Saturday, November 29, 2008

Okay, So I Lied
On Wednesday my post ended with "see you Monday." It is only Saturday, and I think this is the second post since Wednesday. What ever. I saw this in the local rag and found it interesting.
I guess I never thought much about who or what ruled Greenland. I knew some of the history about Danish traders and explorers and have learned a thing or two from Michael's blog. Still, I hadn't realized that the big island nation was under Danish "rule". So, this article came as a surprise. It also was a surprise that it made the back pages of our local rag.

I have been reading in recent years about the rebirth of efforts to teach the young people about their heritage and to offer them more opportunities to hone the skills their predecessors have given the world. To regain autonomy of rule, then, only makes sense.

(These may or may not be of Geenlandic waters. They do look more Alaskan)

As a member of QAJAQ, I would like to see the people of Greenland tout their heritage and skills to the world so that more will know, more will become interested and more will participate in a way that assures that their traditions and skills will not be forgotten.

Paddle traditionally...

Paddle safe...


Friday, November 28, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

(Thanks giving 2004)
It's that time in America when millions take to the highways and airways to gather with family members they haven't seen in months, sometimes years...possibly because they don't like them...but I digress. We jam our generally obese bodies together into someone's home and make chit chat while 7 or 8 people work on preparing more dishes than Washington's army could ever consume. Wonderful smells fill the air as children slowly get on some of the less friendly folk's nerves.

Eventually, we gather around a combination of dining room, kitchen and folding tables, pressed together like sardines in the proverbial can. Then, someone mumbles something about being grateful for all they have, including their high levels of LDl cholesterol, fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c. Eating of a type that would make a caveman proud ensues as some at the table set a personal goal of trying to eat something from each dish and as much turkey as possible. The air is filled with the sounds of happy chatter, smacking lips covered with grease and the elimination of flatus.(same)
Afterward, a cadre of ladies invade the hostess's kitchen to fulfill their genetic drive to clean up. The dishwasher is crammed beyond capacity and men pass out on sofas and soft chairs.

Now, I take my tongue from my cheek to say that it is, at least for me and mine, a genuinely happy occasion. I am blessed with a wonderful family. This year (later today, in fact), Lady Linda and I will head south to visit the gathering of our daughters, our sons in law and our grandson. We will meet at Tammy's mother in law's home. Vicki and David are wonderful folks and fun to be with. Their daughters will be there as well along with their grandpa.

I hope all my country men will enjoy a similar experience and will be careful out there on the highways as this is one of the most traveled days of the year for us. If you are not an American, I wish you and yours good health and plenty to comfort yourselves. Should you find yourself in this country tomorrow, announce your presence and, I am sure, someone will invite you over and give you the bird.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Tis The Season

It's already begun, and it started for me this morning when I opened my e mail. A friend I haven't seen since around 1960 and his wife (I was his best man) are in town for a short visit, and today is our one chance to get together (they live in Arizona). Wonderful.

Tomorrow, Lady Linda and I head for Illinois for a few days with daughters, son in laws, and our 1.5 grandchildren. We will be one night at a hotel, and I just might have time with Joseph in the pool (if it's okay with his mom). Wonderful.

On Sunday I will take Grandma (Lady Linda's Mom) to Illinois for a lunch with daughter number one and grandson number one. Wonderful. Then, suddenly, it is December and the good-feelings season is in full swing.

That's when the Christmas lights appear on homes, and the local shopping center begins to look like Disney Land. The people also light up, some from happiness over the season, and some from over doing it at the office Christmas party. Menorahs come out for the 8 days of the Festival Of Lights (Hanukkah), and presents are everywhere (maybe not so much with this years economy). What's not to like?

There will also be, I hope, gatherings of my kayak family with good food and good fellowship. And, lest we forget... is time to put a buck or two in the the Salvation Army kettles each time I pass one and hear the bell. Give back is, for me, a way to show gratitude.

See you Monday.

Paddle safe...


Monday, November 24, 2008

A Free Lunch
A Honest Politician
Good Torso Rotation
What do these 3 things have in common? Well, they're as rare as a case of Tsutsigamushi Fever in Wisconsin. Today, let's just talk about the third one, torso rotation and the lack there of...

We all teach it to beginners and rarely see any of them doing it at the end of the day. Sometimes my inner doubter takes over and I tell students that I am going to show them torso rotation and that none of them will actually do it on the water. I can watch at a symposium and only rarely spot someone actually using this valuable motion to paddle. In discussing this with other instructors, the question comes up as to whether or not we should bother teaching it, especially to recreational paddlers. After all (as Sherri Mertz points out), unlike a roll, you can get the forward stroke 99% wrong and you will still go forward.

Rec paddlers do not usually go long distances and, if they do, not at an aggressive pace. Arm paddling works just fine for them. On the other hand, I often paddle along side folks in sea kayaks who paddle as if their spines were fussed, and they go long and hard without any apparent problems. As for myself, I have to rotate what with being in a short boat and having not the strongest arms on the planet. But, then, there are the racers.

And the racers rotate beautifully as they display the efficacy of torso rotation. Even traditional paddlers emphasize the movement so that the arms are not the main source of propulsion and long paddles can be achieved.

Think you have good torso rotation? Maybe you do. Just to be sure, however, why don't you have someone video you as you paddle along, preferably not in a dry suit. Don't put on a show and rotate more than you usually do, just paddle naturally and see what it looks like. It could be quite educational.

Paddle safe...


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Here's One To Which
We Can All Relate

Nothing in science has ever exceeded the challenge faced by a kayaker far off shore with a bulging bladder...until now. In the summer time we all have our little ways of dealing with the situation. Solutions range all the way from just emptying into the cockpit (to be rinsed out later) to getting out of the boat, taking care of business and doing some sort of a re entry (with an empty bladder).

The problem, however, greatly escalates as the temperature falls and the number of layers rise. Marking one's territory inside a neoprene farmer John can leave an olfactory marker for some time to come. Besides, those things smell badly enough when soaked by the water around us. More over, everyone will know (and smell) your business if you choose to go inside anything neoprene. Tougher times call for bigger solutions.

Along with fire, the relief zipper (for the guys) stands high as one of man's greatest inventions. Of course, there is still the problem of what to do with one's output, and I have seen many elaborate commodes consisting of nothing more than a tin can used to solve this situation. Beyond that are various versions of the Motor Man's Pal, an arrangement that uses an external catheter, a hose and a storage vessel to be emptied later. That's pretty much it...until now.

Tough as it might be, the worst thing that can happen to us while out in our boats with a full boat of urine is that we wet ourselves, and that's not a new thing...other than the stink. Never have we had to face the dilemma of recycling the stuff and (children should leave the room at this point) drinking it (and I thought the PisPHenal A in our bottles was our biggest danger). So here is to our comrades who float around in space suits rather than dry suits, with our best wishes that they find a potable solution for nature's callings.

Paddle safe...


Friday, November 21, 2008

While The Blazer is in Intensive Care...
...I continue to diddle with pics from my files. I always liked this one of a skin on frame deck. Its earthy colors, with the little accent of blue in the cockpit was what first attracted my eye. Now, with too much time on my hands, I wondered how it would look as a black and white (misnomer, they are gray scale photos).
It certainly is a different effect with the color removed. The flash and prettiness is gone, and we are left with the sense of texture of something rugged and old. These simple conversions, however, don't always work. Ron had wondered how the first pic on the blog a few days ago would look in B&W. I had my doubts, but went there anyways.
Some may like it, but it doesn't quite do it for me. Perhaps there are too few middle tones, or the sky is too weak, or the wave is too small to have an impact. Or, maybe, I just didn't get it right. Still, sometimes there is something to be said for a flashes of colors. Even if they're just Zebra Mussels on a pipe.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, November 20, 2008

What It Felt Like
Ask any photographer and they will tell you that they have often been asked, "Is that what it looked like?" when showing one of their favorite pictures. The answer, of course, is, "It's what I saw and how it felt." As winter closes in on us (it is 20F outside this morning), I find myself going through and fiddling with some of my old images. Sometimes I cannot remember how it felt when I first captured them, but I know how they feel now when I look at them.
Sometimes it is a pretty straight forward process. The beauty of the Greenland sticks and their random arrangement was what I saw. After cropping and blurring everything else, I got the image to how it felt.

I tend to see natural woods (and most scenery) in black and white. B&W takes away the distraction of the pretty colors and focuses on form, texture and contrast. But even I get some bad mushrooms in my soup once in a while and find myself just playing around.

I will be doing postings like this throughout the winter on days I am not hibernating. I will attempt to emphasis images related to paddling, but you never know.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Her Mood Is Changing
She being Lake Michigan. Even the gentle rollers coming from the NW yesterday were spraying the stone break wall at south shore.
For the first time this season there is ice forming on the wall and on our decks. It was 33F yesterday but, because of the lack of wind, it was a pleasant day to be out there. It is probably a good thing, these changes of season, since we often paddle the same waters. Variety and some eye candy is always welcome.
Leslie (enjoying a rare week day off) and I had it to ourselves except for one boat with two duck hunters. They are hidden along the wall on the left just ahead of Leslie, and when they started shooting it was like being in a war zone. Still, come the end of the day, this can be a very serene place.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kayaking Expense...
Dubside is Onto Something

Everyone knows Dubside, the soft spoken bearded man in the inflatable boat which he can roll like a jet fighter. Most know that he is also known to do commando kayaking. That is, he takes his collapsed craft on the bus, rides to a water site, sets up and goes out on the water to do his thing. Then he packs up and takes the bus home. He has the boat and a bus schedule. Talk about keeping it simple...and inexpensive.

Once we get a boat and a set of paddles, tops and cold weather stuff, we've pretty much made our investment in the sport. There will be some replacements needed down the road, but unless we keep switching boats the coast is more or less fixed. Right? Wrong. We have forgotten about the most expensive piece of equipment:

Das car. These suckers cost much more than any kayak and depreciate a lot faster (never mind the gas that goes into them). This all comes to mind because my 2000 Blazer wouldn't start yesterday (I was going to paddle), and I had it towed to the local mechanic. Turns out it needed a fuel pump. Fortunately, I had a small fund from which to pay for it, the fund for my next boat.

It is not terribly practical to do commando kayaking where I live. What is now a 20 minute drive in each direction would probably turn into hours. Besides, I need a car for some of the other work I do. So I keep patching her up because it is cheaper than buying another vehicle. I just wonder if I will ever get that other boat.

Paddle safe...


Monday, November 17, 2008


During intro classes, when I am going over the anatomy of the boat, I am careful to point out the differences between the deck lines and the bungee's. The bungees, I explain, are where you put the stuff you want to lose while paddling. Well, recently I was preparing to go out when I noticed that the tubing for my water pack had some internal nasties in it. Having no brush, I filled the system with a dilute bleach solution and looked for something else in which to carry my water supply.

My new, free of rotten chemicals, Nalgene bottle was available, but how to keep from losing it on a rough day. Besides, when I wear neoprene mittens it is hard to tuck stuff under the bungees. Then I remembered some doubled elastic things with wood wood balls on the ends that I had once purchased. At the time, I just knew they would one day be good for something. That day, as it turned out, had arrived.

I looped one end around the plastic strip that connects the top to the bottle, then looped it all around a bungee. It stretches enough to get a good drink, and I can just pull up on the whole affair and slide the bottle back under. Another problem solved. Now I have to work on the economy.

Paddle safe...


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Special Saturday Edition

(photo lifted from his blog)

In case you don't read his blog, Darren Bush of Rutabaa Paddle Shop in Madison, Wisconsin, just added the above award to his trophy case. I suspect that he is having a trophy case being built in house as we speak. This, mind you, comes on top of being voted by the readers of Sea Kayaker Magazine as the best paddle shop in the midwest. Well done.

Just so you know, Darren, there is something called ego deconsruction therapy :)

Paddle safe...


Friday, November 14, 2008

What It Seems
What It Is
It feels like this when I wake up...cold. I sometimes hear the wind, and my feet go looking for heavy socks as soon as they hit the floor. I put on more layers than when I paddle and can't wait until I can get to the thermostat and turn it up a bit. Then I step outside to get the paper at the end of the driveway.
And it doesn't seem so cold out there...and I can never quite grasp this paradox. I sometimes debate with myself on whether or not to go out on the big lake. Why subject myself to the wind and freezing cold? Then I step outside and, if the sun is out, bask in the radiant heat...and put the boat on the car.
It's a transition, I know. It takes a little time for my body to adjust to the dropping temps. Same thing happens in spring when I find myself wearing fewer layers than I would now at the same temperature. It's a process
So, one day a voice told me to cheer up, "It could be worse." So, I cheered up...and it got worse.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, November 13, 2008

'Tis The Season

They've started playing Christmas music on some of the local stations, they've opened the gates down stream and the river is at its low point exposing its PCB contaminated bottom. Besides that, it's colder and often rains. No worries.

I went over to the river the other day for a "fitness" paddle. First upstream to the shallows where the current was too fast to work against. Then, downstream enjoying the crude scenery until I realized the water had gone shallow again and I was whipping along.

I did manage to turn about and work my way back to my put in, all the time coming to understand why the white water types arrange a car down stream (no, this wasn't anything like white water, but I could see getting into a position where I would have had to get out and wade back upstream to slower currents...but I digress).

Because it was a "fitness" outing, I was wearing my heart monitor, but the only time I could really get my rate up there was while loading and unloading the boat from the car.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

For the 4th Time

It appears, at least to me, that Justine Curgenven has produced another hit with This Is The Sea 4. A 2-disc set this time, there is the usual jumping around to various and interesting spots around the world including a bunch of "whitewater" paddlers in sea kayaks. The second disc features well done travelogues of various expeditions of which my favorite was the Queen Charlotte Islands.

I probably related to that particular trip because of the beauty of the area and its tantalizingly closeness, just off British Colombia. Two ferry rides gets you there, and I will at least hold on to this one as a one-day dream trip.

I met Justine and Barry Shaw at this year's Grand Marais Symposium and even taught a class with Barry. I can tell you that both these folks are as genuine and friendly in the flesh as they are on DVD. Paddling seems to have that effect on us all.

You will also enjoy seeing Dubside doing his thing in moving rough water, a Norwegian father and son team that gives a whole new meaning to playing with kayaks, kayak fishing (I could have done without that particular segment), paddling the lowest sea level in the world--The Dead Sea (if you can't roll there, you can't roll anywhere) and lots more. There was even a Lake Superior segment of the Apostle Islands and Picture Rocks National Sea Shore which I assume was done just after the Grand Marais event since some of our Midwest folks are in the feature (having too much fun).

Many thanks to Derrick for gifting me with the set. He certainly did a top drawer job designing the cover. (And, BTW, welcome home from Israel, Derrick). Bottom line, This DVD set is well worth the money (you will spend) as I am sure that, like myself, you will be replaying many parts over and over.

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

...Until You've Walked In Their Shoes.

It hangs on my wall, high up, in front of me as I sit at my computer. It is an old grainy black and white taken in 1967. It's a a reminder for me to never forget. The group is the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron, and I am in there somewhere. The group's mission was bombing North Viet Nam, and some of those men ended up in the Hanoi Hilton. Some just exploded in the sky.

The impressions that the war left on me were strong enough that I prayed I wouldn't have sons who I might one day have to see go off to yet another war. I didn't like what I saw, and I cannot even begin to imagine the plight of the grunts on the ground in South Viet Nam. Thankfully, I never had to walk in their shoes.

I hate war, I hated and did not believe in the war in which I took part (thankfully only as a doctor). Most of all, I hated the way the men were treated here at home when they returned with their broken bodies and frightfully broken minds. They hadn't declared the war, and they hadn't (for the majority) chosen to fight it. But it was what it was.

The other day, just after coming ashore from a paddle, I met a WW II vet. I chatted with him and got a history lesson in return. At the end I thanked him for his service.

Thanks to all who served. Special thanks to those who gave up months, sometimes years, with their families to do what they felt they had to do. Thank them and know that you will never have any idea what they did and what they saw unless you've walked in their shoes.

Paddle safe...


Monday, November 10, 2008

Round Trip
I was in the twin cities for "work", and it turned out to be a delightful weekend for me. DaveO picked me up at the airport and took us over to Cecil's Deli for food and a visit. Dave, in my judgments, has the best writing skills of the bloggers I read. Talking with him is as enjoyable as reading his posts. Turns out that Dave works for a packaging company that supplies packages for medical use and that I had used his products for years. After a while, when he couldn't stand my babbling any longer, he dropped me at my hotel.

That evening Alex called to say he would be picking me up for dinner with Ron. It's always wonderful to see both these guys, and when Alex pulled up there was a lovely lady sitting next to him. I had heard there was a new gal in his life (what is this, a gossip column?...but I digress), but there was more news to follow.

Ron seemed to be his old steady self and, like most fellow paddlers, is easy to hang with and tip a few. Then it was revealed (stay with me, I am jumping around) that Te (pronounce they) and Alex are engaged. I could not have been happier for both of them. As it turns out, she is from Cambodia, so I got to practice the 6 Thai words I can still remember. Come to think of it, the waitress at the hotel was Thai, and we spoke a bit of the language at breakfast.

Moving on, I lectured on cardiology for 6 hours on Saturday, then joined some relatives for dinner. By Sunday noon I was home. Good time, good folks, nice round trip.

Paddle safe...


Friday, November 07, 2008

Testing, 1,2,3
Not a Bad Idea

November, cold Lake Michigan...and Greg goes for a near shore dip...on purpose. At first, you might consider that Greg is nuts (I'll be the judge of that), but he is actually being prudent.

How many of us know for sure that there are no pin hole leaks in our dry suits or that there is a gasket that doesn't quite hold (out) water? Now, before the waters really get cold, is a good time to wade out and see how well your suit is holding up. And, as you walk deeper, you will also discover how much air you didn't expel when you burped the collar.

Now, off to the twin cities where I will tip a few with those rugged paddlers up there.

Paddle safe...


Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Good Choice

Yesterday was going to be the last day of a run of wonderful weather. Temps in the 70'sF and southerly winds had drawn me to the big lake for the past several days. But yesterday was scheduled to be a gym day, a day to work the core and get some aerobics in. It was scheduled to be a day of exercise indoors, and being indoors didn't feel that attractive as I gathered my gym stuff.

At age 11, Ansel knows me and my ways better than I know myself. So, when he heard me gathering keys, phone and shoes, he silently came down the steps and stood in the kitchen doorway where I would need to pass to leave the house. Then he locked eyes on mine. That's all. He gave me that penetrating stare that has bonded us for over a decade.

Ansel and I arrived at the park a few minutes later and (at least) I, camera in hand, enjoyed a long relaxed walk.

The devil and the beauty were in the details, and there was plenty to keep me occupied.
As for aging, slow moving Ansel; well, he was in his element in and out of the river, dashing about and acting like a young puppy.

And it was his damn fault that I never got to the gym yesterday.

Paddle safe...


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It Really Was A Wrap

Last Saturday some of us met at Rutabaga in Madison for the season's wrap up. We met outside on the new deck which provided a view of the boat yard (90% empty of boats), the pond (no one was on it) and a good working space with nutritious food (which, as you can see, we kept neat). We discussed what went well and what we'd like to try in the future. I was surprised to find that they hadn't heard about 'Baga being named the Readers' Choice Number One Paddle Store in the Midwest. Guess they don't read Sea Kayaker...or my blog.

Then, the sun went behind clouds and trees, and Nydia was the first to add layers.

I appeared comfortable but was actually frozen in place with a benign expression on my face. It finally got so cold that Kristen flew in the face of the law and shop lifted a fashionable hat to help survive the cold.Her lawyer will have a tough time getting her off since she left the price tag on the thing.

Paddle safe...


Monday, November 03, 2008

Dignitary Visits Milwaukee

As soon as I saw the name on the boat I knew it was Capt. o' the Dark (see links to the right) from Lake Mills, a small town between Milwaukee and Madison. Besides posting a fine blog, The Capt. is active on the water, especially in events involving the cure for breast cancer.

An amiable fellow, he became part of the Milwaukee family easily while on the water and afterwards over coffee. He had wonderful stories to share, and we look forward to him returning.

The only down side to his visit was that he did not bring his youngest, the famous Boo, along with him. Her blog, The Adventures of Super Boo, are worth a read. Check it out and leave her a comment, but don't expect a response. Dad, concerned about those nasty Internet problems that can come up, has her site as a one way commentary only.

I gotta' tell you. There are some fine people involved in our sport.

Paddle safe...