Monday, February 29, 2016

DeLorme Update

I received an email concerning a 30% savings (available today only) on the Earthmate PN-60 mapping GPS.  While it was a very attractive offer, I was concerned about the effect of the Garmin buy-out of DeLorme, so I gave them a call.  The sale of DeLorme was indeed completed.  The only impact on the printed Atlas and Gazatteers is that they are no longer available for walk-in purchase at their company store, but their availability for on-line purchases should continue unchanged.  That's the good news I felt I should share.  The PN-60, on the other hand, looks great, and continued R&D in hi-tech applications is an area Garmin is heavily invested in, so that should only get better.  I'll add more later when I've had time to use the PN-60.

Friday, February 26, 2016

DeLorme Atlas About to be History

The DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer published for every state, and which has led millions of outdoorsmen into areas not covered by any state map, may be about to disappear.  The purchase of DeLorme, of Yarmouth, ME, is in the works by Swiss-based Garmin.  Their interest is satellite communications and high-tech development, and they have already said one of their first moves would be the elimination of the map publishing business.  This is tragic, and proof that not all progress is progress.  This would definitely be a step backwards.  Here's the link to the story.

Canoe Country Camping

Canoe Country Camping: Wilderness Skills for the Boundary Waters and Quetico,  by Michael Furtman.  Pub by Pfeifer-Hamilton, Duluth, MN, 1992, 194pp with additional resource list, illustrations by Susan Robinson)

With a quarter century of experience in the Boundary Waters, the author writes specifically about what leads to a successful trip in this area.  However, the topics apply equally to any flatwater paddling and camping.  I’ve read a lot of books by a number of authors, and yet I found here many useful recommendations that I had not encountered before.  Mr. Furtman feels that once you arrive at the paddling area, the success or failure of the trip will rest mainly on your preparation.  If you’ve planned poorly, it’s hard to salvage a chain of mistakes, but with successful planning, little can happen to mar your pleasure or leave you unable to deal with mishaps that do occur.  The book is not organized by topic, but takes you step-by-step from the idea of making a trip until you complete your portage and arrive at the campsite.  The nice thing about this book is that regardless of your level of experience, there is still more to be learned, and you can find it here.  I don’t think there’s any greater compliment any author can achieve, and it’s well earned.  The book was also awarded the “Best How-to Book” award by the Mid-West Independent Publishers’ Assoc.

The author made a couple points throughout the book that are important to all of us regardless of where we paddle and camp.  The first is to promote the idea of not just successful camping, but ethical and responsible camping, and he explains how these are accomplished.  The second has to do with enjoying wildlife.  He has a section on how to find and photograph wildlife, but he adds that a simple rule followed by professional wildlife photographers is that the welfare of the subjects is more important than the photograph.  The lives of birds and wildlife revolve around two activities:  feeding and reproducing.  Each time we disrupt their feeding or their abilities to care for their young, we cause them stress.  The consequence is that stressed birds and animals have lower survival rates.  He emphasizes that we paddle quietly and stop our approach when an animal begins to show signs of fright or agitation, nervous movement, quick furtive glances, muscle tenseness, etc.  All together, this is a book you will enjoy and find rewarding.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Spring Kill

We wait for spring.  We can't wait to get out of doors in our flip-flops,
shorts, and light tops.  But if we are heading to the water, this spring season,
 more than any other, is when we have to remember that water is an alien
environment we have to be ready for.

The day on Canton Lake was really warm for mid-February.  On my way to the lake, I was riding with the pickup window open, and it was still warm.  When I crossed the dam, however, the wind was chilled as it passed over the cold water.  I was afraid while I was ashore that I might be over-dressed in the dry suit, but once on the water, I was quite comfortable.  The air was 74-degrees, but the water was 42, an ideal recipe for a hypothermic catastrophe.  Basking in the warm sun of spring causes more people to die of hypothermia in the spring than any other time of year, even the dead of winter.  It is not the air temperature that one needs to dress for, but the ice-cold water that kills when someone falls overboard or capsizes.  In that 42-degree water, I would retain consciousness for little more than 30 minutes before drowning.  The more I moved, like trying to swim ashore, the faster my body would lose heat.  With a tight-fitting PFD to retain core temperature and keep my head out of the water, I could last 1 or 2 hours before expiring from hypothermia-induced cardiac arrest.  Any PFD is great, even essential, but a loose-fitting PFD, while keeping me afloat and preventing drowning, would allow more water exchange, and lower my survival time, so it’s important to make sure the PFD is properly fitted and snug.  If the combined air and water temperature reach a sum of less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, a wet or dry suit is needed in addition to the PFD to prevent core temperature cooling.  The 74 + 42 degree air and water temperatures totaled 116, making a suit essential, especially when on open water alone.

Here is a link to a table every paddler should have laminated and kept handy.  It lists the water temperatures, times for loss of dexterity, loss of consciousness (which translates to drowning), survival time, and the recommended clothing for managing these conditions.  Here is one point that tables don’t include, but which should be remembered.  If on the water with children, you will be totally occupied trying to save yourself.  The kids will be on their own, which means they need to be properly outfitted for their own survival.  You would be very limited to totally incapable of coming to their aid.

There are a couple ways to confirm water temperature.  One is to check for fishing reports on the internet for the body of water you are heading for.  If that information isn’t available, it’s often helpful to have your own thermometer.  This one by Fishpond has a metal case that protects it while it jostles about in a backpack or tackle box.  Remember that surface water will be substantially warmer than what you will be swimming in if you go overboard.  On this day, there was an 8-degree difference in temperature between the water six feet below the surface and water found on the boat ramp in the sunlight, so the reading needs to be taken off the end of a pier or somewhere you can reach at least a depth of six feet.

Fishpond air/water thermometer in metal case.

For a complete understanding of the risks, read this from the Center for Cold Water Safety:

Monday, February 22, 2016


I admit feeling confused at times, but nothing in comparison to what
these poor daffodils are experiencing.  Flowers in mid-February?  In
a few days they could be covered by ice!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

First 2016 Paddle

I went to Canton Lake for a paddle.  I mean how could I not, when the temperature is running into the mid-seventies and the wind is forecast to ease below 35 mph.?  When I got there, I was surprised by how many other victims of cabin fever had also ventured out.  There were probably two-dozen campers.  Only one was in a tent, the remainder in RV’s.

This was the Buffalo Bluffs at Canton Lake 18-months ago.  There 
are actually two elevations here---one in the foreground covered with
grass, and the tall bluffs set back a hundred yards or so.

Now, with water in the lake, the surface is half-way up the tall
bluffs pictured above.

Boy, these government types take their funding cuts seriously.  Before heading out, I decided to make a head call.  I was also feeling the force of the wind and beginning to have second thoughts about launching as I watched the scattered whitecaps rolling down the lake.  I stopped at the first restroom---locked.  I drove to the second restroom---locked.  Seeing the trend, I drove back out to the pit toilet---locked.  I mean, why the heck would anyone lock the door to a pit toilet?  I had one more shot, and drove a mile north to another pit toilet with no door.  Ahh, it was open, but, of course, no TP.  No matter, I just went back out to the truck and grabbed the appropriate dry bag out of my backpack.

The Ram and Ibi arrive at the long-unused ramp.

I then drove around to three launch ramps to see waves rolling up the ramps.  They were usable in a pinch, but not without scrubbing the canoe on the concrete.  The lake, thank heavens, is full, but that means there is no sand or grass for a shore launch, as the lake is surrounded by riprap for erosion control.  There was an old ramp in a discontinued campground out on Cty. Rt. 2460 to the west, so I hopped back in the truck for another ride.  With the drought of the last half-dozen or more years, there had been no water within a half-mile of that ramp, but it was worth a shot. The water was all the way up the ramp; the water was smooth, and many ducks and Sandhill cranes  were enjoying the return of water and revitalized marsh.  It was an isolated and beautiful setting with only one other vehicle there.

Getting out of the wind for lunch.

Once I paddled out of the protected waters, I was going north into the wind.  One thing became very apparent.  The winter had already been too long.  My arms, waist, and shoulders said I needed more time on the Total Gym.  I continued north until it was time for lunch.  With the wind still blowing, I entered a small bay and drove the canoe’s bow into a thicket to hold me fast.  I kind of rushed lunch, because I was anxious to try the WindPaddle Cruiser for a run back down the lake.  It was a nice ride, but the wind was beginning to soften.  After all, that is what winds do when one starts to sail.  But, it was a nice ride that was interrupted by only a few paddle strokes.

I just told Jean about this, so should add it for all you ladies (and men).  The mark of a good trailer operator is their backing ability.  The American Trucking Association has an annual national driver competition that seriously tests a driver's backing ability.  Unfortunately, trailer backing is usually considered a guy thing.  Many women won't even try.  The one other vehicle at the ramp was a pickup and pontoon boat trailer.  As I was about to leave, the pontoon boat came in to the ramp.  The woman jumped off while the man operated the boat.  She came up, jumped in the truck, and after exchanging a few words with me, swung the truck and trailer around, backed the trailer a couple hundred feet (at about 10 mph), backed straight down the dead-center of the ramp, and stopped at exactly the right spot for the boat operator to pull right onto the trailer.  And, this was all done in one shot with no pull-ups or straightening maneuvers, just a beautiful thing to see.  There you go ladies, grab the keys and go practice.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Catching Up

I've been as busy as a cat covering dirt, but I guess it doesn't show here.  I've spent a lot of time watching Richard Brand paddling around the Eastern U.S.  (Captured Heartbeats)  If you haven't been following, you are missing a great adventure.  Just click Captured Heartbeats Tracker and Facebook in the right margin under Favorite Links.  He passed St. Marks Lighthouse night before last, and has now turned south on the Florida Big Bend.  He is now sleeping soundly (at this writing) in the Econfina River campsite.

Credit: Rutabaga and Canoecopia
They just labeled this picture as 'boy and birch canoe.'  What a great
picture of the birth of an obsession.

Well, the die is cast.  We've been talking about going to Canoecopia for several years.  This year we've made the leap.  I ordered tickets and made a reservation for lodging, and will now watch the weather in the frigid North.  We always loved going to the annual sailboat show in Annapolis, but only had to drive about 40 miles for that.  This will be 1,700 miles round-trip.  Unless this will be something that will get in our blood, it will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but we're looking forward to it.

I made 100.75 miles for my 3-P-100 in January, but this month the weather has been horrid.  It has been warmer than normal, and that is nice, but the wind has been 35 to 45 to 55 mph.  When I go out for my walk, I collect aluminum cans to help Canton Lake with their reforestation fundraising project.  Everything was destroyed by a tornado three years ago.  Climbing up and down deep ditch banks in 45 mph winds gets exhausting in short order.  After a mile and a half, I'm convinced it's three miles and call it a day.

Bike riding is my other means of keeping the body working, but I went out several days ago and broke a spoke in the rear wheel.  This was the third spoke broken and replaced.  I called the bike shop only to find they have taken a winter vacation.  That's a smart move, considering this has to be their slowest time of the year.  All the spokes will be replaced with stainless steel shortly, and I'm hoping that will solve my problem.

Beyond these happenings, I've been working in the shop on wood projects.  The smell of wood dust is surely a better harbinger of spring than a sleepy groundhog.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Losing Sight of Shore

Credit: Losing Sight of Shore film page

I just saw something on Facebook that made me excited, amazed, and angry.  It starts with the Upworthy trailer for the planned documentary about four British women that rowed across the Pacific Ocean totally unsupported.  They covered 8,446 miles over ten months.  Leaving San Francisco, they made provisioning landings in Hawaii, American Samoa, and finished in Cairns, Australia, making them the first to complete this trial of endurance.  Below I include the links to their blog and the upcoming film.  They just arrived back in Great Britain yesterday.

The excited and amazed parts will be self-evident to anyone that looks closer at what these four women accomplished.  The angry part comes from the fact that this is the first I’ve heard of it.  They left an American city, provisioned in another American city, then landed on an American protectorate, set a world record, and kept at it for ten months, and this is the first I’m hearing of it.  The American media is yet again asleep at the controls.  I listen to the news programs every day, usually two or three news programs a day, so it’s not like I live under a rock, and this is the first I’m hearing of this effort.  I told my son that the only way the U.S. media would have heard of this would be if they had taken Howdy Doody along (alias Donald Trump).  While these women are doing something positive, amazing, challenging and uplifting to the human spirit, the news can’t get away from his vulgar, valueless, negative, senseless, comedic rants.  Instead of what these women are doing, the news wants to cover Donald Trump’s wife posing nude and Jeb Bush dragging out is 90-year-old Mommy to lead him through his campaign.  If you want to get away from Howdy Doody for a while, check out these links for something positive.

Sorry, I know that began to sound like a political rant.  It isn’t, just an angry rant.  These women deserve more credit and recognition than is apparent, and congratulations to them for such a great accomplishment.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In the Cause of the Paddle

Credit: Alex Comb

What sets a canoeing expedition apart is that it purifies you more 
rapidly and inescapably than any other.  Travel a thousand miles by 
train,  and you are a brute.  Peddle 500 miles on a bicycle,
 and you remain basically bourgeois.  Paddle a hundred in a canoe,
 and you are already a child of nature.

Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau