Monday, June 30, 2008

It Was A Good Weekend
I taught in Madison on Saturday and managed to get in everything before thunder chased us all off the pond. Woody and Janet took on all challenges and accomplished every aspect of the intro to sea kayaking course. They were of good humor and more than willing to learn. Hopefully, we have two new and safe paddlers.
Hot Item: It used to be serious when a couple held hands. Then came the generation that moved in together. O.K. I can live with all of that. When they start test paddling kayaks together, it's time to buy that girl a ring. Actually, Alan and Laurel will become legal tandems next month, and we couldn't be happier for them. It does appear, however, that they are each of strong will, and each will paddle their own boat. Many happy years together.
(Anyone know what is up with Wendy K's blog site?)

Paddle safe...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Time
And the livi
ng is easy...
(with apologies to Mr. Gershwin)
At last, the temperature is in the 80'sF. The wet suits can pretty much be put away for a while (around here) and, once again, most of the weather forecasts for Milwaukee end with the well-worn words, "Cooler near the lake."
SummerFest, the world's largest musical happening, has begun, and folks are headed to the lake front for relief from the heat. Unfortunately, these same conditions breed thunderstorms and, where there is thunder, there is lightening.

You all remember the rules: hear it or see it...get off the water. If there is static on your AM radio band, the stuff is in the area. Be especially alert.

This weekend, I am off to Madison to teach a sea kayaking class and say good bye to Megan, a long time beloved employee of Rutabaga. Apparently, she has fallen in love and is headed for Alaska with that certain someone (whom I hope to meet). Now, that says summer time.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Instant Success...
No Matter How Long It Takes
Yesterday, Sherri was kind enough to ask me to assist with a class in introduction to recreational kayaking. We were on a river and not in sea kayaks. Still, the joy I realize from teaching was there as it always is. Seeing a student "get it" is a high for me. It was so in medicine, Judo, photography, anatomy and physiology and, now, kayaking.

When they first get onto the water, I always ask them to take a moment and store away a memory of how they feel in the boat at that time. I let them paddle a bit without instruction (other than what I'd covered on shore) and watch as they struggle to make the boat do what they have in mind. I am sure that at those times the kayak feels as unresponsive as a log washed ashore. The class passes quickly after which I sit quietly and watch the amazing progress they've made and the joy they take in actually getting the boat to do what they want.Near the end of the class, I ask them to recall how they felt in the boat and what they were able to do and not do just a few hours before. I honor them for their success. Then, I send them off with the advise to experience a lot of butt in the boat time. Practice, practice, practice...just as I did with my medical students and everyone else who has ever allowed me the privilege of being their teacher.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

One Enchanted Evening,
You Will Meet A Stranger

If you are old enough to remember the song, it tells how during a certain evening "you look across the room" and there he/she is. It was like that with us. I had been shopping for a new boat and had my eyes on several models. I was up at Rutabaga and had already test paddled several hot models, but I couldn't make up my mind. Then, JB pointed out a sad, oft repaired little Romany sitting on the used for sale rack. As I had some time and could not decide on which hot new boat I wanted, I took the Romany, patches and all, onto the pond. I believe I was only 50 feet from shore when I called back to JB, "This is the one."Since that day, we (the Romany and I) have spent lots of time together. My paddling log, which is typed and only has brief entries, is about 30 pages long. Still, I continue to look for a longer boat for group and trip paddles so that I don't have to use that little extra energy to keep up. If and when I do find that boat, the Romany will stay with me.We've been through much together since that first paddle. I give her UV protection and she takes care of me in the rougher stuff. There is some flaking off the floor of the cockpit from one of the many repairs her former owner (Brian Day) performed on her, but she's mine, and I am keeping her. Same for Lady Linda.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sights of Summer
(On and Off the Water)
On of the true joys of summer is the eye candy that appears during the warm weather, both on and off the water. Now, before you jump to any conclusions, I am not talking about how lovely the ladies look in their summer attire, although that is also a plus. I am talking, for example, the sight of a young person deftly handling a gaff rigged pram.
And suave guys in the latest on the water Paris fashions.Happy couples camping in mosquitoes land.Swollen, fast running rivers.Early morning light filtering through the forest and herds of mosquitoes. And, of course...The ladies in their tasteful summer attire. Although, any woman (or guy) looks best in a kayak.Paddle safe...

Monday, June 23, 2008

The (lost) Art
On Friday, four of us went camping at Point Beach State Forest in northern Wisconsin. The idea was to relax, eat and paddle. It was a nice enough place, however, the plan worked out for some, but not for me. First, there was the concept of relaxation.Take Doug (bless his soul) for instance. For a while I thought that he thought that he was at a Buddhist retreat site.You know what they say: Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.So Doug...That's o.k.. He enjoys that. But, then, there were the mosquitoes. It rained a lot, it was wet and there were at leas a bazillion of the hungry little buggers, and they were relentless.

Since the shoreline was boring and the lake flat, I broke camp Saturday morning and packed it in. It just wasn't worth the misery of being constantly hounded by the bugs to be able to say that I went camping. Constantly smearing chemicals on my skin in order to survive is also not my idea of enjoying the great out of doors. On a happy note, my new 4 man tent was a real luxury...and free of bugs.

Paddle safe...


Friday, June 20, 2008

It May Look Nice, But... may not be as it seems. Lake Michigan, to be sure, is a jewel of fresh water and a wonderful place to paddle. When the sky is clear and the sun is out the lake appears to be blue and clean. Appearances, be as they may, don't always tell the story. All is not as it used to be. If you have read any news about our area (Midwest USA) you know that we have just experienced a "100 year" rain (although they come more often than every 100 years...but I digress). Rivers over flowed their banks and, until yesterday, the west bound lane of I-94 (to Madison) was closed. Now, it seems, as the waters ebb, there is more bad news.Sewage, chemicals and the like have been washed into rivers which, in turn, have washed into the waters of southern Wisconsin. Unable to handle the flow, our sewage district has had to "blend" its out flow, a euphemism which means that raw human waste enters Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, some of this dumping is within the break wall giving the water a lovely brown manure color.

Needless to say, we have cut back on rolling and rescue practice, at least within the break wall. We need to show some of the same caution on our inland lakes as the pollution there may not be as visible.

So, come visit with us in Milwaukee where the leaves change color in fall and the lake changes color in spring. Yuk.

(Off for a camping trip...north of here)

Paddle safe...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Good Ship Sullivan
She's a gaft rigged schooner built here in Milwaukee, and she docks at the Discovery World site. There are daily cruises with some volunteer staff that teach kids about the lake and do some experiments while aboard. One crew member told us an interesting story about the masts.It seems that the Menominee Tribe from northern Wisconsin donated the masts. The ships company, in return, donated several trees to be planted up north. All was done in a good way with give back to Mother Earth.She is a proud ship and an asset to our harbor. I do not happen to have any pics of her under a full suit of sails, but it is something to behold. I will eventually capture such images and share them here. Mean while, you have yet another reason to visit us here and go for a paddle on the big lake.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oh, To Be Young Again
It seems as if it were yesterday...O.K., maybe the day before. I was young, and everything held a new fascination and promise of adventure. Mom made the meals, and Dad made the living. Other than school, I was free to explore, wonder and grow. I was free to indulge in anything, no matter how silly it might seem at the time.They say that inside every old man is a young man wondering what the hell happened? Suddenly, as if over night, muscle aches that should have passed in a day now last for weeks. Fences that once could be conquered with ease appear like the walls of a fortress. Sleep, the arms of Morpheus, becomes elusive at times and often does not hold the promise of rest.

To be sure, there are rewards and joys that can only be known at the later stages of life. Ego gets a rest while enjoying the accomplishments of children and grand children become most important. Seeing the "big picture" and not being niggled to death by small social snafus is another benefit of being in with the AARP crowd. All in all, this is the best time of life in so many ways. Still, it is sometimes hard to believe that a happy soul can existin such a crappy body.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where's Nemo?
Gary (like Sue) is a member of the boat-of-the-month-club, and this month he has a new Nemo made by Prokayak. At just under 18 feet and 21.5 inches wide, it is fast and stable.
Gary is a racer and our local forward stroke guru, and he can make the boat slide through the water quickly and with little wake. There is a smart rudder system for trim while the boat itself is amazingly stable. If you go to the web site you can get a look at the combo of soft and hard chines used in this interesting design.
I was able to get her up to 5.4 mph with just a little effort. Being carbon, she is like a feather weight to lift. I have to say, it was a fun boat to test paddle. I can't wait for next month's boat.

Paddle safe...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Go Play In Traffic...
...but do it carefully. You may not notice him at first glance, but JB is paddling across the launch lane on his return from yesterday's paddle. Lots of sailboats are moored in the back round, and one motor boat is waiting to get ashore. Thing is, probably no one is looking out for a small boat. Talk about a time to drive defensively.

We paddle this area a good deal of the time and have avoided trouble by using a few basic rules that most of you know. 1, We cross all traffic lanes as a group so we are more visible. If someone doesn't maintain group integrity, they are the most like to not be seen and to be hit. 2, We cross the lane quickly and 3, We do it perpendicularly in order to minimize our time in the lane.

Here, JB is alone, so he came up along the shoreline where it is too shallow for anything but a canoe or kayak. Once off the launch ramp, he picked his moment and quickly cleared the area.

So, now you can go play in traffic.

Paddle safe...

Friday, June 13, 2008

If It Ain't A Snow's a flood. As we say, if you don't like the weather here, wait a minute. Torrential rainstorms have flooded large parts of the Midwest, and our little area has seen some of the effect. While walking Ansel yesterday, I took time on several occasions to pick up fish struggling in the street and toss them into some flooded yard in hopes someone else would find them and return them to the river. Basements have flooded, and homes have been lost in other parts of the state. Our lsection of the river appears to be running at 10 knots in some places. The picture above is of what is usually a falls with a five-foot drop.Although all this may help raise lake levels around the state, it has also caused the overflow of the sewer system with some human waste making it into Lake Michigan. Not a healthy state of affairs. So much for rolling for a while.
Now, we are faced with more decisions: Wet suit, dry suit or haz-med suit?

Paddle safe...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Milwaukee's shoreline forms a natural harbor. That is, it curves dramatically inward toward where three rivers enter into the lake. This shape, in part, confuses and bends winds coming from the N, NE, S and SE so that a paddle across the outer harbor (the area inside the break wall) will often take one through several changes in wind direction. There is, as well, an effect on the water.

It is nice to paddle on flat water, at least once in a while. Better, I think, to have waves. Big slowly moving waves that gradually lift my kayak to where I can see far onto the horizon and then set me slowly down into a canyon surrounded by walls of water. Fact is, however, there is most often just slop out there. The shoring up of the bottom, the waves bouncing from shore or break wall and shifting winds usually combine to produce slop.I define slop as a disorganized chop which comes from several different directions. For new paddlers in this area, this slop is disconcerting and often leads to a tip over (it's also a good media for intermediate paddlers to practice rescues). This is especially true when the boat is swaying in one direction and then, during the end of a stroke, it changes attitude. It is, actually, a good teacher.

Good paddling requires one to separate the top and bottom halves of the body. The top, of course, is (or should be) busy with torso rotation (don't get me started). The bottom, from the waist down, need only remain relaxed so that the boat can waggle (my word) beneath us. Good hulls, be they kayaks or sail boats, always know what to matter what the water conditions might be. Many sailboats that have been abandoned in storms have later been found to be floating nicely along by themselves. Kayak hulls will also assume the best attitude if left alone to do so.

Paddling in aggressive slop can be gratifying as the boat does its little dance beneath us. We, for our part, need just go along for the ride.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We're In Recovery
Joseph was in town for just a few days, and he managed to exhaust Lady Linda and myself. Just one year old, he scoots around on his hands and knees and does the stairs repeatedly...over and over again. Thankfully, he is a good napper and sleeps through the night.

His mom arranged for another birthday party for those who couldn't get to Cincinnati last week. This, in turn, called for another "first" chocolate cake which, as has become his practice, was eaten and worn using both hands.

They both flew home Monday evening, and we slept a lot on Tuesday.

So there you have one of the rare things that I would rather do instead of paddling. Today is a different story.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Fine Opportunity
I spent last Friday and Saturday in Madison thanks to a kind invitation from Sam Crowley, an ACA examiner. He was holding an IDW and offered me the opportunity to assist. I grabbed at the chance. Sam was my examiner for both my Instructor Certification Exams (ICE) and my instructor update exam. I knew this would be an chance to learn a good deal.Although I've taught many classes before, this was an unique experience. To begin, the 8 "students" were not beginners who were getting into a kayak for the first time. These were folks with some experience who wanted to step up and become instructors. They were attentive, picked up things quickly and promptly rafted up when asked, thus allowing more instructional time. The sessions were divided between classroom instruction, students doing presentations "on the beach", and students presenting in a classroom session. I had opportunities to demonstrate several strokes and rescues and how to teach them. I also go the chance to begin evaluating presentations. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me sharp and keeps me growing in the sport.So thanks again to Sam and to Nancy who heads the Rutabaga Outdoor Program (ROP) up there in Madison for an opportunity to learn, grow and participate. I am grateful.

Paddle safe...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Nice Try...Again
The fine folks at the local (Brookfield, WI.) REI store usually put on 2 beach days each summer during which anyone can have an opportunity to get into a kayak and give it a try. PFD and safety boaters are provided as well. Usually, JB or I are asked to give a couple of demos during each event. In the past, these events have been staged at Pewaukee Lake, just west of Milwaukee.

This year the first one was canceled due to high winds. High hopes were then put into the one scheduled for yesterday, especially since it was to be held on an unique venue. You see, there is a land fill island just off the Summer Fest grounds. This precious chunk of land is a state park and offers a kayak beach and a wonderfully protected body of water. So, bright and early, we hauled our stuff down to the beach (we had special permission to take vehicles onto the island).

As it turned out, we got in about two hours of what was to be an all-day affair. As radar indicated approaching storms, we had to get out as there was zero shelter available for when the lightening would come. It was a nice try...both times. Maybe next year.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

You Talking To Me?
Sometimes it seems as if everyone is talking to me...especially during election season (which seems to be always...but I digress). The TV, the radio in my car, the newspapers, handbills posted on...well, on post, billboards, traffic signs, stickers on everything, etc., etc., etc.. They are all talking to and at me, and I don't even know who they are (and why is it punishable by law to remove that tag from my mattress?).

Even if one takes a walk and makes the mistake of carrying a cell phone, folks find you and make contact on their time schedule. Having to carry a page (pre cell phone era) 24/7 and having to be 100% available 100% of the time is what wore me down the most during my decades in medical practice.

I remember when I was interning at Washington D.C. General. We didn't have any of the modern blood pressure medications, and I had a patient whose BP I could not control. I took the problem to my chief who told me to put the patient in the hospital. "And do what?" I asked. I was told to do nothing, just put the guy in the hospital. I did and, 24 hours later, his pressure went down to normal. Then the chief told me that when I discharged the patient, his BP would go right back up. His disease was exposure to "modern" life.

There is at least one study in which (I don't know how) that got patients to not read the papers, listen to the radio or watch TV. All of their pressures came down to normal with no medication. Are you seeing a pattern here? After so many many years of being in touch, I find my cure on the water. No cell phone or other internet gadgets go with me (I might have the cell phone in the day hatch, but it is off). The only electronic device is my VHF marine radio, and I pretty much don't notice anything coming over it other than a "may day".

Someone loves us and wants us to stop and smell the roses. Wait, that isn't a rose. I don't know what it is. Could I use your hand held go-anywhere computer to go on line so I can find out?

(I am off to teach and will be away through the weekend)

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Scum of the Earth...

Yesterday, Daveo posted one his, as always, excellently written blogs about meeting up with an inspector checking for unwanted organisms being carried from one lake to another. I commented that it was interesting and that I had been thinking of a blog along similar lines. This would be that blog.

As paddlers, we probably don't think much about our bilge water carrying unwanted critters from one body of water to another. We seldom (at least around here) cross international lines. Certainly, I don't paddle in the Amazon one day, the arctic the next and in my home waters the following day. We do, however, often go between Lake Michigan and any number of inland lakes and rivers without much thought. Sometimes, one or more of those places leaves our boat with a gift of scum on our hulls.While we are careful to clean our boats (even using bleach) before a pool session, not enough of us remember to clean off this scum when taking our boats to another body of water. A small effort, to be sure, but one that just might prevent another plant or animal that we don't want around from getting into another lake.

So, wash your hands, wash your boat, sit up straight and use torso rotation. Paddle clean and...

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I Met a Man
Yesterday, I had a nice paddle on the big lake. The air was warm, and (after so many months in a dry suit) I felt nearly naked in a farmer John and neoprene booties. I paddled down the breakwater wall in very light air and came upon a canoe. It did not appear to be damaged but, rather, looked as if someone had set it carefully on the rocks. I paddled through a gap and, as I got to the open water side, I met a man.His name was Jeff, and he was getting set to fish. Yes, he was all right, and "thank you for checking on me". Turns out, he also kayaks in a Looshka IV. We chatted for a while about our mutual interest in paddling. He told me a bit about himself including the fact (unconfirmed) that he was once the keeper of the light on Devil's Island (Lake Superior).

He noted that he had not fished on the wall last year as the rocks had just been set in place. He had, it turns out, waited a year for them to settle in, but they were still sharp-edged, and it would take the weather some time to round them off.

We said our good byes, and I paddled back on the outside. It was a nice relaxed paddle during which I met a man.

Paddle safe...