Monday, August 31, 2009

A weekend
Talking, Dancing
I will spare you the details, but I do need to comment on my 50th high school reunion that took place this past weekend. It actually consisted of a cocktail party on Friday and a dinner dance on Saturday. I was one of the emcees.

We had grown up in the 50's, had wonderful values, lived in a safer world and (some) went to Viet Nam. Our school has produced many many famous and important people, and most of our grads have been successful in life. At the time, the thought of being 40, much less 60 or 70, was incomprehensible to us. In spite of our vast talents, we were all pretty much down to earth people with well grounded values. Whenever we've gotten together, it was as if we had never been apart. This one was no exception. Conversation and hugs abounded.

For me, it was a time to sit and talk to folks I had hardly known in class (we were over 500 in number). It was also a time to be humble for the kind things classmates had to say to me. I am, in fact, still sitting with some of those comments, especially the unexpected ones from unexpected classmates. It's funny how life turns out. For me it has evolved just fine, thank you.

Paddle safe...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Da Guys
The first guy I actually ran into was in Wisconsin at the car ferry. John Marshall paddles with the north east Wisconsin group and volunteers as a goodwill greeter when the ferry comes into port.Then, of course, there was Alex; or should I say the new Alex? Quieter and recently married, he arrived with a permission slip in hand.There were a few father-son participants and, of course.....Roy who regaled us with numerous one-man seminars and good humor. He did, however, fail to meet expectations by not arriving with a 14 part paddle that fits into a shirt pocket. Maybe next year.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

some of the Gals
I do not know if there is a Greenlandic word for magicians but, if there is, it would describe Diane (l) and Nancey (r). Here they are making announcements, an act that went on at virtually every meal.

Let me step back and restate how much Sharon (no, no picture) had cleaned up some of my technique the first hour I was at the camp. She watched one roll, saw what was wrong with my hand placement and issued clear instructions. The rolls came easily after that.

Diane has been my teacher for a number of camps. Although she has a fetish for teaching the static brace, she is an observant and patient instructor. I am happy to report that she has sight in both eyes after I accidentally hit her with a paddle while laying back during a lesson. I felt awful about it, and she was most gracious as she waded toward shore in search of an ice pack.

Nancy is the organizer and, I suppose, master juggler. Registration, raffle tickets, silent auction and a little paddling were some of the things she did to make things run so efficiently. More over, she did all this with a calm elegance.Then, there was Helen. A Greenland champion, she was also an observant and capable instructor. Working with a wind that constantly carried away her voice and students, she took her group through a series of back-finishing rolls. She helped me take my technique a step up by correcting my position as I surface. I am anxious to get onto the water and work with this piece as I believe it will lead to greater things.

There were others, many others, and I wish I had pics of them all. Let me just say thanks to the gals who worked so hard to make this camp the great experience that it always is. Tomorrow, some guys.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Came
I Paddled
I saw

As most of you know, the visual part is a large part of things I experience, and it is all the more true for traditional paddling. I arrived already anticipating good times with friends, and I was already looking for those wonderful sights that satisfy my visual hunger. It was, as you can see, a dreary day as I got my SOF onto the beach and changed into my paddling gear.It was only a short paddle to Camp Overlook, and I soon saw the slivers of boats barely visible under their shrouded paddlers.I got right into it and began working with Sharon (sorry, no good pic) who was an immense help. I still had my rolls, but they didn't have that smooth and (more importantly) easy feel to them. She had me do one roll and said, "I can see what you're doing wrong." All it took was a small hand adjustment and I was back in the groove. It was then that I noticed that I was back in the water, literally, while sitting in the boat. I was sinking.

Ashore, I found several areas where the paint had crusted, cracked and even fallen off the skin. I borrowed a boat, went back to the car and returned with a can of Rustoleum and some brushes. I slathered it where ever I could see a problem and set her out to dry over night.It worked just fine, and the next day I was back at it. Unfortunately, as happened two years ago in my other SOF, I tore apart the skin in back just below my belt line. Not sure what the problem is, but I am suspecting the back brace. Oh well, it was time for supper and some of the excellent food we enjoyed all weekend.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

So, It began
I drove up to Manitowoc last Thursday and stood in the dismal rain as the Badger Car Ferry came into port. A coal burner, this old ship would get me across to Michigan in four hours.
Onto the boat went my Blazer with one of my skin on frames on top. On a previous trip I had lost the passenger side mirror, so I was anxious about the fragile boat. I had flags at each end and a note on the dash stating that the boat was fragile (end the tension: nothing happened).After a rocky crossing that saw many sea sick passengers, we entered the Ludington, Michigan harbor where the waves were crashing on the breakwater andthe dunes that line the coast came into clear view. We off loaded, and I headed to my most favorite Italian restaurant for a wine and a lunch of whole wheat crust pizza and red wine.I was now ready to drive up to Lower Lake Herring and the QAJAQ training camp. Over the next few days I would like to share some images and thoughts on how that all went.

Paddle safe...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back Home
Good Memories

Got home about 1 am after the 4hr ferry ride and two hour drive. I am tired, have raw skin on my back and lots of memories. I am behind in my e mails and some school prep work, but I shall share some of the experience as the week goes on.Best part of it all were the people and the ambiance of a traditional paddling group.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Red Eye
It's raining outside and quite dreary looking. I have several duffel bags packed and laying in wait at the door that leads to the garage. Somewhere in them are clothes for camp wear and paddling gear. There's a small bag of almonds for snacks, some flashlights, first aid kit, foot wear and stuff I can't remember putting in there. No matter, I don't know where anything is located anyway. I will find it as I need it.

Ready or not, in a few hours I start my drive to Manitowoc to catch the noon coal-burning car ferry over to Michigan. Tomorrow, I will drive up to lower Herring Lake just south of Frankfort, Michigan to join new and old friends at QAJAQ training camp. There, we will spend our time rolling, eating, rolling, talking, rolling, sleeping, rolling and rolling. The shore will be strewn with skin on frame kayaks and some modern fiberglass rollers.
I feel a bit anxious about it all this year, but that's not unusual for me. I get that way before travel. On top of the usual is the fact that I am much less flexible than I was two years ago when I last attended. I am also carrying 3-4 more pounds. Fortunately, the Tuilik hides a lot of sins.

Don't know if I will be able to be online again, at least until late Sunday when I am scheduled to return. I will try to grab some interesting shots, but I am not burdening myself with an SLR or telephoto lenses, just the old Optio.
Still, I have a bunch of bags and a lot of junk so, I must be ready...or knot.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Just One Nice Paddle
and One Stupid Decision

There was a westerly (off shore) wind yesterday, I had the afternoon free (school's on break) and I took myself for a paddle. Such a wind usually means calm seas, so I headed to the outer harbor where the water is confined and produces some nice calapotis waves.It was good paddling and it was a chance to practice strokes in a 1+ foot chop. Being a work day, I saw precious few other boats including a Coast Guard vessel coming in from an exercise. I returned to shore and, when I stepped out of the boat, realized I had just gotten away with doing something dumb.

When the wind blows toward Michigan, the warm top water goes with it. When I stepped out of the boat and into the water, I could not believe how cold it felt...and that was in the near shore shallows. I suddenly realized that I was dressed only in paddling shorts and a thin, long-sleeved base layer. Had I gone over and blown away from shore, I damn well could have gotten hypothermic before making it back to land. At the end of the day, it still always comes down to basics.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

After Class
After teaching an introduction to sea kayaking class this past weekend, I took the group on a leisurely paddle up some of the local river's tributaries. It was a relaxed way to end what had been a perfect day, both teaching and weather wise. As luck had it, I had my Optio tucked into a vest pocket and snapped off a few pics. I just knew that the old wood would end up as a gray scale image.
Paddle safe...


Monday, August 17, 2009

"Ladies and Gentlemen...
...and children of all ages"

That's the traditional cry of the circus ring master as he invites all ages to enjoy the excitement and wonder of a circus. It is not just an invitation to fun but also an acknowledgment that "children of all ages" love to play...and learn. Those things that young and old individuals share are uniting acts in our society. The whole idea of mentoring is to have an experienced (often older) individual help school a neophyte. In the end, both are happy and better at their craft. That's what went through my mind when I saw the two above sitting on a pier. Separated by at least60 years of life experience, the younger one was getting ready to help her older friend into a canoe. Moved by the sight, I and others also went over to help.
And, off she went, stroking that boat just fine. I can also tell you, from a personal conversation, that she is sharp as a tack and thoroughly enjoyed her time on the water. Meanwhile, just a few feet away...
...the next generation was getting ready to make their bones. Tell me this paddling thing isn't a great sport.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's Been Busy
and Not Always Good.
Got to paddle this week before going up to 'Baga to teach a kayak fundamental class yesterday. The preceding week was the end of the semester at the nursing college where I teach. That meant writing and correcting exams, answering endless e mails that began with "can you send me my grade" and, finally, breaking into a NASA-like computer system (complete with CIA protection) to post the grades. Just when I felt that wonderful sensation of going on break and being able to relax...

...the calendar on my computer went caput. Every scheduled event in my future life gone. So I have been scrambling to put it back together, and my greatest fear is that I won't show up for some obligation, something I consider sacred.

Still, it looks to be a nice day. Perfect for a nervous breakdown, sitting in a breezy meadow and crying and wondering just how things happen. Perhaps I can pull the wire off the toaster and give myself an electro shock treatment. Meanwhile, back up your calendar and

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

When, Where and How
(warning: you are about to enter a stream of consciouness)

I got thinking while sitting as safety boater on the river last weekend. I don't paddle there much anymore. I wonder why. Yes, I have a sea kayak and think of myself as a sea kayaker; but I've always enjoyed a meandering sojourn into the nooks and crannies of the old river. It was always relaxing, and there was generally interesting wildlife to see. Still, I do 90+% of my outings on Lake Michigan with the occassinal runup to Lake Superior.

Thing is, the lake is often as placid as the river, offers little new in the way of sights (although, I suppose those aren't the exact same gulls every time) and generally has under 3 foot seas. Not a thrilling ride, but I get out there...generally, alone.

Coming from a background of running marathons, I have never taken to long distant paddles, especially at a fast pace. I suppose it is due, in part, to being in a Romany which starts out short (16 feet) and has a lot of rocker which further shortens its water line and speed. So, I sat with all this and discovered that I just liked being out there and knowing my skill level and controlling my boat as if it were an extension of myself.

I've been rolling less and less yet (timing is everything) I head for QAJAQ training camp in a few weeks. My SOF will go on the car and all my traditional stuff into the car as I head off to meet old friends, hang out on the water in an incredibly cramped boat, do some of the same old rolls I've always done, get 40% of my static braces (with Roy holding on just in case) and eat good food. There, too, it is the experience, ambience and the connection to the roots of our sport that entertain me. And, I just might come back with a new trick or two.

Paddle safe...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Here's Looking At You
This past Saturday I was the safety boater for an activity on the Milwaukee river. It was quite amazing how well it went considering the dire predictions of thunderstorms...but I digress. The thing I noticed, and want to make a short comment on today, was what I saw when the sun came blazing out.

A few staff members took to the water, and none of them had on sunglasses. One had forgotten them ashore and others had left them in the car. That little incident brought to mind how important (in my judgment) shades are, especially on the water. First of all, they can make you look cool...I guess. But there are also sound medical and practical reasons to have sunglasses as part of one's kit

Most simply, sunglasses reduce the amount of light reaching your retina and, thus, reduce those headaches one can get from the harsh exposure and from squinting. More importantly, UV light hastens cataract formation and, on the water, we get a double dose. We get the sunlight coming down as well as the reflection bouncing off the water. Reason enough for the glasses, however they must block the UV rays. There must be a sticker saying as much.

Secondly, you will want Polarized lenses. By definition, these lenses block the glare off everything except metal. This effect allows you to see down into the water (if the surface is still enough) and see that rock before it kisses your hull. It also reduces eye strain.

Having said all this, I cannot believe the money some people pay for designer sunglasses. Outrageous. Considering that, even with straps on, we all now and then lose or break a pair, I don't see the need to invest over $25. Yes, those are cheap and they break and you can buy a truck load of them for what you pay for that designer pair you will lose. But they are available with UV blocking Polarized lenses at most drug stores.

By the way: I have forever mentioned here that your on water (and off) photography will improve tremendously if you use a polarized filter to eliminate the glare. It makes clouds pop (as you near 90 degrees from the sun), lets you see into water and takes that annoying glare off leaves while saturating your colors (better to very slightly under than over expose).

There, I feel better, and you see better. Win-win.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Hey, That's Boo
So, the Milwaukee Rag has been carrying a story about 2 young ladies involved in a long distance canoe paddle for a charitable cause. Something sounded familiar about it. It seemed to me that each year around this time I was reading a blog about this affair and that it had something to do with this unique young lady folks called Boo. So I checked in at and. sure enough, it was the Boo I knew. Now, I could reiterate for you what is already old news, but suggest you visit the site and get acquainted with Boo and her companion and revel in the delight that there is a new generation of good people growing into adulthood. And there is also a proud and supportive dad out there.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

One from Column A
One from Column B
Is this the way to teach?
We certainly see it at symposiums, but it occurs at group lessons as well. Students, having been presented with a menu of what 's available, choose which class, trip and/or workshop they will attend. For our purposes, let's say it is a trip.

For safety and other reasons the menu annotates the description of each trip by labeling it for beginners, intermediates or advanced paddlers. But, just as one's eyes are often larger than one's stomach, some students over order; or, at least, they over estimate their level of competence. So, a less than advanced paddler signs on for an advanced trip know what happens. They slow the group down and possibly require rescue as the conditions exceed their skills.

And it's not just symposiums. How many times have one of us gone to teach a rolling class only to find that some of the students have precious little time in their boats and don't have basic edging or bracing skills. Their horse is ahead of their cart. Predictably, they fail to learn to roll and are discouraged with the sport because they can't do the big trick.

I must admit that I find it far easier to describe the problem than to fix it. Given endless help and time, I suppose we could "audition" paddlers or put them through an entrance exam and then recommend what would be the next best thing for them to learn. Doing so would allow for a smoother and more gratifying experience for the student and avoid spoiling the class for those ready for the next level. Perhaps symposiums could begin with everyone on the water doing this and that while the instructor staff observes them and sorts them into levels. This, of course, risks the wrath of the paddle who is insulted by what they might perceive as a battle field demotion.

Maybe it is time to ask a few more questions on the applications for these activities. Ask them how long they've paddled, can they scull and whether or not they are comfortable in 3 footers. What about 4 footers? And what boat are you it really a sea kayak?

I love teaching, and I can dream. When I do, I dream about those groups that were well matched for skill levels and what a great experience they and I had afloat learning together.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Thanks, Ben
(JB was happens)
Ben Lawry was in the neighborhood this past weekend (Madison) to conduct lessons. As it turned out with the scheduling, there was going to be a block of open time on Sunday morning. Now, to have such a skilled instructor around doing nothing would have been a sin; so JB, ever the proponent of ongoing education for instructors, suggested to Nancy (our Boss at Rutabaga) that they have something for instructors. She agreed, and I went. It was some of the best on water time I've had in quite a while.
Ben first gathered our wish lists of things we wanted to work on and areas in which we wanted to be better instructors. I opted for teaching techniques around forward sweep strokes and bow rudders. Then we did some of Ben's famous on land techniques for finding our strongest posture and positions. I was surprised to learn that I cannot get my knees high enough in my Romany. I tore out some padding which improved things a bit...but I digress.

Once on the water we drilled and drilled, especially with the turning edges and sweep strokes. Ben, ever observant, had pearls of wisdom and observations to share with us. (I still wake up at night hearing him call out, "Doc, where are you looking.")

That afternoon, I was able to paddle for a few hours on my own and realized there had been a step up in my paddling. Later, thinking it all over, I also realized that I was a better paddler than I had been that morning and that I had a whole new bag of ideas around teaching. That's a good day on the water. JB was right (I hate when that happens). Thanks, Ben

Paddle safe...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Take a Bow
or not
There is the bow sweep, the bow rudder, the bow press, the bow draw and the cross bow rudder; and I never get tired of doing any of them. After all, I love to paddle. In addition, I love photography and rue the fact that I don't have the mind set to take a good camera with a decent lens out onto the water. So, like most of us, I have an Optio or similar point and shoot and have recorded an endless number of bow shots.
Seated, as we are, inches above the water's surface, 99.9999999% of on-water blog shots show the bow of the photographer's boat (myself included).Shot after shot we see views of the Mediterranean Sea, Puget Sound and the Milwaukee River all desecrated by the presence of the bow of some kayak. Sometimes, to be sure, such a perspective helps frame the shot and gives it a sense of place. But, as Groucho Marx once said (in a totally different context), " I like my cigar, but I take it out once in a while."So, here I show you some of my over-the-bow-hall-of-shame-shots one more time with hopes of being more creative in the future. Get the point?

Paddle safe...