Monday, August 29, 2011

I am from the generation that used wooden crates, boards and broken roller skates to make scooters that we pushed with one foot. Dangling a piece of bacon on a string to catch crayfish was also a biggie when I was  a kid. Thing is, it was simpler time. We didn't have a TV until I was 8 years old and computers...what the heck are computers? This is was the kind of game boy that gave us hours of fun.
When I became a bigger boy I got some big boy toys and ended up with some magnificent sailing crafts. They were complicated and costly, and I spent more time servicing and cleaning them than I did actually sailing. Well, it all comes full circle. I found a simple "toy" with essentially no moving parts; and I have to use my own muscles to make it move. It cost a bit more than my home-made scooters (although I built a few of these as well), but I spend almost all my time playing with it rather than fixing or servicing it. Life is good.

Paddle safe...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Such a Simple Thing...

It was a few years ago, during an instructor training or exam, and I was leading a scenario. I was to take the group along the shore to point x, gather them up, then lead them out through the gap in the break wall and onto the open waters of Lake Michigan. When we were all gathered, I asked the group, "Which side of the opening should we go through?" A simple question.

Some said the middle and most said on the right because we are supposed to keep right. I was surprised at their responses as it was clear to me that we needed to go along the left (north) side of the opening since the northerly wind that was blowing would , at worst, blow us into the center of the gap. Their methods carried the risk of being blown onto the rocks on the south side of the gap. Why hadn't that occurred to them?
This came to mind as I read Carl White's letter to the editor in the current issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine (October, 2011). In evaluating another incident previously reported in the magazine, Carl writes: "Without immersing themselves in the essentials of seamanship, of being mariners, eager sea kayakers seeking 'adventure' on open water thus fail to match their expansive goals to their limited means."

Before ever getting into a kayak I had some 3 decades of experience in big boats, that is 40-50 foot sailboats and pilot house trawlers. It was especially in sailboats that I learned not to get my craft in a situation where I might be forced to tack into danger and to anticipate, anticipate, anticipate what the wind would do to my position a I moved forward. I took great pride in how I handled my Hans Christian 42 (often single-handed) and was always eager to learn more from other skippers. We all considered ourselves first and foremost to be mariners, individuals who understood the local waters and the way the wind made our boats behave. It translated well when I got into kayaks.

So often I see a paddler making a short crossing directly toward a point without allowing for the leeway that the cross wind is sure to cause. Without realizing it, they paddle a "great circle" route, never noticing the constant change in their compass heading (if they have a compass on deck).

I still read basic seamanship books that I've saved over the years. That, and the exercises in navigation I get from JB, serve me well on the water. Sooner or later the fog envelopes us all or the wind suddenly freshens, and that's when we each need to exhibit some seamanship. Heck, it even helps get us through a gap in the break wall.

Paddle safe...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Love + recyclables = creative parenting
 Coming in from last Sunday's paddle we noticed something going on along the shore. From afar it looked like a happening involving people and a pile of empty bottles. We paddled to the event and found a bare-chested man with his kids and some neighbor kids going onto the water. The kids were having a ball.
I asked him what was up. Turns out that they had collected empty plastic bottles, put them in nets, got a board to act as a floor and made their own boats.
That's hi tech parenting. Take some junk and imagination...and just add water.

Paddle safe...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

If it ain't broke...
fix it until it is.

So I lost my roll for a few days. Almost ripped out my right shoulder trying to force it. finally, showed it to friends and got it videoed and showed them that. Why, they wanted to know, was I getting into that position and lifting my head and...?

It was Sherri who recognized the DVD I had been watching and was trying to copy. Her advise, "Don't do that. Do what you always do." So I went out today and did what I always used to do. First, I did a few slow, gentle, smooth sweep rolls with my Greenland stick. I had the Werner Cypress on deck ready to go and did the same, smooth, gentle thing with that Euro blade. Results: effortless roll. Just like in the old days.

Maybe I will finally get some sleep tonight.

Paddle safe...
Point of View...
Photography has always held endless fascination for me, especially back when I used a large format 4x5 camera with my head under the cloth. That type of photography was slow, deliberate and, at times, elegant. Magic was done in the darkroom. Now, film has given way to pixels and, instead of 1-4 second exposures, images are captured in a fraction of a second. Something is lost and something is gained. Now, I can capture an image on the water and work with it in my electronic darkroom, often with satisfying results.
 I can also capture peak action (if I am lucky) and decide whether it looks better in color...
 or black and white.
The only thing constant is change.

Paddle safe...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Go Stick It...

We're lucky (so far) here in Wisconsin inasmuch as we don't have to register kayaks and/or put stickers on our bows. It is one thing to do this with a large craft, but our elegant little hulls look better unadorned.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Size Definitely matters...
Once upon a time, obsessed with the idea of going faster, I purchased the mega mama Ikelos blade by Werner. It grabs like a front end loader and is hard on the shoulders. I did notice that using smallerr paddles usually resulted in going faster because I just naturally picked up the number of strokes per hour.  After much trying out all sorts of paddles I ordered and received a Cypress blade...and learned that too big isn't good.
What a sweet blade. It feels easy on the body and allows for more reps per minute. which means more speed. Now to roll with it.

Paddle safe...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Once Upon a Time...
I had a roll, a pretty-much-bomb proof roll. And...I still have pretty good success teaching others to roll. But something starting to get into my head. It could be radiation or extraterrestials, but I think it is over-think. I started analyzing my roll. I was fine with a Greenland stick, but my euro paddle rolls went away. Perhaps it happened while I was asleep.

So I analyzed more and nearly tore my right rotator cuff apart. Finally, I got someone to video me and...will you look at that?...that guy is lifting his head...and dipping his shoulder...and pulling down on the paddle. It wasn't a disease, it was an epidemic. This required hospitalization.

So I am back to the GS, keeping my back on the water and looking at the sky for help as I relearn what I thought was bomb proof.

Paddlle safe...


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The High Calling of Teaching
(L-R )  JB, Sam Me
It is my personal tradition to hold in high esteem and to honor those who have been my teachers. I have, throughout my life, been blessed with men and women who have taught me invaluable lessons. Some have been students of mine who knew something I didn't know and needed to know. All have given to me a gift with their teaching. That gift was to make me more knowledgeable, more skilled and a better person.

When one of my legs suffered nerve damage and partial loss of function I was forced to give up one of the loves of my life...Judo. My search led me to Rutabaga in Madison where JB happen to be the instructor for that day's intro to sea kayaking. I loved the class, was hooked and learned that JB lived in Milwaukee, a short distance from where I grew up. I began joining him on Sunday morning paddles and am still learning from him.

This year, when JB and I were camping between symposiums, we drove over to Marquette, Michigan and had dinner with Sam Crowley. Sam was the man who, along with JB, conducted my IDW and ICE and eventually certified me as a level 4 instructor. He is a skilled teacher with in depth knowledge on many many topics. His humor is unique. Time spent with him is always time well spent.

These men are two of my teachers and, I am honored to say, my friends. I trust them and wanted to acknowledge their contribution to my life.

Paddle safe..

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Low Brace Turn...
 Braces, ya' gotta' love 'em. No other technique is so basic, so simple, so instructive and sexy to do. It turns our boats and makes us look competent. It is something I stress in my classes, even with beginners.
 Even when done with scant commitment the moving brace gives some students the first opportunity to feel the ability of the blade to support them. It seems, too, to take little practice and few repetitions before the student is committing more and more weight to the paddle. Rarely some will, in the words of another DS (of British origin)but , get out of the cockpit.
 I always stress that low braces be done at or behind the hip to allow for a dump-saving forward sculling movement should one over stay their welcome over the bracing blade (the opposite with the high brace). Then we practice going straight into shore and practicing varying amounts of pressure on the blade and edging until the paddler can parallel park his/her craft.
Now if I can just get all those guys to keep their elbows up above the shaft.

Paddle safe...

Friday, August 05, 2011

A few of us were safety boaters

for Milwaukee's "Beach Party" on the lagoon of the local state park. Nice crowd, well behaved. Good food and music. Lovely evening on the water.

Paddle safe...

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Ever just...

go out in your kayak, sit quietly and feel the water breath underneath the hull while you listen for...what?

Paddle safe...


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Elegance and Grace
in the face of
So, I wanted to switch out the old braces (in my Cetus MV) for solid aluminum Yakima braces. Where to get the new ones? Well, JB shows up to paddle on sunday and hands me a set he's had in his basement. The guy never ceases to amaze me with his knowledge and resources...and stash.
Taking out the old ones was simple. Back out 4 screws and they come off. Now, all that is needed is to put the new ones on with the screws that have come with them. Both sets of rails have the standard 14.5" between holes. So let's slap those puppies on. First, one needs to assume the rail insertion posture (RIP). Next, one simply holds the new rale in place and smoothly screws them on. But wait, the holes don't quite match up. How can this be? What to do? Call Leslie.
    We spend the next hour in swealtering heat and enjoy no success. It appears that the new rails are longer than the old ones. But they measure the same. I check the medicine cabinets only to find I am out of antidepressants. Think. Think.
The old tracks are plastic and, thus, flexible. They can follow the curvature of the hull and, in doing so, reduce the distance needed between holes by a fraction of an inch.
   A quick exchange of e mails with Brian Day at P&H confirms this and, after a little work with a round file and Leslies' help, they go on.
I have solid new foot braces in my Cetus MV. Life is good.
Paddle safe...

Monday, August 01, 2011

Have We Peaked?
I just taught at three wonderful sea kayak symposiums where I met a lot of wonderful folks and got to say hello to old friends. They were well attended, but there was a feeling that the last one might not enjoy a full boat load of participants. Some of this, I am guessing, is due to the economy and cost of gas. Yet, I wonder if the pool of new folks interested in sea kayaking is ebbing. Sign ups for classes at some of the paddle shops are down and some classes have been cancelled for lack of enrolment. Come to think of it, only 4 of us showed up for the Sunday morning paddle on a near perfect day.
 To be sure, kayaking is growing in popularity. Just look at all the new (mostly plastic) sit on tops, kayaks for fishing and cheap...really cheap...recreational kayaks are selling and showing up on our lakes (sometimes in places they ought not be). When folks hear that I am an instructor they ask all sorts of questions that indicate that, at least to them, kayaking is recreational kayaking. If there is a second place interest, it seems to be in white water paddling.
In fact, when I mention kayaking people often think I am talking about going down the rapids. The point is that few of them think or ask about sea kayaking. Having to tip over and doing a wet exit does not seem to appeal to many even though they will take out a recreational boat, splash one another and getting thoroughly soaked. Perhaps there is little interest in the risk of going out on open waters in conditions.
I don't sell kayaks and I do not make any significant money from teaching (earnings just about = gas costs). I just love doing it. My interest here is in seeing new people enjoying this wonderful sport and learning to do it safely.

Paddle safe...