 3 of them, teen agers, and they were launching their kayaks onto our lake. They were classic: PFDs on rear decks, all cotton cloths, no pumps, no paddle floats and (as it soon became obvious) no forward stroke. The wind was blowing offshore. 2 were of the male gland, the other a girl.
Now, dear reader, comes the question: Do you intervene or keep your nose out of others business?
We did the former and told the girl (now 100 yards behind her testosterone driven pals) that if she fell in and was lucky enough to hang onto the boat, the wind would blow her offshore where she would die of hypothermia (water temps were still in the 40's). We paddled ahead and told her protectors the same. Happily, they soon turned about and got off of our lake.
A few moments later the wake of a passing power boat rocked us. We were sure that it would have dumped the 3 inexperienced paddle. We felt good about what we had done.
Some paddlers are hesitant to intervene as we did. I don't know why. If done tactfully (what else would you expect from Greg and myself?) good advice is usually accepted. If you don't act how will you feel when you read that a young girl died of hypthermia out on our lake?
We've (read I) have had some technical difficulties this morning, so I am posting a pic of Greg, a fellow paddler to see if thing are right now. If so, I will repost the blog intended for today. DS

Thursday, May 11, 2006

We all have our level of comfort and discomfort. This is true in work and play. And, it is true in kayaking. There are, basically speaking, only two kinds of sports. The first are those sports/games in which success is measured by winning against an apponent or another team. Baseball, tennis and rugby are such sports. Examples of one-on-one forms of these sports are boxing, fencing and wrestling. The idea is that the goal is to win.

Then there are the sports that do not focus on an opponent, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, these sports (which are often done alone and which almost always carry high risks) are the ones in which we win by just doing it. The opponent is often Mother Nature and/or our own fears and perceptions of our limitations

Heere is where we take risks, albiet calculated risks, for the thrill and satisfaction of just doing it. The problem, however, is that one can run out of goals when they come up against the limits of their fear. For example: a gal begins climbing and slowly developes her skills until she is climbing sites that are almost too challenging for her. So, she stays in her comfort zone and only climbs walls with a level of difficulty up to but not more than what she is now doing. Consequently, she does not progress, does the same thing over and over and eventually gets boared. It likely she will then quit the sport since it no longer holds the possibility of new thrills or the satisfaction of new accomplishments. She has hit a barrier.

I see this in my fellow sea kayakers all the time. I see folks who paddle well, develope some bracing skills and feel comfy in 1-2 foot swells. But when the swells are 3, 4 or more feet, they stay ashore.

Now let me say right here that I respect good judgement, and I respect the big water (I am usually on Lake Michigan). But there is a huge difference between respecting something and fearing it. Fearing something leads to avoidance and, in the end, inner thoughts of not being good enough.

Respect, on the other hand, leads to reassessing, getting mentoring and gradually pushing the envelope of my comfort zone. It means going out in something a tad more hairy than I feel comfy in and doing it with someone who handles it well. I stretch myself, get all sorts of thrills and, when I gain confidence at this new level of paddling, feel good about myself (and, at my age that is reall something).

If you are a paddler, are you still paddling at the same level and in the same conditions as last year, consider going outside of your comfort zone...and doing so in a safe way. How?

I have found sea kayakers the friendliest and most willing to share people I have ever met. Just ask a better paddler to show you that sweap stroke. Or when the sunday morning group goes out from South Shore in Milwaukee and conditions are just a bit much for you, show up and tell the group about it. Chances are some of us really don't feel like a long paddle and would welcome the excuse to stay back with you and introduce you to the next level. We simply ask that you have the proper equipment and are properly dressed for the water temperature.

It's old, it's corny, and it's true: Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment. The trick is to make those lesser judfments not too bad.

Safe paddling


Welcome to silbssays. Actually, I'd like this site to be we-all-says, because it is meant to be a forum to exchange ideas about everything from philosophy to kayaking. The only rules are 1, Disagree if you must, but don't use shaming language 2, avoid politics. We're all idealogs and we will never change one another's minds. So why rant? 3. No profanity (dah). 4. Stretch yourself. Some things are obvious to us all. What's inside you that you'd like to put out here?

From time to time, I will post photos, simply because I find them pleasing. Comments are welcome (remember the no shaming rule. I am sensitive).

I look forward to hearing from you and/or seeing you on the water.

And, oh yes, this is nothing close to resembling a slick professional site. In fact, I am so cheap that I steal, beg and borrow info from Derrick Mayoleth whose blog I never fail to read.

So, we've begun