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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Our Readers Write

Shank of the Year

October 31, 2006

The last time "Our Readers Write" appeared, summer's lease hadn't yet expired, even if hints of autumn were in the air here in Canoe Country. But that's history. Snow has already dusted the hills, frost often leaves its tracery on our windows, and the plaintive honk of Canada geese is rarely heard. The warblers and great blue herons have also headed for more temperate climes, while all but the boldest chipmunks have retreated to their dens for the Big Sleep. Many northern paddlers are thinking about hibernating, too. After all, the season of hard water will soon be upon us, and it's not easy to paddle an icebreaker. Despite the imminence of winter's return to Canoe Country, however, our In-Box continues to fill up with letters from readers with something on their minds. Want to know what they've been saying? Then read on. It's "Our Readers Write."

First, though, we have to discharge a melancholy duty. While we welcome all reader mail, not every letter in our mailbag brings us good news, and this month's mail contained just such a letter. In the years since Tamia wrote "The River Warden," quite a few readers have asked her how they, too, could get hold of a book she mentioned in her article: Lawrence Wishner's Eastern Chipmunks: Secrets of Their Solitary Lives. And Tamia's always been happy to oblige. The book is a fascinating read, as quirky and engaging as its little subjects — and a benchmark study for amateur naturalists, into the bargain. Indeed, as the words themselves suggest, most "amateur naturalists" are folks who are head over heels in love with the natural world. Lawrence Wishner certainly was. His book is evidence of that.

But human life — like the northern summer — has far too short a lease. Early this month a reader wrote to tell us that Dr. Wishner had just died, and while we knew the author of Eastern Chipmunks only through his work, we feel his loss keenly. Our world is left emptier by his passing.

— Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the Same Boat

A "Spectracular" Cord for Repairs

Hi, Tamia!

I just read your article ["A First-Aid Kit for Your Boat" -Ed], and it is great. One thing I would change, however, is to add a reference to Spectra®. You can get some parachute-cord-sized Spectra® line at a sailmaker, and it is stronger than wire and totally non-stretch.

I was on a trip in Maine and I was paddling a used boat which I picked up on the way. I got in the boat and realized that the rudder cables were nylon. (I know I should always paddle a boat first, but this one could be returned.) I couldn't find wire cable anywhere, but I called a sailmaker and he suggested Spectra®. It works great — stronger than wire, non-stretch, and you can tie a knot in it.

I have had the Spectra® rudder "cables" on for almost two seasons now and they are still great. I keep enough Spectra® in my boat's "first aid kit" to repair any cables that I need to.

Thanks for a great article!

John Kelly

• • •

Tamia replies:

What a good idea, John! I hadn't considered using Spectra® as a cable substitute, and I'm probably not alone. Thanks for the tip.

Duct Tape in the First-Aid Kit? Yes!

Dear Tamia,

There are other uses for duct tape besides the ones you mentioned in "Help for the Times When Everything Comes Unstuck." If you have the misfortune of having a plantar wart [an extremely painful "vascular papillomatous growth" on the sole of the foot -Ed], cut a piece of duct tape, cover the wart, and change the duct-tape dressing every few days. In less than a month the wart is gone forever. This saves those costly and painful freezing treatments at the doctor's office. I was very skeptical at first, but I tried it. My plantar wart had been treated several times by a doctor, and it just kept coming back, so I figured I had nothing to lose. It worked. It took a month, but it only took about 25 cents' worth of duct tape and caused me no pain. I've suffered with plantar warts over the years. This one is gone with no sign of return, and it's been months.

Another use for duct tape is for ingrown toenails. Place one end of a piece of duct tape on the skin alongside the offending nail, pull tight, and wrap around the toe till you come back to the middle of the nail. Stop there. Change every few days. After the first change you should be able to tuck a very small piece of cotton under the ingrowing margin of the nail, and in less than a month the nail should start to grow properly.

Duct tape also repairs a plaster or fiberglass cast in a pinch. I now keep small rolls of duct tape in several places in the house, and give it as a wedding-shower gift along with other household essentials. Yes, people tend to think you're a little nuts — until they use it a few times. You just can't live without it!

Eneda Armour

• • •

Tamia replies:

I'd never considered including duct tape in my medical kit, Eneda, but you've convinced me that it belongs there. I'd check with my doctor before attempting self-treatment for either plantar warts (I've had them myself, and they make portages a misery) or an ingrown toenail, however — unless I was deep in the backcountry, that is. Thanks for writing!

Mineral Oil —
Cure for Many a Sticky Situation

Dear Tamia,

Funny article ["Help for the Times When Everything Comes Unstuck" -Ed]. I enjoyed it. If you really want to get duct tape residue off with minimum damage, try mineral spirits. You can buy it at your local hardware store. Do not buy turpentine. Be sure to get mineral spirits. Soak the area with a rag dipped in spirits and then push the sticky gunk off. This works for most adhesives. You can even remove those sale-price stickers from books and other articles that you bought as gifts, without leaving marks or residue. Try it — you'll like it.

Gary Totten

• • •

Tamia replies:

Thanks for the hint, Gary! It sounds like a great way to deal with all sorts of sticky situations.

Bin There, Done That

Hi, Tamia!

In reference to "Breaking Away — Secrets of an Escape Artist," I find the Rubbermaid® bins quite useful for travel. One can leave a bin in the bedroom for clothes, and just toss things in that you think of, then maybe go through them the night before. Put one at doorway to the kitchen pantry. Cans and packets of food, seasonings, plasticware, etc., get tossed in as I cook the last night's meal. Then there's one for the smaller gear, gloves, cooler cups, matches, etc., which is near the large gear pile (life jackets and paddles, spray skirts).

At camp, the bins are easily moved, and the lids stay on to prevent the dog from stealing your lunch (or worse!). They even function as tables; I use a small one in the tent.

Cheap, colorful, and handy — they're my kind of gear!

Sara Anne Sherrard

• • •

Tamia replies:

Sounds good to me, Sara. I'm going to give it a try myself. Thanks!

Which Boat is Right for Me?

Hello, Tamia!

I'm new to canoeing, but not to loving the water. A friend got me hooked just a few months ago, and now I'm reading and researching before I purchase.

Can you offer some suggestions? My dream canoe trip is to go out onto the river when it's about 80 degrees out, in the evening when the water is calm like glass. I am a woman, only 5'6" and slightly over 110 pounds, so am not packed with muscle. My friend owns an Old Town 167, but I tried carrying it and it was embarrassing! I need something as light as possible since I will most likely be canoeing alone. I have a river very close to my home and would prefer to canoe there, maybe exclusively. No fast water or rapids at all, however.

I have done some reading about the Old Town Pack canoe (because it is shorter and lighter) and checked one out at a nearby sports store, but it was $700 and something. Ouch! I am willing to buy a used canoe, but the ones on eBay® most all say "for pick-up only" and they turn out to be five states away.

Thanks for any suggestions.

Pam Johnson

• • •

Tamia replies:

Welcome to, Pam! We've written many In the Same Boat articles for folks just like you. Here are three that should help you get started:

"Answers to Questions that New Paddlers Ask"

"When You're No Longer a Beginner"

"Beyond Stroking: Messing About in Boats"

Pack canoes? I'm a fan. Check out "Good Things DO Come in Small Packages" to see why. But don't stop there. For example, even though you'll probably find some sit-on-tops to be a little on the heavy side, you might also want to read "Making Your Own Beginners' Luck: Tips for First-Time SOT Buyers." Many of the recommendations in that article apply to all boats, not just SOTs.

That said, while pack canoes can be used by paddlers of all skill levels, I wouldn't recommend "canoeing alone" to any beginner. Even a farm pond holds hazards for the solo boater, and novices learn best when they paddle with more experienced canoeists. They usually have more fun, too. So look for a few partners. Outfitters, clubs, and colleges are good places to start.

Unfortunately, no boat — new or used — is likely to be sturdy, cheap, and light. Two out of three is the best you can hope for. And unless you have very deep pockets, the cost of any new boat may come as an unpleasant surprise. If an Old Town Pack is out of your reach, therefore, browse the Reviews for less expensive alternatives, and don't forget to check's own Classified pages for a suitable used boat. Craigslist (a national Internet-based classified service) and your local paper are other possibilities. Finally, if the only boat you can afford weighs you down more than you like, consider putting wheels under it. "Carried Away! Rediscovering the Wheel" can help you sort out the options.

Let me know how things go. And good luck!

A Family Affair? Of Course!

Dear Tamia,

Once again you've written a fine piece ["Making Your Own Beginners' Luck — Tips for First-Time SOT Buyers" -Ed]. I always enjoy your thought-provoking articles.

Our family added five SOTs to our family fleet of kayaks over the past year. Our grandchildren (ages five, seven, 10, and 13) are as enamored of them as is Nana. Though I went over the basics of paddling with them — to which they likely only listened part-time, as usual — I signed the three oldest up for professional lessons. Children will always listen to an unfamiliar voice better than to the adults they are in contact with day in and day out. They were attentive, though, when I taught them "safety rescue" methods. We may live on the backwaters of a dam, and the water may be quiet out in front of our homes, but paddling is about more than "floating your boat."

You have been a great influence in many things I've learned over the past seven years regarding camping and kayaking. I hope and pray my grandchildren will remember me with as much love, and have as many memories as you do about your grandparents, especially your Grandad. Thanks for sharing your marvelous memories.

Shirley Keith

• • •

Tamia replies:

Your letter made my day, Shirley! I'm delighted that you find our articles helpful, and it's wonderful that you've introduced your grandkids to paddling. SOTs are terrific boats, for experienced paddlers and beginners alike. I'm sure that your grandchildren will always cherish the time you took to share your love of boating. Thanks for writing.

I can't think of a better note to end on, can you? And as T.S. Eliot reminds us, to make an end is to make a beginning. Winter may be just around the corner, but the Wheel of the Year keeps turning. It won't be long till spring is in the air, and it's never too early to make plans for next year's paddling season. Be sure to take the grandkids out, too!

As always, our heartfelt thanks to all of you who took the time to send us your comments and questions, not to mention your many hints and tips. Keep it up. After all, it is "Our Readers Write."

And now, the usual fine print: We'll assume that it's OK to reprint any letter you send us, unless you tell us otherwise. (Just put "Not for Publication" at the head of your letter.) We will never publish your e-mail address on-line unless you specifically ask us to, however. Letters may also be edited for length and clarity, and we'll add links to articles or other resources wherever and whenever appropriate.

Copyright 2006 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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