Monday, February 28, 2011

Training? Maybe

Cimarron River

I've been trying to keep the muscles and joints going, but I'd be reluctant to call it training in the traditional sense.  I've been at it a couple months, but no sooner do I get going good than we have a snowstorm or ice storm, or the winds are blowing 40-50mph.  So, it's kind of hit and miss.  I've been trying to ride the bike at least 7.5 miles most days, and doing about 500 reps on the rowing machine, but I fear the real conditioning won't get started until I actually get underway.  Getting out for a paddle is almost impossible.  There are no rivers here, in the sense of how most of us think of rivers.  They really amount to storm drains more than anything else.  The Cimarron River is the largest river in Northwest Oklahoma.  It runs 698 miles through New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma before joining the Arkansas River, but it is just damp mud most of the time.  The man-made lakes whip to a steep chop in no time as the winds tear across the plains.  I've been reading the blog O-Dark30 (Brian), and he does a lot of paddling at night.  I may have to give that a go.  Today was pretty decent, and I got out for a 10-mile peddle, but I need to get some water under me.  I'm suffering from withdrawals.  As for spring, I mentioned the tree buds filling out, and yesterday we had the other sign of spring on the plains.  We were under a tornado watch from 1200 to 2100.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

VHF-FM Marine Transceiver

The costs of getting ready for this trip just kept mounting, so I initially put having a VHF on the back burner, with the intent of relying on the SPOT and cell phone if I needed assistance. The VHF would make more sense when I got into rivers and canals, like the Mississippi or Erie. However, three things changed my mind. There are portions of the Florida Circumnavigation where cell phone coverage is spotty or absent, and I was still without a way to get reliable weather reports. Having no advance warning of changes in weather or rapidly developing storms when being forced into open Gulf waters or on routes with no access to alternative safe havens was just not safe. So, out came the wallet again.

I selected the Standard Horizon HX208S VHF for several reasons. It was reasonably priced, rechargeable, and submersible. The speaker is loud and clear, the displays are large and back-lighted, light weight, has dual watch, channel scanning, and the full range of weather channels. It is submersible to 3 feet for 30 minutes, which is another way of saying, to me anyhow, that it is water resistant, so a VHF dry bag is smart. It has a rechargeable Li-ion battery and comes with chargers for both AC and 12-volt cigarette lighter plug-in. Unfortunately, there are several sections along the coast where you won’t have access to either a wall outlet or a cigarette lighter for several days to a week. Having an optional battery pack was critical, and the radio provides for that with the optional FBA-40 battery case. The Li-ion battery is good for something over 13 hours. That’s fine for day sailing or an out-and-back fishing trip, but leaves you high and dry if you need communications for extended periods without normal recharge capability. The Li-ion battery case unclips and pull out, and the auxiliary battery case with six AA batteries replaces it.

On the cost end, I found the radio cheaper than West Marine with a Google search, but West Marine agreed to match the price. They also had the VHF dry bag in stock, which has a nice lanyard that can be secured to a strong point in the canoe, or used to hang the radio around the neck if you expect to need fairly frequent access to it. They did not stock the auxiliary battery case, but special ordered it for me, and it arrived before the radio did. The proof is in real-life usage, but I feel confident now that I have what I need.

I used the Standard Horizon portable radio daily when I worked as an ICW bridge tender for seven years. The radio is great, but there is one caveat that‘s not unique to this brand. The radios frequently come with a belt clip. Radios were replaced on a much too regular basis after the radio clip slipped off the belt when the bridge tender bent over, tried to run, or rubbed against something. To be safe, you may want the radio either in your hand, or somehow secured so you don’t hear that ominous splash. Even if it is submersible, you don’t want to have to go diving for it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Undaunted Courage

Undaunted Courage, by Stephen E. Ambrose (Simon & Schuster, 374pp.) is not just the book title, but the words used by Jefferson to describe Lewis. The book is exhaustively researched, fascinating, and brings Jefferson, Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea to life as you‘ve most likely never known them before. It is not only a great read, but well worth adding to your permanent library.

Meriwether Lewis was charged with a lot more than exploring the river and drawing a map of the newly purchased Louisiana Territory, the Western United States. He studied celestial navigation so he could plot the latitude and longitude of every Missouri River bend, rapids, island, junctions of the Missouri with other rivers or feeder streams. He had to maintain a journal in triplicate, hand writing each separately, in the event one should be lost. Two copies were done on paper and wrapped in oil cloth, and one was done on birch bark. He had to report back to Jefferson as often as possible and by whatever means, like a trapper going down stream to St. Louis with his furs. Every Indian tribe he met had to be studied, have a workable dictionary made of every tribal dialect, list their location, their populations, what diseases they had, and what remedies they used, the age at which their women began and ended menstruation, the age of marriage, how long they nursed their children, samplings of their normal pulse rates morning, noon, evening, and before and after eating, their food, what time they rose, their normal daily routine, how often they bathed, all manner of housing and clothing, their knowledge of, and what he could find of, the presence of dinosaur bones and volcanoes, their social tendencies toward murder and suicide, what they employed besides alcohol for intoxication, their religious beliefs and ceremonies, how they disposed of their dead, their social tendencies and relations with other tribes, what they might need and what they could offer in the way of trade, their movements or migrations, study what would be needed for America to take over the U. S. fur trade currently dominated by the English and French, and where trading posts could be established. He studied taxidermy and needed to collect and catalog specimens of every form of flora and fauna previously unknown to them, and send back as many preserved specimens as possible, along with drawings, measurements and descriptions. He had to study the potential for farming with inspection and assessment of different soils and their fertility, assess what factors may influence farming practices, monthly and annual rainfall, and temperature ranges and daily measurements. The northern boundary of Louisiana Territory was described as the latitude of the northern-most tributary of any stream feeding into the Missouri River. What streams they couldn’t personally investigate had to be documented by multiple independent statements obtained from Indians and trappers that had ventured into those regions. This was important for a boundary line to be established between the new American and British territories.

He had met William Clark when they served together in the Army. Anyone involved in business or relationships will tell you that a partnership is the most fragile organizational form, and the one most likely to fail. Yet, with all the ego that goes with military command, they worked perfectly together for years. Thomas Jefferson could think of no one he had more confidence in than Lewis, and Lewis felt the same about Clark. Specifically to avoid the conflicts of a joint command, Secretary of War Dearborn ignored Lewis’ request that he and Clark have the same rank, same pay, and be recognized jointly as leaders of the expedition. Dearborn made Lewis commander with the rank of captain, and Clark his subordinate with a rank and pay of lieutenant. In history, Lewis won. Neither is recognized by most people unless their names are said together, like the first and last name of one person, ‘Lewis N. Clark‘.

Much of what Lewis discovered was previously totally unknown to science. In the end, the journals of the expedition filled eight printed volumes. Collected specimens are found in several museums. Meeting the expectations of Jefferson, the scientific community of the Enlightenment, and a public wanting to migrate west, while at the same time meeting the demands of moving an expedition into unknown territory against the current of an often wild river, among unpredictable Indian nations, fighting starvation and meeting ten-foot deep snows in the passes is a mind-boggling accomplishment. Yet, Lewis ended by committing suicide because he felt he hadn’t done enough. When there was a crisis, any emergency, when the odds against succeeding were virtually impossible to surmount, Lewis was the man anyone would want in command. However, when the crisis was past and he had time to sit idle, he would immediately slip into manic depression, begin drinking, and start relying on the drugs he needed to fight the malaria contracted on the expedition, and which would plague him the balance of his life. In spite of all he accomplished, he still felt lacking and defensive about not attaining perfection. He felt such imperfections would serve as an embarrassment to Jefferson, and it became more than he could handle.

Credit: 2 portraits by Google pictures

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Doryman, Thanks for joining my other friends.  I hope you continue to find our travels interesting, and I hope to keep traveling. 
Today was a sudden change in weather.  We weren't in that great a need for the cold, but we definitely were for the rain.  Last week was just too good to last, but the warm weather did start to fill the tree buds.  Some trees have taken on a red tint, and others green.  The coloring is slight, but it's there, and groundhog shadow or not, spring can't be far behind.

Food Storage

There are any number of attempts at protecting provisions in the wilderness. The king is the bear barrel. There are a variety of items used for bear barrels, from those specifically designed and manufactured commercially to various recycled plastic pickle and olive barrels used for the purpose. Nothing is perfect, however, at least not forever. Bears are extremely intelligent, and at least in the Adirondacks they’ve learned that a blue barrel or a bag hanging from an overhead line mean the same thing to them that the Golden Arches mean to most kids. They’ve learned how to rip the line holding the container in the air, climb the tree to sever the horizontal line running between two trees, or if hanging from a small tree, send cubs up the tree until it bends down enough for Mom to reach dinner. The barrels will still work in most other areas, at least for awhile, but just like monkey see, monkey do…….

Bears represent the most severe threat to food supplies in areas where they are common, but they’re not the only threat. Anything from mice, rats, raccoons, or anything else that can smell the food, will try to get to it. The first solution is to pack food in air-tight, odor-free packaging, like zip-lock bags. Often people will even double bag provisions. The second solution is to keep a clean campsite and avoid having food in camp. Cliff Jacobson, who often paddles through the Northern tundra bear country where there are no trees to hang food caches from, says he seems to have the best success by just getting food away from camp. Bears equate food with people, so not having it around people helps. He moves his food storage a couple hundred feet downwind from camp and leaves it on the ground.

I’ve recently stumbled on something I’m giving a try. USA Emergency Supply handles dehydrated foods and food storage equipment for emergency storm shelters. They manufacture a strong double lid, called The Gamma Seal Lid, that fastens to the top of 5-gallon utility buckets you can buy at any Lowes or Home Depot. The outer rim snaps securely to the top of the bucket. It’s so secure, it has to be set in place with a mallet. The inner face of the rim is threaded to receive the threaded and gasketed lid, making a watertight and airtight seal. The sturdy bails make it ease to carry the buckets, even two in a hand, during a portage. This makes the harness needed to transport a barrel unnecessary. When I made up my provisions, I found that each bucket carried a full week’s supplies, and weighed 12 lbs. As to cost, the buckets were $2.74 ea. at Lowes, and the lids vary in cost depending on the number ordered, but run around $6.40 ea. This compares favorably with the $80-90 most bear barrels go for.

A wanigan is a container to carry the pots and pans, dishes, eating utensils, stove and fuel, cooking utensils, and normal items you need to access for nearly every meal. These include coffee, tea, cocoa, spices, dish soap and scrubber, clothes pins, etc. Rather than building a wood box for this purpose, one bucket accommodates everything that’s needed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Paddler's Reading List(4)

Rutstrum, Calvin / The New Way of the Wilderness
Rutstrum, Calvin / The Wilderness Cabin
Rutstrum, Calvin / The Wilderness Life

Rutstrum, Calvin / Once Upon a Wilderness
Rutstrum, Calvin / Chips from a Wilderness Log
Rutstrum, Calvin / Back Country
Rutstrum, Calvin / A Wilderness Autobiography
Schneider, Paul / Old Man River: The Mississippi River in N. American History
Seton, Ernest Thompson / The Arctic Prairies: A Canoe Journey of 2,000 Miles in Search of Caribou
Sevareid, Eric / Canoeing With The Cree

Shaffer, John / The First Hundred Miles are the Longest
Shoalts, Adam / Alone Against the North
Shultz, James Willard / Floating on the Missouri
Silliker, Bill / Moose

Silvestri, R.C. / A Paddle Across America
Sloan, A. Tony / Black Flies and White Water
Smith, Clyde H. / Northeast Passage: A Photographer's Journey Along the Historic NFCT
Smith, Sean / The Fat Paddler
Stackpole Books, Editors of / Survival Wisdom and Know How
Stark, Peter / At The Mercy of the River
Starkell, Don / Paddle to the Amazon

Starkell, Don / Paddle to the Arctic
Steber, Rick / New York to Nome; The True Story of Two Men and the Adventure of a Lifetime
Stiller, Eric / Keep Australia on Your Left
Strom, Gerald / 20 Great BWCA Trips
Stroud, Les / Survive

Struzik, Ed / Ten Rivers, Adventure Stories from the ArcticTaft, Susan / The River Chasers: A History of American Whitewater Paddling
Taylor, Shell / New York to NomeThoreau, Henry David / A Week of the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
Thoreau, Henry David / The Maine Woods
Thoreau, Henry David / Walden
Thoreau, Henry David / A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
Thorp, Raymond / Crow Killer
Twigger, Robert / Voyageur

Tyrrell, James W. / Across the Sub-Arctics of Canada
Underwood, Lamar / Tales of the Mountain Men

Unwin, Peter / The Wolf's Head: Writing Lake Superior
Ureneck, Lou / Backcast
Voss, John / The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss
Wallace, Dillon / The Lure of the Labrador Wild
Wallach, Jeff / What the River Says
Warren, Grahan & Gidmark, David / Canoe Paddles

Wallace / Hubbard-Wallace / Labrador Expedition
Watters, Ron / Never Turn Back: The Life of Whitewater Pioneer Walt Blackader
Wells, Robert W. / Daylight in the Swamp
Weidemann, Dennis / This Water Goes North
Weir, Phil / Canoeing The Mountain: Gifts from the Waters

White, Stewart Edward / The Forest (camping short stories)
Whyte, David C. / The Hummingbird From Resolute: Memories of a Journey to
the Polar Sea
Wilbers, Stephen / A Boundary Waters History
Wilson, Hap / Temagami
Wilson, Hap / The Cabin
Wilson, Hap & Aykroyd, Stepanie / Wilderness Rivers of

Wilson, Hap / Lake Superior to Manitoba by Canoe
Wilson, Hap / River of Fire
Wood, Douglas / Deep Woods, Wild Waters

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Paddler's Reading List(3)

McGuffin, Gary & Joannie / In The Footsteps of Gray Owl
McGuffin, Gary & Joannie / Where Rivers Run
McGuire, Thomas / 99 Days on the Yukon
McDonah, Ellen K. / One Woman's River: Mississippi Source to Sea
McPhee, John / The Survival of the Bark Canoe
Mead, Robert Douglas / Ultimate North: Canoeing Mackenzie’s Great River
Merrick, Elliot / True North

Millard, Candice / The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
Messer, Richard E. & Sanders, Jerry D. / On the Big Rivers
Miller, David L/ The Complete Paddler: Guidebook for the Missouri River
Moore, Joanne Ronan / Nahanni Trailhead
Morse, Eric / Freshwater Saga
Mulvany, Tara / A Winter's Paddle: Kayak Around South Island of New Zealand
Nealy, William / Whitewater Home Companion: Southeastern Rivers (research author for long list of whitewater river maps and guides beyond scope of paddling bibliography)
Neide, Dr. Chas. A. / The Canoe Aurora: A Cruise from the Adirondacks to the Gulf
Newman, Peter C. / Caesars of the Wilderness
Newman, Peter C. / The Company of Adventurers
NFCT Inc. / The Northern Forest Canoe Trail Official Guidebook
Norment, Christopher / In the North of Our Lives
North, Dick / The Mad Trapper: A True Story of Canada’s Biggest Manhunt
Nute, Grace Lee / The Voyageur
Nute, Grace Lee / The Voyageur Highway
Olson, Sigurd / Listening Point-Sigurd Olson
Olson, Sigurd / Reflections of the North Country
Olson, Sigurd / Songs of the North-
Olson, Sigurd / The Lonely Land
Olson, Sigurd / The Singing Wilderness
Olson, Sigurd / Wilderness Days
Olson, Sigurd / Runes of the North
Olson, Sigurd / Open Horizons
Olson, Sigurd / The Hidden Forest
Olson, Sigurd / Of Time and Place
Olson, Sigurd / The Meaning of Wilderness
Olson, Sigurd / Spirit of the North: The Quotable Sigurd F. Olson
O'Neill, Dan / A Land Gone Lonesome: An Inland Voyage along the Yukon River
O’Reilly, John Boyle / Canoeing in the Dismal Swamp

Osler, Sanford / Canoe Crossings
Paine, Albert Bigalow / The Tent Dwellers
Ransom, Rick / Paddling South: Winnipeg to New Orleans by Canoe
Patterson, R.M. / Dangerous River
Patterson, R.M. / Finlay’s river
Patterson, R.M. / The Buffalo Head
Patterson, R.M. / Trail to the Interior
Pauli, Frederick G. / A Record of a Trip Through Canada's Wilderness to Lake Chibogamoo and the Great Lake Mistassini
Paulson, Gary / Winterdance (youth book, 5-6th grade, on first Iditarod race)
Pauly, Daniel / Exploring the Boundary Waters
Payne, Jim / One Inch Above the Water: Running Away on America's Rivers
Pelly, David F. / Thelon: A River Sanctuary
Perkins, Robert / Into The Great Solitude; An Arctic Journey

Peterson, Sr., Phil / All Things are Possible: The Verlen Kruger Story, 100,000 miles by Paddle
Peterson, David / On the Wild Edge
Pierce, Linda Breen / Choosing Simplicity

Philippon, Daniel J. / Our Neck of the Woods: Exploring Minnesota's Wild Places
Pinkerton, Robert E. / The Canoe: Its Selection, Care and Use (1914)
Pitt, Kathleen & Michael / Three Seasons in the Wind
Pohl, Herb / The Lure of Faraway Places

Porter, Winton / Just Passin' Thru

Poulin, Jack / A Castle in the Bush
Powell-Williams, Clive / Cold Burial
Proenneke, Dick / One Man's Wilderness
Raffan, James / Bark, Skin and Cedar
Raffan, James / Summer North of Sixty

Raffin, James / Fire in the Bones
Ray, Dorothy Jean / The Eskimos of Bering Strait, 1650-1898 (This is an anthropological text rather than a paddling book, but added for those with an interest in the area.)
Richardson, John / By Canoe Down the Coppermine
Richey, Warren / Without A Paddle: Racing 1200 miles Around FL by Kayak
Riviere, Bill / The Open Canoe
Robins, John D. / The Incomplete Angler
Roden, Allan & Diane / Mississippi Howl
Ross, Alex / Coke Stop in Emo: Adventures of a Long-Distance Paddler
Rowlands, John J. / Cache Lake Country (Life in the North Woods)
Rutstrum, Calvin / Chips From A Wilderness Log
Rutstrum, Calvin / North American Canoe Country: Classic Guide to Canoe Techniques
Rutstrum, Calvin / Paradise below Zero

Monday, February 21, 2011

Paddler's Reading List(2)

Hearne, Samuel / A Journey From Prince of Wales Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean
Heat-Moon, William Least / River-Horse; the logbook of a boat across America

Heinrich, Bernd / Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death
Helmericks, Constance / Down the Wild River North
Henderson, Bob / Every Trail Has a Story; Heritage Travel in Canada

Herndon, Ernest / Canoeing Mississippi
Herrero, Stephen / Bear Attacks Their Causes and Avoidance
Heuer, Karsten / Being Caribou
Hildebrand, John / Reading the River
Hodgins, Bruce & Hobbs, Margaret (edited by) / Nastawgan

Hodgins, Bruce W. & Hoyle, Gwyneth / Canoeing North into the Unknown: A Record of River Travel, 1874-1974
Hoffman, Gary / Mighty Miss: A Mississippi River Experience
Holling, Holling Clancy / Paddle-to-the-Sea
Houck, Oliver A. / Downstream Toward Home
Huck, Barbara / Exploring the Fur Trade Routes of North America

Hummel, Monte / Wintergreen:  Reflections from Loon Lake
Huntington, James / The Edge of Nowhere
Ingstad, Helge / The Land Of Feast & Famine
Jacobson, Cliff / Expedition Canoeing

Jacobson, Cliff / Camping's Top Secrets
Jacobson, Cliff / Canoeing Wild Rivers
Jacobson, Cliff / Boundary Waters Canoe Camping
Jacobson, Cliff / The Forgotten Skills
Jellison, Jared / Fighting the Current: There & Back
Jenish, D'arcy / Epic Wanderer
Jennings, Hodgins & Elliot, editors / The Canoe in Canadian Cultures

Jennings, John / The Canoe: A Living Tradition
Jerome, John / Blue Rooms
Jordan, Jennifer / Last Man on the Mountain (removed as non-paddling related)
Jerome, Jerome K. / Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog

Kane, Joe / Running the Amazon
Karras, A.L. / North To Cree Lake
Kazaks, Peter / From Reinder Lake to Eskimo Point

Keith, Sam / One Man's Wilderness
Kerasote, Ted / Out There
Kesselheim, Alan S. / Going Inside
Kesselheim, Alan S. / The Wilderness Paddler's Handbook

Kesselheim, Alan S. / Threading the Current: A Paddler’s Passion for Water
Kesselheim, Alan S. / Water & Sky
Keyser, Esther / Paddle My Own Canoe
Kimber, Robert / A Canoeist's Sketchbook
Klein, Clayton / Cold Summer Wind
Kochanski, Mors / Northern Bush Craft
Krakauer, Jon / Into The Wild
Lamb, W. Kaye, editor / Simon Fraser: The letters and journals of Simon Fraser,
                1806-1808 / edited with an introduction by W. Kaye Lamb.
Larpenteur, Charles / Forty Years a Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri
Leaf , Sue / The Bullhead Queen: A Year on Pioneer Lake
Leaf, Sue / Portage
Leopold, Aldo / A Sand Country Almanac
Lewis, Jim / Ka-Ka-Ska-Ska
Lewis, Jon / The Best survival Stories Ever Told
Lindemann, Hannes / Along at Sea
London, Jack / Call of the Wild
London, Jack / To Build a Fire
London, Jack / White Fang
Lopez, Barry / About This Life
Lopez, Barry / Arctic Dreams
Lopez, Barry / Of Wolves and Men
Lundy, Derek / God's Forsaken Sea: A True Story of a Race Through the World's Most Dangerous Waters
Lynd, Bob & Louise / A Mississippi River Odyssey: 1939, Ft. Benton to New Orleans
MacGregor J. / A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe on Rivers and Lakes of Europe
Mackenzie, Alexander / First Crossing
Mackenzie, Alexander / Journals of Alexander Mackenzie
Mackenzie, Alexander / Alexander Mackenzie’s Voyage to the Pacific Ocean
Maclean, Norman / A River Runs Through It
Marchildon, Greg & Robinson, Sid / Canoeing the Churchill
Martin, Alexander / Canoeing (for National Outdoor Leadership School)
Mason, Bill / Path of the Paddle
Mason, Bill / Song of the Paddle
Mason, Mort D. / The Alaska Bush Pilot Chronicles
McCarthy, Kevin M. / St. Johns River Guidebook

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Paddler's Reading List

Over the next four days, I’ll give you a paddler’s reading list that has been assembled from a number of sources.  These run the gamut---instructional, historical, classic literature, adventure narrative. These can be copied to your own files for long-term reference. These are condensed to save space, but appear as author’s last name first, first name, forward slash and book title. Enjoy.

From an administrative perspective, I spoke with Scott Smith, of Superior Canoes, yesterday. He says Ibi will be done in a couple weeks. The original plan was to pick it up in Michigan and bring it home for rigging and some test trips, but since we’re about two months behind schedule, when it’s ready, we will pick it up and head straight for Florida to start the Florida Circumnavigation.

(Last updated 16 December 17)

Abbey, Edward / Freedom and Wilderness
Abbey, Edward / Down the River
Adams, Karl / Wake of the Wind Dancer
Adney, Edwin Tappan & Chappelle, Howard / Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of  North America
Ambrose, Stephen E. / Undaunted Courage
Anderson, Scott / Distant Fires
Archer, Laurel / Northern Saskatchewan Canoe Trips

Arseniev, Vladimir K. / Dersu The Trapper (Russian literature compared to the Journals of Lewis and Clark or novels of James Fenimore Cooper)
Backes, David / Spirit of the North, The Quotable Sigurd F. Olson
Balf, Todd / The Last River: The Gragic Race for Shangri-la
Bass, Rick / The Lost Grizzlies
Bechdel, Les and Slim Ray / River Rescue: Manuel for Whitewater Safety
Bell, Bob / Oh, no! We're Gonna Die
Belleville, Bill / River of Lakes: Journey on Florida's St. Johns River

Benidickson, Jamie / Idleness, Water & A Canoe
Berger, J & Terry, T. / Canoe Atlas of the Little North
Berton, Pierre / The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage.
Bigon, Mario / The Morrow Guide To Knots
Bishop, Nathaniel H. / Voyage of the Paper Canoe: A Geographical Journey of 2500 miles from Quebec to the Gulf of Mexico

Breining, Greg / Wild Shore: Exploring Lake Superior by Kayak
Brower, Kenneth / The Starship and the Canoe
Browning, Peter / The Last Wilderness

Cary, Bob / Root Beer Lady: Story of Dorothy Molter
Callan, Kevin / Killarney
Callan, Kevin / Wilderness Pleasures: Practical Guide of Camping Bliss

Chandler, Laurie Apgar / Upwards: Story of the First Woman to Solo Thru-Paddle NFCT
Cherry-Garrard, Apsley / The Worst Journey in the World (Antarctica 1910-13)
Coffin, Stewart / Black Spruce Journals

Combs, Rick & Gillen, Steve / Canoeing and Kayaking Ohio's Streams
Connors, Tim & Christine / Lipsmackin' Backpackin'

Conover, Garrett / Beyond the Paddle:  A Canoeist's Guide to Expedition Skills
Cook, Sam / /Moving Waters

Cook, Sam / Up North: Adventures on Northern Waters
Cook, Sam / Quiet Magic
Cook, Sam / Friendship Fires
Cook, Sam / Camp Sights
Cook, Sam / Campsights CB
Cook, Sam &I Richter, Jeff / Pure Superior
Cook, Sam / Winter of the Heart
Corbett, Ron / The Last Guide

Curran, William Tees / In Canada's Wonderful Northland: A Story of Eight Months of Travel by Canoe, Motorboat, and Dog Team on the Northern Rivers and Along the New Quebec Coast of Hudson Bay
Curren, David / Canoe Trip North to Athabasca
Czajikowski, Chris / Diary of a Wilderness Dweller

Daanen, Katina / The NFCT Through-Paddler's Companion
Dalgado, James / Across The Top Of The World
Davidson, James West & Rugge, John / Great Heart; The History of a Labrador Adventure
Davidson, James West & Rugge, John / The Complete Wilderness Paddler
Davis, Richard, editor / Nahanni Journals – R.M. Patterson’s 1927-1929 Journals
Dennis, Jerry / From A Wooden Canoe
Deschner, Whit / Travel With A Kayak

Dewdney, Selwyn / Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes
DiBenedetto, David / On the Run: An Angler's Journey Down the Striper Coast

Dickson, James / Camping in the Muskoka Region (what became Algonquin Park)
Dina, James / The Voyage of the Ant

Dobson, Patrick / Comoeing The Great Plains: A Missouri River Summer
Douglas, George M. / Lands Forlorn: A Story of an Expedition to Hearn’s Coppermine River
Douglas, Marjory Stoneman / The Everglades: River of Grass
Downes, P.G. / Sleeping Island: A Journey to the Edge of the Barrens

Duff, Chris / One Man's Journey Around Ireland
Dunnett, Alistair M / Quest by Canoe: Glasgow to Skye
Ehrlich, Gretchen / This Cold Heaven

Elgin, Duane / Voluntary Simplicity
Ellingson, David / Paddle Pilgrim
Emdin, Brian / Survival Secrets

Evans, Heb / Canoeing Wilderness Waters
Evans, Heb / Canoe Camping
Favour, Alpheus / Old Bill Williams
Ferrier, Marrion & Ben / God's River Country
Finch, David R.M. Patterson, / A Life of Great Adventure
Finklestein & Stone / Paddling the Boreal Forest, Rediscovering A.P. Low
Finklestein, Max / Canoeing A Continent

Foster, Nigel / Encounters from a Kayak: Native People, Sacred Places, & Hungry Polar Bears
Francis, Nicholas & William Butcher / Mississippi Madness: Canoeing the Mississippi & Missouri
Fredston, Jill / Rowing to Latitude
Freuchen, Peter / Arctic Adventure
Freuchen, Peter / Vagrant Viking

Furtman, Michael / A Season for Wilderness 
Gent, Tim / Canoe Camping

Gent, Tim / Campfire Cooking
Gibbon, John M. / The Romance of the Canadian Canoe
Giddings, J. Calvin / Demon River Apurimac

Gidmark, David / Birchbark Canoe: Life Among the Algonquin
Gilbert, Elizabeth / The Last American Man
Gontran de Poncis / Kabloona

Goodwin, Ray / Canoeing
Gonzales, Laurence / Deep Survival
Graves, John / Goodbye to a River

Gray Owl / Tales From an Empty Cabin
Grey Owl / The Collected Works of Grey Owl

Grey Owl / The Men of the Last Frontier
Griffith, Cary / Lost in the Wild
Grinnell, George / A Death on the Barrens

Hahn, Jennifer & Peterson, Brenda / Spirited Waters: Soloing South Through the Inside Passage
Hall, Alex / Discovering Eden

Halsey, David / Magnetic North: A Trek Across Canada

Harris , Eddy L. / Mississippi Solo
Harris, Richard / Waterwalk: A Passage of Ghosts
Hartling, Neil / Nahanni, River of Gold
Hanbury, David / Sport & Travel in the Northland of Canada

To continue, click Pages 2, 3, or 4 of the Reading List in the right column under archives.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Complete Paddler

When I first started researching waterways that would make exciting trips, one that immediately drew my interest was the Missouri River. It is surprising that there are large segments of America’s rivers, many of them, that are seldom visited and scarcely known, and where one can paddle days on end without encountering another living soul. Some are remote enough that they have changed little since they were home to Native American tribes a thousand years ago. It was this search that lead me to The Complete Paddler by David L. Miller (369pp., Farcountry Press, Helena, MT). While there is plenty of anecdotal and narrative information that is interesting, this is really a guidebook that’s not intended for recreational reading. He takes each segment of river, then breaks that down bend by bend, mile by mile, giving the location of rapids, camp sites, places to provision and water, points of interest, and places to rest. Miller followed the river for 2,321 miles from its headwaters at Three Forks, Montana, to where it joins the Mississippi above St. Louis. He is meticulous in his organization, and emphasizes that the paddler must be just as exacting to make the trip successfully and survive, listing experience, preparation, luck and fortune as ingredients. He outlines the gear that is essential, food and shelter, boat type, navigation, sources for maps and aerial photography, a daily schedule and routine, learning to read the river, the paddling skill needed in different areas, and keeping and relying on one’s wits. He enumerates the hazards one will encounter and goes into the approaches that worked for him in dealing with them. Among these are wind and dust storms, current, sharp bends, snags and sawyers(partially submerged trees), wing dams, rapids, shallows where channels disappear into a maze, huge commercial tows in the lower river with the strong suctions and large wakes they create, large changes in water level in a single night, flying carp, hypothermia, being in areas where stealth camping (making yourself invisible) is needed, like around areas populated with meth labs, or along Indian territories where one paddler was dragged from his boat and severely beaten and where the author was shot at by Indians along the river, and lots and lots and lots of rattlesnakes.

This is of course the river of Lewis and Clark. The author did a lot of research into their expedition, and along the way even points out where they camped or encountered severe situations, makes frequent references to their journals and more recent books that delve into the character of the men, how they prepared for and executed the three-year expedition, and the historic background surrounding them, the Jefferson administration, and the Louisiana Purchase. He is most fascinated by Lewis and Clark, and I’d say it would be impossible to venture into the subject of the Missouri River and not be. The single page or two likely encountered in the average public school text on this subject does a huge injustice to both their accomplishments and modern education of our students.

To give you an idea of the research that went into the writing of this book, in addition to Miller’s personal experience enroute, there are 63 texts listed in his bibliography. One that he refers to as often as the journals is Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose. I’m already into it, and find it fascinating! This highlights the point often made by Verlen Kruger---that the research for a trip can often be just as exciting as the trip itself.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Making A Cozy

While the cozy isn’t new, it was to me. Once I got into the subject, I discovered teapot cozies, for example, go back generations. They’ve fallen out of common usage, what with the microwave and instant reheating, but the cozy is a wonderful addition to one’s camping gear, and works wonders in not just keeping food hot, but conserving cooking fuel. It takes the word “simmer” out of your meal preparations. So, if you’re wanting to rehydrate freeze-dried foods, simmer, reduce fuel consumption, or keep one part of a meal hot while preparing another on your single-burner stove, you need a cozy.

They’re generally home-made. The ideal is a durable plastic container with a screw or snap-on lid that is just large enough to hold the contents of one meal. I used a 45 oz. CountryCrock margarine tub, which works beautifully, but is a bit large. Fortunately, it takes no room in my wanigan, because I’m able to set the inverted lid in the bottom, the tub on that, and the Coleman stove propane bottle sits perfectly inside that. If I was backpacking, I’d obviously want a smaller container, and while the size of the container is still under consideration, I may find that a smaller container will actually take up more room than this one given the way I’m able to stack it and utilize its internal volume.

Anyhow, to make one, you need the container, heavy-duty roaster aluminum foil, sill or duct insulation, and tin tape. The sill insulation is blue ¼ X 6-inch rolled foam. As the name indicates, it’s available at any home-supply store, as it’s used to put under sills or around doors and windows when they are installed. High-temperature tin tape is used instead of duct tape, because boiling water will soften the duct tape adhesive. The tin tape and insulation cut with normal scissors.

Wrap the insulation around the tub, adjust so the lid will go on without hitting the insulation, and assemble with tape. Add a bottom panel. The top is enlarged a bit so it will slide down over both the lid and overlap an inch of the tub. The aluminum foil is then worked into place so it covers both the inside and outside of the tub and top, so the insulation is fully encapsulated.

In your food preparation, if something says simmer or let stand for seven minutes, simply put the boiling water and contents in the cozy for twice as long, and you’re done. Leave the lid just ajar so the expanding steam has a vent. When I tried it the first time, I let the food set for a half hour in 35-deg. air while I gathered firewood, and dinner was still so hot I had to blow on each spoonful before eating it. It works great.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Deadly Season

Cherry Blossoms and Early Spring

Regardless of our experience level, there’s one topic we can’t think about or hear about enough. Yeah, I know, we think we’ve heard it all, and yet too many among us keep making the same mistakes. Hypothermia.

Gus Bianchi sent me an article about two teenagers dying on a Florida canoe trip---from hypothermia---in The Sunshine State. (Check link under Comments, Survival Fire Starter) The words that popped right off the screen at me were, “We were dressed for the weather.” The weather was warm, but the water was 58-60 degrees, a temperature at which the rescue divers wear wetsuits, and still remain in the water only about ten minutes.

Two weeks ago, George Feeter, age 39 and a kayaker with 15-yrs. experience, went paddling on Falls Lake, in North Carolina. It was one of those late winter warm spells when the air gets toasty and inviting. He was seen departing wearing shorts and a T-shirt. An exposure suit was found among the flotsam when his boat was recovered, so there was supposition that maybe he had gotten overheated and had lost balance while trying to wriggle out of the suit, but no, he had been seen launching while ’dressed for the weather’. As it got dark, people ashore could hear someone yelling for help. The boat and gear were found, but it was another couple days before George was. We need to remember that, for most regions, change in water temperature lags behind air temperature by about two months. The water is often colder in April than it was in December.

The safe water temperature where we don’t have to be concerned about hypothermia is 80-deg. F. This is the temperature at which the body can generate heat as quickly as it’s being lost. In St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the water temperatures averages 79-deg. in winter and 83-deg. in summer. Yet, even there, you will see windsurfers and divers wearing wet suits. On the other hand, if it is an 80-degree April or May day even in temperate regions of the country, the water temperature is often still where it can kill in 15-30 minutes. If we are on Lake Superior, where the temperature almost never exceeds 70-deg., or a stream fed by spring thaw in the hills, it can still be frigid in mid-summer. We need to be mindful of protection from water temperature, not air temperature.

The body will tolerate about a 4-5 degree fluctuation in temperature. We all know how debilitating a fever of 103 is, but a core body drop in temperature as much in the other direction, to 95, is just as disabling, and 95-deg. is by definition, hypothermic. Even before shivering starts, the victim becomes confused, dizzy, and uncoordinated, conditions you don’t want to experience around a tippy boat or out of reach of assistance. Once shivering begins, the symptoms that accompany that are stumbling, poor decision making, and apathy, or a lack of concern for one’s condition. Heat loss in water is 23-25 times faster than in air, and if you decide to swim for shore, it had better be close. Swimming or any movement accelerates heat loss another 35-50%. Even when you get out of the water, heat loss in wet clothing is only 10% less than if you were still in the water, especially if you‘re wearing cotton. Wool and synthetics like fleece are better. What needs to be done to survive must be correct and immediate. If you have dry clothing with you (and you should), even if you have to do it standing naked in knee-deep snow, you want to get into them quickly. If core temperature gets to 82-deg., the heart will go into ventricular fibrullation. Then, you need to find a heat source. Start a fire, wrap a mylar survival blanket behind you, holding it out like angel wings to deflect and concentrate the heat to your torso. If you have chemical hand warmers, put them in the groin or armpits with a protective cloth layer between them and the skin. Concentrate on warming the torso, not the arms and legs. Take no alcohol. Do not rub cold areas of limbs, hands, or feet. As soon as you can move, seek medical treatment, or call for help. You’re not out of danger yet. True, it’s not a happy topic, but an important one.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Paddlers' Creed


And here's a group that practices what they preach.  The West Florida Canoe and Kayak Club's New Years Day party.  They had a great turnout for a paddle down the river to a sandbar, a festive party, and left the area cleaner than they found it.  In sailing, we always called it, Leaving a Clean Wake, but the message is the same. 
The Trip
The Party
And nothing but footprints.  Even all signs of the campfire are gone.
Well done! 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Survival Fire Starter

It’s warming over the next few days, so the snow should disappear quickly. I went out to clear away the front sidewalk and a drift across the front door, and guess what I dug up out of two-feet of snow. A package from Cabela. The box was wet, so fortunately it contained a Boundary Waters waterproof roll-top dry bag, and not something fragile. UPS had obviously dropped it out front just as the storm came through a few days ago. I called UPS and had a tag put on our address, asking that packages be left at the back door under the patio roof.

Nothing makes for a more complete picture of tripping peace, fulfillment, and satisfaction than that of a moon reflecting over water, with the canoe brought up and turned over close to the campsite, the tent, and as a focal point, a nice campfire. The reasons are simple. First, there’s something basic in our nature that finds peace and fascination in dancing flames. Even more importantly, for tens of thousands of years the fire also meant survival, warmth, and food, making it the center of life. The use of open campfires has evolved tremendously, however. A lot of that has to do with the earth’s over-population, and the high-density use of lakes, camping parks, and river banks. The use of fires has become greatly regulated, the risk of an improperly set and maintained fire near a wooded area containing homes, and the frequent lack of downed, dead wood have made reliance on an open fire more difficult. It’s also very possible that the canoe trip schedule may coincide with a burn ban. Cooking is mostly done on a stove today unless a portable metal firebox is carried to build a small fire in, leaving an open fire more frequently relegated to the role of providing ambiance. There are some hardcore paddlers who don’t feel they’re camping if there isn’t a campfire, and there are those fortunate enough to be in more remote areas where these problems don’t exist as much. Still, when Jake Stachovek did his 5,740 mile kayak circumnavigation of the Eastern United States, he used an open fire only twice in ten months. There is, however, a time and place when a fire is not just welcome, but absolutely essential, and that is for survival after a hypothermic total-immersion capsizing.

Among those who have perished in the wild, or even in the creek behind the house, the greatest percentage have actually expired from hypothermia rather than from any other causes. There may be other things than capsizing that start the chain of events, but they lead to hypothermia. Even getting out of the cold water in a couple minutes won’t stop the rapid loss of core body heat. Survival requires a quick and abundant source of heat. It is also assumed here, because reports indicate this is often the case, that you will crawl onto shore with little beyond what is on your person. Your canoe, packs, and supplies have been separated from you by wind or current, and you are dependent on your survival pack to get you through the critical first hours and day. The survival pack may be contained in your PFD pockets, if so equipped, or in waterproof plastic bags in a fanny pack that you routinely wear. The most important part is getting the fire started at all. For this we need a dependable fire-starter that builds a fire more quickly. We want at least two sources of ignition, such as waterproof matches, Swedish magnesium fire striker, a butane lighter or two, or even a mini-torch. There are many fire starters to choose from, including steel wool, duct tape sprayed with bug repellant, a candle stub, dryer lint or sawdust soaked with paraffin, pine cones, commercial fire paste or fire ribbon, etc., but the one standard that most seem to come back to is simple Vaseline soaked cotton balls. They are compact, inexpensive, easily made at home, and a small prescription bottle can hold 24 of them. This is not just enough for initial survival, but to build fires for a week or two.
Simply work as much petroleum jelly as you can into the cotton ball. Roll them up tightly and stuff them into the pill bottle, which should have a tight waterproof cap. When you’re ready to use one, build your fire base with tender, twigs, and pencil-size branches. Larger pieces can be added once the fire is going, but rarely do you want to add anything larger than the tube in a paper towel roll, or about an inch-and-a-half. We want the fire material to be completely consumed without leaving large partially burned logs to spoil the camp site. Take out one cotton ball and pull it apart as much as possible to permit a lot of air in and also increase the surface area. Place it under the tender and light. One cotton ball should burn nicely for two minutes or longer, which should get almost any fire going if properly prepared. Here is one I set in the frying pan to show the size of its flame.
In addition to the cotton balls, some will add some dryer lint and a few pieces of commercial tender stick or small pieces of soft wood painted with or dipped in molten wax. This takes up no room and adds no weight to the pack, yet virtually guarantees a rapidly growing fire.  Stay warm.
Best regards, Jim 

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Florida Circumnavigation (4)

I've received some input on the Florida Circumnavigation.  Liz Sparks, Recreational Planner for Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, suggested I put my plans for the trip on the Apalachee Canoe and Kayak Club forum. There are a lot of people from there that paddle sections of the Big Bend.  If you would like to check their club site, their address is below.
A contributor to the forum suggested I post on the Florida Paddling Trails Association.  They have a site you may be interested in also, and have a large photo gallery.  They maintain a list of those that have completed the circumnavigation, and show five people on the site that have done the whole trip.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Florida Circumnavigation (3)

I called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission today to check ahead on what requirements there are for obtaining the necessary camping permit through the area. While having another person to paddle in company is usually a good idea, it is often difficult to arrange. The FWC requires that at least two people paddle Segment 6, or the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. The reasoning is that this area is mostly open Gulf waters and subject to adverse weather and sea conditions, making it one of the more strenuous legs. To minimize impact on the conservation area, they limit the upper size of the groups to no more than 8 people or 4 two-man tents. Probably a group of 2-4 would be the easiest to work with. The total distance in Segment 6 is 153 miles or 15 days. So, there are two hurdles. The first is finding a partner. The second is scheduling a transit time through the wildlife area. They closely monitor the movement of paddlers, and it’s necessary to find an open day when no one else is scheduled in the area.

Credit: FWC Big Bend site

In planning for the trip, I took advantage of a number of resources. If anything, I’m probably over prepared, because I had purchased charts and cruising guides when planning to cruise the area under sail. The MapTech Chartkits were purchased for the Gulf from New Orleans east and the West Coast of Florida, and the Florida Keys and East Coast. Three volumes of cruising guides written by Claiborne Young were added to cover the Northern Gulf Coast, Western Coast, and Eastern Coast of Florida. It would be impossible to carry all this material in a canoe or kayak, so portions will be traded in and out of the trailer.

Jean, my wife, will be the support team, and what I’m not immediately using can be left in the trailer to give me more room and reduce the weight I need to push through the water. She will do the vehicle shuttle. We’ll find a nice camp, and she will drop me and Ibi off and then return to the camp. I’ll paddle east or south to her, and then we’ll do sightseeing while driving together to the next leg. In this manner, we can follow the coast as far as we want.

I then copied all the information provided in the internet guide, which you can view at the site below.

A problem with the maps provided in the guide was that they wouldn’t print adequately, at least on our printer. The very light shades on the map made it impossible to distinguish between land and water in most areas. To deal with this, I followed the entire route on the marine charts and marked the track and camp locations. Then, even with the charts, there were many sections where the creeks, islands, and shoreline are so intricate that the chart couldn’t be followed. In those portions I copied Google Earth aerial photographs and marked the track on the photographs. Therefore, we’ll have a lot of redundancy in the information, which should serve us well.

The Florida Circumnavigation (2)

The exact date of the start is dictated by when Ibi is completed. There will be a few more days finding a weather window to make the trip to Michigan to pick her up, then getting the RV loaded and checked out, then we’ll be off. There may be some time needed to rig or outfit the boat, and I had hoped to make a few small trips to get used to the handling of the new boat. It looks like that will have to be on-the-job-training. I had hoped to have been in Florida for a month or two by now. Such a late start will make it unlikely that we’ll get all the way around the peninsula before the weather becomes stiflingly hot. The ideal would have been to have completed the circumnavigation and be in Georgia by the first of May to follow the warming north. It is estimated that four months should be allowed for the trip. This comes to an average of 12.6 miles/day if done non-stop, but you also have to allow an average of one day a week for the possibility of being weather-bound. This comes to 14.6 miles/day, which still doesn’t sound bad except that laundry, provisioning, sore muscle or injury days, time to repair gear breakage, or even sightseeing almost never coincide with weather days. In any trip, the challenge is the first day. Once a start is made, then it’s just dealing with the daily reality.

St. Marks Lighthouse

Paul, from South Georgia, is planning on paddling with me as he jumps in and out for a day at a time at different places along the way. Once I get to the St. Mark/Aucilla Rivers area, off Apalachee Bay, I’ll be in his home waters and have a chance to share the advantages of his local knowledge. He has already pointed out a couple popular eateries that should enable us all to enjoy some great local cuisine.
We also have a few more irons in the fire that we’ll work into the trip, and we’ll just have to make them work as we go along. To say I’m chomping at the bit would be a gross understatement. For right now, however, I need to go shovel the snow that fell over night. I haven’t checked it yet, but measurements taken from areas around us put the accumulation at 12-18 inches.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Florida Circumnavigation

The State of Florida has done a great job of publishing information on its water trails. There are 32 paddling trails in 15 regions throughout the state. Separate from these, the Florida Circumnavigation, has another 26 segments, and at 1,515 miles, is the most aggressive of the trips. The circumnavigation starts at the Big Lagoon State Park west of Pensacola and follows the coast counter-clockwise around to the Fort Clinch State Park north of Fernandina, just south of the Georgia state line. The state and National Park Service requires that the trip be made in that direction to better schedule people in and out of the campsites, some of which are small and can accommodate only a limited number of people. Particularly in the Big Bend conservation area, the sites have to be reserved, and campers can be arrested for camping anywhere other than the established sites. Part of the trip is made inland, inside barrier islands and on the Intracoastal Waterway, but much of it is coastal, especially on the West Coast, and of course the Keys are all ocean. Some campsites are in established parks, but some are as primitive as you can imagine. These are located on spoil islands, so named because dredging operations have dumped mud and sand in areas outside navigable channels until a barren island rises above the surface of a sound or river. The 26 segments are again broken into legs between camping sites so a day’s run can be between 10 and 20 miles.

A lot of this trip can offer obstacles that really put a paddler to the test. Shallow tidal flats where a canoe may have to be dragged a half-mile through knee-deep mud, strong currents, rough open Gulf of Mexico waters, untamed wildlife, and long stretches without water or facilities, and getting stranded where you may have to sleep in the canoe are a few. runs a Florida Circumnavigation each year, but it is done as an endurance race. This event, including a forty-mile portage, is on the par of an iron-man
event. I’m just going as a cruiser, but the race organizers offer some good guidance even for those of us going at a slower pace. They emphasize that paddlers must come prepared to be totally self-sufficient, and include 26-pages of things one should be prepared to deal with. Within this warning is this segment. “Fresh water may not be available anywhere along the course except at the checkpoints. Animals will break into your boats and rip open plastic jugs to get at your water. After they take all your water, they will take your food./ Animal hazards are common. Within the last few years there have been several attacks on humans resulting in injury and/or death. These attacks have come from bears, (large) cats, dogs, sharks, alligators, rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, coral snakes, pythons, sting rays, barracuda, spiders, bees, hornets, wasps, fire ants, ticks, mosquitoes, manatees, and whales. Other dangerous or annoying critters, too numerous to mention, are also in abundance.” Then they go into poisonous plants, that Ponce de Leon was killed by an arrow covered with Manchineel sap, and mistakenly eating the fruit of the Manchineel “may be the last thing you eat.” Each little fruit has enough poison to kill 20 people.

To keep things in perspective, they add at the end, “enter at your own risk. And have fun”
If you can avoid all the negative stuff, having fun, and some new experiences, is the objective.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Transporting the Canoe

I guess the easiest way to design a boat loading and transportation system would be to start with nothing and design an entire system---vehicle, loader, rack, etc. When you start with a truck that’s not the best choice, add a bed cover that makes it worse, then decide to carry a boat and tow a trailer, there’s now a collection of obstacles to overcome. There’s also the issue of getting older (I don’t recommend it.) and lifting a heavy boat over your head single-handed, then having a bullet-proof rack and tie-down arrangement that pulls it all together. The solutions are as varied as patience, internet searching, and imagination will allow, and this is just my approach.

There were basically four problems to overcome. The Ram is extremely high or tall with the raised cover. The raised bed cover broke up the roof line. Newer vehicles have no provision for securing tie-down lines. Finally, having a 67-year-old guy loading an 80-pound canoe seven feet of the ground by himself requires some thought and preparation.

Having the boat firmly anchored down is critical. Canoes and kayaks flying through the air will not only destroy the boat, but destroy any nearby car and possibly kill the driver or passenger. I’ve seen it explained that the chances of the canoe hitting a vehicle when it comes adrift are remote. On the basis of probability, I suspect that’s true. However, just as a wise man doesn’t walk around an open field holding a graphite golf club overhead in the midst of a fierce thunderstorm, a wise man also doesn’t get sloppy about how well things are secured on top his vehicle. recently ran a story about multiple kayaks being carried on a kayak trailer. One came loose and the forward end swung out into the opposing lane. It went through the windshield of an on-coming truck, impaling and killing its driver. There’s no sin in having a boat tied down until it looks like it’s trapped in a spider web, but there certainly is in not having it anchored well enough.

First, I started with the issue of getting the canoe on top the truck. The “U-Haul Universal One-Man Canoe Loader” was found on e.bay. It seems to address all my issues. It claimed to enable someone to load a boat on the roof of any truck, car, or SUV in five minutes, and once the loader is set up, that’s about right. It mounts on any universal trailer hitch, although as in our case, a little modification may be needed. It enables you to tow a trailer at the same time.
Since our RV hitch is encumbered with sway bars, I couldn’t use the bolt-on mounting bar that came with the loader, so had the local machine shop fabricate a mounting bracket that bridges the hitch. The loader base remains permanently attached on the hitch, and when needed, the loader pole is just slid into place and secured with the quick-release pin and securing bolt. Instead of having to lift the entire boat, just grab one end, set it on the loader crossbar, secure it with a cinch strap, then walk the other end of the canoe around as the crossbar rotates, and set it on the roof rack. Once the canoe is on the loader as pictured, I then raise the loader to its fullest extension so the canoe freely clears the truck and rack as I walk the canoe around to the front of the truck.
. With the canoe resting on the forward rack and loader, I then lower the loader extension until the boat rests on all three---loader and both racks. While the loader gets the boat on and off the rack, it does almost nothing as far as anchoring the boat. You need to rely on the racks and tie-downs for that.
The split-level roof of the truck posed a problem I couldn’t seem to solve even after looking at several dozen rack systems. I found one that supplied the roof brackets and suction cups, enabling you to build your own racks to fit almost any arrangement. I got the brackets from Spring Creek Outfitters.

The instructions enable you to make a rack that will carry one or two boats. By adding a couple pieces of 2 X 4 to the full crossbar, I was able to raise the forward rack enough to make the canoe ride level. You can double click the picture for better detail. Included are eyes that bolt through the rack for lines or cinch-straps to go over the hull of the canoe.
I needed help from a couple guys on the forum to solve the problem of tie-down attachment points. There is nothing on the truck to secure lines to. So, I made four loops out of one-inch webbing. The forward two have brass grommets set into the heavily stitched ends of the loop. Two bolts were removed from under the hood, and they were used to anchor the loops. The loops can be folded in under the hood when not needed, and just flopped out and exposed when required.

For the rear attachment loops, I stitched a dowel into the end of each loop. The cap was unclamped, the loops slid through, and the cap clamped back in place. The dowel inside the seam between truck and cap, in addition to the clamping force, will make it impossible for it to pull through. I started all loops with a 12” piece of webbing. I’d recommend going with 14” instead. As to placement of the attachment points, it’s only necessary to make sure the tie-downs lead in opposite directions to keep the canoe from sliding fore and aft. The canoe/kayak length and how it sits on the vehicle will tell you whether tie-downs should lead from the vehicle outward to the ends of the boat or the opposite. A piece of plastic water tubing is also inserted into the forward loops to reduce chafing in the bight of the loop. For the rear tie-downs, I rolled and stitched the loops and use heavy S-hooks to attach the tie-down line to the loops.Rather than resting on the gunwale, as with the stripper here, Ibi will rest on its cockpit coaming.  I called Scott Smith to get the length of the cockpit, and this set up was created to eventually suit Ibi, but it works as well for the stripper.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Visiting Owl

No matter where we live, my wife is almost immediately known in the neighborhood as the critter whisperer, or something like that.  There's no way of knowing how the word gets out, but people just start showing up at the door, often people I don't even know.  We've had cats, dogs, possums, squirrels, hens, roosters, an untold number of different birds---heavens, you name it.  So, tonight, there was the knock at the door.  When I opened the door, there was Crystal standing at the door clutching a jacket rolled into a knot.  She and her family were getting out for a ride.  They were suffering from blizzard imposed cabin fever, and just needed to get out of the house.  They were a couple miles outside of town when something forcibly hit the side of their pickup.  When they checked to see what had hit the truck, they saw this little owl lying in the road.  It didn't look dead, but was unable to move.
It was apparently just a freak collision.  Crystal scooped up the owl, and knew just who to turn to.  My wife identified it as a Northern Pygmy Owl.  She put it in a cage, and we all stood around and watched it for awhile for any signs of injury.  There was no blood, and once it started to move around, the legs and wings all seemed to be moving fine, so it must have just been stunned.  It started to become a little frantic, but calmed down as soon as we put a towel over the cage.  We asked Crystal where she had found the bird, and after keeping it for a night's observation, if it still looks fine tomorrow, we'll drive out to where the bird was picked up and try to release it close to its familiar nesting and hunting area.  But you just have to love those eyes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Video Tour of British Columbia and Alaska

Here are a couple kayakers that toured British Columbia and Alaska, and have published their pictures on You Tube.  They total nearly an hour of spectacular scenery, with credit to and thanks to those who shared their experiences.  I'm sure you'll enjoy them.
The Inside Passage on the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry

San Juan Island to Powell River

Powell River to Port Hardy

Port Hardy to Shearwater

Shearwater to Butedale

Butedale to Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert to Ketchikan

Ketchikan to Wrangell

Wrangell to Juneau

Juneau to Skagway
Ferry from Port Hardy to Klemtu

Klemtu to Milne Island

A day spent paddling on Laredo Sound

Milne Island to Higgins Passage

Higgins Passage to the McMullin Group

McMullin Group to Cultus Sound

Cultus Sound to Shearwater

The trip report can be found here:

The last entry is the blog of one of their trips with day-to-day details and still more pictures.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Expedition Canoeing

The Blizzard of 2011 has come through Oklahoma, and is headed northeast.  We only got four inches here in the Northwest, but from Oklahoma City to the northeast, they got up to 20 inches and up to five-foot drifts.  The temperature and winds are the story, however.  Wind chills of 20-deg. below zero and 50 mph winds.  The windows are whistling, there's the steady roar of wind outside, the birds hiding wherever they can get out of the wind and venturing forth occasionally for the seed we put out for them.  We went by the library yesterday to stock up with enough books to get us through the week.
I earlier read Wilderness Canoeing by Cliff Jacobson.  This book is definitely more exhaustive.
Nearly every book I’ve read lists Expedition Canoeing , by Cliff Jacobson, (300pp.)in its bibliography, and many reference the manual directly in its text. This is the definitive canoe tripping and camping manual. The edition I read, pictured above, is the 3rd Edition, but the latest one, the 4th Edition, is called the 20th Anniversary Edition. This covers about anything you can have questions about, such as researching the route, trip planning, canoes and outfittng, gear, the art of packing, covers, food, tents, portaging, navigation, solo canoeing, hazards and rescue, preserving and caring for trails and rivers, caring for and making repairs on canoes of any material, handling finances, and much more. (He did exclude wood/canvas canoes, because he felt they had been dealt with exhaustively elsewhere.) There are six appendices that cover everything from finding maps, guides, aerial photos, how to ship your canoe by truck, train, plane, or barge, the best sources for gear and specialty items, like where to buy material and fittings to make your own canoe cover. One of the things I really appreciated was that the instructive material is not just the opinion of one person, even if he does have thirty years of experience, but he incorporates the opinions and lessons learned by twenty-five of the most respected paddlers in the field, from professional trip guides, expedition paddlers, whitewater champions, experts in back country medicine and survival techniques, and noted writers, lecturers, and instructors on all related subjects. In Chapter 21, Advice from the Experts, he asked each of the pros basically, “If you could tell a novice or intermediate paddler the most important lessons you have learned from your vast experience, what would they be?” The book is slanted toward those wanting to trek across the Northern Canadian territories, travel above the Arctic Circle, or run some of the wildest and least known rivers in the world. The value of this is obvious. If you can survive and thrive under those conditions, you can paddle anywhere. In short, your paddling library will not be complete until it includes this volume.

The book also contains enjoyable reports on some interesting expeditions, one on which he and Sue Haring were married at Wilberforce Falls on the Hood River. Sue was an independent and highly skilled adventurer, diver, hiker, and canoeist that had traveled much of the world. Cliff met her after the death of his first wife, and their mutual friendship and respect grew over the years. In 1992, Cliff was leading a trip down the Hood, 2,311 miles into the remote North. Sue agreed to marry him if their wedding was part of another great adventure. Wilberforce Falls would serve. She would fit out a white dress with ermine trim, and wear that with her green “wellie” boots. She made up a wedding pack containing her dress, bouquet, wedding cake, a white shirt, tie, and cumberbund for him, and smoked oysters, kippered herring, sardines, nuts and candy for the reception. When they unpacked the bush plane, the wedding pack was missing. The bush pilot later discovered it had never been loaded in the plane, and flew back with it. He descended and flew over the group as he opened the door and kicked the pack out. You can imagine the pack hitting the tundra at close to a hundred miles per hour. Except for two tears in the bottom of the pack, everything was fine, including the wedding cake. Now that is knowing how to pack.