Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crunchy Water

It was in the teens (F) and almost windless when Bob Bertram and I decided to do a short paddle. We actually thought it might be too cold, but we were dressed and the boats where off the cars. So off we went for what turned out to be a delightful sojourn through floating slices of ice that crunched as our hulls pierced a pathway. To tell the truth, I thought that when we got to shore and lifted our boats up that the hulls would separate where the ice was pressing on the hulls.

Stuff was frozen and did not thaw until my boat was back in the garage; but it was worthwhile getting out there today in the sun and surprisingly comfortable cold weather. The coffee afterwards was especially good.

Paddle safe...

Friday, November 09, 2012

Kokatat = Integrity

I tore the neck gasket on one of my Kokatat dry suits. I got a repair number from them and sent in the suit and then a check.

Today I received an e mail stating that they had found a flaw in the Gortex and were replacing the suit. I am delighted with such service and business integrity and feel it deserves a shout out.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It's remains a Great Mystery...

Okay, so there have now been 1,324,674 blogs on how to choose the non-existent "perfect" boat. What still alludes this paddler is how to find the right length paddle. Never mind about shaft shape, blade size, etc.. We are talking about length here.

Too many times students have come for their first kayak lesson with an already purchased (sometimes expensive) paddle recommended by an expert at the store and, in at least one case, a real expert with one of the paddle companies. What was similar among all these hapless folks was that the paddle wasn't the proper length for them and their boat. They just did not look comfy out there.
I would have different students exchange paddles, often with their spouse, and would sometimes loan them one of mine and....Shazam! They looked good and paddled faster with less effort. Sometimes an average sized lady would end up with a 220 and another similarly sized person with a 205; and both would love their paddle. The thing is that after running all the data through a NASA Craig computer, I have found no detectable correlation between anything including paddler's height, paddler's arm length, boat width or astrological signs.

So, what do I tell my grandson when the time comes?

Paddle safe...

Friday, October 19, 2012


You live on in
our hearts and memories

Paddle safe...

Monday, October 15, 2012

All it took was an e mail...

It is my belief that we who paddle (along with other outdoor-type groups) share some basic values. Among those values are honesty and integrity. Speaking for myself, I have always expected  these values in the business with which I deal. Sometimes I have been disappointed, but I have rarely been disappointed when dealing with those companies that deal with paddlers.

So, when I had a problem with my Brunton 70P compass, I dropped them an e mail and explained the problem. I wanted to know how to get it repaired. Return the compass, they promptly answered. They would replace it.

Today, an new compass arrived by Fed-Ex. No hassle, no charge. Thank you Brunton.

Paddle safe...

Monday, September 24, 2012

It's in the history books...

I expected the neighbors to call the police to say my car had been stolen. After all, yesterday was the first day in months that I was home and the car was not on the drive way all night. That is because yesterday has gone into the history books as the first day I was able to get my car and 3 (count them, 3) kayaks into and on my side of the garage.

I shall let the historians sort out the importance of this day.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, August 30, 2012


I know, I know, I know...There is no perfect kayak. Right now, I own a Roman, A Cetus MV, a SOF and an Eastern Greenlander I built from a kit. My main paddling boat is the Cetus, but every once in a while I find  myself grabbing the Romany to teach or for a day paddle.

Sure, it is shorter and a bit more maneuverable; but the thing that really drags me back into her cockpit is the way the boat rolls. Almost like my SOF. Not so much with the Cetus MV. A great big water boat in every other way, I never feel quite as confident when rolling it. This past week I took the Cetus out and packed myself in with some pieces of minicel...and things seemed better. This, in turn, makes me wonder how I would feel in the Cetus LV. Perhaps someone in my area will have one and let me go for a spin.

So back to the perfection bit: There is no perfect boat; but don't spoil my fun by telling me to stop looking for one.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thanks, Mom...

Mother Nature sent an ESE 15+ knot wind up Lake Michigan and produced just enough action so my little Romany could catch some really nice rides.

I seem to be using my old beat up NDK boat more as it is lighter to lug and rolls almost as well (possibly better than some) Greenland-style kayaks. Something to mull on.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I now realize...

that I haven't been in a Greenland boat for over a year and that it requires a different skill set than a regular sea kayak. It has taken me a couple of outings in the new boat to get some of the feel back.

I have added some padding and roll easily enough, but I have lost my touch for some of the rolls. I am guessing my form has deteriorated and that I am doing little things wrong here and there. How perfect that I am off to Greenland QAJAQ camp this weekend in Michigan. I am going with a beginners mind.

Paddle safe...

Monday, August 13, 2012

On the water...
with Sherri and JB. 'nuff said.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The deep secrets of fitting out a new kayak...

 First: have all your equipment and padding ready and your boat in a stable position.
Second: Test, test, test. Don't rush to glue anything in.
Third: How does it feel with the paddle and everything in place?
Finally: Take it out for a spin.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

At Last...
 Got the E. Greenland boat out onto the water today in a mild chop. All the lines are not yet set, but it was time to test her out. She floated. The boat was quite twitchy until I removed the seat.
She sculled well and I was able to static brace, much to my surprise.
Good luck: I hit my first sweep and butterfly rolls. Now I need to add some paddling to fit the cockpit better. Thanks again to Leslie who took the pics after helping to build the boat.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Getting closer...

Many thanks to Leslie, her skills and her tools. I bit off more than I could chew.

In spite of my contributions, we are getting close.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Many Thanks to Leslie...
for helping with the kayak today. I managed to cut the cloth on the kitchen floor early today.

We put a lot of cloth and resin on that boat; and she is starting to look good.

More pics as we progress.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Alien Space Visitation at GLSKS...
Nothing was heard during the night, although some locals reported that at about 2 am their pets acted in unusual ways. One business man, who lives near the beach, did call the police around that time to report a "intense, low-pitched humming sound." The following morning, the following structure was found on the beach.

As you all know, it is likely that our first intergalactic contact will come in a mathematical formal since math is a universal language. All of the above, along with the appearance of the symbol "Pi" makes it almost certain that aliens visited the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium during the night. None remained for rolling lessons.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cindy  Scherrer told me to shove it...
In kayaking, as in medicine, I never miss the opportunity to learn when experts are available. So, when the Scherrers appeared at the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium I sought out their advise. My question concerned teaching draw strokes and stopping students from raising that top hand above their shoulders thus endagering their shoulders and lifting the working blade partially out of the water.

Cindy simply suggested that I tell them that they need to shove the water under the hull when drawing,. I tried it a bunch of times while teaching during the weekend and saw phenomenal results. Thank you, Cindy.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


...can be frustrating, no matter the subject. Every now and then, however, you have a small class (intro to sea kayaking) with enthusiastic paddlers who just seem to get it. After a few short hours on the water you get to sit back and take pleasure in the results.
It feels good to impart new skills and know that there are some new, safe paddlers out there.

Paddle safe...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Safety...It's the economy

In the August issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine Aras Kriauciunas has an excellent article addressing an important part of kayak safety--the go-no go decision- before setting out on a crossing. What makes this article so unique (and ultimately valuable) is Aras' way of applying his MBA and business methods to making those decisions.

I won't try to reduplicate his info (or the wonderful graphs he uses to make his analogies), but I do want to share one of the take aways I got from piece. It addresses that situation we all run into when trying to get a novice paddler to rethink going out into challenging conditions. Because of their lack of experience, they have trouble assessing the risks...and that's how a lot of us (read me) of limit our thinking in this situation. Using his business model (and some terms unfamiliar to most paddlers), Aras introduces other aspects to consider.

For instance, one is often over-influenced to launch because they have invested lots of time and planning into the trip ahead. To not go, in this way of thinking, is to squander that time and energy used to plan. But, as the author points out, that is a set loss, already gone, and unchanged by whether or not one proceeeds with the trip. More over, folks often inappropriately launch when they do not have (or have not considered) alternative activities available if they stay on shore or (as he shows in one excellent example) play in the cove in front of the camp site, get off the water earlier than if they'd crossed and enjoy a hot relaxing evening meal.

There is a lto of meat in the article, and I highly recommend it to your library under risk assessment and management.

(While you're at it, read the review on This is the
Roll by are own (SE Wisconsin's) Sherri Mertz. It's spot on.

Paddle safee...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The business of fatherhood...

When choosing a career way back when, I chose medicine because it fulfilled several things I wanted in my life. I wanted to help, I wanted to do work that mattered, I wanted integrity in my life, I wanted work of which I could be proud, I wanted challenges and so on. I got all that and more during a wonderful career in cardiology.

Somewhere along the line, while looking at my medical career and my dozens of other interests (judo, photography, SCUBA, HAM radio, etc), I ended up in the hospital with emergency back surgery. Suddenly...I had time to think and to listen to that inner voice. It told me that my real calling was to teach. Duh.

How could I not have realized that what I enjoyed most about everything I liked was teaching it? (It is no less true for kayaking. I would rather be teaching than doing a long paddle...but I digress).

Going halfway back, about 30 years, I figured that all those things I sought in medicine (I will wait while you go back a look) also applied to fatherhood...all of it. And, there was more. Unlike medicine, I never had to retire. I could get more and more benefits as I did less and less work and...I never had considered it...I would get a free (well, kind of free) franchise. I had people and my people would have little people of their own. I ask you, is this not the best deal in the universe?

I get to teach (when I can get little ears to listen), I get to model honesty and integrity...and so on. And, this is the best part, I get to see a part of me going forward after I am gone. I get to see my daughters (married to wonderful men) doing an incredible job mothering.

Medicine and fatherhood. Not to brag, but I am happy with my career choices. I hope you are half as happy with yours.

Paddle safe...

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Waltz in 4 beats...

Even I, jazz musician, knows the waltz has 3 beats...and so does the forward stroke (so we say). I also know how much time we spend struggling to teach new paddlers the wonders of torso rotation, which is important. I have often found that a little 4-beat waltz lesson helps break up the learning.

The (original) waltz was capture-propel-recovery; and I often paddle slowly while humming the Skater's Waltz for the student. This show them how short the propel phase actually is with the paddle in the water only a third of the time. But, in order to make this flow, the waltz requires a 4th beat. Enter the pause. In reality, the waltz continues to have 3 beats but with 4 parts: capture-propel-recovery-PAUSE.

PAUSE: sitting after recovery and while rotating and waiting for the 3rd beat to pass, the boat glides along while we wait to start the next stroke. After all, at recovery the boat is going as fast as it will go with the effort and cadence we are using. Then why would we hurry to start another stroke? It will not accelerate the boat. Applying another stroke to a nicely moving boat is a waste of energy and adds to the number of strokes per minute with no benefit.

In essence: The first beat of the waltz is capture & propulsion. The 2nd and 3rd beats are recovery and pause. Now, go forth and make beautiful music.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Birthing a Boat...Eclampsia

One of the risks of human pregnancies is pre-eclampsia and eclampsia. with wood boat kits, it can be a normal part of the birthing process.
 Using multiple clamps, some from pvc piping (thanks to Leslie), the hull is being re enforced in preperation for mounting the deck
So far so good.

Paddle safe...

Friday, June 08, 2012

There is no doubt that Body, Boat & Blade and its well-respected duo of Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme' are tops in their field. They present themselves well and are highly skilled paddlers and teachers. So, when their new DVD Sea Kayak Rescues came out (along with high recommendstions), I ordered one immediately. It arrived in a few days.

After viewing it once, I must say that I was disappointed or, possibly, missed the intent of the presentation. Don't get me wrong, it's all there to see. All the techniques divided into calm, not so calm and gnarly waters are demonstrated by the capable duo. Yet I was left with the feeling that I got it all only because of my experience and that someone just learning these skills would want and need more detailed explanation.

I own that I may be wrong and would welcome thoughts to the contrary. I will, when time permits, view it again to see if my thoughts persist. Meanwhile, I believe it is a worthwhile view for one who knows the basic concepts of these rescues and can use the visuals to perfect their technique.

Paddle safe...

Monday, June 04, 2012

A picture... still worth a 1000 words. I remember my first lesson when learning to roll. The instructor told me that I was lifting my head too soon. I insisted I wasn't. He videoed me, I watched it and I was lifting my head too soon.

Now, I carry my camera when I teach, as I did this past weekend. It was only after looking at herself in the picture that she had to agree that she was, in fact, putting her left shoulder at risk.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's just not true:

I have not gone back into practice...I am not doing heart catheterizations as suggested by illegally taken paparazzi photos recently.

I am fiberglassing tapes into the chines of the hull and will soon be glassing the cockpit. I am not totally pleased by my workmanship and will need to do some sanding. Maybe a lot of sanding. I hope black paint hides a lot of stuff.

Thanks to son in law Ben for the protective gear.

Paddle soon...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lttle by Little...fear of commitment:

 A little tweaking and the fiberglassing begins. After that, the shape cannot be changed.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Little by Little...
   I would be ashamed to leave a patient looking like this after performing a proceedure, but this is kit boat building 101 and this is where I left off the project yesterday. The keel has been placed, and almost completly taped, to the side boards.
   This is by no means my strong suit. I can sew a tiny blood vessel shut with precision and neatness; but when it comes to this stuff...well, I do the best I can.
When aligned, it gets turned over and the fiberglassing begins. So far, so good.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Bible Translation:

Some scholars, with the aid of grants from the BCU and ACA, have combined some obscure passages of the bible with their linguistic and newly learned kayaking and small boat knowledge. With these powerful intellectual tools, they have discovered a rare passage (where inthe bible it is will be disclosed in their upcoming paper in Sea Kayak Magazine), deals with heaven and hell...and clearly states that
evil kayakers who go to hell will be damned to eternal


Paddle safe...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another DVD has arrived:

Rolling With Sticks DVD and mannual have arrived, and I have had time to watch some of it. What follows are my initial impressions in no particular order:
1. It is a good quality DVD
2. It is a bit monotonous:
    over 2 dozen rolls are covered
    each is shown and voice overed with the same technique
    no one (as far as I've watched) makes eye contact with me. I gather the off camera voice belongs to the roller.
3. The underwater views are excellent. Not just under the water but way under the water looking up.
4. Most demos are in a pool which, at first, I found a little distracting but quickly ignored as I watched the roller.
5. As the DVD clearly states: This is not a means to learn your first roll. One needs to come to this presentation with a set of skill and understanding of hip snap, etc..
6. Little is addressed toward trouble shooting.
7. The student is advised to watch the tip of the paddle (stick). I am not sure this is good advise as it often leads to the shoulder on that side dipping and the paddler sinking. Looking at Father Sky might serve one better.

Over all, a worthwhile addition to the many others out there. It will be interesting to see how volume 2 evolves.

Paddle safe...

Monday, April 09, 2012

We have a winner here...

This is the Roll with Cheri Pery and Turner Wilson is spot on and one of the best pieces of such work I've seen. There is the usual good photography, etc.; but there is more to this DVD that makes it such a success.
1. It basically only covers 3 rolls and does so well without trying to teach too much.
2. The authors are excellent at their craft and (I can tell you from having met them) fine folks who love to teach.
3. Nothing is assumed. Each step and its reason is explained in a most logical sequence.
4. The trouble shooting section is an instructor's dream come true, especially with the use of split screens to show the error next to the proper way.
I cannot recommend it enough. See you (and hopefully them) at QAJAQ camp)

Paddle safe...

Sunday, April 01, 2012


 Just a pile of well cut boards and pieces, it is now a beautiful kayak. I worked overtime using fast hardener (okay, one neighbor did help out) and built the boat in record time. Off to paddle. pictures to follow.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

And now, hopefully, for some magic...

 I can sew the tiniest artery together with stitching that would make Betsy Ross proud; but give me a tool box and I might turn anything into a disaster. Fear aside, I drove up to Superior Kayaks last week to pick up one of Mark's kits (He being one of the finest crafstmen I have ever observed).

It is home and I must now build a working table and find the time to put it all together. I have done one stitch and glue (Arctic Tern) with fairly decent results. Hopefully, my fiberglassing will be better this time around.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Safe at Home...

The trip has ended safely, and I have photos, laundry and photos to sort through. This one will never be in an art gallery, but it will remind me of my first launch on salt water. More to follow as I catch up.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Waves 2: Us 0

It is was blowing 20-25 knots we went back to the beach area to play in the short surf. First, I took a spiller on my beam,, about shoulder high, with a low brace and boogie-boarded onto the beach. There, the kind water bashed me a few times as I straightened myself for a surf launch. I never got out of the cockpit. So far, so so. I launched and saw the very same wave coming at me, and it spilled on my fore deck. I was about to tuck to go over in shallow water when my paddle touched bottom. I cheated and pushed up. The next two sets broke in front of me, but e speared through no worse for the experience with a gritty feeling under my clothes. Then Sherri caught a wave.

She rode it and rode it and rode it and Sherri is on the beach. She was not as lucky as she landed in a spot where the waves hunt you down and try to destroy your boat. She got out to get all the sand out; and a  wave tried to break her legs with her boat. She moved down the beach a bit and relaunched.

Now I am sitting with the delicious memory of the experience as lightening strikes around my tent.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Ocean and 
My Mother's Chicken Soup....

It may not  be a big deal to some, but I and my Cetus MV experienced salt water for the first time down here in Alabama. And, as I paddled into the Gulf for the first time, I couldn't help but think of Mom's soup and how it differed from the ocean. You see, Mom's soup always needed salt.

Nevertheless, we are enjoying 80 degree days and bathtub warm water while camping near the inter coastal waterway. Not much else to say except that I am loving it. Nailed my first 3 rolls in salt water, and that can't be bad.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A lot harder than med school...

Okay: med school was four long years and just the begining of an arduous task, but I was younger then and more of my brain cells were alive. Now, with old age creeping into every joint of my body and hyaline plaques forming on my brain, I am faced with the most difficult intellectual task I've known. Nothing, to me, is more challenging.

I can work out the blood gasses in cases of mixed acidosis and thread a catheter into a coronary artery with little or no effort. This is different. You see, I have never really trained for what faces me. Oh, I have done it before, but let's just say I got away with a so-so level of performance. In fact it was often the acts of others that made it all work in the end. But this is my fate, my personal challenge; and I am readying myself to do it all on Friday.

That is the day I have to figure out what to take and how to get it into my car for a paddling trip.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Alabama bound...
Any of you on the coast down there have any suggestions for launch sites, areas of interest, etc.? Coming down next week.

Paddle safe...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Now we know:
According to a facebook report relayed from the police, the young man who drowned while kayaking had on a pfd but
no immersion clothing
no real history of taking lessons
no float plan

He was no expert. He was unprepared. A senseless death that will probably make impressions on the public who know little of our sport.

Paddle safe,

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Another Tragedy...
I have been at Canoecopia all weekend (posts to follow) and bunked with JB. We woke this morning to the news that a kayaker in his mid 20's had died on Lake Michigan just off Port Washington (15 miles north of Milwaukee). He was described as an "experienced paddler who went out 2-3 times a week". His kayak was never found. There was no information on what he was wearing. Later today, a rumor floated that he was an instructor.

As we learn more, perhaps we will come to understand how this young man lost his love doing the very thing we love so much. Perhaps he had a medical condition. Perhaps he fell in without proper clothing (lake temps are probably < 35F) and succumbed to hypothermia. We just don't know. We do know that he went out alone on a windy day with waves reportedly being up to 5 feet.

Until we get the details, let's remember the inherent danger of our sport and prepare properly. I don't want to lose anyone I know or someone I don't know to the water.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, March 03, 2012

It's different alone....

I'd say I do the majority of my paddling alone. It's how I get my exercise while enjoying a sport I have come to love. Whether going out for an hour or a multi-day trip, I always take the same gear (first aid, radio, etc.). I do so to develop habits so I won't forget something when it really counts. When alone, I tend to take slow, short paddles and practice strokes, braces and the like a lot. This morning Ken joined me for a 32 degree (F) paddle on Lake Michigan. The offshore wind gusted to about 15 when we crossed the bay. Ken was interested in photographing the snowy owl I had captured (see previous blogs) and wanted to paddle over to Lake Shore State Park.

(Ken caught this shot of me today)
Ken is younger and better looking and paddles at a nice clip so, what the heck, I just paddled faster than usual...for two hours. We never saw the owl, but we did see a bob cat on the rocks at the state park. Ken went right up to it before getting out his camera. In fact, he got unbelievably close when his boat thumped against the rocks and the cat decided to walk away. No picture of a bob cat. On the other hand, I did some paddling that was a bit more aggressive than I do alone. I didn't practice strokes, but I got a nice work out. It was a good day on the water.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Working with newbies...

...can be interesting.

Paddle safe...
Practice, practice, practice...

In the old joke, that's how the cab driver answer's the musician's question, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" It's pretty much the same with paddling. New comers, anxious to have the perfect forward stroke and bomb-proof roll, often ask how to achieve these worthy goals. We all know the answers.

First: BIB: Butt in the boat. You have to spend time paddling, even if in circles or out and back to the same place over and over. With repetition comes muscle memory as we travel the path from a, not knowing and not knowing we don't know to b, knowing we don't know to c, consciously capable to d, unconsciously capable at a skill. Even then, it is easy to slip back a level when there are long periods between paddles. The idea here is to be able to unconsciously and quickly execute that brace, edge or roll in conditions when it really matters.

So good paddlers (at least the ones I know) often start their time on the water just going through the strokes and basics; and they do it in conditions when ever the opportunity is there. The question now is, what can you do on a moments notice? Are you sure? Do you know what you don't know?

Paddle safe...

Thursday, February 23, 2012


They are tough to keep warm. Let me say that another way. It was hard for me to find something that will keep my hands warm and allow me to use them in a meaningful way (such as putting the skirt on the rim). A while ago I posted about a poorly made (in my judgement) NRS glove. It's stitching fell apart early in its life. This is the other side of the NRS coin.
 I use their mittens for really cold weather. They are neoprene and the only thing that keeps my hands warm. Problem is, I have to remove them to get the skirt on the boat, and my hands freeze. Lately, with temps above freezing, I have worn their fingered Titanium glove with Reeds long glove coverings. I can get on the skirt with the gloves on, then add the Reeds and go paddling.
Both the fingered gloves and mittens now come with a snug cuff that really works. One, however (according to the folks at Rutabaga), has to be careful not to pull the glove off by the fingers lest one tears the cuff from the glove. I  presume and use the same precaution with the mittens. Good stuff.

Now, give NRS a hand.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

50+ years ago...

...that I took my first Judo lesson. It was a sport I loved and taught over the years and in many cities as I moved about. During the war I took my R&R in Japan so I could visit the Kodokan. Over a decade ago a severed nerve to my left keg took me out of the game. The upside was that it led to my discovering sea kayaking which has become a major part of my life. Anyway...

My old co instructor and I substituted tonight for the current instructor who had to be away. I could do a lot of things, and some moves were not possible. In the end, however, I was able to teach and experience the joy of seeing some of the advanced students get it and improve before my eyes. Teaching is teaching, and teaching is what I (still) do.

Paddle safe...