Thursday, December 27, 2007

Shelf Life
Shelf life. It refers to how long a product can sit on the shelf before it is considered outdated, useless and/or spoiled. We see it on foods as a label reading best if used by..... So, we know that after such and such a date that we best replace that bottle of milk in the fridge. Same with medications that bear labels instructing us to discard after a certain date. In all these cases the food or medication has become useless or ineffective, possibly even dangerous. Same with paddling.

Our skills have a shelf life. We don't have labels to help with this, however we do know that awkward feeling we get when we go out into rough conditions after having been "on the shelf" for a while. Around here that is a problem each winter.

Many folks here put their kayaks on the shelf for the duration of the cold weather. Unfortunately, their skills go right along side the boat up there on the shelf where they slowly lose their freshness, become ineffective and, eventually, dangerous. Pool sessions help a little, but they cannot reproduce the conditions we need to be able to cope with out on the open water. The real solution?

Find a way to get out there this winter. Yes, dry suits are expensive, but think of the total amount of hard earned cash you already spend on other stuff. I see people who a second boat and then say that a dry suit is too expensive. These folks then have 2 boats (and their skills) on the shelf each winter. Often a short road trip can get us to waters warm enough to paddle in the gear we already have. Another option, not available to all, is warm water around a nuclear power plant. These areas are generally shrouded in fog. One such area near Madison draws several groups to an annual new year's day paddle.

Speaking of groups, find one to paddle with in the cold weather. Here, in Milwaukee, we are generally on the water every Sunday morning, year round, weather permitting. It makes things safer, is an incentive to get out there and generally leads to coffee and good fellowship afterwards.

How ever you do it, use those skills during this time of hibernation. Don't let what you worked so hard to obtain dwindle away past its expiration date.

Paddle safe...



Eric J. said...

It is so true that skills deteriorate over the winter and the only way to maintain them is to keep paddling. With the Atlantic Ocean close the group I paddle with rarely are iced off the water.
I just read an article in Atlantic Coastal Kayaker by Wayne Hurodowitch about how skills need constant maintenance or they slip away.
It does seem silly to have two kayaks and not cough up the money for a dry suite....

JohnB said...

Well, well, WELL!!!

Good lead-in to my post, that I finally put up on the same topic (started working on it in October!).

bonnie said...

Yes! Great post!

Like the mention of the post paddle discussions - they can be such fun. Seven of us from the winter gang at the Sebago Canoe Club (well, actually 6 and my boyfriend) paddled to Howard Beach for Italian food yesterday - afterwards we got a roaring fire going in the stove & had the best discussion of canoes vs. kayaks & I can't remember what all else. It was just so pleasant. The paddle was good too. It's so nice this time of year when you go out & maybe only see one motorboat all afternoon.

bonnie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bonnie said...

btw bonnie inadvertently said the same thing twice, hence the deletion of the 2nd comment!

DaveO said...

Some people (like me) need to learn from personal experience rather than from the experience of others. Hence my drysuit purchase came after getting rolled in Lake Superior one April in my wetsuit. They are a wonderful piece of gear and pretty much essential on Gitchee Gumee other than for about 10 weeks in the 'summer'.