Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Skiing, Sun Dogs, Pool Sessions, and Computers

Skiing season is getting under way, the local trails are starting to open up and forecast for snow is looking good. I really really need to get out and get some time in on the trails if I am going to ski the 42k Vasaloppet this winter. Right now I'd never make it to the finish.
Tree is looking good!

Sun dog yesterday morning ... very cold!!

And Alex says he doesn't have any balance ...

My laptop has given its all for me, I think this time it is finally over. New in 1999 it was the cutting edge in technology ... it's been fixed, reloaded, rebooted and abused for the last 9 yrs and just has nothing left. I'll be doing only some early morning and lunch break posts until I can get some Internet going at home again.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Airplanes ...

So why would an avid kayaker who works on airplanes every day for a living, go and get current, and start flying again? A couple reasons really. I get much the same feeling alone in a small plane flying over the country side seeing the view from above, as I do paddling a kayak in places like Lake Superior. I dug out my log book and found my last entry was in 2003, and was an instructional flight with Jim Robillard. A close friend who was killed in a plane crash not long after that flight. One of the reasons I quit flying was because of that loss. Maybe enough time has passed and I can pick up some of the pieces and take to the skies again. Another reason is I've always felt it important that I would fly the same planes I work on ... a matter of trust to the people who trust me to sign off the work I do on their planes. I have planes to fly, and friends who are instructors who can get me current again. Besides, I need something to do between kayaking and skiing.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Busy Weekend

Cutting Christmas Trees with friends over the weekend ... awoke to some new snow Sunday morning ... pool sessions ... Tis the season!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

I took a different drive in to work this morning so I could check out the shopping activities at Ridgedale, but only a drive by for me ... I have no idea why anyone would subject themselves to the mess of crowded crazed shoppers. I avoid such situations at all cost. I am one of those people that will do ALL of my Christmas shopping in one outing, and for the most part just do a gift certificate. This morning though, it didn't look at all that busy. In fact this route is normally bumper to bumper and crawling along at about walking speed at 7:30am ... it looked to be a quiet day in my part of the Twin Cities today.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Wishing all a good Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

They say it's your birthday!

Hot dish night at Grumpys is getting to be a local tradition lately, always a fine selection of brews on tap. Tonight was a special occasion because we were celebrating a couple birthdays ... friends, a couple good beers, chocolate cake, and tater tot hot dish. It doesn't get much better than that!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quiet Time

I used to always have a book in the process of being read ... lately I seem to have so many things going on in my life that a book just doesn't have a high enough priority. I picked this up the other day to have on hand if a quiet evening should somehow present itself.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pool Sessions

A small group at the pool today, Midwest Mountaineering had their "Outdoor Adventure Expo" this weekend and many of our regulars may have been checking out new winter gear. We did have a good day however ... Ron from Novorca Paddles was getting his "stand up on the boat trick" looking pretty good. Greg, Kurt, and Fran made some good head ways on their rolls .. in fact I think Greg got a first roll in today! Congrats Greg! Herb got a first off side roll in today. Me ... after some "stand up on the boat tricks" practice both Ron and I did some "stand in the pool and help the rollers" tricks.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lake Independence

Stopped by Lake Independence today to check out the ice conditions, and found two Trumpeter Swans along the edge of ice. They saw me and headed out to another part of the lake before I could get close enough for a good photo.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Vasaloppet

I sent in my registration for the 42K Classic Vasaloppet this winter. It's a ski race through the hills and trails around Mora Minnesota. Last year our group the SKOAC Renegades did the Relay Race with temps around -16f and plenty of wind to drive the cold right through the best cold weather gear. Courtney put together a slide show of the race.
42K is a long race for me. I'll need to be committed to get out and train most every night after work, and some long distance training on weekends. One of my goals last spring was to train for and enter a short triathlon over the summer, and I never really got it together. The Two Harbors 18 mile kayak race was the one race I did, and even though I didn't train for it, I managed to beat my prior time by about 20 minutes, but I think I can contribute that to an 18 foot boat verses a 16 foot boat. So I'll be looking for snow soon, and try and keep on task this fall.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Elm Creek

I spent my lunch break today driving over to Elm Creek to check out the snow making activities. They look like they are going to be ready for skiers and snow boarders soon! My youngest is an avid snow boarder, he has convinced me I need to give snow boarding a try ... This could be interesting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Hunting Shack

It's a warm and comfy place in the middle of 200 acres of woodlands in northern Minnesota. The only way back in is either a long walk, or a ride in something a bit smaller than a pickup.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Photo Op

The little waterproof cameras are great for keeping in your pfd pocket, or hanging on a cord while paddling. But for opportunities like a Great Horned Owl, a SLR would have been a much better camera. This guy stopped by for a visit while I was sitting in the deer stand last weekend.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pool Sessions

Its that time of year again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Just a short note to take the time to thank those who have served our country. Those close to me include many Friends, young Colin who has returned safe, and my father along with his brother who served in Korea together. Many thanks to all.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

SKOAC Night at Midwest

A night at Midwest Mountaineering in the Expedition room with fellow SKOAC members sharing the last seasons paddling experiences with photos and videos. From local paddling, to the Canadian shores of Lake Superior we had some great stories and photos to share. When this group gets together every fall to share the last year, you realize the bond we all have sharing the outdoors. It's a good feeling.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sea Caves

The sea caves near Meyers Beach are definitely worth the short paddle out for a visit. The forecast was calling for perfect conditions all day Friday so Dave, Chris, and I while en route to the "Annual Grouse Kill," decided to take advantage of the nice Fall weather and do some paddling. In the videos I tried to capture the echos of the water throughout the caves. The little cameras just don't do the sounds justice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin Paddle 2008

The third annual SKOAC "Pumpkin Paddle" has officially come and gone, cold and wet fall camping was not the plan this year though. Our gracious hosts, Gary, Jeff, and Liz offered our small group the comforts of their cabin on Lake Vermilion this year. I'm sure we all agreed that after paddling most of the day Saturday, and the cold and wet weather we had coming this weekend, a warm cabin with a nice wood fired sauna to ease aching muscles, was really nice.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fall Paddling

We still have some paddling time left here in the north land, but the days are getting shorter and getting out during the week after work is just about over. Last week we tried to get a "full moon" paddle in, and although the weather was nice, the clouds just wouldn't give us the moon. A bonfire with a couple beverages and some great food afterwards finished of a nice get together with Friends.

The weekend weather was about as perfect as you can get here this time of year. Saturday I had to make a last minute decision to bail on some projects I was working on and meet up with people on White Bear Lake for an afternoon paddle with another get together at another friends place. Some beers with Brats on the grill finished off another perfect fall Saturday. Sunday? Well I finally got to finish up my projects ... in spite of the perfect weather. It was a good thing no one called me for another paddle.

Friday, October 17, 2008


From the email I received.

ISK member Jo Hamilton died in the early morning of October 16 after a long illness. Many ISK members will remember Jo and her husband, Dave, from winter pool sessions, where Jo was a graceful figure who made complicated rolls appear simple and easy.
Jo and Dave were also the brains behind the first Traditional Paddlers Gatherings in Akeley. The Gatherings were established as an opportunity to learn and share skills related to native kayak techniques. But for those who attended, these events were characterized by the notes of graciousness, bounty and hospitality that Jo worked tirelessly to achieve. Anyone involved in the first years of this event would acknowledge that the largest share of credit for its success belonged to Jo.
Jo was an accomplished artist, whose pottery graces the homes of many members, as well as a dancer, avid yoga practitioner and motorcyclist. Driving with her around Akeley could provoke recollections that seemed surprising coming from a middle-aged woman. At one dangerous intersection she casually observed, "This is where I put my bike down under a lumber truck."

My deepest condolences to Dave and the Hamilton family.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What do you do on a Sunday night?

October has made its presence known here today, cool temps and some rain. So, what do you do? You do some laundry, and while your waiting for clothes to dry you work on guitar licks by jammin with Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy on a dvd.

Sean Morley

There's an attempt to make a Vancouver Island record circumnavigation by Sean Morley going on right now. I met Sean briefly at Canoecopia 2007 when I was checking out the new Valley boats. He was interviewed in Justines "This is the Sea II", and has some very impressive accomplishments! He's just about half way around ... check it out. By the way, he's using a Nordkapp for trip ... my kind of boat!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

More Video from Sunday

Messin with the video

Little Long is a small lake on the west side of the cities and is off the radar for most boaters because it is so small. There are boat motor limitations also ... so no jet-skis or speed boats. Perfect for an afternoon paddle. When I first started, I set the camera up and hit the button to "start" the video, but I had forgotten to set it up for video. So in this little clip I had already spent about 20 minutes of vigorous rolling before I discovered my little mistake.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What's your "Go To"

A go to rescue is the one when everything goes the hell in a hand basket, and you need to fix it. If you are a proficient roller, it may be a simple matter of a setup, and roll. But what if the unthinkable happens … you’re swimming, the water’s cold, and you are solo. The wave caught you by surprise … you were surfing and caught an edge on a monster wave … what ever … your bombproof roll just bombed, you had to bail out, and you need to get back in your boat. If you are a good roller you may do a re-enter and roll and think nothing of it. Why can’t a first year paddler do the same with a paddle float? We tend to teach the standard paddle float rescue as a first line of defense, I bet we’d be surprised how many people could do a reasonable re-enter and roll with a paddle float, if we would show them how easy it really is. The re-enter and roll is a much faster recovery than the standard paddle float rescue, and when the water is cold, time is everything. And if you give someone the tools to work with, they may just surprise you and take the time and learn to roll without the float. Rolling a kayak should be a basic rescue, not an advanced rescue. A paddle float should be a part of our kit … no matter how skilled we think we are.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Time to sell the NDK

I bought it as a demo boat in 2004 from Midwest Mountaineering, did many trips in it, and learned a lot about kayaking in it. When it first came into production it was called the Poseidon, a year or so later they called it the Romany HV. Now the new version the Romany S, is a bit different. Chris G had one at the NLQS Gathering, and after looking at it closely, there are some subtle differences. Especially the deck and cockpit opening size, the hull may be a bit flatter on the S also. At any rate, with the Nordkapp, and an SOF I have some good boats to paddle. And you never know ... I may find something new!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Boat!

Now there's a smile that says "New Boat!" Congrats on the new Valley Aquanaut Courtney!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Roll or Die

Early this Spring I signed up for the Canoe U Refresher Course and spent a weekend with the Rapids Riders. The white water mentality is quite a bit different when it comes to rescues/rolling. A person could spend a lifetime paddling in a sea kayak and never need to learn to roll … as long as that paddling time is on relatively calm water. Even paddling on the Great Lakes if you choose your conditions carefully, a person could get by with basic self rescue skills. With white water, once you pop the spray skirt and bail … you are swimming, and not getting back in the boat. A self rescue at this point is not an option. Rocks, strainers, nasty holes, and all the bad things in the river you are now confronted with. You now have to rely on another person for rescue, and chase a boat down the river.
When I bailed out of the boat last spring and ended up swimming, Dave had to drag me out of the river, and Kent had the rather unglamorous job of chasing my boat down the river. But I hung onto my paddle, no way I was going to drop it. Dave drug me through two sets of rapids before he was able to catch an eddy and we were able to get to shore, and I still hung onto the paddle. I have to wonder why I felt it was so much more important to hang onto the paddle, than it was to keep trying to roll up. I know I would have eventually come up and stayed up. As a sea kayaker I have more options, I can roll, paddle float rescue, scramble back in, or with another person I do a T rescue. Even in 4 to 6 foot waves on Lake Superior, you have a fighting chance to get back in your boat. In white water, you are swimming.
So what made me choose plan b over plan a? I remember getting flipped forward and the feeling like the hole had a hold of the boat, and wasn’t letting go. I could feel the water trying to pull me out of the boat. I did try and sweep the paddle up for a roll, but couldn’t seem to get things into position quickly enough. Then a little wave of panic hit me. I grabbed the loop and pulled.
As a solo sea kayaker, if I go over on a 6 mile crossing and loose my paddle, I am toast. What I learned early on was DON’T LOOSE YOUR PADDLE! It may be far more important to learn early on to roll.
Years ago if a person wanted to get a pilots license, they had to do spin training. They had to take an airplane up high, induce a spin, and recover. Over the years designers made planes more spin proof, and the spin training was scaring people from learning to fly. So they dropped the spin training from the curriculum. Airplanes can still get into a spin if treated improperly, and a predictable number of people die in spins every year. I took aerobatic training early on as a pilot, and learned spins along with a lot of other fun maneuvers. I think it made me a safer pilot. I believe in spin training, and I think rolling should be taught as soon as a person starts kayaking, in a sea kayak or white water.
Photo credits to Chris G

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rolling Wednesday

A week of perfect weather, and with just enough time after work to load the boat and gear for the last hour of sunlight, one just has to take advantage of it. I caught Dave in a couple rolls Wednesday night. Although not in the video clip, I was able to coach him through a nice storm roll Wednesday night ... Way to go!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fall Ball

I try and make as many club events as I can, for the most part I do pretty well. The "Fall Ball" is an annual paddling event put together by SKOAC members, and has been well attended in years past. This year it took place on Sand Island in the Apostles, it's an easy 3 mile crossing so most people can make the trip. Then there are the sea caves on the North side of the island only a short paddle from the group camping areas. You need to have calm conditions to get into the caves for some exploring.

I think the first part of our group that made it up on Friday had the opportunity to check them out, but by the time Chris, Lori, and I made it up, the wind and waves had gotten to the point that it was fun playing outside the caves, but getting into them was a bad idea. By the time we made it back to camp to set up tents, it started to rain ... I think it pretty much rained the whole rest of the day and into the night. Now my good friend and fellow blogger Dave has stated "there's no such thing as bad weather, just crummy gear", There is some truth to that! But camping in the rain is just that ... camping in the rain. Even though the weather was doing its best to dampen every ones spirits, you can see in the top photo plenty of happy faces. Of course a lamb on a spit, plenty of great food, some wine, and a huge tarp sure helped!

Now if you paddle the Solstice GT Titan like paul ... you can bring the lamb on a spit, plenty of creature comforts, and the largest tent I've every seen brought to the islands in a kayak! I did walk past his kayak before the crossing back and there was nothing tied to the top of the deck!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Boat

An older skin on frame kayak was donated to Qajaq USA for the Traditional Paddlers Gathering silent auction last weekend, after walking by it a number of times I just couldn't resist trying it on for size ... just in case it might fit. Well, it turned out to be a perfect fit. I had paddled a number of SOF kayaks at the Gathering by then, and was sceptical I would fit in any boat other than one that was made for me. I put my bid in on the boat and by the end of the night, I was the proud owner of my first skin on frame kayak. Sunday morning was a real treat discovering the way it handles on the water. It has a few leaks, and is in need of recovering, but it is a perfect fit. I couldn't be happier with it. It's still plenty safe for a while yet, but this Winter will be a good time to do the recovering, Ceconite will probably be my covering of choice since my day job is an aircraft tech. I does roll nice!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Traditional Paddlers Gathering

A weekend in Northern Minnesota at the "Traditional Paddlers Gathering", put together this year by Alex and Chris from the "Northern Lights Qajaq Society" was for me, an outstanding learning experience with some great instructors, and a weekend meeting many new people, and getting together again with some good friends. My goal this weekend was to come out with a better understanding of the balance brace and recovery techniques ... I came home with that and much more! I didn't get a chance to work with all of the mentors this weekend, but working with Dan Segal, and Will Bigelow on the balance brace really put some things together for me. I was able to do a somewhat decent balance brace by the end of the weekend. Will also spent some time with me on Sunday working on my forward recovery rolls, something I thought I had a good handle on really improved with his help.

Now what I didn't expect while trying some of the different SOF kayaks over the weekend was how different they can feel rolling ... the not so subtle difference between a "plank" roller, and a "log" roller. Alex had me try a kayak he describes as a "plank" roller ... I felt like I was cheating! In no time at all Alex had me doing hand rolls, behind the head rolls, spine rolls, and an effortless balance brace. I don't think I'll be able to repeat those in the Nordkapp. But I can honestly say I was doing some ok hand rolls ... Thanks Alex!

The harpoon contest put together by Jeff Bjorgo was a hoot! I made it to the finals, but didn't place, to see a bunch of kayaks chasing and throwing harpoons at a blown up 6 foot long orca towed by Jeff was quite a sight!

I didn't get a chance to work with Cheri and Turner like I had hoped, there where just to many good mentors there to work with them all. I'll have to make it a point to get out East soon and try again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


First time this Summer we had to spend a day holed up on an island because of the wind. Ron S and I went up to the Apostles for the weekend to check out some Islands. I hadn't been to Michigan Island yet, or the Northeast side of Stocton ... this wasn't the weekend to be on the lake, much less go exploring unknown bays. We had checked weather before we left and knew there would be small craft warnings, but the forecast could be wrong ... one just never knows for sure. Cold fronts usually bring strong winds, and wind shifts. This one was no exception. As soon as we passed Basswood Island towards Hermit we knew the lake would keep us entertained. The winds were from the South ... how much fetch could the lake have along the South Shore? The crossing from Hermit to Stocton proved to be the most interesting with 3 to 4 foot following seas. Perfect surfing waves! The Nordkapp has proven to be a solid performer in conditions, I never once felt anything but complete confidence throughout all of the crossings. After the great surfing waves we got into the reflection stuff that was bouncing off the rocks on Stocton, kind of gives you that washing machine effect. We ended up ducking into Quarry bay that night, hoping for better conditions the next day. The winds grew stronger ... waves grew bigger ... we decided to hang out at Quarry bay for the weekend, and do some hiking.

I paddled back solo on Sunday through some fun conditions. The crossing between Stocton and Hermit is pretty exposed to the Northwest, exactly were the the winds were coming from. Ron stayed up for a couple extra days to hit a couple more islands. Wish I could've stayed longer, but I've been burning up vacation time this year at an alarming rate!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Gunflint Trail

Note to self: Never just head up to the North Shore on a Friday afternoon thinking you will find an open campsite ... you WILL end up some miles inland and hopefully get your tent set up before dark. The Gunflint, and the BWCA is a great alternative to the North Shore.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Great Taste of the Midwest

The Madison Homebrewers & Tasters Guild puts on a great event every year, the annual "Great Tastes of the Midwest" went off with out a hitch. 5,000 people showed up at Olin-Turville Park in Madison Wisconsin this last weekend, to taste some of the best beer in the Midwest. Dave, Chris, along with two more fellow beer aficionados and I met up with our Madison friends for the weekend to take part in the weekend festivities. Shuttle bus's from different points in Madison brought everyone together, and the gate opened at 1 pm Saturday afternoon. Within a 1/2 hour everyone was inside, and milling about the different tents and sampling well over 100 different brews. The real draw here I thought was the "Real Ale Tent", all cask conditioned in the centuries old traditions of the UK. Afterwards a stop at Jamerica, a great little Jamaican style diner on Madison's East side for a great end to the day. My favorite selection ... the Bells Two Hearted from the Cask Ale.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Two Harbors Weekend

The Two Harbors Kayak Festival has been an event I've made it to every years starting in 2003. In '04 I did the 18 mile race in 3hrs 42 min, so all though I am 4 years older, I still did the race it 3 hrs 26 min. It certainly isn't close to the top competition, but what the heck. I'm all right with it! Chris E and I did sort of a team effort by hanging together throughout the race, I think at times I was pushing him, and I know there were times he pushed me harder than I would've done alone. Now, speaking of the competition .. I get placed in the early 50's age group, these guys are some of the strongest paddlers that show for the race .. what the heck is with that! On another note, Gail Green from Living Adventures would have beaten her '04 time, but she stopped to do a rescue for a guy in a surfski. He started bonking and capsized, couldn't get back on. She had to stay with him for a while until he got his wits back about him ... she missed her old time of 2hrs 58 min by only 4 minutes. But if you know Gail .. that's her. Grant and Gail are two of the best ambassadors to kayaking we have here in the Midwest.
When I first started going to the festival in '03, I didn't know many people in this sport. It was a solo adventure for me. I'd show up, get a campsite at Burlington Bay, and just hang out, meet people, it was sort of my beginning in kayaking. In 5 short years I've met so many great people, now we cram as many tents as we can on 4 campsites!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rolling Wednesday

Rolling on Lake Calhoun this evening. Calhoun is just under the Minneapolis skyline, with beaches, and a paved path all around the lake. Sometimes you can have a hard time just carrying a kayak across the path for fear of taking out a runner, or bicycle, there is that much activity around the lake. This evening SKOAC will be doing a rolling skill session on the North beach. It's been awhile since I spent a lot of time standing in the water helping someone get a roll going, I'm looking forward to it! Also some rumors about a new Q boat in town ...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

In the Fog

Last weekend gave us some nice sunsets, and a chance to do some paddling in the fog. I'd done some blind crossings in the past, and this wasn't necessarily that bad, but it was enough that you really had to pay attention to where you were to stay on top of things. The islands are a different place in the fog, there is a whole different kind of beauty when the islands start hiding in the clouds.