Archive for April, 2013

Be Prepared, that was then, this is now

That was then, this is now!

April in the Gulf Islands can often be a very pleasant time of year to explore the shores and islands by kayak. In fact, from about Christmas onwards the conditions are almost always favourable just dress warmly. The bigger winds of the summer months when heating and cooling during the day can whip up a good westerly by mid-day are not always present in the so-called off-season around here. With that in mind and my hamstring not feeling too bad at long last I took to the waters in my backyard, namely the Trincomali Channel that runs almost east-west separating Salt Spring Island with Galiano Island with the smaller Wallace Island in the middle. I like to zip around Wallace to visit the seals and otters, eagles, ravens, kingfishers, and the occasional fluffy mink mixed in with the notorious Wallace Island raccoons. It is a short crossing from Hudson Point north of Fernwood to Wallace and timing the tide means that you inevitably get a good ride at least in one direction and fight it the rest of the way.

Some April skies over Trincomali Channel, Salt Spring Island.

Some April skies over Trincomali Channel, Salt Spring Island.

I had the tide on my side for the first part. Paddling up the shore of Wallace quickly meeting the space between Jackscrew Island and the Secretary Group, passing the harbour seal colony and enjoying their reaction to my kayak, and my camera. The winds as scheduled were blowing from the northwest but I was in the lovely arms of the sheltered Gulf Islands. It may have been bouncy in the Strait of Georgia, but where I was sitting was pretty with a mere ripple on the water from gusts blowing, pouring through Porlier Pass. The usual. That was then!

I decided to call it a day after about 10km turned and stopped at a beach for a stretch and a snack. The clouds were big and puffy and blowing across the sky. I could see rain on the hills of Vancouver Island and thought, this is a good time to head home. No sooner than I sat back in the cockpit did the winds switch. This is now! The sky immediately filled with grey and far away, down the channel I could see the signs of wind before I ever felt it. I paddled down Wallace for about five minutes before I took the idea of crossing early as a good idea. The winds were now hitting me, the calm water of the channel now not so much happy. Wind waves built and by half way across to my island’s shores I was getting a nice deck wash broadside with two footers breaking and curling. I was fine, I was happy and it was nice to get an opportunity to dust off my rusty kayaking skills. Paddling in rough stuff is not a huge deal for me. I have had to do it before. If this had happened while I was in my tent in camp I would have chosen to spend the day in my tent, however, I was out there and caught with my pants down as the nice north wind switched and spun around to come at me from the east. The north going tides bashed sideways as was I and the crossing, though bumpy was a good time. My not so straight line to a fishing bouy kept me on target and once over to the Salt Spring side I felt home free. Well, then again…

From glass the blast as a surprise East wind whips things up in Trincomali Channel, Salt Spring Island.

From glass the blast as a surprise East wind whips things up in Trincomali Channel, Salt Spring Island.

Turning into the wind took a bit of elbow grease and with some sweeps I had my bow pointed into the waves and bounced and bounded at a decent pace but knew I had a long way to go. For ever ten minutes in calm waters this was going to take twenty or more to do that same distance. I could see it building harder ahead. The bigger swells rolled up my deck to my spray skirt. A few face washes here and there and my now grumpy demeanor taking me up the shore. Nearly an hour of this and I saw my end point but knew that I would have to paddle passed it to get pushed back to where I started. Adding more paddling time in a 20 knot headwind on a day that was supposed to be winds diminishing to light, ha! I saw a beach house and knew where I was. I let Mother Nature take me in and went limp. This too I have done before and often rewarded but the ‘no ego’ approach to kayaking. I landed in some nice small but fast waves onto an oyster shelled beach and hauled the boat up.

Sitting on a log, I wonder and pondered the idea of resting and getting back at it. The winds were increasing but I had hoped that I could wait them out. It was a squall, one of unusual proportions but they usually pass. I sat, nibbled snacks, drank water and waited a half hour. It rained on me. Sideways stinging rain. Okay, forget it! I walked across the wood foot bridge connecting the beach front to the backyard of the house and knocked on the door. I would plead my case for temporarily trespassing and go get my car, about a half hour hike up the road. It beat the winds and waves. No one home. I moved my stuff and ran for the car.

The lovely thing about living on an island, is knowing that you can bail out and knock on a door. I have been tempted in the past to bail, this was a first for me, but my motivation that afternoon went to sitting in my kayak battling the elements to wanting to sit on my deck with a cold one instead. I knew that if someone had actually been there and opened the door, upon hearing my story they most likely would have offered me a cup of tea and a ride to my vehicle. Alas, no tea, no ride but a nice walk on a country road. I left a thank you note for the use of the beach and packed up, and found that beer!

Moral of the tale, be prepared! Though I was prepared in gear, kayaking skill sets and the confidence in knowing when to call it a day was not going to be the end of the world, I was not prepared to have my la la paddle day corrupted by Mother Natures ill will. It was a bad head space paddle day. The longer I sat on that log the less likely it was going to be that I hit the waves once more. It was a bad head space day and I leave it at that. Of course, the squall passed as I drove home. The rain abated and the sun returned.


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Fearless, by Joe Glickman…a book review

Fearless, by Joe Glickman(This is an older post from my older and now extinct kayaking blog, but one that I kept in the folder as it is a great read, an awesome book, and worth repeating here on the new-improved kayaking blog)

Living on a small island has its ups and downs. It has its problems and its perks. One of the perks is a friendly association with your local rural mail man, or in this case mail courier woman, person, um…she delivers my mail. I know her well because a few years back I was working for her, delivering that very same mail. And she is a kayaker as well and we have exchanged various books over the years via my mailbox.

I bumped into her at the box the other day and kayaking is the usual topic at hand. I told her about the amazing 2.5 hour paddlers video diary of a solo kayaker paddling from Vancouver to Alaska with little experience, or gear I had just posted on the Kayak Rogue and as it happens I think I was the last to find out about it. Check it out at your convenience.

After a brief discussion about that, she mentioned that she had just finished the book about Freya Hoffmeister, titled Fearless. I wanted a go at it and this morning low and behold Fearless arrived in my mailbox.

It is the story about a 46-year old former sky diver, gymnast, marksman and even a Miss Germany contestant who left her 12-year old son behind to paddler alone around Australia. It was a daunting task that drew criticism from expert paddlers as foolish and possibly deadly journey.

Determined to paddle faster than the only other paddler to complete the route 27 years before she set out to kayak the 9,420 miles of shark infested waters.

Acclaimed outdoor journalist Joe Glickman follows Freya’s year-long journey around Australia, and writes an account based on conversations with Hoffmeister and what he can discover from her daily blog posts as she paddles. While reading this book I could only imagine the frustrations from a writer’s stand-point. Hoffmeister is a truly annoying subject who reveals little about her exposure to the element, the difficulties faced each day or shows much interest in the colour and culture of where she is paddling, other than repeated notes about her birthday suit. Glickman fills in the blanks as best he can and it is his writing about the incredible backdrop of her kayaking adventure that creates a sense of the enormity of what she is doing. Only a few of us has ever known the pain of what sitting in a kayak for 12-14 hours feels like, and what it does to a body. Freya will not divulge such information and you can comb through her blog posts and find no complaints at all. A piece of piss, this kayaking around Australia. However, as a kayaker who has done some considerable miserable hours in a kayak I smirked at Glickman’s example on page 47.

– Three hours in a kayak is uncomfortable; double that and it’s like flying coach in the middle seat with linebackers on either side and a nose guard in front of you with his seat all the way back; double that time, and you had better be a former gymnast with an ass of a draft horse and a lower back like Gumby’s- Joe Glickman.

As a marathon kayaker, Glickman knows of what he speaks and I agree with his assessment, and with no offense directed at a writer I have followed over the years, it is just a shame that it is not her words about the journey that count in this book.

By the time I had read through a third of Fearless I was struck by how boring this paddler actually was. I cannot say I agree with how she approaches life, or kayaking. To paddle around that little island to me would be epic, not just physically and mentally but emotionally as well. I am not Freya Hoffmeister, I can’t say I even like her much from the impression I get from the book. How wonderful to read a book about a kayaker attempting something that could at any moment bring her to her demise, yet who does not arouse a sense of sympathy at all. However you view this person, remember she is athlete first and she was not there to take in the scenery or to soak up the experience in its fullest. Freya Hoffmeister’s goal was the key to why she was put there cruising the shoreline of pristine untouched wilderness around an island so big it classifies as a Continent. Hoffmeister has little or no interest in the history, the culture, the place. Australia is just something to paddle all the way around and in a pigheaded, rather vain manner. She is a single-minded paddling machine with one purpose, to be faster than the last guy.

Freya Hoffmeister overcomes what had to be real, if unspoken fears. She masters the art of endurance paddling, and accomplished this in record time. No matter what you may think of her as a person, that feat alone is enormous, and awe inspiring.

Fearless is a great read about a hero that you may or may not like that much. Alike the controversy about Canadian runner Steve Fonyo, sometimes you are placed in a position to admire someone for what they accomplish, and not for who they are. This is the case with Freya Hoffmeister, sky-diver, gymnast, mother, and endurance kayaker. For those who want to paddle vicariously in a tiny kayak on the edges of the unknown southern land, Fearless in the book for you. Though you don’t get to choose your paddling partner.

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Being on Land is Harder than Being on the Water

No wonder I was so stressed out all those years before I first sat down in the seat of a kayak and by pushing myself away from the safety of the dock, friends, home, work, bills, more bills, and the million and one small niggling items that take away from the real, the bigger picture I became free. It is harder to be on land than it is to be on the water especially when you have discovered the joys of kayaking. If you have ever had the experience of paddling once the foreign nature of the vehicle, and the perhaps precarious tippiness subsides you begin the fall back in time, fall back to nature to a place in our collective forgotten neglected memories of living in the natural world, not attempting to lord over it.

A terrific day of paddling from Hot Springs Cove to Vargas Island.  Photo by Peter Mede

A terrific day of paddling from Hot Springs Cove to Vargas Island.
Photo by Peter Mede

In a kayak I have had the time during those inevitable longer days in the saddle to delve into those thoughts that there isn’t much time for when I am on land, at home distracted by life. The closest to this comes on long hiking days, but they are somehow not the same. Perhaps it is the method of paddling, the repetition of the strokes, the breathing the wind and water and a slow-moving along distant shores as a meditation? All I know is what I have seen and felt and experienced in over a decade of being a paddler. The title of this blog post says it all. For me, being on land is much more a dream than when I am in the reality of kayaking.

The small stuff, bills, work, and a million and one small niggling items are pushed away in the back of the junk drawer and replaced with real stuff. The weather, what will the weather be like tomorrow when I peek out of the door of my tent in the early hours of the morning like some drunken squirrel. Will the wind be up? Will the tide be favorable for an easy day. Will there be rain. Oh how I hate packing wet gear in the morning. The small stuff is a list of items mainly concerning what the irrationally off-her-meds bad parent Mother Nature will conjure for me, mixed with the small comforts of a good camping experience, if I can find a good camp that day. My worries are not of the bills to be paid, taxes due or the price of rice (though I do pay attention to that as it is a mainstay of my camping menu). My worries are simple, less to do with underlying anxieties about daily life as they are more of the just staying warm, dry and alive concerns.

I am at my best on the water and as the months drag on over winter and my paddling days diminish to ‘now and then’, I do feel I regress to a sullen state. To my salvation this spring, it has been mild and the conditions have been truly inviting to be on the water even if the skies are gray and dour. The hardness of land has been easier to take, if by a small measure this year. However, I do have to be careful of other dangers of land living. Where a rogue wave may threaten to capsize my mere speck of a kayak in the big ocean, a day of hauling heavy wood from one pile to the other on the weekend has left me feeling in worse shape than the days after my recent around Salt Spring Island marathon. I can blame the land, yes I can! It is not that I am out of condition for a full day of heavy-ish labour. No, it is the fact that being in a kayak even on a rough day is easier to take than whatever being on land may dish out. So I nurse my pulled hamstring and hope that by Sunday I can get back into the relative safety of a kayak for a good long paddle around the islands just north of here.

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There is no Place Like Home, inside the little bubbles

The bubble still surrounds this island home of mine. To someone sitting in a Starbucks as city traffic rumbles by creating white noise, the bubble I talk about is utter nonsense. It makes no sense to anyone living ‘off-island’ where the world is in full-swing warts and all. However, to a near life-long islander such as myself this bubble of which I speak is a very real concept. I call it the bubble, but it comes in other names as well. Perhaps the best word for describing the bubble effect is the word, denial. While sitting in a coffee shop on Salt Spring Island with the loud chatter of locals and tourists at tables around my table the bubble is thick. We are safe in our understanding that the outside world, while well and truly existing does not affect our enjoyment of a morning coffee. No insurgence, no car-bombs, no rabble in the streets chanting for us all to rise up. In much of the world that hum of city traffic sending your nerves on extra edge with your double Americano grande deluxe would be the least of your troubles. Ask that limbless kid in Cambodia looking for a meal, or in any country torn by the acts of those living in their own, if nastier versions of the bubble.

We Salt Springers pride ourselves on this lovely island life and our relative safety and distancing from the evils of what lies on the other side of the water. It is artifice and silly to think that the rest of the world, wars, economic tail-spinning, and the acts of limited minded folk can not get to us here. They do, if only in small ways, which the current island economy is beginning to realize. That is when we mutter at the headlines and swig a second cup at Barb’s Buns, or T J Beans, or the Roasters. Then, we islanders do what we do best, go about out daily lives. Concerned with mending that fence that the sheep keep leaping over, or getting crafts or produce ready for this Saturday’s market in the park, or getting up in arms over metal recycling, CRD, Islands Trusts, etc.

On the outer rim of the bubble there is a corner table with an old leaning and rustic looking wooden sign that says, community. It is this place that I try to hang around as much as possible. These are my people, a tribe of sorts. There is a welcome acceptance of each other and that ever-present (us against them) mentality. As the summer season approaches we see less and less of each other around town. Hibernating until the Fall Fair in September, avoiding the crush of visitors as best we can and making stealth runs with sorties to the grocery store at odd hours in hopes for an easy entry and exit to our hide-aways in the woods.

It’s this sense of community that I felt around me in the past few days, and a reminder during two small incidents that none of us, islanders or off-islanders should ever take for granted, that one word, community. A few days ago, a fellow long-term island resident who like many (not me but who am I to judge?) afford the luxury of avoiding the wet season from October to April with a second life down under. No not Australia, but Mexico. Snowbirds of the wet coast relocate a part of the Salt Spring community to warmer climes for the winter months. Sadly, last year one of our tribe was killed at the Mexican vacation home owned by the above mentioned well-known and loved local full-time real estate guy and part-time comedian. Overhearing a short conversation sent back and forth in the busy coffee house about his experience this winter. A somber returning literally to the scene of the crime that occurred during a home invasion resulting in the death of a friend. It was a conversation not told in whispers across a table but across the entire room for all to hear. We all understood his plight and the off-hand remarks about ceremonial smudging with sage that took place a few dozen times to remove any lingering musty bad juju of the murder. We all confessed inwardly to the slightly awkward moment at hearing how he felt uneasy for the first few weeks and the 24-hour party on the date of the attack. Good vibes replacing old bad ones.

Some might ask why he did not attempt to sell the place last year, be rid of the thing and the sad memories of what took place? The bubble.

The second reminder came just this morning as I sat with a friend who was recovering from an assault to him that occurred early this winter on a frozen pond. Arm now out of the sling but the nagging pain and lack of full movement evident from the separated shoulder injury that resulted from the attack. This event was a step outside the bubble by someone disturbed and not of the bubble tribe.

As we talked he realized that though he had arrived on time to get the early breakfast special our chatting had distracted him from the time. It was past 9am, the cut-off time for a cheaper breakfast. At a quarter past nine our server stopped by the table and he commented on missing out. “No you didn’t.” she told him with a smile reserved for known bubble dwellers and regulars, and she took his order for the dairy free version of the special. It arrived minutes later, at special price with a brown paper bag with a toasty treat for his dog a well-known mischievous companion of a Blue Healer. My friend’s breakfast was without toast when it landed in front of him. No matter he said but she informed us that the cook had accidentally buttered it and a new batch had already been ‘put down’ meaning in the toaster. In seconds, a plate of plain toast arrived displayed in an interlocked pin-wheel design that was almost too nice to disturb.

When asked why I stay on this island, why when I have a constant struggle to make ends meet, why? The bubble. That sense of safe belonging and the knowledge that if you are a regular you can actually warp time, get a treat on the house for your dog, have the calm demeanor to tell your tales of loss publicly without concern or personal embarrassment and above all, get your toast served unbuttered and in a pretty display.

Oh, and there is a lack of car bombs here as well.

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Rainy Day

The forecast is for wetness in varying degrees this week. Chance of showers, the slight drizzling mist of this morning, and the threat of out-and-out rainfall scheduled so inconveniently for Friday, which happens to be my 48th birthday. It is on this silly wet Tuesday that I consider the year before and the year ahead of me. Hoping that my fortunes improve as will the weather (eventually). It is on this wet morning after a walk uphill from town in the drizzle that was not set to arrive as the so-called chance of showers until much later in the day. I didn’t pack my raincoat in my shoulder bag. Alas, I arrived home a bit dampened and so went my spirits for the day. Overcast, with chances of grumpy are in store. It is on this day that I consider too my age and that it was clearly around this period in my dad’s life that we first arrived on Salt Spring Island. It is a thought that both without question astounds and betrays me. I cannot be that old? He was old, eleven years older than my mother (by some coincidence I am ten years older than my own wife) and when I was a kid, he and his friends were to my thinking, old! Am I looking that way to the kids of my contemporaries these days? Perish the very thought.

We are only as old as we think we are. Rubbish or creative denial of the advance in age, the rings of my own tree truck gaining in number by the minute. My recent sprint around the island by kayak tells me that at least mentally I am in some sort of denial vortex that allows me to trick the body into going the distance. Most days I revel in thinking that I am still in my early thirties. A rough and tumble time of finding out that I did enjoy roughing it in the outdoors, whether atop a forested mountain or on some rain-swept notch in the rugged west coast shore line. Aches and pains may have been there but are forgotten.

Today’s forecast is rather damp dark and dour. I will hope to improve my own mood with some menu planning for this weekend’s North African themed potluck and extended birthday party. If nothing else, food being a passion second only to sitting in a kayak on a rainy day, or any day for that matter no matter what the weather, food is a safe place to hide for now. Perhaps the next morning will provide a glimpse of sunshine, a dose of vitamin D and a renewed spirit. Add some couscous and spicy chicken curry from Senagal and we might be talking!

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Lucky Kayak Kids

Is there anything better to a person with a paddling passion than to have an opportunity to sit in a brand new-never-before paddled kayak? Let alone a kayak that has been hand-built meticulously cedar strip by cedar strip? Well, this paddler can honestly say that there is in fact, nothing quite like it.

One of two hand-crafted cedar strip kayaks out for the maiden voyage.

One of two hand-crafted cedar strip kayaks out for the maiden voyage.

I was offered just such a chance, my ride pictured here for this overcast Sunday afternoon was a new kayak built with its sister side by side in the spacious workshop of my kayaking friend Gus. He had built an 18 ft. cedar strip racing kayak last fall, and it is a stunning piece of craftsmanship in itself, but he wanted to recreate it in smaller 14 ft. versions for his two kids. Very lucky kayak kids indeed! They were given the task of designing the patterning that would appear on the decks of each kayak and a peek at the original drawings would tell you that they had wide ideas. None of which would work with the materials at hand. A scaled down set of artwork was drawn up and with some negotiation both of parent and of wood they now appear in stark contrasts of red and yellow woods, grains mirrored and under layers of fibreglass, epoxy and coats of marine varnish on the narrow decks.

The hatches held in place by a bungee cord system allows for the decking to be virtually clean with the exception of the necessary safety deck lines and bungee. There is an Epic kayaks seat system that allows the paddler to adjust the distance to the rudder peddles as well as the seat position. I liked this feature.

Once I had sat on shore in the kayak to get it fitted properly I lifted the lightweight craft (a whopping 36lbs) and gently lowered it to the water. I was keen to get going and slipped my legs in the cockpit and sat only to feel the immediate nature of how playful the boat was and had the urge to brace with the paddle to save from tipping over. It was lively!

When Gus joined me on the water, he too experiencing the newness of the kayak feel and we laughed at how cautiously we dibbled away from shore. The initial awkwardness subsided as our bodies, naturally wanting to stay upright and centered did just that. Within a few short minutes we were paddling like we had paddled these kayaks a hundred times before. I lowered the rudder right from the start thinking a shorter kayak will not handle well without the aid of a rudder. My own, now ancient Current Designs Pachena, the 13 ft. wonder kayak that took me miles upon miles of coastal shoreline on kayaking trips much longer that the weekender it was designed as, will not go straight without the rudder down. It is like a curled leaf on a breezy pond and fishtail this way and that unguided by that strip of metal hanging from the stern point. Would this narrow, short and playful little kayak let loose willy-nilly (I cannot abide willy-nilly anything) if I lifted her rudder out of the water for a second. I gave it a try on our way back in the harbour into a wind and against the tidal current. This little woodie stayed straight. I had to switch my brain to paddle-steering mode after struggling to turn it off before as my own kayak is rudderless. A few hard strokes and I picked up speed. We sprinted and the GPS indicated we were running at about 10km/h. Not bad! Later in no current or wind we tried another sprint to much the same result.

Upon returning to the boat launch I reluctantly handed over my little kayak with the arrowhead design on the decking created with a rainbow effect of coloured woods. I kicked some seawater in, and a few blobs of shore mud but I managed not to sink or scratch it. Buzzing from the fun we had it was measured by the sudden realization that a set of car keys had gone missing. A mad search of the area and the wayward key was found in his pocket, and so it goes. tragedy averted we drove off, he with kayaks and me, oddly with nothing on the roof rack.

If these were a commercially made kayaks I could sit here this afternoon and write a long review that is both glowing and filled with starbursts. I would post hyperlinks to the kayak website and rave about the new era of small kayaks. Alas, these were a labour of love and not for sale, although I am sure Gus could be persuaded to build another for the right price.

Tested to float, safe for the kids it will be they who get all the fun next time. What lucky kayaking kids they will be and maybe they will let me paddle in one again sometime.

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A Few Things that I Learned on a 72km Paddle Day

The muscles are no longer sore, and that knot that had developed between my shoulder blades at 10am the morning of my marathon day paddle around Salt Spring Island has been untangled thanks to the care and nursing of my wife Jen. The bubble of happy kayaker slowly drains of air like a birthday balloon hiding behind the sofa a week after the big day. Land life settles in. Worries. How unfair is that? This time last week I was pondering my sanity at taking on a 72 km paddle with only a couple shorter days on the water to prepare in past months.

Letting it flow, and capturing lots of drinking water off the tarp in Clayoquot Sound.

Letting it flow, and capturing lots of drinking water off the tarp in Clayoquot Sound.

However unconditioned I may be I was excited at the prospect of viewing my home from the water and in an against-the-clock style. I am in no way an endurance extreme kayaker. I love the slower pace of paddling, the oneness with everything and the bobbing on the breathing of the earth. This time last week I had to excuse myself for a moment of wanting to do more, to accomplish a bigger paddle. To not get out so many times during the day and be truly at home within the bubble of my kayak seat. To make it so that I had all I needed, that land was an option for only extreme needs to get out and stretch between long crossings. Food, water, sports drink dry clothing, first aid kit, GPS, and iPod for distraction during duller periods on the water. It was all within my grasp and land, well I was determined to gain access to that current flow farther out in the channel with no popping in for a pee when the need arose.

Having made the spontaneous decision to the paddle I hit the internet for some advice and stumbled upon a good article written by Carter Johnson, a world-class endurance paddle racer and marathoner who in 2010 set the record time in the Yukon River Quest, a 700+ km marathon paddle event in a whopping time of 42 hours and 49 minutes. The article was on the subject of food (a personal passion) in marathon paddling. I figured this guy might know a thing or two and read it over. Much of it was simple common sense stuff that he broke down into before during and after the paddle. I took it to heart and with a few adjustments for my own comforts I created a program that I hoped would get me out and back again. It did. (I later read that Johnson’s success in the YRQ was partly due to what was found at the bottom of his kayak, several finished Red Bull cans and five hour energy drinks).

What did I learn from Mr. Johnson? First, hydration. I know, we all understand that our bodies are mostly water so it goes to figure that we should put some in during the day to replace what we lost. What I learned was to drink before I needed it. The day before in fact! Several glasses of water on Saturday for my Sunday event. Food of course was upped to a new level and more than I would normally gobble down. Pasta for lunch and double portions for dinner. I felt like a brickyard was forming in my stomach that evening but later the following day I would be grateful for that bloating. Muscles filled, skin and cells well hydrated I went to bed and attempted a fitful sleep.

The morning of the paddle, I had no time for the breakfast of champions and settled for apple juice, half a Vector bar (tastes like cardboard) and at the launch spot a good gulp of Gatorade/water. I had taken his advice again on not dumping too much on my system during the day by chopping up those tasty bars into one inch squares, easy to pop in my gob about every half out to forty-five minutes spreading out the calories all day long. Every fifteen minutes drinking a few sucks on the water tube or a few sips from the bottle leashed to my deck and riding on my spray deck with easy access. This was how I spent the day, watching my speed, watching the water and watching the clock to see when it was time to fuel up again.

The last thing I learned I didn’t take from Johnson’s article, but from my own personal need to well, pee while in motion. This was not going to be the usual Sunday kayaking day when I leisurely paddled the shoreline exploring nature and feeling good about myself. This was a workout day, an against the clock event to challenge myself after a long period of not. To get he best time posted as my personal best I would have to forego the luxury of shorelines and easy access to stepping out of the boat for a quickie by paddling further from shore and grabbing the peak flow of currents in my favour. For the first time in my decade and a half of kayaking I deployed the ‘pee bottle’!

Not knowing the in’s and out’s of this simple device (a reassigned red Nalgene bottle once used to carry red wine, note to self…write Pee Bottle on red Naglene) I gave it a go while riding the tidal currents down Stuart Channel on my early morning first leg headed south. I pulled my spray deck back, adjusted the stack of snack box and water bottles to give me room to move and undid the cap on the bottle. The next couple of minutes were a reminder of how many fishermen die each year due to standing up and urinating over the side of the boat. From the seated kayaker’s position the plumbing just doesn’t want to work. Oh, there was a need and a great desire to fill the bottle I tell ya, but it was a matter of shifting, bum lifting and center of gravity balance before I found optimal flow and maximum efficiency!

With that out-of-the-way, dumped and rinsed and my deck in place I paddled on happily but worried that the time it took to organize my bladder to bottle system would take more than it would had I just stopped ashore for a moment. Alas, there I was out in the middle later that day and again tempted the fates and imminent capsizing. I suppose the last thing in the list of things I learned on a 72 km non-stop paddling day was bladder control.

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