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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Our Readers Write

From Trip's End to Remington's Bike

September 30, 2003

We're always delighted to get mail from readers. We answer every letter we receive — at least we try to! — but a lot of them are simply too good to keep to ourselves. Here are just few. (Some letters have been edited.)

    Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the Same Boat

Trip's End

Hi, Folks!

Please tell me what happened to the next chapter of Trip of a Lifetime. Is that how you are going to end the story? I will be sadly disappointed if the story doesn't continue.


Rich Morales

• • •

Tamia replies:

I'm very glad to hear that you've been following our fictional Trip, Rich, but I'm afraid that "Homecoming" was the novel's last chapter. We'll be running an epilogue to the story on November 4th, however. It will answer any questions of the "What happened to X and where is he/she now?" variety.

We've also been thinking about beginning a new serial later in the year. Keep you eye on this space!

AstroTurf® for Paddlers?

Your article on getting going in one's 'yak led me to offer this tip for folks having to rely on concrete boat-launch areas. (Where I kayak, there's little grading. It's either six inches of water or two feet — unless you're using a launch ramp.)

I went to one of those big-box hardware stores and bought a 10-foot runner of indoor-outdoor carpet (the stuff that looks like AstroTurf®). Now I lay the runner out on the launch area (letting about 5 feet settle into the water), put the kayak on the runner, and then scoot into the water with nary a scrape nor a scratch. Attach a nylon cord to the runner and you can either bring it on board — roll it up and store in your footwell or under tie-downs on the deck — or, as I've done on more than one occasion, just lash it to one of the mooring posts at the launch ramp to retrieve on the way back in.

Rich McCarthy

Get Ready to Eddy!

Dear Tamia,

Reading "Anatomy of a River: Headwaters," I can't help but notice that you never mentioned eddy turns. Since I teach folks about running small fast creeks in an OC-1, I run tons of small creeks in Maryland and West Virginia, and in my view, the most important paddling technique is a rock-solid eddy turn.

As you said, trees are usually ten times more dangerous than rapids. If you meet one going around a bend, you must find that micro-eddy to park in, and the lead man must have a whistle. (Everyone must also know what the different whistle signals mean.)

Keep up the good work.

John Duke

• • •

Tamia replies:

Right on, John! While I think that the ferry is a vital element in every novice-to-intermediate paddler's toolkit — it's particularly well-suited to the lean, straight-keeled "touring" canoes and kayaks that so many boaters start out with — I'd be the last to discount the utility of a well-timed eddy turn. That's one of the reasons why I put a link to my earlier "Whispering Death" piece in the "Headwaters" article. ("Whispering Death" has a brief discussion of eddy turns and their value in keeping boaters out of trouble in fast water.)

Eddies and eddy turns deserve more than a casual mention, of course, so I returned to the subject in two later pieces: "Whitewater!" and, most recently, "Eddies, Up Close and Personal." These probably won't be the last in the line-up. As you suggest, eddy turns are the key that opens up a lot of whitewater miles.

I couldn't agree more about the importance of on-water signals, too. That's why I wrote "Sound Off and Light Up!" It's not the final word on this important subject, to be sure, but it's a start.

Messing About with Books

Dear Farwell,

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the essays by you and Tamia since finding this site some months ago. I do have one comment on your recent article entitled "More Kid Stuff." You rightly recommend The Wind in the Willows highly, but there is one problem you may not be aware of. I recently went looking for a copy for my grandson and found a beautiful, brand-new, illustrated hardback edition at my local chain bookstore for only three or four dollars. Fortunately, I picked it up and skimmed through it before buying, and noticed the print seemed rather large. Then I saw it had been "edited" by someone. Turns out it had been "simplified" ("dumbed down" is the technical term, I believe) for today's highly-educated youth. In the process the whole flavor of the book had been totally lost. The worst damage from the paddler's point of view was in the famous passage, "There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." The whole soliloquy had been replaced by something on the order of "Boats are very nice."

I honestly think that reading the book gutted this way is worse than not reading it at all, since the child will never know what he missed and will think he has read The Wind in the Willows when he hasn't. This sort of editing is bad enough in an adventure story. In one which depends as much on characterization and subtle humor as The Wind in the Willows does, it is criminal. I just wish there were some way to warn parents to make sure what they are getting before they buy.

Keep up the good work with the essays. I especially appreciate the cross-reference links to other articles. They often lead me to something I missed the first time around.

Thanks again.

Jim Ross
Morristown, Tennessee

• • •

Farwell replies:

You're welcome, Jim. Glad you're enjoying our articles. And your point is very well taken: shoppers can't judge a book by its cover (or its title). I'd heard of other dumbed-down children's classics, but I didn't know that the same fate had befallen The Wind in the Willows. "Boats are very nice," indeed! Don't be fooled by second-rate imitations and watered-down prose, parents and grandparents. Get the real thing. Accept no substitutes!

Caring for a "Tin Tank"

Dear Tamia,

What can I use to clean and restore the finish on my aluminum canoe? It's been out in the elements for about four years now, and it looks like it could use a good cleaning and waxing.

And while I'm at it, another quick question: how do most people get back to their car after canoeing down a river? Do they walk all the way back to the car with the canoe? Or do most recreational parks and camp grounds that have canoeing also have a shuttle service?

Please advise. Thanks!

Eid Nouhra

• • •

Tamia replies:

It's probably better not to try to restore an aluminum canoe's showroom shine, E.N.. The dull gray appearance of an older boat is caused by a thin layer of surface oxide. Though it may not look good to you, it actually protects the underlying metal, limiting the extent of deep oxidation and any associated corrosion. Just wash your canoe with detergent from time to time. Rinse it off in fresh water whenever you use it in the ocean or a salt lake, too, and give it an occasional coat of automotive-type paste wax (NOT polish). That should be enough. "Tin tanks" are pretty easy to care for. They really don't need much maintenance.

I only wish it were as easy to get back to your boat at the end of a day on a river! It isn't, though — at least it isn't always easy. Still, you'll find some solutions to this all too common problem in "Doing the Car-Shuttle Rag" — and in Barry Fogerty's letter (below). Companions make any shuttle easier, of course, and paddling solo can be dangerous. For safety's sake, then, as well as a good time, it's best to boat in company.

A Pirate-Proof Painter Ring

Hi, Tamia!

About your article on foiling modern-day "pirates": I have a suggestion about keeping kayaks from being stolen. Mine came with rope grab loops on both ends. I removed the grab loops, and took my kayak to a local welding shop. I had them make round rings from stainless steel rod and put them through the empty holes. They then welded the end of the rings shut. Now I have something solid to lock to. Anyone would have a hell of a time cutting through the rings, and I doubt they'd want to cut off the ends of the kayak!

Dan Reed
Southwest Harbor, Maine

Beyond the Basic Bowline

The bowline is a wonderful knot. In "Knots to Know," you illustrated the traditional method of tying it, but did you know there is a wonderfully easy and unique way to tie it?

Why use another method, you say? Well, I also teach professional diving to deep rescue and salvage types, rescue squads, fire departments, etc., and on some occasions, the diver must use thick gloves in zero visibility and the time they have to tie the several knots generally required is severely limited.

Best of all, it's very easy and quick to tie. I've made a couple of short video loops showing how. Give it a try. Everyone loves the ability to do this so fast, in the dark, and with frozen fingers!

Steve Kelsay
Columbia, South Carolina

• • •

Tamia replies:

Very neat, Steve! As befits the stature of the king of knots, there are probably more ways to tie the bowline than there are ways to boil water. Yours looks like a variant of the "slipknot bowline," and it's certainly one of the slickest tricks going. (Folks with an eye for detail will notice that this bowline is "left-handed": the end lies on the outside of the final loop. It's still a perfectly good bowline, though. While many knots are weakened by even small changes in conformation, left-handed bowlines are every bit as secure as the right-handed kind.)

May the Force Be with You!

Here's another option you might pass on to your readers when they have to "go against the flow" to avoid a car shuttle or a long hike. We use an electric trolling motor to go upstream until we start to run the battery down, then we float back to the car. This allows a more controlled scouting trip followed by a quiet float.

There are solar chargers now available that will put some charge back in the battery if an AC outlet isn't available. The battery can also be used for other things, like a DC-powered fan to make sleep a little easier on sultry nights, or a DC lamp to hold back the dark.

Barry Fogerty
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Frederic Remington at the Crossroads

Hi, folks!

I have been a reader of for years, but have rarely read "In the Same Boat." What a pity! I will always read it in the future.

In researching Nessmuk, I encountered Farwell Forrest's article "In the Beginning: The Boy-Men." I was delighted to find the intersection of two of my favorite recreational activities.

I have been a paddler for 65+ years, and have paddled through most of the lakes and rivers in the Adirondacks that Nessmuk wrote about. I have suffered under the same insect pests as he did, and have carried boats and gear over the same portages. In addition, I have paddled Pine Creek through the "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania," near his home in beautiful Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.

I am also a bicycling enthusiast. In the 1960s, I was organizing and leading century runs, and am a founding member of "The Wheelmen," a club devoted to the preservation of bicycle history. My particular interest is the high-wheel bike, one of which I still ride on ceremonial occasions. Bikes were an important factor in industrialization, and were responsible for development of the pneumatic tire. When the pneumatic tire was introduced in the early 1890s, the modern style small-wheel ("safety") bike became comfortable enough to ride on the rough roads of the time, and totally pushed the high wheel bike off the market. The "Gay '90s" were the time of "A Bicycle Built for Two."

Nor was that all. The ball bearing and the differential gear were also invented for the bicycle, and modern mass production methods were developed for making bicycles, which were the first mechanical devices produced in quantities of many thousands. More important (and more damaging to water travel), bicycles were directly responsible for the "good roads" movement in the 1890s. Before that, roads were so bad that water was the preferred highway.

It is obvious that obese Frederic Remington could never have ridden a high-wheel bike over rough country roads, but he could easily ride a modern "safety" bike. Rushton and his wonderful canoes survived the high-wheel bike era, but had no chance against the safety.

Your article was the first place where I learned about this historical intersection. I hope that I learn more from future articles.

Allan Blair

• • •

Farwell replies:

Your letter lifts the curtain on a fascinating scene from the American story, Allan, and I'm delighted that you found "In the Beginning" of interest. Look for more pieces about this intriguing crossroads in history and the early days of paddlesport in the months to come.

That's it for now. Keep telling us what's on your mind. After all, it's Our Readers Write!

Remington's Wide Ride

Copyright 2003 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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