Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Thoughts



Sitting inside waiting out winter, I spend a good deal of time looking at kayak and paddle broucheres. What I really want to do is try other paddles. I'm not particularly interested in bent shafts or expensive carbon products. My needs and thoughts are much more basic in nature.

One of the bagaboos aobut selecting a paddle is proper length. There are all sorts of ways to about this such as standing with the hand extended to see if the fingers just curl over the blade. There are even programs into which you plg your hieight, style, boat width, etc. and you get a recommendation for a suitable paddle length. None of them, however, beat actually using the thing and seeing what works best for you.

I want to try a shorter paddle. I want to try a high angle blade and see how it feels on my shoulders. I want to roll with a shorter blade and see how well it braces and sculls. Most of all, I want to see if my forward stroke becomes a tad more efficient with a different paddle. The way things are going, however, it will be months before I get to do any of that. Actually, two things will need to happen first.

It needs to get a bit warmer so that I can get out on the pound behind Rutabaga. There they are, my 2 needs. The weather and a supply of paddles to try. I am hoping that the symposiums will have vendors with shiny new blades for testing. You see, I know all the theories, but until I actually try the thing out in my own boat I won't know what suits me best. Now, where's that magazine ad from Werner that I was just checking out?

Paddle safe...


The Lowly Paddle

It's come a long ways, the paddle has. Starting as a piece of drift wood whittled into a stick, the paddle has evolved more quickly than human evolution. Even back in the day when it was no more than a long thin board, this ingenious device has served as engine, brake and steering wheel when out on the water. It has propped up tarps to make a shelter and has been used in pole-vault fashion to finish an otherwise ill fated roll done in shallow waters. It is also handy in a water fight and for self rescue when used with a paddle float.

But man has never been satisfied with the statis quo. No sooner had western "civilization" found the Inuit and their wonderful inventions that it set out to make a new and improved version. Shazam, the Euro blade was born. Made of wonderous materials not found along any shore, it had a different, more efficient shape. Now paddlers had a blade that really and immediately caught the water and over loaded the shoulder and caused many a paddler great pain. Now paddlers had the opportunity to spend up to 25% of the value of their boats on a "Euro stick" instead of having to take a free piece of wood and carve it into one of those old fashioned things. Paddlers were delighted and living large.

Then the chemical engineers got a hold of our beloved engines and made them out of different, better, lighter and more expensive materials. Their work gave birth to new shapes and specialty paddles that made some of us feel that only kryptonite could stop us. What else could they possible "bless" us with?

Break it into parts and make them into mix and match affairs (the rumor that Marth Stewart is coming out with a line of designer paddles cannot be confirmed...but I digress). So what is the up shot of all of this.

Well, it used to be that new paddlers spent agonizing hours struggling over boat selection. Does it roll, hard or soft chines, ocean cockpit or key hole?...and the like. Now, we save our quaters and dimes and take our loose change jar along with a credit car over to the candy store where a bewildering variety of make-the-kayak-go devices make our eyes glaze over.

The helpful store folks explain it all to us and, if we are new at the game, don't understand a blessed thing we are hearing. In the end, we take out a second mortgage on our home, and the store gives us a blade and (wait for it) the shaft. What a hobby! Then off we go to enjoy the pure simplicity of kayaking while all the time dreading the arrival of our credit card statement. Brace yourself.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Road Trip

The weather forecast for today is so weird that I don't want to face the day. It will, at times, probably look like the pic above, which I took last Saturday while riding shotgun in JB's van on the way to Madison. I think we both were feeling restless having been frozen off Lake Michigan for some time now. JB had an order of some more junk he was buying waiting at Rutabaga where we both teach in summer (Summer, by the way, is going to be on a Tuesday this year...but I digress).

Good enough excuse...into his van and onto I-94 for the 80 mile trip to our states capitol. But a road trip is not just a ride, at least not for us. No indeed, because when JB travels he always has his coffee maker, his Irish whiskey and, now, his home theater. Well, sort of a home theater.

We stopped at a small town off the interstate, went to a good old fashion cafe with good old fashion service and ordered a good old fashion breakfast. Then, JB set up his video camera and portable screen thingy and made me watch myself wipe out in ice water again and again. The waitress watched, as well, and I think I saw a "These guys are nuts" look on her face. Smart girl.

The rest of the trip was routine other than the fact I managed to spend not one cent. That's what I call a successful road trip.

Paddle safe...


Monday, January 28, 2008

The Devil in the Details
Sometimes it gets downright scary. I'm talking about the serendipity thing and Derrick. Many mornings I have woken with an intention to blog on a certain subject only to find he has just posted something pertaining to the same thing. He has just begun a series on teaching style, and I look forward to seeing what he has to say. I recommend it to you sight unseen. Oddly, I woke with a similar idea born of an event in the pool this past weekend.

He and I are, apparently, right-brained thinkers. Those are the folks who tend to deal with concepts rather than details. Instead of going from a-z, we tend to see it all at once, as if a flashbulb (I just dated myself...but I digress) just went off. Part of this behavior is seldom doing the same thing the same way twice...including teaching or, as BCU Derrick says, coaching.

Sometimes, especially when I am learning a new movement, I still have to break it down and do it very slowly in an a-z fashion in order to give my muscles a chance to "get it". It seems that my body thinks left brain when first learning and needs every detail explained to it before it can make muscle memory and do things with ease. So it was Saturday evening at the pool when my off side roll (with the Euro paddle) just wasn't working.

Another paddler, a fellow yet to learn to roll, was watching me and asked why I was hitting the boat with my paddle. I was? Yes. With which blade and where? The blade in back. It is hitting behind your seat.

I immediately knew that I was not initiating the roll with my thigh and starting the boat turning before sweeping. Over I went, used my left brain to start the boat over with my legs, swept the paddle and popped up. On my not-off side, it is all right brain and muscle memory. I dump, I roll up.

So, let's see what Derrick has to say as his series continues.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Busy boy

No, that is not a recent picture, just some eye candy to go with this note.

I've never been bogged down with things I have to do as I have these past few days. In one way, it has been enjoyable, and the time has gone fast. I am doing some work for a text book company and, in a few hours, will be doing some wedding photos for friends. I confess, I stole a few hours to get to the pool session yesterday. So, off I go to keep up with the treadmill. Back soon.

Paddle safe...


Friday, January 25, 2008

Being Careful Out There

I've written on this before, and it has come up in my mind again. I refer to paddling skin on frame boats, especially alone. We've had discussions and debates about paddling alone. Kayaking can be dangerous, and doing it alone can be even more so. Sea kayakers, however, can minimize such risk by careful planning, having the right equipment and knowing and practicing rolls and other self rescue techniques. Push comes to shove, we can wet exit, hold on to boat and paddle and take a moment to size up our situation. More often than not, we simply get back into our boats, do a little pumping and go on with what we were doing.

With skin on frames, however, wet exiting may not be an option. After all, when we go over we usually take a second to let ourselves get oriented. Then, maybe, we try a roll. If we miss, we might try another. Eventually, we may decide to wet exit, however, we are likely to be a bit tired at this point and a bit short on air. Time now becomes of the essence. Getting out of a skin on frame, at least a well fitted one, can take time. It can, in fact, take more time than the paddler has air.

Watch someone getting into a tight-fitted SOF. We wiggle and struggle and hyper extend out knees to get past the masik. Once in, things are so snug that the appearance of a goose bump on one thigh will actually edge the boat (okay, so I exaggerate, but you get the point). The fit is tight, to say the least. The same thing happens when one exits a SOF. It simply takes more time than getting out of a key hole or even an ocean cockpit.

Fortunately, most of us who do this sort of thing have at least one truly bomb proof roll. More over, we can scull for long periods during which we can get our breath back. But...what if we're alone and you lose your paddle? What if you are left with just your norsaq or hands with which to roll...and we can't. When do you take that big breath of air and hope it lasts lone enough to allow you to get out? Besides, if you do make it out it may be impossible to do a re entry roll. Now what?

There are stories of men surviving such a situation by doing the Petrussen maneuver. This requires a nice baggy tuilik and the ability to get at least partially out of the boat. One gets far enough out so he can lie on his back with hands atop the over turned hull. Since his garment is still attached, he does not take on water and has enough trapped air to keep him afloat. But, remember, we're talking about being out there in a SOF alone. Other than allowing for some rest, this paddler still has to get back into the boat and roll up with his hands or norsaq.

Bottom line, traditional paddling is best done in groups or, at least, pairs. My respect for the lone Inuit hunter gows even greater.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, January 24, 2008

And I Think I Have It Bad

I always enjoy reading Michael's blogs, especially when he talks about and shows photos of the times he lived with the Inuit. In particular, I marvel as I learn more about the environment in which these people live and thrive. The chill factor here, this morning, is -20F. As I sit writing this, I am being kept warm by a furnace in the basement below where I sit. It runs on a thermostat, and the gas company automatically supplies it with fuel. I need only dial in the temperature I want.

In contrast, the Inuit were, and pretty much still are, at the mercy of the outdoors. Building a fire in a place where trees do not grow is their only furnace (I know, many of their towns now have homes with heaters...but I digress). Sure, they build shelters, store food in unique ways and have adaptive clothing. Still, day in and day out, they live in a frigid environment and survive.

I, on the other hand, hang my skin on frame in the garage, live in a heated house and still complain about the cold. Even when I get out onto the lake this time of year, there is always chili and warm coffee to be had within minutes of my coming ashore...and I don't have to use a dog sled to get to it.

Keep the good stories coming, Michael. Maybe I'll stop feeling sorry for myself.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Holding On
To Memories

The fact that winter is getting to those of us in the upper latitudes should be pretty obvious by now, especially if you read blogs such as Michael's, Derrick's and myself. We are coping anyway we can. That includes things like long meetings over coffee and looking through the old "family album". Pictures, like the one above taken from a video clip shot by JB, help to relive exciting moments on the water. But what I really find joy in recalling are

days hanging with good friends. like JB and Derrick and Nydia.

Working on my forward stroke with Gary.Camping with Greg and Jennifer.Steeping myself in culture such as Leslie's Cajun music.Getting out on Lake Michigan with Sherri...and Doug and the entire Milwaukee gang including Rick, Sue, Jeff and Bob.

And, of course, family.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What's In A Name?
I've been involved in what is called men's work for several years. It is interesting stuff, and it allows me to be a bit useful while hanging out on the planet. Anyway, it is common in such work for men to take on totem/animal names. It is a bit in deference to First Generation Americans, but it serves another, more subtle, purpose.

Traditionally, these names were given to a man by an elder. The wisdom of the older man and his insights about the younger one led to a prophetic label (if you see me remind me to tell you a joke about this). Today, in our work, the man chooses his own name (and can change it at will...but I digress). How and why he chooses one name over another is sometimes baffling to me, but it is always interesting.

I think the most popular name is Wolf. The imagery and mystic of this animal draws many of us to it and, of course, there is always the concept of the alpha male in the pack. I don't think that most men see themselves as a wolf but, rather, that they over compensate for perceived lshort comings in other areas. Another common name is Bear. As with wolf, many names carry a modifier...sort of a designer animal name that helps the man proclaim who he is or, at least, how he would like to be seen by others. We have Golden Bear, Fearless Wolf, Wolf with Wolverine and so on. My chosen name?

It isn't the first name I've had (it's the third), but I am called Turtle. When you've stopped snickering I will explain why. I teach students to always do things slowly and the right way. With practice, what at first seemed slow becomes faster and faster. In some First Generation cultures the Turtle has a less than positive reputation. In many, however, he is part of the creation myth and a healer.

The Turtle is slow but sure, knows when to withdraw into his shell and survives for another day. And, never forget, he beat the hare in that famous race.

Paddle safe...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Coming Attractions

Okay, it is pretty clear that I won't be getting out on the water this week due to low temps. This calls for desperate measures or, at least, some "mall therapy". But wait, it might be too cold to go out to the mall. Okay, how about some therapeutic impulse buying?

Thanks to Super Boo, I came across this Wind Paddle thingy. In my present and weakened state of ennui I found myself acting like an automaton and ordering if I needed it. Desperate for entertainment, I found myself taking it out and refolding it over and over in anticipation of the first time I might use it on the water.

I have no idea when that will be, but I shall favor you all with a scientific review once I try it out. Thanks a lot, Boo. This is all your fault.

Paddle safe...


Saturday, January 19, 2008

A near-deadly Mission
The chill factor was -20F with a wind blowing out of the west. I'd canceled the sweat after deciding it was not safe to do. Still, weather or not, there sometimes are things that have to be done. Sometimes the need for food, water, medicine or some other vital item requires one to venture out into such cold air. Sometimes one can drive to get one's needs fulfilled. Sometimes walking, or even paddling is the most expeditious method available. IIn any event, it was clear to me what was called for.

I dressed in layers, more layers than ever before. Long Johns, fleece pants, blue genes and snow coverings over that. Vaseline coated the parts of my face that would be exposed after donning my fleece watch cap and fleece over-the-face-and-neck-hood. Wool socks and warm foot wear. Two layers of gloves. I hydrated, checked my equipment and, at last, realized that there was nothing to do but shove off. I'd checked the forecast. The wind would not shift. I silently prayed that the clear skies would allow for some solar heat. I shoved off.

The first half of the trip was easy, the wind was at my back. Still, I could feel the tendrils of cold air seeking a way to get at my skin. I was determined and pressed on. I made every effort to maintain a steady, albeit, slow pace as my breathing was labored and my heart pounding. After what seemed an eternity, I arrived at the turn around point and gathered what I'd come to get.

The wind, as if angry at my defiance of its lethal breath, tore at me as soon as I turned for home. I lowered my head and settled into an even slower but steady pace as I worked my way back. I can't say how I did it or where I came up with the inner strength to see it through, but I made it back to my starting point (obviously or I wouldn't be here to write this...but I digress).

Once back in my home, I pealed loff ayer after layer, poured a cup of steaming coffee and sat down to enjoy the rewards of my venture. It felt good to know that I had completed the trip, which I had done in every kind of weather, in record time: 22 seconds. Perhaps it was just good luck that the driveway wasn't snowed in but, even if it were, it was worth the risk to have the morning paper as I sipped my java.

Paddle safe...


Friday, January 18, 2008

Let It Snow
You know what we do around here when it snows? We let it snow. So, if it is going to be only 1F tomorrow morning, I plan to let it be cold. Thing is, I am pouring a sweat lodge at noon, and we have to cover the lodge and make our fire around 9am.

I don't like the cold, and I often don't tolerate it well. Especially my hands. Still, I have a commitment for tomorrow and...well, I'll just let it be cold and make the best of it.

Same with paddling. When the cold days roll in, one after the other, the slightest warming and I am out there. The other choice is to be exiled to the beach, and that is not acceptable.

Back Monday.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Frame Up
As part of my campaign to stave off the winter blues, I've been spending some time with my photo files. I tried watching them as slide shows on my computer but decided something else was needed. So, I printed a few images and "displayed" them in my chaotic little room by leaning them up against various objects. The lighting, along with all the other amenities, is not so good in that little jail cell, and the effect was not all I had longed for.

While in a store a few days ago, I saw some inexpensive frames. Serendipity. I've framed one image (taken at QAJAQ camp), and Lady Linda put it right up in the family room (I have arrived...but I digress). I can tell you that walking into the room and occasionally pausing to look at the image gives me pleasure and lightens the mood.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Waiting For Someone
To Do
There's Anything
To Do

We've had a recent melt off in the state, and some of the rivers are running high. Still, Lake Michigan approaches record lows. This pier, just south of our south shore launch site, isn't all that old, yet you can see from the water marks how much the lake has dropped in recent years.

Some insist this has resulted from dredging done on a connecting river to Lake Huron. Some "experts" claim that the flow there hasn't changed over the years. Besides, the lake has actually been lower and has recovered. The hard part, at least for me, is not knowing if this is a natural cycle or if we are standing around with our hands in our pockets while something that could be done is not getting attention.

All this is on top of the other problems we've managed to create in this precious body of fresh water. We once had lake trout that spawned a fishing and a restaurant industry here in Wisconsin. Then the lamprey eel invaded, and we poisoned the streams to get rid of the critters. It worked, but it also took out the fish. Eventually, the seaway was opened, and Katie bar the door.

Trans oceanic ships shared their bilge water with us along with the critters that lived in it. Zebra mussels invaded. At first it wasn't so bad. They ate a lot of stuff that made the water much clearer. But, then, they began plugging up intakes and latching on to everything imaginable. As the sun penetrated deeper into the clear water, some of the plant life began to over grow. Since then, a fish hemorrhagic virus has shown up, and we are waiting to see if the Asian Carp make it upstream to us.

Most of the smaller or pan fish have all but disappeared. Those guys were the basis of the food chain for the larger fish, including the coho salmon introduced into the lake. The coho have created a sports fishing industry here, but (in my opinion) one has to be suicidal to eat these PCB-laden teleosts.

Oh well, if we get a good enough cold spell we might have a nice skating ring that's 85 miles wide.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rushing To The Past
Been thinking about rolling, traditional paddling and the QAJAQ camp I've been attending these past years. I see more and more traditional paddles out on the lake, and other skin on frame boats are showing up at pool sessions. It makes me wonder what is going on here and to look more at why I work on this stuff. I suppose it is a subset of wondering why I kayak at all.

I like being outdoors, I love being on the water, I like sports that require balance and coordination and I like being independent. Kayaking surely fills all those needs. I can do it year round, alone or with a group, and I have an incredible lake at my door step.

I also like hulls and ships. I sailed for many many years, and the appearance of a classic hull always makes me stop and admire it. The days I spent on my Hans Christan, rail down and the bow plunging, are memorable days of bliss. I often look for that same sensation, in microcosm, when kayaking. Often, I just will sit in swells and enjoy the motion and the power of the lake. As to eye appeal: I guess I favor the graceful overhang of a well formed bow even though the blunt end of some models gives a longer water line (like the QCC...but I digress).

What, then, with the Inuit style? Well, I always want to know about origins and roots and how things came to be as they are. Besides, in man's eternal quest to connect to the cosmos, it seems inborn to want to connect to the past. Just doing things in the simplest way also has great appeal to me. Simpler ways, simpler times? Not really. There is nothing simple about living where trees don't grow while having your life depend on being able to build wood framed boats.
There is always, in life, The Great Mystery. Perhaps this is part of it. My job is to enjoy it and marry the old ways with the new. Like bringing together a SOF and a wooden paddle with a neoprene garment with an indoor pool filled with chlorinated water.

Paddle safe...

Monday, January 14, 2008

to the
Not these guys. I mean the guys at Milwaukee's Geek Squad who just solved my problem on the phone. It seems that the last MS up date has screwed up lots of computers. Solution, I uploaded FireFox. Problem solved.Next problem: The pool session Saturday was well attended. Maybe too well. Lots of play boats and more full sized sea kayaks showed up. In spite of the Y allowing us additional space in the pool, it was tight at times. Some didn't even bother to go in.

Ironically, one of the newer guys posted to our site that he had a good time and how nice it was that there were so many advanced paddlers available and willing to teach. Problem is that some of those teachers have said they may not come any more since they couldn't find safe space in which to do their work. Now what?

Paddle safe...


My computer (the PC, not the laptop I am on now) won't open my mailbox, and it is too frustrating on a busy day to screw with it. I will get it fixed but will not be around until I do or can transfer my work to this machine.

Paddke safe...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Seat
Just got one of those soft seats from CLC and plan to use it in my Arctic Tern, a CLC kit boat. The boat already has their stiff back band which has worked well when using just a thin cushion on the bottom of the boat.

It's a bit hard to tell from the pic, but the back band and the hip braces, which are part of the seat, don't marry well. Something will have to be trimmed, and I am not as yet clear what that will be. It is a bit cold in the garage, so I am not enthused about working out there (especially if I have to wear gloves...but I digress). Then again, it may be as simple as moving the seat forward an inch or so. I shall see as soon as the weather warms up.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I Made It Myself

Skin On Frame kayaks have a very important structure, the Masik, which is the wood that goes across one's thighs when seated properly. In addition to breaking one's knee caps when trying to squeeze into a SOF, a tight fit under the Masik makes for magical rolling experiences. Key hole cockpits, on the other hand, off no such support but, rather, rely on some braces or chuncks of padding under the deck.

Buy yourself a piece of closed cell foam, take your favorite bread knife and carve one out. It takes about 2 minutes. Once seated in your boat, slide the device under the deck so it lies across your thighs. Bingo. (Foot in the photo is for size comoparison)....(it is a size 9 foot...but I digress).

WARNING: practice wet exits with the divise in place. You must, after popping the skirt, remove it before you can wet exit. If you panic and do not remove it, YOU WILL BE TRAPPED IN THE BOAT.

Paddle safe...


Friday, January 11, 2008

It's not over
We've been snowed upon...again. Not much, but the flakes last evening were like huge wet pancakes. No matter, it is going up to 37F today and only flurries are expected. Still good paddling weather. It seems that I am not the only one who keeps checking for a break in the weather (how does he get on the damn bird feeder?).If I can't get out today, there is a pool session tomorrow and an opportunity to get one of my SOF boats wet. If I end up stuck in the house today with all my paper work, I can still enjoy the view out in the back yard.Paddle safe...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Guest Photog
I so love images, especially ones of the outdoors and outdoor sports, that I can't get enough of them. Recently during a Milwaukee group paddle (I wasn't even there...but I digress) one of our guys, Bob Bertrand, handed his camera off to a passing pedestrian and apparently asked the guy to take some pics. It is reported that the man's name is Gib Bathrick. These are his images with very little touching up and a tad of cropping. I doubt that Gib is a paddler, yet he seemed to catch the mood of the day quiet nicely.Need a hand gopher launching (gopher launching is an Inuit wannabe's launch over ice less than .001mm thick)?
Tell someone one to shove it.Greg out in the strip boat he constructed from plans. He recently passed the ICE exam.
I am going to collect the images of others, images that involve kayaking, and post and credit them here. When I can't find some, I will slap up an image or two of my own.
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Never mind the picture. It's a stained cross section of an artery which, by the way, is clogged with atherosclerosis. I just wanted a health-oriented image for the top of this post. The real news is that the scale says I am down 4 pounds from my peak weight.
I have either been in the gym or the boat every day for the past two weeks. I do some weight work three times a week and core work 5 days a week. If I don't' paddle, I am on the treadmill almost daily alternating long and short workouts. I hesitated to post this as I've been here before, but I thought it might be a good incentive to keeping me on track.
Mean while, my arms and shoulders feel stronger, and I can tell the difference when I lift the boat and do other work. I am hoping that the combo of endurance and strength work will make me a better paddler all around. Time will tell.
Along the same lines, I have been neglecting basics. JB and I often spend a portion of our paddles just practicing draws, bow rudders, hanging draws and other fundamental strokes. We do rescues and we roll. This all served me well in my recent dump into the icy waters along shore. Clogged with ice chunks, it cold have been ugly. The training and reflexes all kicked in just fine. Thing is, I am not used to going over unless I have chosen to do so.
Finally, this leads to my old concerns about my paddling friends who (literally) hang it up during winter and return to the water in spring with rusty skills. They spend the summer "catching up" and never have the confidence to stretch and go out (along with experience folks) into bigger waters and winds. Still, if that's what makes them happy, so be it. I just know that many of them are capable of a higher level of paddling, and I've seen the joy of those who have stepped up and now feel comfortable in the soup.
Paddle safe...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Day Dreaming

It is a therapeutic technique. Call it denial. Temps are in the high forties (F),.It is raining and foggy. It is damp, and it feels like late April. That is reality. The truth is that I need to day dream about what is coming up and derive some vicarious excitement to keep me going.

So, today I made some travel reservations for some kayak symposiums this spring. I have no idea how my health will be, whether or not tornadoes will wipe the classes out or if the government will outlaw kayaks between now and then. Don't laugh, it is an election year. Bottom line: I'm making plans. I'm forming intentions. I'm in lala land and it feels good.

Paddke safe...


Monday, January 07, 2008


I'm a bit under the weather. Nothing serious, but the virus colony seems to be occupying my creative center effectively blocking out any ideas. Unfortunately, I have appointments (3) today, and I wish to honor them. I should be back here in a day or two.

Paddle safe...


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Post Mortem
How To Be Monday Morning Quarterback on Sunday

This month's Sea Kayaker Magazine has a first person account of an attempted solo crossing of Lake Michigan. The article is followed by an excellent analysis by Brian Day. Brian isn't here so, since I paddle his old Romany, I will analyze yesterday's happening myself.

First, we were in dry suits, and I had neoprene mittens and a nice fleece hat on (if you should find it floating north of Milwaukee, I would appreciate a call...but I digress). We each did a gentle and controlled seal launch. Doug turned into the surf and paddled out. His relaxed posture and nice rotation indicated he was comfortable in the sea that was running 3-4 in the shallows.

I chose to transverse the little bay and take the waves on the beam to practice edging and an occasional brace. Then I joined Doug. Looking back, it was obvious that JB wanted to video us, so I caught a wave and dumped, as explained in yesterday's post.

I kissed the deck, held my breath and never was aware of any cold shock. As the boat settled, I set up to roll and was instantly hit by a wave which threw me into the chuncky soup near shore.

My/our biggest mistake: Although we'd discussed it prior to launch, we did not wear helmets. I could have been badly hurt by the boat which was being tossed about like a toy, not to mention the thick chunks of ice every where. So, off to buy another fleece head covering and maybe a better helmet so I am more likely to wear it.

Paddle safe...


Saturday, January 05, 2008

It Wasn't Pretty...but,
At least It Didn't Last Long

South Shore was iced in, so JB, Doug and I headed north to McKinley beach which is exposed to the east. The only person in sight was this surfer who wasn't having much luck. Along the beach, there were dense packs of ice that tinkled like a giant martiniWhen I eventually seal launched, I had trouble digging my paddle in for a stroke, then nearly lost it when the ice wouldn't let go. Doug was anxious to launch and hurried down to the beach.I followed and then, while JB remained high and dry behind a running video camera, I caught a wonderful wave. I was gunning in toward the martini bracing first on one side and then the other. Then the crest of the wave was along side the cockpit and the bow was making like a submarine. Over coffee later, we reviewed the tapes (JB never did launch) and discovered I had pitched end over end. The only damage was the loss of a wonderful fleece hat. I had set up to roll just as another wave hammered me. I was, by then, in very shallow water with lots of ice around, so I bailed. It was great.

Paddle safe...


You Gotta' Believe

Spring will come. It is in the 30's F out there, and some of us are paddling at noon. December was cold with lots and lots of snow, much of it still on the ground. According to the talk over coffee yesterday, some of us are surviving by dreaming about spring and the upcoming good stuff.

There will, as I understand it, not be an Inland Sea Kayak Symposium in Washburn as those folks have decided on an every other year schedule. In may the Western Michigan Symposium happens on an inland lake. Right after the 4th of July we have the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium in Wisconsin and, a week later, the Grand Marais Symposium on the Upper Peninsula. Throw in some teaching, a few day trips from home and 2 or 3 camping-kayak trips and you have yourself a summer to which you can look forward.

Right now, I am focusing on pool sessions and Canoecopia where I hope to hook up with a bunch of others who take time to write posts such as this one. Until then, into the base layers and dry suit. Lake Michigan, complete with flotillas of ice, awaits.

Paddle safe...


Friday, January 04, 2008

It Is A Great Mystery!

I shouldn't have to go up the mountain to find the guru. I should know this stuff. After all, I am a physician with lots of experience in exercise physiology and good stuff like that. But this is a great mystery.

In high school I weighed 162 pounds. I am about 5'9". I competed in judo at that weight but was a bit lighter during my marathon running days (up into my fifties!). Then I had nerve damage to my leg and couldn't do the old stuff (that's how I got into kayaking in the first place...but I digress). My weight went up and settled in at around 170-172. Sick of being so fat, I recently joined a gym and have been doing aerobic and weight work outs regularly for two weeks. I didn't expect great results in such a short time, but I certainly didn't expect to gain weight. This morning I weighed 178!

Theory one: I am eating much more than I did before I began working out. Not true. I am eating about the same. If anything, less.

Theory two: I am bulking up on muscle form my workouts. Again, not true. My belly fat looks the same. If I had gained 5 pounds of muscles the garments covering those areas should be tighter. They aren't.

E=MC2. There is mass and energy. They can be converted back and forth, but the sum total never the universe.

That leads to theory three: Somewhere out there in the universe energy equivalent to 5 pounds of flab have disappeared. Time to meet Nydia and JB for coffee and oatmeal.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Back On Your Head...
Coffee Break Is Over

That's the punch line to a joke, and if you ever see me I will be glad to tell it to you. I could have just as well used the title: Just when you thought it was safe....

A new year, and there is lots of snow on the ground. When it melts (I assume it will, eventually... but I digress), it should help (re)fill Lake Michigan. At least a bit. There are, however, a few caveats here.

One is that snow (like Iodine) can deffervese. That is, go from a solid to a gaseous state without ever melting. Bummer. The next is that it isn't melting just now, but it will this weekend. Mean while, the lake is low and is, according to reports, expected to drop further. North of here, they had to put up some crime-scene-type-tape so that people wouldn't run into a ship wreck that was totally exposed.

So, a new year and an old problem. As it turns out, this is not the lowest the lake has ever been. Perhaps there is hope for us all.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

It Seems Like It Was Just Yesterday

(Joe gets his good looks from genes passed on from maternal grandfather)

It was just 24 hours ago when Joseph and I had the house to ourselves. Both early risers, we played in the family room while the others dozed. During the rest of the day our home was filled with family as both daughters, one son in law, Joe, Linda and I intermingled as only families can. Then poof...we took Joe and his mom to the airport while his aunt and uncle headed home by car.

It is awfully quiet here this morning, but I have wonderful memories...and great expectations.

Paddle safe...