Monday, July 30, 2007

Meet The new Paddler
I love to paddle, I love to teach and I love to teach people to paddle. So, yesterday was a biggie for me when, after two years of talking about it, I got my old friend Erich out for his first lesson. We strapped the Romany and the Arctic Tern I'd built onto the Blazer and headed for Lake Michigan.

Erich turned out to be an instructor's dream student. An accomplished rock climber (he teaches it...but I digress), he is athletic and anxious to learn. In no time at all, he mastered the wet exit and some basic strokes.

Doug Winter was along and had Erich doing all the rescue reentries in short order.

Erich's other forte is glass. He is an accomplished glass blower and can tell you stuff about glass that I wouldn't think anyone knew. Married with three daughters, Erich lives in Sussex, just west of Milwaukee.

Next time out we do braces, and I bet he learns to roll.

Paddle safe...


Day Off
Still achy from two days of moving. It is hot. I feel tired and lazy and am going to head down to the lake to teach a friend the basics and do some easy paddling. Enjoy your day.
Paddle safe...

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I wasn't gong to blog today. Lots of reasons not to. I am tired and sore from moving my daughter yesterday, and my scratchy throat suggests a mild virus. Then I realized that Derrick leaves today for his long-awaited trip. After all that planning and uncountable and insufferable posts, he's on his way. So what? He's just another of so many paddlers going around some place or other, isn't he?
Actually, no. He is a guy I happen to know...and like (my tastes are as strange as his). He is a guy with whom I've paddled, drank and laughed. He is a guy who is a dad and a husband, and he bleeds just like the rest of us. He is a guy going on a trip and looking for a whole lot of stuff that may not be there. He is a restless man trying to find that comfort zone in life that may not exist in reality. He is...well, he is Derrick. If you know him, no other explanations are needed. If you don't, none can explain it.
So, I join with so many others in wishing him well. I have even gone through all the trouble of finding and posting the picture he dislikes just so he won't get too mellow and complacent. Now, along with I don't know how many people, I will check his Following the Anna site each day (click on the link) and worry in between. Just as I will worry about another friend, Nydia, until I hear that her portion of open water paddling has been completed.
Sure, the journey is worth more than the goal. In reality, I think, the real gold is found in coming home and spinning the stories about the journey and waiting to see how it's changed you.
Derrick has left the building.
Paddle safe...

Friday, July 27, 2007

They Both Got Classes
Nancy at the helm in Door County
Bottom line, most folks sign up for a kayak symposium to squeeze as much learning as possible into a weekend. Some have never paddled anything in their life while others are looking to hit that first roll (frequently taught poorly...but I digress) or further their rescue skills. I think it is fair to say that both of the symposiums offered the same classes, but they did it quite differently (btw, see Derrick's comprehensive comment on yesterday's blog).
It is worth a mention that both offered on shore classes with Door County holding brown bag lunch conferences under the tent just off the beach. GM classes were a block or two inland, but indoors.
Door county allowed participants to sign up for classes on line before the weekend. Sure, some things did change at the last minute and there were some no shows, but it did allow for a sensible distribution of instructors.

Gran Marais, on the other hand, announced the classes, assigned them to a number on the beach where the instructor(s) waited,., Who ever (sometimes no one) showed up...that was the class. I didn't care for it, and I don't think it worked. One day, I never ended up teaching in the class to which I had been assigned because of the lack of students. JB was one of three instructors who, as it turned out, was assigned to teach one student. I did enjoy teaching 3 folks to roll, however, it was not part of any class as they had approached me on the beach. Another thing. I believe there were too many instructors at Grand Marais (there goes my invite back...but I digress...again). I did make myself useful teaching some rolling to individuals and helping a few folks left behind when their classes took off.Door Co. launch site
Door Co. Launch depth
Time: Door County classes were, for the most part, a half or full day. You, for instance, could take the fundamentals class and learn all that stuff we got in that one day lesson we took at the beginning of our glorious careers. At GM, however, the same material was divided into lessons of just over an hour so there was a rescue one, two and three. This was also true of strokes. Now, I suppose, this allowed a student to just take the class he or she really needed. Just remember, the short time allotted to these sessions included gathering on the beach, getting out there, doing the lesson thing and returning. The one strokes class I "assisted" in left virtually no time for the students to practice what they had just been shown before the lead instructor was herding them back to learn the next step. I did not see much progress in that class. I did see glazed-over eyes.

Finally, Door County's class names were pretty much what you would expect. Gran Marais, on the other hand, had names such as MODERN which was decipherable (to me) only after reading the booklet issued to us all.

This round goes to Door county for 1, a good selection of classes for all levels, 2, pre-sign up ability, 3, adequate time to cover the material and practice it and 4, sensible use of instructor:student ratios.
Other than what I said about traveling to trips, I cannot comment further as I did none at GM.
Time to help daughter #2 move to Chicago. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice. Back Monday.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Location, Location, Location

As with real estate, where a symposium is held is import in selling it to the paddlers. Based in two different states, there are pros and cons to the locations of the two symposiums under discussion.

Door County is held in Wisconsin at Rawley's Bay where the open end faces south onto Lake Michigan. It is shallow and getting shallower. This offers lots of area for instructors to stand in the water while working with students, however, the bottom is rocky and it is often too shallow for safe wet exits.

Grand Marais is on Michigan's Upper Peninsula on a bay that faces north onto Lake Superior. As the lake has receded, the water line has come closer to boats moored just off shore. There is a shallow shelf for instructing, then a drop off. There seems to be adequate space and deep enough water so that all classes function without annoying one another.

Purely out of convenience (for me), the drive to Door County is a whole lot less than the other. Aside from that, the Wisconsin location offers certain advantages: A lodge on site with its own excellent camp grounds. Food is available in the lodge. There is an ice cream store at the camp grounds. One is generally sleeping within a hundred yards of the water. In addition, trips to inland lakes and trip sites are short and generally less than 20 minutes. Most trips are a half day long, allowing for a half day of lessons.

Grand Marais has few motels (the Arbor Gate is on its last year since a condo will appear there next year...but I digress). There is a camp ground about 4 blocks from the beach.There are a few places to eat, the best (in my judgment) being a diner just to the east of town...a two block walk. Trips, unfortunately, put in at a site about 40 miles away. These trips are generally a day long.

(Beach on Lake Superior

outside Grand Marais harbor)

Door County has lousy launching over shallow water with a rock bottom. A carpet of artificial turf is floated to lessen the pain. One does have to carry the boat down a short embankment, and this is best done with two carrying the boat. On the other hand, Grand Marais is a wide open beach with easy launching. Unfortunately, it also guarantees you will have sand in everything by the end of the weekend.

At the end of the day, things between the two balance out. I would, however, have to vote for Door County on this one as it is so convenient. I must admit that it also offers a comfort factor in that I know so many of the folks who staff there. Hey, what would a symposium be without Nancy cracking the whip?

Tomorrow: classes.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

They Did It...

Their Way

I do not like to organize...anything...especially events. I wouldn't know where to start, and I admire those that can and do pull it off. With this in mind, I want to look at the two symposiums I just staffed. I want to compare them and look at what worked well for each and what might be best to change next time around. In doing so, I hope to stimulate some positive thinking that will, hopefully, lead to even better events in the future.Ah, the traditional staff shirt, this one from the Door County Symposium. It helps the students spot the staff and instructors in a crowd. It is, unfortunately, cotton and not wearable on the water (last year, Grand Marais had an outrageously colored shirt that was synthetic and wearable on the water...nice...but I digress). The cotton shirts are generally removed as the class heads onto the water and put back on upon landing. All of them, including the synthetic ones, would be covered by the pfd anyway. This year, the Grand Marais folks came up with a new and practical idea for insructors. Hats. Bright yellow, they are easily seen. More over, they are synthetic and wearable on the water. What could be better?
Why, a built in tether clip, of course.

This round goes to the Uppers (pronounced you-pers) for creative thinking. To follow: I will compare locations, facilities and class and trip scheduling. Stay tuned.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Those of you who regularly scan blogs or follow paddling in general will recognize the name Wendy Killoran. A Canadian, she has, among other things, circumnavigated New Foundland. Wendy is a school teacher who smiles easily and laughs often. She is able to poke fun at herself and is a delightful person with whom to talk.
At Grand Marais, she gave a wonderful talk about her circumnavigation and provided soulful images that indicated, at least to me, an empathic individual with artistic skills. She does not put her self out as the world's greatest paddler but is, rather, modest about her abilities and states she chooses her conditions carefully.
Now, it is no secret to most of us that there was a recent incident involving Wendy first going, then not going, on a circumnavigation around Puerto Rico with Derrick Mayoleth. There was, at the time, lots of opinions on how things were handled with criticisms handed out in all directions. Lots of folks (me included, I am sorry to say...but I digress) butted in with opinions although they did not know both parties well and really did not know what the hell had really happened.

The facts of what ever happened back then have been blurred by emotions, hurts, judgments and selective memories all around. All I can say is that Derrick is a friend and, now that I have met her, so is Wendy. Frankly, it is unimportant to me what happened. Enough (for me) to say that there were misunderstandings and that feelings were hurt. I want to believe that no one involved had intentionally caused another pain. It happened, it was unfortunate and it is in the past.

For my part, I now have two friends in paddling, each with unique talents and personalities. I look forward to hearing about both their future doings. I look forward to seeing and, hopefully, paddling with each of them in the not too distant future.
We paddlers of kayaks are part of a small and unique community of decent souls. We need each other too much to put our little family at risk. There is much to be done, lots to learn and just so much time allotted each of us in which to do it. I am looking forward to doing it together.

Paddle safe...

Monday, July 23, 2007

What Ever It Takes
A year ago, on the day preceding the 2006 Grand Marais Symposium, John Martin held an all day, on the water, advanced rescue scenario clinic for instructors. It was an intense and highly educational day in no part due to John's expertise and teaching talents. This year, I was assigned to teach a similar class to students. I didn't know why John didn't get the assignment, and I told him so.

The class went well as Jerry (another instructor...but I digress) and I put the group into one situation after another. Then, with an hour left in the class, what appeared to be an ill-clad paddler wearing a red helmet paddled out from the shore. I pointed him out to the class indicating that he was a novice paddler, poorly clothed for the chilly water of Lake Superior and a constant source of concern for the staff. I called to the man to return to shore. While trying to hear what I had to say, he fell in. I said I was fed up with the guy and that the students in the class could deal with him.

The man was panicking in the water and, contrary to what I had taught them, one member of the class allowed the guy to make contact with her boat. The man promptly climbed aboard but did not tip her over. In fact, he actually stood up before falling into the water. When he turned around, his face was bloody. Then, he passed out and went limp.

I told the group to get serious and to get this guy out of the water and to shore....which they did.

And that's how John Martin continued to teach rescues to willing me. His only regret was that, while he had remembered the ketchup, he had forgotten the oat meal he uses to simulate vomit.

Paddle safe...
Quick Check In

So, after 10 days with JB, what do I do the first day back? I meet JB for coffee, of course. It was a great trip, although I am stiff from the ride home (about 7 hours). We drove (JB did ALL the driving...but I digress) over 1100 miles. I enjoyed so many things about this trip, not the least of which was his company.

I have pics on my lap top that need to be edited. I also have piles of stinky gear that needs rinsing and hanging out to dry. I did one load of laundry last evening and do not understand how all those clothes can be clean and still have the kayak smell.

In any event, I need today to care of my kit. I will Begin sharing photos, stories and experiences, as well as my never-in-short-supply opinions starting tomorrow.

Paddle safe...

Friday, July 20, 2007

I'm Ready To Go Home
It nwas an okay day here at the Grand Marais symposium. Met and chatted with Wendy Killoran today. She did a nice presentation tonight on her paddle around New Foundland (pics to follow)
This is different than the Door County Symposium and, after I get home, I will have some comments. Enough to say that I don't feel useful here (no victim, self-pity, just facts, but I digress). Also, I have developed a small medical problem and am not up to snuff.To bed.
Paddle safe...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

So long, rocks

Woke to temps in the fifty and gusty winds working on our tents. We will be packing up and heading to Grand Marais. I hope the weather does not do to them what it did last year.
One door closes, another opens.
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Date line Munising, MIThe weather cleared Monday, and JB and I had a fantastic paddle along the Picture Rock Natioinal Sea Shore. The grandure of the rocks, arches and caves is enormous. Must go back another time.
Today...laundry and a paddle to Grand Island.
Paddle safe...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Still No Time, however...
dateline Munising, Michigan, cafe with Internet: We're camped, JB and I, and pics will follow. In this short note I want to tell you that JB won best dressed male award :)

The first afternoon, Thursday, it rained...really rained:Then, as usually happens, it cleared:Then, Someone sent us a sign that the rest of the weekend would be nice:Hope to paddle Picture Rocks tomorrow. More to follow.

Paddle safe...


Sunday, July 15, 2007

DKSKS: in the books

It's over, and it is great. JB and I are in a motel in Escanaba, MI on our way to the UP and Lake Superior. I have photos but neither the time nor the energy to edit them now. I will soon, and share with you some of what went on.

Paddle Safe...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Doctor's Excuse
I am a Doctor. I am "abandoning" my family and running away from home to play. Here is my excuse.
I need to be immersed (no pun intended...right) in the outdoors, kayaking and teaching people eager to learn. I need/want to be free of the day-to-day worldly experiences of life and focus on one place, one group and one goal. I need to have time to make idle talk, to sit by myself and to wander and photograph stuff. I need to be around a lot of positive energy. I need to be around healthy young people and watch them do their thing. I need to hang with my older (hopefully mature...but I digress) colleagues and chat about what ever. is the day. JB will arrive later with his van (and, hopefully, a huge U-Haul trailer), and we will head north for about 10 days. In addition to a few basics and the kitchen sink, I have taken cameras and a lap top. If and when I can, I will post...if it is worth posting...and if it won't give me a sense of needing to hurry to get it done. Mean while, you all take care, be well and enjoy life along with me. See ya'.
Paddle safe...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Navigating: Life

I write this blog, such as it is, because of my love of the written world. It serves, as well, for a substitute for talking to myself. I do not plan what I write and do not know what I will say until I sit and type. Sometimes a photo gets me going, sometimes it is one of the many fine blogs I read each day. Sometimes it is a recent experience. In any event, I am aware that lately my postings have been thin, somewhat aimless and often less than inspiring.

This is in part due to not wanting to plow over old ground. It is also due to the fact that I have not been doing much photography lately, a practice that stimulates my creative juices. It is also, in large part, due to where I am in life; and I am in a wonderful place.

I mentor several graduates of my old high school as I serve on the Alumni Foundation. I am in men's work and often am called on to resolve conflicts, conduct clearings between men, conduct spiritual sweat lodges and to be a grandfather to a man. I have two daughters who seem, in a new way, to need me as much as ever. Last, and by no means least, I have a grandson who I want to watch grow up, for whom I want to be available to lend a hand or a thought and for whom I want a safe world. I am also at the place in life where my ego seems to be as well under control as I could hope for in this life. I don't need to be seen, although I love to hear from you all.

So, I find myself, more and more, just letting things happen and not worrying about making them happen. I find it more meaningful and important to do what I am called to do rather than what I think I should do ("shoulds" are pretty much gone, as well...but I digress).

I am anticipating the upcoming mini trip with my good friend and mentor, JB. I hope that between the weekends, during which we will be staffing symposiums, I will find some time to sit and stare. If I do, and if in doing so I have new insights and creative thoughts, I look forward to sharing those with you on these pages.

Paddle safe...


Saturday, July 07, 2007

In Limbo
(limbo...a dance invented by a cheapskate trying to get into a pay toilette)
I hate the few days before something (hopefully) good is to take place. It's been like that for me ever since childhood (not that my childhood has ever know). I am waiting for a call from JB to see where we will paddle today. Mean while, lists of "things to do before the trip" lay around and ignored. At least I made a list. Yep, Wednesday is get away day and the beginning of this summer's main adventure (as far as kayaking goes...but I digress).
It looks like I will be teaching fundamentals and leading a few trips in Door County (a week from now!). I am also looking forward to, for the first time, teaching the kiddies. It will be fun adapting to their attention span (longer than mine) and my desire to make the experience a good one for them (and for me). The trips are ones I've not led before, so (weather permitting) that should be fun. I will also be giving my sarcastic, non-scientific and highly useful weather lecture during a noon brown bag session.
I am less clear about what I will be doing at Grand Marais happening a week later. From the outline I've seen, it should also be a good one. Best of all, I will be meeting new and old friends and learning from them all. The total icing on the cake will be the time 'tween the weekends when JB and I amuse Mother Nature with our tripping, tipping and paddling.
I hope all of you have at least a little something planned for the summer, especially those of you who live in the colder climates. In fact, I wouldn't mind hearing about them. I just might get some good ideas for next year.
Paddle safe...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Out With The Old?

If we were to follow this philosophy, buildings like this one in downtown Milwaukee would be gutted and replaced with ultra modern condos. Actually, that is happening to a lot of building along the Mighty (dirty) Milwaukee River. But, I have bigger fish to fry today (although I would never eat anyting caught in the river or big lake...but I've digressed).

Speaking of new stuff, I am fascinated by others' fascination with the new electronic toys. People who do not have the proverbial pot to urinate in do have the latest cell phone complete with camera, Webb and Swiss army knife. It seems there is a new and expensive toy every day, and everyone seems to want one. I don't know why.

Instant communication. Talk on the phone and drive at the same time. What the hell for? During my career as a cardiologist I had to be sure to always be near a phone. This also meant holding close one's beeper, even in the john. When the call came, I had to answer. Even in the car. Even before there were cell phones. I can recall leaving the hospital at, say, one AM and getting a page while on the freeway. Not knowing if I had to return to the hospital, I would pull off and seek out a phone booth, regardless of how safe the neighborhood was. There came a day when I could no longer tolerate the endless phone calls interrupting my sleep. It began to screw me up. That's when I gave up the invasive part of cardiology. I did not want the world to have so much access to my mind and time. I did not need to constantly hear another's voice. I cherished my space.

To this day, I do not like the ringing of the phone and rarely answer ours when I am home alone. So, if you are looking for me, e mail or call my cell. And don't worry, I won't take your picture. My phone comes with 3 minutes a month and only sends and receives phone calls. The rest of the time you all can be in instant communication and communicate what ever it is that is worth your cash.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Y'All Come Down
Now is the best time to visit us in Milwaukee. Most of the ice is off the lake, and the big gig is on. Summerfest is a lake front celebration of rock, beer and vomitus. I remember when it began 40 years ago and featured excellent jazz. Still, it is a happening. If you miss it, you can still make Polishfest, German/Irish/Mexican/Asian and/or Italian celebrations, most a week long. Stay all summer and get stuffed in several different languages. In any event, you can see what is cooking on our lake front.
On the fourth of July, Greg and Jennifer and I launched at south shore and paddled north. Above, you can see them entering the summerfest area.The white building complex is Discovery World and well worth a visit. You can also make out the Dennis Sullivan, a schooner built right here.A U-turn to the left heads us south and under the foot bridge to a lagoon created by an island on the left and the summerfest grounds on shore. The island was created by an accumulation of dredges from the river (I think) and has recently become our newest State Park. There are slips for yachts out since (they cannot get under the bridge...but I digress). There is a path for walking, jogging and bicycling. But best of all is what you see half way in and to the left... A KAYAK BEACH. There is car access to the general area so one can drop off their boat, then park the car. I believe camping will also be allowed.
So, y'all come down here and paddle with us...and help boost the economy.
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th
Such As It Is
I am celebrating our day of eroding liberties and waiting patiently for the next revolution. Paddled with Greg and Jennifer and will have pics tomorrow. Stay safe.
Paddle safe...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Day Old Bread

I feel stale, like I've lost an edge or something. I'm happy, my family is well and I am physically fine. I just don't feel sharp or creative just now. It has happened before, it will pass and it will happen again. The one thing I know is that I cannot force or will this to go away. I have to wait it out.

I need to muse, wander, wonder and roam a bit...I think. I just need to be and wait and see what happens. The Universe will contact me when it is ready. Mean while, I will enjoy the warmth of family and friends and slowly move to get ready for the road next week. Perhaps it is the lull before the storm of new experiences (I don't even have the urge to digress...but...never mind).

Paddle safe...


Monday, July 02, 2007

(still a Valid concept?
I taught another fundamentals of sea kayaking last Friday and ended with the usual cautions, best wishes and advise. As always, I told the "graduates" to put safety first, to enjoy their time on the water and to consider future instructions such as a symposiums, a strokes clinic or the like. But first, I advised, get some Butt In The Boat Time.
Writers write is an old saw so, I suppose, paddlers paddle. It does, after all, take time to adapt to the new movements and sense of balance and to develop muscle memory. I know, for myself, that when I am paddling on a regular basis I am smoother, more relaxed and most efficient. Still, I wonder if this across the board advise to go and paddle a lot is as valid as I've thought in the past.
As hard as it is to learn new skills, it is all the harder if one has to first unlearn bad habits...and then replace them with proper skills. BITBT may, in the end, be a window of opportunity for the new paddler to develop muscle memory of poor form and technique. And tops amongst them all is (in my judgment) arm paddling.
Modern man seems to be totally unaware that one can turn side to side without swiveling about in their seat (or moving their feet should they be standing...but I digress). Folks seem oblivous of the fact that they can do more than just bend (for those of them who can actually bend) at the waist. I have all students hold their paddles with their elbows pinned to their side and at right angles. Then I demonstrate rotating my body from side to side. I even sit on the ground and place an object at my right (which, of course, requires torso rotation). I pick it up and put it on my left (which, of course. yata yata yata. Then, they all get into their boats (with various degrees of grace) and proceed to windmill their arms like boxers jabbing an invisible opponents.
I imagine that when they leave and paddle on their own that they are highly successful at practicing this poor form and burning it into muscle memory. Oh well, the next guy can deal with that. Wait a minute...that next guy might be me!
Paddle safe...