Monday, November 30, 2009

Pro v. Schmo
Yesterday, I took the Cetus to the pool session. As it turned out, Sherri Mertz and I were the only sea kayakers (although she was in a white water boat...which I tried out later). I was there to roll and scull and brace and to see how the new boat behaved when tipped over.
It rolled well enough, albeit finishing a tad slower than the Romany. Sculling was no problem. I could not re enter and roll as I kept falling out of the cockpit. Sherri pointed out how I fit differently into the boat than into the Romany and how I would have to adjust things. I did blow some rolls, and it reminded me of my very first rolling lesson. The teacher told me I was lifting my head, and I said I was not. He then showed me a video of me rolling, and I was lifting my head (the schmo).
Ever the eagle eye, Sherri caught me doing the same yesterday. The difference was that I knew I had lifted my head (the pro), even as I realized the flash was going off and the ignoble moment was being frozen in time.
It was a worthwhile session. I was disappointed to find lots of water in the rear hatch as I felt I had sealed it properly. Maybe I didn't. I also noticed that the relief valve between the forward hatch and the cockpit is not doing its job, and I must burp the sucker every now and then.

Next time, I am taking a skin on frame to the pool.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks...For EverythingEspecially Family
I begin everyday by saying, "thank you." Hey, at my age, it is wonderful just to wake up on the right side of the grass. Much more than that, I live a blessed life. I have had reasonably good health,I can still get into (and with some help out of) a kayak and I can hold my own in rough stuff. I can roll with a Greenland stick, and I can walk without mechanical assistance. But more than anything I own or can do, I am blessed with a wonderful family.

I am reminded of this even more as they all gather here for thanksgiving. Our usually quiet and orderly home is coming alive with voices, the chatter of a grand son and the squeaking of our grand daughter. Tupper ware and toys are scattered about the kitchen floor. My daughters and the wonderful men they've married will soon be talking, arguing, yelling and laughing; and I will be watching, listening and smiling from my heart for the gift of it all.

To all my country men (for whom this is Thanksgiving Day) and all my brothers and sisters around the world, I wish you as much. No kayak, or even a pot of gold, is near so valuable as the love of family and sense of community. Peace.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Winter Paddling
It's Not For Everyone
We have had a mild season and, with Thanksgiving just a few days off, we are supposed to get our first lick of snow tomorrow. Some of us will ski, cross country ski and/or snow shoe in order to make the best of the situation. Still, many of us will also continue to paddle whenever the ice allows us to safely get onto and off the big lake. On the other hand, some of our friends will be stowing all their paddling equipment, disappear from the water (until spring) and only show up for coffee.

We all know the inherent risks in kayaking, sea kayaking on large bodies of water in particular. Those risks, along with the need to rely on one's self (and, to an extent, others), is what brings on that delicious tightness in the gut when things get dicey. As I've written before, there are two types of sports.

One type includes team games, and satisfaction generally comes from winning (although all good competitors take pride in their performances). There is little risk in bowling, and basketball is pointless unless there is the other side to play against.

The other type, often done by individuals, offers satisfaction to those willing to take risks. There is no one to triumph over, only one's fears, the environment and our perception of our limitations. Climbing and kayaking are two that come to mind. Having said all that, the risk and the potential satisfaction of sea kayaking, is upped in winter. Ice and the always present risk of hypothermia add to what is already an individual risk-taking sport.

It goes without saying that the sensible paddler who chooses to go out in winter must have a greater sense of his or her skills and ability to take care of themselves. Doing a leisurely T rescue with a friend in summer becomes an entirely different story when someone comes out of their boat in 3-4 foot waves and into near-freezing water. At times such as those, each individual must know their stuff and be able to get it right and get it right fast. I am guessing that knowing this and deciding the risk is not worth it is what keeps some folks ashore during the short days of winter.

I respect that decision. Knowing one's limits and choosing not to put themselves or others at risk makes them, in my eyes, a good paddler. Hopefully, some will use the "regular season" to compile and practice their skills, get the gut feeling to step up the challenge and maybe even join us next winter. Meanwhile, we'll see you over coffee as we thaw out.

Paddle safe...

Monday, November 23, 2009

We Remember
Doug Winter, R.I.P.

Yesterday, we paddled together heading south along the shoreline. It was a route we had done so many times before, often with Doug along side. We returned early to gather at the home of Rick and Jennifer
to remember and memorialize Doug. There was, of course, food...but most of the time was spent telling stories and looking at pictures of Doug taken over the years we've known him.Some of us wrote notes that we would like to send to his sister in California.Leslie, an artist (among other skills) had prepared a rock which we will place on the break wall next spring.Doug Winter
When it came time for a group picture, we wondered aloud what we should do. It seems we decided to smile...perhaps to smile at Doug so he would know how fondly he is remembered.We struggled for the right words as we talked, and I think Sue summed it up best when she told us how she would call and e mail Doug to come paddle. He would seldom respond. But when she sent a message that she needed help, Doug was instantly there. That's who he was. That's how I will remember him.

Good bye, friend.

Paddle safe...

Friday, November 20, 2009

4th Hatch
The Cetus features, as many of you know, a fourth hatch located just ahead of the cockpit. As sea kayakers, we all know that it is a no-no to open the forward or rear hatch while on the water. To do so is an invitation to disaster and a Cleopatra's Needle. So, along came the day hatch, a smaller compartment located just behind, on he left, of the paddler. Smaller, opening it only risks taking on a small amount of water, albeit amid ship where it would not be much of a problem. In high seas, however, paddlers inexperience in Yoga or pretzel bending may have some trouble getting to it. The stage is set for the 4th hatch.

My first concern was that my knees would be constantly banging into it. No such problem as the space it takes below deck is actually beyond my knees. the only problem is that I lost my favorite place to hang my pump. I don't believe it will go behind the seat (I just bought a new pump and haven't tried to put it there), and it is not skinny enough to go between the hull and the seat support. I do not want to carry it on deck where it is in the way and can be washed off.

So, I am happy to report that I have not yet solved all the problems of life. Who said, Duct Tape?"

Paddle safe...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ah Yes, I Remember
This pic was taken almost 5 years ago and reminds me of what is coming up for us paddlers on Lake Michigan. We never had a real summer this year. On the other hand, it has been fairly mild this fall with rare temperatures down to freezing at night.

But as I sit here with my many layers and wait for the house to warm up a bit, I am reminded of the frayed gasket on the right sleeve of my dry suit that needs attention (duck tape has worked up until now, but the water will be getting seriously cold soon enough). I'm also taking stock of my layers and supply of fleece clothes.

Looking at my calendar, I was surprised to see that pool sessions start in a few weeks. I am looking forward to the warm water in which to get a good feel for the Cetus' secondary stability point and do some rolling. I also want to see if, with the wider back deck, I will have more success using a cowboy or rodeo re entry.

Just a matter of time and the snow will fall. Then ice will begin lining the shore making launching and recovery a whole sport unto itself. Oh well, Lady Linda and I got a bargain price on a cruise in January.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Group Integrity
It can drive a trip leader nuts. Keeping a group together, that is. Even on our unofficial Sunday morning paddles we have folks suddenly disappearing or going off by themselves for a brief time. Since we are not an "official" group, a sort of live and let live attitude predominates. So far, so good.

But it is getting colder up hear, and survival times in the water will quickly drop over the next few months. Now I always think in terms of taking care of myself and continually (well, mostly in warmer times) practice my self rescue skills as well as rescuing others. Still, as I get older and the water gets colder I find comfort in knowing I am amidst others with similar skills.

In the October, 2009 issue of Atlantic Coastal Kayaker (thanks JB) Wayne Horodowich (founder of the University of Sea Kayaking) has a nice article, Group Paddling Creed, that takes on this very problem. Core to what he has to say is the necessity for members of the group to agree on what they are about (I paraphrase) and what is expected of each paddler. He talks about being on time, pace of travel, equipment expected and other essentials to making the group experience enjoyable and safe.

'nuff said.

Paddle safe...DS

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

'Tween Time
It's not winter here--yet, and it sure as heck isn't summer any more. It's 'tween time. Okay, I know some of you want to tell me that it is fall or autumn, that time of year when the trees are in various stages of shedding their foliage. But, at least to me, fall is that pretty part of the year that flashes by at the end of summer. It is that time when shockingly beautiful colors decorate all the trees. Then there is usually a rainstorm or two and, suddenly, it's 'tween time.You can see it in the steely sky and feel it when deciding how to dress to paddle. The water is below 50 F, and dry suits are the dress of the day. Still, the air temp is often 5-10 degrees higher, so plan on sweating bullets while hoping you don't fall into the drink. Soon enough it will be time to take out the heavier neoprene mittens and think about a head covering that shields the nose from the wind.

It's a little like those 'tween years that fall somewhere just after puberty and are over (for some of us) by age 20. It's hard to define, but you know it when you see it...and, it can be difficult to tolerate.

Paddle safe...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cetus Joins The Fleet
While waiting for my new skeg control, I decided to go out in the Cetus with the skeg up. Seeing the boat on shore, I realized that her weather cocking tendencies are due, in part, to the amount of rocker seen above (the pavement on the left is a bit lower and emphasizes the look of the amount of rocker). The boat did seem easier to control as I've gotten more used to how much sweep and edging is required as compared to my Romany (which wouldn't have required any in these conditions). I am wondering if adding ballast would make her track better.In any event, after our usual military-like line up near the shore......we had ourselves a nice paddle, catching some nice rollers when we cleared the south end of the breakwater. All returned to shore safely......including those in the witness protection program.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I picked up the Optio that I bad-mouthed in a previous blog...and it works.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Enough, Already
I'm Calling In a Consultant

Paddle safe...
No Point, Really
It's just that this is the first morning of the season that I've gone out (in the dark) to get the morning paper and found ice on the windshield of my car. Winter is coming, and I needed a little picture of warmer weather to ground me.

Paddle safe...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Now I can tell It
Kudos to P&H
The other day, the skeg on my new Cetus got harder and harder to use until I could not compress the little lever at all. I essentially had no skeg. I was very upset (and a little afraid that I had an unsolvable problem...but that's the pessimist in me) and fired off e mails to P&H and Brian Day. I didn't want to do a big blog on it because they have had some line problems with this gizmo, and I knew I was in a fould mood.

Now I can tell you that I have had responses from the company and a personal call from Brian Day (remember, I still have his old Romany). They both requested pictures of the devise, and one is shown above. They promised to get back to me by Monday when the guy who knew about this stuff would be there. Meanwhile, Brian took it upon himself to call me Sunday and express his concern and to assure me it would be handled. He was sympathetic about my circumstances.

Well, he called back Monday with the news that one of a few faulty skeg controls got into my boat, and he offered me 3 different avenues to remedy it. As of now, I hope to meet him in Madison just before Christmas where he plans to replace the skeg control box with a new unit.

Meanwhile, we had an excellent discussion on boat control, feathering and edging. You might want to check out his posting on the blog I just did on feathering.

I feel better now and my faith is renewed. I am glad I waited until now to post on this as P&H, and Brian, have excellent reputations for quality work. I believe it will work out well. The bonus is the discussion I got to have with Brian around paddling.

Paddle safe...
To Feather
or Not To Feather
(that is the question)
I have never been a proponent of the feathering of paddles. I know the reasoning: The high feathered blade cuts cleanly through the headwind. And why, I ask, are you always paddling into a headwind? Besides, this same set up wreaks havoc when the wind is on the beam and that feathered high blade is perpendicular to the breeze.

In addition (I've reasoned), I paddle with a Greenland stick at times, and I don't want any confusion as to blade position when I need to roll (with the Euro blade). Then came yesterday.

JB and I found a nice breeze and some calopotis chop out on Lake Michigan. I was in my Cetus with the skeg up and was having some weather cocking problems. The usual slight edging would not keep me on course. Then I watched my (unfeathred) blades in the water and saw something I've noticed in the past. My right blade was not entering as perpindicular to the water as was the left blade. What to do?

I remembered conversations with many paddlers who use just 15 degrees of feathering. They have said it gave them a more natural motion from one side to the other. So I tried it, and it helped a lot. Both blades had clean entries with good postitioning to grab the water. I still had a bit of weather cocking, but adding just a bit more edge smoothed that out. I will continue to use this for a while and see how it works out.

I cannot believe I am writing this after advocating the unfeathered paddle for so long. Oh well, it's just a light touch of a difference.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Just to Bring Closure....This is a skate key. It was used to tighten the two jaws that clamped the roller skates to the toes of one's shoes. Ann ankle strap held the back part on. The lower right squarish hold fit over the toggle on the skate, and you turned the whole thing like a wrench or screw driver. Now all the comments should make sens.

Paddle (and skate) safe...


Friday, November 06, 2009

Full Circle
From the Duluth News

UPDATED: Body found on Lake Superior shore was missing kayaker

UPDATED: Body found on Lake Superior shore was missing kayaker

The St. Louis County Medical Examiner confirmed that a body found Thursday near Flood Bay was that of missing Milwaukee kayaker Douglas Winter.

xThis was just brought to our attention by an anonymous reader. It is from the Duluth newspaper.

Body found on Lake Superior shore

Body found on Lake Superior shore

The Lake County Sheriff's Department received a call Thursday afternoon alerting them that a body was found in the Flood Bay area. The body was taken to the St. Louis County Medical Examiner for an autopsy to confirm an identity and find a cause of death.

Paddle (extra) safe...


Among The Great Symbols Of Our Time
There is the cross, the red cross, the caduceus and thousands of other symbols that are immediately recognized as representing a specific group, religion or organization. For the most part, most people recognize them and know what they represent.

There is, however, one great symbol (perhaps the greatest of them all) that represents an entire generation as well as a time and way of life. So deeply was its value held that even children willing wore it on strings around their necks.If you are one of those who recognizes this icon of life it is likely that the very sight of it will bring back a rush of memories. If you do not know what it is, chances are you are young and missed one of the greatest ages in which to grow up.

While I welcome your comments, please don't name the symbol as such, just share memories... or ask questions. Do not profane the sacred

Paddle safe...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Brief Comment
On Ethics and Disclosur
I just received an inquiry about how I came to own the Cetus I just obtained. To cut to the chase, I bought it. Now, sometimes you read a blogger who has received a boat from a company so that the writer can test drive it and, the company hopes, write nice things about it. The person who wrote to me indicated that some of these blog writers end up with a free boat (no such luck here). Apparently the person who wrote got the impression (from my posts) that I had never paddled the boat before and surmised I had gotten it free (probably because I was writing nice things about it).

Actually, I had paddled the boat up in Madison and tried to do so in as many conditions as possible. There is nothing like Lake Michigan up there, so my testing was limited. I did, however, do all the maneuvers in as many situations as I could, and I liked the boat. So, I ordered it.

Now it is a fact that after expenses for gear and gas I make just about $0.00 teaching kayaking, especially classes in Madison. Why do it? First, and for most, I love doing it. Secondly, and nothing to sneeze at, Rutabaga is kind enough to give instructors a discount on the purchases we make there. So, I did get such a discount when I bought the boat, but I still paid good money for it. Face it, having 2-3 regular readers isn't an inducement to any company to give me anything.

Now that that is cleared up, let me tell you that I will accept bribes to play your music if I ever get a radio show.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Another Great ReadAaron Stander
I've written about Aaron before. In case you didn't catch it, he is a retired English professor, and we met at a QAJAQ training camp. I remember trying out the Yost designed SOF he had. We also spent some fine time guiding a trip at one of the symposiums. In any event, he gave me one of his books which I subsequently reviewed here. It was a great read.

Aaron wasn't at the training camp this year, but his wife mentioned that he had written another novel. Soon after arriving home, said book arrived in the mail. I avoided it for a few days because I know Aaron's style, and I knew I wouldn't be able to read just a few pages. I was right. I finally sat down with Deer Season and finished it in two sessions. It just reads so well that I was drawn into the story and turning pages with no awareness of time.

I won't go into the story. To say it is a murder mystery is to short change what it is all about. It is the setting, which Aaron knows well, and the character development which carries the reader along. I highly recommend the book and the others he has written. You might also want to check out his other books.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Unbelievable...We Survived
All good things must come to an end...and that, in of itself, may be a good thing. Lady Linda and I are alive and well having survived both grand kids under the same roof for a few days. Now the little lady on the left is mellow, lay back and only makes a fuss when hungry.

Her older cousin is another story. He has harnessed the energy of the atom. He is either asleep or in 5th gear.

But we had great fun at home and at the wedding this weekend. Now, we must pray for good health: they are all coming back for Thanksgiving.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

First, We paddled...
...then we all went over to Sven's for coffee. I was delighted when I received a call from Doug's friend and neighbor saying he was accepting our invitation to sit with the group. He arrived minutes later. JB, Bob,. Vicki, Leslie, Sherri, Carl, Diane, Sue, Jeff, Karen and I sat quietly for the most part of an hour listening raptly while he told of his most recent contacts with Doug.

What was imparted there is not for these pages. What I wanted to say here was what a blessing it was to be able to sit as a group and hear the story told as it is best know now. True, we are left with lose ends and no suggestion of closure...yet. However, I did think that a little healing took place today.

Paddle safe...