Friday, October 31, 2008

Derrick Has Arrived Over There
Derrick Mayoleth is in Israel to teach at one of their symposiums. You can follow his postings (spelling doesn't count) on his Quixotica site. I, for one, think it is great the one of the "local" guys was invited to teach in another country. Actually, he lives in Baraboo, about a two hour drive from Milwaukee (and the home of the circus...synchronicity?). Derrick, of course, is best known through his years of blogging, his all black dress and his traditional rolling skills.
JB and I sometimes get to hang and even paddle with him and I, for one, have always enjoy his company. Perhaps it is because we share a right-brained disregard for the ordinary and think in conceptual ways. It doesn't bother me that Derrick comes up with nonsensical crazy thoughts. What scares me is that I understand them.

I look forward to his reports and wish him a wonderful experience over there.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Try Something Different
Look, you can paddle any day of the year and see pretty fall colors. And I know you will travel many miles to attend a symposium or to hear a paddler of note demonstrate rolls or show their latest DVD. But you've done all that, over and over. Maybe you should try something different. Although I am not a paddler of note and do not have a DVD to sell, I will be presenting in the twin cities area, and I happen to know that there is space for you. On November 8th, it's a Saturday, I will be at Crowne Plaza Bloomington in Bloomington, Mn. Won't you join me for a fast-paced fun filled day of learning?
I won't be covering rolling or strokes, but I will show you lovely slides of myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), irregular heart rhythms, cholesterol disorders and valvular disorders. Just think how you will, after a day of all that, be able to amaze your friends and keep them entertained for hours. Of course, beer will help the process. Speaking of which:

Friday (maybe Saturday) evening, I will probably be meeting Lady Linda's nephew and his wife for dinner of some sort, and I am sure that there will be time for a short happy hour before I have to crash and rest up for 6 hours of lecturing. The same possibilities will hold true for Saturday evening (I am staying over for a flight home on Sunday). If the squiggles in the picture above aren't your thing, perhaps you would consider a cold one the evening beforeor the evening of the heavy stuff. It would be a fine time to renew friendships and chat about skin on frames and idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis. In any event,

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gearing Up
Actually, this isn't one of my kayaking pieces. File it under musings. Once again, I remind myself, winter is on the way. In fact, it called last night to say it would be here soon. It is 5, am and the temperature outside is still below freezing. It is dark out there and the days are getting shorter. No worries, my bright light is in the kitchen warming up. I will soon be sitting before it with coffee in hand and reading the morning rag.

This is my morning ritual (reminder to self: do another piece on rituals. It's been a long time since the last one, and it is important...but I digress). This, along with blogging, exercising, extra vitamin D and reaching out to friends is how I get through the dark days. I gear up for the season and, this year, more so than usual.

A patient once said to me, "You may not know all the answers, but you always know where to find them." I appreciated that comment as I remembered my Jr. high school home room teacher (Henrieta Strunk) who described being educated as, "...not knowing all the answers but, rather, knowing how to find them." When in doubt get a consultant and a second opinion...and a third.

Recently, I have been reaching out to friends, some whom I've known since childhood in the old neighborhood. They have all been generous and gracious in their responses, and I am presently sitting with all the ideas I've collected.

Meanwhile, I will continue to rise early, stare at the bright light over coffee, paddle as often as possible and walk the beaches with Ansel. Life is always good. Sometimes it is better than at other times.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I Did Pretty Well

I just received this year's issue of Sea Kayker magazine's readers' choice awards, and I did okay.

Right off the bat, I am (according to the votes) paddling the BEST ROUGH WATER PLAY BOAT. It seems that the venerable Romany got it right the first time when NDK began producing them in 1973. And the good news continues.

Seems I have one of the best PFD's, as well. So what if it's the Ms Fit for women. I knew that going in. It's a great vest, you just have to be comfortable of your manhood.

Congratulations to my good friends (and bosses) at Rutabaga over in Madison. They got the nod for Best Sea Kayak Shop in the Midwest. I am proud to be on their instructor's list, and I've written before about their excellent hiring philosophy.

Congrats, too, to Gail and Grant. their Living Adventure was chosen the Best Tour Operator in the Midwest. They have a fine reputation up there on Lake Superior and have been instrumental in producing the symposium off the Apostle Islands.

As usual, the rest of the issue is good reading, but you probably know that already.

Paddle safe...


Monday, October 27, 2008

What Now,
What Next?

It was cold last night, and it is supposed to get well below freezing tonight. It isn't just autumn for this part of the planet, it's my Autumn as well. Not to worry, this isn't a poor me piece, just a short bit of musing while it remains dark outside my window.

In many ways, I feel more in the game now than when I was younger. To be sure, I dearly miss the long distance running and the Judo. If the nerve in my leg would miraculously heal, I would be back into those activities today. But the nerve will never come back, and I have found other things to do.

Before I got into paddling (late in life) winter was a hellish time for me, and I dreaded its coming. I still don't look forward to icy roads and hallways dirty with slush, but kayaking has taught me how to dress for the cold, and I paddle out on the big lake all year round. I have also begun going to a gym where I do my stretching, core work and aerobics as best I can. I can do this all at home but, as JB keeps reminding me, it gets me out of the house and amongst people.

Speaking of getting out of the house, I am seeking employment. I am not entirely content on the sidelines and want to contribute in some way. I have made some inquiries and will let you all know what comes of them...if anything. Still, I ask, what next?

My blogging has become stale. The vast majority of my paddling has become local day stuff, and I don't have much new in the way of photos to share. Still, 5 days a week, I open this page and ooze out a posting. Sometimes it is meaningful, sometimes funny, sometimes not so much. Personally, I think there are a lot of excellent kayak bloggers out there who have much more than I to say about the game. My interest, if you care to know, is really about the people, the world and the bigger picture (getting a little heavy, isn't it?).

So I sit here, in my layers and thick wool socks, and wonder where I am going with this site. I have done somewhere around 800 of these and am not sure I have much more worth saying about paddling. It has all been said, and there are just so many times I can write to warn everyone to wear a pfd.

In the end, I guess I write for myself; partly to exercise my mind and partly for therapy. As for the now, I am going to make coffee and fetch the morning rag out of the mailbox. As for what next, you'll know when I know.

Paddle safe...


Friday, October 24, 2008

Meet The Paddler

Bob Bertrand

Robert is a local attorney who paddles with the Milwaukee group. As you can see from the picture above, he is out there year around. When I first joined the group, Bob and I were both paddling Perception Shadows. Neither of us are paddling them now.

Bob is currently in a Greenland style boat which required a bit of getting used to. Presently, he is struggling with his off side roll, a result of deep rooted psychological blocks, I am sure. More importantly, he is a soft spoken, bright man who has fought an admiral battle with personal issues. He laughs easily and is a delight to be with on the water or around a camp fire. Come to Milwaukee some Sunday morning and paddle with Bob and the rest of us.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Here We Go Again
I'm talking about fall. It seems to happen every year about this time. The nights get colder, windshields are frosted in the morning and the vegetation puts on a color show.
As the long as the water isn't in its solid form folks continue to use the water for paddling. In fact, this is the time of year when some canoes, having been in dry dock all summer, come out to see the show.

The big lake, on the other hand, rarely freezes over, and there are only a handful of days when the shore ice keeps us land bound. Still, it will soon be time to put on the long underwear base layer and struggle into a dry suit while hoping we don't rip a gasket. Then, we will paddle in freezing temperatures and return drenched in sweat inside our space suits. Here we go again.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Divorce Boats

That's what some people call tandem kayaks: divorce boats. I've not seen all that many of them on the water, and those that I have seen were generally on rivers. I think whether or not these boats lead to divorce depends on the people and, more importantly, on how they come to own one of those beasts.

I've seen folks who take a 4-hour intro to recreational kayak and immediately fall in love with the concept of being on the water...together. What could be more blissful than two partners happily gliding across mirror-still waters while herons wade nearby and bald eagles circle over head? There is only one boat to own, only one requiring storage (if you happen to own an airplane hanger), and it is "ours". Almost sounds like a romance novel with a happy ending, doesn't it?

Then one of them decides it is time to venture into more challenging waters. Perhaps one of them sees a QAJAQ article and decides that rolling is the thing to do next. But, in the other direction, one of them may decide that going for a paddle 4 days a week (at 5 am) has begun to wear thin. They haven't seen one damn animal, not even a frog and, besides, my shoulders are always sore.And, by the way, who gets to leave their car out of the garage all winter?

What has often happened in these cases is that two well intentioned people have taken a brief experience and translated it (prematurely) into rich expectations. The intro lessons are so new and so unique that the feel-good hormones take over their thinking and, before they know it, they have invested emotions and dollars into a sport about which they know very little. They had been normal people, and now they own a small version of the Titanic.

I generally suggest that couples rent for a while and that they rent both solo and tandem crafts until they get past that initial surge of enthusiasm. Then, with what they will have learned, they can make a sensible decision.

By the way, the couple in the picture goes out on Lake Michigan in less than ideal conditions. They have had lessons, they do things by the book, they succeed...and they are not married to one another.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One Foot
In Front of the Other

One can take a four hour group lesson and learn to handle a recreational kayak in calm waters. As one of our local paddling gurus, Sherri Mertz (pictured above) says, you can do the forward stroke 99% wrong and the boat will still go forward (she points out that the percentages are just the opposite for rolling...but I digress). Once you're in the boat and have the paddle in hand, it's pretty much one foot in front of the other. Paddle left, paddle right, repeat as required.

For many, that is as far as they go with the academics of paddling, and that's just fine (as long as they stay in safe waters). For many of us, however, it isn't enough. Even walking can get boring if you don't throw in some hills and lovely scenery. For those who "get into" sea kayaking, there is something that drives us to improve, perhaps excel and to go beyond the basics.

There is, of course, the safety factor. Learning and mastering our braces, rescues and rolls keeps us safe and allows us to venture out into bigger stuff. Once out there we find a new world full of excitement and enjoyment. Once out there, we want to go back out into bigger stuff, and we want to do it as safely as we can. So, if you're like the folks with whom I paddle, you practice rescues in bigger and bigger stuff. You go to symposiums and learn from instructors with new approaches and ideas. And, as you get there, you become one of those instructors. Even then, the learning goes on.

I often seek out those of my mentors who live in the area. JB still keeps an eye on my form (hail the hanging draw) and Gary (who races) has for ever helped me improve my forward stroke. I still find myself working on the little details and relearning and practicing the basics. In the end, it is still putting one foot in front of the other, and doing it better each time.

Paddle safe...


Monday, October 20, 2008

Only When You Go Kayaking... you get to see elegant landings and techniques.
or a pretty gal getting fitted for a rocket back pack.

or an old dog learning a new trick.

Paddle safe...


Friday, October 17, 2008

Something, There Is, That Draws Us To The Water
I'm thinking the same could be said about fire, but fire is high maintenance. Water is just there to be watched, to sit near, to swim in and to Paddie upon. Unlike a fire, there is nothing to gather or anything to do to get it all going. You just have to get there, where ever it is; and it is pretty much every where.
The watcher will stare, sometimes for hours, and watch the ever changing motion of the surface of a river, lake or ocean. Sometimes this brings serenity as the water gently laps the beach. Sometimes things are more stimulating as breaking waves crash upon polished boulders. There is always a new show to see. It never wears thin.

Same when afloat. Sitting and facing the horizon can be like meditating and can bring calm to an anxious soul. Feeling the hull make friends with the waves and feeling ones body pushing the boat along often creates a feeling of connection with nature (we are all related).

The water, and the weather around it, are as moody and changeable as ourselves. When we visit the water, however, it is the home team and gets to call the plays. The more we visit the water and the more we learn to live with/on her, the more opportunities the water will present for our enjoyment.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Using It All Up

(me scullling a few days ago)

Summers are relatively short here, and Lake Michigan is in no way a tropical body of water. Come June or July, things are warming up, and we are out there doing our rolls, braces and other nonsense. A good part of the summer sees us in wet suits and, when the air is cold and we plan a lot of immersion, dry suits.

Fall has been mild and I, for one, have been getting out there as much as I can. This past week I wore a Farmer John and a dry top and was comfy as could be.

This morning the chill factor is below 40F. I don't know if I will have time to paddle today, but if I do I will be dressing the same way with perhaps some fleece under the dry top. Point is, it will soon be freezing out there, water temps will be dropping and we (around here) need to think winter.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gary Simon Returns...
Mission Accomplished

I know little about kayak racing, but I can relate it to the marathons I've run. Both take lots of preparation, and that means hours and hours, day after day, over months of being out on the road/lake while putting in the miles. Then, as the day approaches, we set personal goals. For many ambitious marathoners, the goal is to break 4 hours.

Well, Gary has put it who knows how many miles, days and months in his Nemo (see last blog) and, I can tell you, has always pushed hard. In his mid 60's, Gary is incredibly knowledgeable about exercise physiology and training (he knows more about it than I know about torts). Before leaving for the southern Mississippi River, he expressed a wish to break the 5 hour barrier (think about paddling almost full out for 5 hours). This would, of course, require proper pacing, staying hydrated and being presented with favorable conditions.

As things turned out, it was hot and humid on race day. I know Gary pushed hard because the EMS folks had him in ice packs at the end. Thing is, he broke 5 hours, and now is safely back home. We are all waiting for the details of his adventure and hope he will be posting them soon.

Congratulations, Gary. You inspire us all, especially your contemporaries.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Where's Nemo?
As it turns out, everywhere. I would have considered this a racing boat. In fact Gary, our local racing maven, was the first in our area to own one of these crafts. He liked the way it handled and was particularly impressed by how it handled bigger water. Quite a combination of speed and stability.
Now there are more of them in the local fleet, and they are not all owned by racers. In fact, I see more and more paddlers in what I think of as "go fast" boats, and these are folks who do not race. There is no question that in most activities it is fun to go fast and even more fun to go faster. In kayaking, however, speed (so it seems to me) is only important in covering distances faster, and that is assuming you are going somewhere. Most outings, however, are day least around here.
There is quite a difference between taking a curve on the highway at 30 mph v. 60 mph. There is, on the other hand, little difference in the "thrill" of going 4.2 knots v. 3.8 knots. This is especially true in open water where you do not pass near by structures and get a sense of how fast you're moving, In fact, most of us cannot tell how we're doing unless we have another boat along side or a GPS to measure our speed.
So why the love affair with the go fast kayaks? Is it just something different to do? Has the sport matured to the point where the old hands are bored and need something new to hold their interest? Or, perhaps, some do it because they can. They have the bucks, so they get the latest and fastest boat out there. A few may be doing it for ego (although I don't see that in any of the folks around here).
I don't know the answer. I just know that more people are going no where slowly but faster.
Paddle safe...

Monday, October 13, 2008


Sometimes, keeping it simple isn't stupid. We had sensational weather over the weekend, and we had sensational company at our house. As a result, I was only able to free up some time for short day paddles (coordinated to occur when my grandson was napping). No adventuring or exploring, just time to get out into the warm air and onto the lake which was warming from an ESE wind blowing in warm top water.

I packed myself a lunch, paddle for a time into the 15 mph wind, turned and had a nice sled ride part way back. I pulled onto a beach, set up my little back rest and enjoyed the lunch I'd brought along. It was relaxing, and I felt I had made the best use of the time I had for paddling that day.

Of course, I left no trace. I didn't even seem to bother the lovers with whom I shared the strip of sand.

Paddle safe...


Friday, October 10, 2008

Fit For a King

We all fit out our cockpits and sometimes use all sorts of things to stuff in there to make us feel snug. We do it to feel comfy and to make it easier to edge, roll and do other control stuff. But something different occurred to me the other day.

I was using one of Doug's Impex boats, and we went out into some 3+ footer beam waves. Normally, this is not a big deal for me, but I felt uncomfortable that day. It felt like the boat was going nuts around me and that my reactions were always a second or two late. I felt uncomfortable in the same way I had as a beginner going out into "big stuff" for the first time. I didn't like it.

(thigh pad in my Pygmy Arctic Tern)

Well, yesterday Doug tricked out the boat with slabs of closed cell foam and metal duct tape. He had me wedged in their like a breach delivery...and it was a different boat. Nothing bothered me out there, and it felt a lot like my Romany. Padding out the cockpit actually made it feel as if the boat was behaving differently. The direct contact let me feel every subtle move of the hull which, in turn, allowed me to relax and just paddle.

Now I wonder how many times I've test paddled a boat and thought it to be "twitchy" and how it would have felt if the cockpit had been Padded a bit to fit me in there. I need to go back and try those boats again.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pearls of Wisdom
Learn one thing everytime you go for a paddle.

Yesterday I paddled and learned that even if you take the cameera along, you will not get any good pictures if you haven't taken the battery from the charger and put it back in the camera.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

It's Quiet Here Now, But...
We're just wakening up around here. I haven't had coffee and haven't read the newspaper yet. The garbage is on the end of the driveway (must be Tuesday), and I haven't a thought worth sharing. You see, it's quiet here now, but just wait until this evening. Number 1 daughter and grandson are flying in from Ohio and number 2 daughter and husband are driving up from Illinois for a family weekend. Prepare to be exhausted.

Sir Ansel, of course, will announce arrivals as each visitor approaches our home. He will revel in having the attention of his two sisters and...
try to remember who the little guy is and when did he learn to walk?

Just outside, and unaware of the warm energy within, the trees will go about their fall grooming.

In the end, there will be a mess, lots of dirty diapers and two incredibly exhausted grand parents (camping is easier). That is, everything will be perfect.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sorry For The Bummer
Yesterday's posting was, without doubt, a downer. It was also a little therapeutic. The coming of cold weather, shorter days, loosing a lens from my glasses, pressure to prepare some lectures and...yes...the endless electioneering all conspired to bum me out. It happens. So, today I look back to good times and refresh myself with happier thoughts. Time to jump start this old guy and get my positive mojo back. (The two pics above remind me of a happy 1906 trip to Italy). The cure, Dear Watson, is in the memories of the past. Like last year, when we socialized at Leslie's pad, and wehung out at the pool to practice rolling before accepting the reality of winter,put on the dry suits and headed out onto a frigid Lake Michigan. And, if that doesn't lift me up enough, I just remind my self that
my grandson, my daughters and one of my son in laws will be here this weekend to fill our home with happy sounds. There, I feel better. What election?
Paddle safe...

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Enemy Within

4 a.m., and I don't know why I am awake. I was active yesterday, even paddled hard, yet my mind doesn't want to sleep this morning. Depression? Perhaps. What comes to mind, however, is the expression that "...the world is too much with him." I don't remember who said that and care less, it just seems to fit.

I am so sick about hearing about this upcoming election (no, this will not be political, at least in the sense that I shall not take a side here). I hear so many people babble on and on about it without saying anything of substance. It is more like a bunch of religious zealots sermonizing than thinking people debating any facts. Folks, good folks, on each side say exactly contradictory things about the same topic. Since they cannot both be correct, I suspect I am hearing the passion of beliefs, what ever they may be.

I cannot imagine two people trying to convince each other to switch to the other's religion. These are matters of belief and faith. The election talk I hear sounds like that to me, and I don't believe anyone is changing anyone's belief system.

Now books, law suits and actual prosecutions are arising around voter fraud. Great, absolutely wonderful. Elections of late have been close, and cases (on both sides) have been made about voter fraud being used to steal (or cancel out) v0tes. Just lovely, and very few, if any, of the people that are supposed to evaluate these complaints are doing anything about it. In any event, no results of any investigations will be out until after the election. Perfect.

I have been a patriot most of my life. I find, of late, that I care less and less about what direction this country takes as I feel more and more disenfranchised. I do, however, care very much about what kind of country my children and grandchildren will have to suffer. Things have, without any doubt, changed. Perhaps that is why I am awake at this hour.

Now, before I find myself going into what I think is going on and what is wrong and where we are headed, I am going to grind some coffee beans and brew me a cup of fine coffee while I wait for the sunrise. So that you paddlers won't feel this is a total non-blog, I am preparing to brace for what is coming. I am gathering strength to roll with future events. I am struggling to stay on an even keel.

Paddle safe...and vote.


Friday, October 03, 2008

The Domino Effect
In kayaking, as in most "at risk" sports, when things go wrong things tend to go from bad to worse. I have frequently written about my pet peeve: recreational boaters with out pfd's who go out on Lake Michigan in cotton shorts and T-shirts. Most of the time the guardian angels of kayakers bring them back safely. But it only takes one seemingly minor mishap to start a cascade of big time trouble.

Imagine, for instance, that one of these inexperienced paddlers dumps his boat a few hundred yards off shore. If the air and water are warm, and if the wind is blowing on shore, a red face and temporary chill may be the only consequence he suffers. But what happens if we change just one little factor in this scenario? What if the wind is blowing off shore?

Let's also give the fool in the water the benefit of the doubt and say he is able to hang onto his boat (Forget the paddle. What would he do with it?). Still in pretty good shape, our unprepared erstwhile paddler and his boat will begin to drift offshore with our paddler clinging to it...sans a life jacket. He is "lucky' inasmuch as the water temp is 62F, warm for this lake.

But alas, he had launched from Bradford Beach where there is no break water, so he has about an 85 mile fetch of water in which to drift before washing up on the Michigan side. The possible horror of his "minor" mishap begins to take on an ugly look.

Even if the wind is mild and warm, he may drift as slowly as 2-4 knots. Let's say he makes 4 miles per hour. All he has to do is hold on for about 20 hours before his feet touch bottom and he walks ashore. Thing is, and we all know this, that he will die of hypothermia before his ETA.

A man in a kayak is a small object when out on the lake. Even radar generally won't see him. Tip the boat over and put the man in the water and you have an even smaller target which is even less likely to be spotted by other boaters. Our just-out-for-a-paddle-guy is doomed. And that, my friends, is the domino effect.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, October 02, 2008

It Was a Fine Week End
Before the others arrived, and between other activities, I found time to just hang out and look for some photo ops. I've done the fall color thing so many times that I don't bother to do many of those photos any more.
Still, I managed to see some interesting stuff here and there (the fall colors were still a week away).

And, it was nice just to be away from the city.Paddle safe...