Tuesday, October 31, 2006

An old friend comes out of the closet
Reflection on a life-long love affair

I was just becoming a teenager when we met, and it was love at first sight. Even now I cannot say what the immediate attraction was, but we became instant soul mates. I can still remember taking her home and into my room where we spent most of our time together. We were both much younger then, and we both looked younger.

The two of us spent hours together and went to many events together. Alone in my room, we exercised together, and it never seemed routine. She always fit into my hands nicely, even as I grew to be an adult. When I would hold her to my lips we would make beautiful music. It was as if I were breathing life into her while she, in return, responded to every move of my fingers with sounds that delighted the ear. It was joy. It was sheer passion.

There came a time, however, when I allowed matters of the world to come between us. I began to neglect her and, finally, stopped seeing her all together. But she was never far away and never far from my mind. Then came yesterday.

I and my family recieved some joyous news, news that brought each of us to uncontrollable sobbing. It was as if heavan had opened and decided to bless us with a gift of life. And, in my blubbering joy, I felt the need to reach out to something special, something with which I could give voice to my happiness.

I ran to her, and there she was as if she'd been waiting for just this moment. I just picked her up, took a deep breath and pressed my lips to her. She immediately came to life as if we'd never been apart for more than a minute. And, like a million times before, we made beautiful music together. And right there and then, I promised myself to never ignore her as I had been doing. After all, a trumpet like that deserves to be played and played often.

Paddle safe...


Monday, October 30, 2006

Water, water, everywhere...
and look what it's like

Water, the H2O stuff we paddle atop is everywhere. It makes up the vast majority of our bodies and the majority of our planet's surface.

Like any good product, it comes in a variety of styles and containers. There is the river-water model, sometimes slow and calm and sometimes fast and foamy.

The stuff is in our breath and the air we breath. Sometimes (it has to do with temps and relative humidities...but don't let me digress), it forms lakes (we call clouds) in the skies.

And, when these conditions are just right (or lousy,depending on whether you're ashore or asea), the clouds touch the ground in the form of fog.Yeap, water, water everywhere and, if we don't watch out, there will soon be not a drop to drink. I am not an environmental whacko, but I have enough of a science backround to know that most of us are getting more than our minimum daily requirement of things like mercury, PCBS and fertilizers and that our hair and skin dry out from the chlorine we put in the stuff to kill the bugs we also put into the stuff. I see the signs along the local river talking about how much of which kinds of fish are safe to eat, and I read the warnings about pregnant women not eating the coho salmon from the big lake.

So, Silbs, exactly what has happened to cause this outpouring of obvious awareness and, perhaps, feelings of guilt about our water supply? You don't have a third eye or any birth defects other than marginal looks...and that's genetic not environmental. After all, you've had over 65 years to do something about this. You've spent decades on, in and under the stuff and never took the time before going for a paddle to opine on the state of the world's water. So why know?

Why now and not before? Maybe it's because this is the first time I've known I am going to be a grandfather (The world belongs to the children, and the childdren belong to us all).

Paddle Safe... DS

Sunday, October 29, 2006

When the wind blows...

So, yesterday, with 40 mph wind-gusts predicted, Greg and I had the perfect excuese to go aprise and take a rest day. But what to do do with the time. First it was off to the Bay Bakery for some treats:

A cell phone call confirmed that Leslie was home, yes she would welcome company and yes she would make coffee...and even entertain us.And so, savvy paddlers that we are, the three of us were snug, fed and entertained while the storm whipped the big lake into a frenzy.And they lived happily ever after.

Paddle safe


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sometimes I just sits...

There used to be a poster in the cardiac stress lab that was about 4 feet tall and had on it a picture of a yellow 3-legged stool. It read: Sometimes I sits and think. Other times I just sits.
It was like pop art Zen inasmuch as it contained a deeper message under its apparent one.

I spent so much of my life getting things done, solving problems and seeking answers that I almost forgot the reason for it all, the why. My teachers have told me that it is the ego that is always trying to run the show and that it believes it knows what needs to be done. From them I have learned that it is the big I (not the personna I that you see) that truly knows the answers and knows what I need. Instead of sitting and thinking...a futile exercise in which the ego runs about willy nilly in its attempt to maintain control...they taught that one needs to just sit and get quite so that the answer within (up to now out-shouted by the noisy ego) can be heard. These answers that whisper to us are our callings and reflect our true self.

Every day I check the weather "forecast" for the next day and make plans about kayaking tomorrow (Man plans while The Big Guy laughs...but I digress). Well, today the forecast is for an offshore wind (okay, so maybe no waves) with gusts to 45 m.p.h..

Hmmm, let me think. It is 85 miles across Lake Michigan to the next shore if I get over powered by the wind and cannot get back into shore. I carry a VHF marine radio, but radios can fail and etc. etc. Maybe that inner voice is whispering, today is a day to sits. Still, I have to at least drive down to the shore and have a look for myself.

Paddle safe...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Steward of
The Milwaukee River

He's my neighbor, he's friendly and everyone who hangs on or near the river knows him...at least to say hello or wave to. Sometimes he is walking along the banks taking in the condition of the river, checking on what plants are over growing others and what needs to be cleaned up. Other times, I have met him afloat. On such delightful occassions, we will sit and chat about this and that.John always knows everything about what is going on with the river, especially the section near our homes (by the way, these pics were taken 3 blocks NW of my back yard...but I digress). He knows when the levels will be dropped in fall and when they'll be raised again in spring. He knows where in government bills to clean up the river of PCBs are stalled and how the potential cost is rising into the multi-millions of dollars. And, he is always at any local or governmental meeting called to discuss river matters.John is self reliant. He paddles the boundary waters and other Canadian destinations each year as attested to by his leathered face. He has an easy and elegant stroke that I cannot help but admire. Although I always offer, John insists on lifting and carrying his own equipment, and he carries it all at once saying, "I have to stay in practice."His license plates are well known in the area, and I seldom see him driving without his canoe (it is kevlar) on top. John, another one of the interesting paddlers I've met on the water.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, October 26, 2006

What will they think of next?
It was over 100 years ago [I think...(therefor I am)] that someone suggested closing the patent office since everything possible had been invented. Then came all the modern marvels like TV remotes, fast foods and roto molded boats. Is it possible that now, in 2006, everything has been invented? Fear not.

Finding myself in Rutabaga with my weekly allowance burning a hole in my pocket, I found this wonderful little bag by CHUM. When I saw it had a handy clip, I knew I had to have it...even though I had no idea what it was for (the bag itself is 1.5 inches long). So I examined this 21st century item and....WELLAH....it contains a chamois for wiping lenses or what ever. And the chamois is permanently (as permanently as anything on the water) attached to the bag.

So, the patent ofice stays open. After all, who knows what they will come up with next. Maybe even a user-friendly and reliable photo uploader for bloggers. Nay, I'll probably have to settle for a cure for cancer.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

O Solo Mio
a conversation with
The good guys
in the white boat

It was near the end of my paddle, and I had gone out to the inner harbor to watch the Lake Express, a catamaran car ferry, come in. Just as she approached the dock, the coasties came out and, just after I snapped this photo, they turned toward me and hailed me to come along side(I know that is a bit of a run on sentence, but it's too early to be grammatically anal...but I digress).
The polite man aboard seemed bemused by my presence when he asked if I was all right. I assured him I was. He seemed to be searching for things to ask and finally came up with, "How long will you be out here today?" He also asked if I had a marine radio. I told him I did as I pointed to the antenna sticking out of my PFD's pocket. Finally, he said, "It's pretty cold out here, you know." It was about 42 F with a wind gusting to 15 knots.

I told him about our group and how we have been coming out "here" for many winters and on days far more inhospital than this one. I also told him about the equipment we carried and how we dressed. Reassured, he wished me well, and we went our seperate ways.

The incident served to remind me of the true nature of our sport and how important it is for us to rely on ourselves and one another. It also reminded me of the times I and other kayakers have invited ill-equiped and ill-dressed paddlers to leave the lake. It's, like, right out of Hill Street Blues...and be careful out there.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

(with apoologies to daughter Tammy)
It is happening as we speak...er...as I write and you read. They're clearing out and leaving the vast expanse of Lake Michigan to me...and fellow winter paddlers...and those who work hard behind the scenes and in hard conditions to help make the lake a joy to be on.

They, in this case, being the yachties or the power boaters or the sail boaters or the pleasure boaters...call them what you will (I was, for many years, one of them, and most of them are good seaman...but I digress).

Yesterday, I watched this fellow using a reefed main while he slipped his mooring sans motor and squeezed in a last sail on his way to hauling out for the season. He will spend the next 5 months sitting on the bar stool at the yacht club with other like-minded boaters telling stories about amazing events on the water that never happened. The one thing I disliked about sailing was the short season. I was paying for a boat that was in the water half the year. Then there was the expense of winterizing and winter storage. After that, it would take most of the summer to fix (at great expense) all the little things I needed for the big trips I would never take. Once tuned up, it was time to haul out again...and write another check.Yet, the season has its own beauty as boats go ashore and disappear under tarps and shrink wraps,and the harbor, draped in gloomy clouds, takes on the look of an abandoned housing project. But it is an illusion. The place is alive with gulls, geese, herons and fools like me in little boats. Fools like me who cannot stay away from the water. Fools like me who would rather go through the risk of choking to death on a dry suit's neck gasket than live life on the couch and looking out at the world. Fools like me and the others who "go down to the sea in boats..." And, of course, the hardy crews who seem to be able to work in all conditions in order to keep the breakwater and water safe.It is worth a cold-day's paddle just to see these guys work. Their boats throw out a wash that spun my kayak as I passed a good 100 yards abeam. Apparently, their parents never let them have Legos and, now, they are compensating big time.

Paddle safe...


Monday, October 23, 2006

Kiss my pixels

It's 2:30 pm CDT, and I just returned from a paddle on Lake Michigan. I had a blog in the works earlier, but I decided screwing around with the photo upload was wasting valuable minutes of my life. I have a photo bucket account now, but have not down loaded their soft ware...and don't know if I will.

Life is short, and one must pick and choose one's fight's. Take this blog, for instance. It is a fight with the site and a fight with uploading the pics. Why do it? Mainly, because I like writing, and I like photography, and I like kayaking, and I like yapping about my philosophy of life. I write for my own pleasure and hope someone else will enjoy it or maybe get a new thought out of it all or send me a comment that will give me a new way of thinking.

I also like solving problems but there, too, pick and choose the problems I want to work on. Computer problems are never my first choice and, when they become a pain in the ass, I have to wonder if it is worth it. I have Microsoft Word and can do my writing there. I have tons of photos stored and can view them at will. I don't need to publish anything (I have actually in the past) to enjoy life. My ego is quite happy with its place in the Universe.

So, I paddled instead of diddling with this blog site's photo gizmo. I will decide later if I want to diddle with the bucket or chuck it.

Paddle safe...


Friday, October 20, 2006

Shutting Down...

It is around 7:00 am and first light is just now showing. One webb site is giving Lake Michigan surface temps in the 30's. It is cloudy and gray...and (as one more attempt to depress me) they've pulled the plug on the river (just because I am paranoid doesn't mean they're not after me...but I digress).

Each year, around this time, the county opens the damn in the park south of here in order to drop the river level dring winter. The bottom, once covered to the tree line, is exposed along with a plethora of shopping carts, park tables and benches, tires and all sorts of debris. It is as if the river has given up all hope, and one wonders if it will ever rejuvenate itself.

Indeed, there has been a movement to leave the river at this level and let everything return to its "natural state". The problem is, however, that the damn was built after some construction artificially lowered the river and folks wanted to elevate it back to its "natural state". Once again, in our infinite wisdom, we have dicked with things to the point that no one seems sure what the natural state actually is.

Rather than let all this depress me, I will go to the big lake later today and paddle. Levels there are also historically low, witness the photos from Door County on previous blogs. And, to be sure, there are controls on the Chicago River that could be used to "pull the plug" on the lake as well. Open those gates, and the water will gush to the Mississippi. Rivers, lakes and people all seem to live tenuous and fragile lives.

Still, I will visit the river frequently during the winter, mostly while walking his majesty Ansel. You see, with the levels dropped, the river is revealed and, by simply noting where there is still water, I can relearn where the deep channels will be in summer when (I think) the plug will be reinserted and the river will rise to fill its bed once again.

Travel safe...


Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Circumnavigation
So, after loading my Romany and SOF and driving up to Door County; and, after JB carried his Romany around on his van for a week while he did his wilderness medicine thing and then drove to the Door; it was time for adventure...and we decided to circumnavigate the pennisula. Only problem was that we were both tired, and the weather sucked. Fear not. With his boat symbolically mounted atop the car (so there would be no doubt that here were two macho adventurers...but I digress), we did our thing....by van...with heat...and heated seats. We visited essentially every launch site in the county, many of which were high and dry and some stinking of rotting algae (above). We found coffee and cherry pie (see previous blog).There were fall colors everywhere. Cave Point state and county parks were interesting, although not as dramatic a place as I had hoped. In fact, I was glad we hadn't made the paddle from Whitefish Bay Dunes State Park in order to see these eroded cliffs, but they were worth the drive.

Conclusion: The Door is a place worth visiting, in any season, and worth revisiting.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A bad day getting worse

It started out fine this morning. At 6:30 a.m. I had coffee with JB and Nydia, and we talked kayaks and training and trips. Then I started the drive home.

Every freakin street was torn up and blocked off. It took twice as long to get home as it should have.

Then I sat down to write about our circumnavigation of Door County, and the damn picture upload thingy doesn't work.

How could this day (it its only 8:20 a.m) get worse?

At 2:30 pm I have my annual prostate exam.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The lost and found weekend
(cont'd from yesterday)
(part II of III)

Yesterday, we established that JB and I did not paddle and that Greg was at Mark Roger's (Superior Kayaks) Traditional boat Rondevous (pic of suffering Greg on last posting). I did manage to get a few shots of this hearty and dedicated group, starting with their camp site at Pennisula State Park.

I was not around when they paddled...and they did...or when they rolled...and they did that too.

But I was there as they discussed the seal hunt and the diminishing ice flow.And when the lumber barons did their thing. Mark also had some of his carbon paddles on display, and there were lots of his kit boats which I will try to show in future blogs.But most of the time (part III), JB and I did what he insists was a circumnavigation of the Door County Pennisula. And we did it the hard way.

(to be cont'd)

Paddle safe...


Monday, October 16, 2006

You just never know
The best laid plans
a mice and men
gang aft aglee

We had been making plans for weeks, maybe months. Derrick, JB, Greg and I would be in Door County (the "thumb" of Wisconsin) for a weekend of warm-weather paddling, fellowship and Mark Rodger's (Superior Kayaks) traditional boat rondezvous. And that is pretty much what didn't happen.

It was Derrick (of course...but I am on the verge of digressing) who began unraveling the ball of yarn. He decided to go down to Geneva (Illinois...I think) instead. I'm not clear, but I think in order to keep his high school diploma he had to go back and do the 5th grade which he originally skipped. Or maybe it was something about his BCU certification. Anyway, scratch Derrick (and that reminds me of a funny horse racing joke...now, I do digress).

Then Lady Linda tries to get us a room up in Door County only to find that peak fall colors are expected and everything is booked up. To the rescue (see how I mix the tension with the good news?), friends of us will let us use their cottage FREE. All I have to do is take some pictures of their grandson while we're up there. Deal...but fate is just dicking with us.

JB spends the preceeding week in Pitosky, Michigan trying to get naked, or at least hyothermic, with some other EMT people in some wildnerness course (I think he was taping an episode of Survivor...another digression). So, on Friday evening, when Greg and I have already made the pennisula (did I mention that Door county is a pennisula?), JB is crossing the Mackinaw bridge at 15 mph with a mandatory escort because he is carrying a boat atop his car and it is blowing 35 mph. A harbinger of what is to come.

I drop Greg off at the Rondevous, and say my hellos to Mark and Celeste. After "helping" Greg set up tent I head for the free cottage to thaw and luxuriate in a hot shower. It is now in the 40s and gusting 15-30 knots. I look back to see Greg appropriately dressed for a fun and wild weekend. He has an invitation to crash at the cottage but, cave man that he is, he does the entire weekend at the camp site eating blubber and sewing mucklucks.

I will tell you that JB arrived safely and that we never took his boat or either of mine (I had the Romany and the SOF...for the rondevouz) off the cars. What did we do there all weekend? I'll show you more tomorrow. Hint, here's a shot of JB after our major hike which was to cross the street outside this cafe.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Two steps forwards,
One step back

One of the things I've come to realize about life is that learning, be it a skill or an academic exercise, is not always a straight-lined curve. Rather, it seems that progress plateaus, then suddenly jumps to a new level while skipping what seems like the gradual steps in between (stock traders call this gapping up...no, I do not digress...read on).

You may have experienced this when, for instance, you do aerobic training. For a while you don't see any progress. Then, almost suddenly, one day you see a jump in improvement (interestingly, this often occurs after an injury that causes you to rest...now, I do digress). What is even more interesting (to people like me) is the phenomena of two steps forward and one step back.

This is expressed during a period of apparent progress followed by a degree of back sliding during which one feels as if he or she is actually losing ground. (To tie something up, this is what the stock traders call backing and filling...see, I didn't digress...but now I do digress). It can be disheartening and is an expression of the reality that progress isn't always apparent and comes about in its own way. Maybe, just maybe, it is the only way our bodies can let us know it is time for a rest (this was the subject of another blog and can be left there for now). More to today's point is recognizing when this is occuring and not to be disheartened by it. It is something to get through in order to meet up with the success waiting on the other side.

The picture at the top, as you may recall, is of the hole in our ceiling with which we were greeted on our return from Italy. There had been a minor leak, and the fix it guy had opened the hole to allow things to dry out. Well, we've been living with this hole overhead until yesterday when he returned, with an assistant no less, and I thought, aha, now this thing will get fixed, I will see progress at last. When they left, the hole looked as follows:

Hmmm. Ever the optimist (yeah, right), I looked at it and thought how nice and even the edges now look....and I got the idea for this frivilous blog.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

When it's your time to go...

Meet Ansel, the only other male to live in our house (I have a wife and 2 daughters, haven't made a decision for myself in 30 years and Ansel...the other male...is castrated...but I digress). Each and every morning my wife or I (or someone sitting the house when we are gone) get out his leash and, to his great joy, take him for a walk. During this activity he does his business, several times, and he does it where ever he pleases, thus bringing us to today's delicate topic (remember, I'm a doctor).

We may go a lot slower, but we share a common problem with long distance truck drivers and astronauts stuck in a capsule while orbiting the earth. All of us have limited micturitional opportunities (read: we have no place or time to urinate). I know at least one of the early astronauts, while being held on the pad for launch, finally just did the deed in his space suit and shorted out a whole bunch of circuits being monitored.

The old train engineers used to use a "motorman's pal", a condom with a tube to a bag strapped on their legs. Some truckers carry tin cans, or the like, and then throw the contents out their window (think about that next time you pass a semi on the interstate).

Kayak texts, bless their good intentions, show all sorts of ways to hang over the edge of a boat or to how to play London bridges between two boats while relieving yourself.

And, let's face it, that constant sound of water, especially if it is flowing, doesn't help.

Some take the pragmatic approach and do it in their farmer John's (why does that sound like it should make sense?). This has a two-fold benefit: relief and an amazingly warm feeling. It also has a big time down side: the suit smells really ripe for a long time.

Finally, some (works for men) do it into the cockpit and then rinse the boat out by pumping water in (to dilute) and then pumping it out. Nice, huh? Not exactly the precise flush one gets used to in civilized society. Besides, with men living longer and developing larger prostrates, this problem can only get worse. Wake up, my friends.

In this day of tiles that fall off space ships and cars that get recalled by the tens of thousands, I don't know if any engineers are working on our little problem. I don't know, either, why ARwKY (pronounced R-Key), the Association for the Rights of Women Kayakers, hasn't offered a grant to solve this annoying and never to go away problem.

But there it is, out on the table, out in the open for all to ponder. What is it with a group of people who will spend hundreds of dollars on a paddle, spend hours padding out and customizing their boats, spend money and time attaining and attaching all sorts of tows, flares and other equipment, but have not figured out a way to take care of the most basic of human needs. It's like building a mansion with no bathrooms. Well, at least we can...

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Come out, come out,
where ever you are

Just when it looked as if winter would steal away all the fun in life, we had a block party. A good, old-fashioned block party. Suddenly, our almost always empty street was full of people. There were adults, children and dogs...and food and drink. And...faces I don't remember ever seeing before.

"You just move in?" the man 3 doors down and across the street asked. "Eight years ago," I informed him (and not remember ever seeing him before. He'd been there 12 years).

Some identified me as, "You're the retired doctor, right?" Others, "You bought Teddy's house, right?" (Teddy Higgerau was a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers and, yes, we have his old house.) But most knew me as, "The kayak guy. I see you driving off with that thing all the time."

So it went. I made new friends and met some instresting people with interesting work. More than that, the place took on the feel of a neighborhood, just like back in the Sherman Park area where I grew up (and JB now lives...but I digress). I watched the kids, some near teen age and sassy, some just learning to walk, and it gave a completeness to the feel of the whole place.

We talked until after dusk as we warmed ourselves by the two fires that were lit. Since then, there's more waving, more recognition of one another, all because we came out.

Paddle safe...


Monday, October 09, 2006

I'm tired
I don't like it
I go out paddling the majority of the days. Most often, I am out on Lake Michigan searching for some wave action on which to hone my skills or just have some fun. Sometimes I spend the time practicing strokes, rolls and braces. Sometimes I just hop over to a section of the river and do an aerobic paddle or just a relaxing tour. Yesterday was no exception.

Eight of us launched onto the lake and enjoyed a rolling and some what confused 2-3 foot sea. We tried surfing back in, but mostly got goosed by the waves. The last leg home was into a freshing wind that had to be gusting to 20 knots or more.

I hadn't slept well the night before, and later yesterday began feeling tired. Actually, I began feeling weary. There's a difference. The first is muscular and some times accompanied by a desire to nap. The second is all that plus a feeling that something in the core needs to rest, to be renewed.

It is blowing out there this morning, and the skies look dreary. The temps are to be in the 60s, a gift this time of year and not one to be squandered. But, alas, I do not feel like answering the call.

I hope it is just a little too much too oftern thing and not the winter blahs that can creep into every corner of my mind. I hope I am a valuable player being rested for a game or two and not a washed up, used up broken down has been. We shall see. I shall see. Time will tell. Mean while, I am taking a day off. Maybe I will get over to the lumber store and start on that storage rack I need to finish so I can get my car into the garage this winter. Maybe I am too tired to even do that.

So, rest I must, and when I have and my body, mind and soul are refreshed, I will put myself back into the game. And, as always,

Paddle safe...

Friday, October 06, 2006

An open letter:

Commodore, South Shore Yacht Club
Commodore, Milwaukee Yacht Club

Dear commodores,

As I am sure you know, there have recently been some concerns expressed about interactions between kayakers and yachtsmen in the local area. With this letter I hope to open a dialogue between our two groups and do so in a spirit of mutual respect.

You will want to know that I am a life-member of SSYC (past fleet surgeon) and have over 35 years of on-water experience in boats (Hans Christian 42 sailboat…Compensatory Pause and power boats to 50’ carrying the name CARTAM). In addition, I happen to be an ACA Certified Sea Kayak Instructor.

With that said, please know that there are kayakers of different
backgrounds and intents out on our lake. Some are so-called recreational kayakers who rent or buy boats and go out on their own, often with no instruction whatsoever. I, on the other hand, speak here about the local sea kayakers, most of whom have had formal training and several of whom are certified instructors with extensive open water experience. We informally communicate on a Yahoo web site and are already addressing this issue. Among things we have discussed recently are the following:

1. Crossing sea lanes only as necessary and then as a group and not in long lines. Staying outside the red/white buoys when entering the south shore entrance since we need only inches of water to float our boats.
2. Avoiding paddling near slips, especially where boats might be backing out (especially now, during haul out, when skippers have extra lines with which to contend).
3. Yielding way to all yachts as they are less maneuverable.
4. Carrying a marine radio and monitoring 16 for movements of large/commercial vessels. Carrying all necessary lights, signaling equipment and self-rescue equipment.
5. Carrying a whistle or similar device to make our presence know in an emergency.

From our point of view, it might be helpful if skippers sounded the ship’s bell/horn before backing out of their slips or when casting off a mooring. Also, a wave from you to tell us you see us would be appreciated.

As to the suggestion that we carry flags, similar to those of bicycles: for us, this is a dangerous idea. If we tip over or roll, that stick would become a dangerous obstacle that could injure us and/or prevent us from performing a self-rescue.

Please know that Lake Michigan is our ocean and that we are part of a proud and 7000 year old tradition.

I and several of the other paddlers/instructors are available to discuss these problems with you or, if you’d like, would welcome the opportunity to attend one of your meetings to make a presentation on sea kayaking and/or answer any questions. We are also eager to hear your suggestions and recommendations.

Please, know for now that we respect you and the lake and want, more than anything else, to continue to be safe and cordial out there.

With regards,

Richard E. Silberman, MD
Life Member SSYC (3945)
ACA certified Sea Kayak instructor

cc: Milwaukee Harbor Safety Commission

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Making the most of a foggy day

When I was doing a lot of large format black and white work, I lived for foggy days. Fog, nothing more than a cloud that sits on or practiclaly on the ground, has the ability to add mystery to the most ordinary scene as it produces its vast gradients of grays. It is also a challenge to photograph as it fools the exposure meeter (leading to under exposures to the unaware) and exists in conditions that can fog one's glasses and lenses.

Combine all this with what I've said about our local park system and you know why, when I looked out and saw fog the other day, Ansel and I headed for Doctors Park (a 5 minute drive to the shores of Lake Michigan...but I digress).

I am uncomfortable aiming my camera at strangers (I would like to do photo journalism... I digress again), and the fog lends an spy-like perspective that allows me to do so...and no need for a model release.

I could have paddled and practiced navigation that day, but I would have only seen a wall of fog. Besides, I was too lazy to load the boat. So, Ansel and I just enjoyed the muffled sounds of the surf (he took a dip) and let the fog's magic transform ordinary scenes into eye candy.

Next time I'll go out on the lake and will be sure to

Paddle safe


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"The purpose of politics is to gain power"
(Professor Goff, UWM, 1959)
The control freaks are at it again
(No picture due to blogSpot's wonderful uploader)

There is talk on the Milwaukee Yahoo site about "problems" that large boats are having with kayakers. "We can't see them," is one complaint. Apparently we are an obstruction when they back out of their slips...and so on. (I am hoping JB will address this issue on his blog as he has great insight and knowledge in this area).

Suggestions have begun to be posted including having kayaks sport orange flags similar to what bicyclers do on the highway. To all of this I offer this pithy observation: It' s all Bull.

I sailed boats for 30 years and in that time have backed out of slips with hulls over 40 feet long. In addition, I had power boats and have backed out of that same slip with 50 foot hulls. The slip I had, by the way, opened onto the "shipping lane". That is, all boat traffic in the basin passed by my transom, and I had to back into that traffic. Want to know my little secret, the one that kept me from ever hitting another boat or not seeing one too small (such as a kayak)?

I looked before I backed out. I actually turned around and looked left and right, just like when I cross a street. If there was a dinghy going by (same size as a kayak), I saw it, and a pole 1/4" thick with a flag blending into the breakwater would not have made that dinghy any more visible to me.

There some issues with jet skiers and the like. They really moved fast and came out of no where. And they saw me just fine. Usually, they were out there to go over my wake, and I had no problem with that. My biggest problems were always with other large craft whose skippers clearly did not know the rules of the road.

I don't want a stick attached to my kayak. I don't want a stick that might poke me during a self rescue or obstruct me from making it onto the back deck. And, why the hell should I need one? After all, when it comes to bigger boats, I..in my kayak...am the one at risk.

Lake Michigan is about 85 miles across at the Milwaukee level. It is a huge body of water. 99% of kayaking takes place near shore where large boats don't go. But in this era of more-legislation - is-better, someone wants to make a law to cover that 1% problem, a law that should be superceeded by good judgment and knowledge. Maybe it's time to test those skippers of large boats to be sure they know what they're doing. Now that's a piece of legislation that would give some governing body real power.

Or instead, we could all just
Paddle safe...

Monday, October 02, 2006

When someone in the family is sick

The saying goes that when someone in a family gets sick, the entire family gets sick. The wise friend who originally taught me this also said, "A effects B, and B effects A." The message in all of this is, of course, is a variation on the chain being only as strong as its weakest link. The pity of it is that when such a weak link breaks it destroys an otherwise wonderful chain.

When someone in the family gets sick the others react with saddness , fear and, often anger. Saddness that a loved one is not doing well and may not recover; fear for what will happen to the rest of the family with the loss of the sick one; anger for what the individual is putting the rest of the family through. The anger may be especially in the fore front if the illness has been brought on by the individual's failure to take care of themself. What ever, the family finds itself in dark times.

Such times bring out the best in some family members as they rise to support the sick individual and to hold together the grieving family. On the other hand, the illness may be the proverbial straw and "break the back" or, in this case, the will of a family member. Then there are two sick individuals in an already compromised family.

I've seen this happen in the familys of my patients friends as the illness (or, sometimes, behavior) of an individual family member brings down the entire clan. For the want of a nail a horse was lost...a kingdom was lost.

Some in this situation will ask, why me? Some will grow to hate the one who brought the sickness to the family. Others will sit down and give up all hope as they feel the utter uselessness of trying to fight something over which they have no control. Still others will seek support in finding that ellusive space between need to love the sick one and the need to detach for self survival. To others, this detachment may seem cold or even cruel. In reality, it is a way to self preservation which, in turn, allows that member to remain strong and, perhaps in the end, lead the rest out from the darkness. Yet he also carries the knowledge that he may emerge from the darkness only to find himself to be alone...the single survivor or something he didn't want and didn't cause.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not letting the b*st*rds win

October, it's here, and with it the beginning of the dark times. But sitting on the couch and getting stiff and fat is not acceptable. Hell, at my age it is down right dangerous. So, call Greg, load the boat on the Blazer and meet him down at Bradford Beach to play in whatever surf we could find.

A couple hours of cool water (it's in the 50's now) in the face and enough bracing to remind me I once had rotator cuff problems on the right, and life is good again. Sure, it rained on us, and most of the time it was gray and dreary. By time we finished, however, it had turned into a crisp autumn day. Maybe next time the leaves will have begun their autmn show.

It is the next morning, and I am stiff. No matter, got to meet JB back on the big lake where he is doing an ICE (Instructor Certification Exam) for someone. As an ACA instructor, I qualify as the victim. Anyway, I'm not fatter today and, maybe, I'm smarter. I left the boat on the Blazer over night.

Paddle Safe...