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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Our Readers Write

Dreaming of Spring (and Sailing)

January 31, 2006

Face facts. January's not a great month for paddling. At least it isn't along most of the borderland between Canada and the United States. Still, things are looking up. When "Our Readers Write" last appeared on these pages, the sun was still heading south, and General Winter had only begun to lay siege to Canoe Country. Now, however, the sun has turned round, and notwithstanding the snowy ramparts still rising outside our windows, the General's forces are in retreat. Spring is on the way. At last.

Of course, Winter's not ready to surrender yet. Despite the recent "heat wave" — Farwell just ventured out in shorts and a sleeveless mesh top, returning unscathed a little while later from a refreshing jog along an unseasonably silent and smogless snowmobile trail — it will be a couple of months (or more) before many of the rivers in northern North America run free again. But that doesn't mean paddlers can't look ahead to the coming season, does it? Readers of In the Same Boat are doing so, at any rate. Our mailbag is proof of that. In fact, we've gotten so many letters that there isn't room here for even a representative sample without making this month's "Our Readers Write" longer than War and Peace. So some letters will just have to wait till May. The upside? They'll be every bit as interesting then as now.

And while we're speaking of looking ahead.… In the hopes of getting a little more free time for paddling (not to mention hiking, cycling, and watching high clouds scud across the full moon), we're changing the way we do things around "Our Readers Write." In the past we've contacted all the readers whose letters have appeared here, asking their express permission to reprint what they've written. And almost without exception — I think we've gotten two turn-downs in six years — everyone we've written to has replied, "Sure! Go ahead." So from here on out, we're going to assume that folks who write to us won't mind if we reprint their letters. That is, we'll assume it's OK to do so unless the writer tells us otherwise. What does this mean? It's simple. If you don't want the world to know what's on your mind, just mention this when you write to us. We'll always honor your wishes. Otherwise we'll assume you won't be offended to see your letter (and name) in "Our Readers Write" at some future date. Are there any exceptions? Yes. There are always exceptions, aren't there? In cases where the subject of a letter is controversial or obviously personal, or where a letter is unusually long (more than 250 words, say), we'll defer publication until we get the writer's express permission. But in most instances, we won't bother. We hope this isn't a problem. We know it will save us a lot of time.

On a related subject.… We've finally caught up with all the outstanding column correspondence. At least we think we have. If you haven't gotten a reply to a note you sent us in the last three months or so, give us a shout. We'll get back to you ASAP. And please accept our heartfelt thanks for your patience.

— Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the Same Boat

Escape to the Okefenokee!

Dear Tamia,

Let me strongly suggest a winter paddling trip to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. A paddler can experience the joys of swamp paddling, view wildlife (reptiles, mammals, and birds), and avoid the summer heat, flies, and mosquitoes! I've been 10 times with varying size groups. We have never been disappointed.

Always enjoy your articles.

Art Denney
North Augusta, South Carolina

• • •

Tamia replies:

It's very good to hear from you again, Art, and I'm glad you like "In the Same Boat." While a winter paddling trip to the Okefenokee would certainly be a welcome respite from North Country snow and ice, I won't be making it down your way in the next few months. I'm recovering from an encounter with the surgeon's knife, and though I'm healing well, I'll be on "light duty" until spring. Still, a trip to (and through) the Okefenokee is high on my to-do list. I've always wanted to visit Pogo's old stomping grounds. Next year, with luck!

Improving the Ties That Bind

Hi, Tamia!

Yet another great article ["The Ties That Bind" -ed]. A couple of comments:

1) For sea kayaking, my niece made up hat tethers from nylon cord and Radio Shack alligator clips. These clips come in a variety of sizes and grip strengths. They have a crimp receptacle for the wire insulation, but it is plenty good for nylon cord as well. They're handy, and the more robust ones will most definitely not blow off in a gale — but they'll still come apart in an emergency.

2) Among climbers, glove tethers are called "Idiot Straps" for obvious reasons. Among climbers past a certain age, the tether ends are almost always sewn securely to the gloves, and they're almost always strung inside the parka through the sleeves to avoid entanglements. Why are they sewn? Sooner or later in some extremity or another, it'll seem like a good idea to unclip one glove, and if you do, you're screwed. Far better not to have that as an option.


Fred Klingener

• • •

Tamia replies:

I'm glad you enjoyed "The Ties That Bind," Fred. Just where would we outdoorsfolk be without Radio Shack, I wonder? I know I'd be lost without them. A couple of Radio Shack antenna clamps anchor the fender stays to the oversize shock forks of my "amphibious" bike, for instance, and only last week I picked up a cheap amplifying microphone. It should be just the thing for capturing the faintest birdsongs.

"Idiot straps"? That's a wonderfully evocative phrase! And despite being a sometime climber of a certain age myself, I'd never heard it before — though I still use an "inside the parka [and] through the sleeves" tether from time to time, complete with tiny snap-links that make it possible to remove individual gloves or mittens at will. And how do I avert potential disaster? By tying the over-the-shoulder tether round the hanging loop on my parka. That keeps the mate to the glove I've just removed from making an untimely break for freedom. Alligator-clip tethers might be a less fussy alternative, though. I'll certainly give them a try. Thanks for the tip!

Cleaning Up in the Backcountry

Dear Tamia,

I always read your articles and do enjoy them. Two alternatives not mentioned in "Mopping-Up Operations" include No-Rinse® Body Wash and No-Rinse® Shampoo. I have used both these products which I've found to be very effective and easy to use. They can be purchased from Campmor and in many backpack/outdoor supply stores.


Wayne Welsh

• • •

Tamia replies:

Thank you, Wayne — both for your kind words and for the heads-up. Much appreciated! Sounds like these could be just the ticket for saltwater excursions, or anyplace else where clean, fresh water is hard to find. (Water may not be in short supply on most paddling trips, but clean water often is.)

The Cup That Cheers

Dear Tamia,

Re: The Tao of Tea.

What about just boiling the water and throwing the tea leaves in the pot? Good article.


• • •

Tamia replies:

Glad you enjoyed the article, David. Thanks for writing.

What's wrong with making tea in the same pot you use to boil the water? In a word — nothing. Still, if you use a separate teapot or billy you'll leave your water boiler free for other chores. That's the reason I usually brew tea right in my cup on one-pot trips.

There's a problem with this approach, though: Tea steeped for more than about five minutes in the pot or cup will acquire a bitter taste from extracted tannins. (Most of the caffeine comes out in the first few minutes; the tannins take somewhat longer.) That's why a second pot made from old leaves is usually both bitter and weak. Of course, some folks like their tea to taste this way. If you're not among them, however, just match the amount of water you put into the pot to the number of tea drinkers and pour off all the tea as soon as the brewing's done. The downside? If anyone wants a second cup, you'll have to brew up another pot with fresh tea leaves.

Don't Read This If You're Dieting!

Dear Tamia,

I read your cheese piece ["Just Say CHEESE!"-ed] with glee. I own a cheese shop here in Denver, and I always travel with cheese on canoe trips. Others may open cans of weiners or potato chips or dried-up granola bars or some dehydrated crap in a pack. Me? I set out my little Iranian hand-woven rug on the ground. It's only 24 inches by 18. On top of this I place a simple wooden board. Onto this I place my cheeses, perhaps some dried figs, a little Spanish chorizo sausage, maybe a duck-leg confit. Depends on the occasion.

I particularly enjoy Roncal, an aged Basque sheep's milk cheese from northern Spain. Vella Dry Jack from Sonoma County also serves me well. Piave from northern Italy is especially soothing after a long day. Of course, good cheese requires a little wine [also at the end of the day -ed]. I use a Spanish bota (a soft leather pouch) which holds the equivalent of two bottles — saves weight on glass. Camp conversation, needless to say, always turns to the cheese! I have learned to bring a little extra to share and to do a little shameless marketing on the side.

Thanks for the story!

Hugh O'Neill
St. Kilian's Cheese Shop
Denver, Colorado

• • •

Tamia replies:

"Shameless marketing"? Not at all, Hugh. Call it consumer education. Never forget that unbridled enthusiasm in defense of gastronomy is no vice, nor is restraint in the pursuit of good living on the trail a virtue.

Glad you found my article of interest. I certainly enjoyed your virtual feast. Thanks for writing.

Better Ways to Harness the Wind

Hi, Farwell!

I really enjoyed your article on canoe sailing ["Ways to Harness the Wind" -ed]. I have "dabbled" in the sport over the years and am currently in the process of building a rig to compete in American Canoe Association (ACA) races. If you haven't already explored the ACA National Sailing Committee website, it's probably the most comprehensive on canoe sailing. It also gives details on building your own rig. These rigs have been tried and tested over the years, unlike most of the add-on rigs sold by canoe companies — Grumman's being a prime example of a sailing rig that does not perform well (either their gunter or lateen). The ACA 44-square-foot lateen will out-sail any of the commercial rigs at a fraction of the cost.

Thanks again for the article.

John Depa

• • •

Farwell replies:

You're welcome, John. I'm delighted that you enjoyed "Ways to Harness the Wind." Thanks, too, for the link to the ACA National Sailing Committee webpages. While I'm no racer — I've even sailed a stock, lateen-rigged Grumman canoe with pleasure! — I've already found much of interest on the ACA pages.


Dear Farwell,

Loved your article on "Putting the Old Woman to Work." Described the evolution of my canoe sailing! Thought I'd send you a link to the web page showing what I did with my little Old Town Discovery 119, an 11-foot-9-inch canoe.

Keep those articles coming.

G.F. Kellor
Salem, Oregon

• • •

Farwell replies:

Will do, G.F., and many thanks for the link to your webpages. I can't think when I've seen a better illustration of the wonderful versatility of the open canoe. (Or the power of inspired improvisation, for that matter.) Perhaps your example will encourage others to discover just how much fun sailing and rowing a short ship can be. I certainly hope so.

Fair winds!

Picking the Perfect Paddle

Hi, Sameboat!

I am about to become a beginner paddler. I'm getting an Old Town Ojibway, and I'm trying to figure out how to pick a paddle. I wanted to go with a kayak paddle, so I wouldn't need to switch or J-stroke. How do I decide on paddle length, whether for a traditional paddle or a kayak paddle? I'm about six feet tall. In northern Arizona we have mostly lakes, but a little whitewater in the spring. Any recommendations?

Mike Wells
Flagstaff, Arizona

• • •

Tamia replies:

Welcome to a great sport, Mike! You'll find general suggestions for deciding on paddle length in "Choosing a Canoe Paddle" and "Choosing a Kayak Paddle." But while these are good starting points, selecting a paddle remains a rather idiosyncratic process, with lots of canoeists and kayakers using blades that defy the orthodox "wisdom" of outdoor writers. How can this be? Well, many other factors besides length — body proportions and paddling "style," the diameter of the paddle shaft, the size and shape of the blade(s), and the rigidity of both shaft and blade, to name only a few — will influence whether or not a paddle feels right in your hands. And ultimately, this elusive thing called "feel" is key.

That said, if you're still of a mind to get a double blade — a good choice, in my opinion, particularly for a solo canoeist — I'd suggest you start with an eight-foot (245-cm) paddle. Don't worry about differences of an inch or two either way, however, and don't spend too much money. You may not like the length. Better yet, borrow or rent several paddles of different lengths in the range between 240 and 260 centimeters and give them all a good workout on protected waters. Then buy the blade that feels best to you. It's that simple. Or that hard.

Good luck!

Rigging a Klepper for Sail

Dear Farwell,

I found your article about sailing ["Ways to Harness the Wind" -ed] very interesting. Question: Where can I find specs for the International Canoe (IC)? I currently have a Klepper Aerius II and I would like to increase the performance. The length on ICs is about the same, but I'm having difficulty finding info on the beam. Many Klepper owners make a good deal of modifications to optimize performance, mainly by balancing the rudder, adding down-haul rigging, and fitting a cleat board. Here's what I'm thinking about:

Hiking Out

The cross member for the leeboards on Kleppers tends to drag a bit in the water when these boats are heeled over, and I believe adding a sliding hiking seat could flatten them out a bit more. Most Klepper owners seem to prefer not hiking out and opt for more forgiving sail rigs — smaller or after-market, etc.. I realize that ICs aren't noted for being forgiving rigs, but until recently they were known to be the fastest boats in their class. The largest sail rig Klepper provides for the Aerius II is about half that of these canoes.

Increased Sail Area

When I questioned another website, I was referred to schooner rigs for more sail area. I'm not sure that a second mast is in the direction I'm interested in going. It seems that this may be even more complicated to operate than a standard sloop. Another option was for a spinnaker. Again, these seem more complicated and only effective downwind or on a broad reach. I'm also worried that with too much foresail on a Klepper, even an Aerius II, that the bow may want to dive under. I believe that a sloop rig is probably the easiest answer.

The Rudder

I'm currently using a rudder that is more efficient than a traditional Klepper rudder. This rudder is more like modern standard kayak rudders. I believe a slight increase in efficiency could be achieved by increasing the blade ahead of the pivot point by 20 percent. This should increase the responsiveness. With increased sail area, would it be necessary to have a deeper rudder? The modern trend in Kleppers is a better balanced rudder than the traditional version. The traditional rudder, it seems, has more tail and creates drag that can easily stall a sail rig.


Could moving the leeboards forward or aft have much effect on leeway? Also could changing the blade size help? What about using aluminum instead of wood?


ICs seem to have more weight than Kleppers. Would it be necessary to add ballast for optimum performance?


Kleppers, being folding boats, fall in a grey area of classification. Nobody, including some officials, can seem to give me an answer whether or not they need to be registered when under sail.

Thanks in advance for any time you put into this.


Andreas Mantzke (aka Kapitän von Klepper)

• • •

Farwell replies:

I'm glad you found my article interesting, Andreas. To answer your first question, the beam of an International Canoe is 1.018 meters (a bit more than 40 inches). You'll find this — and a good deal more, besides — on the webpages of the International Canoe Association (UK).

Before moving on to other, more technical matters, I ought to note that I'm a rather lazy sailor, with little experience in rig design or tuning — beyond trimming the sail, 'board, and ballast under way, that is. There are sure to be many readers more knowledgeable than I. Perhaps they'll be able to suggest points I've overlooked, or answer questions that I can't: your question about classification, for example. The intricacies of racing classes aside — this is an area where my ignorance is absolute — U.S. states vary wonderfully in their registration requirements, and regulatory bodies overseeing some inland waterways impose their own rules, into the bargain. Generally speaking, any boat moving under sail is considered a sailboat (unless it also has a motor, in which case it's a motorboat or "motorized sailboat"), and a sailboat's LOA (length overall) is frequently the factor which determines whether or not it must be registered. After this relatively straightforward beginning, however, all is chaos, with the further complicating factor that "visiting" craft (boats normally kept in another state) may be subject to still more arcane regulations, whether or not they must be registered in their home state. And of course other countries will have other rules. All in all, local enquiry is probably the safest recourse.

OK. Turning to a topic I know a bit more about: I share your doubts concerning the practicality of "two-stick" (schooner, yawl, or ketch) rigs in a Klepper, or any other kayak, for that matter. While yawl rigs were common in nineteenth-century sailing canoes, these were purpose-built, plank-on-frame craft, and they were often heavily ballasted. I also question whether the increased fussiness was offset by any comparable improvement in downwind performance — and I expect upwind performance suffered, as well. In my view, therefore, two-stick rigs are best reserved for historic reconstructions. Still, folks who like to pull on strings will certainly have fun with them, even if other sailors will probably prefer something simpler. A sloop or cat (una) rig gets my vote in a canoe or kayak. And on that score, I'd also avoid flying a spinnaker from a kayak. Any kayak. While I'm sure it can be done, it's just too fussy for my taste. On the other hand, parasails have been used with considerable success by some kayakers for downwind runs. (But not, I'm afraid, by me.)

Moving on to the subject of leeboards: Shifting these fore and aft will affect your boat's balance, of course, since it changes the relationship between the Center of Effort (CE) and the Center of Lateral Resistance (CLR). (As you probably know, this is how sailboarders steer their 'boards — though they do so by changing the rake of the mast under way, rather than sliding the keel fore and aft.) All other things being equal, moving the leeboard aft will cause your boat's bow to fall off the wind (i.e., increase lee helm). Moving it forward, on the other hand, will make the boat round up (i.e., increase weather helm).

And now to ballast: I wouldn't think you'd want any fixed ballast in your boat, though a modest trimming weight might come in handy. (A 10-20 liter water bag should do the trick. Adjust the fill-level depending on the weight of the crew and any cargo, but always leave at least a little airspace in the bag so it will float in a capsize.) You're the principal ballast, obviously, and a hiking board — if one can be secured to the Klepper's cockpit, and if the coaming stands the strain — will permit you to make the most of your mass, though a sudden wind shift will certainly test your reflexes! A taller rig may indeed require a longer leeboard and a deeper rudder, however. That said, the relationship between total lateral plane (leeboard area plus rudder area plus immersed hull) and upwind performance is a complicated one, particularly in a craft fitted with a hiking board. I also suspect that the aspect ratio of the foil (leeboard) is of more importance than the material used. In any case, all such questions are best answered by experimentation, although I'm betting you'll find much of interest (and practical use) in two books by C.A. Marchaj: Sailing Theory and Practice (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1964) and Aero-Hydrodynamics of Sailing, 2d ed (International Marine, 1988). Both will repay a look.

I hope this helps. I'll be interested in learning how you get on. Please keep in touch. And best of luck sailing your new rig through the new year!

Small Birds, Big Hearts

Dear Tamia,

God, this is GOOD ["The Sounds of Silence" -ed]. No, I mean really, really good!

You really do love and appreciate nature don't you? I love the sounds, the twittering, the busyness of the chickadees and the tufted titmice, and watching the little nuthatches scamper backwards down and about the trees. I am always trying to talk to them in their language. They have come pretty close to me. Once a chickadee ate food from my hand. What a feeling that was! I love the creatures and so often feel a connection with them, so much so that last week I put up a hollow-log birdhouse in memory of a recently deceased friend. Hopefully some little chickadee or titmouse or nuthatch will get to use it to help keep warm on one of those cold nights.

Gosh I love this article!

Chris H.
Naugatuck, Connecticut

• • •

Tamia replies:

Aw, shucks, Chris, it weren't nothin'.… Seriously, though, I can't think of a better memorial to an absent friend than your birdhouse. I know I'd be proud to be remembered that way. These little birds DO have big hearts, rising to almost every challenge and greeting each dawn, no matter how inclement, with unwavering fortitude. It reminds me of Captain Call's elegy for Deets in Lonesome Dove: "Cheerful in all weathers. Never sherked a task. Splendid behaviour." Only a few words, maybe, and spelling wasn't Captain Call's strong suit, but he left no doubt how he felt.

Well, that's it for this time out. We've had rather a lot to say about sailing, but then what could be a better subject for daydreams — sorry, plans — when there's snow in the air? We can't think of anything better, at any rate. Spring can't come too soon! As always, our heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to send us their comments and questions, not to mention the many hints and tips. Keep telling us what's on your mind. After all, it's "Our Readers Write."

Editors' note: As we mentioned earlier, we're going to change the way we handle mail around In the Same Boat in future. From now on, we'll assume that it's OK to reprint any letter we receive, unless the writer tells us otherwise. Letters will still be subject to editing before publication, and we reserve the right to add links to articles or other resources where appropriate. Please note that we receive many more letters than we can reprint, and sometimes we get more than we can answer promptly. We do our best, however. So if a couple of weeks or more have gone by since you wrote and you still haven't heard back from us, don't give up. Send us a heads-up, instead. We'd certainly appreciate the reminder.

Copyright 2006 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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