If you have ever taken possession of a new kayak (or car) you know that show room look. The boat has a shining gel coat which is flawless. At that moment, in your heart, you promise yourself that you will wax, polish and do anything else necessary to keep her looking that way. Within a day or two, if you paddle, the scratches begin to show up.
First, they appear on the bottom of the hull from dragging the boat at launching. Soon there are scratches on the deck, especially where your spare paddle (split) has been manipulated. Other deck scratches inexplicably appear for reasons you can not understand. The bottom scratches you can tolerate. After all, only the fish will see them. The deck, on the other hand, stares at you constantly and seems to ask, "What about your promise to take care of me?"
All of this is ten times worse if the deck and/or hull is colored, and the darker the color the more the scars show. Take heart, look in the mirror and understand that time takes its toll on everything and everybody. Besides, things could be worse. You could have a boat with a metal hull and, instead of scratches, rust. Just remember: boats, like people, do best if their bottoms are kept clean.
...and that's enough. At least for the moment. Sometimes I take my stuff awfully seriously. My friends and Lady Linda have often told me so. I throw myself into what I am doing be that kayaking, photography or what ever. And, that's not necessarily a bad thing, until I get into something that doesn't feel right. I feel stuck, I don't sense a way to improve and I load myself up with the judgment that I should be doing better with less effort. I have just begun to emerge from such a period.
Most of it was around taking on the new teaching jobs. Two different and new schools, each with its own style and methods. What I had come to do naturally all at once required slow and deliberate preparation. I actually had to do some work. One place had rather structured demands for teaching and testing while the other was loosey-goosey and required creativity. Now, after a quarter of the term, I am in the flow.
Two days ago I gifted myself with a solo two-hour paddle on the big lake. I found 3+ confused waves on the outside and enjoyed just paddling around in it. Most boats out that day, including some sizable sailboats, chose to stay inside the harbor, so I had the lake pretty much to myself. How great it felt.
Back in my element and relaxed, I bounced, edged and sometimes just sat, all the time feeling the mighty water beneath playing with me as if I were a speck of dust. I sculled in the stuff and carved turns and, once again, felt competent. How wonderful. The next day I noticed I had a different energy and positive feeling at the schools. I remembered who I was, what I could do and realized I had fought and won bigger battles. In fact, as I walked into the College of Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee yesterday, it occurred to me that there should be a course entitled Kayak Therapy 107: dealing with self esteem issues.
I don't know where or when I first read that expression. It applies, as far as I know, to one who is so busy doing that they have little time for being. If I have the meaning right, it describes where I am just now.
Teaching two lectures and a lab (at two universities) on Tuesdays and Thursdays isn't all that much, but the preparation necessary (they are all first time courses for me) sucks up my time, energy and attention like a black hole. I constantly worry about being ready for the next lecture or exam. I take the work seriously, and the welfare of my students is important to me. Then there is the hand grading of 24 papers (at one university, I have a teaching assistant who administers and machine grades the 100 tests). There are, of course, the endless e mails from students and all sorts of small fires to put out. The point is, it occupies my consciousness. On top of this, I often do weekend trips to lecture on a CME course in cardiology (I was in Denver this past weekend). I am at the point that I don't even notice the boats in the garage as I set out in the morning.
It has made me stale in some ways while stimulating me in others. One thing that has suffered is this blog. With less on water time and fewer boat experiences, I have had fewer bright ideas for postings. Even my photography is hibernating. The picture of JB (above) is from 2006. Clearly, I need to get my balance (no pun intended) back.
It may be as simple as finishing the terms. Doing the courses again next year would be a lot easier as I would have the routine down, not to mention all my power point presentations. Maybe it means really retiring and risking lots of boredom. Decisions, decisions. I tell you, it feels like the world is too much with me.
In medicine, we say that the most common error is that of omission. Someone forgets to check something or to ask some vital question and, as a result, a disaster occurs. I wonder if that might not apply to kayaking. How often does a situation arise during which a piece of necessary equipment is ashore or is found not to work? In medicine, we avoid omissions by using recipes or set, repetitive ways of doing things. The same really applies to paddling, at least the way I go at it.
A lot of my paddles are solo, in not very challenging conditions and close to shore. Even so, I put the short tow line on the deck lines, my extra paddle on the foredeck the long tow set up around my waist and a first aid kit, repair kit and extra safety equipment in the day hatch. My radio is in a pfd pocket, and so on. It is almost certain that none of these would ever be needed during these casual paddles. I carry them all and every time, however, so that my ritual before going out on the water is always the same and, in being so, reduces my risk of omission.
When the times come when I, alone or with a group, will be going out in the big stuff or making a crossing, I automatically know that I have what I may need without having to go through a long check list. Now, if only I could find my car keys.
It is made well and works as advertised...and I use it less and less. Why? To begin, it is a pain to have to put it on and take it off the rack every time I paddle. You see, there is no way I can go into the garage with the gizmo on the car. Secondly, it has to be adjusted so the boat is aligned with the direction of travel.
This requires using an Allen wrench on both parts of both arms of each cradle whenever I change boats. Furthermore, tighten them as I might, they don't seem to hold their position and have to be relocated and re tightened. By the way, you cannot get at the screws when the boat is on the cradle, so there is a bit of tinkering to do there. If you have one, I suggest marking where the arms go for each boat so you can pre adjust everything.
Although not seen in the picture, I have put my old rollers back on. Thule makes an adapter attachment, and the installation took only minutes. Now I just extend the telescoping arm on the left of the front rack. I put the bow on there and then lift the stern onto the rollers. From behind, I use the stern to lever the bow into the front cradle. It goes faster and I can get into the garage with the rollers on. 'nuff said.
I spent most of my adult water time in sailboats, having come to kayaking late in life. All my life my eye has been held by the curve of a boat's hull/sail, the quiet slicing as it parted the water and its ability to walk quietly with the wind. I have had the privilege of owning and skippering good sailboats up to 42 feet in length, but my heart always went out to the day sailors in which I was right down there on and with the water. So I couldn't help but snap off a few images of this home-made, gaff-rigged sailing dingy with a loose footed mainsail and side board.
Her owner and builder, a bit frustrated by the light wind, hollered back at me, "I should have brought my kayak." He also called out his e mail address which I memorized and, since, have followed up with copies of these pics. It turned out to be a dual joy. In addition to everything else, I have an invitation to sail with him.
Perhaps you've seen this before, but I have not. This Werner paddle (a great paddle) had been stored in the cockpit of one of my boats for a few weeks. The boat was in the garage. There was no unusual weather. When I went to retrieve the paddle, this is how it looked.
I don't know what caused the white coating. It is pretty hard, and I can barely scrape it off. The paddle still works just fine and does not appear to flex or have any other abnormal characteristics. Any ideas?
The change of seasons is bringing some crisp air and wonderful water. I was able to get out last week in some 3-4 foot swells which came from several directions. I had the lake to myself as most boats, even larger ones, poked outside and immediately turned back in behind the wall. The Cetus was happy out there and required little attention.
Yesterday, I had a meeting north of Milwaukee. I took the boat and afterwards launched north of Harrington Beach State Park. This water is shallow near shore as there is quite a shelf. It should offer some nice waves when the wind is from off the lake and not offshore as it was yesterday. I do need to check the map as I believe this launch site is a lot closer to home than I thought. Besides, I don't have to go through city traffic to get there.
Face it, I'm in a rut, and it started when I took on two new teaching assignments. Since it was the first time teaching these courses, there has been lots and lots of hours spent at the computer doing prep work. I have paddled little, posted rarely and taken almost no new images. Even the ones on the page today are recycled. Now, the season is changing. I hope I can change as well.
I am in the groove. I have a feel for my new schedule. Better yet, the faculty at one of the colleges has supplied me with lots of data banks to make life easier. In addition, I have located lectures and exams done when I taught the same pathophysiology course at the second university a few years back. All at once, it appears, I will have some free time during the week just like an actually retired person.
It is cool and crisp here today, and I think just maybe I will get out on the big lake today. That would be a nice change.
I just read the October issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine in which they were kind enough to publish a letter I had sent in. I was surprised to see it was the only letter to the editor published and wonder why more folks don't share their opinions.
I am in Madison again today to finish the two day sea kayak course. This will be the last official course at Rutabaga that I will teach this season. Didn't summer just begin yesterday?
I vaguely recall someone quoting some article which concluded that rescuers in the air stated that of all the deck colors the easiest to spot out there was Robin egg blue. Is this true?
Someone said something on a recent CASKA posting about which colors showed up best and came to some other conclusion. I wrote to mention this article to which I refer, and someone wrote back to say that he had been on shore watching a group of boats and that the blue decks clearly stood out.
So, is is true? Do you know where this mythical article (which I quote) appeared?
We've been lucky here in the central U.S. inasmuch as it has been warm and the great lakes have been unusually warm. This has made for fine paddling and, I am sad to say, for a host of missed opportunities. There are so many of us that just don't practice our rescue techniques or work our rolls in anything other than flat conditions. The excuse around here is often that the water is too cold and I don't have a dry suit.
Well, no one needed anything but a birthday suit to get into Lakes Michigan and Superior this summer. The warm water has been an opportunity to practice rescue scenarios and to work on sculling, braces and rolls. How many, I wonder, actually used the opportunity? Well, if you live around here and you haven't, there is still time. Get out there and get in there, in a safe way.
If you are comfy in level conditions 2, get out there in conditions 3 with someone comfy in conditions 4. Get out of your boat, lead a complicated rescue scenario under the supervision of a capable paddler/instructor. Ask someone to stand in the water and help you with your roll, it is still warm enough.
All too soon the water will be cooling off and stay that way until next spring or summer. During the winter, it is unlikely that folks who won't get into the warm water will get into the cold water. At least, not on purpose. If anything, they will be in crowded swimming pools where only conditions 0-1 prevail. Getting out there and in there now just might get you the skills you are going to dearly want when you end up in the cold stuff. You don't paddle in winter? All the more reason to stock up on skills right now.
Having owned two (now one) skin on frame kayaks (one of which I built), I have developed a deep affection for these simple 7000-9000 year old designs. Built for stealth hunting of seals and the like, they are elegant, silent rolling machines and contain no metals or modern fittings. Paddling one immediately gives the paddler a connection with this sport's past and how and why it all came about.
If you like going to a Tailor and having a suit that fits you like a glove and is meant only for you , you will appreciate one of these one of a kind kayaks. The length is a multiple of your arm span. The boat is only as wide as the distance between your fists placed on each hip. the cockpit is as wide as your hands placed palm flat on your hip. They fit like a glove and can be just as hard to get into as one often has to hyper extent the knees to get under the Masik. This piece of wood which sits across the thighs is what makes the 40+ rolls possible.
I never forget that I came to these small boats after years in sailboats including this Han Christian 42-foot cutter. Like the skin on frame, it was a product of centuries of boat and sail design and, while not propelled by a human, crept as silent as a kayak as it's tall rig captured the win. Both were wonderful ways to be on the water. Both gave me a connection to the past. Both had their secrets and, if one was to return safely to shore, had to be handled properly. For those of us willing to learn and to take the time to perfect our skills, these silent vehicles of the sea have given hours of meditative pleasure.
So far, I have been a father, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a physician, jazz musician, an adjunct professor at a university, taught judo for 3+ decades, fine-arts black and white photographer, mediator, ham radio operator, SCUBA diver, great lakes sailor, ACA level 4 coastal open water kayak instructor. In these pages I hope to share some of what I've learned doing those things.If, on occaision, you feel your leg being pulled, so much the better.
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