Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Signs Of Spring
I was in Madison, at Rutabaga, yesterday and walked back to the racks behind the store. There I found, among others, a red used Explorer and a LV Nordkapp. I had neither the time nor the clothes, but I was up for a test paddle. I hope to try them both on Friday when I go back for the weekend Wilderness Medicine Course (first aid for those more than a block from their house). Then I walked out to the pond and saw...You see a bunch of kayaks sitting/standing at attention. I see boats set out or CLASSES.! And that, my friends, is a sure sign of spring.

Paddle safe...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Where's This All Headed?
Yesterday, Jeff showed up for the Sunday paddle in an Impex Rapier, and Doug grabbed this shot. This boat, which won the affection of Greg, a traditional paddler and boat maker (on the other side of Jeff) who tried the boat and loved it. So much, in fact, that he was soon happily rolling it in the freezing, bacterial-infested waters inside the breakwater.

As Jeff aptly points out, this boat is a log that wants to roll all the time. He also indicated that when paddling in conditions one cannot let their attention wander for even a moment. Almost 18 feet long and all waterline, this sucker is built for speed. I suppose one would want one for racing. But touring?

There is also the Force 3 and 4 which has a tad more beam but is also on the finicky side. More and more we see these boats with less wet surface and unique stability. I imagine they have less packable space and wonder what the market is for these little wonders.

Obviously, most of us day paddle most of the time and, for that, we want a fun and responsive boat. Still, my day paddles take me out into all sorts of conditions, and I want a boat that will bring me home safely. Rolling is fun, staying upright when one wants to is essential. I wonder where this is all headed.

PS: I am on the road and will be absent from this space for a few days.

Paddle safe...

Friday, April 25, 2008

One Storm After Another
I paddled on the river yesterday trying out the 220 paddle JB loaned me and comparing it to the 210 I now own. His was better but a bit too long. Anyway, I was, most of the time, working against a 3 knot swirling current using muscles a bit more than usual. Thing is, it was not nearlly as tiring as chasing my grandson about the house has been.

Need an aerobic workout? Get an 11 month old and do everything he does...which will be mostly crawling at a rapid rate. It was, in the end, a wonderful week with Joseph who is now with grandma on their way to Ohio. The house is quiet and, for the first time this week, I have time to enjoy my morning coffee.

The air is 60F with a humid breeze. It is that wonderful feel of an impending summer storm. Matter of fact, you can see it on the radar image I just downloaded (above). We live about where the little red X is, and we expect winds up to 50 mph. No mind. I am happy, and summer is happening (we choose not to mention the predictions for snow this Sunday).

Paddle safe...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Go To The Light
I love looking at photographic images whether mine or someone else's. I enjoy the different styles of different photographers and try to learn (steal) something from each of them. Some are unique for their subject matter while others use light in different ways. In the end, we all just photograph light. We just choose different things that the light falls upon and the angles at which it arrives.

Early, or first, light with its low angle is always an attention getter, as in the pic above. Especially when combined with back lighting.I, however, favor soft, diffuse light such as seen just before sunrise or after sunset. It can also be found indoors such as in this scene I stumbled on when JB and I did lunch the other day. The "roof" of this room was actually Plexiglas. It was sunny outside, and the ceiling did a great job of softening the light. I pulled out my Optio and grabbed the shot.Now, I am looking forward to camping. That's when I am always up and out before sunrise and where there is lots of stuff over which the light can drape itself.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How May I Help You?
I often drive half way across the county to meet JB at a Caribou coffee shop and to talk about...what else...paddling. Sitting with a good friend, who also happens to be my mentor, is one of the joys about being involved with the kayak community. From out conversations, it is clear that we both believe in strong fundamental skills. When the two of us are alone on the water we always take some time to practice the most basic exercises: strokes, braces, etc. So, while we talk about lots of stuff, most of our conversations are about our individual problems, our progress and what to do next.

It is clear that we have the equipment we need, and we talk about the toys we still want. We also talk about the sport we both love and what we can do for it. This is, in part, to challenge and stimulate ourselves and, in part, to give back to the game. In either instance, we want to grow and to help the paddling community grow (in size and competence).We consider ideas such as, is there enough written? Is there a good book on every aspect of paddling? Are there any/enough decent books on how to teach? Are there new exercises (this is one JB is always working on) that can be used in classes to help students learn and to keep them stimulated? And so goes the talk over coffee mugs.

If we are to continue to improve, if we are going to become better teachers and if our sport is to grow in not only numbers but numbers of competent paddlers, we will all need to have many conversations over coffee. Many of you are sitting with good ideas that ought to be shared with other like-minded kayakers. I see this happening on the on-line forums and discussion groups, and I trust it is happening all over the world on the local level, as well. If, however, you don't have a venue for your ideas, you are welcome to join us over coffee at the 'Bou during the week or Sven's after our Sunday paddle.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Quadratholon: Ain't easyOld(er) age is supposed to be reflective and relaxing. We, however, are in a major athletic competition in which two older adults have taken on the awesome power and energy of a child not yet one year old. Unfortunately for us, he gets to decide the events.
Don't let the baby face (older picture) fool you. This is a highly trained athlete who we suspect is taking some sort of supplements.
1. Crawling sprints with unpredictable changes in direction. This is hard on the knees and all sorts of joints I didn't know I had.

2. The four point stair climb: essentially a crawl up the stairs. Here we get to be spotters more than competitors.

3. The diaper change. A deceptively easy event that requires highly honed defensive skills.

4. The pull-it-off-the-shelf debacle. As with the others, this event has no clock and can go on for ever.

Reminder to self: Get liniment, aspirin and a personal trainer.

Paddle safe...


Monday, April 21, 2008

A Full House
Still Beats
A Pair

Since 1976 Lady Linda and I have cohabitated under the auspices of a Wisconsin marriage license. We have lived in two houses, and Linda has made them each a home. Both have been places with relaxed atmospheres where good people have always been welcome. Laughter has filled the rooms. Babies, then children lived with us for a bit, along with two wonderful dogs. At one time we were the home where the local children always gathered as there was always one and often two parents present. Our children grew up (well, they got older) and have homes of their own. Linda and I continue to be a fine pair, supported by the wonder dog, Ansel.

Yesterday, friends, lots of relatives and those kids (one with a kid of her own) and their husbands came to our home for an evening of celebration, food, talk and joyous laughter. For several hours the house was filled with the very happy sounds of people well fed and at ease with one another. Full platters of food and bottles of wine were passed down the two long tables set up for the occasion. Grandson Joseph was passed from one loving set of arms to another as everyone cuddled him and took joy in his youth. It was wonderful to have a full house again.

Grandson Joseph stayed over while his parents went to sleep at great grandmas house. Over stimulated, he didn't get to sleep until late, but he did manage to wake me with a 4 am speech before one of us was able to get back to sleep. I was the one who finally got dressed and wrote this.

Paddle safe...


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Not This Year(Me trying to drink the lake)
For the past few years I've been attending QAJAQ training camp on a small lake in Michigan. It has always been a great experience that included meeting new folks, rubbing elbows and Greenland sticks with some of the best rollers in the world and seeing old friends. Thing is, it has always left me exhausted.

The trip to the camp involves a drive of about 2 hours to the car ferry, the trip across the lake and, finally, driving about half the length of Michigan to the camp in the north. I have done it several different ways. One year I took the midnight ferry with Alex. We "slept" in chairs and apparently never noticed a storm we had sailed through. I did not arrive at camp in a totally rested state. I've also done it by crossing and spending a night in a motel before the camp or Sunday night before taking the ferry back.

Some how, the long hours in the boat, the repetitive climbing of the dune on which the camp sits, the quasi camping conditions, etc, took it out of me. To be sure, I could have controlled my schedule, but I hadn't gone there to sit around. (The food, BTW, was superb).

This year, when the announcement came through, I sat with it and weighed my desire to go and have the experience again v. not going. In the end, I decided not to go.

Several factors went into this decision: While I love the traditional paddling and rolling, I pretty much don't get to practice much in my SOF. Rolling in a SOF is the one thing I won't do alone since a wet exit may not be possible in such a tight cockpit. I do have a "bomb proof" sweep roll and hit 98% of my angel/butterfly rolls. Still, if I were to lose my stick and not be able to pull off a Norsaq roll, I would be found hanging in my boat like a soggy tea bag. In any event, I am never going to be one of those guys who can do 40+ rolls, nor do I aspire to do so. Still, my intention is to continue to add some additional techniques on my own.

Another factor was my schedule. It is going to be busy this summer with teaching, symposiums and drives to visit my grandson. I also hope to do a little more camping. An additional factor, this year, is a medical conference in September for which I am the medical director. It is a weighty responsibility, and I want it to succeed.

My interest in QAJAQ continues to be sure. I was delighted that the online issue of Masik carries an article I wrote about last years camp. This year, however, I will be in Wisconsin, doing my thing. Ah, but next year....God willing.

Paddle safe...


Friday, April 18, 2008

It's OfficialSpring was on a Wednesday this year. You should have been here. Now, where's that damn sweater?

Paddle safe...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In (not so fond) Memory
As I write/type/compose this piece of nonsense, the window to my back yard is open. "warm" air, about 55F, is wafting into the room carrying the mating call of a male cardinal and the complaining voices of several geese on the river a block away. Thin clouds can be seen above the blossoming trees and promise rain later in the day. The winter that would not die, it seems, has ended...if only for a day.

Now, I suppose, I will (as I've always done in the past) forget about how miserable the cold made me. I will forget about how my change in lifestyle during the winter had led to over eating and weight gain. I will, instead, start planning in earnest for the classes and symposiums where I will be teaching. I will begin anticipating meeting new paddlers and new friends and reveling in the joy of moving my kayak through new waters.

I will, hopefully, also get back to my more sensible eating habits and continue to shed belly fat. I will get out more, even if that means just stepping out the front door and into the warm air when ever I feel like doing so. It is almost May...hard to believe. The summers here are relatively short, although fall tends to be kind. No matter. No time to waste looking back. Let summer begin.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Care Givers It's That Time Of The Year
I've always been a meddling care giver type, what ever that really means. For me it is an uncontrollable need/urge/habit to step up when I even suspect someone is in or headed for trouble. What that means is I am coming into my busy season.

This is when newbies, and some who should know better, show up on the shores of Lake Michigan with a new or rented boat, no pfd and light cotton t-shirts. Lured by the warm air, they are oblivious of the water temperature-- still below 40F--and the dangers this situation presents. Frequently, there is also an off shore breeze, thus guaranteeing that an out of boat experience will result in a slow drift toward a hypothermic death.

I, as I hope you will, walk up to these folks and, in a friendly way, tell them just what might happen to them should they end up in the drink. For the past year, I have been able to be pro active. As a member of the Milwaukee Harbor Safety Commission, I was able to obtain the permission of the Park's System to use their logo and post warnings near our launch site.Which brings me to the conclusion that we are all our brother's and sister's keepers. Why wouldn't we step up in order to keep them safe?

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Early Day...
First Light
Unlike today, I was up and out before sunrise yesterday. I like being up then. I have the world to myself and often see all sorts of mammals heading home from the night shift. Then, if there aren't too many clouds, I get to see first light. On photo outings this time is the best for shooting landscapes. Turns out, it is good for just looking at while walking Ansel.
Slowly, and inevitably, the sun found tree tops along the river and slowly revealed their details. Once back in the house, the show continued as sunlight seeped in through the windows and began to fill the house with the new day. The smell of coffee was already filling the kitchen.Paddle safe...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Carl Also Had It Right
I was introduced to Mr. S's poetry back in high school and took to it immediately. Oh Captain, My Captain was one of my favorites, especially when I learned that it was about the aftermath of the civil war and that the Captain was actually Lincoln. Neat. I remember, too, the things he had to say about fog.
How it crept in like a cat, looked around a bit and, then, tiptoed away. Most excellent. Whether on land or sea, the fog offers a wonderful and mysterious quality that makes an average walk spiritual and an otherwise routine paddle magical. It can sooth the soul or strike terror into the heart of the I-have-no-compass-kayaker. It robs us, all at one time, of direction by sight and sound as it changes the environment into a homogeneous, amorphous world of dampness, glare and muffled tones. It allows no color into its domain.
And, when it is good and ready and finished with what it came to do, it magically disappears and returns the world to our senses.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

All About Greg
Just For Steve

A few moment ago, Steve left a request (comment on yesterday's blog) for info on Greg and his strip boat building activities. Seems that Steve is a builder himself. Well, this blog, if nothing else, sucks up to anyone kind enough to comment on these posts.Greg is a friend, neighbor and paddling companion. He is also a skilled craftsman who has created a few skin on frame boats and some wooden ones. Lately, he has taken to building strip kayaks from plans which, to me, is the most challenging route one could take to creating a kayak.He has "isolated" a small area of his basement by hanging "drapes". Within the workshop, which he has created, are his tools and the boats which he has built and the one on which he is working.
I am one who is impressed by folks who can do this kind of creating. While I can meticulously sew the tiniest of arteries with the neatest of stitches, I can only take the wood you see here and turn it into kindling. Greg, who works with the intensity of a brain surgeon, has an attention to detail that is amazing. He worked with the tooth pick you see, plaining and carving it until it fit perfectly into the hull.Of course, when you do such detailed work, sometimes you're going to trim your finger as well.

Happy Steve?

Paddle safe...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Yada Yada Yada
Everyone talks about the weather, and no one does anything about it...except talk about it and blog about it...and all that talk has become boring and mundane. It is, sad to say, a reflection of how the mood (and health) of many people has been adversely changed by the long spell of cold, snow, rain and sunless days.

Vitamin D and feel-good brain chemical levels are at an all time low causing some folks to be moody and some down right depressed. Or, as young folks would say, it's been a bummer. More over, weight gain around here has been rampant this winter. Ah, but hope lives eternal within the human soul.
I turn to friends and family for companionship, even if it is just a cup of coffee at noon with my friend, mentor and paddling companion JB. A visit to Greg's basement to watch him work on a strip boat. A cold midweek paddle with Doug. They all help me to get through the dreary days. Then, too, there are my images, the thousands of pictures I've recorded over the years.A minuscule sailboat on a huge sea with wisps of clouds are easy on the retina and a joy to see.Or, running water. In any event, we are expecting thunderstorms out there today, so I am going to walk Ansel. I will likely take a camera to see if the early light will produce something worth recording, especially with the heavy fog I see outside my window.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Joyce Kilmer Was Right
Most who read my drivel (and I) have a love affair with boats. All boats, and not just kayaks. The lines of a fine hull carving a sine wave through the water is a thing of beauty. Most of us also appreciate the warmth of a wooden hull whether it be a kit boat or one made from plans. More over, among wooden boats, strip built ones have a beauty all their own. While admiring these structures, let's not forget that they are not in their natural state. They have been cut, trimmed and stained in order to reach their heightened state of beauty. Let us not forget, that they were all once trees.So, while avoiding frustrating thoughts of hulls and paddling while winter holds us in its clutches, I took camera in hand and went to the woods across the river for a walk. I chose a day when the clouds dominated the sky making for a softer, more diffuse light source. There, I enjoyed the trees. They are, of course, really in color.I, however, have always seen them in black and white. Perhaps that is from my years under the cloth of a 4 x 5 camera producing fine art prints.In any event, Joyce was right.So, grab a wood paddle and...
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

That, of course, is the symbol for a recipe or, in this case, a prescription. I am writing one for myself. Well, not actually a prescription, more like a doctor's excuse.
Patient: Silbs

Please excuse the patient from his daily blog duties for now as he is feeling flat and uninspired. He suffers from Winterus Chronitis and does not have the (mental) strength to create. He will be seeing me for a follow up visit tomorrow.

(signed) My Doctor

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

This & That
The weather, although no longer below freezing, is turning crappy again. Thunder showers are expected today and tonight with possible flurries by the end of the week. Let's try and ignore it before we end up meeting on the back ward of some funny farm.
I used Doug's GPS the other day to see what my boat speed was in my shortish Romany. I bring this up because on a previous day I had used his longer (by 10cm) paddle, just for the fun of it. Actually, I had been thinking of trying a shorter paddle. Imagine my surprise when the Romany took off with what seemed a lot less effort than with my 210. What I did not do was try both paddles with the GPS to see what was real and what was the sensation of speed. Hey, a longer paddle is cheaper than a longer boat.( bad news)
On another note, I have had a chronic, albeit mild, rotator cuff discomfort on the right. An MRI has shown it to be a trivial problem. Now, however, I have developed bilateral trapezius muscle pain. I think it started a few months back from doing some ill-advised exercises at the gym. I usually can find trigger points, ice them and massage them away. This time, things are hanging on. I may have to let a pro work on me. With the summer paddling season just around the corner, I don't want to spend any time on the bench. It pays to do those daily stretching exercises!

Paddle safe...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Joy...time to play
The snow is gone and the big lake is open. Lady Linda helped me commit a neatness, and the room in which I sit no longer looks like it needs a front end loader to get it clean. I have four boats, and they all float. My health is decent, and my family is great.

What more could one ask for? The sun is shining as I speak. I've paddled the last 4 days. Come grow old with me...the best is yet to come (with apologies to all poets everywhere).

Paddle safe...

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Thoughts on the WindPaddle(tm)(from the WindPaddle web site)
I got one of these over winter but hadn't had a chance to try it out until yesterday. It didn't go well, but I am not blaming the product just yet.

First of all, the air was light and barely enough to hold the sail up. Secondly, I hadn't reviewed the process for folding this little devil into thirds. It's easy to do when you do it correctly, and I didn't. So, I ended up folding it in halves to get back to shore.

There is a long line attached with which one steers and controls the sail while underway. Several times I found it caught on various things on my pfd and on my paddle. In a high wind, that could have been real trouble. I still want to give it a chance to perform in better wind. I do advise novice paddlers to stay away from it and for less experience paddlers to try it in mild wind with other paddlers around to help out if the need arises. This thing can take on big scoops of water when it falls into the drink. When I've given it a decent go I will post my thoughts.

Paddle safe...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Slowly But Surely
I've been out a few times this week, including yesterday. The ice is off Lake Michigan, and a huge array of water birds have returned, including the swans. Highs in 50's (F) are expected this weekend, albeit with rain. Winter, it seems, is at last releasing its grip on us.

The image above, taken last summer on the river near my home, reminds me of warm and sunny days to come. What a concept. Trips, symposiums, teaching and group paddles are just around the corner. Time to come alive.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Sometimes You just Gotta' Shake It

I thought you might enjoy the traditional dance my grandson learned. It is pure nonsense and fun. Just something to get me through these last, clinging days of a winter that will not quit.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Still On the Sidelines?
Well, yes and no. Yes, because I did not get the part time job up north and will not be getting back into practice...just now. The problem was that they needed someone who would go up there (or be up there) more often than I was willing to go. While I would like to be active again, I can't see myself driving the length of the state (up and down) more than once a month. In any event, the gal with whom I spoke sounded more disappointed than myself and said she would look for something closer. Meanwhile, I've sent in a bunch of dates available to teach sea kayaking in April, May and June. So, no, I don't plan to sit on the bench all summer.

I've also signed up for a wilderness medicine weekend course. Why? To renew old skills and learn new ones. I can open up a blocked coronary artery, and I am calm in emergencies. I figure I've done hundreds (maybe 1000) resuscitations during my years on the wards and in the catheterization lab. In all such matters, however, I had literally millions of dollars of equipment and a staff of incredible talent at my side. In the woods it is different.

On a similar note, I have also blocked out some time for symposiums and some camping. It looks like the Milwaukee paddlers may becoming a bit more active as a group. It will be interesting to see how many start showing up for Sunday paddles as the weather warms.

Then Joseph and his cohorts will be visiting next month, and we all will be going to Cincinnati for his first birthday party in May. So, I have things to look forward to, and I always do.

Paddle safe...