Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paddler's Reading List

The four-page Paddlers’ Reading List can be found in the 20-24 Feb. 2011 posts. I just returned from the library, and while none of these titles are likely to be found in our local library, our librarian has been very diligent in tracking the books down for me from around the country and even Canada. The book can then be checked out locally for a month. Those of you in paddling country, like Maine or the Great Lake states, are likely to have better luck than us finding them locally. If not, all of them have been found on Amazon so far, if you would like to add one to your personal library. If you’d just like to enjoy a good read, and maybe stuff some more valuable information in your head, getting a book sent to your local library can usually make the book available for the cost of shipping or even less. Also, if you have a favorite paddling book that you don’t see on the list, please leave the information for me here or on Facebook, and I’ll be sure to add it to the list for the benefit of others.

Happy paddling, jim

A Fresh New Season

A New Beginning

A new paddling season is dawning. Others have been paddling all along, but the last couple weeks have presented the first of a few opening opportunities here. If everything holds together (health, family, money, etc.), I’m excited by the list of possibilities I have in mind. There will, however, be some changes from last year.

I’ll continue to be “straight-up” about what’s going on. I find voyage accounts of little benefit if the teller of the story can’t be open enough to admit mistakes and explain honestly how they occurred and could have been avoided. I like the format used by Sail Magazine. Each first-person account includes a sidebar with entries for “What we did right,“ and “What we did wrong.“ If something isn’t working, not going well, short of expectations, I’ll say so and exactly why. One of the biggest changes will be not making claims about what I’m about to do. Instead, I’ll report on what has been accomplished. If there was some planning, gear, or organization that helped in preparation, I’ll show how it helped or why it was pivotal for that accomplishment, and not how I expect it to pay dividends 200 miles down the river. I’m beyond the age where physical and mental challenges can be taken on as virtually accomplished and expect that the body will just fall in line with my expectations. The body now dictates, and I follow. I may push the boundaries, but I’m no longer the boss. Some of the traps I fell into last year that I’m going to try to avoid are trying to copy someone else’s paddling tempo, worrying about maintaining a particular hull speed, saying that I MUST make so many miles today, and others along the same line. Instead, every day will be a day paddle with the goal of meeting that moment’s challenges and finding enjoyment in my time on the water. If I decide day one was fun, but enough, then it will be enough. If I decide to go another day, the plan will be for just one more day. I’ll allow more time for warm-up, realize that I need to start with smaller expectations and build as conditioning improves, and above all, have a lot more fun.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

2500 Mile Paper Canoe Trip

Credit: Amazon

This is yet another selection from the Paddlers' Reading List.  The Voyage of the Paper Canoe, by Nathaniel H. Bishop (351pp., 1878, Lee and Shepard, Pub., Boston) was reprinted by a number of publishers. It can also be found on the internet by just typing in the title. As the title states, Bishop started his trip from Quebec on the 4th of July, 1874. He arrived at the Gulf mouth of the Suwanee River, just north of Cedar Key, Florida, at the end of the following March.

The paper canoe plays an obvious large part in the story. He started with a wood on frame decked Rob Roy canoe that weighed 300 lbs. He hired a man to travel with him solely to help get the canoe ashore and launched again. As he got to New York, he heard the story of a man from Cornell University that had experimented with paper rowing shells. Becoming intrigued, when he reached Troy, NY, he paused long enough to have one built, which weighed 54 lbs. including its wood keel and gunwales. The greatly reduced weight enabled him to let his hired hand go and finish the trip solo. Such a trip was unheard of just a few years after the end of the Civil War, and people turned out en masse to hear his story and inspect the canoe. Many dug their fingernails into the hull, and a few even dug into the hull with their pocketknives to insure the story of the paper boat was true. Like any canoe on such a trip, it was grounded, dragged through brush and needle grass, oyster shells, and saw other hardships, but saw Bishop safely through.
Besides the boat, there’s a glimpse into our nation’s culture and commerce nearly a century and a half ago, as well as the story of Bishop’s unusual experiences.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Beach Too Far

I’ve been watching the web site for lake levels on a daily basis as if lakes would some how miraculously fill with life-giving water. Canton Lake is down to 42%, so we rode down to look at it as we passed through the area. The water is so low the boat ramps have been barricaded and cabled off. If you stand on what should be the shoreline, the water’s edge is a hundred yards away. The floating pier is sitting on the dry lake bottom, and weeds grow two-feet high where people should be boarding watercraft. A flip-flop is lying on the ground where it had fallen overboard from a boat sometime past, patiently waiting for its owner’s return. The stone jetty that should be a breakwater, protecting the launching ramp and pier from on-shore waves, is now just a barren, dry pile of rocks. Even beyond the water’s edge, there is no depth as birds walk around knee-deep fifteen feet from shore.

Jean looked across the lake and asked what the white poles were on the west shore. Back on May 26 I wrote about the EF-3 tornado that had swept the area and destroyed the Canadian campground. I explained that the “poles” were the bleached, dead tree trunks left from the tornado. The lake looks as depressed as I feel.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Last Wilderness

The Last Wilderness: 600 miles by canoe and portage in the Northwest Territories, was written by Peter Browning. (168 pp., 1989, Great West Books, Lafayette, CA) This was the second edition of the book, the first in 1975, about the trip Peter and John Blunt took in 1964. They were totally dependent on themselves and each other, for they were in such remote country that they never saw another human for 74 days. Their only evidence that the rest of the world even existed, what they came to call the Outside, was a jet contrail in the sky once every week or two.

So, the question becomes this. What do two guys, totally cut off from humanity and society, talk about or think about while paddling endlessly for hours on end? Other than the paddler in the other end of the canoe, there is no outside influence or stimulation, no TV, radio, papers, or social media. First, they begin to realize how unimportant the Outside is, how little all the pressing issues in the news matter, and how useless all the material things that crowd and interfere with their lives really are. Then they become introspective and philosophical and start exploring the meaning of life, and how the inventions and social arrangements of our lives accomplish nothing but to complicate and stunt our lives. They pity the poor soul, still ignorant of what life is about, who rushes headlong into higher education, into business or career, into obligations until he finds his life “mortgaged to the ulcerous, corrosive pursuit of money, power, and success” while still having no inkling of what he’s charging toward.

They had one revelation I had to choke on. They decided they were both too old for such an endeavor. Peter was 35 and John 31, and here I am trying to make trips at 67. Give me a break. They decided such a pursuit should be the domain of those in their early to mid-twenties. The best advise they had was the same preached by Lin and Larry Pardey. If you have a dream, drop whatever you’re doing, and go for it now. Tomorrow becomes tomorrow, which becomes tomorrow, and then it’s too late.

From exploring life, following indian trails, fishing for dinner, encountering moose and bear, and portaging rapids, this armchair trip is well worth taking.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cool Rides

I'm not a big car person.  It's enough that the vehicle starts and gets me from A to B, but we had a local car show here in town last weekend, and there were some that were just plain beautiful even to the untrained eye.  I hope you enjoy them as well.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Still Learning

I found out something very interesting about my cherry.  I've known for decades, that the higher the lattitude that it's harvested from, the denser the wood, the better the grain quality, and the lower the sap content.  Cherry from like New York State has nearly no sap at all.  When I started looking for cabinet shops that might be interested in the wood (there are no boatbuilders around here), I learned that the bottom has fallen out of the cherry market.  The reason is the rain forests in South American are being clear cut.  The cherry they find is very sappy and soft, but it's imported into the U.S. where buyers, especially those looking to ressale versus buying for their own use, are going for price rather than quality.  Good cherry that used to go for $8-11/bd.ft. is now going for $3.60--4.00/bd.ft. for the cheap rain forest stuff, and that's for kiln dried rather than air dried wood.  That's the same price cherry used to go for forty years ago.  This is really sad, even if you don't mention that this clear-cutting practice is subsidizing a market that is killing the environment.

Beautiful Boatbuilding Wood

I have a huge inventory of wood accumulated for quality boatbuilding and cabinetry in teak, cherry, and white oak. Wanting to build a storage system for Ibi, it would sit where the wood is now located, so the wood has to go. It is beautiful wood, so I’ve been reluctant to see it go, and I’ve spent a fortune hauling it all over the country. The cherry, for example, was harvested in Northern New York State, air dried in Delaware, moved with us to Florida, and then cross-country to Oklahoma. All I knew was that I had a lot of it. However, I would be lost if the inevitable question arose as to exactly how much there is, so this week has been spent calculating the board feet for each piece of each species. It came to 330 bd.ft. of teak, 70 bd.ft. of white oak, and 1,012 bd.ft. of cherry. There are also a few random pieces of sitka spruce and walnut. The rest of the week will be spent restacking it all so I can get the Ram back in the garage. So, if you are looking for quality wood at unbeatable prices, here’s your chance.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Battle Scars

What good is a pirate without a scar down his cheek, a peg leg, or a hook for a hand? These eye-catching battle scars tell a story, and add credibility to the force of his “Ahrrrrrr!” Except for some wooden craft with carefully selected wood colors and inlays, I can’t help but get the impression that the same is true with canoes and kayaks. You might say, “I got this scrape on the Susquehanna. The dent came from going sideways against a rock on the Missouri. The torn off piece of gunwale happened when I bounced off a moored barge on the lower Mississippi.” They’re almost like badges of honor. Show me your scars, and I’ll show you mine.

This is all so much different from when we were sailing. Except for some of the “Clorox bottles” that have been popped out of molds in the last couple decades, sailboats are works of art, things of beauty. Regardless of what other characteristics they may have, they first have to appeal to the eye even if they‘re a century old. They and their owners develop bonds I don’t see with paddle boats. Sailboats are named with great care---almost like naming a child---and become part of the family. While most theologians would argue against them having a soul, they unquestionably have unique personalities, even for identical models coming out of the same shop. Their maintenance is an obsession with their gloss finishes, sparkling varnish, polished stainless and brass. They have their own sounds that talk to the owner in the night. So, the idea of allowing your baby to get a blemish is unimaginable. I once got a four-inch scratch in the topsides while backing into a slip in 30-mph winds. Someone had driven a nail into the side of a piling, rather than the face, and I came to rest against it. The resulting scratch haunted me for years. None of this seems to apply to canoes and kayaks. A flush with a hose and a wipe with 303 is called maintenance. As long as they’re structurally sound, scruffy is not a look, but proof of experience. So, correct me if you think I’m wrong, but I’ve drawn this conclusion. While a sailboat is a companion and a work of nautical art steeped in centuries of custom and tradition, a canoe or kayak is a tool. Sure, many have a lineage, like a Pal, Prospector, or Tripper, but they’re still just tools. The latter explains why some paddlers also have a dozen boats---a different tool for different jobs. Drag it through the brush, slide it down the riprap, bounce it off a dozen rocks in rapids, and as long as the trip is completed, all’s fair. You may not want to bang it up, but like a flak vest, as long as it gets you safely through the mission, even an infrequent hole is just part of the game.

Thus you should be able to see my emotional dilemma. I picked up my beautiful Superior Solo Expedition from Scott Smith and took it on a trip along the Gulf coast. See! Right there you can see the conflict, referring to ’it’ rather than ’she’. It was shinny and flawless until I used it. In short order, just being on the coast brought my new canoe, the first new boat I’ve ever owned, in conflict with the oyster shells and gravel along the shore. Some places left no alternative to dragging the canoe a few feet. It came home with scrapes all over the bottom. While my objective mind said this was okay and to be expected, my subjective mind said I couldn’t allow it out in public again until I had repaired all the scratches and made them disappear. Until I could make it whole again---flawlessly smooth and shiny---it was sent to rest upside-down in the shop on a couple sawhorses. Maybe I need to look at it like a NASCAR driver might. If I’ve gone too far with no scrapes, perhaps I’m not trying hard enough. Illogical or not, my baby looks like new again.