Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is There a Difference?
I love wide open spaces and little green spaces that have retained their wild and natural look. I have marveled at the Grand Canyon and gone down the Snake River on a raft. All over this country, and in several others, I have seen natural beauty that my soul tells me must be preserved. I feel sad as I see all the cities around here merging into one megalopolis while the open and green spaces disappear at an increasingly rapid rate. All this, I believe, makes me a conservationist, and I welcome that label.
In addition, I hate seeing all the garbage floating in our rivers, signs warning about PCB's in the fish and smoke stacks belching heaven knows what into the air. I suppose that could mean I am an environmentalist, but that is not a label I would want to take on. I associate that name with the folks who have (for profit) brought ethanol to this area. Ethanol, a fuel that results in more air pollution, ruined engines and increased food prices. These are the folks that have now made it law that we will all eventually have to use an inferior light bulb that has to first warm up before giving off decent light and is an environmental horror should they break. But weren't there plans for ways to safely dispose of these little time bombs? New to the market, they are already appearing in landfill sites with their little packages of mercury.

Gaylord Nelson was once the Governer of Wisconwsin and went on to a career in conservation, but I don't think he was an environmentalist. I still struggle with the two labels. I want to keep the natural as it is and limit bad behavior that destroys what was once there for us all. That's good conservation. The environmental label, however, congers up (at least in my mind) thoughts of politics and power for power's sake. I don't see what good it does in the end.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just Checking In
I am at the college and, having a few spare moments, had time to survey some of my favorite blog sites. I haven't had much to say lately and, thus, have not posted as often. I have mostly been doing local day paddles and testing my 230 Werner against the 220 and the high angle 210. I still find the boat moves best with the same energy with the 230. But, I digress.

I was relieved to see that many others haven't posted much lately. They, of course, are away on trips...for the most part. Lucky them. July is almost over, and I have no prospects for trips or camp outs for the rest of the summer. I need to do something about that. And, I've digressed again.

I've also noticed that I am taking fewer pictures. This, in large part, due to the never changing scenery. I need to get back "up north" to stimulate me and to get away from the sounds of the city. Then I will have something to talk about.

Paddle safe...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Follow Up
(A good looking young man in a recent class)
I recently mentioned a local organization that provides services for some of our inner city kids. Among their activities are kayak outings on the river near by my home. I also mentioned that I thought some of their practices I've observed were less than ideal and that I would like to see if some of us local sea kayakers could be of assistance.

I e mailed some of the folks in charge of the organization and specifically cited what I had observed. Then, I sat and wondered if I'd lit a fuse on a bomb. Much to my delight, I received a gracious e mail agreeing with what I had seen, what their manpower limitations were and how they seemed to have only one ACA instructor for a large group. Much to their credit, they were open to setting up a face to face chat to see if the local kayak community could be of assistance.

I hope this comes to be. It would, indeed, be a wonderful opportunity for community service as well as a benefit to those kids who might never see the rivers and lakes around here, let alone get a chance to mess around in a kayak. I shall keep you all posted.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Some Surprises Are Good Surprises
(follow up)So, off I went yesterday to give a donated lesson to someone, I knew not who (other than a voice on the phone). It turned out to be a dynamite quartet of young folks who left quite an impression on me.
This was a group of not just good looking people but also individuals who's behavior and attitude certainly reflected well on their upbringing. More over, they were game for everything...and more.
They picked things up quickly and were even willing to try the old exchange boat thing.
I said try, I didn't say it went well. Anyway, they were delightful and, at the end of the lesson, led me on a short trip down a river that the lake feeds.
You all should be so lucky as to have a class such as this one.

Paddle safe...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Giving It Away(me, last year, when I was younger)
In a few minutes I will drive out to a lake about 35 miles from here. I am going there to give two ladies an introduction to recreational kayaking lesson. When I am done and arrive home, I figure my "take" will be about -$7.00, that being for gas. The lesson is free. Smart business move, don't you think?

Actually, this all began when Lady Linda's cousin asked me to donate a lesson for an auction to raise money for a local school. I said yes, someone had the high bid (I have no idea how much) and I am making good on the promise. This is a win-win as far as I am concerned. The school gets some cash, the ladies get what I hope is some excellent instruction and I get the joy of give back.

It makes me wonder how many such opportunities there are out there for such acts of give away that we paddlers (yes, even canoe people) could perform. Here in Milwaukee, the majority of inner city kids have never even seen Lake Michigan, and most have a fear of water. There is one organization that takes them out on the Milwaukee River, but my observations of these outings is that they are not led well or safely (my judgment).

I write this to see if I can find the impetus to get a few paddlers together to get funding for some beat up old rec boats and storage facilities so we can get anyone who could never afford it onto the water. That would be an enormous win-win.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

(I've waiting so long to be able to say this):
Mine Is Bigger Than Yours
A while back I posted on finding the right paddle length and how the trend was toward shorter ones. After testing several different lengths (thanks, Doug) I decided that the 220 paddle (which every site and paddle rep recommended) didn't feel as good as the 230 Doug had loaned me. So, I ordered a carbon, core foamed low angle paddle pictured above. And, it is wonderful.

I no longer find myself leaning too far forward to capture water but, instead, sit erect and gain inches from the shear length of the paddle. More over, I have come to grips with my tendency to carry the blade a bit past my hip. Now, I let it go there because I barely have to do anything to recover the blade. Instead, the blade pops up virtually on its own. All that, combined with its light swing weight makes this a great paddle for me.

Yes, it has taken a little adjustment in doing braces and draw strokes. I find that I no longer reach to brace as the little extra length places the blade far enough abeam to feel comfortable. This, in turn, allows me to keep my elbows in during most maneuvers, and I find that comforting.

So, if you are sure you have the perfect paddle, try a longer/shorter one and see how it feels. You may discover, as I did, that size does matter.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The LMAAA Your support is Needed
Critics (as pictured above) agree that one of this year's most worthy art causes is the formation of the new Lake Michigan Avian Art Association. For the first time a group of promising avian artists (pictured below) have a chance to get the education that could help propel their art from what some call graffiti to gallery quality acquisitions.
Working without professional direction, these students have already created multiple pieces ready for display. Even the critics were amazed to see that some of the more advanced individuals were working in multimedia forms including collages.(Chaos by Herring Gull)
Others, influenced by the masters, have taken a more minimalist approach with effect use of space and contrast.(October Gale by Sheldon Bird)
Others have worked collectively to create stunning panoramas.
(Lava Flow by class of '09)
Faculty lounge in need of repair
Folks, these students deserve your support. Give and give generously.

Paddle safe...

Monday, July 20, 2009

At first glance it looks big, overwhelming, impossible to engage. That's what's it like with challenges (and opportunities). When this occurs, there are a variety, or rather combinations, of ways to overcome these seemingly impossible obstacles. The little girl in the pic above can run away, grow until larger than the dog (her name was Lady) or get a smaller dog. FWI: she grew larger and is now a mother of a son about that size.

It's the same with challenging sea conditions. One can run away or, in reality, just say it's not for me. That's fine. At least the individual remains safe, but they don't grow. They can get a smaller dog, i.e., come back on a calmer day. Or, and I'd like to think this is what one would choose, they can grow in a safe and nurturing environment.

I've always told entry level paddlers that the way to grow is to go out in more difficult conditions, but not alone. I say, for instance, if you are comfy in conditions one and two, go out in three, but go out with someone comfy in level four and five conditions. This will give you support and supply a safe environment in which to grow. Isn't that how we all learned?We paddlers are just a bunch of kids that need to be brought up properly.

Paddle safe...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Letting It All Hang Out
I have some left over images from the Door County Sea Kayak symposium, and thought I would use them as an excuse for a posting. Actually, I find myself taking fewer and fewer pictures and worrying less about their artistic outcome. If it works, it works.I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps it has to do with how redundant most kayak photos are, especially the ones (I plead guilty) with the photags bow in the fore ground.So, here are some odds and ends and, if the spirit moves me (or I am desperate for material), I may post some more of them in the future. All's well that ends well.Paddle safe...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tennis Anyone?
We all paddle for different reasons and have a variety of things we'd like to achieve out there. Sea kayakers as a group, it seems to me, generally share the common goal of wanting to improve their skills. To this end, instructors spend many hours over a variety of beverages discussing ways to improve their teaching techniques. Sooner or later, however, someone in such a gathering will utter the dreaded (to me) word, "Games."

Now, if by game they mean go get the ball, maybe using only one stroke, fine. After all, that will improve skills in boat control. But, sooner or later, when on the water, some sadist will yell, "switch boats." I don't say, but do think, what the hell for? I am, after all in a boat which I spent much time selecting. I have. more over, taken even more time fitting it out...and it still isn't quite right yet. And you want me, at risk of life and pfd, to sit in your ill-fitting craft? Well, I never.Sure, such activities can be fun, but aren't always so. Those of us in the brittle-bone-time of life and who sometimes need 2 buddies just to help us get out of our boats and have few brain cells to risk (ever think we should wear helmets for this nonsense?...but I digress) don't always take kindly to these acrobatics. Maybe we need to get the group, and the beverages together and think this through. Meanwhile, don't rock the boat.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One Of The Good Guys
On our way up to the Door County Symposium JB and I stopped at this unassuming cafe in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan. Why this cafe? Well, it wasn't just because of the kayak sum planter in front. Is was because of who and why there are similar planters all around this small town. It's all because of Phil, and he is owner and chief cook at the cafe.

Part of the NE Wisconsin Paddler's group, Phil has been a driving force in helping that organization grow into a real force in paddling. The group is strong and active offering outings, regular paddles and lessons. In fact, they support members wishing to become instructors. Recently, Phil was honored by the ACA for his good work.
That's Phil in back in his white apron. If you're ever in the area you ought to stop in and say hello. Tell him you kayak and that Silbs sent you. BTW, the food is great and reasonable.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Love The People
The folks who attended the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium this past weekend drew a crowd of delightful people. folks from all walks of life came to learn and brought with them their energy and enthusiasm. Because of that and the wonderful instructor team, I saw some amazing improvement during those 3 short days. Each, like the instructors above, were unique. From the students and other instructors a learned a lot and am now a better paddler and instructor for having met them all.
Our staff was unique. Here you have a wife, a paddler, a person of fine humor and a chiropractor.
Here you have Derrick whom I cannot explain in such a short forum.
Here's another instructor with a great smile and a sensational hat collection. When not on the fashion runway, he is a fire fighter and, I believe, an EMT.

Such a collection of such interesting and talented people. Why weren't you there?

Paddle safe...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bring In The Clownst
To begin in the end, this is a shot of JB's van taken last evening when I finally got home from the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium. Now, back to the beginning.

The first day at the affair, JB left something charging and also left some switch on in the car. Once discovered, he also found that the battery was dead. No big problem, just need a jump start. Nothing much new here...yet.

So, we go about teaching and towing and have a great symposium until late Saturday (I think) when we get the car started with jumper cables. To make sure the battery gets charged up, JB and another instructor took a drive into town, left the car run while they enjoyed at least one whiskey and came back for the night. (There was lots more whiskey that night but I wasn't there and, besides, that's a whole different story).

Anyway, we finish the symposium and, what do you know, the battery is dead when we try to leave for home. We obviously needed a plan. Okay, it is a dead battery and needs to be jumped started once more. That was done and, late Sunday afternoon, we head home with a plan to not stop that engine until we get a new battery. Remember, friends, it is late Sunday and we are in northern Wisconsin, home of the tiny towns. But, ever resourceful, JB calls a buddy in Manitiwoc (right on our route). This as yet unmet friend agrees to buy a battery for the car. We are to meet the man at his home where, somehow, one of us non-electricians will install the thing (the friend is a lawyer). All will be well. We arrive before the battery purchaser gets there.

JB wonders aloud if we dare turn off the car. I indicate that it should be fine as the battery's arrival is seconds away. Ignition off. After two minutes we look at one another with the same question obviously hanging in the air: Will it start? Well, it does, instantly. (JB should have had all those whiskeys at the bar while the car was running).

Any way, I suggested JB keep the battery, maybe give it to his wife for her birthday (she, repordedly, did not appreciate the thought). And that is why there is a battery in the back of JB's van...even as I speak.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I Am Off to
Play With the Big Kids
These aren't new pics, and this isn't a new theme. It's just that it's time for the annual Door County Sea Kayak Symposium. All my "stuff" is on the driveway, and JB is due to pic me up in about an hour. As usual, I am looking forward to time on the water, time with friends, reuniting with old friends and not reading newspapers.This year, I will be c0-leading an all day trip with my friend and colleague Sherri. Apparently, we are to take this 20 some mile jaunt and teach navigation, rescues, towing and the like along the way. Then, I will be doing a lunch talk on Weather Or Not To Go Out. In addition, I will be doing a class on the forward stroke and one on rolling. Full gig, don't you think?

Although I will likely monitor e mails, I won't be posting as I have no way to upload pics on my notebook computer (my newest toy).

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Lean Week
Last week, with its 4th of July activities and our family get together, didn't leave much time for posting. It was great having the grandchildren here....and exhausting. Joe, now just over 2 years old, was a real go-go guy. He was either asleep or going 60 knots. It was fun, however, to watch him watching his first ever parade.

Still too young for boating, I starting breaking him in with the basic grunt work. He was more than willing to help Papa put away the straps when I returned from a short paddle.I teach all day tomorrow. Then, on Thursday, JB and I are off to the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium. It may be until next week that I get to post again. Meanwhile...

Paddle safe...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Sometimes I sits and Thinks...
...Sometimes I just thinks. It's about knowing when to slow down, when to "drop out" and smell the roses. It's about taking time to take inventory and actually see, really see, with your soul the world around you and all its blessings. Okay, the feel-good cliche festival ends, but I remain in a mellow mood.

After two nights of bad insomnia (cause unknown), I got 12 hours of sleep last night before waking to the wonderful sounds that only a 2+month-old grand daughter can make. My grandson and his mother are due into Milwaukee in a few hours. Sun in law #2 is due tomorrow. My house, like my life, will be full of wonderful gifts. Suddenly, I feel great, relaxed, in the flow, bliss...okay, a few more cliches. Life is good. Kayaking is wonderful and there is so much more.

So, I sits and take it all in and feel gratitude. I don't know who wrote it, but it must have been a wise person: A poor life this when full of care I have no time to sit and stare.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Shout Out
to the
Risk Takers
I've written before how Sherri, a local paddler, has started a paddling school in these uncertain economic times. Add to her ranks Chris who many of us visited during the recent Inland Sea Symposium. He has taken the risk a might further and has opened a new kayak store, Boreal Shores Kayaking.Housed in a lovely building near the Apostle Islands has got to be an ideal spot for such a business. The store is lovely and there is a nice assortment of NDK boats, enough to make one drool and part with his or her money.
Nigel, himself was there to help make the opening unique. It is a land of short summers, and I wish Chris well.
Paddle safe...