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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Our Readers Write

Trip of a Lifetime's Interrupted Journey,
the Unexpurgated Wiggle Test,
Following Directions (or Else),
Fixing Up a PuddleDippa,
Adirondack Dreamin',
and a Cautionary Tale with a Happy Ending
By Farwell Forrest
farwell@paddling.net

July 30, 2002

Our virtual In-Boxes are stuffed with letters these days. Not all of them are from our readers, of course. There's been an explosion of electronic junk mail in the last six months. No week now passes when we aren't invited to purchase hundreds of wondrous, necessary things. Magical potions to make small objects larger (or large objects smaller). Software that will empower us to "get the dirt on anyone, anywhere, right away." And—most intriguing of all—sure-fire investment schemes that are guaranteed to swell our bank balances overnight, to levels beyond the dreams of avarice, without any risk, effort, or special skill on our part.

Tempting? Certainly. (Particularly the bit about the bank balances.) Curiously, though, these seductive appeals have so far failed to move us.

The same thing can't be said about our reader mail. A case in point: In May, when we announced that Trip of a Lifetime would be taking a summer break, we didn't anticipate that there'd be much response. We were wrong. It's been three months since the original announcement, but we're still getting letters asking if our Trip has been cancelled. The answer, happily, is No: Trip of a Lifetime will return in September. We'll also be adding a much-delayed episode guide, in order that any readers who've lost the thread of the story can catch up with a minimum of trouble.

And speaking of losing the thread, we've heard from one man who got thoroughly lost trying to follow Tamia's description of the English Gate (also known as the Wiggle Test). "A diagram," he writes, "might have helped."

Who could argue with that? Certainly not Tamia, whose belief that a picture is worth a thousand words is already a matter of record. Accordingly, and with the unselfish assistance of a very experienced waterman, Tamia's prepared an Illustrated Unexpurgated Wiggle Test, showing all four phases of the exercise in two parts. Without further ado, therefore, here's Part 1:

Like Water...


And, after that, Part 2:


Off a Duck's Back

So you see, no matter how complex the Wiggle Test seems in print, it's really as easy as…well…water rolling off a duck's back!

Water. We can't get away from it, can we? (What paddler would want to?!) Clean water, though, is sometimes hard to find, and Tamia's recent article on the subject elicited so much comment that we thought we'd run a follow-up piece next week. One letter, however, demands a more timely reply. Harlan Price directs our attention to the fine print on a bottle of tetraglycine hydroperiodide tablets,

It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling,

and asks if this doesn't mean that "it is against Federal law to not follow the explicit directions on the packaging." Good question. When Tamia described the low-dose water treatment regime that we've used for more than 20 years, she certainly didn't intend to encourage anyone to flout the law. Her article also pointed out the method's shortcomings and outlined the dangers. Still, it can't be denied that prudent folks always follow printed instructions. Those of us who are occasionally imprudent must therefore balance risks and benefits as best we can, and then resign ourselves to accept the consequences.

But the legal question remains. We've queried the EPA to see if we can get a definitive answer. In the meantime, however, the best advice we can give is, "When in doubt, doubt." And always—always—follow the directions on the label.

OK. That's the last of what the minutes of public meetings usually call "old business." Now let's dip into the mail-bag and take a look at some longer letters.


Both Tamia and I have brought old boats back from the dead, but here's a question we can't answer. If you can, however, please let us know, and we'll put you in touch with the writer ASAP.


Restoring a PuddleDippa

I was recently given a canoe. The boat is molded from fiberglass in two halves, which join together with what look like hinge pins, one on either side and two on the bottom. The maker's name on the canoe is Aladdin Products, Inc., the hull number is PTRAP1551279, and the boat is called the PuddleDippa. I believe there was originally a gasket of some sort between the halves.

I cannot find any mention of this boat anywhere, and I've been unable to locate a source for a new gasket and parts. If I have to, I will join the two halves together permanently by fiberglassing them, but I would really like to use the boat as its builders intended. The canoe is only 10 feet long when assembled. When broken down, it fits into the front seat of my car.

Have you any information as to where I can find a gasket or parts for my PuddleDippa? Many thanks!

Richard Kennedy


I'm afraid I can't help you, Richard, but perhaps another reader will be be able to. In any case, I wouldn't be in a big hurry to fiberglass the two halves together. Any competent machinist should be able to fabricate the missing parts, and your local marine chandler or hardware outlet will have every type of gasket imaginable. One way or another, you should be able to make your little boat seaworthy… er, puddleworthy…in no time.

Good luck!

Farwell


The April "Our Readers Write" was subtitled "Letters too Good to Keep to Ourselves." That pretty much said it all, and a number of readers agreed. Now here's another letter in the same category:


Adirondack Dreamin'

Hello, Tamia,

I just finished reading the April "Readers Write" column and I was struck by the eloquence shared by these writers. It set me to wondering whether the inclination to paddle is fueled by the same creative source as the desire to write, paint, sculpt or photograph. I suppose my question is really whether paddling, in and of itself, is a creative endeavor.

Two years ago, I took a five-day solo trip in the Adirondacks. I paddled just about every type of flatwater—river, stream, pond, lake, beaver meadow. I awoke before sun-up and was on the water early each day. I made shore again just before sundown, having spent entire days without seeing another human being.

When I packed my gear, I had taken along a CD player and the complete cycle of Beethoven's string quartets. My thought was, "What could be more wonderful than sitting in a kayak in the wilderness listening to Beethoven's string quartets?" The answer came early: "Sitting in a kayak in the wilderness, not listening to Beethoven's string quartets"! There is a completeness, an organic majesty, to being alone in sacred country without the distraction of other people, that begs no enhancement; the experience is complete and the introduction of any product of human effort, no matter how noble and beautiful, is an imposition.

Years ago, I worked for a cultured, erudite man who traveled to Europe every year. When I asked him why he never took pictures, he replied that those sights worth remembering stayed with him forever, and those that were less memorable weren't worth the film. So it was with my Adirondack journey; I took some pictures and they sit in an album on the shelf, pale by comparison with the memory of those warm summer days that has carried me effortlessly through the past two winters.

I always enjoy Farwell's and your columns, and I look forward to many more to come. The Internet is truly miraculous, allowing me, sitting in New York City, to share the adventures of a writer in Texas. Isn't it interesting that we can harness the power of technology to enhance appreciation of the wilderness?

With best regards,

Richard Agins


I'm delighted that you enjoyed the latest installment of "Readers Write," Richard. So did we.

Is paddling "a creative endeavor"? I think so—for many paddlers, at any rate. And, yes, Internet communication is wonderful. Whatever its drawbacks, and they are admittedly legion, it still makes it easier than ever before for like-minded folks to find one another and exchange ideas, however great their geographic separation or cultural differences. In the last few months, for example, we've gotten mail from Brazil, India, Sudan, Germany, and the Netherlands. Opening the day's letters has now become a welcome adventure.

And speaking of "like-minded folks," as luck would have it, I'm a Beethoven fan myself. The symphonies move me most, especially the odd-numbered ones, curiously enough. That said, I agree with you that recorded music is best enjoyed at home. I'm also of the same mind as your former employer. After twenty-odd years as a photographer, both amateur and professional, I find that I agree with Colin Fletcher: the truest images are those "fixed on the emulsion of memory."

Best wishes,

Tamia


Some time ago, in another place, I wrote a short article on "Becoming an Expert." Here's what a reader who read that piece has to say about a particularly testing day in her own paddling apprenticeship. Hers is a cautionary tale, to be sure, but it has a happy ending.


"There I was…"

Hi, Tamia!

Do you know the difference between a fairy tale and a kayaking "adventure" story? A fairy tale starts out "Once upon a time," and an adventure story starts out "No s***. There I was."

So…. No s***. There I was. It was a lovely warm day on Fuller Lake. My paddling partner Chris and I spent the early afternoon at PaddleFest 2002 in Ladysmith. After watching some demos on the water I had all sorts of questions about boat handling. Chris decided that today's lesson would focus on loosening my hips and learning about different areas of hull stability.

At first we started with Chris holding the bow and tipping it over to the side, instructing me to do whatever it took to keep the boat upright. Either by bracing with my paddle or using my hips. It's amazing how instinctive hip snaps are. I hadn't been able to figure out how to use my hips on a conscious level but when I needed them…there they were! Then I was left on my own to practice. I kept to the shallows because I'm sensible.

Soon I'd had enough of practicing and wanted to explore. I worked the length and width of the lake for about half an hour. The water was beautiful. I was quite a way out from shore when I decided to take a break from paddling and see if I could lean the boat a little while maintaining stability. (Not so sensible!) I did fine in three or four trials on each side. Then I got a little cocky. (Shades of "Hubris, Nemesis, and the Kindness of Strangers"?) Well, Nemesis stepped in and dumped me good and proper.

This wasn't just a little tip-over on my side like my first time three weeks ago. This was a full fledged 180-degree DUMP! I snapped the sprayskirt and did a decent wet exit. (More on this later.) My PFD pulled me to the surface on the shore side of the kayak. I gave Chris the thumbs up to let him know I was alright. He was standing calmly on the shore watching. At this point I realized that I was in deep water and my paddle float was on the shore. Oops! Still, it wouldn't have done me much good, as we hadn't done enough work on self-rescue for me to be able to use it.

So I lay on my back, hooked my toes over the bow and undid the bow line. I turned and started for the shore. I had a long way to go. I'd never tried swimming in a life vest before. It sucks. Halfway to shore I looked up to see Chris turn and jog over to the van. I was a little confused but had other things to think about. I scanned the shoreline and noticed that there was a dock much closer than the beach. I turned and headed that way. Phew! I was a little winded by the time I reached it, but I took a few moments to gather my energy and consider my situation.

I could see Chris had returned to the shoreline and was watching me. I dumped as much water as I could out of the boat and tried to figure how to get in with nothing handy to brace the paddle on. Eventually, though, I got back in the boat…with a fair amount of water for company. I think I lasted about 30 seconds before going over again. I didn't have the skirt secured yet, so it was a quicker exit. I got back in again and managed to stay upright. (I was prepared this time for the instability caused by the internal water slopping about.) I brought the kayak along the shoreline and landed it safely. I got out of the boat and then the realization started to sink in of just what I'd gone through.

Chris and I both asked each other at the same time, "Are you OK?" My concern was that I'd worried him. He asked how I was feeling. I looked up at him and said one word: "Sheepish." He smiled and nodded his understanding as he handed me the towel he'd gone to the van for. "Do you want to go out and paddle some more?" I didn't think so. I was pretty tired. He checked to make sure it wasn't fear that was keeping me out of the water. It wasn't. There was no question of getting back up on the horse that had thrown me. I had successfully managed to reenter and return the boat to shore. I wasn't afraid.

OK. What happened? What did I do wrong? What did I learn?

To begin with, I chose a bad place to dump. I shouldn't have been practicing so far from shore. I learned that upon wet-exiting in deep water the PFD is going to drag you to the surface whether you're ready to go that way or not. This can result in banged-up hips and legs as you exit the cockpit. The good news? Bruises and bumps heal. I learned that it's way past time for me to be practicing self-rescue techniques. I also learned that I have a great kayaking teacher and partner. Chris showed NO sign of panic during my adventure. He didn't make a fuss over me once I'd landed. It wasn't until we had the kayak stowed on the van and he was handing me trail mix and orange juice that he confessed he'd been afraid the incident might put me off kayaking. Not a chance! We talked about it quite a bit. He explained that with the amount of room I had on the dock, I would have been better off to haul the boat out of the water to drain it. I could have emptied it completely that way. Chris also reminded of the part in one of my kayaking books that shows how to make a large loop to put over the shoulder for towing the boat rather than trying to haul it in hand. Live and learn.

I've still got a lot to learn, of course, but according to Farwell's "Becoming an Expert," I'm on my way. I survived my mistakes and I learned some valuable lessons in the process. Most importantly, during the whole experience I never felt any fear or panic. I think there's a sea lion in my ancestry somewhere!

All the best,

Tia Webster
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


A selchie, at any rate, Tia. Just another branch of the extended family to which we all belong. And congratulations. You've traveled several strokes further toward every paddler's goal of becoming an expert—and you've brought each of us along with you, too!

Best wishes,

Tamia


That's all for now. Look for "Our Readers Write" again in October. In the meantime, keep paddling, keep reading, and keep writing!

Copyright 2002 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

















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