Friday, August 31, 2007

Roy & Alex

As a small effort to reduce my carbon foot print, I am combining two into one picture.

Roy, on the left, is a can do guy who can explain it to you. He is, to be sure, a talker, but he is also very capable. He was the one who took Lendal fittings and made a two piece (he has a 4-piece in the experimental phase...but I digress) Greenland Stick for Superior Kayaks. In any event, during third the QAJAQ camp, Roy took me out and had me ( at last) static bracing in short order. His patient, and surprisingly quiet, way of teaching is most excellent.

On the right, of course, is Alex (nursing a Sunday morning headache?). I told him that I wanted to learn a Norsaq roll. He said he had 5 minutes free and that I should get my boat. He waded out into waist-deep water and had me do two angel rolls. No problem. Then he took away my stick, handed me the Norsaq, issued a few succinct instructions, and I nailed my first Norsaq roll. So, he took the short stick away, again issued some tips and...BANG...I hit a hand roll. He walked away to his regular scheduled program.

Later, he and Turner conducted a forward finishing class. Alex was able to boil down the chest scull to its essence, and I was immediately doing them with a clean recovery. It took a bit more concentration and practice but, within the hour, I was doing a reverse sweep roll.

Two guys, very different, each an excellent teacher. I am grateful to them as I am to Turner and all the mentors who I watched and from whom I took away all sorts of good info. More tomorrow.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, August 30, 2007

QAJAQ Camp III...the feeling of it all
Imagine, if you will, a place and a piece of time where/when your day starts free of traffic noise and you see no tall buildings or liter or cars...anywhere.

Imagine a place where you can safely leave your boat anywhere you want and have it waiting for you when you feel like going back out onto the water.Imagine a place where there is time to sit out on a pier and chat with a friend.

Or hang out alone on your boat...

Or hang out on your boat with a friend...Or let it all hang out...If you can imagine all this, you can get a sense of what the weekend was like.

to be continued

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

QAJAQ Camp II...getting into the flow.Located on a spit of sandy and hilly land between Lower Herring Lake and Lake Michigan, this summer camp takes on a new atmosphere as skin on frame boats, Greenland stick paddles and tuiliks become common sights. As always, the staff (called mentors...but I digress) put on a demo of different rolling techniques.The food was, as always, excellent. I spent the first evening visiting with old friends and taking in the eye candy of being at a QAJAQ USA event.Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

In The Beginning...
I paddled through rain up to Manitowoc where I watched (with anxiety...but I digress) while the same crew that once tore the side view mirror off my Blazer now drove my fragile SOF onto the boat. I had previously tied red flags to both ends of the boat in hopes of preventing it being mashed by a bigger vehicle.

The crossing was uneventful, and I watched (with relief) as Peter Strand's creation came off the boat in Michigan.I had planned a relaxed pace. So, I found an inexpensive place to crash for the night, did some reading and made the hour and half drive up to Frankfort the next morning. I bummed around town, had coffee and brownies and bought a book to read. Later that day I drove to the parking lot where the car would stay for the weekend. I got my gear onto the waiting pontoon boat which would bring my stuff over later in the day. Then, at last, I launched and headed out to Camp Overlook where the QAJAQ weekend camp was to be held. I had my Mitchel paddle on deck, but during the weekend I mostly used the more robust paddle that Mark Rodgers of Superior Kayaks (in Wisconsin) had made. I also had on board a Norsak he'd made as well. After a short paddle I saw a pier. What was on it indicated I was, indeed, in the right place and that my QAJAQ mates were near be continued...

Congratulations to our Wisconsin adventurers:

Sam Crowley has completed his circumnavigation of Ireland, and we await his safe return home.

Derrick Mayoleth has completed his foray around Puerto Rico. All seemed to have gone well. I hope to hear first person accounts from both men. Mean while...

Paddle safe...


Monday, August 27, 2007

I Think This Is Me

At least I woke up in a bed that used to be mine (4 hours later than usual...but I digress). And bags I own are strewn on the floor down stairs where one comes in through the garage. And there is a SOF on the Blazer in the drive way, and there is still some sand on her bottom.

QAJAQ camp was, as usual, excellent and was, as usual, excellently run. Yours truly nailed the static brace, norsaq roll, hand roll, reverse sweep roll and storm roll for the first time. Not bad for a relaxed weekend. This was due, in large, to the excellent instruction and instructors, and I will spend the next few days telling you all about it. I even have some pics (if I can fine the Optio in all the mess).

Right now, I have to put a clothes pin on my nose and go outside and open the doors to the Blazer.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stormy Weather
Yes, I know, it is a song title...and a good torch song best sung by a woman with a husky voice (but I digress). Thing is, I love these things. I can sit for hours just watching the clouds roll in and the storm systems passing through. What normally takes hours and hours to happen reveals itself in fast-forward mode as menacing clouds scud across the sky, seemingly at roof top levels.
The southern half of Wisconsin has seen a good deal of flooding in the past two days, and more rain is in the forecast. The radar shows a queue of clouds lined up to the west and waiting to do their thing all over us. Looking northward, there is far less activity, and therein lies the story.
I am packed and will be heading for the car ferry later this morning. Then, it is on to northern Michigan on the east shore of Lake Michigan where a small inland lake (Lower Herring) awaits with warm waters and sandy shores. Only lightening bolts from above could keep us off the water. My personal goals are to work on the reverse sweep and Norsak rolls. Back Monday.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Morning LightJust before sunrise (as well as just after sunset...but I digress) is when one finds that "liquid light" (ala John Sexton) and subtle color shift (John does black and white...alas) that make for lovely images. This particular one was done last Saturday morning near out camp.

I don't know if it is the light or the solitude that draws me out at that hour. I have become an early riser in my dotage, probably anxious to know that the day has found me on the right side of the grass. In any event, I own the world for a bit during those first few hours. The noise and contentiousness that is so much a part of our world is still asleep and, in the stillness, I can hear myself think. Peace, that's it. Simply peace...and quiet.


Travel day tomorrow as I drive north to Two Rivers and catch the ferry to the Michigan side. This weekend is QAJAQ camp, and I am looking forward to seeing old friends, making new ones and maybe learning a new roll or two. I have begun stretching and doing yoga again, and it has made quite a difference in a short time. I do wonder, however, how many more years I will be able to keep up the pace of this summer's activities.

Meanwhile, we are enjoying thunderstorms here, and the weather is uncertain for the weekend. One day at a time. And, you know what? If it rains...I'm going to let it rain.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fun With J&G...SaturdaySaturday began with a nice sunrise and another wonderful breakfast ala Jennifer. It was then a short drive to the park's north shore where we launched into the Sturgeon Bay channel and paddled into the waters of Green Bay.

It soon clouded over, however, the scenery was just fine in the subdued light.The low water provided enough "shoreline" below the high water mark so that we easily found a place to enjoy the great lunch Chef Jen had prepared and packed for each of us.That evening, just before dinner, the park ranger passed out these warning at all the camp sites.Twenty minutes later, it began raining and hasn't stopped for long since. Yesterday, SW Wisconsin was hit with severe flash flooding. Nature. You gotta' love her.

Paddle safe...


Monday, August 20, 2007

Fun With J&G
Camping this past weekend with Jennifer and Greg was a delightful experience. It was a little like camping with a four-star chef and a benevolent dictator (she being the former...but I digress).
To begin, we were in Potawatomi State Park (Wisconsin) in lower Door county. This is the area at the edge of where the glaciers reached us. The rock formation seen here is typical of the area (more tomorrow when I have some pics of our paddle). Our camp site backed on this formation giving us a bit more privacy than a lot of the other sites.
The event began with Greg's admonition that, "We do not come here to have fun. We are here to work." This delivered with a hint of a smile. Within minutes, he was dragging sequoias out of the woods and reducing them to tinder with a huge axe. Well organized, I stayed well out of the danger zone as he and Jennifer set up their palatial camp. It took me only moments to get my subsidized housing up and going (seen on far left).
Jennifer prepared all but one of our meals including a wonderful lunch that we took along on our Saturday paddle. The galley was well organized and, like everything else, ran in a smooth, military-like manner. My job was to read, relax, sleep and eat. Jennifer's patent-pending pancakes (PPP) with granola were superb, as was the omlete one morning. Greg did pan fry some wonderful salmon steaks one evening. I love roughing it!

I was so relaxed that I was snugly asleep by 9pm each night and up by 5 each morning. Tomorrow I will post a few shots from Saturday's goings on.

Paddle safe...


Friday, August 17, 2007

Noblese Oblige

It is probably form old England, this expression. From the times of kings and kingdoms. It (probably) translates, The Noble are obligated. In modern terms it means that those that have the ability and the means also have an obligation to use them to help others. It isn't too bad an idea for a civilized society.

The rich man (hopefully) donates to charity. The young and spry assist the older and lame (not necessarily the same person...but I digress). The can-do-people lend a hand to the can't-get-it- going folks. Last and not least on today's list, the capable mentor the students.

It is actually the law of the sea that if someone is in distress when you are out there, you are obligated to lend assistance as long as it not an over whelming danger to you and your vessel (my words, not the bar association's). Again, it is how we take care of one another.

I once wrote a blog entitled: When you teach your son, you teach your son's son. That's what I was talking about. There is an obligation there. We, simply because we are human beings, have an obligation to our kind. At times, this obligation reaches the lofty realm of relieving suffering, lifting the down trodden and standing up against acts of injustice. If called, we will hopefully fulfill our obligations in those situations.

Meanwhile, as paddlers, we can carry proper equipment, improve our rescue skills and just be mindful of those around us on the water. Ours is a noble sport with a long tradition. It behoves us to meet our obligations to one another.

That said, I am off to camp and paddle with Greg and Jen as we head up to the waters of Green Bay.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Gang Aft AgleeBobbie Burns, the poet, tells us that the best laid plans a mice and man gang aft aglee. That is, often go astray. So it is with the dredging of the St. Clair River, the main outflow for Lakes Michigan and Huron. Due to this, the average loss from the lakes has been 845 Million gallons PER DAY. The flow, however, has eroded the river bed and the loss is now a lot. What's a lot? Well, how does 2.5 Billion Gallons of water PER DAY grab you.

Oh well, it makes for a nice Niagara falls...which, I understand, is also receding at an increased risk.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

POGO Was Right
We have met the enemy, and it is us! This mornings paper (sorry, no time to do a pic..but I digress) tells of a privately funded study that shows that a major cause of a drop in great lake's water levels was caused by dredging in one of the rivers that drains the area. When one considers the enormous surface area of a lake like Lake Michigan, the mind boggles at the vast amount of water that must "disappear" in order to drop the lake levels 3-4 inches.

There is a secret place where decisions are made that lead to these conditions. No one ever asked me, and I don't know who to tell not to do these things any more. Worst of all, POGO is no longer here with his voice of reason. Who will explain this to the smart people in charge?

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Just In Case
It was calm on Sunday, and JB and I paddled north from Bradford beach to practice strokes and look in (over/down onto) a wrecked ship. Then I heard the Thump, thump, thump, a sound I don't especially like. It was the sound of a helicopter, the same sound that was once emblematic of the war in Viet Nam. I looked up. It was one of ours. Actually, it was the Chicago-based USCG unit doing some sort of practice as it hugged the shore line.
I remembered (flash backed?) on my days as a flight surgeon and the times the crews used me to practice rescues. I would go to the infield between runways (in Thailand...but I digress), and they would come in, hover and lower a harness to me. It wasn't much more than a loop, but it held well as they hauled me up into the chopper. When I flew missions, I took some comfort in knowing they'd come for me should the necessity arrive.
The same, I believe, is true for the "coasties" here. Good to know they are there...just in case.
Paddle safe...

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Beginning of Something Good?
Come to Wisconsin and paddle and fish in Lake Michigan...where the average size pan fish has as much mercury as a rectal thermometer. Nothing in that lake is safe to eat (my medical judgment...but I digress). And, for total nutrition, know that you will get your minimal daily requirements of PCB's as well.

Well, things may be looking up as you can see by the headline in our daily rag here in Milwaukee. It will take time , of course, for the lake and its inhabitants to heal. Some species are likely to disappear before that time, however. Then there are the invasive species which arrived courtesy of international ballast waters which ejaculate from foreign ships. All in all, it is worse than a primordial soup in a horror movie. No, I haven't forgotten the nitrogenous contribution from all the farms along all the rivers that send water and suspended matters to the lake.

It didn't get that way overnight, and it won't get better any faster. But Mother Earth does have a way of healing herself if just left to do so on her own. The question is: can we get to hell out of her way and let her do her work?

Paddle safe...


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Man Plans While HE Laughs

Lady Linda's nephew, who is Peurot Rican and who was at the time in charge of homeland security for Puerto Rico, said there are crazy people down there (the ones I met were really quite nice...but I digress). Well, it seems that Derrick and his mates were fired upon automatic gunfire, no less. One local left a blog comment that the area was along the entry path for drugs coming in from The Dominica Republic (Nephew had warned about this very thing). One of the support posted something that suggested they thought it might have been a local gun club (automatic fire?).

There is lots going on down there, some of which is not ready for prime time or publication. This has to be hard on Mary, Derrick's wife, who learned of the incident when a local reporter called her for a comment. Oh well, its the journey, not the destination, that makes it all worth while.

The rest of the story (with apologies to Paul Harvey) will be told later...if ever...and should prove interesting. Suffice to say that I (JB and others) are worried about our boy and what he is about. You can follow all this at the Chasing the Ana site.

Welcome back to Nydia. I am sorry for what you went through.

Paddle safe...


Friday, August 10, 2007

Barnacle Bill's

I think I have name right. It is a restaurant in a private marina and up one of the three rivers that join in downtown Milwaukee. It is a relaxed and fun place with outdoor seating. The food is good, and the menu reads like a comic book. Their salad, for instance, is simply advertised as
A damn nice salad.

If you come here, we will take you there. If you don't like the food, check out the complaint department.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Be Careful Out There!
(With apologies to Hill Street Blues)
I felt lazy and tired yesterday and thought I wouldn't paddle. I rode my recumbent bike just to get some lower body work, went home, had lunch and grew too restless to sit around. I went paddling, and I was glad I did.
It was one of those days when the NE breeze sent down sets of waves that ended with a couple of good three-foot rollers. Now and then, one would climb onto my lap and cuddle up with me for a few moments before spilling off and chasing the others. Still, I was unable to catch them and, after a while, headed inside the break water and toward the beach. Then this line dangling off the stern of this sailboat caught my attention and brought back a flood of memories.
For all I know, the skipper of this vessel might have been sloppy and forgotten to take it in. But for me, it was a reminder of how we are all responsible for ourselves when out there as I used to be when I would single handed take my Hans Christan 42 across the 85 miles of open water and over to the Michigan (sandy) side. I'd always wear a harness. Still, I would always have a line off my stern and trailing in the water. This represented a last chance to grab onto the boat in the event I fell over board (in which case the boat would have kept on going...but I digress).
A little thing to be sure, but it brought back those memories. Alone out there, even a few hundred yards from shore, the break water obscures any view from the shore of a paddler spilling or getting into any trouble. That's part of the job and the take care of ourselves...and one another.
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Come Paddle Wisconsin

I've gotten in quite a bit of paddling this past week in spite of lots of storms in the area. It is sunny now, but more rain and noise is expected this evening and tomorrow. So, it was with some surprise that I saw this article in yesterday's local rag:It appears that many of our local inland lakes are literally drying up and disappearing along with the sinking of the water table. Seems strange what with us sitting on one of the world's largest supply of fresh water. One needs to remember, however, that there is a divide just west of Milwaukee and that all the water farther west drains to the Mississippi River, not Lake Michigan. I guess it is then lost to our water table.

In any event, I'd love to have you all visit, give me a call and join me in a paddle. Just, please, bring your own water :)

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Howard Johnson's
Life On The Yahara

One day I will do a piece on Rutabaga, the place in Madison (WI) where some of us teach. For now I present a pic of the pond which is behind the store and is used a lot for lessons. I will get back to it in a paragraph or two.

When serving in SE Asia (I was living in Thailand...but I digress), I saw many little push carts that served hot food. Known for their ability to also initiate GI (the stomach kind, not the soldier) upset, the Americans called them Howard Johnsons. I don't know why. So what has this to do with Madison and 'Baga?

Well, that little pond goes off (to the right...more or less west) into a small inlet (exlet if leaving) which, in turn, allows passage into the Yahara River. From there one has an endless choice of gunk holes, river branches and lakes available for exploration. I often arrive early for a teaching assignment to allow for a paddle of solitude into the Yahara. When time permits, I take my classes out for their very first "expedition" on the same waters. I did so this past Sunday, and what did I find?

A floating Howard Johnson (I do not imply any GI connection here)! Small power boats were pulling up to this anchored affair which serves up hot food. I guess it brought on a small flash back and this posting. Oh well, where there's a will there's a way.

Paddle safe...


Monday, August 06, 2007

A Purposeful Life
Time for another reality check
I've written, opined and rambled on before about how important it is to me to have a sense of mission or purpose in life. Call it a calling. For me, it has had to be a broad enough one to encompass my passions and interests. No surprise, then, that it involves teaching. So, this weekend, which I spent in Madison teaching kayaking for three consecutive days, I found myself wondering if I was living my mission.
Yes, I love to kayak, and I am (I say this with no I digress) becoming an elegant and competent paddler. I am also very competent at teaching others. But kayaking, it occurs to me, is a small part of my being. My calling, after all, is to create a world free of pain and suffering by teaching everyone how to take care of themselves and one another (mission statements are meant to be grandiose and far too large to be fulfilled in a lifetime. The things we can do in a lifetime are to meet goals, those small achievable things that serve's that for a digression?).

As I look back at the past three days and all the kayaking skills I watched being born, I realize that kayaking was only a small part of the weekend. I realize that, although I spent proportionally less time doing them, there were other very important activities taking place:

I took one of my mentees from our high school scholarship program to dinner. He is in Madison doing summer school at UW. During our 2-3 hours together, I was able to affirm his abilities to him and stimulate him intellectually. I reminded him that I was always only a phone call away. He seemed refreshed and renewed as we parted in the rain and he returned to studying for finals.

I stayed at the Max's home and spent a wonderful evening chatting with him. He is a wonderful man whom I met through our men's group. Like myself, he is an elder (a young elder to be sure), and I enjoy a feeling of safety and goodness when with him. (Healing includes taking care of myself).
I roamed the campus and recalled memories of years ago (That's Bascom Hill with a statue of Lincoln. It is said that he stands up every time a virgin passes by).

I complemented some new paddlers on their achievements. I helped some children get their small kayaks ashore. I smiled at a young lady who, sitting off by herself, seemed alone and sad. I said, "Hi," as I passed, and she smiled back.

Yes, it was a good weekend and I was, after all, able to squeeze in a little "mission work".

Paddle safe...

Friday, August 03, 2007

OFFTo Madison to teach for three days (and dodge thunderstorms...but I've digressed). Back Monday if I have anything worth saying (ha).
Paddle safe...


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Reason To Be Optimistic In A World Gone To Hell:

One Man 's Search

War, pollutants, crime, lack of integrity, scams, cheats and kayaks with meaningless warranties. It's enough to drive a man into depression and pessimism. Where in this world, I often wonder, will I find that spark that everything will be okay? What sign can I find that says my children will have a decent world in which to live. I search, mostly in vain.

Then I was in Illinois helping daughter #2 move when I was shown a picture. I couldn't sleep that night or the next. It niggled at me. Some how I knew that I had found my personal Holy Grail, the sign, the promise from beyond that things can sometimes turn around and turn out okay. I contacted daughter #1 (in Cincinnati...but I digress), and she was, thankfully, able to supply me with a copy of what I had seen: this picture: Presently housed in the art wing of the archives of The International Congress of Geeks, this image taken not terribly long ago offered me the proof I had sought. Things can turn out alright.

The two...ah...hmm...boys, who look like friends of Opie, would appear to a couple of innocents ready to be eaten up by a cruel world. They even seem to be symbolically shaking hands in acceptance of the terrible tribulations that they know lay ahead and do not understand. Without dwelling on it too long, jump ahead a little more than a decade and...TaDa...the guy on the left looks like this:He has a masters degree, is very gainfully employed, married to a gorgeous gal (that would be daughter #1) and is a fine father to boot. See? Look at how things can grow and blossom.

His friend with the red tie was best man at his wedding and is also educated and holding down a good job. He, by the way, is engaged to the maid of honor (another gorgeous gal) from the first wedding (daughter #2). You can, at least, recognize him from the old pic, but he also turned out just fine.

Now, just try to tell me that rain bows have no meaning and that there's not a great plan out there (you should see me at that age...geeeez). After all, these two guys turned out to be the breavest men in the world. Hey, they married my daughters :)

Paddle safe...
Now I Know...Again

I keep forgetting that when I have unexplained sleep problems along with unexplained muscle discomfort that a virus has set up house keeping somewhere in my bod. I remembered this...again...when I woke yesterday with a snoot full of snot and a voice 3 octaves lower than normal. So, I took the day off from paddling and, since it was hot outside, daughter #2 and I took Ansel to the sea (read: Lake Michigan) shore. I was surprised what a joy it was just to wade about in the water sans boat. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised since it is the water that calls to me. Anyway, daughter #2 (getting married in October, hurrah...but I digress) turned the camera on me.
Just got a call: the chicken wants his legs back. I look better in a boat when only the top half shows and that is pretty much covered up :)
Paddle safe...