Sunday, March 30, 2014

First Paddle of the Season

One of several Canada geese enjoying the day, and a
flock could be heard in an adjacent field.
Oh my, what you don’t forget going into the first trip of the season. I started out by forgetting to put several twists in the straps across the canoe. They started such a roar that I had to stop within the first mile to stop the racket. That done, I continued on down to Lake Watonga. The water is undoubtedly near freezing. The lakes have only been free of ice the last week or so, and some hypothermic clothing was needed. I carry my drysuit and Crocs in a separate bag so they are always together. I wear Crocs over my drysuit feet to protect the booties. Well, obviously they are not always together, because I pulled the drysuit out and the bag was empty. I started digging, and they were nowhere to be found. I improvised with boots, but had to go hunting for my Crocs as soon as I got home, and into the bag they went. I guess two things is not so bad after being off the water for a whole winter.

While it was 31-deg F when I got up yesterday morning at 0400, it warmed up nicely during the day. By afternoon it was 70, the heater was off, and the storm door glass was open to allow in some fresh air. What a change.

Unlike so many lakes, Lake Watonga has water.
I had a shock when I pulled down to the lake. There were people everywhere. Fishermen were lined up along the banks like birds on a wire. The campgrounds and parking area at the ramp were chocked. As I mentioned, we’ve been having daily winds of 35-50+mph, but today was calm to 10 mph. Everyone has been locked in hibernation, and the one decent day had brought everyone out at once. One day was all we got though, as we are back in 45mph winds again today. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day.
Watonga is a teeny lake. I paddled around the lake four times (4.4 miles), and rescued five fishing bobbers from trees and shrubs. Once I had spoken to nearly everyone on the lake and on the banks, had handed out my treasure of fishing floats, realized I was starving, and was satisfied that everything packed in the truck is indeed now in place, it was time to head for lunch. It was a short day, but nice to be out.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Installing Skid Plates - 2

6. Now that you are ready to install the felts, there are two ways to proceed, but one rule about epoxy. If any epoxy fails to cure, it is almost always the failure to properly mix the two parts. Unlike polyester resin, which mixes easily, epoxy needs to be mixed until the molecules of the two parts are adjacent to each other. Whether hand or power mixing, that means at least three minutes of stirring. Here are the two ways to apply the Kevlar felts.
Resin roller.
A - The reason North West had you ready a large piece of cardboard with a plastic cover is for you to saturate the felts on the workbench. To begin with, if you don’t have a resin aerator roller, take scissors and cut off half the length of the paint brush bristles. This will make the bristles stiffer. Lay the felt adjacent to one side of your work surface. Pour a line of resin on the plastic the length of the felt. Lay the felt in the pool and pour another run of resin on top of the felt. Now work the resin over and through the felt to saturate it over its entire surface. If there are any voids, you can probably massage resin into the dry spots from the surrounding surface. Total saturation is essential. If there is any sign of air bubbles, stipple the felt to work the resin through. (Stippling is moving the resin about with short strokes and kneading it through the felt by poking with the end of the bristles. This is why we cut the bristles to half their length.) To avoid a mess, it is better to start with too little resin than too much. You can always brush on a bit more and stipple it through. Once the felt is fully saturated, lay it in place on the canoe and brush and stipple it in place, working from the center out toward the edges and ends. If you have a resin aerator roller, it replaces all of this brushing and stippling. The roller simplifies and improves on the job by making sure there is neither too much nor too little resin in the felt. You can also use an auto-body rubber squeegee to move resin about and into the felt. The greatest advantage of the roller, however, can be seen by examining the edges of the plates where they roll over the curvature of the stem. On Buddy, there is no sign of crumples along the edges of the felts as on the green canoe. This is due to the use of the roller, which works material into place and insures total saturation.

B - This is the method I have used the last 50 years. Brush resin on the area of the hull being covered. Lay the dry felt into the resin and brush a bit more on the top, and roll the resin in with the resin roller. Again, work from the center towards the ends and edges. The aerator blades of the roller insure 100% saturation, thus no bubbles or voids, and also regulate the ration of resin to felt. The roller is also best for working down any puckers in the felt, like around the radius of the stem. If this is the only glassing job you foresee, just brush stipple. If you plan on doing other fiberglass projects, get a resin aerator roller. If you can get one with a metal roller, so much the better. Any epoxy residue may then be burned off with a torch. I have one roller I’ve used for 40 years.

7. Shake some talcum powder on your hands and rub the gloves together. You can now handle other surfaces without spreading sticky resin all over the place. Take paper towel or toilet paper and wipe around the edge of the masking tape to remove any excess or runny residual resin. (Don’t use any paper product after the resin starts to get tacky.) Occasionally touch the resin to see when it is starting to cure. As soon as it reaches a point where it won’t run, remove the paper or plastic skirt we put around the work area to protect the hull. Then remove the masking tape. Never allow the resin to cure with the masking tape still in place. You’ll hate yourself forever. Then, wet a rag with acetone and wipe around the edge of the resin area. This will remove the Magic Marker we used, insure there is no excess resin waiting to run as soon as we turn our backs, and feather the edge so there’s no tape edge in the finished job. Clean all tools with acetone.

8. When the resin in set to a jelly-like state, cut off numerous 12-18” strips of cellophane strapping tape and hang them nearby, like on the edge of the gunwale. Turn under just enough of both ends of the tape to leave a tab you can grab to remove the tape later. Now, holding the tape centered over and perpendicular to the stem, make contact with the center of the tape, and then pull down on both sides while securing the tape to the hull. Continue adding the other strips of tape, overlapping half of the previous strip, and continue until the entire skid plate is covered. You’re done.

9. When the hull epoxy is completely cured, remove the tape. Epoxy will not adhere to the cellophane. The tape further insures total saturation, but more importantly, will cause the epoxy to cure with a gelcoat-smooth finish.



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Keep Oil & Gas Out of Our Parks

If you look at the above map of oil spills across the United States, you may wonder why Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma weren't included in the map of the country.  Actually, they were.  You just can't see them for the oil spills.  Look at areas where there are no or few oil spills.  Why, they would be our National Parks.  Politicians from Texas and Utah want our National Parks to look more like Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.  They not only want to halt forever the creation of any further public park lands, but to allow oil and gas interests free reign in the parks we already have.  The owners of drilling and pipeline companies say they will be responsible.  They say that drilling and natural environmental beauty are compatible.  Their own record speaks for itself.  According to one of the reports below, drilling has already started in 12 parks, with an interest in beginning in 30 more.  Am I wrong, or wasn't the idea of the park system to preserve these natural beauties for the enjoyment of all future generations?  Or, were they preserved for the greed of big money interests?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Installing Skid Plates

Putting a skid plate on your kayak or canoe is not a difficult task, but having done a lot of fiberglass work, perhaps I can offer a couple suggestions for making the job easier and neater.

If anyone has thought of doing a skid plate, or attempting any other project, but shrunk away for fear of making a mess of your canoe or kayak, or botching the job, let me boost your confidence. With a little thought, some research, and a bit of planning, you can do as good a job as any professional, and better than most. The difference in his job and yours is not in quality as much as it is in time. The professional can’t spend all day doing a job to perfection. To stay in business, he has to keep shoving the work out the door. We, on the other hand, can take as much time as we need. We have the luxury of concentrating on the perfection that suits our pride in our boats rather than keeping man-hours to a minimum. The pro does have the advantage of experience and some tricks he’s learned, but with proper preparation, we can accomplish the same result or better.

A professionally installed skid plate.
I’m not identifying the canoe builder that I had install my skid plates on one canoe. I do not want to embarrass anyone, but rather stress that you can accomplish professional results in your own shop or garage. Here’s the story.

When I ordered the canoe, the builder asked if I wanted him to install skid plates on the canoe. I usually do such work myself, but was pushing to get ready for a trip, and time was an issue. He had all the materials on hand, where it would take a week for me to order the skid plate kit and receive it, so I told him to deliver the canoe with the skid plates installed. He used a skid plate kit he obtained from North West Canoe. (Link below)
Buddy, with the completed skid plate.

I also wanted to put epoxy and Kevlar skid plates on my Hornbeck 14, so I later ordered the appropriate kit from the same supplier. You can compare the pictures of the installation jobs and make your own decisions. North West Canoe sends excellent installation instructions with the kit, but with some additions and more explanation that I feel may be beneficial, here are the steps.

1. Select the appropriate skid plate kit. The ‘Repair and Maintenance’ page in the link above explains which kit matches what type of canoe or kayak, whether a composite hull with a fine entry, or a broader-stemmed bow regardless of whether it is on fiberglass, wood, Royalex, or polyethylene. The kit will give you two Kevlar felt plates, two cans of epoxy, parts A & B, and a brush, rubber gloves, and sandpaper. What you will need to also have on hand includes a pencil or felt marker, a 48 X 24” piece of cardboard with plastic over it, clean rags, making tape, denatured alcohol or dewaxer, acetone, talcum powder, and 2“ cellophane strapping tape.
2. Pick a work area away from ignition sources and good ventilation, and a day that will hold 50-degree temperatures to make the epoxy cure. The optimum temperature is 70F, and the warmer it is, the faster the epoxy will cure, and the faster you must work to finish before it begins to cure.. Invert the boat on sawhorses and cover the floor with plastic or newspaper. Clean the hull of dirt, grease, or oil (Dawn or Simple Green), and alcohol, and I would recommend using a dewaxer as well. West Marine, Interlux, and other paint retailers carry cleaner/dewaxers. This removes the mould-release wax the builder uses to pop the hull out of the mould, and is critical for complete adhesion.
Marking and taping the installation location.

3. Position the dry felt on the stem, and when it’s where you want it, tack it in place with a couple pieces of masking tape. Draw a line around the felt. Allow room around the edges, as the felt will spread as it is worked, mostly in length. (About 3/8” on either side and 1 ½” to either end.) You can use a pencil, but I use Magic Marker, because when I clean up the edges of the epoxy later, the acetone will remove all the marks and not leave pencil lines.

4. Remove the felts and apply masking tape around the perimeter of the outlines you have drawn. Over this tape, tape a skirt surrounding the application area and covering the hull. This is to catch any drips or spatters of epoxy, and may be of newspaper, plastic, brown shopping bags, etc.  Take a piece of about 80-grit sandpaper, and sand the area about to be covered.  This is just to remove the gloss and provide a slightly roughened surface for mechanical attachment by the expoxy.  Don't assume that sanding will make dewaxing unnecessary.  Sanding in that case will just smear the wax around and make removal more difficult.
Surrounding the work area with a paper skirt.
5. When you are absolutely certain everything is ready to go, you can mix the epoxy and start the clock. North West’s directions tell you to dump all of parts A & B together at once. I’d recommend against this for three reasons. The resin and catalyst are mixed at a ration of 3:1. Since we know the ratio, instead of mixing by the can-full, we can mix any smaller quantity at the same ratio.

No. 1 - Mixing in smaller quantities, like in a clean tuna fish can, especially if you haven’t done a lot of fiberglassing, gives you much more time. You can work one skid plate at a time. Mixing everything together means you have to complete the entire job before it starts of fire off. Also, if you accidentally drop the can of mixed epoxy, you’re screwed. If you have only a small amount mixed, just mix another batch.

No. 2 - Curing is a chemical reaction. When you mix large quantities, you generate more heat, which makes the cure happen much more quickly. This again cuts down your working time, called pot life, or how soon the whole pot fires off and ends the job whether your work is completed or not. Also, if you do mix larger quantities, be sure not to set the mix down and walk off and leave it. It can get hot enough to ignite and cause a fire. Regardless of the size, when I’m done, I always set the can outside until it has cured.

No. 3 - Kevlar felt will often leave a rough finish. Using small mixes will usually leave a small amount that you can mix at the end and brush on as a dress coat.

Continued in the next post.


Monday, March 24, 2014

A Weather Whine

It’s called the Serenity Prayer. Originally created by Reinhold Niebuhr, it has been adopted for various purposes, like the AA Twelve Step Program. It goes, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”  Weather certainly counts among the things that can’t be changed, making whining pointless, but frustration, at least for me, trumps serenity.

I’m working on the last of the posts on voyage planning. In the meanwhile, I’m saddled with the usual chores that we all face in trying to get the home front stabilized enough that I can walk away long enough to go paddling. My task now is cleaning, weeding, digging, separating, planting, fertilizing, and mulching 400 and some feet of flowerbeds, which I detest, abhor, and otherwise look upon with disfavor. I’m totally lacking in the gardening gene that some possess in abundance, some even to the point that they find pleasure in this chore. Therefore, the first part of tackling this job is always overcoming the burden of inertia.

If this wasn’t enough, we’ve had four days of gale force winds, in the 45-50mph range, just in the last week. The balance of the time it’s just windy enough to knock birds over onto their faces if they miscalculate and turn their tails to the wind. The wind makes this job somewhat like the proverbial one-armed paperhanger. I weed, trim back dead growth, and clean the flowerbed only to have a gust of wind blow it all back into the freshly cleaned area. Worst yet, it blows back into areas I have already dressed and mulched, so it looks like I haven’t done anything.

The waste is supposed to go into the bag-lined garbage can. If I’m fortunate enough to graduate to the point where I get enough raked up to put the yard debris into the can, as soon as I pick up a rake-full of debris, the can blows over. This is solved by dropping what I’ve just gathered together so I can grab and set the can back up and reattach the bag as I watch the gathered yard waste scattered back across the yard. I’ve tried propping the can up so it can’t blow over, but then the wind sucks the bag out of the can, whipping it about in the air. Occasionally the wind will even rip the bag off the can, even though it has been pulled well down over the outside of the can. That sends the bag off cross-country with me in hot pursuit.

Part of the displeasure comes from dealing with county leaves. I raked, bagged, and disposed of my own leaves months ago. Then I raked, bagged, and disposed of my neighbors’ leaves. At least once more during the winter and again in the spring, I have to rake, bag, and dispose of the county leaves and litter, which I’m convinced travel dozens of miles to get here.

If the logical first assumption is to just wait until there is a day when it isn’t so windy, then you need to come to NW Oklahoma. If you rule out the days of snow and wind, freezing rain and wind, sleet and wind, hail and wind, flash wild fires driven by wind, severe thunderstorms and wind, and tornadoes, that only leaves on average about four days a year. If a nice day comes, assuming it comes before the paddling season is over, I’d rather spend it out paddling somewhere rather than fooling around with bloody flowerbeds and aerial trash. Serenity? Not here!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sailing & Paddling with Doug

Core Sound 20 Mk.III nearing completion.
Credit: Doug Cameron
I saw a Facebook post today that led me to Doug Cameron’s blog, “Sailing and Paddling with Doug.” I’ve added a link to it in the Favorite Blog list to the right. This is the prototype, or Hull #1, of the new Core Sound 20 Mk. III by Graham Byrnes of B&B Boat Design.   Doug, from Sewanee, TN, is nearing completion of the boat that is meant for either sailing or rowing. If you have an interest in pocket cruisers, you may find this really interesting. Be sure to read his post from February 7, as it gives the whole conceptual background on the boat.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy Vernal Equinox

Happy Vernal Equinox, alias Happy Spring, alias Happy Paddling Season.  Nothing says spring like a beautiful spring floral arrangement.  Jean picked up the raw materials and created this yesterday for the front door.  Beautiful job, no?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Charts - 2

The chart's compass rose.
Illus. credit: Google Images
The chart is loaded with informational symbols. There will be some things that jump out at you, like the colors. Yellow is dry land, green is marsh or tidal, white is deep water, and different shades of blue indicate shallow water. There is also magenta, as is used on the compass rose above. Magenta is a purple, and is used for any red aids to navigation since a navigator’s red night light would bleach red out. I know you’re not likely to have a red chart light on your canoe or kayak, but it is an interesting FYI. You have to inspect the chart to determine what ’shallow’ is, as it will vary from chart to chart. Shallow may be shown at 3ft, 6 ft or one fathom, 2 or 3 fathoms, etc. This is determined by inspecting the contour lines, and apply only to that chart. The most important things shown on land are those objects from which bearings may be taken. These include things like lighthouses, towers, smokestacks, church steeples, water tanks, silos, and so on. They are the best things to take bearings on, as they won’t move like buoys may.

To understand everything on a chart, you want to get a copy of Chart No. 1, which is not a chart at all, but a catalog of all the symbols used on any US charts. They used to be free, but free has gone the way of the dodo bird. NOAA no longer prints Chart 1, but at the following link, you may download a PDF of Chart No. 1 or purchase a commercially printed copy from one of NOAA’s licensed chart printers. They are listed there also.
At this second link, you can obtain a catalog of all the charts available for the area you may be interested in, or view the chart on-line to make sure it’s the one you want. You may then contact one of the authorized printers to obtain a copy of a POD chart. A POD, or ‘print on demand’ chart is not printed until it is ordered. The advantage is that the chart is printed with all the corrections and updates available at the time of the printing, and is usually available for shipping within a couple days. If you look in the left margin of the site, you’ll see a tab for finding paper charts.

A number of sources will print small craft charts, which are of particular use for paddlers, especially the ones that are spiral bound. Among those, you will also find charts that are laminated, waterproof, or water resistant. I have included a link to one such supplier, not as a recommendation for that business, but so you can see what is available.

If you are using paper charts, there are a couple things you can do to protect them from water damage. One is taking them to an office supplier and having them film laminated. The second is carrying them in a map/chart case. Third, you can apply a sealer yourself, such as the Map Seal Waterproofing sold by Campmor. It is a water-based polymer film you just brush on. Cliff Jacobson has another suggestion, which I haven’t tried. He brushes his charts and maps with Thompson Water Seal as a less expensive alternative to the other options.

A number of other chart suppliers you can search are Richardson Maptech, Imray-Iolaire, Canadian Hydrographic, and British Admiralty. There are also major navigation supply houses that can fit you out with any chart you may want from anywhere in the world. All you have to do is ask. Three are Maryland Nautical, Bluewater Books and Charts, and Landfall Navigation.

If you find this topic of interest, Amazon lists 2,793 books on both land and coastal navigation. If you want to really go academic on the topic of navigation, the ultimate resources are:

No.9, The American Practical Navigator by Nathaniel Bowditch, commonly just referred to as Bowditch.

Dutton’s Nautical Navigation, 15th Edition, by Thomas J. Cutler

Marine Navigation: Piloting and Celestial and Electronic Navigation by Richard R. Hobbs.

Bowditch is the navigational bible, and was likely the main source for the writing of the other 2,792 navigation books. The latter two were written as navigation textbooks for the U.S. Naval Academy. Some reviewers prefer Dutton over Hobbs for greater clarity.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Charts - 1

Nautical Chart. Credit: Google Images
What is a chart? To begin with, a chart is not a map, although I have indeed seen it defined as a map used for navigational purposes. You’ll remember that a map can be a graphic or symbolic representation of a portion of the earth’s surface. There is nothing symbolic about a chart. It is a precise navigational tool. Specifically, a chart is a graphic representation of a portion of the earth’s spherical surface onto a plane surface according to a specific method of projection with emphasis on things of interest to the navigator. In one sentence, that’s four things typical of a chart that are not found on a map. Also, a full chart is a working surface, and not just meant to be viewed. Most navigational problems, and all plots for heading, track, bearings, set and drift, and everything else, are worked out right on the chart’s surface. For a paddler, a nautical chart really comes into its own when planning a coastal sea kayaking trip, a navigable river trip, or one through the Great Lakes..

To condense this subject into a small capsule, there are two subjects that can be touched on briefly. The first is of little importance to the paddler beyond academic curiosity, but the second subject is of importance to paddlers who use charts.

First, how do we crush a sphere onto a plane, flat surface without distorting it? As we said, distortion is not a big deal on a map, and indeed some distortions are intentionally introduced. On a chart, the distortion must be removed, or concentrated in an area of least importance or, used on charts of large enough scale that distortion is negligible over the area of that chart. There are different projection methods used to accomplish this, each with an advantage to a specific application. Just to name them, they are Mercator, Gnomonic, Polyconic, and Lambert Conformal. The one 99% of us use 99% of the time will be the Mercator chart. Its advantages are that course and bearing lines can be drawn as straight lines, and for plotting ease, parallels and meridians are straight lines and intersect at right angles.

Second, the big difference is that the chart stresses those things of importance to the navigator. It incorporates not just a “this way is North” arrow, but a compass rose that gives degrees referenced to the north pole, True North, and may incorporate a concentric inner rose with degrees referenced to Magnetic North, and the magnetic north pole, thus allowing for magnetic variation, or the geographic error between true and magnetic north. In the center of the rose will be the local geographic variation and its rate of change. Since all meridians and parallels are oriented to True North, to use a plotter and get a heading for your magnetic compass, variation needs to be applied, either added or subtracted.

There are both nautical charts and aeronautical charts. We’re obviously only concerned with nautical charts. The first thing to do when you pick up a chart is to inspect its legend. It can be spotted by the NOAA crest and label in bold caps. For example: United States - East Coast - Virginia - Chesapeake Bay Entrance. There you will find all the reference information for that chart, such as Mercator projection, Scale, Soundings in Feet from a Datum of Mean Lower Low Water. In the corners of the chart will be the chart number, and the date of its last update and edition number.

Continued in the next post.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Paddle/Camping Shot of the Day

Here's an image of pure rest and relaxation courtesy of Allan Welsh---a clear, quiet night without the need of a fly to block the stars, the entry open and no bugs swarming to meet us, and glass-smooth water waiting for us to down that oatmeal and come out to seek another day of adventure.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Maps -2

The folks in the Northeast won’t want to hear about this, but we’ve actually had a couple pseudo-spring days here. I’ve had a minor surgical procedure, and as soon as a few days are allowed for healing, I’m goin’ paddling, baby!

Another great source that I find most universally adaptable is the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer. They may be found at:

Or by calling (800)561-5105. The reference I’ve given here is for their directory for atlases and gazetteers by state, but if you search their site, you‘ll find a whole array of products including electronic maps, GPS and tracking devices. For the atlases, they use a varying scale to suit the individual state, like 1:182,000, or 1”=2.9 miles over 29 pages for the State of Alabama, to 1:400,000, or 1“= 6.3 miles over an atlas of 126 pages for the State of Texas. You can find them almost everywhere, from many outfitters to even WalMart. The easiest way to obtain them is directly from DeLorme for the trip in advance. Another tip is to sign up for DeLorme’s emails and special offers. They frequently run special deals and 50% off sales. When Jake Stachovak did his circumnavigation of the Eastern United States, a trip of over 5,000 miles, he told me he used the DeLorme Atlases exclusively.

Then there are specialty maps, and there are tons of them. For example, if you are doing Boundary Waters, the area straddling the US/Canadian border between Minnesota and Ontario, there are plenty to choose from, like those printed by McKenzie, Fisher, and Voyaguer. Which do you choose? Well, if you are a more experienced tripper, you can examine the overview maps and pick your own. If this is your first trip, then it’s highly recommended to rely on the recommendations of the outfitters in the area who have first-hand experience with both the area, and the maps designed to cover it. Another option is to obtain a trip planning book, like those by Cliff Jacobson, Dan Pauly, Robert Beymer and others, where they will likely make recommendations, and even compare one map publisher against the others.

Again, the managing agency responsible for a particular area will frequently publish their own maps. Here are some examples.

A. The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail in Florida includes a trip planner and maps that may be downloaded and printed at home.

B. The Mississippi River is managed by the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources above the Iowa border, and the US Corps of Engineers manages two areas, one from Minnesota to Cairo, IL, and the second from Cairo to the Gulf of Mexico.

Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi River Chartbooks.
Minn. Dept. of NR provides free maps (a set of nine) for the upper river, and even include a trip planning guide that covers everything from places for camping and watering, information on running locks, buoyage, regulations, identifying hazards, referrals to other agencies that have responsibilities on the river, like the National Park Service, Wisconsin Dept. of NR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Coast Guard, and others. They even add information on history, culture, and points of interest. Below the area covered by the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources, the Corps of Engineers have two sets of charts. These are still printed in a size to fit in a large map/chart case, but they are massive, weighing five pounds each. Set one takes you from Mile 866 down to 0 on the Upper River, and set two for the Lower River, which starts where the mileage notations start over and takes you from Mile 953 at Cairo to Mile 0 at the Gulf. On the up side, they tell you everything you ever wanted to know about anything. If you don’t want to tote ten pounds of charts, then use the DeLorme Atlases. DeLorme will still give you the location of every ramp, state and national parks, historic sites, attractions, unique natural features, fishing information, the location of every dam and lock, lake, and even private campgrounds. Remember, however, that they are printed by state, so where the river is the border between two states, if you want full disclosure, then you need both atlases for that section of river. It comes down to what you feel safe and comfortable with. While DeLorme will not take you by the hand, like the DNR maps do, you may feel that by the time you get this far down river, you’ve acquired enough river-running knowledge to be more independent.

C. While I’ve mentioned the Northern Forest Canoe Paddling Trail before, I can’t get away without pointing out their trail work again. These folks have it all together. There’s the 302-page planning guide. Then the 740-mile route is broken into 13 sections with maps for the entire route. The maps include information on camping, dining, libraries and internet access, attractions, provisioning spots, outdoor recreation, museums and points of interest, outfitters, shuttle services, lodging, visitor centers, and even recommended spots for the best photography. If you want to break the trip into sections, they have recommended itineraries for that. If you want first hand accounts from paddlers who have done the trip, they have the blogs from trips across the trail for the last seven years.

Another source of maps are the states and National Parks. Many of them print maps which provide both large scale as well as local knowledge on attractions and services that appear along the river as it flows through their areas.

Lastly, there are privately generated maps. A lot of these are fishing-oriented maps. For example, while visiting the area around the North Fork and White Rivers in Arkansas, we found a private map done by Jim Priest, Jr., of Mountain Home, AR, with input from a couple outfitters or guide services, and the Game & Fish Comm. The up side of such maps is they provide more detailed information (campsites, cabins, resorts, bait shops, walk-in access points in addition to ramps, etc.) and may also use some of the local lingo. For example, if you are sitting over your morning coffee in the diner and guys are talking about the fishing in Dew Eddy or Partee Hole, most maps will not steer you to those spots, but the local fishing map will. The down side is that private maps may not be updated as often, so you have to stay alert for sudden changes or discrepancies. Happy paddling!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I love them. I would as soon sit and pore over a map or chart as much as watch TV, probably more. Cartography, both subjectively and literally, is an actual art form. They stir the imagination, and only hint at what could be explored if one could just get out on the water.

But, first things first. You’ll frequently (way too frequently) hear the words map and chart being used interchangeably. They are no more the same thing than a Corvette and a Dodge Ram diesel pickup. They may be similar in some respects, but each, map or chart, has its own distinct function. It has nothing to do with quality, as there are good and bad grades in each. First, a map.

Maps of the Upper Mississippi River
A map is a graphic or symbolic representation of a section of the earth’s surface. Note the distinction between graphic and symbolic. The map is probably the broadest classification, but is a subset of navigational maps, which are a subset of navigational charts. Maps basically function to get one from Points A to B, and to simplify what actually exists for easier viewing. They may or may not be to scale, and may be adapted or slanted for special applications, like hiking maps, biking maps, topographic maps, railroad maps, survey maps, highway maps, military maps, flood zone maps, pipeline maps, fault line maps, geological mineral or mine maps, tax assessor maps, and much more. About the most involved addition to a map will be the addition of contour lines to connect points of equal value, like altitude, temperature, wetness, tree line, etc. Maps are usually not particularly concerned with graphic distortion, mostly because they usually cover relatively smaller areas. Graphic distortion is not as important as relationship, and even some of those are intentionally distorted for ease of use. For example, if true graphic representation was used, small streams, creeks, or even small rivers would be too small to be printed on a map, let alone seen. Therefore, they may be inaccurately enlarged for those interested in waterways so they can be easily found and followed. The distortion may be enlarged even further so things like rapids, falls, dams, and portages may be shown. Another example of deliberate distortion is to remove some things that actually exist so there is more room on the map to emphasize just those things of interest to the user of that particular map. This is called “decluttering.”

When selecting a map, is it important that it be to scale? If it is, then it may be important to properly interpret the scale being used. The greatest confusion comes from scale and geographic area being inverse proportions. Large scale maps cover small areas, and small scale maps cover large areas, and are shown as a ratio. A classroom map of an entire nation may be 1:10,000,000, a highway map may be 1:1,000,000 to as large as 1:250,000, but a hiking map may be only 1:25,000. As a guideline, if you want a lot of detail, one may want a scale of 1:50,000, but you will need a lot of maps to cover the route. If the area is not all that complicated or involved, a 1:250,000 scale map may serve, or serve as a trip guide or study guide until you reach a problem area. The solution then is to use a small scale map, and back it up with a few larger scale maps for areas of particular concern.

Where do you find maps? There are dozens of sources. Some, like U.S. Geological Survey, are the official government maps with no frills, just good, reliable, and most frequently updated topographic maps. The plus here is that they are both to scale, and further, they are oriented to the cardinal points (NORTH, and maybe also East, South, and West) Start by getting familiar with their website at:

Or call 888-275-8747 (888-ASK-USGS). A couple of basic definitions will help guide you along. One mile = 1 minute of latitude. Therefore, just as in time where 60 minutes equals an hour, in arc, 60 minutes is equal to one degree. So, when you find a 7.5 X 15 minute map, you are looking at an area roughly 7 1/2 miles by 15 miles, or a scale of 1:24,000. A 30 X 60 minute map will cover an area 30 by 60 miles, or a scale of 1:100,000.

Canadian maps may be found at:

This gives you an atlas of available maps. Then, obtain a directory of U.S. or Canadian dealers or printers where maps may be obtained. For questions, they may be reached at (800)661-2638 or (819)564-4857.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Without A Paddle

Without A Paddle: Racing Twelve Hundred Miles Around Florida by Sea Kayak.
Written by Warren Richey ( 2010, 338pp., pub by. St. Martin’s Press, NY.)

Warren Richey competed in the Ultimate Florida Challenge in 2006. This is his account of that event, a 1,200 mile race around the State of Florida in a kayak, including a 40-mile portage. To get a full appreciation of the event, start by reading the Watertribe’s outline of the event at:

The challenge is as advertised---ultimate. Richey averaged a paddle of 60 miles per day, and won the race with a finish time of 19 days, 6 hours, and 48 minutes, a full week and a half ahead of the deadline. His final push to the finish from Cedar Key to Tampa was a nonstop 124 mile paddle, which he completed in 30 hours and 18 minutes.

There’s really nothing I can add beyond the above, nor should I try. It’s a great read and well worth your time. I usually try to give a fairly comprehensive outline of a book, but this is his story, and I’ll leave the story telling to the author.

As anyone who has done long paddles knows, the one thing that gets used almost as much as your shoulders is your mind. It never stops. Sometimes you may even tell your head to just “shut up!” Through frustration, confusion, disorientation, sleep deprivation and exhaustion, your mind is the constant companion that just never stops. Richey includes some of his reflections. Some are about regrets, accomplishments, about whether or not he’s about to die, and what he’d like to do at the end of the trip if he survives. It is a read you won’t regret. Maybe you’ll even sign on with Watertribe yourself


Friday, March 7, 2014

It's All Attitude

I guess I'm no different from anyone else when I start to get down at the mouth when things aren't going my way.  Here is something we can play each morning we get up.  Whether you go searching for his motivation materials or not, watch this.

Some More Reason to Go Paddling

I try to give credit, but don't know the source of this.  Anyhow,
nice job, and my apology, but it was too nice to pass up.

I received this email from a friend in Florida. When thinking about why we enjoy going paddling so much, nature and wildlife are certainly legitimate reasons, but escaping two-legged wildlife has to be added to the list. This was called “Idiot Sighting: Our Society is Doomed.”

I handed the teller at the bank a withdrawal slip for $400.00. I said, “May I have large bills, please?” She looked at me and said, “I’m sorry sir, all the bills are the same size.”


When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked inside the car. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver’s side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. “Hey,” I announced to the technician, “It’s open!” His reply: “I know. I already got that side.” This was a Ford dealership in Canton, MS.


We had to have the garage door repaired. The Sears repairman told us that one of our problems was that we did not have a ‘large’ enough motor on the opener. I thought for a minute, and said that we had the largest one Sears made at that time, a ½ horsepower. He shook his head and said, “Lady, you need a ¼ horsepower.” I responded that ½ was larger than ¼. He said, “No, it’s not. Four is larger than two.” We haven’t used Sears repair since.


My daughter and I went through the McDonald’s take-out window, and I gave the clerk a $5 bill. Our total was $4.25, so I also handed her a quarter. She said, “You gave me too much money.” I said, “Yes, I know, but this way you can just give me a dollar bill back.” She sighed and went to get the manager, who asked me to repeat my request. I did so, and he handed me back the quarter. He said, “We’re sorry, but we could not do that kind of thing.” The clerk then proceeded to give me back $1.75 in change. Do not confuse the clerks at McD’s.


My daughter went to a Kansas City Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for ‘minimal lettuce.” He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg lettuce.


In Wichita, KS, a stoplight on a corner buzzes when it’s safe to walk across the street. I was crossing with a co-worker of mine when she asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, “What on earth are blind people doing driving?”


A child that attends a Kansas City, MO, school has the name “Le-a.” How would you pronounce the name? Leah? No. Lee-a? Nope. Lay-a? No. Lei?? Guess again. Her mother is irate because everyone is getting the girl’s name wrong. It’s pronounced, “Ledasha.” When the mother was asked about the pronunciation of the name, she said, “The dash don’t be silent.”

Think about it. They walk among us. They vote. They have babies. If this leaves you depressed, with your head hanging low, perhaps this will at least leave you with a smile on your face. The reason why baby diapers have brand names like Luvs and Huggies, while undergarments for seniors are called Depends, is because when babies mess their pants, people are still going to Luv’em and Hug’em. When old people mess in their pants, it all Depends on who’s in the will!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Caution! Local Knowledge!

Credit: Google Images
I’ve stressed the importance and convenience of taking advantage of local knowledge, and I stand by this. However, in spite of its value, it is also important to stir a pinch of caution into the local knowledge pot. Here are a few examples that we’ve encountered along the way that should illustrate this point, in regards to distance, perception, and time.

Most people in this day and age are so accustomed to traveling by car that they can’t imagine anyone moving about by any other means. We arrived at our landfall, and a day had to be set aside for doing laundry and provisioning. We had been told that a laundromat was nearby, so we loaded up three large sacks of laundry, and picked up the two toddlers, and headed toward town. We stopped and asked for directions, and sure enough, we were told it was just down the road a piece, and that we couldn’t miss it. I asked if it was in walking distance, or if we needed transportation, and was told, “Naa, it’s right down there.”

We walked, and walked, and walked. We stopped for a break and to catch a breather. We took advantage of the opportunity to check with a local again, and was assured, Yeah, it’s right down the road a piece. On the right. You can’t miss it.”

We walked, and walked, and walked. At the top of a hill I saw a man mowing his lawn. By this time, between carrying two kids and three bags of laundry, we were exhausted. I related our experience, and he assured me that we were on the right track. More importantly, we were almost there. It was “just down the road a piece. On the right in a little mall. Ya can’t miss it.”

Driving out of town at highway speed, the laundromat was indeed just down the road a piece. On foot, at two miles per hour, while carrying a heavy load, in fact several of them, “a piece” is an entirely different creature. Rest assured I called a taxi for the return trip.

If you ask a fisherman if you can reach a certain campsite before dark without stopping a second to think that his bass boat runs at 40 mph, and he says, “Sure, it won’t take you any time at all,” you have a right to be dubious. Show him your map and insure you and he are talking about the same places, and then judge for yourself.

If you are looking for a hazard, a point of interest, or a landmark, you can encounter the same thing when you ask how it appears. People become so accustomed to looking at something, they cease to see it. I enjoyed this one, even though it’s a non-paddling example. I was making a delivery into a large industrial park, and I asked the woman in the receiving office for directions, but I also asked what color the building was. There was a long silence. It dragged on so long I thought the call had been dropped. Finally, she started giggling. “You know,” she said, “I’ve worked here for eight years, and I drive in here every day, and I have no idea what color the building is. Hold on a minute.” Apparently I was the first person to ask her that question. She went outside and looked at her place of employment and answered my question, but as it turned out, the information didn’t help. Every one of the 200 or so businesses in the industrial park were in charcoal grey block buildings with a purple stripe around the tops. While local knowledge can be the best information available, it may also be misleading or worthless, but I’d still seek it out.

Perception can also get warped. Remember that river classes are subjective. If you ask about a Class V rapids, you will get answers that may cover the spectrum. One will say, “Stay away from that hole. A half-dozen people are killed in there every year.” A kid that lives on a hill overlooking the rapids and hot-dogs it every day will answer, “Na, people get freaky over it. Forget it; it’s nothing.”

Local knowledge is the best information you will get, but if you don’t remember to use sound judgment, it can also get you in trouble. You are still responsible for the final decision.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Paddle/Camping Shot of the Day

Credit: Christian Arballo
This is a great shot by Christian Arballo, an adventure photographer from South Lake Tahoe, CA.  The photography follows whatever draws the camera, but special emphasis is directed toward hikers and backpackers.  A great selection of wonderful photography may be found at  Another shot was taken in deeper darkness, but I just love the light in this one.

Monday, March 3, 2014

An Internet Surprise

My North Face Rock 22 home away from home.
I have a North Face Rock 22 tent. I’m happy with it, and it has served me well, but I’ve seen a couple stories about people’s unusual experiences with tents in adverse weather. The most memorable was from Rod Wellington, who was pinned down on a sandbar for a couple days by really high winds during his trip down the Missouri River. The wind was mashing the tent down on him. He would lie in his tent and have to hold the dome of the tent up to have breathing room. At the same time, fine sand was sifting through the tent’s netting and entering not only every corner of his tent, sleeping bag and gear, but every opening in his body. If planning on an expedition-type trip, not having a tent failure out in the middle of nowhere is critical. Shelter is the most critical item to survival, so a proper tent is indeed important.

Along this line, Morrall River Films did a 5-part interview with Cliff Jacobson for You Tube. Tent selection was one of the many topics covered. (You may find these interesting. Just Google “you tube cliff jacobson.”) He laid out some basic criteria, like you should expect to spend over $500 (the Rock is $168-$209), should have aluminum tubing, no fiberglass, black netting, a large fly overhang or vestibule, and numerous attachment points for holding the tent in place in high winds, etc.   He would not mention brand names, so I sent him a message to see if he‘d be more specific in a private correspondence.   To a point, North Face has incorporated these in the Rock 22, so I was curious about what else he had in mind.  I wanted to send along a picture of my tent as a reference point.

I Googled my tent and clicked on Google Images. I found a nice picture to illustrate my tent. As I looked at it, I found other startling similarities. The owner of that tent also hung his fly opening rather than rolling it up each time. Look at that! They even show a paddle cart just like mine sitting next to the tent. In addition, there’s a water bottle inside the tent like mine. This is my picture! They lifted my picture! Getting past shocked, I began to think, “Wow, this is cool.” To the right of the picture, they even gave credit to the blog, and had a link where anyone could see the original post, so all the proper etiquette and protocol had been followed. My little picture had hit the big time. Wahoo! I know that happens all the time, but when there is a 20-degree below zero wind chill outside, I really need to take my excitement where I can find it.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Two More Finish FL Circumnavigation

Credit: Kayak Around Florida
L-R: Jim Windle, Marc DeLuca, Gus Bianchi
Gus Bianchi (in orange) was there to meet Jim Windle and Marc DeLuca when they made landfall at the North End Boat Ramp (N 14th Street) in Fernandina Beach, FL. He presented their commemorative tee shirts to them marking their completion of the 1,515-mile Florida Saltwater Circumnavigation PaddlingTrail, which started in Pensacola.

They actually made landfall at the municipal marina ramp yesterday afternoon, but returned to the ramp today to paddle the last two miles and make the official landfall where they were greeted by family, friends, and a few other prior circumnavigators.

Our congratulations go out to Jim and Marc for a great expedition. The link to their site is in the right margin: Kayak Around Florida. I got a kick out of the song they chose to celebrate the occasion. What could be more appropriate than “This is How We Roll,” nor to pick a song done by a group named after where they’re standing: Florida-Georgia Line.