Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Nothin' says lovin'...."

…Like somethin’ from the oven.” Boy, you should have smelled these when they were baking. Two scratch loaves of bread, one banana nut and one orange peel, just came from the oven. We immediately grabbed a steaming cup of coffee and sampled the banana nut. Goooood! While at the local grocery for flour, Jean found a box of Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cake. A taste of the islands. What could be better?…but wait. Reading the label can be a good habit, or not. The Tortuga Rum Cake comes from Grand Cayman, British West Indies, or A LICENSED MANUFACTURER. So sadly the closest this cake may have come to the Caribbean may have been St. Louis, or China. Well, we know where the homemade bread came from.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Spray Skirt Maintenance

I’ve heard some refer to my expedition canoe as a canak. Like a kayak, it is decked with a cockpit, even though the cockpit is 90-inches long. It also uses a spray skirt for rain or rough water protection. The skirt fully encloses the cockpit, running around and under the high cockpit coaming. Aluminum arches elevate the skirt to cover gear and also to insure the water runs off rather than puddling in the skirt. A sleeve with a Velcro closure is all the way forward to receive a sail mast, and a long heavy zipper runs almost from the mast sleeve to the waist opening to facilitate getting in and out of the boat, or for access to binoculars, camera, or lunch lying in the boat.

When putting the skirt on, it is run around the cockpit and is held in place with self-adhesive Velcro pads under the lip of the coaming until the elastic cinch cord pulls the skirt tightly around the cockpit. These Velcro pads required a bit of maintenance after water, dirt, and sand gradually ruined the adhesive and lifted the edges. After cleaning around the pads and outlining them with masking tape to keep glue from getting smeared everywhere, I used Weldwood contact cement for the repair. The problem is the directions require that both surfaces being bonded are 65-deg. or more for 24-hrs. before the repair and 72-hrs. after. That obviously isn’t going to happen until next April, so I’ve tried to make up for the temperature deficit by allowing more time for drying. We’ll have to see how that works. Anyhow, this is what it looks like when in place.

Once the paddler is in the boat, the skirt pulls up under the arms and is tightened around the chest. The elastic cord and zipper both allow for quick escape in the event of a capsize. I can attest that the skirt works great. I had some pretty good waves coming across Escambia Bay in Florida. Several waves that otherwise would have gone into the boat rolled up the deck, up over the spray skirt, and hit me in the chest. It was a rather tough introduction to a new boat that I was just beginning to feel at one with, but it all worked and kept me and the boat dry.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Whiskey Jack

I’m in the middle of reading the Nahanni Journals. They’re really interesting and reveal a whole different way of life. Patterson talks about many of the flora and fauna he encounters, and one that attracted my attention, being totally unfamiliar with it, was the Whiskey Jack. It is also called the Gray Jay, and favors higher latitudes and altitudes---Russia, Norway, Tibet and Canada, but also dips down into the American Rockies.

Of course the Whiskey Jack was also adopted as the name of a beautiful canoe paddle made in Montana. They are handcrafted, and they say, like snowflakes, no two are exactly the same.

Credit: WhiskeyJack Paddles

Another thing that attracted my attention was when Patterson was coming back south out of the Northwest Territories in 1927. He had made it to Fort Nelson worn and tattered, and after a huge meal had spread his bedroll out on the floor of the Hudson Bay dinning room. They had a wireless, and I would never have guessed that he’d be laying there in the wilds of British Columbia listening to dance music coming from Atlantic City. Too cool!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Across The Top Of The World

Illus. credit: Perseus Academic

Across The Top Of The World: The Quest For The Northwest Passage

By James P. Delgado (202pp., 1999, Checkmark Books, New York, NY)

The name for the Arctic comes from the Greek “arktos” (bear) because it lies beneath of constellation for the Great Bear. The normal seasonal temperature extremes, summer to winter, range between 50-deg. down to 60-deg. below zero. Polar ice ranges in thickness from 2 to 14 feet thick.

The kayak date of origin is unknown, but may date as far back as 2,000 B.C. The frames were made of anything that could be lashed or pegged together, such as driftwood and bone. To cover it required five caribou or nine seal skins waterproofed with seal oil, and are normally recovered yearly.

I’d strongly recommend this book, especially for those with no prior reading on the Arctic. It is heavily illustrated with paintings, drawings, and photography of actual events. There’s even the exhuming of one of Franklin’s men during an archeological expedition. Buried in the permafrost, he is completely preserved as if he just laid down for a rest with his eyes open a few minutes ago rather than over a century and a half ago. This book will give you as clear an understanding of the Arctic, as well as the hardships endured in exploring it, as you’ll get without making the trip yourself. You can follow every step from John Cabot’s voyage in 1497 to the first successful submarine transit of the Northwest Passage by the USS Seadragon in 1960.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Trip Becomes Day-Paddle

I had been dragging around here sick for three weeks, and I needed to get out of here and on the water. The river trip was planned, and feeling normal for a couple days, I decided to make a run at it. I met Scott Richard at his house after driving the length of the state, planning to spend the night camping in his back yard so we could make an early start the next morning. It wasn’t long before my mistake became apparent. I was ready to go, but my body wasn’t. The temperature dropped to 34, and the cold air burned my throat and lungs. The chills started half-way through the night, sleep was impossible, and by morning I felt horrible.

When we prepared to leave at 5:30 a.m. for the car shuttle, I told Scott I was beginning to doubt if I was going to last, but maybe I’d feel better if I could just get some food on my stomach. We stopped for breakfast, and it was shortly apparent that wasn’t going to solve my problem. After a short discussion, we decided to do a day-paddle and save the trip for another time. That’s the bad news, and I apologize to those who may have planned to join us along the route and whose schedules I may have messed up.

Old Verdigris channel at Rt. 66 bridges.

The good news was that it was a beautiful night. The sky was devoid of any clouds, and the cold, crisp, clear air made the full moon brilliant. Scott had told me of three coyote packs in the woods behind his house, and I could clearly make out two of them during the night. One came obviously close enough to be just beyond the utility shed I was camped by.

We launched from Rogers Point on the Verdigris River just east of Catoosa, OK. We started up the old river channel only to find it totally blocked. They were setting new bridge spans on the Rt. 66 bridges, and since the river was too shallow to get barges up there with cranes on them, they totally filled the river with rock and fill-dirt to run the cranes across. I trust once the spans are set, the fill will be removed to prevent flooding.

Scott Richard and his wood kayak.

We paddled up the dredged section of the Verdigris, which is part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. We turned into the Port of Catoosa, which has the distinction of being the most inland port in the United States. Going in only as far as the sign warning it was a secure port and recreational boats were restricted from access, we took a couple pictures and came back out, making the turn and continuing up the Verdigris to the first rapids. The autumn colors in the trees aren’t as bold as further north, probably because of the on-going draught conditions in Oklahoma, but they were probably the best we will see this year.

Port of Catoosa, NE of Tulsa.

Autumn colors along the Verdigris.
From the Verdigris we paddled up Bird Creek and followed the old oxbow back out to the river, seeing deer, pileated woodpeckers, blue herons, and hundreds of turtles covering every piece of wood to soak up the sun.
Rock ledges entering Bird Creek.

It was an enjoyable four-hour day-paddle, and like the turtles, the sun and climb of the mercury to 64-deg. was making me feel better, but during the four-hour drive home, I went back down with the sun. Today I’m back on another regimen of antibiotics. Traveling 476.6 miles to do a 7.9 mi. paddle, and aborting the planned trip, it wasn’t the best executed plan by a long shot, but at least we got the bottoms of our boats wet.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Source to the Sea

Will and Zak have started a trip down the Colorado River from its headwaters to Mexico, or as their blog says, from Source to the Sea.  As you can see from this photo from their trip, some of the scenery is breathtaking, and for a bit of variety, the trip started on snowshoes.  I thought you might enjoy this, and have added a link to the Favorite Blogs section in the right margin.  We can all join in cheering them on.

Storm Delays Trip 24-Hrs.

Look at all that red and purple!

As we prepared for the start of our paddling trip, it seemed the weather would be the most likely to upset our plans. I remarked the best ways to get rain were silver iodide seeding, tribal rain dances, and planning a paddling trip. We desperately needed rain, but it looked like this would be torrential downpours in the bands over which it was to track with tornadoes and flash floods.

Here, Mike Morgan from KFOR Channel 4 in Oklahoma City tracks Storm 5 among those streaming SSW to NNE across the state. They produced several tornadoes, one setting a record for staying on the ground for nearly two hours with speeds up to EF-3 & 4 and diameters up to a mile wide. The good news was that it traveled mostly across open prairie with few targets to destroy. The bad news was that it traveled through the 8,200 acre Washita Wildlife Management Area, which is populated with large numbers of buffalo, elk, and other wildlife. It may be some time before it’s known what impact that may have had. This morning the storm is still tracking across the area of our paddling trip, so we’ve set our plans back 24-hours to allow for flood run-off and a bit of drying out. An interesting aspect was that as the tornado went across the lake, it paused and formed a waterspout. Water from the lake was drawn up to 50,000 feet, and after the funnel cleared the lake, radar actually created an image of the large plume of water falling back to earth.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Going Paddling

Ibi and I will be taking off tomorrow for roughly six days.  You can follow the trip by clicking "Follow Ibi's SPOT" in the right margin.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Messing About on the River

To give credit where due, I found this video on the Doryman blog.  It's great.  You'll enjoy it.  Also, if you haven't checked out the Doryman blog, please do so.  There's a link in the right margin.  If you love boats at all, you'll find what pleases you there---beautiful boats, hand crafted boats, antique boats, character boats, and everything else.  The lyrics in this video are really cute.  I've added them below, but while researching them, found several slight variations.  Play the video in full screen.
Messing About On The River
(Tony Hatch/Les Reed, Josh Macrae)

When the weather is fine then you know it’s a sign,
For messin’ about in the river.
If you take my advice there’s nothing so nice
As messin’ about in the river.
There are long boats and short boats and all sorts of craft.
And cruisers and keel boats and some with no draft,
So take off your coat and hop in a boat,
Go messin’ about in the river.

There are boats made from kits that’ll reach you in bits
For messin’ about in the river.
Or you might like to skull in a glass fiber hull
Just messin’ about in the river.
There are rudders and tillers and anchors and cleats,
Ropes that are sometimes referred to as sheets,
With the wind in your face there’s no finer place,
Than messin’ about in the river.

There are skippers and mates and rowing club eights,
All messin’ about in the river.
Capstans and quays where you tie up with ease,
While messin’ about in the river.
Outboards and inboards and dinghies you sail,
The first thing you learn is the right way to bail,
In a one-man canoe you’re both skipper and crew
Just messin’ about in the river.

There are bridges and locks, and moorings and docks,
When messin’ about on the river.
There’s a whirlpool and weir that you mustn’t go near,
While messin’ about in the river.
There are backwater places all hidden from view,
And quaint little islands just waiting for you,
So I’ll leave you right now. Go cast off your bow,
Go messin’ about in the river.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Works of Thoreau

Portrait: The Literature Network

Works of Henry David Thoreau, edited by Lily Owens, Illus., (713pp. 1981, pub. By Crown Pub., Inc., Avenel Books, New York), including Walden and other writings originally published in 1906 and original photographs by H. W. Gleason.

Walden and From the Maine Woods are, of course, familiar at least in name to anyone with even the scantiest acquaintance with American literature. Even Thoreau’s discourse on Civil Disobedience is being quoted by the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Included in this collection of writings also are From Cape Cod, Wild Apples, Life Without Principle, Autumnal Tints, and A Winter Walk. I find his writing interesting, and even identify with some of his principles, but still occasionally find some of the discourse tedious. It’s as though he is sitting alone with a continuous mental stream of thoughts, and every thought goes onto the page without editing or consideration of its value. Although I admit I might find myself in the same position if I was locked away in a small cabin in the woods for two years. (On the other hand, it may be that I’m presently sick and feeling miserable, and perhaps looking more to be entertained than enlightened.) The parts I found most interesting, and the ones likely most interesting to those who love the outdoors, are the chapters on the pond, winter and summer, and woods. You can share his feeling of transcendence into nature as he describes in detail the impressions made by the wildlife he encounters, snowfall, trees, even the ripples in the sand on the lake bottom or air bubbles under the ice.

His thoughts on economy in living were most interesting on the backdrop of our disposable, wasteful, narcissistic, Kardashian society. While not adjusted for inflation, at a time (1845) when land in New England could be purchased for $8.08/acre, he found he could live off of 27-cents a week for groceries, and by working for six weeks at manual labor, could earn enough to cover all of his living expenses for the remainder of the year. Here’s one I’ve always considered true. “And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.” “Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have.” “It makes little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.”

As if touching on the current suits over navigation rights (the right to float on or paddle) on rivers and streams, Thoreau had no tolerance for the greed of property owners, especially those that would go so far as to name a section of water after themselves. “What right had the unclean and stupid farmer, whose farm abutted on this sky (reflecting) water, whose shores he has ruthlessly laid bare, to give his name to it? Some skin-flint, who loved better the reflecting surface of a dollar, or a bright cent, in which he could see his own brazen face; who regarded even the wild ducks which settled on it as trespassers; his fingers grown into crooked and horny talons from the long habit of grasping harpy-like.”

Like Emerson, Dickens, or Twain, Thoreau should probably be looked on as required reading for oneself. Thoreau himself was a devoted reader and held the practice in high regard. “To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise…” Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.” “A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. The symbol of an ancient man’s thought becomes a modern man’s speech.”