Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Peninsula State Park...Day 2
Saturday was a mild day with light breezes. Our intention was to paddle some of the nearby islands and just mess around in boats. But first, breakfast.
Doug, replete with a new stove and utensils, made marvelous omelets and toasted muffins. Vicki, a seasoned camper, made her own espresso. Then, off to paddle. We visited a few of the islands, poking around them and discovering snug ponds and lots of birds. A single pelican, who had apparently decided to stay longer than his colleagues, was raking in the fish. At one of the islands a handsome bald eagle put on a show for us, then perched on high and watched the silly humans in glass boats. None of the pictures of the birds did them justice and, thus, do not appear here.

(Vicki in one of the ponds)

(Sheri, same pond) We picked up Chuck along the way and continued to explore shorelines. Then we began to hear thunder in the distance and headed back to camp. It was, of course, time to eat again. And eat. I must say that I was treated more as a guest at this time as the others whipped up a lovely dinner. Later, at the camp fire, Sheri brought out the Peeps (Bird shaped marshmallows), and we all had a sugar high. Some of the group reported strange dreams the next morning. I was told that the wind had whipped up during the night, but I had slept through it. It was a fun day. More tomorrow.

Paddle safe...


Monday, September 29, 2008

Peninsula State Park Outing
A small group of us got up to Door County this past weekend for camping, relaxing and paddling on Lake Michigan. The weather cooperated...for the most part.
I arrived early on Friday and pretty much had the lake to myself. Both the sky and waters were clear, so I did a relaxing paddle while waiting for our camp site to be vacated. Not much to say, except it was a pleasure.
With no particular goal in mind, I explored the shore line which is a mixture of trees, rocks, limestone cliffs and a smattering of fall colors. The others drifted in as they came up after work. By 11 pm all were accounted for. I'll have more pics tomorrow.
Paddle safe...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Off To Camp
This weekend, four of us are headed up to Door County for relaxation, camping and paddling. There is only a small chance of showers and no mention of thunder storms. Night temps should be in the mid 50s. Good sleeping weather. We may also get to see some early fall colors.
Back Monday.
Paddle Safe...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Meet the Paddler
Meet the Author

I first met Aaron Stander at a QAJAQ summer camp in Michigan when he let me try a static brace in his Yost SOF (it was to be my first successful static brace). I was immediately drawn to this soft spoken, gentle man. Perhaps it was that we were close in age. Perhaps it was his keen, intellectual and understated humor that made him so pleasant to be with.

I had the pleasure of joining him as a trip escort during this past Grand Marais Symposium where he gifted some of us with a copy of one of his book.

I've just finished reading it, and give it 5 stars. The book is well crafted (what do you expect from an English professor?). The way Aaron makes his characters so real is beyond my writing skills. From an academic stand point, it is first class. But wait:

It is a great read, a murder who-done-it with word pictures of the Michigan dunes area and the forests around them. Without giving anything away, the sheriff is the main character, and an interesting one at that. He has eclectic tastes in food and wine, is obviously educated and...yes, you've guessed it...he kayaks. I swear Aaron would have to play the part if a movie is ever made of the story.

Get this book and enjoy it as much as I have. Better yet, at the next QAJAQ or Grand Marais affair, seek out this man and introduce yourself. You will have enriched your life by doing so. Just tell him that Silbs sent you.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I was looking at the hoards of picture files I have on my PC and couldn't help reliving some memories. Doing so reminded me of the wonderful times I have had paddling these past few years.Like my first QAJAQ camp in Michigan, or...building my SOF and, then...hitting the first roll I tried during her maiden voyage. Then there was my first experience with winter paddling, an experience that opened a whole new world for me.
And, sometimes, the scenery during a quiet paddle on a river:
Build your own memories.
Paddle safe...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dumb & Dumber?
Am I my Brothers' Keeper?
Do I worry Too Much?
The other day, while paddling outside the breakwater, I came upon two husky men in boats like this one. They were clearly recreational boats not made for open water and, after watching them for a bit, it was obvious that they knew nothing about paddling. I did not know if they had any pfd's aboard. I made small talk with them before going on my way. After all, it was a calm day, and they could always swim to the breakwater if worse came to worse...if they could swim. A few days later I came ashore after playing in 3 footers outside the wall, and whom do I see?

The two dare devils were getting ready to launch. I wandered over to them, made a brief introduction and, after some small talk, asked where they had gotten their boats (they were Pelicans). The shorter of the two tensed up and asked me where I'd gotten mine. So, I told him. Then I asked if they knew they were in recreational boats and not sea kayaksthat were not designed to handle the waves presently outside of the wall. Shorty insured me that they did this all the time and that they enjoyed it. In response to another question, they assured me that they had pfd's stored below.Last seen, they were at the gap, and it looked as if they were headed outside. I got in my blazer and left. After all, I was out of toe tags.

Paddle safe...


Monday, September 22, 2008

One For The (History) Books

Yesterday, Sunday, Sherri Mertz (center holding paddle), assisted by three of us in safety boats, led 20 new paddlers on a historical paddle of the Milwaukee River.An armada of assorted recreational boats headed south making stops to listen to Sherri's well rehearsed talks about the history of this building and that bridge.This, of course, included the history of Usinger's Sausage Co which has been here for ever. We were, after all, a city settled by Germans and Poles. It was a delightful way to spend a relaxing 3 hours on the water.It was a wonderful event, and no one died. All went well...that is, until the last man, while getting back onto the dock, fell into the river.

Paddle safe...


Friday, September 19, 2008

That Fall Feeling
Soon many of the blogs will be sporting the token fall foliage photo or two. There will be discussions about whether the leaves turn lovely colors v. the color is always there but masked by the chlorophyll during the growing season. And, all the time, the clock will continue to tick away time as leaves and brain cells gradually die off. Getting old can be a bitch.

Oh, I can't complain (like hell I can't complain), I'm still holding my own. I do, however, note some erosion of flexibility and the ability to heal aches and pains. Sometimes, the hardest part of paddling is getting out of the boat. Some days the Romany seems to have gained weight as I lift it off and onto the car. All in all, I am luckier than most my age.

In 1986 I went to the twentieth year reunion of my medical school class only to discover that about 12% of the class were dead. I haven't been back to a reunion since. My high school colleagues have seemed to fair better, and hundreds have already responded to an invite to our 50th reunion next year. Apparently, being a doctor is not good for one's health...unless the doctor paddles.

So, I simply awaken every morning (so far) and bathe in the sense of amazement that I have made it to another day on the right side of the grass. I then get up, more slowly each day, and do my routine, just as if I was 20 years younger. Any time the day (weather and appointments) permit, I shoulder the Romany onto the Blazer and head to one of the local launch sites. Sometimes I dress as if it were colder than it is and do some bracing and rolling...always on Lake Michigan.

And somewhere during each day I take time to look up and say "thank you".

Paddle safe...


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sutton's Law

When I was doing my residency in internal medicine I had a wonderful mentor in the form of the chief of pulmonary diseases. When ever those of us in training were unsure about which tests to order he would always say, "Remember Sutton' law." Willy Sutton was, as you may know, a famous bank robber who finally was captured and brought to trial. When the judge asked him why he robbed so many banks, Sutton is reported to have answered, "Because that's where the money is." The chief was implying that we order the test that is most likely to give us a definitive answer.

All this is by way of introduction to a discussion about the millions of dollars we kayak instructors make annually. Not. The fact is that, aside from someone who owns a shop and/or a guiding business, I know of no one who makes their living teaching kayaking. Sure, some famous paddlers are paid to appear at various gigs, but I speak here of the great unwashed (explains that neoprene smell, doesn't it?).

The main reason most of us teach is because we love the sport and we love to teach. It even goes a step further for me. When I see a paddler who has progressed to a certain level I encourage him or her to take instructor training. I really don't care if they ever teach, but I know the training will make them an even better paddler and a safer paddling partner.

Back to the hard, cold cash end of this mercenary business. Teachers' pay varies depending on whether it is a private lesson, a lesson sponsored by a shop and so on. In most instances, kayak instructors, like myself, never realize a significant gross profit. One needs to remember that we have to buy equipment (more than the average paddler), pay for training (IDW) and testing (ICE), take wildnerness first aid courses and belonging to the ACA safety what ever committee. Then, too, there are re certification costs and, most of all, the cost of gasoline (classes in Madison mean a 160 mile round trip for me). On the asset side is the fact that the shops often give their instructors a favorable discount on equipment. In fact, I doubt that many pay checks make it out of the store.

Remember, too, that many of us give freely of our time and do presentations for groups and local paddle shops. We do this as a give back for what we have gotten from the sport (and I'm not talking money here).

You may want to know that most teaching assignments are done on a hand shake. This is true for classes with a shop or private lessons. I agree to be there, They agree to be there, I show up, they show up, it's all good.Kayak not follow through on their obligation?

Any way, if you want that big mansion, the big car and the expensive clothes, become a kayak instructor and use what little you make to buy lottery tickets.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Old Guy Style

Saturday was our annual block party, and everyone showed up for talk, food and a quiz. someone has prepared a questionnaire about things like, "What famous person once lived on the block," (Brewer's pitcher Teddy Higuera from whom we bought our house). Ansel won as the "most walked dog" on the blockThe presence of more and more children and grandchildren each year has made this a joyful event.

On Sunday, Lady Linda prepared a wonderful brunch for our paddling friends.

Sorry I don't have more shots. Enough to say that there were about 20 paddlers of all ages and all levels. Discussions were going on all over the place while paddling DVD's played on the HD TV. Maybe I should open a sports bar for paddlers.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This image of me, which appeared a few blogs back did not have the correct credit. The pic, in fact, was taken by John Browning as we paddled just off Milwaukee

I have written myself a doctor's excuse and won't be in today to write a blog. In a way, it's a day off for you as well. Be thankful.

Paddle safe...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Get Out And Howl
The moon is kinda like our appendix. We all know it's there but, unless we are song writers, mystics or paddlers, we aren't sure what it does. At his time of the year, as Robin Williams says, the moon hangs "like a testicle" in the sky...but I digress.
Some folks who rarely paddle will be out in the evening to watch the full moon loom over the horizon where it appears ten times larger than when over head. At the same time some song writer will get inspired to pen a love ballad while a mystic or two will "OM" away the evening hours. It's all good and, around here, that's about it.
But those of you who dwell on the coast know how this unplayable ball in the sky can really mess with your trip plans by making the entire ocean move with or against you. So forceful is this movement that they named a laundry detergent after it.
Tides on Lake Michigan are minuscule and virtually never mentioned. In fact, I've never seen a tide table show up around here, even at an after-paddle coffee meet. On the coast, however, it is a big deal and a huge element in planning times of launches and all sorts of things. When these tides oppose a major current unique standing waves are produced which, in turn, lead to wonderful DVD's of kayaks playing in them being produced.
So, hat's off to that little ball of Gouda in the sky and, remember, don't forget your moon screen.
Paddle safe...

Friday, September 12, 2008

You've heard that the best way to invest is with opm...other people's money. Well, we photographers, concerned with higher art, invest in good images. Some of us produce an enormous body of work and, after we die, no one knows what we looked like because there are no pictures of us. Well, here is one of me, submitted by Doug. In fact, here's another scenery
shot of his which I think is worth viewing: Nice, yes? Still, the best pics that I receive are the one's of my grandchildren. Like the one my daughter took of my grandson's first haircut:And, most recently, the one daughter #2 sent of my next grandchild:It's good to get OPP, and it doesn't matter whether or not I am in them.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Missed It
I didn't make the QAJAQ training camp this year, and I miss it. I also haven't been rolling much, but I hit the vast majority of my rolls when I do. Thing is, it doesn't feel quite as easy as it did in the past. I attribute this to not enough practice. I especially do not get enough practice in my SOF's.
I am not comfortable alone on the big lake in a SOF since it would be difficult, and possibly impossible, to make a wet exit. I want the company of a trustworthy paddler to offer a bow rescue should I lose my paddle and norsac and miss my hand roll. Unfortunately, and not to my credit, I have never practiced the Pretrussin maneuver.
Another factor in my practice is my reluctance to put the SOF in the lake at all. Doing so means having to do intermittent bleach rinses to prevent mildew. Perhaps, then, there is something good to be said about winter coming.
It means I will be headed to the chlorinated waters of the pool and will have no mildew worries. There will also be the presence of other fine paddlers to offer a bow rescue and to stand by when I try the Pertrussin maneuver. There may be hope or us all.
Paddle safe...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mixing It Up
Finally have gotten back into the gym and doing core work, stretching and treadmill workouts. I am sore. I had, for some time, forgotten to mix it up and work the different muscles of my body. I have also forgotten to mix it up with my interests.

My photography has suffered as I've busied myself with paddling and working on some professional presentations. So, I took the camera, a tripod, a polarizing filter and Ansel to one of the near by rivers and did some simple shots of rushing water. Pretty run of the mill stuff, but it got me out there and thinking imaging again. I better start looking for my gloves.
Paddle safe...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I Feel It In My Bones...

...and I don't much like it. Maybe it's about getting older. Maybe it's about liking my creature comforts too much. What ever, I feel the chill in my bones as fall approaches. Last Saturday, I and some of the students actually put on Farmer Johns after our first wet exits, and the temp was about 70F. The wind was just enough to cool us off.

Maybe, on the other hand, it's a water thing. I still enjoy camping in the fall. In fact, I look forward to being ensconced in a cozy sleeping bag or sitting around a camp fire. In the end, on the water or off, it's all about proper clothing. Or, should I say Layering? Still, as soon as I get wet I easily chill.

I would rather be on freezing water in a dry suit (with fleece underneath) than be wet on a 60F. day. Freud would say it has to do with the wetness in the womb, but he was crazy as hell and never touched a paddle. Perhaps I should put on pounds (instead of always trying to lose them). After all, adipose tissue makes for a wonder insulating layer and increases survival time in conditions that can lead to hypothermia.

I know that when I am done grumbling about it, I will simply dress as if it were 10 degrees colder than it actually is. I would rather feel overheated in a dry suit than slightly chilled in anything else.

Paddle safe...


Monday, September 08, 2008

Teaching Bliss

I have often written about the joys of teaching and, as the season winds down, I am happy to report that I was able to get a session in at 'Baga this past weekend. The air was a bit cooler, and the pond had given up some of its caloric content. The day was made warmer by this delightful family from Iowa (and a few dry suits).

I especially enjoy families, and I especially enjoy them more the younger the youngest might be (I pause while you figure out that last sentence which I am too lazy to rewrite). Lauren is 13.

We all did it all including wet exits, self rescue and T-rescues. Along the way, everyone was open about discussing their concerns and what ever fears they had around water. This, in turn, allowed me to properly (I hope) pace things so that everyone had time to step up and meet their challenges.
They had all paddled before and had some skills. Dad had himself a very nice forward stroke in no time at all and took to the rescues like a fish takes to....you know.
Mom, a dietitian, showed real spunk in dealing with her discomfort with the wet exit and, from then on, got into everything. She obviously enjoyed watching her daughter who, in turn, handled herself well.
Especially when she rescued Dad.

All is well that ends well, and I am glad I had the opportunity and privilege to work with them.

Paddle safe...