Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year - New Challenges

(Photo taken during 2007 Watertribe Everglades Challenge)

It was an absolutely beautiful Carolina winter day today, sunny and warm (60 degrees) and with just a slight breeze. Perfect for spending the last day of the year paddling alone in my Kruger Dreamcatcher, reflecting on the past year, and looking forward to the next.

Tomorrow, the first day of the new year will be another perfect day. I'll get in a bike ride in the morning, then spend the afternoon paddling in my NDK Explorer with some of the many new paddling friends I've made from the local kayaking Meetup Group.

I also spent a few minutes today updating my blog. The changes are subtle. I've tried to make it a bit more current, reflecting some of the new goals and challenges planned for this next year.

Life will be a bit crazy, and very busy, just how I like it.

Here's wishing you a Very Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Some Things Never Change

Marek's (Mountain Wayfarer) blog post "One Year Ago in Fitness Paddling - December 2006", where he listed his blog postings from last December, seemed an interesting exercise. I too looked back at my previous December posts. Interestingly there were 5 postings, and they are still relevant, a year later.
  1. It's Beginning to Look Like a Boat, was a post about my son Alan and his college friends building their Wa'apa canoes they raced in the 2007 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge. Hmmm, here we are December 2007 and Alan is at it again, building a sailboat with Paul for the 2008 EC.

  2. Where are the Women, a post about the lack of women registered in the 2007 EC. Same story for 2008, KiwiBird and I are again the only solo women registered for EC, also SandDollar in the UFC.

  3. Lunch Time at the Movies, I previewed the WaterTribe 2006 UFC video to my office mates. They all cheer me on during these races, and this offered a taste of the adventure. WaterTribe is now selling a 2nd video that has just been released, it's on my X-mas list.

  4. My New Mantra, fifty is the new thirty. I still use this mantra and it'll be good for a few more years :)

  5. A Big Change was my comments on Derrick's then new blog and blog name, from Kayak Wisconsin to Kayak Quixotica. This year, the name stays the same, but he's got a nice new look.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Douglas Fir

This season in our home it's all about building boats. Paul's planned skin-on-frame deck has sat out of the way in one corner of the living room, while my almost skinned SOF sits prominently in our family room.

And of course there is the big boat project, Alan and Paul's Core Sound 20 sailboat, which is taking up most of the basement.

It seemed only appropriate to keep the theme going through Christmas.

It is a Douglas Fir after all. And for now, it's also our family Christmas tree.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Different Kind of Race

With such dangerous wintry weather around the country, I really can't complain about the little bit of much needed rain we've had this weekend. The balmy temperatures we had last week are also now gone. I even managed to paddle Friday night without having to wear gloves, a big deal in winter with a Greenland paddle.

I had been looking forward to a long paddle in the rougher lake waters that the predicted winds were going to bring Sunday. But I seemed to have forgotten how uncomfortable the wind and rain would be in the cold. We are expecting winds 25 mph (gusts 35 mph) and temps in the low 40's. I bailed before even putting the boat on the car.

Alan faired a bit better on Saturday, at least he and friends made a good attempt at their big bike ride to Virginia, and got 1/2 way and back. Two more final exams left for Alan this week. Tana (and Rooster her pet guinea pig) is now home for the holidays, her semester finished with much excitement as Appalachian State University won their NCAA Div I finals on Friday night (3 in a row).

So, with some extra free time this weekend, I worked on my skin-on-frame kayak. I've finally decided on, and am happy with my seam and stitching. Tightening the skin, and the sweing process is actually a bit painful on the hands and fingers, and so it's been slow going for me, but I'm finally making some good progress. Actually this SOF may go down in history as the slowest built SOF ever. Paul reminds me how embarrassing it would be if he and Alan finished building the sailboat before I finish the SOF. Hmm, I guess that's another race on my calendar.

The picture below was Paul's idea, it helps me pull the skin tight so I can adjust the tension on the lacings which keeps the canvas nice and tight while I do the actual stitching.

I've been reading all I can about painting and finishing the skin. Some use Thompson's water seal as their first coat, and I'll probably do that as well, hoping it will help against our humid conditions here. Still needing to decide on latex or oil based paint. I'm going to start experimenting with paint/color with some leftover canvas. My current plan is to paint the kayak a dark brown, then add a final glaze of translucent black so it'll have less of a "paint job" look.

I've also been playing around with some ideas of painting decoration, but nothing brilliant has come to mind, and I'm not really very artistic. I'll see if I can get a decal to stick, I recall an earlier posting of Canadian Ckayaker with a link to a translation site, I think it was for Inuktitut. Maybe some personal or meaningful phrase or words (or imagery) in a language such as Inuktitut would be fitting, either as a decal or stencilled on.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Great Day

Quite a workout today. I went back to Balance Movement Studio for Elizabeth's winter Tuesday/Thursday spin classes. Elizabeth Towe, owner of the Studio, was instrumental in helping me train for the 2006 Ultimate Florida Challenge. Her classes are hard, fun, and she has great music.

At lunchtime I walked over to the pool on campus for a mile long swim, then right after work I headed out to my Yoga class. I've been taking a 13 week series class in Anusara Yoga, we have progressed so much throughout the class, that tonight, our last in this semester's series we were doing back bends and handstands. Picture below is the couple, Sommer and Paul Sobin, who teach my class. I can't believe the things I'm doing, I've already signed on for next semester. Life is good.

Then I got home and checked on the guys and their boat building. Alan was home for the day (he's got 2 more exams next week), and GASP!!!! he sawed a huge hole through the middle of the hull, this will be for the centerboard. It didn't seem to faze him, but scared the heck out of me. I'm sure he'll be posting pictures on his blog later.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Old School

I've been watching an old video a friend lent me, named "Waterwalker". It is a chronicle of artist, filmmaker, and canoeist Bill Mason's experiences during several months spent "roughing it" in the beautiful, and rugged wilderness around Lake Superior.

Nothing extraordinary really happens during the video; it's simply a man canoeing and enjoying nature. But, it is amazing to watch him maneuver this simple open canoe in the fury of Lake Superior.

I'd not heard of Bill Mason before, though I've come to know he was quite a name in the world of canoeing and conservation. Honoring him, there is an annual 'Waterwalker Film Festival', sponsored by Paddle Canada.

Mason passed away about 20 years ago, this is not a recent video, his last and one of many that he evidently made during his lifetime. It's clear immediately when the video starts that he's a member of the 'old school', minimal camping gear, red plaid shirt, denim cutoff shorts.

These days, new paddlers have difficulty with all the various choices of boat styles, fiberglass, kevlar, carbon fiber, gortex, etc... It also seems sometimes that there is too much expectation that gear and boats are responsible for our abilities, skills, and speed.

We have much to learn from these accomplished veterans.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Numb Toes

After yesterday's posting, I got a few suggestions regarding my numb toe problem, I really appreciate the help, so thought I'd go into a bit more of the gory details. I can only assume my numb toes are the result of a circulation or nerve problem. After a quick Google search, I'm clearly not the only paddler with this problem.

All is well after a day or even weekend of paddling, I'm also fine on longer trips where the distance averages 20 miles per day. My numb toes have only occurred after an Everglades Challenge, a 5-7 day - 300 mile paddle, 40+ miles each day in my NKD Explorer. I honestly don't remember having had this problem after the 1200 mile UFC when I paddled the Dreamcatcher which has a rudder and higher seat (I think this is a very important piece of information). It's also important to note that during these paddles, it's not unusual to paddle 15 or more hours without getting out of the boat. Yea I know, this always brings up other more personal questions, but lets keep this discussion focused on my toes for know.

During these long paddles, pretty much everything is sore, hurts and is tired, but, I've never really suffered any significant back, butt, or leg pain, no sciatica or other issues like that, and I'm pretty flexible in the hamstrings. It's was not uncommon to take 3-5 months before all my toes had normal feeling again.

I've always attributed the numbness to my paddling style, too much pushing with my feet. I've long ago replaced the foot pegs in my Explorer, and have a full foam bulkhead at the position of where the foot pegs would be. Possibly this is too far forward. I've also replaced the NDK back band with a low back snapdragon WW back band. Possibly this also is too far forward on the seat. Luckily, all of this is stuff I can work on.

The only other time I experience numb toes is during long bike rides, after about 40 miles. Again I figured this is likely too much pushing down on the pedals. And possibly too small bike shoes (I ought to check the fit of my paddle shoes too). During biking though, the toes are only numb during the ride, and come back to life very quickly after.

As Silbs has suggested, I'll try a pad under my thighs. I have heard of other paddler's who have done this, but I thought it was related more to discomfort and pain. I found a SealLine Kayak Thigh Support Cushion, at Rutabaga, but will probably try and make something up myself first. I'm assuming this suggestion is to release any pressure on the back of my thighs from the end of the seat, possibly effecting circulation?

Any other ideas or similar experiences?

Can't Decide

I'm lucky enough to have more than one boat to choose from to paddle, and I've got two of the very best, an NDK Explorer and a Kruger Dreamcatcher. Very different boats, one an ocean going canoe that I single blade, the other an expedition kayak that I paddle with a Greenland paddle.

I keep waffling back and forth about which boat to use in next years WaterTribe Everglades Challenge. Both have seen 2 WaterTribe events each, the last two were completed in the Dreamcatcher, and much of my last 2 years of paddling has been in the Dreamcatcher.

I think it's time for a change, and I'm finding myself wanting more time in the Explorer. But I have to figure out how to avoid the numb-ness I get in my toes. Both previous ECs in the Explorer left my toes numb for a few months. I'm still not exactly sure why as it doesn't happen on any other paddles. But, this would be a real problem for my triathlon training which follows right on the heels for the EC finish.

So I've decided to change my original plan (I'm currently registered in the Dreamcatcher), and start alternating my training paddles with both boats, either will keep me fit and in shape for the Challenge. In the meantime I'll do some research on the numb toe problem, talk to my physical therapist, and experiment a bit with my front bulkhead and seat back placement.

Pacific Action Sails sponsored me during the UFC with a new PAS, and they have recently offered to send me a new rigging pack to outfit my Explorer with the sail. I've wanted to put this sail on the Explorer for a long time. This might be just the change and challenge I need.

Right now, I'm happy with this decision to not make a final decision. I'll just let the boats decide. In the meantime, I'll have lots of fun training with them both. After all, they are the very best.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I just love a challenge! Unlike most, mine are almost always just against myself. Maybe it's because that way I might fail, but I can never really lose :)

Like KiwiBird, I too read about Greg Barton's stomach crunch exercise program in the 2008 Canoe and Kayak Buyers Guide. I read it, got exhausted just thinking about it, then kept reading on.

But KiwiBird's posting "All I want for Christmas..." might just be the motivation I need for a new personal challenge. Having recently lost 15 pounds, and with another 15 or so to go, this could be good. I might reap some visible benefits in addition to the core fitness and paddling results. Sounds like a win-win.

I'm currently on a "2 times everything" weekly training plan, part of my paddle training for WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, and my maintenance training for next August's Ironman. I think I can add a 2 * abdominal workout into the mix, that is if I don't think about it too much.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

My Weekend

No it wasn't spent paddling this, but it's quite interesting isn't it, Napali, a transparant folding skin-on-frame.

I started the weekend with my regular Friday night paddle. While driving the 20 minutes to the lake, I'd mentally prepared for the probability that I'd likely be paddling alone on this cold dark night. But once at the boat ramp, there was Joan and Lyman taking their kayaks off their cars. Joan had just gotten her new beautiful Lumpy Greenland paddle.

My old paddling friend Eric was also there waiting for me. We had prearranged a hook up so I could lend him my Garmin Forerunner, and return a white water paddle I had borrowed from him. He's not had much time for paddling these days, Zane is only 2 yrs old. His free time has been spent mountain biking, and he's starting to train for some 100hr ultra MTB races, wanting to try out the forerunner before buying his own.

On the water, Joan commented first on the temperature drop, I too felt it at our turn around. During the paddle we were toasty warm, but after finishing the 12 miles, and getting out of the boats, our hands and fingers started freezing and hurting. Stowing gear and strapping boats down with frozen hands is the hardest part of these night paddles. I often leave the car running, and get in for a quick thaw in order to finish the task. It's still so worth it. No clouds out, the moon hadn't set, and the stars were brilliant. I got back home around 11:30PM, the temperature was 32 F, so not too bad.

Saturday was spent on chores, and watching the sailboat building. Lots of progress being made on the boat this weekend, of course Paul and Alan work on it till 2 and 3am most weekend nights (training). Alan hopes to turn it over in a couple weeks to fiberglass the hull.

Then this afternoon, I hosted a skin-on-frame kayak building meeting, with a small group from my larger local Kayak Meetup group. I can't believe I forgot to get the camera out. There were eight of us at this 1st meeting. Since Paul and I both have in-progress SOFs (Paul has the deck finished and needs to make ribs next), and I have quite a library of SOF building books, it made sense to meet here.

We have a great group started, with each bringing some experience and variety to the group, whole, including 4 with previous kayak building experience (mostly wooden), and one with CAD software who is designing his own SOF. Very informative, and fun and social. Probably one of the most interesting things is that the members of this group are interested in building different types of SOFs, from SOFs traditionally built and with willow stemmed ribs, a rolling Greenland, and a double SOF. It will really be interesting seeing the kayaks that come out of this.

We'll likely start another "private" Meetup, devoted to local kayak builders, a place to easily share links, photos, progress reports, stories. I'm hoping this group will keep me motivated to get mine done quickly. Especially since I've already found my next one, a Yostworks folding SOF. Something I can take on the sailboat :)

As far as my training over the past week. My goal is 2 times everything each week, this will keep me in maintenance for triathlon, and along with my paddling will be great cross training for WaterTribe. I ran*2, swam*2, yoga*1, bike*0, wt train*0. Oops, not great, but not totally sedentary.

Dreaming and Planning

The Vertue Sailboats

I've always called our daughter Tana, "the reader". Like her Mom, she always has a novel going. During middle school and early high school her favorites were anything fantasy, and occasionally science fiction.

Alan was no less a reader, but his book titles always began with "How to....". He was home from school this weekend to work on the sailboat, and he had with him a book borrowed from the school library. Not too surprising now, to see what he is reading.

Last June, while driving to Missouri on our way to race in the Missouri River MR340, we made a quick stop to check out some books on tape for the long ride. We picked out a book called "My Old Man and the Sea: A Father and Son Sail around Cape Horn", by David Hays and Daniel Hays. We thoroughly enjoyed the story, and have talked about it often since.

Quite taken by the description of the sailboat they sailed, a 25 ft Sloop, the Vertue, Alan has since read a good bit about this boat, no longer available new, but with quite a loyal following, and occasionally for sale used. This morning Alan told me there was one available for $13,000. the Vertue is an ocean going sailboat, that can be sailed on long expeditions solo, and has a reputation for handling all kinds of weather.

I know Alan dreams and plans that one day he will own a boat like the Vertue, and sail it around the world. And he has been raised to have dreams and goals, and that they can come true.

His current book. It's called "Vertue XXXV" by Humphrey Barton. Written when the author was on a voyage from Lymington (Hampshire, England) to New York. Barton finishes his preface with "So far as I can see there is not the slightest reason why two people should not cruise round the world in such a yacht. I hope it is only a matter of time before such a voyage is successfully accomplished".

I expect this has already been done, the book was written in 1950. But I also won't be surprised if it isn't done again sometime very soon :).

Sailing Alone Around the World...and other books you MUST reread... is a thread on the WoodenBoat forum. There is some great recommended reading here.