Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Some times, I Forgets
It seems like 8,000,000 years since I last paddled outdoors in warm water, but my memories or it carry me through the winter months. Sometimes, however, I forgets.
I forgets the feeling of being lifted and rocked by the lake. I forgets the rush of bracing into a wave as it crashes, chest high, onto the beam of my boat. I forgets the exultation of a student who has just "gotten it" and his or her hungry look for more. I forgets, too, the delicious fatigue as I climb out of the cockpit and walk ashore after a long paddle. Of course, I have Michael's blog to remind me what it can be like.
I may forgets a lot, but at least I have documented, with the unfailing accuracy of the camera, what it looks like in summer.
Paddle safe...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bummed Out
It's been coming on the last few days, that feeling that can be described with words like blech, down and bummer. I've had less time on the water so far than in any previous year, so I have increased my indoor exercise. Instead of shedding a few pounds, I've added one, and I ache from over doing the weights and crunches. On top of all that, I feel my ambition ebbing and am less enthusiastic about up coming events. Funny thing though, I don't feel depressed or anything like it.
So, I start the day by checking blogs and got to Derrick's. He has a link to an audio clip of Andrew McCauley on the water during his fatal trip. In it, Andrew talks about how wild the trip had become and wonders aloud if he has, "... bitten off more than I can chew." I am not glad that I listened to it. I think his disappearance has had an effect on my mood and has made me more...maybe too...cautious. It is a vague and unsettling feeling, but it is there none the less.
It is all so odd (and, so unlike me...but I digress) since my braces and rolls (in the pool) have been absolutely dynamite. Not that I have a huge number of rolls like Alex, I don't. But I thoroughly enjoy the ones I do know and hope to add a few more this year.
That first warm day of spring best hurry up and warm my soul. Or should I say thaw my soul? Anyway, it is time to put on a few layers and take Ansel out for a gloomy-day walk.
Paddle safe...

Monday, February 26, 2007

BS BS...or, BS Squared
BS squared is a local boating club made up mostly of white water paddlers. The actual name of the group is Badger land State Boating Society (The badger is Wisconsin's state animal...but I digress). The group holds various events throughout the year, but my contact with them is usually during the winter months since they are the ones who arrange the local pool sessions.
We actually meet at a YMCA close to my homewhere there is a first class pool available. One of the neat things about it is the ability to raise the floor at one end, thus creating a shallow area where someone can stand with their head above water. This, in turn, facilitates teaching, and there is a lot of that going around during our sessions.
In fact, the easy atmosphere and eager sharing of knowledge is one of the things that make these get togethers so much fun. I see various members helping others, and I see the joy on the faces of those hitting their first roll. All in all, it makes winter tolerable around here. Perhaps there should be more BS in your life.
Paddle safe...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is This the Beast?
Lots of strange things have been going on. The honey bees are disappearing around the world. Cataclysmic storms destroy cities and lives. Derrick gets several feet of snow while here, in Glendale, we only get 2 inches. JB develops unexplained skin lesions, and and Greg hasn't built a boat all winter. Ice is hiding heavens know what beneath the shoreline, and Lady Linda has been treating me well. Coincidences? Perhaps...perhaps not.

Yesterday I mentioned that I was in the class of '66 during medical school. But, you say, that is only 2 sixes. Yes, but what I haven't told you is that I was issued an American Express Card with 6666 in its code. Coincidence?

And what about medical school, a training ground for one who would do evil medical experimentation on innocents? Perhaps you would find it interesting to learn that our actual graduation date was 6-6-66. Seeing a pattern here (if not, consider dyslexia....but I digress...and will send you a bill in the morning).

It may all mean nothing. After all, in spite of dire predictions that this is The End of Days, we are all still here, albeit shoveling snow. Perhaps it is all just a meaningless gaggle of meaningless happenings. Perhaps it is not a warning of any kind and that nothing terrifying and evil is just over the horizon.

Soon it will be spring and and, on the 6th month of the year, I will turn 66. And what are these strange stirrings I feel?

Paddle safe...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Time Warp
Must have been the wine I had at dinner last night. Drinking too late in the day sometimes does funny things with my sleep. This time, I popped awake at 3 am with a vivid memory of something that happened in early 1962.
I was working with my father carrying boxes and stuff. I was in college and was working a couple of jobs to make ends meet. In any event, I got a phone call from my mother saying that an envelope had arrived from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine (where I had a applied...but I digress) and did I want her to open it. No, I did not. I would face the disappointment on my own.
When I arrived home several hours later, my sister and her husband were hanging out at the house...something that just didn't happen. There was an odd tension in the air as I was handed the envelope which I deposited in my room before returning to the kitchen for supper. It was clear that everyone was there to see what was in the envelope, and I wanted to read it on my own time. My brother in law had been to college, and I was the only other to do so. Other than an uncle, no one had gone to medical school in our family. This was, potentially, a big deal for us all.
Well, I finally went to my room, closed the door and slowly opened the epistle. The brilliant red insignia of the university and the heavy bond paper unfolded as I began to read what appeared to be a form letter. I expected the worst. But, alas, I was being invited to be in the class of '59. The feeling was overwhelming, other-worldly. I was humbled. I had been accepted to med school and, as the poet said, that has made all the difference in the (my) world.
You know, I think I will have some wine before going to bed tonight.
Paddle safe...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Car Racing

I like doing things that are simple and unencumbered by excessive rules. Maybe that's why I paddle a kayak, often alone. But, I also enjoy the company of other like-minded paddlers who enjoy the game for what it is and are willing to share what they know. That is the kayaking I've known and will continue to enjoy. In this world, however, nothing is as certain as change.

Kayaking is going through puberty, a normal evolution in the "growing" process. It began with symposiums, places for paddlers and would be paddlers to gather and exchange knowledge. In addition, organizations began forming to bring sub groups of paddlers together. Some, such as QAJAQ, were designed to serve groups within the general paddling population. And so on, until the inevitable.

Now, like professional car racing, commercialism is coming to the forefront. It is only a matter of time until Tuiliks are covered with decals sporting the names of sponsoring boats, paddles and accessories. A whole generation of paddlers has appeared that not only make paddling their life but make some of their lively hood from paddling. It has become more and more common for "name" paddlers with unique skills to be paid to appear at an event or to give a workshop.

And the manufacturers, not in business for their health, want these folks to use their equipment. Hence, the freebie. It has gotten so that if one is known enough in the paddling community and decides to take a notable trip, companies will outfit them in order to put their products in the spot light. So, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Actually, neither, it just is. It is what happens in this world with anything that grows enough that someone can make a buck off it. It is free enterprise and, as long as the products are good and legitimate, I suppose we all benefit in some way. Hey, I cleared (after taxes and travel....but I digress) $1.80 by teaching sea kayaking in 2006 (Note to NDK, Rockpool, etc: I am ready to endorse your stuff. They will be seen by at least 22 paddlers a year).

As long as there is somewhere paddlers can hang with other paddlers and learn from one another without having to go to the check book for every little thing; and as long as folks don't sell their integrity and recommend less than good stuff just because it comes from their sponsors...well, then we will be okay. But this is just puberty. You know what teenagers can be like.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Grand Fathers
The Wisdom of Stone
In the sweat lodge, we refer to the rocks we heat in the fire as Grand Fathers because of their old age and patience. This comes, of course, from Native American traditions, and I am reminded of a time I learned something else about small rocks from a First Generation's man.
His name was Jerome, and we were both at a men's seminar to conduct our workshops. At the end of the weekend, Jerome stood before each man there and held a bag above eye level. He invited each of us to reach into the bag and to, "Let a stone choose you." Eventually, we all had a stone in hand.
Jerome then explained how stones were clever individuals, and he taught us how they could get us to pick them up and carry them to another place where they would rather be. When they were feeling playful, they could get us to skip them on the water. When they tired of our company, they would get us to set them down and leave them to themselves. Clever indeed.
Some of you, I suspect aren't buying into this personification of the hard minerals we call stones. But why? Is it so hard to believe that something we consider inanimate could control us and cause us to act in unpredictable and even silly ways? After all, I've seen guys go nutty at the sight of a chunk of fiberglass, kevlar, wood and even cloth made into the shape of a kayak. Now that's unbelievable.
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
It looks as if I will be able to make the pool session this Saturday, and I need something nice to "wear". I usually take the Romany. It is colorful (yellow), fits well and goes with everything. But the basic gray skin on frame has been in the closet (read: garage) for a bit now, and the chlorinated pool water would help prevent mold. The wooden kit boat is passe and the Shadow ill suited for the occasion. Of course there is the basic little black dress, the new SOF, that I have only tried on but never worn out. Too daring? It fits well, but I don't know if I can slip it off quickly should the passion of the moment require me to do so.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Right now, I am deciding to head out to meet JB for coffee.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Picking my fights
The lake front is still showing the effects of the recent cold spell. The breakwater on the north end of the outer harbor is caked in ice (It was 40F when I snapped these images yesterday...but I digress). The weather has definitely begun to turn in our (paddler's) favor. I have never been off the lake for such a long period and am looking for places to launch. (Michael tells us that our friends to the north have had their fill of snow. He is headed to Florida. For now, I am stuck here.)

This is the small semi protected basin just north of the break wall and a common place for us to launch. It doesn't look too bad and, just a year ago, I probably would have put in for a paddle. But, something has changed, and I suspect that something is time. Much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes feel my age. That, and one partially paralyzed leg, has made me...well, I don't know whether to call it soft or cautious. Either way, I would rather not launch from such a place, at least not alone.

The waves bother me not at all, it is just the idea of returning tired and having to lift out onto a slippery, iced-over shore. Oh well. It is early in the day, and the temp is already just above freezing. I have a full schedule what with the scholarship fund and the mentoring program, so paddling isn't an option. But tomorrow....

Paddle safe...


Monday, February 19, 2007

Making it through the winter
Yesterday, Ansel and I had a fine outing in the park across the river from our house. The sun was out in force, and the temps in the mid twenties (F) almost felt like spring. So, we walked, explored, and I took pictures. It began to feel like we were going to make it through the winter after all.
I have been marveling at the small birds, cardinals and woodpeckers I've been seeing through this last cold spell. I have no idea how they survive let alone find food and water and maintain their body heat. The squirrels have been popping out during breaks in the weather and, I suspect other small mammals have been about. It would appear that the coyotes we saw the other day are also aware of their presence.
I found this kill, picked clean, next to a soccer field. It reminded me that while we build and pave over green places and make ourselves comfy, wild life adapts and goes about its business of surviving just as it has since the beginning. I am not sure why, but I find comfort in knowing that, a feeling somewhat akin to the connection to something I feel when on the water (and I didn't digress even once_).
Paddle safe...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Anticipation : Frustration

It will go up into the 30'sF tomorrow and most of next week. Although only in the 20's now, it already feels like a heat wave. This up coming week aught to be excellent for winter paddling. "Warm" air and huge chunks of berg-like ice floating offshore. The problems is, however, that the shore line is piled with ice that is several feet high at the water line.

So, we sat at one of our local caffination spots, sipped coffee and spent this morning telling tales and musing over what swimming pools might be available in the Milwaukee area. But I need to get out onto the lake again. I need to be physically active in a way I cannot be in a gym or, for that matter, a pool. I need to feel the boat being lifted under me and the pull of the water against my paddle...before I go entirely nuts.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The "F" Word
Imagine I posted a blog about how I liked to float out on Lake Michigan amongst the ice flows and practice throwing a harpoon with a throwing stick. Imagine, too, that at such times I imagined myself living the life of an Inuit, feeling what they did. Imagine, finally, that I found the entire experience relaxing and that the focus it required took me away from the hurry-up life I experience ashore. In fact, imagine that I found it to be a form of meditation. Would that upset you? I think not. I suspect, in fact, that the traditionalists out there would feel a sense of kinship found in a common interest. So why, then, did yesterday's post get the reaction it did?
Via comments, e mails and personal conversations I have learned that my posting yesterday caused strong emotional reactions for some folks. One dismissed the whole idea as a male thing, another felt uncomfortable when she saw the picture of a gun, in this case a 9mm Glock (I suspect that just reading that name for the gun will cause a reaction for some of you...but I digress). In the first paragraph, today, I rewrite yesterday's experience but substitute a harpoon for a gun, give it a "righteous" context and get a different reaction. After mulling it over and over, I have concluded why the gun caused the stir it did, and it was the "F" word.
Fear. We live in a society that is violent. We watch TV shows like Cops and see that very same gun being fired at human beings. We read, almost daily, of people being gunned down on our local streets...and so on. We are afraid for our safety and, therefor, have an aversion for the object that represents and brings home to us that terrible feeling.
Yet, we are far more likely to die of hypothermia and even more likely to die of a heart attack. To avoid the former, we dress properly and learn how to rescue ourselves. To avoid the later, we eat properly and exercise. In other words, we learn how to handle those things that are a threat to us and debunk the bogey man involved. Well, I've done that with a fire arm and found a way to use it to relax.
You see, I don't consider it as a means of protection. At home, the clips are empty and out and the entire piece is locked up. I could teach a home invader how to roll quicker than I could get to, assemble and load the gun. I do not even belong to the NRA (National Rifle Association) or, for that matter, the NHA (National Harpoon Association).
So stop and think it over for a moment. After reading yesterday's blog, did you feel differently about me, even though most of you have never met me? And why was yesterday's photo disturbing and not today's? Did I touch your fear? The lesson here is to handle guns and harpoons in a safe manner and to...
Paddle safe...

Friday, February 16, 2007

The "M" Word
So, you saw the gun and the "M". What came to your mind? Murder? Mayhem? We do, after all, live in violent times and, Lord knows, there are guns out there in the hands of kids and lots of bad guys. Besides, there are all sorts of cop shows out there, and we have all seen a "shooting". So, given the context of the picture above and the world in which we live, it would not surprise me if that is what you thought. But I am not a violent man. The word I had in mind, of course, was meditation.
Two days ago, bored with winter and suffering cabin fever, I took my 9mm Glock and went over to a local shooting range. There I went through the usual ritual, just as one goes through a ritual in order to meditate. Before entering the shooting lanes, I put on my ear protection thus changing my aural perception to that of a world of muffled sounds. The isolation had begun. Once at a shooting position, partitions cut out all vision except what was straight ahead where bright lights illuminated a cavernous black space.
The ritual continued: Unlock the case, check the chamber to be sure it is clear, check the barrel for obstructions, load two magazines each with 10 rounds, attach a target (circles, never a human or animal outline...but I digress) then listen to the motor hum as I run it out into the empty black space. Remove glasses (don't need to see the target, only the sites) and put on safety glasses.
Pick up the loaded weapon, finger never on the trigger, barrel always...always...pointed down range. Set my grip and get into the shooting stance. Now line up the front and rear sites, never mind the target yet. Let the gun sway, just keep those sites aligned until the target appears to perch on the front site (target picture). Take up the slack on the inner trigger, that releases the safety. When the site alignment and the site picture are proper, pull (no squeezing BS) the hair trigger: Licks of fire and the sound of an explosion just beyond my hand fill my world an instant before the smell of gun powder enters my brain.
Repeat the above over and over until the outside world disappears and there is only the ritual the sights, the smells and the sounds. A few hundred repetitions later, and I am relaxed and free of evil thoughts...until I step out of the building into the sub zero air. Only then does murder enter my mind.
Paddle safe...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

As I was saying
(continued from yesterday)

The night swallowed up the freighter, and I continued east toward Michigan. Although a short journey, I was feeling the fatigue of many long nights at the hospital. This was not a good way to start a vacation. My enthusiasm had over come my judgment, and what I needed was sleep.

With my family asleep below, I did little mental exercises to stay "alert". There were few stars to see, just the red glow in the compass housing. I again played the game of where I would see the next light and when it would appear. As dawn approached, I predicted that I would see the fixed light on the Pentwater pier directly ahead, but only after seeing the light house on a prominence south of there. At the predicted time, a light swung around, but it was dead ahead and not off the starboard bow where the light house should have been. I checked and, unless the compass had developed a tendency to lie, I was on course. But, then, the light house couldn't be dead ahead. The light swung around again.

Okay, just assess things. Get the timing of the light and see which one on the chart matches up. First there was a 15 second pause between flashes, then a full minute. And, wait, it wasn't flashing. I could actually see it going around, from my left to right...odd. I closed with the coast, which ever coast it was. I knew the entire area was sandy and that I was unlikely to hit anything hard. The cockamamie patterns of lights continued, sometimes with a pause of minutes. Then, as first light appeared, I took up the binoculars and had myself a good laugh.

I was, in fact, dead on, and it was clear we would enter the break water with little or no adjustment of the helm. What had I been seeing? UFO? Hallucinations? No. You see, there is a road running east-west along the canal that leads into the harbor and, it seems, cars were driving along it to its end and then making a u turn. Their route took them straight toward us and, in turning, their headlights gave the appearance of a light house.

In each encounter (the boat and the cars), I had been right on course and where I was supposed to have been. But fatigue had turned this little 12 hour crossing into what, in retrospect, was a comedy of misperceptions. All I had to do was trust my instruments, in this case my compass (and I told this second part without digressing).

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Trust your instruments
I really learned the meaning of that statement while breaking the sound barrier in an inverted dive in an F-105. (I was in the back seat...but I digress) had started to roll the plane, but flew into a cloud before completing the maneuver. I took my eyes off the false horizon and came out of the cloud upside down and heading toward the ground. Disoriented, I pulled back on the stick which only caused the plane to go into a steeper drive and the pilot to break into uncontrollable laughter. In any event, something just as confussing happened on Lake Michigan:
I had started out tired, and that was a mistake. The idea was to leave Milwaukee around sunset so that the Michigan coast would be reached in early light. I was at the helm of my 42-foot Hans Christian cutter with the family asleep below, and I judged we were about half way along our 85 mile long rhumb line. As a way to keep me alert, I estimated how long it would be until I picked up the light at the entrance to Pentwater. I decided I had about 5 hours until the light would appear right over there. That's when a light rotated...right over there. That wasn't possible.
I took out the binoculars and was amazed to discover a city just off my starboard bow. The "lighthouse" came around again. Consulting the charts, I calculated that I was in the middle of the lake and, in any event, there was no light house with the characteristics or timing of this one. How could I be so off course? And where the hell was I? I remembered the sage advise heading this post and tried not to panic. I was tired and thought that I might be hallucinating. The light went around again. Then I felt a strange vibration in my chest and throughout the hull. I took up the binoculars once again.
To make a long story annoying, I can tell you that it turned out to be a monstrous Canadian ore boat, and we were on a collision course. The captain, apparently seeing me on radar and unable to pick up my small navigation lights (bless my radar reflector up in the rigging), was spinning his search light around to make his presence known to the blip on the radar.
I jumped below to the control panel and flipped my spreader lights on and off to illuminate my sails, the returned to the wheel and made a clear turn to starboard to allow the ship to pass ahead of me and to make my intentions clear. Then I sat in awe as this city-sized monster passed in the night. Her deck aglow, men were at work...some riding bicycles to traverse the length of the boat.
My calculations and dead reckoning had been right on, but the test of my beliefs was not yet over....(cont'd tomorrow).
Paddle safe...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A long-guarded family secrete:
I took this picture of Lady Linda's Mother at a party at our house this past weekend. In addition to portraying a great elder, it reveals a long held secret about my wife's family, one that I reveal here for the first time. Even now, as I am about to tell the world of our secret, I find I cannot say it directly and can only give you clues.
1, She talks in an unusual way. Example: Going to the store, I am."
2, She can levitate objects if she concentrates enough.
3, She is amazing with a laser sword.
4, Her first borne, a small lad named Yoda, is famous.
Don't believe me? Then, stare at the picture for a while....and may the force be with you.
Paddle safe...

Monday, February 12, 2007

A full house
still beats a pair
Usually, there are only two of us living here with Ansel, a pair of old married folks. This weekend, however, the house was briefly filled with people (the picture above is old, but it helps capture the energy...but, I digress) as we gathered to celebrate birthdays. Family, friends, daughters, soon-to-be-grandson, son in law and soon-to-be-son in law all gathered for a get together.
There was talk, too much food, jokes on one another, stories and just plain fun. The furniture and decorations faded into the back round as the energy filled the house. Then, people gradually found their coats on the bed upstairs, and cars pulled out of our cul de sac. 24 hours later my daughter, my son in law and my soon-to-be-grandson were on their way home. The house grew quiet, and Ansel curled up to sleep.
This morning, the chill factor is in the teens and a dry, light snow is falling. I walked Ansel through the muffled silence...then returned to a quiet house.
Paddle safe...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Andrew McAuley

He is out there somewhere. New Zealand radio most recently has reported that he did not have an immersion suit along on his trip. Derrick points out that they may not have clarity as to the difference between a dry suit and an immersion suit. (I recommend his site to follow this story).

I went to the pool last evening and played and, for a while, forgot about this yet-to-be-told story. Part of me wanted to know that I could still roll, skull and wet exit should the need arise. Part of me made me hang upside down in the boat and watch my air bubbles zig zag to the surface while I focused on the fact that I need air to survive.

I remembered, too, that the water is a wonderful place, but it is detached and only follows the laws of physics. It is also totally unforgiving, and I must remember to...

Paddle safe...


Saturday, February 10, 2007

An Acute Onset Of Reality?

If you read Derrick each day, you know that Andrew McAuley is nearing the end of his circumnavigation of New Zealand. Apparently, his boat was found last evening abandoned about 40 miles off the coast of NZ. Derrick has been up most of the night tracking the search.

I was about to write a very happy blog about my family when I read Derrick's piece. I don't feel like doing that just now, and it certainly does not seem appropriate. Instead, I will be monitoring Derrick's site until I know something about Andrew's condition. I never met the man (other than via Derrick's site), but my thoughts are with him and his family.

This can be, bottom line, a dangerous sport. Something good has got to come out of this.

Please...Paddle safe...

Friday, February 09, 2007

When you teach your son, you teach your son's son.
The Talmud (with thanks to Sharon W.)

I am a member of an international men's group with 30,000+ members around the world. Among the subgroups (we call them missions...but I digress) that meet are the men 50 years old and older. We call them Elders, and we talk about the old ways.

Time was, a boy went through initiation and transitioned into manhood. This, in turn, earned him a seat by the fire, a seat in a circle of men. From within that circle, a man chose mentors. He might ask one man to teach him to hunt and another how to build. In our circles, it is not unusual to ask a younger man to be one's mentor. Still, there is something unique about the Elders and what they bring to the circle. A lot of that has to do with experience.

During introductions (check in), Elders will say something like, "I'm Dick, and I have 65 years of life experience." We don't take kindly to old folks jokes and don't have senior moments. I am happy to say there is a certain deference given the Elders by the younger men. I say that because it is in the societies that venerate their elders that we find longevity and functionality into old age. Here and today, we warehouse our old when they become a burden or just a nuisance. Other societies keep the elders at home where they are respected and serve as role models for the children.

Of course, it behooves a man to live in integrity and to be of service if he is to expect respect when he becomes old. I am sadden by the many young men in our society who do not have a father that participates in the boys life. I am sadden by the lack of role models in so many young men's lives. Sad to say, too many "men" abandon their responsibilities and are, in my judgment, too self serving.

Another saying we have is: Wisdom comes with age. Sometimes, age comes alone.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, February 08, 2007

When good people eat bad mushroom
Yesterday, I put the Romany on the Blazer and went over to Bradford Beach (which is on Lake Michigan...but I digress). Air temp was around 72F and the water probably 65F. There was a light, warm wind blowing off shore, so the beach launch was easy enough.
After paddling up the shore for about 5 miles and returning, I used the remaining time to work on braces and rolls. I hit my first attempt at a hand roll, and that was on my "off" side. I was so into it that I failed to notice the videography team on shore taping my every move. As I was to learn later, they were gathering footage for This Is The Lake, a DVD that will premiere at Canoecopia this spring (Derrick is already working on the cover).
Did I mention that, during the 10 mile paddle, I bumped into some other paddlers and helped them out? Lucky for them. I came upon JB only to discover all his hatch covers were loose (I fixed them). I helped Alex off the lake to a safe landing site. Poor fellow was exhausted from trying to learn how to do his first roll. I told him to get some rest and call me in the morning.
I most surprised when I came upon Michael, he of Canadian fame. He was way over dressed and on the verge of heat exhaustion. I splashed him with water and removed the tire iron he had stored under his compass. He was grateful, as were they all.
I didn't actually see Sam, but I did find an empty bottle of Irish Whiskey with a note in it that read, "Ireland or bust." It was signed by Sam and Pat E. O'furniture.
A lucky thing for Greg that I found him when I did. He was doing sea trials on a boat he had built out of old barrel staves, and the thing was leaking like mad.
Coming ashore, I was swarmed by a group of gals who said they all worked at some place called Hooters and, after having watched me, wanted to know if they could buy me lunch. Lucky I still had on my PFD as things were getting pretty deep by then. I declined politely. Still, they insisted on carrying my boat and putting it up on the car while two others insisted on giving me a back rub. Hey, I didn't want to be rude.
This morning, 36 hours after eating those funny mushrooms Lady Linda had prepared for supper, the temp had dropped to 15F and, some how, the harbor had frozen over. I won't be able to paddle today so I plan to use the time to try and find some more of those mushrooms.
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Later that night...
Yesterday turned out better than I thought it would. After an encouraging e mail from Derrick, I headed out to a book store and then to meet JB for coffee. It snowed but, because there was little wind, I felt warm in my layers and ski jacket. Fate, unhappy with my lifting spirits, made sure that Lady Linda was ill with chills and aches by time I arrived back home.
She slept while daughter #2 and I talked and ate a light supper. Then, I re-bundled up and took Ansel for a walk. It was dark, but the light pollution bounced off the snow and the rime-like coating of salt on the roads (we have no street lights here...but I digress). We took our usual path and ended up about 200 yards from the house, where the road runs along a bend in the now frozen river. That's when Ansel froze, ears up and stared into the night. I followed his line of sight out onto the ice. Then, I saw them too.
First there was one, and I thought it might be a loose dog. Then another and another pranced out onto the ice. Coyotes. I seldom see more than one at a time, so we just stood there and watched. Ansel, of course, sent out a loud bark toward them, but they didn't seem to notice. He began tugging at the leash, wanting to go after them, maybe get in some play time. It wasn't to be.
As we made our way home, I was left with a feeling that everything was all right and just as it should be. I took heart in knowing the coyotes were still out there. All in all, it had been a decent day. I had seen a wood pecker and a cardinal earlier in the day, amazed at their ability to find food and survive in such temperatures. I briefly recalled, with mixed emotions, having read that the wolf population is thriving in Northern Wisconsin and may no longer be on the protected species list. I wondered how they will do now that farmers can shoot them.
Shortly after returning, I got a call about doing some kayak clinics, thanks to the kindness of JB. It was a sign for me. Spring would come and, The Creator willing, I will again find warm waters and--joy of joys--hold my grandson in May.
Paddle safe...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Rock bottomMaybe it is a winter thing. Maybe it is an age thing. Maybe it is both. Fact is, I'm not having any fun right now. I wake up as if in a gulag. It's dark, and the man on the radio gives temperature readings below zero. I know I will check blogs, write some drivel and then take ten minutes to put on enough clothes to walk Ansel for another 10 minutes. Then...then I sit.

Stiff from inactivity and bored, I've lost my motivation to get up and get out. I've read, exercised in the basement, done class prep and then...then nothing. All this has spurred talk around the house about getting out of here. I don't know if it's talk or if this time something will come of it. Part of the problem, of course, is where to go.

First off, get out of Milwaukee county and realize a full 50% drop in property taxes. If you have never lived around here, you can't know what the taxes are like or that we have the highest health care costs in the nation (that's no typo...but I digress). Retirement money doesn't stretch very far around here.

Well, if we did pack up, why not move to more moderate weather? Nice idea, but I am not anxious to start life over from scratch in a place with no friends and no connections. Besides, other than the great lakes (which all share the same climate), there are only the oceans, and we can't think of anyplace on them where we would care to live? Florida? Maybe, if it was the northern part. I don't want to substitute boiling summers for freezing winters. More over, my daughters live in the midwest and so will my grandchilren. No way I leave them.

Maybe what Lady Linda's folks once did: sell the house and use the money to get a small apartment here and one in a warm place. Then, where does all my stuff go? Can I hang a few kayaks in the dinette? I think not.

Okay, end of pity piece. I will make some coffee, wait for first light and do the dog-walk thing. Then...then, I don't know. I'll think of something. Maybe a ritual bring-back-spring dance.

Paddle safe...

Monday, February 05, 2007

It was only a matter of timeIf you read Derrick's blog (and, it appears, everyone in the free and not so free world does...but I digress), you can't help but have the feeling that every paddler in the world has, is about to or is on a circumnavigation of sorts. Heck, even JB and I did a round about of Door County (never mind that it was by minivan). Well, now it is Sam's turn.

Sam Crowley is well know in these parts. He lives up at the top of the state in Marquette on Lake Superior. We see him "down south" here as he often leads IDW and ICE courses out of Rutabaga in Madison. He, along with JB, taught me to teach this game. Sam is a very capable and by the book paddle. He insists on flawless technique and has a keen diagnostic eye.

Well, Sam is going to have a go around the Old Sod. Yup, he is planning a circumnavigation of Ireland. If you click on his name (above), you will be treated to his web site which sports, among a lot of other info, some of Sam's notorious jokes (read: groaners). The site is well organized and easy to navigate, and I recommend it to you.

Sam, don't forget to pack those four-leaf clovers

Paddle safe...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

-27F Chill Factor

I just walked Ansel (it was a quick walk,,,but I digress) and had to wear 14 layers of clothes. It is Sunday...wait, it is Super Bowl Sunday, and there is hot coffee at Bella's where some of the local paddlers will be meeting soon. I'm taking the rest of the day off...starting now.

Paddle safe...


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Chill factor -7F
Where are the mushrooms?
I've made no secret about my aversion to extreme cold. That combined with the taxes can make one turn to hallucinogenics in order to "experience" a good time. After all, cabin fever is a serious condition. What to do?
Be the child, once more (still?) Play. Pretend. Imagine. Remember how it was the last time I actually was out on the water. The carpet is the sea, the yard stick a paddle (Greenland stick, actually...but I digress). Then, I wait until morning and cross another day off the calendar and wonder why it is I stay here in this tax hell of winter. Then I remember: family and friends, and I go looking for the mushrooms.
Paddle safe...

Friday, February 02, 2007

A man's home is his castle...
and his workshop...
and his garage
(continued from yesterday): Unable to wait for warmer weather (it is 7F out just now...but I digress), I waited until Lady Linda was out of the house and, then, snuck my Peter Strand boat into the house. Actually, into the family room. Next, I began the process of trying to get into its tight cockpit. After breaking two shoe horns and expending two sticks of butter, I decided I would need to do some minor modifications. Ah, tool time.
First, however, I decided on a consultation. It was an opportunity to talk "shop". What the heck, I wasn't getting out on the water. A phone call, and Greg soon appears (he of the ability to build strip boats from scratch...but I digress). He tries to get in, no luck. We look, we shine a light inside, we analyze the structure and we ponder what to do. It appears that surgery will be required.
Peter had suggested that if I had this problem I could cut away the bottom of the rib under my calf muscles. That would be easy enough to do, but I couldn't bring myself to perform such radical surgery. Not, at least, until conservative therapy was first tried. Greg headed home, and I got out my Shureform.
I took a little off the under edge of the Masik, which is a pretty substantial piece, and tried to get in. I got in further, but not entirely. Any way, I repeated this a few times and then, while ensconced in the cockpit, I used my cell phone to give Greg the good word, I was in (I didn't, at the moment, share my fears that I would not be able to get out).
Today, I will sand with fine paper and apply some oil to the surface I have exposed. Then I will put on a DVD and sit in the kayak and hallucinate that I am one with the sea...until Lady Linda sends me and the boat back to the cold garage.
Paddle safe...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

And baby makes 3...ah,, wait...5
I don't know about you, but I like to start the day with a cup of coffee, a little blogging and a drive across town to the frieght terminal to pick up a new skin on frame kayak. So, that is how I started out yesterday, to pick up the SOF from Peter Strand. As you can see, I still had space available in my garage, and the boat immediately felt at home (not to worry, the snow blower gets moved in May...but I digress).
Peter is known for his rolling machines, kayaks with low profiles and low back rims.

I have only unwrapped the boat but have not had a chance to even sit in it, which brings up the next interesting issue. I have to snuggle in order to get into the SOF I built, and that boat has more space under the masik than does this one. I guess I can always use butter and a shoe horn. Or, just sit and admire it.
Paddle safe... DS