Friday, May 29, 2009

It's All Clear Now

I'm headed out to paddle in a few hours, and everything looks clear. Oh, there's a chance of rain, and clouds hover above; but they are clear as well.

A few years ago I had cataract surgery during which artificial lenses were substituted for the cloudy ones. A few years later, and again a few months ago, one eye got fuzzy. What happens is that epithelial (lining) cells begin to grow on the back of the implant and diffuse the light. The treatment?

A drop to numb the eye, a drop to dilate the eye and a lens to focus a yag laser beam. 3-4 zaps, a few hours for the meds to wear off and Shazam. Beautiful, crisp vision restored. What a world.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

We have a great and eclectic bunch that paddles here in the Milwaukee area on Sunday mornings. Lake Michigan has its many moods and, depending on how she is acting, different folks enjoy different challenges. So, on some of the rougher days some folks don't paddle. It is after the paddle when we all get together.

We often stop at Sven's coffee cafe located a few minutes inland of our launch site. The coffee and food is very good and the camaraderie is superb. Here stories about the paddle, past paddles and future paddles are discussed. Equipment is critiqued, and wish lists are enumerated.

It is here that we keep each other apprised of how our families are doing and how one of our ailing paddlers is coming along. In the end, it is a community of fine folks of varying backgrounds and beliefs each of whom thinks he/she is the best paddler in the group (and they are all wrong).

We miss you, Doug.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It is Cold, Gray
There is Drizzle Outside

Besides, I have to teach all day (college, not kayaking...but I digress). Still, the day deserves at least one picture, this one from our paddle this past weekend.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Yellow Is (supposed to be) Heavier
I started to repaint an old chair for my grandson. My intention was to make some of the structure red and some yellow. Well, the red went on and covered nicely (enamel paints), but the yellow didn't cover the old wood even after two coats. Apparently it takes more yellow to get the job done. More paint, more weight. Besides, everyone knows that yellow gel coat is heavier than other colors.
This being true, then why does JB's blue Romany (with two suitcases, 3 Irish Whiskey bottles, 42 aerial flares, a 5-day water supply, a tent and a sleeping bag) weigh more than my yellow Romany (with a water bottle and first aid kit)? See, physics is not an exact science and clearly does not explain everything (except the hernia I got helping JB load his boat onto his car).

(Doug, we miss you)

Paddle safe...

Monday, May 25, 2009

For the guys in the 354th TFS
who didn't make it back with us,
we remember.

Paddle safe...

Friday, May 22, 2009

There is a rocking song called, We Are Family. It has a great beat and was running through my mind as I walked Sir Ansel this morning. It was, I presume, due to the fact that my grandchildren are coming today (along with their mothers). More over, this is Memorial Day weekend in the states, a time when we honor those who gave their lives so the rest of us might enjoy freedom and a wonderful way of life. I realized, as I walked along, that I am truly blessed, in no small part, because I have family. In fact, I have a bunch of families.

It goes without saying that Lady Linda, those two girls she birthed, the guys they married and the kids they produced, along with brothers, sisters and their spouses and off springs make up my core, biological family. These are the folks for whom I would go through fire and whom, I suspect, would come to me in a time of need.

I am also a member of the veterans' family having been on combat duty in Nam. I have a kayak family, folks I look forward to being with and to whom I trust my safety. I know we would go to one another's aid when ever needed.

I imagine I could define many other families to which I belong, and my life is enriched by each of them. Then I think how easy it is to take family for granted until one of them is lost. So, now, while we have them, perhaps we can honor our own families along with the veterans (who we no longer have in our midst). Perhaps there's someone you need to hug, give a smile or just tell, "I'm glad you're in my life."

Paddle safe...


Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Fine and Lost Art
Doing Nothing

Zen, sitting and staring, the world being too much with us and similar expressions address our human tendency to keep busy. Even when we are just sitting around our minds are usually spinning. Ideas, worries and the like constantly bombard our serenity, so we do something to "keep our minds off" everything else.

Some sit in meditation, some whittle or do some hobby, and some of us just float for a while with our paddles at rest. All this busy busy stuff has invaded my life. I teach at the college and, just as soon as the last class is over, my mind is already planning and worrying about getting the next lecture or exam finished. This constant thinking has even invaded my sacred realm of paddling.

It has shown up in the past few postings as I ponder paddle length, the perfect boat and improperly dressed recreational paddlers. Enough. What happened to the just-paddle-because-it's-fun idea? I lost it somewhere along the line, and now it is time to get it back before the summer goes by without a good dose of kayak-karma. With this in mind, I am looking forward to the up coming Memorial Day weekend.

I was to staff the Western Michigan Symposium, but asked to be excused (and was graciously told I was). I want to be hereat home when my two daughters are here with my two grand children. I want to relax with them, spoil the kids and get in a fun paddle. It's been a while, but JB and I will be getting out together this Sunday (weather permitting). It's been too long since I've floated with my friend and mentor, and I've missed it.

So, no heavy points to be made, just plans to be and to paddle.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Getting a grip
So, you have the perfect boat and the perfect paddle. You're all set, right? Well, hold on. Do you have the perfect grip? That is, are your hands placed at the 100% (perfect) distance apart?

Test paddlers in recreational boats often hold their hands too close together. It's obvious when you see them that they have absolutely no mechanical advantage as they are holding the short end of a lever. But, then, how far apart should one's hands be?

Jumping ahead, I am going to guess that the answer is where ever your hands and stroke are most comfortable. Besides, what difference does it make...other than sore shoulders, no torso rotation, etc.. This all came to me yesterday as I happily paddled with a 230 set up.

I realized that I could get a different feeling of power by putting my hands ever so slightly further apart. I also realized that doing so ever so slightly reduced the reach of the blade and, thereby, shortened my stroke...ever so slightly. My arms pretty much stay the same length, and the distance from my hand to the tip of the paddle becomes shorter as I move my hands out toward the blades. Or, does moving my hand out increase my torso rotation and, thus, add back in the lost length?

We instructors often have new paddlers hold their paddles with their hands as far apart as they can in order to get them to rotate their torsos. Then we tell them to make the touchdown sign with the paddle atop their heads and tell them that that is a good starting position. We usually don't, and can't, tell them exactly where the ideal grip will be, and they don't have enough experience to know when they have it. More over, they inevitably have the wrong length paddle (too short) and do not efficiently reach the water where ever they place their hands. So, how do they, and we, know the best hand placement that gives us comfort, power and efficiency?

I knew I was too happy paddling yesterday. In fact, my only worry was that I had run out of things to worry about.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Always something
To Go Nuts Over
My search for the "perfect" paddle has ended, for now. I have ordered a Werner 230 Kalliste with a straight shaft. It would have been a more satisfying endeavor had not one of my blogs been misinterpreted by a good friend. His comments (to others and to me) confused me and set off at least one inappropriate comment by someone in our group (which I, apparently, was not supposed to see. Oh, well). That said, the search for the "perfect" boat is still on.

I had mentioned how I had paddled a Cetus and found much to like about it. Looks like Derrick paddled the same boat and liked it as much or more. We are both awaiting opportunities to get out in the Cetus in conditions to see how well it takes care of us. Perhaps that will happen at the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium if P&H brings one along.

Meanwhile, my old Romany is showing its age. The keel strip needs a redo, and there is some new crazing of the gel coat here and there. Thank goodness. For a moment I thought I had run out of things to worry about.

Paddle safe...


Monday, May 18, 2009

Paddle Fest '09
Last One?
Every year a local paddle shop holds this event on the not-so-clean Milwaukee River (which runs behind their store). Each year several of us volunteer to sit on the water for 6 hours on each of two days and act as safety boaters. This year's event was this past weekend (we made three rescues). I personally enjoy seeing all the different models and colors of crafts that the manufacturers have developed in an effort to capture market share. Most of all, I enjoy seeing the families getting out there and having quality time together. But, is this going to be the last Fest?
I, and I suspect a lot of the others, volunteer for this because of Sherri Mertz, a fellow paddler who works at the store. When we go there to buy something, we are going to Sherri, not necessarily the store (we can get it on line, as well). Well, Sherri is leaving the business and has started her own paddling school. We all know her to be a well qualified instructor and a talented paddler. Besides, she's a nice guy (and so is her husband, Jim). So, I wonder, if the store intends to do this next year, who will ask us to volunteer? In fact, who there will even know who we are or how to reach us? And will we want to?
Paddle safe...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Tale of Two Paddles or The Schizophrenic Process of Paddle selection
That's my friend Doug getting into his boat and about to tow his play boat full of paddles. Why? Well, as many of you know, I am going through the process of selecting a new paddle. The reps say I need a 220 size, the same size which I now have and which has never quite seemed right. Some time in the recent past I tried someone's 215 something and it felt great. Brain Day suggested that the trend was, in fact, toward shorter paddles. Even my local guru, Gary Simon, told me that he had been telling me to go shorter for some time now (although I do not remember any such thing...but I digress)

I got excited. Obviously, I needed a 215 something, then my Romany would go like a 20-footer. Anyway, I asked Doug if I could try his 215 (which happens to be a high angle Ikelos). Well, he brought it down to the launch site along with a bunch of other Paddles, some of questionable ancestry. I started trying his paddles looking for the one 215 something that would move up into the highest rank amongst paddlers. Then I picked up this Werner paddle with no name on it and gave it a try.

It's the black one in the picture. The yellow is my present 220 Camino which I have come to discover is too long. Well, this black paddle contained black magic. I mean, it was the best. My Romany took off with little effort. Suddenly, I realized I was no longer leaning forward to make the catch and that the blade was into the water several inches ahead of where my 220 would enter. So, I asked, "What is this thing?" Answer: It is the carbon version of my Camino. Only difference is that the wonder blade was a 230. No, that is not a typo. This 230 reached the water for me and, with no more effort than I usually am willing to expel, propelled the boat very well.

I am presently seeking a psychiatrist that paddles as well as a whole new bunch of experts who want to give advise. Life is a mystery.

Paddle safe...
It's Getting There
Warm air, I can feel it in the morning when I go out to get the morning paper. The sun feels hotter during mid day. The water is still cold, but it's getting there. Soon, it will be time for the skin on frames to come out, along with the tuiliks and Greenland sticks.

I don't care much for rolling in freezing water. When I do, I wear a scuba mask that pretty much covers everything the tuilik doesn't. Still, I prefer the warm waters of summer.I missed it last summer, but this fall I plan to attend QAJAQ camp in northern Michigan. I'm already looking forward to seeing old friends and hanging with a bunch of folks who are as silly as I am over rolling traditional boats. There is, of course, some summer to come and go in between now and then, and I am looking forward to all those activities as well.

This weekend, a group of us will be helping Sherri do her (last?) Paddle Fest on the river. Tomorrow, weather allowing, I am teaching an intro class; and, then, there's all the symposiums in June and July. Right now, it can still be cool during the day, and the water remains cold. But, it's getting there.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing
It's an old jazz expression and the name of an old tune; and it is a universal truth. The message, superficially, is simply, if it isn't enjoyable, why bother? If it hasn't an essence, an importance, a soul...walk away. Yes, I know, life isn't always about playing, but it is about choices.

Some people struggle, even agonize over the smallest of choices and decisions. They don't know if it is the right thing to do, "what will they say?", and so on. Many end up living out unhappy scenarios produced by unfortunate choices. How, then, to decide? Should I do this or that?

First, it has to pass the smell test. If it is illegal, harmful or shameful to others or yourself...take a pass. If it does not bring out the best in you or use you up in the best way, maybe there is a better choice. When you have winnowed it down to a few things it is time to trust your guts. Listen to that inner voice that always knows what is meant to be and go with it. It will fit, feel right, create the flow experience, cause bliss. Oh man, it will have that swing.

A good tune done by a good band can produce a bad experience if it ain't got that swing. If my foot isn't tapping after 3-4 bars of music, I'm turning it off. Now, get into your boat and see how that feels. Are you swinging?

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

All's Well
That Ends Well

The lessons have been going well, and I've me some awfully nice folks on the water. Not to belabor the point of paddle length (he said, tongue in cheek), but I had some helpful suggestions and experiences while in Madison to teach.

Brian Day, former owner of my Romany, took the time to lay out several paddles with different shaped blades and various lengths. turns out that because of blade shape, shaft length varies for different models of the same over all length. It became obvious that some 215 paddles have shafts about as long as 220 ones, especially with higher angle blades. (more on that later...or another time; but I digress).

During the lesson this past Sunday, one lady was just not getting her blade well into the water. She was shorter, about 5'5", and using a 210 paddle. I traded her for my 220, and we both did better. Contrary to some schemes, shorter folks sometimes need longer paddles to help reach the water yes, (she was in a sea kayak).

Bottom line: I believe that there will be a trend toward shorter paddles over all, especially for those using 220 paddles. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, one has to try the paddle in their boat. Different blades feel differently and can change the apparent length of the over all paddle.

Possible future posting: High angle v. low angle blade. Scientific difference or industry hype? And this is supposed to be a simple sport.

Paddle safe...



Monday, May 11, 2009

The Candy Store
When I was a radio ham operator, we called the big store in town that sold radio equipment the candy store. On our car radios we would often hear someone announcing that he was headed over to the candy store. This meant, of course, that he had some spare cash and was going to drool over all the new and fancy equipment on display...whether or not he needed anything.

Part of being into something, a sport or a hobby, is always looking through the magazines and seeing what brand new cannot-live-without-item has just hit the market. There is something Zen about reading on each item and imagining yourself owning and using it on your next paddle...whether you need it or not. Another part of any hobby is to visit its version of the candy store.
These shots happen to be of Rutabaga in Madison, Wisconsin; and they demonstrate the basic principal. There are boats there. New boats, red boats used boats, yellow boats, sixteen footers and eighteen footers...and it would be swell to have them all. Just roaming the isles and seeing that new little gadget for boiling water in camp. Oh man, that would fit right into the forward hatch. Got to have it. And so it goes.

For me,the best part of hanging out in the candy store is talking with other people who share my interest in paddling. It is also a mini university where I can ask folks with various experience how they feel about that paddle versus this paddle...and so on. I hope you have a candy store near where you live. It is a great place to know and be known. And it is all low calorie.

Paddle safe...

Friday, May 08, 2009

This Year Will be Different...Maybe
This was taken a year ago during our staff meeting at Rutabaga. Not example Miami Beach. Tomorrow is this year's meeting, and it looks as if temps will be kinder. There is, of course, a chance of rain, but that's par for the course around here.

I'll make this short as we are off to Chicago for Adena's naming and family celebration. Life is good.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

There Goes The Neighborhood
Here's the front page from the Milwaukee Rag the other day. I refer here to the picture and the column on the far left announcing the surge in the popularity of kayaking. Now that term "kayaking" means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

With the economy, such as it is, folks are looking for less expensive ways to vacation. Say hello to camping and one form of kayaking. The vast majority will be buying recreational boats, paddling on quiet waters and having a fine time. In addition, the already hard to get camp sites at our state parks will be filling faster and become a harder to come by commodity.

For the industries involved, this all means good news, more jobs and increased profits. Hurray. For some of us it means crowding, an inability to just pick up and go camping (if you want a prepped site) and the inevitable hero who shows up on the big lake sans experience, knowledge and proper equipment. Ain't life interesting?

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Off I Go
Not to paddle...did that yesterday. Today I start at a local college with an accredited nursing program. I am hoping I will enjoy teaching more with students who have a direct clinical interest. We shall see. Must go.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

As I was saying...yesterday...

As I finished the class on Sunday, someone remarked about how the keel strip on my Romany needed some refreshing. I turned to see Brian Day, the original owner of the boat and the man who published two Sea Kayaker articles, one showing how he did the strip and one on how he patched a hole in the hull. Turns out, he's going to work with P&H so, naturally, he had one of their boats lying around. In this case, a Cetus. Could I try it? Of course.First thing I noticed was the 4th hatch atop the fore deck. I am sure you've all read about it and what it's for. On the water, the fit seemed right and the chair comfy. The "knee" braces, I was happy to note, were authentic thigh braces, back where they belong. The boat accelerated easily and had a good turn of speed. Edging turned out to be an interesting activity.

With the skeg up, it didn't much matter which way it was edged as a sweep stroke initiated the turn in either direction. Then I did what I hoped would be a hanging draw stroke, but it turned into a telemark turn...well, kind of. The boat actually turned away from the side of the stroke (probably because I was up on the paddle side edge). With the skeg down, however, it performed more as I would have expected in response to a hanging draw. I don't understand that dynamic at all. But, then, there was much more going on.

In spite of every computer program and every expert telling me I should be using a 220 paddle (which I have been doing), I tried 215's and 210's during the class. Turned out, the shorter the better. Go figure. I am thinking about a Werner 210 with a Shuma blade for a bit more bite.

What I hope to do, is repeat the test paddle at the Door County symposium in July to see how the Cetus acts in rougher conditions. Hopefullly, they will have one in a different color. Meanwhile...

Paddle safe...



Monday, May 04, 2009

Back In The Saddle Again
This past weekend was, for me, the beginning of the kayak season. I was in Madison to teach a two day kayak progression course, and I couldn't have enjoyed it more. It essentially ended up being a class of 4, two married couples, and they were all there to learn. The weather was mild although the water was still cold. Fortunately, Rutabaga had farmer Johns available for them to wear ( was snug in a dry suit as I spent more time in the water than any of them).Being on the water and teaching students who want to learn is just about as good as it gets. We covered all the basics of an intro course, including rescues. In addition, we got into towing, some basic stroke combinations, bracing for support and the basics of the bow rescue.

After saying our good byes, I got to do a test paddle. I tried out a new boat (for me) and several paddles, and was surprised at what I'd learned. More on that tomorrow.

Paddle safe...