Friday, June 29, 2007

Pop Quiz

Q: What is longest continuously competed for sailing trophy in the world and where is it? (Hint: It is not the America's Cup).

A: It is, in fact, the Queen's Cup and it resides right here in Milwaukee at the South Shore Yacht Club (of which I am a former fleet surgeon and a life member...but I digress). Right now, yachts from Michigan, Wisconsin and other areas are gathering here for the overnight race to Michigan and a chance to "win" the Queen's Cup. The age and duration of the actual cup has been well document and was recently verified by an English company (using engraver's marks on the cup).

The fleet will begin leaving later today and sail through the night. There is, of course, partying at both ends.
Off for a busy weekend: Teaching in Madison today. Bachelor party tomorrow. Will see the Cubs battle the Brewers (like I care) and enjoy dinner with Lady Linda's nephew (the condemned man) and his friends and family (male only).

Paddle Safe...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Duffer's Straits(North entrance to the straits)
You won't find it labelled on the charts. If you paddle through it, 9 times out of 10 nothing will happen, and you will enjoy its deceptive serenity and beauty. This 200 yard passage, just a 20 minute paddle down stream from my home on the Mighty (dirty) Milwaukee River is just one of the area's dirty secrets. You see, every now and then, a tribe that occupies its east bank will attack and, rarely, bring serious harm to a paddler who risks entering their territory (I did so as a service to you, the reader...but I digress).
The Duffer Subparis
This is a fascinating tribe of warriors that wanders the land to the east of the straits. For reasons not yet fathomed, they travel only in groups of 4 and cover their bodies with outlandishly brazen colors. They each seem to possess a weapons bag which they sometimes carry over a shoulder and sometimes carry in a strangely silently moving vehicle. They can be seen roaming back and forth through this unique area noted for its well kept short grasses. Here and there, scientists have noted variously shaped clusters of sand, the presence of which cannot be explained by any geologist.
(A rare sighting of a the small red circle)
What makes these "people" unique...and their seemingly pointless habit of taking weapons out of their bags and using them to hit little white spheres in all directions. Their yelling and screaming, also random, freuently echoes off the many trees in their territory. Odd, but generally harmless, their behavior becomes lethal when a random sphere is sent out over the river. As I write, there is a group seeking grants to study this sub species, and I will bring you more as the information gets published in scientific journals. In the mean time, it is advised that you avoid this area or, if your curiosity gets the better of you, wear a helmet. You may also wish to employ the services of a local guide if you are new to the area. I offer reduced rates to my readers.
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Because it's There?(CASKA photo)
That's the reason the guy climbed Mt. Everest. Because it was there. The pure challenge. I am guessing that is why paddlers do some of the things they do: because it is there, and they can. For instance, Derrick has a circumnavigation of Puerto Rico coming up. It has been well thought out and planned. He has cited intellectual and educational reasons for doing the trip and has lots of "side trips" integrated into the adventure. He seems to have a purpose for doing what he is doing, a higher purpose than just doing it because he can.

Freya and Greg, on the other hand, seemed to have gone off to circumnavigate Iceland simply because it is there. There was little in the way of planning, and the whole thing seemed quite impulsive (which can, itself be fun...but I digress). They are crossing bays as wide as 60-100 kilometers to shorten the distance which, in turn, keeps them from seeing a lot of the shore features. It is, it seems, a paddle that could be done anywhere. It seems grueling. They admit that they are taking such a route because time is short. What, I wonder, is the point? They are, I know, very capable and experienced paddlers who can pretty much go any where at any time. Why there with so little a window of time? When it is over, what will they have other than a high aerobic threshold and many miles of generic water under their hulls?

I do wish them a safe finish as I do every paddler who ventures out onto the water. And, I will continue to strive to understand what drives the paddle anywhere at any time thought process.

(note: As we go to press we have almost completed a Silbs exclusive report on some of the most dangerous waters in the Midwest. This report will also reveal previously unpublished data on a human sub species that endangers the unwary paddler. Tomorrow, here at Silbs Says).

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What the Hell Happened?
I wasn't going to mention it on these pages (because I didn't want everyone mailing me gifts to my home in Glendale, 53217, c/o Milwaukee Kayak Group...but I digress), but I turned 66 on the 12th, and I found myself asking myself, "What the hell happened?"
I remember when my left leg wasn't 40% gone and my right rotator cuff didn't hurt. I remember when I competed in Judo tournaments and single handed a 42-foot cutter across Lake Michigan (during the night, no less). I remember running marathons. I remember when, early in practice, this picture was taken by one of the hospitals where I staffed.
I remember when I could get up three times during the night, go open occluded coronaries and start my regular cases at 7:00 a.m.. There's lots of stuff I can remember doing that I have chosen not to try to do any more. What the hell happened?
The good news? I can still remember.
Paddle safe...

Monday, June 25, 2007

My 2 Cents
Today, Derrick has a nice blog on traditional rolling, teaching and doing. He also states that down here (southern part of Wisconsin) there seems to be less interest in traditional rolling. True, I think. Other than Greg and myself, I seldom see anyone around here with Greenland sticks and never anyone in a skin on frame. I, too, wonder why.

One reason may be the water quality of Lake Michigan. When there is an on shore wind we have sorts of specimens from the vegetable kingdom floating about. More over, the water is colder most of the year. To enjoy an inland lake environment, we generally drive out to Lake Nemahbin which is on I-94 (the road to Madison/Rutabaga...but I digress). It is a 70+ mile round trip, and gas is about 3$ a gallon.
Those I do see occasionally see using a Greenland stick are generally in fiberglass boats. I know that I am hesitant to go rolling alone in one of my SOFs (I have two...much to Lady Linda's delight...but I digress again). If I should lose my paddle (I still haven't gotten around to learning the Norsack roll) I do not know if I could wet exit in time. Interestingly, on Derrick's blog, a reader wrote a comment about how he has problems entering an ocean cockpit on a Nordkapp.
Finally, it may be a lack of interest in traditional things in general. I, on the other hand, always want to know about origins and the old ways. That's why I like Michael's blog so much. Once I held a stick and did some reading, I was hooked. Anyway, what if you want to get into traditional rolling?
I recommend QAJAQ USA's Webb site and camps. Each late summer there is one in Michigan, and it fills up fast. The only requirement is that you use a traditional paddle. Not said, but just as basic, is a willingness to work, be upside down a lot, to get wet and to roll, roll, roll your boat.
I believe that traditional rolling is easier and easier on the body. It is more gentle and flowing, as well. It really helps one to understand that, based on physics, it is not possible to roll up in a kayak...and I've never seen anyone ever do it. What is possible is to position your body in a way the the kayak floats under you and picks you up. Once you visualize that and understand it, you realize how little the paddle actually has to do with a completing a "roll".
Hey, join us on the water and bring a stick.
Paddle safe...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Art For Art's Sake

Even primitive peoples had their art. Some of it was scratched on rocks and the walls of caves. Some painted their bodies or made masks. Through out time, each culture has had its own distinctive style with which they expressed what they had no words to say. The same has been true of North American Natives.

The totem is one example that can still be seen in Alaska and other areas of the western main land. Hawaiian art is unique as is that of the Inuit. So, with the traditional roots of the kayak being what they are, I am surprised more of us don't decorate our boats accordingly. For this reason, I was delighted when Leslie gifted me with a turtle decal she had purchased in Utah. All the more so because the turtle happens to be my totem animal. It now resides just aft of the cockpit of my Romany. I hope to get my daughter (who has good art skills...but I digress) to eventually paint it in white on my black SOF.

Paddle safe...


Friday, June 22, 2007

Hello Summer!
JB and I enjoyed one of those lazy paddles to celebrate the first day of summer. Launching at six pm, the air was cool and calm, and the lake had just enough on shore surge to make it feel alive. Speaking of life, there was enough of it floating around to discourage elective rolling. The harbor is alive with tugs, sailboats, power boats, barges, dories, canoes and kayaks (some ill prepared to be on a big lake...but I digress). All in all, this is the best time of the year. At a post paddle dinner, we were already excited about the up coming trip we've planned. Paddle safe...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Time Share
Those of us who paddle off Milwaukee, especially south shore, monitor channel 16 for commercial traffic announcements. We, along with the sailing and power boat yachties, share these waters with some big stuff. More over, the big guys aren't out there to play. they are there to do work...and earn a living. They don't need recreational boaters hindering them or, worse, putting them in danger.
The Lake Land Express is a catamaran car ferry capable of 40 knots. The skipper always announces his departures and arrivals, and we give him a wide berth. Just now, we also have tugs and barges loaded with huge rocks passing through our area as they repair the south break water. Here's Leslie coming in from the outer harbor to the south shore basin (the car ferry is just out of the picture to the right...but I digress). We've learned to listen for power boats coming from behind the break water on the left and to watch for sail boat masts which seem to silently creep into view. Here we met two sailors under canvas which makes them less maneuverable. I have found that my many years of sailing help me position my kayak so as not to force them to tack into me. So, keep a watch out, especially if you paddle an area that sees commercial travel. And don't forget about the jet skiers. Like they say on Hill Street Blues: Be careful out there. Or as we say here...
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sweet Sue

Sue and her partner, Jeff, paddle with the Milwaukee group and, just as often, with each other. They have been at it longer than myself and have traveled far and wide to learn from the masters. Sue, a petite size gal, can be an aggressive paddler. So, she needs the proper boat.

Recently, many of the local gals (non-paddlers) were very excited to hear a rumor that a Nordstrom store was to replace a Sears at our local mall. Why? Seems that Nordstrom is an upscale store that has an annual and famous shoe sale. Once a year, like lemmings, the women around here caravan down to Chicago to buy buy buy more shoes. Sort of like the search for the Holy Grail. What's this to do with Sue?

Well, Sue's Grail is the proper boat, and she has gone through them like they were shoes (she has occasionally changed boats more often than some of us change under wear...but I digress). Each time she would show up with a new boat we would be told that this is the one. The next to last one was a LV Explorer that I would have loved to try; but, alas, Sue had already removed the seat and installed another in a position that would have made it difficult if not impossible for me to get into.

Jump ahead to last Saturday my eyes deceive me? Why it is Sue, and she is looking good in her new Impex. She loves it. It is be continued?

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Taking Care of Business
That's Sherri Mertz on the right giving a class on sea kayaking out on Nemahbin Lake last Saturday (see yesterday's blog). Like all good instructors, she is careful about the safety of her students while making every effort to cover every aspect of the sport that they will need in order to do well and to remain safe. It is called integrity...doing what's right. I see that same quality in JB and Derrick and in it in all the other instructors I know (and, I know I don't know them all...but I digress).
So (says the prince of transition), the wheel on my Blazer snapped just as I approached the house when returning from a paddle on Friday. I picked the car up yesterday to learn that what had caused this expensive failure. It seems that the "professional" (and national) outfit that has been doing my oil changes has never lubricated the wheel bearings. It never came up, and I assumed it was being I take some responsibility. Thing is, I wasn't getting what I needed and expected and will never go there again or recommend the place to anyone.
Instead, I'm going to see if Sherri does oil changes.
Paddle safe...

Monday, June 18, 2007

When I've taught in the past, I've always explained the 3 types of kayaking: White water, recreational and sea kayaking (which includes traditional...but I digress). This weekend I found myself sans transportation. My friend and forward stroke teacher, Gary Simon, was kind enough to take me out to Lake Nemahbin where he was headed for one of his gruelling work outs. I got in a lot of bracing and rolling while managing to aggravate my old rotator cuff injury.
It wasn't until I took this pic of Gary in his 25 pound go-fast that I realized there is a fourth and rapidly growing category of kayakers: the racers. Gary, a lawyer who is very well schooled in exercise physiology, cross trains year round. His basement is a one of a kind work out area with a rowing machine adapted for paddling and, so he tells me, a device to practice cycling.
Even when I was a marathon runner I was into endurance more than speed (I did manage a 3.5 hour marathon in my mid fifties). Gary, on the other hand, takes it to the max. He even has a lactic acid meter to check his blood to see how he is recovering after a training session.
So, now there are, in my mind, 4 categories of kayaking to teach. Do I hear #5?
Paddle safe...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Fathers' Day
Especially to you new dad's, like my son in law.
And, Dad...I still miss you.
Paddle safe...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Getting Back To It
Not having been to any new places and having been doing the same old same old every day, I have neglected my photography. Going through some of my old files, I've come to miss being visually creative. I was, after all, trained in fine arts black and white work by some of Ansel Adam's protege's (hence my dog's name of Ansel....but I digress). These few pics are not, by any means, my best stuff, but they are enough to stimulate the old juices.
Frankly, These are too manipulated and don't represent the images I enjoy making the most. So, it is time to get out there and see what there is to see. Part of me wants to take out the big 4x5 and shoot some sheet film, maybe Polaroids so I can forgo the darkroom work for now. That camera slows me down and really forces me to compose carefully and calculate my own exposures. We shall see.
Paddle safe...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

If I could only

Take It To The Bank

For the past several days we have been enjoying the world's best weather and, according to the guys who never get it right, it is supposed to continue like this through the weekend. I wish I could put days like this in the bank. Oh, I've been paddling almost every day out on Lake Michigan (today the blazer goes in for a new air conditioner, so no ride...but I digress). I was thinking, however, that I would like to save some of this for later.

Soon, JB and I will join others to staff at the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium up in...well, Door County. If you look at the back of your left hand you will, essentially have a map of Wisconsin, and your thumb will be door county. The symposium is held on the finger nail of your thumb. Last year it ended with a tornado warning.

We will then drive back down the thumb and up the first finger headed for Michigan's upper peninsula. There we hope to do some camping and paddle Picture Rocks National Sea Shore before continuing on to work at the Grand Marais symposium. Now last year, this happening almost didn't.

One afternoon was abruptly halted by thunderstorms. Sunday morning saw a predawn storm push some of the water out of the bay only to have it return as a mini-tsunami that swept several boats off the beach.

In the end, it will be what it will be.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I wrote a post for today, and blogger refuses to publish it saying URL contains illegal characters. The address to which it is trying to post seems wrong. So, no post. If anyone can tell me what that means so I can correct it, please do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fish nor Fowl
Like most children, I grew up wondering how I fit into the scheme of things. I wondered, too, if I was good enough or, at least, as good as the others. Going through the stages of development brought feelings of clumsiness, not looking right and just being different. It was to be many years later that I learned that I was, in fact, different from most of the other kids. It was, in fact, to take decades until I had the knowledge to realize that I was a right-brained dude in a left-brained world.
This knowledge served me and, later, my daughter when I was able to recognize the same curse/blessing in her and explain it to her when she suffered the same feelings I had had as a child. So, like many of my fellow minority members, I embrace my difference.
We are the ones who often won't argue with you as we see things conceptually. We often know without knowing how we know. We are the writers and artists. We are the ones who suddenly make what seems to others to be outrageous and in congruent statements. We then laugh as do the other "righties" who see the conceptual humor while the "leftites" hopelessly stare, unable to "get it."
It must be the same with Milo, my youngest's dog. He is neither fish nor fowl. Built like a basset hound, he has the coat of a black lab. I wonder if he wonders what he is and how he fits in. Or, just maybe, he takes delight in his uniqueness and smiles to himself as he sees the rest of the world trying to figure it out.
Paddle safe...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Here We Go
Seems we have another ecological problem and, possibly, disaster getting up steam in the Midwest. It reminds me of the Dutch Elm Disease that eradicated this city's most beautiful trees. This time, it's the ash trees .
This ash borer has killed millions of trees already. There is a quarantine on wood. That is, you cannot carry wood from one area to another. If you camp and buy your wood, you need to get it near your camp site. The idea, of course, is to avoid transporting the little bugger to new areas (as a major home supplier recently did...but I digress). So, what can we do?
Well, our "experts" have found a Chinese wasp which apparently will kill the ash borer's asses. Their desire is to introduce this new (flying) bugger into our area to control bugger #1. Does this have a familiar ring to it?
Haven't we introduced foreign species before only to regret when the new little citizens became a new problem? Interestingly, one area in Illinois has been successfully using an insecticide. Now, I guess, we have to choose our poison.
Paddle safe...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

To Be On
The Lake

The weekend, the time when the working class is free to get out and join us on the lake. I am off to shadow JB during an all day open water class. Derrick will be a ways north on the lake at the Two Rivers happening. Greg is probably sleeping late, and Nydia is lost somewhere on Lake Lulu. Sam is somewhere circumnavigating Ireland. Alex is probaby rolling in some river about now. Michael is seeking thinking about earlier times with the Inuit. My grandchild is growing and hooking up his nervous system so he can take his first paddling lesson soon.

The weather is going to be good. No time to sit and digress. Back Monday.

Paddle safe...


Friday, June 08, 2007

Getting the Shaft
(in a good way)
It Ain't As Easy As
It Used To Be
(a primer for beginners)
Time was that my choices in blades was between Gillette and Schick. Since becoming a paddler, however, I have seen a steadily increasing host of choices in blades and shafts. To tell the truth, it can be maddening and daunting, especially to a newbie. I continue to see folks coming to their first lesson with paddles they have purchased based on the recommendation of someone at a paddle shop. Often, the blade is ill-suited for the size of the person, the boat and/or the type of paddling they are going to be doing
First, there is the length of the entire ensemble which must be based on the paddler's height, the width of the boat and whether they are a high or low angle paddler. This, in turn, leads to the choice of a blade shape.
There is the somewhat elongated blade for low angle paddlers, the "fatter" and shorter one for better conditioned and higher angle paddlers and the wing for those seeking the maximum efficiency in a paddle for a boat that will not go faster than 5 knots.
Then there is a choice between a straight shaft (in use for about 9000 years...but I digress) and the "ergonomic" bent shafts. Each bend, by the way, costs about $50-100 (I don't know what it would cost to straighten one out again...but I digress...again).
Last, and certainly not least, is the choice of materials. Like boats, paddlers come in several weights which are inversely related to their cost.
When all is said and done, many folks say, "screw the Euro paddle," and get a good old fashion Greenland stick. It is light, made of wood (except for the new high tech ones which are lighter and cost a lot more) and can even be made at home by those amongst us who are handy with tools.
I still use my relatively cheap Werner, elongated low angle paddle which no longer will come apart. I also have a few Greenland sticks that I occasionally use with the Romany and always use with my two SOF's. Lately, I must confess, I have lusted over trying a shorter euro with a high angle blade. Does anyone know where I can find a support group?
Paddle safe...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Back Home

Back home and still not resettled. Even a few days of living somewhere else has shaken my routine (in a joyous way...but I digress). The visit with family and new grand son was terrific. I also met some of their wonderful friends some of who, for reasons they did not reveal, often read this pap. Hi to all in Cincinnati.

Now, it is time to look ahead to the real paddling season. These, hopefully, will be the best paddling times of the year. This is when we live out of cars, motels and tents while the boats are either atop cars or water (and, all the time, I will worry what Lady Linda is doing to what I've left behind in the garage...but I digress...again).

Ahead are times with large groups at symposiums and, if all goes as planned, some time on Lake Superior with JB. I need to get back into the groove here at home and get some fresh photo material to share with you. So, now as much as ever...

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Being in Cincinnati and not having my PC, I do not have an appropriate pic to go along with this piece. This is, however, an important day for me on a personal and a historical basis.

I have had a wonderful few days with my daughter, son in law and grandson (and daughter #2 . and Lady Linda, of course...but I digress). Today the entire family, along with friends got together for ritual and naming of the new member of the world community. It only happens once in a child's life, and only happens once for the first time in mine.

Historically, it was on this day in 1966 that I received my MD degree. That day was the beginning of a long, sometimes arduous and always amazing journey through internship, aerospace medical school, war, residency, fellowship and many years of practice. I have seen so much of life and too much of death because of my chosen path.

One cannot begin to imagine the onus of the responsibility, the privileges of being part of peoples' intimate lives and the adrenalin rush of working to save a human life. It is truly a calling, and I feel my many years in practice have been a worthwhile way to spend my life.

Even now, I continue to keep up, to teach both medical and lay groups and to feel responsible when someone falls ill or is involved in an accident. And this all carries right over to my kayaking and my sense of mutual responsibility for my paddling partners. One fellow paddler, Sherri Mertz, expressed something interesting on our Milwaukee Yahoo net. She was happy, she told us, to see more of the group taking instructor training. To her, it meant that others were sharing the responsibility and that she herself was safer because of the increased skills of those around her.

So, be happy for me, and take care of one another.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

3 is a



Enjoying my expanded family here in Cincinnati. Just enough time to share this pic of daughter Carri, Lady Linda and Joseph. Joy.

Paddle safe...


Monday, June 04, 2007

Before I go... I am off to Cincinnati to talk to my new grandson. I will take a lap top and look for time to post, but....

In the mean time, be niece to JB today. It is his birthday, and he's one of the good ones.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

My Promise to You

I will not, under any circumstances, become one of those bragging grand parents who is constantly pulling out pictures of their grand child. I will not constantly mention that today he did such and such. I will not pester you by constantly bringing up the joy I feel at having my daughter become a mom.


Paddle safe...


Saturday, June 02, 2007

I am impressed by how many paddlers learn so much on their own. That is, without "formal" instruction. To be sure, a lot is passed from paddler to paddler as we teach one another. Some one reads something or picks up a pearl at a symposium and teaches it to another who teaches it to some one else. And, sometimes, a paddler teaches them self.
This is probably most true for sculling and rolling techniques, especially for those interested in traditional rolling. Sure, classes are available, and we have QAJAQ training camps; but a lot gets down by experimentation and persistence (who knows, I may one day have a static brace...but I digress).
I almost have a hand roll, almost. I'm not sure why it fails just at the end, but I will get it. Mean while, I am going to work with a norsac (throwing board) just to have a little bigger "gun" with which to get around. I figure that If I can do it with the board I will be just that much closer to doing it empty handed.
My method guarantees instant matter how long it takes.
Paddle safe...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Over 7000 years old
Still drawing looks
I'm sure you've experienced it, too. Where ever I take my kayak, people want to look and ask questions. Some know it's a kayak, others have no idea what the little boat is for. Most are surprised at the conditions into which I'll launch and have no idea of the seaworthiness of our crafts.
Although the construction materials have changed, the basic design of our boats has survived the test of 7+ centuries. Even now, a large number of paddlers are building "skin" on frame boats and even more are using traditional Greenland "sticks". We even have an organization (QAJAQ USA...but I digress) where such interests and knowledge can be shared.
So, even though Derrick (see pic) is using his grape-flavored paddle made out of marshmallows and fiber glass (Norvoca), it is still the same basic shape that a seal hunter used off the coast of Greenland many many years ago. Talk about tradition.
Paddle safe...