Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Humble Hatchet

I’d like to say a few words in defense of the humble hatchet. The hatchet gets a lot of bad press because of the number of people that manage to injure themselves with one. But, look at the number of people that kill and injure themselves with cars every year, and they don’t even have any sharp edges. I’m sure if you wanted to be clumsy enough, you could trip and cut your throat on the edge of a graphite canoe paddle. Yes, in the untrained hands of an uninitiated newbie or Boy Scout, a saw is safer. A folding saw can also be lighter and more compact. Most experienced wilderness canoeists utilize a hatchet, and in his article “Ten Essentials for Wilderness Camping,“ Cliff Jacobson recommends either a hatchet or three-quarter axe in addition to a folding saw. A hatchet is a great tool that will serve you well if you educate yourself in and practice rudimentary safety precautions. To paraphrase the gun lobby slogan, hatchets don’t cut people, people cut people.

1. A sharp tool is a safer tool. In that regard a hatchet is no different from a chisel, knife, mower blade, or any other edge designed to cut or chop.
2. What makes a hatchet potentially dangerous is failing to think about what you’re doing with the other body parts. Never chop into anything being held with a hand or foot. Also, your stance should be perpendicular to the motion of the blade. Ankles, legs, knees should never be in line with the blade.
3. Even if sheathed, get in the habit of always carrying the hatchet with the blade turned away from you. As Mommy says, never run with a sharp object.
4. Make sure no one is in line with the cutting motion of the blade in case the head comes off or it slips out of our hand. As with any tool, maintenance is the issue. There should never be the possibility of a head coming off a well-maintained axe or hatchet, but you act as though it could. The further you keep other people away, the better. (Chuckle!) My wife and I heated exclusively with wood for about 20 years before it became fashionable. I never had much of a problem with people getting too close. It wasn’t because of concerns over safety that kept them away, it was for fear of being asked to carry wood.
5. Hand any sharp object to another person handle-first.
6. If you are limbing (cutting branches off a log or trunk), always stand on the other side of the log. Cut in line with the log. If you miss, you’ll hit only the log.
7. A hatchet is not an axe or maul. A hatchet is used with skill and finesse , not force.
8. If splitting, try to get in the habit of cutting as vertically as possible toward the stump or block you are splitting on. The more you swing a hatchet, or the more its motion is an arc, the more dangerous it will be.
9. Be sure of your footing and that the working area is free of anything like rocks or branches that may be a tripping or rolling hazard.
10. Fatigue causes mistakes. If you’re getting tired, stop for awhile.
11. If cutting branches into shorter pieces, the free end will fly in the air, often toward your face. Prevent this by jamming the free end under a rock, log, or the fire ring so the end is not free to flip up. If cutting pieces long enough, another option is to hold the branch by the cut end.
12. Always cut into wood (stump, log, block), and never into the ground.
13. If out with kids (adults should know better), make sure they understand that hatchets and axes are not meant to be thrown at trees. It’s not good for the tree, the blade, the handle, or anything it may ricochet towards.
The key to using any tool safely is being smarter than the tool.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Susie Bug Net

Credit: Cooke Custom Sewing

We just had a little fun with the Susie Bug Net we purchased from Cooke Custom Sewing. The owner of the local pharmacy, Kidd Drugs, is Susie Martens. Oklahoma is about as far from the water, almost any water, as you can get, so such things as mosquito netting are a bit foreign. We took it up to show it to Susie and modeled it for her. She and the others in the pharmacy got a big kick out of it, but I don’t think they want to be anywhere around when it needs to be used.

It should be about one of the last things we need. I had a head mosquito net, but envisioned having to move about the campsite without any additional protection. There are also some areas where I may get stuck having to spend the night in the canoe, and the Susie Net would be just the thing. I’m a bit bigger than the model above. The net is advertised as being 6-ft. tall and 120-inches in circumference, but I’m 6-2, and with it draped over my head it still has plenty of extra material on the ground. The size is large enough that I could sit in a camp chair to read or enjoy the sunset, and have the net cover both me and the chair. If I do get stuck in the canoe for a night, there is a drawstring around the bottom that would cinch tight and close the enclosure completely. The material is heavy duty, and the construction quality is good. You may want to check their site at link below.

I did a presentation to 40-50 people today at the American Legion Hall.  I'm hoping they will support our efforts to raise funds for Save The Children.  I won't identify the group pending their decision.  The idea was for a different club around the country to sponsor us for each 300 mile leg.  If possible, I'd like to raise at least a dollar a mile as we travel, so if that can be realized, that would be around $13-$15,000 to support the work of Save The Children.  Don't forget, individual donations would be a great help too.  Just add the Code number and Paddle-to-the-Sea in the memo block of the check.  Checks would be payable to Save The Children and sent directly to the address in the top-right, and are tax-deductible. 

Thanks, Jim and Jean

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Updates and Leather Sheaths

We continue to pick away at details.  We got the new Toshiba laptop and received the air card.  Boy, do I need tech support!!  Getting them up and running was a battle.  The service here is so slow I couldn't complete the registration form online before the web site kept timing out.  While AT&T is advertising 4G, their tech support reports we're getting 2G here.  We finally got it done, but certainly hope for better access during the trip.

There are two ways to save on paddling gear---buying equipment that has multiple applications or uses, and making older gear work for a new application. I have a hatchet that has a nice rubber grip and a blade that holds a nice edge. It unfortunately came with a manufacturer’s supplied plastic sheath. The supplied sheath worked great until I sharpened the hatchet, and then the blade cut through the sheath. I needed a good sturdy leather hatchet sheath that would protect my pack as well as the sharpened edge. Besides wood cutting and splitting, the hatchet can be used for driving tent pegs, pulling pegs, compacting cans after they’ve been burned out to reduce trash bulk, and repelling boarders.

Then, I needed a sheath knife. I like a blade thinner than the normal hunting knife, and have a rigger’s kit that I’ve worn on my belt proudly for decades. It was a gift from one of my sailing classes about thirty years ago. It is made of Sheffield Steel from England, which is good stuff. It is rust resistant and it holds a great edge. The kit also includes a shackle pin tool, marlinspike, and pliers in addition to the knife. The leather had aged to the point that it tore when I recently caught the sheath on something.

I took both to a shoe repair shop. The shop had recently been bought by new owners. The previous owner had been doing leather work for something like forty years. I was counting on his skill, so I have to admit I was disappointed in the job I got, but the bottom line is they will work. The flap of the hatchet sheath fastens with a large Velcro fastener, so a small file can be stowed under the flap.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Guess What!

Don't you just hate that expression.  Like guess what, you're being audited.  Or, guess what, you're expecting sextuplets.  Well, actually I have good news.  Scott Smith, from Superior Canoe, just called.  Ibi is almost done.  He just has hardware to install and should call late in the week to arrange delivery or pick-up.  I just saw a light flicker at the end of the tunnel.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Last River Rat

To give credit where it’s due, I was referred to the story of Kenny Salwey and Tales of the Last River Rat by Brian Weber of Capt. Of the O‘Dark 30. Amazon carries a couple books on his stories, and a film was done. The thing that jumped out at me was the film was done by the BBC. A story about an American naturalist and the greatest American river had to be done by the BBC? I guess the story wasn’t sexy enough, violent enough, or trendy enough for an American film- maker. If you enjoy the simpler life, the outdoors, wildlife and nature, you’ll enjoy the film. Unfortunately, to get it on You Tube, it had to be chopped into 10-min. bites, but if you find it distracting, buy the book!

It hasn’t been fit for any paddling around here lately. The winds have been running 45 mph here, and around 80mph east of us. We’ve been having a long series of wildfires. In one day alone, 50 homes and buildings were destroyed. One woman that manages an animal shelter went to great lengths to cage and move all the animals in the shelter as a fire was seen in the distance, only to get home and find that her own barn and horses had been consumed. Wildfires here are a serious matter between open miles of dead vegetation and high winds. Several years ago four men were working on an oil pumping station when they realized a wildfire was coming. They got in their pickup to flee, but even with the truck, they couldn’t outrun the flames. All four were lost. Anyhow, enough doom and gloom. Enjoy the films. Great photography! When you pull the first video up, at the top you'll see a tab for seven videos by juicer63.  Two through five give you the entire film.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Water Filtration

Some will shake their heads when I admit to carrying five gallons of fresh water. Most of the time it’s aboard as trimming weight when I’m paddling alone in the stripper canoe, but it also allows me to span several days without having to search for water. Also, if I’m in salt water, it gives me the luxury of a fresh water rinse after washing in salt water. This helps prevent saltwater sores and getting salt in my clothes. While the jug takes up room, it doesn’t always have to be full, depending on expected water availability ahead. When it isn’t full, it is called reserve buoyancy. Anyhow, there’s always the chance of the bottle being low and then getting wind-bound in some waterless campsite or on a spoil island and running out of water. To cover that what-if scenario, I include the Katadyn Hiker-Pro Water Micro-Filter in my kit.

One little tip for anyone that hasn’t already discovered this. Even when there is fresh water available, take a clear bottle or cup to taste the water and look at it before filling your hydrator or jug and pushing off with it. You may get someplace where low water levels, municipal filtration problems, broken pipes, or other contamination may have made the supply unusable. Also, it may be labeled “potable”, but you may find it is orange or just too rank to stomach. We sailed into Bermuda one time and encountered just such a problem. They had a problem keeping up with water demand, and occasionally had fresh water barged into St. George. We discovered that the previous load in the barge before the water delivery had been diesel fuel. It’s nice to have an independent filtration back-up for those little surprises.

The screw-in filter cartridge is advertised to be good for 750 liters. That can be varied one way or the other depending on the quality of the water being filtered. The best practice is to fill a bucket before turning in and let it sit inside the tent over night. Any sediment will precipitate out and allow you to filter the cleaner water off the top. The intake line also has a strainer to take out heavier sediment or debris. Included is a weight to hold the intake line in the water, an adjustable foam float to keep the intake off the bottom if you are pumping straight out of the stream, and a number of connectors to allow quick attachment to some water bottles and hydrator packs. There’s a small sponge for cleaning the strainer, a zip-lock bag for the outlet line so it doesn’t get cross-contaminated, and a carry bag to keep everything together in the pack.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Important Admin. Changes

This is non-paddling related, and concerns the Save The Children fundraising efforts. We need to make a couple administrative changes to the initial release, and I’ll go back and edit it to avoid confusion. My desire was to track donations so we could identify those contributing and recognize them on the blog as Donors. We also wanted to quantify our efforts to make sure our efforts were being productive. The Paddle-to-the-Sea will take about three years to complete, and it was important to me to be able to look at our progress six or nine months out. Obviously, if we were just spinning our wheels and not making a real contribution to Save The Children, there would be no reason to keep doing the same thing for three years. The only down side to the changes is we won’t be able to identify donors ourselves, so can’t recognize those who do contribute. As far as tracking progress, Save The Children is able to accomplish that by creating a separate tracking account. Donation checks will therefore be sent directly to Save The Children at their home address, and in the check memo block the donor would write either Paddle-to-the-Sea or enter the account code. They won’t have the code to me until the middle of next week, but Paddle-to-the-Sea will work either now or later. While we appreciate the local bank’s willingness to participate, this will free them of an additional workload. Following IRS rules, Save The Children will issue receipts for all donations over $250.00.
Anyone wishing to support the expedition can contact us directly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hatching Ideas

I’ve been sitting on a couple projects of late like they were incubating eggs. Well, they’ve hatched.

The first egg to hatch is Paddle-to-the-Sea. All along I’ve been talking publicly about doing the Florida Circumnavigation while keeping my real goal a secret. The reason is that the Paddle-to-the-Sea is a major and challenging undertaking. I wanted to get some miles under the hull before tipping my hand, and I also wanted time to test this 67-year-old body to make sure it could still handle the challenge. There would have been no crime in keeping my secret, but something else occurred to force my hand. Jean and I have been involved in children’s programs often over the years, and I thought my fundraising days were over, but then the Japan disaster came along. When the four-month-old baby girl was pulled from the wreckage after being buried alive for four days after the tsunami, I began to think about the likelihood that she was now alone in the world without any parents or other family. When I checked to see what organizations were active in dealing with the catastrophe, Save The Children seemed to be the logical answer for the children suffering after the disaster, and a natural fit for us.

So, Save The Children was the second egg to hatch. The need to help raise funds to support the effort of Save The Children was obvious, but to get people involved in a fundraising expedition, it would take something more inspiring and ambitious than the Florida Circumnavigation, so the need to let the secret out of the bag was the next logical step. Here is the initial press release on the event.

Save The Children
Save The Children was founded in Appalachia 75 years ago in response to the Great Depression to address children’s needs for food, medical care, education, and other effects of poverty and disaster. Their efforts expanded onto the national stage to advocate for the creation of the School Lunch Program and fight illiteracy. They now travel around the world to respond to critical needs created by war, famine, and natural disaster, such as in Japan. There are two things that makes Save The Children unique. One, they remain in the affected area long after the crisis is passed to create ongoing programs, with no political or religious agenda, and in cooperation with schools, medical organizations, governments and non-profits. Second, they work hard to insure the greatest possible impact on programs by keeping administrative costs down to a mere 10%, thus insuring the best possible return on the donor’s dollar.

Paddle-to-the-Sea will serve as a vehicle to raise donor funds to support their ongoing success. Paddle-to-the-Sea first came about from a 1941 children’s book of that name, written by H. C. Holling. It was about a young native boy from Lake Nipigon who carved a wooden Native American in a canoe with the intent that he could float it through each of the Great Lakes and down the St. Lawrence Seaway to the sea. Paddle-to-the-Sea was expanded by Verlen Kruger, of Michigan, as a 13,000 mile canoe expedition. He unfortunately passed away from cancer before being able to accomplish this daunting feat of circumnavigating the Eastern United States via the Mississippi River, Gulf Coast, East Coast, the Hudson River, St. Lawrence Seaway, Canadian Maritimes, and circumnavigating each of the five Great Lakes.

Within a couple weeks, James and Jean Neal, of Fairview, Oklahoma, will start this trip from the Florida/Alabama state line. Jim will paddle east on the Gulf Coast as Jean follows by vehicle to serve as shore support. She will carry extra gear, provide re-provisioning of food and supplies, and be available to help with any emergency situations. Jim will carry a SPOT satellite beacon to provide on-going tracking of his position. The boat being used is a decked solo canoe called a Superior Expedition, built by Scott Smith, of Lyons, Michigan. At first look, it has some similarity with a kayak, but has more internal volume, a larger cockpit, and is noted for its seaworthiness. The boat’s name is Ibi (pron. EYE-be), the Timuquan Indian word for water. You can follow the Log of Ibi blog at, and through a link in the blog, follow Ibi’s SPOT real-time track.

Jim and Jean may seem to be an unlikely expedition team, being in their latter 60’s, but Jim hopes if he can put out the effort to drive the canoe through challenging waters, currents, tides, adverse weather, and to some pretty wild camping areas, perhaps he can inspire others to get involved and cheer him on through support for Save The Children.

The estimated distance in the expedition is 13,000 miles, and donors can contribute through their own choice of mileage-pledge amount, payable at the end of each leg, corporate matching funds, or one-time donation. While the Neals have already purchased most of the gear needed to start the trip, ongoing expenses for gas, provisioning, freeze-dried food, and accommodations for the support crew, and technical support will be a challenge. Beside donations for Save The Children, separate donations to insure that the expedition continues to keep moving would also be appreciated. Contributions of $250 or more for the expedition will also appear as Sponsors. Any surplus funds would also be contributed to Save The Children. Make tax-deductible donations payable to Save The Children. Anyone wishing to support the expedition can contact us directly.

Mail Donations to Save The Children
                            54 Wilton Rd., Westport, CT 06880
Make checks payable to Save The Children. In the Memo block, add Paddle-to-the-Sea and/or the Motivator Code.

 Contact information: Jean Neal

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Rewarding and Happy Third

When you are planning on sailing into the sunset, or paddling, when is the right time to start that adventure you’ve always dreamed of? Should one keep one’s nose to the grindstone until there’s a big pile of ‘freedom chips’, or should we fulfill our dreams and worry about picking up the pieces when we get back? It is often said that there are only three types of people in the world:
     Those that make things happen.
     Those that watch things happen.
     Those that don’t know what’s happening.

I would assume that we all would want to deny being a member of the third class, although I have known some card-carrying members. It’s often hard to judge for ourselves how much of our lives are spent in the middle, while only dreaming of the ‘some day’ when we will move to the top of the triad. Robert Burns wrote:
     O would some Power, the gift to give us
     To see ourselves as others see us!
     It would from many a blunder free us,
     And, foolish notion.

Even that isn’t foolproof. An outside perspective may be helpful, but it may also be wrong. I’ve known several times when the common wisdom was totally lacking in wisdom. Some of the richest and most rewarding periods in our lives have been when we broke with convention and ignored those wagging their heads as they watched. It is all the more damning when those head-waggers are church leaders, community elders, family members and others who profess greater knowledge and divine guidance in knowing what is best for us. They are the saboteurs. My wife and I once entered a weight-loss program in which they highlighted the causes for people failing to meet their goals. The greatest cause was the Saboteurs. Whether knowingly or unwittingly, they were people, often close to us, who feign support while subtlely raising doubts and undermining us. To make your dreams come true, you will often find yourself standing alone. As my wife told our granddaughter, “Don’t be afraid to be different. When you know you’re right, stand your ground.” Meeting personal goals and fulfilling dreams takes courage, real courage. Mark Twain wrote:
     Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than
     by the things you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.
    Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.  

Some of the saddest words I’ve ever heard (perhaps when I was saying them) were, “When I retire, I’m going to…..” If you hear yourself uttering these words, you might as well forget about retiring and plan on working until they carry you out of your cubicle. Retirement plans are hollow. Retirement almost never meets your expectations or plans. If you don’t find a way now to fill the deepest voids of your soul, you never will. Retirement should be nothing more than a continuation of what you’re already doing. The problem with planning for tomorrow is that it is like the carrot in front of the donkey. No matter how fast you run, it will always be tomorrow. As Lin and Larry Pardey wrote: “Go small. Go cheap. Go now!” They have lived their lives doing what they love, and what gives their lives meaning, and figured it out as they went along. They are like gods to sailors around the world. Why? Because they are only .00001% of the population with the guts to actually live their dreams. When your joints and muscles are no longer fit to carry you where you want to go, do you want to measure your life by how much you own, by how many check stubs are in the ledger, or by the dreams you’ve fulfilled and the experiences you’ve had? The greatest question to ponder, and the only one worth pondering, is whether we own our lives, or our lives own us.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Logistics has become a popular and often used word with UPS commercials of late. While it hasn’t been a commonly used word among the populace, it’s of critical importance in the trucking industry, airline operations, the military, supplying dealership networks, and any operation where a large number of components and considerations have to be organized and brought together. When an expedition of several or many months duration takes one away from home, the logistics of how you manage all the aspects of life left behind are critical.

Bills have to be paid. Some payments can be put on auto-pay with a credit card, but some refuse to offer this option. Our local natural gas company will allow credit card payment, but only with a large service charge. The local utilities won’t provide for any alternative way of payment. So, with just these three bills, someone dependable needs to make the payments or that’s three times a month you will need to get ashore and find a post office to mail payments. All other bills can be managed with credit card payment by phone, if not by auto-pay. We carry only two VISA credit cards. Travelers have usually found VISA to be the most versatile. The Cabela’s card provides a two-percent return on all purchases from Cenex gas and Cabela’s, and one-percent on all other expenditures. This not only gives a way of managing bill payments by phone, but actual monetary credit for camping or boating gear, or freeze-dried food. The other is a credit union card with an established line of credit that gives us immediate access to either emergency or operational funds with a phone call. A big responsibility is to determine what services can be curtailed during your absence so you don’t continue paying for services that aren’t being utilized. Dish Network, for example, has a plan where disconnect and re-connect fees can be eliminated with their Dish-Pause program. Instead of paying the normal monthly charge, there is only a roughly $5/month account maintenance fee. For services that don’t provide for this, one needs to consider the time that you will be away and how the monthly charges compare with service termination charges.

Grass mowing and yard care was minimal here last year with the drought we have been experiencing. I think I only mowed the grass three times all summer. Our son lives only two blocks away, so has offered to keep an eye on the place, mow grass, and collect and monitor mail. The local police and trustworthy neighbors can also be asked to keep an eye on things. They should know who and what vehicles can be expected at your home, and that they should notify police immediately if any other activity is observed.

Then you need to put the house to sleep. This not only reduces charges for services not being used, but reduces risk. For example, the water and gas are turned off at their main supply line not only to reduce cost, but to prevent accidental flooding or fire from a failed line or joint in the house. All major energy consumers can be turned off, such as heater, air conditioner, water heater, power strips to appliances, even those power-robbing monitor lights that stay on all the time.

The last issue is the pets. Your choices and decisions about what pets are made part of your life is a critical element here. Obviously, trying to go paddling long-term when you have a horse at home isn’t going to work unless there’s someone staying home to care for it. While it’s tempting, taking a pet along may not be a wise choice either, depending on where you are going. Paddling alone is a lonely existence, so the company of a dog is welcome and enjoyable on trips in the North or on placid waters. Is it fair to the animal, however, when you encounter rapids or alligators? In a spill in strong rapids, when your attention is 100% dedicated to saving yourself, your canoe and gear, does your pet have his own PFD, and are you comfortable leaving your friend to his own resources? In alligator waters, while the reptiles are leery of humans, they’ve been known to come right into a boat after animals that represent nothing more than a tasty morsel. With winds, current, tides, health and fitness, and harmful insects and wildlife, there’s enough goal-related things to be concerned about without having to worry about what’s going on back home. The more you can stabilize or neutralize issues at home, the more enjoyable the trip will be.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Beware!  Bikes, motorcycles, RV's, empty
tractor-trailors may go flying!

Yup, that’s what I’m doing---dawdling. Moving aimlessly or lackadaisically. Even though I got my ride in despite the wind, I apologize to those who are gracious enough to visit from time to time for not doing anything more exciting, but it’s hard to start the expedition without the expedition canoe---the Superior Expedition. I know Scott Smith will call when Ibi (pron. EYE-be) is done. My twice-monthly calls for status reports don’t help get the canoe done any faster, and serve to increase both my frustration and his, so I promised to stop calling. As I explained to him, I’ve never had a boat built before, so I guess I was unrealistic in expected build time. And I don’t know why. I’ve built boats myself and know how things drag on and how the menial little things often eat up time without showing any noticeable progress in the build. So, I pass on the same promise he gave me---any time now.

We’re not the only ones waiting on the threshold of a big adventure. Perhaps you’ve noticed the new link I’ve added in the margin for Canoe Across America. Darrin Kimbler has at least set a start date---April 1st---for his eight-month, 5,200 mile trip. He’s paddling to fight obesity, and he’s 41 and 30 lbs. overweight. Ah, to be just 41 and just 30 lbs. too heavy. Not that I’m superstitious, but I don’t know about starting a 5,200 mile trip on April Fool’s Day. I’d be inclined to get organized, rest, and push off on the 2nd.
Best wishes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Security Cable

There was a question on a forum about what would be recommended for a security cable to lock the canoe or kayak for overnight or while you’re touring or at the grocery. A number of options were offered about bike cables and chains, etc., but I’d like to offer what I feel is the better option. Get a compression swaging tool. Like any good tool, there’s the initial outlay, but it will last a lifetime, and its versatility is only limited by your imagination. Instead of having to settle with what might just do, you can tailor the security cable to exactly fit your needs for the size of eye, placement of eyes, length, cable strength, and where you may want abrasion protection.
I have two.  If anyone wants one (the larger size, which is what I'd recommend), with $30 and shipping, it's yours.  As for stainless steel cable, it can often be found for free. When sailboat rigging starts to age, it may fatigue at the terminal fittings, strands may break leaving meat-hooks in the wire, the wire may kink or unlay, or it may just be replaced because of age. The wire may no longer be useful for rigging, but is perfectly fine for other applications. If you live along the coast or Great Lakes, you will find rigging shops that throw cable away in up to forty and fifty foot lengths. There are several types of wire rope. There is 1x19, 7x7, and 7x19. The first number is the number of strands in a rope, the second the number of wires in each strand. This understanding is important to identify the type you are looking for. The 1x19 is used for standing rigging, and is so stiff as to be useless for our application here. The 7x7 has moderate flexibility. The 7x19 is very flexible, but just as strong. It is used for running rigging such as luff wires in sails and wire halyards. It is great for a security cable because it can easily be run around thwarts and seats and lead back on itself. If you find where a boat’s lifelines have been replaced, they use a 7x19 wire coated with a vinyl cover that is great for protecting both hands and the varnished or glass surfaces of the boat. If you end up having to buy your wire rope, the covered cable is the way to go. You then just strip off the vinyl where the compression sleeve needs to be. If the vinyl cover has become brittle and cracked on old wire rope, it can be removed and replaced with hose. On my security cable, I ran it through ¼” diesel fuel hose. There is hose that is cheaper than that, much, but I just happened to have lots of fuel hose on hand. I put an eye in each end. If a wire breaks, it will stick out of the strand, and for good reason is call a meat-hook. When that happens you have two choices---wrap some tape around the hook, or cut the section out and make a new eye. You’ll notice a piece of tape on one of the eyes for just this reason. The sections of parachute cord are used to keep the cable in a nice compact coil so it is easy to stow and isn’t slithering all over the boat.

The cable can be lead and the two eyes padlocked together, or if you need more length, lead the cable around a strong point in the boat and pull it all through the eye in one end, then loop the other end around a pole, pipe, piling, etc., and lock the eye to the cable itself. If you haven’t used swage compression sleeves before, they are shaped like an open figure-8. Run the wire through one loop of the eight, then back and through the other loop to form an eye in the wire. Adjust the exit wire in the compression sleeve so the cut wire end is even or very slightly recessed into the sleeve. In this way, there are no sharp wires exposed to cut the hands. Put the sleeve in the compression tool, tighten it down, and you’re done. When you’re done securing the canoe, you can make cables for all your bikes, lawn mower, spare tires, trailer, outboard motor, gates, dog kennel---just have a ball!
Happy paddlin', Jim

Monday, March 14, 2011

Exploratory Road Trip

We took a 263 miles road trip today to scout out the upper reaches of the North Canadian River in Oklahoma to determine how much of it would be navigable by canoe. The North Canadian River forms east of Des Moines, Union County, New Mexico, then flows through the Texas Panhandle, and then into the Oklahoma Panhandle near Texoma, southwest of Guymon. It travels southeast across the state before meeting the Arkansas River near Fort Smith, Arkansas. Along with the Cimarron and the main Canadian Rivers, it serves as the drainage basin for most of Oklahoma. Once the North Canadian crosses the Oklahoma state line, it is renamed the Beaver River until it reaches Fort Supply, and then it becomes the North Canadian again. Once it gets to Oklahoma City, it becomes the Oklahoma River until it gets through town, and then it’s the North Canadian again. Don’t ask me why. I would be the very last to be able to explain it.
Beaver River near Laverne, OK.  Notice cribbing to
catch trees before they get hung in the bridge during flood stage.

While a flowing river conjures one mental image, we found quite another. By the time we reached Laverne, which is right where the Oklahoma Panhandle begins, the stream becomes so serpentine and narrow that a 17-ft. canoe or kayak would hit the banks with both bow and stern trying to follow the twists and turns. A check of the water gauge at Beaver indicates the stream is almost right on its 32 year average. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to do the trip with much more water. As I found at Canton, we saw several fields where farmers have run five or six strands of barbed wire across the river. Being washed into a tangle of barbed wire by higher and faster waters could not only be painful and damaging to the boat, but fatal if one got hung in the wire during a freshet.
Notice barbed wire across river.

Once past Fort Supply, the run-off from Fort Supply Lake adds to the volume of the stream, and we began to see sections with promise of wildlife and natural, rarely touched surroundings. The points to keep in mind when running the river is that one must be prepared for anything. The paddler would be in long stretches of open prairie where help would be hard to come by, and where rattlesnakes, moccasins, and quicksand are reportedly not uncommon.

We had a few interesting occurrences during the day. The first was getting stopped by a state trooper who wanted to know what I was doing standing in the middle of the bridge. Pedestrians are not a common sight on the plains, and are bound to attract attention. A bit later, I had walked out onto another bridge on Rt. 50, east of Woodward. Just on the east side of the bridge were a bunch of bridge pilings. They were only the height of the banks, would have been for a narrow, one-lane, and most likely wooden bridge, and were obviously of some antiquity. As soon as we left the bridge we found a historical marker that identified the route as the Fort Dodge (Dodge City, KS), Fort Supply, Fort Reno (near Oklahoma City) Military Road. After the Second Battle of Adobe Walls in June of 1874, the route was established to move troops quickly over the plains to counter larger Indian attacks. The route was commonly used by six-mule-team Army supply wagons, stage coaches, and the Pony Express. Fort Supply had six military roads leading to and from it, and was a major supply depot for military campaigns on the Southern Great Plains. In fact, it was from here that Lt. Col. George A. Custer led the 7th Infantry for the winter campaigns of 1868 and 1869. Anything west of Fort Supply was known as No Man’s Land, and that hasn’t changed much, but if you want a look at the real Southern Great Plains, it runs to the horizon in any direction you look.

Southern Great Plains

While trying to discover some redeeming feature of the Cimarron River as a paddling river after we left the North Canadian, we happened to discover that we were near the point where Nathaniel Boone, son of Daniel Boone, had crossed the Cimarron and camped in 1843 while under orders from Col. Zachery Taylor to explore the plains and find the reported large salt deposits near present-day Mooreland, OK. Forgive me if this sojourn into history appears non-paddling related, but I find exploring a bit of the history of a river adds a lot to the intrigue of paddling it. The waterways were to early America literally what arteries are to the human body. Whether Native Americans, trappers, explorers, settlers, traders, surveyors or cowboys driving herds of cattle, they followed and crisscrossed every waterway. They provided drinking water, food, transportation, trails, protection, crop irrigation, and in every way were the foundation of life in all the new territories. I mentioned the Battle of Adobe Walls. While not directly related to the area of the river we were exploring, it makes for interesting reading at:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mariah? or just Today

Note: I wrote this yesterday, but in light of what was going on in Japan, decided not to post to save on bandwidth.  I don't know if it makes a difference, but stayed off the net just in case.  There have been almost 69,000 Google searches for people so far.  Those poor people will suffer for a long time to come.  Anyhow, we can't think about nothing but catastrophy all the time, so I thought you might enjoy the pictures and music.
Best wishes, Jim

The Micmac is still on the pickup waiting to see what tomorrow brings. We’re getting mixed reviews on the wind forecast so far. As for today, it will occasionally drop to the high twenties, but mostly it’s gusting between 35 and 50 mph according to the National Weather Service. The rain gutters vibrate and hum. The house makes cracking sounds. Everything gets covered with red dirt.

Those of you old enough will know the song Mariah. A cowboy sits on the prairie lamenting his lost and lonely life in the midst of his only constant---the wind. It goes--They call the wind Mariah. Away out here they got a name for wind and rain and fire. The rain is Tess, the fire is Joe, and they call the wind Mariah. Mariah blows the stars around, and sends the clouds a flyin’. Mariah makes the mountains sound like folks were up there dying. Here’s a link to hear the song with some real nice photography.
High winds have various names---Levanter around Gibraltar, Mistral in the Mediterranean, Diablo in Northern California, Chinook, Sirocco, Gale, Williwaw, and so on. I can sympathize with Southern Australians who know them as Brickfielders, because of the red dirt. Here, I just call them “Today.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beautiful SPOT Test Day

It was a beautiful day on the lake today. The wind direction didn’t agree with the forecast, but it was 5-10 kts. most of the day, so one can’t complain. It was 31-degrees when I pushed the Micmac off the ramp at the Canadian Recreation Area at 0800. The first part of the drill today was to test the SPOT. On the right border, if you click on “Follow Ibi’s SPOT Track, you can see roughly the route I took. I’m really pleased with it. I was following the shoreline, and since it only transmits every so often, segments between the reported positions, like the trips into the side streams between positions four and five, and nineteen and twenty, aren’t shown. Nevertheless, it’s quite precise enough to located someone quickly when they’re in trouble. Also, the tracking feature is really nice for anyone who wants to track someone’s trip. If you would like to paddle a leg of their trip with them, you don’t really have to be too concerned about communications. When you see that they’re about to reach your position, just plop the canoe or kayak in the water and paddle out to meet them.

If you had been following the Everglades Challenge, you had a chance to see the SPOT in actual use. Most people involved in the event had never had first hand experience with a SPOT rescue, but when it occurred, they were quite impressed. One entrant in a kayak with a sail got caught on the crest of a wave and yawed sideways. The sail flipped her. She was having trouble getting the kayak upright, and was becoming hypothermic quickly in the cold water. She realized she would become cold and physically exhausted quickly, so she hit the SOS button. The communications center in Texas called her shore contact person first. When they realized the kayak was offshore, they decided to contact the Coast Guard right away. With the GPS coordinates given by the SPOT, they picked her up, got her and the boat ashore, and had her checked at the local hospital. Everything worked perfectly.

Back to today’s trip, I found that one of the feeder streams into the lake had been fenced off by several strands of barbed wire. I am one that doesn’t believe that waterways should be restricted, but it appears this is becoming an all too common practice. To me, it’s no different than putting barbed wire across a road. But, again, that’s just me.

This tree stays there just because it’s a creature of habit, and that’s what it’s used to doing. I saw a bald eagle, but he was very wary and wouldn’t let me get close enough for a picture. We played leapfrog up the shore as he moved tree to tree ahead of me, but after about the third time he flew out over the lake and circled around behind me.
The lake was substantially higher than my last visit, by several feet. The sun continued to warm the day until it reached 65. What can I say? Really nice! I made a couple stops at the Big Bend Rec. Area., both up and back. It is closed during the winter, so I had the entire place to myself. I picked a picnic table near the water, close to where the canoe was pulled up on the shore, and enjoyed lunch. The run for the day was 9.7 miles. Happy paddling--Jim.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Small Steps

We keep waiting for the phone to ring telling us that Ibi is ready. It seems that everything in our lives at the moment is in limbo and hanging on that one thing. In the meanwhile, we keep taking steps that lead forward, even if they are small steps. I got 117 waypoints programmed into the GPS between yesterday and the night before. That should see us from Pensacola to Anclote Key, just north of Tampa. Others will be added during breaks, but that gives us a good head start.

We have a huge wind chime in the backyard that is tuned to the same frequency as the Matinicus Rock sea buoy in Maine. I got it with the idea that hearing the sea buoy occasionally would keep me from feeling so high and dry in Oklahoma. I enjoy it, but it didn’t help. The wind continues to roar, which just sets that poor thing into a cacophony that the real sea buoy would never know in anything short of a Nor’easter or hurricane. In spite of the wind, I still got about 8 miles in yesterday, and my usual 500 reps on the rowing machine. It’s about time to step that up. As for paddling, the forecast is still saying the wind will die down Thursday.

The underlying good news is that harbingers of spring continue to make themselves known. Here are a few crocus standing proudly around the house.

Find the two honey bees in the second picture. They’re the first we’ve seen this year. NW Oklahoma is so arid there are few places for birds and wildlife to find water, so we keep a bird bath in the backyard. It attracts as many birds as the feeder does, as well as squirrels. A game warden that lives a quarter-mile away has bee hives, and there’s a steady shuttle of bees to our place for the bird bath. During the summer we’ll have as many as 25 or more bees at any given moment lined up around the perimeter of the bath drinking.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Restful Night's Sleep

REI 2.5-in. Sleeping Pad
At the end of January I wrote about the trip to the lake to test all the new gear. The night wrestling with the blue dense foam sleeping pad left me convinced there had to be a better alternative. I searched high and low, Therm-a-rest, Big Agnes. I even e.mailed a couple paddlers that had done the Inside Passage to Alaska and slept on some pretty unforgiving surfaces, and asked for their input. In the end, it came down to the REI self-inflating sleeping pad. What threw me off was the label “base camp” mattress. Initially I interpreted that to mean it was too large to carry in a canoe. I read all the consumer reviews, and what sold me was a kayaker who had bought the 3.5-inch sleeping pad. He felt it was indeed a bit big for his kayak, so he took it back to an REI outlet, tried the 2.5-inch, and made an exchange. I figured if he could carry the 2.5 in a kayak, I certainly could carry it in a canoe. The REI literature says the pad rolls to 8.5 X 30”, but I found I could roll it easily to 7 X 30”, which considering the importance of a good night’s sleep, is plenty small enough to carry.

REI Pad with the Old Foam Pad on Top
Carry Bag and Two Cinch Straps

One problem with other brands involved complaints about sand burs or other sharp objects coming through the bottom of the tent and puncturing the bottom of the pad. One paddler solved this by making a pillowcase-like sleeve for the pad to slide into. It had one dense side to protect the pad, and a soft side that would feel comfortable against bare skin in the summer. The REI comes with those features already incorporated into the construction of the pad. The bottom side is a black 150-denier cover, and the top is a softer material. An added feature is the top material is also non-slip, which should end having to chase the pad around the tent all night.

Comparing Foam Pad with REI on Top
Showing its Two-Fabric Cover

Some of the reviews complained of having trouble compressing and rolling the pad. Following the tip offered by one reviewer made it simplicity itself, and it can be deflated, rolled, cinched, and bagged in about two minutes. The pad has two self-sealing valves in the corners of one end. If you open the valves and let the pad breathe, it will self-inflate about 75% of the way. If you want to top it off for a firmer pad, some air added by mouth will give the feel you want. To deflate, open the valves. Fold a fifth of its length over on itself and press to force the air out. Fold another fifth and press, and so on. That will get most of the air out. Then open the pad out flat again and start a tight roll giving the remaining air ahead of the roll time to escape. The pad comes with two Velcro cinch straps. Put them on and drop the roll in the carry bag, which is also included.

The 2.5-inch pad comes in two sizes. At 6 ft.-2, I went with the larger of the two, which measures 78 X 29”. The rolled weight is 5-lbs. A backpacker may consider the extra couple pounds too much, but I look at it as five pounds of comfort, rather than five pounds of cargo. I’m sure I’ll find a use for that blue foam---seat pad, knee pads, etc.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Reflecting on Opposites

The mirror-smooth lake's surface of last week in no way reflects on current conditions.  It's blowing in the high 20mph range, and is to continue in the near 30mph range until next Thursday.  It's a good thing I got out the other day when I did.  It somehow seems counter-intuitive that a sailor, who has depended on the wind to blow him around the oceans, and who has sat for hours waiting for it to arrive, would find himself lamenting having too much of it.  But, that's just how it is.  It will blow 30 to 50 mph here for days, even weeks, on end.  Just as too much ice cream will make you sick, I find myself really sick of too much wind, especially now that I'm wanting to paddle.  So, a little rhyme to pass the time......

 Fierce and fine and free

                                                       There are those who are most alive
                                                              Around some river bend
                                                     In spring the young ones call my name
                                                                But I am gone again

                                                  Ghosts and dreams and desperate schemes
                                                               Considered – and forgot
                                                               Cornered in the alley, yes
                                                                 But never, ever caught

                                                            I’ve done my time at my desk
                                                                  Pretending to be me
                                                              I am in truth on river bends
                                                                 Fierce and fine and free

                                                              A flash of paddle on the lake
                                                                 A dancer on the creeks
                                                          In May the old men call my name
                                                                But only distance speaks
                                                     Lenny Everson

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Everglades Challenge Underway

The Everglades Challenge started at 0700 Eastern today from Fort DeSoto Park in Tampa Bay, FL.  It is a 300 miles endurance challenge that runs south along the West Coast before ending at Key Largo.  You can view the progress of the event on this live map, which will update periodically, or you can regenerate while you're watching with the button at the top of the map.  The three checkpoints are also shown where they have to report.  There are four classes ranging from kayaks and canoes to sailboats.  The criteria for qualifying is the boat has to be small enough to be carried off the beach and launched by hand.  Under Favorite Blogs in the right column is Log of Spartina.  Steve is the shore contact for Sandybottom and Dances with Sandybottom, and will be updating their progress with photos.  Enjoy, Jim

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ibi's SPOT Track

The SPOT Satellite GPS message and tracking system is pretty commonplace any more, but if you're not familiar with it, this is a GPS transmitter that is roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes.  It is waterproof, and worn on the shoulder, on a pack, or anywhere that it has an unobstructed view of the sky.  Once it is turned on, it will send an updated position of the transmitter every ten minutes.  They have become a standard safety item for anyone active in outdoor pursuits, whether paddling, hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, etc.  Besides the ability to keep track of where someone is, in the event of an emergency, assistance can be dispatched directly to the unit's transmitted latitude and longitude.  There are two assist buttons: a Help button on the left for routine matters where family and friends can bring gas, roadside assistance, or arrange a pick up at the end of a trip, and an SOS button for commercial or professional emergency response teams to be called in.

On a day-to-day basis, they are nice for family and friends to follow the user's trip.  I set up my SPOT program today, and while we're making a trip, you can follow our progress in real time.  Once you visit the blog, go to Favorite Links in the right column, and click on "Follow Ibi's SPOT Track" and the link will open a map with an icon for each position transmission.  If the icon appears, but there is no map, click on the map's minus zoom button to back out enough for the map to come into resolution.  In the upper right corner, you can decide whether you'd like to see the location on a map or satallite view

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Canton Lake Paddle

I was up at 0445, and pushed the Micmac off the shore at the Longdale Recreation Area at 0700. The forecast was for 3-9 kts. Southeast, so I launched on the east side of the lake to be in the lee of the land. We headed south toward the dam. In the first hour I saw two beaver and a muskrat, but nothing once the sun got higher. There were a couple flocks of Coot. They are a black or slate duck with a rounded, dumpy profile. Their white bills makes them identifiable. They’re fun to watch. They will push up with the feet and raise themselves out of the water. It almost looks like they’re standing on the water. Then they’ll hop in the air and dive, almost like they’re diving off the side of a pool.
Coot.  Credit: Google pictures

From the dam, I turned back north and continued on past Longdale to a group of islands near the north end of the lake. I could see what looked like a snowdrift along the northeast shore of the largest island, but could see they were birds as I got closer. I didn’t want to disturb them, so I went around the west side of the island hoping to get close enough to see what they were. In the meantime, the wind suddenly came up like someone had hit the “on” button. It sprung up out of the WNW, and quickly increased to 15 kts. So much for a light southeast breeze. As I came around the north end of the island, I realized I was too close to the birds, which I could now clearly see were American White Pelicans. There were about 200 of them. I tried to back up around the point, but it was too late, and off they flew.

Fearing the wind may do something unforeseen, since it had already defied the forecast, I thought it best to head back in case it got worse. Since I was now on the wrong side of the lake, the leeward side, the waves quickly increased to a foot with occasional whitecaps. As I worked my way south, the wind started to back to the west more, which put the waves right on my beam. My leisurely, relaxing, flat-water paddle had suddenly turned to something more like work. I carry five-gallons of water to set in the bow when I solo the Micmac stripper. The weight forward makes it manageable in the wind, but it was still too light to keep it from pounding in the waves and sending spray and an occasional dollop of solid water over the gunwale. Oklahoma City was forecasting up to 30 mph winds from the south, and fearing their forecast may win out, I kept the coal on all the way back. By the time I made the take out, I was ready for a break.

Wouldn’t you know, by the time I had hauled out and finished lunch, the wind had settled into a nice 8-10 kts. from the west southwest, and the lake had flattened back out. I had made 9.3 miles, and after that sprint, and with my gear already loaded, decided that was it for the day. It was great to be on the water.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Going Paddling

Oklahoma Mass-Transit

Nah, just kidding.  But, since we've been on the topic of Oklahoma the last couple days, this is actually a display at the Major County Museum.  The steam engine is supposedly still operational.  The Gulf Oil fuel truck is a Chevy.  They moved it here from anotlher location a couple years ago.  I was there for that when they lifted it onto a long trailer.  They took that very slowly; I mean it's solid steel, of course.  They had to move the coal car and locomotive separately.  Each was lifted off the tracks by two cranes just enough to back the trailer underneath.

Anyhow, if you think I've run off my tracks and gotten far afield of paddling, not so.  Honest.  I went out for my endurance ride today with the wind still around 20 kts.  After yesterday, I did my 7.5 miles and called it a day.  As soon as I got home, however, I loaded the gear and stripper Micmac canoe.  The wind is supposed to be reasonale on the lake tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes.

Into The Wind

Oklahoma By-Way

I managed to get out yesterday for a bit of exercise on the bike. The wind was blowing 20-plus from the south, but I needed the ride, and I was hoping to check another bridge across the Cimarron River. I rode north on the main highway as wind roared in my ears and occasional balls of tumbleweed bounced across the road. Oklahoma is laid out with about 95% of the roads going on cardinal points--north, south, east, and west. Only a few more recent roads, like the Oklahoma Turnpike, run diagonally. The grid pattern makes it easy to keep track of which way you are going, but tedious when trying to get anywhere that lies in an inter-cardinal direction. Going north, I had the wind behind me, and was making great time in high gear. But coming back, Oooo! did I pay for it. I got in at least 16 miles total, but my knees said it was eight miles out and 25 back. On the bright side, it all counts as greater endurance for the canoe.
I never did get to see the river. U.S. Rt. 412 is a main east-west route with a lot of large trucks hauling hay rolls, oil drilling equipment and other wide loads. The bridge across the river there has no shoulder or walkway, and approaching the river on foot through the rushes was a no-go, so I turned back on a parallel dirt road to avoid the heavy traffic on the highway.