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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Our Readers Write

From Going Digital to Getting a Leg Up —
Safely and With Style (of Course!)

October 30, 2007

It's hard to believe, but when the last "Our Readers Write" appeared, the Canoe Country summer was just hitting its stride. What a difference three months makes! Where did the summer go? South with the Canada geese and wavies, that's where. This year the autumn woods blazed forth early, in a cascade of brilliant reds and yellows, and these hot colors smoldered patiently for weeks as temperatures fell and days got shorter. But now — except for the cedars, spruce, and pines — the Adirondack foothills have faded to ash. There'll be plenty of opportunities to wet a blade before General Winter locks northern waters in ice, of course, but the season is dwindling down.

What do our readers do when they're not paddling? Write, that's what. And the range of their interests is breathtaking. Some are weighing the benefits of canned food, while others search for ways to make meatless, dairy-free dishes in the backcountry. Then there are the ingenious canoeists and kayakers who've been inventing better ways to load heavy boats onto their SUVs and trucks. And a whole lot of our readers are photographers. Many, like Tamia, have gone digital. But not all!

Have we whetted your curiosity? Good! Read on. And if you've written to us and are still waiting for an answer, take heart. The long winter nights will see us spending more time at our computers, working hard to catch up with our mail. We try to answer every letter we get, and sooner or later we do.

— Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the Same Boat

It's in the Can!

Hi, Tamia!

I'm with you on canned goods in the backcountry, and the current spread of can-bans really cramps my style.

I rarely use canned goods in the frontcountry because of the salt and fat, but when I'm on a river, those are the things I crave and (I rationalize, maybe) that I need most. I'll ration the ready-mixed soup for emergencies, but the caloric and protein density of canned tuna in oil is hard to beat. And it'll really punch up a bowl of Top Ramen.

Beyond the advantages you mention, the critical pluses for me are anti-bear camp management. First, until they're opened, cans have no food odor, and they don't require other containerization. Of course any self-respecting bear can open a can as though it wasn't there, if he/she recognizes it or is otherwise motivated, but they can't pick up the scent of an unopened can on the wind. Second, after use, cans can (and must) be burned out, either in the campfire or at a bivouac stove. (At bivouacs, I heat the contents in the can itself — saves cleaning the pot and bowl.) After that, they can go into the uncontainerized garbage, and they don't have to be nursed the rest of the trip.

I've only begun to deal with bear management with dried foods (I can't imagine burdening myself with mix-in-bag meals and their debris,) and right now, a jar of chunky peanut butter (decanted, of course, into a socially and politically correct but still odor-tight container) and a spoon look pretty good.

Fred Klingener

• • •

Tamia replies:

I'm not a big fan of tuna fish myself, Fred, but I do like bulking up Top Ramen with canned chicken and its juices. There's no doubt that hard work depletes our salt and fat stores, so for most folks, at any rate, eating canned food in the backcountry isn't a bad idea, even on nutritional grounds. (It already trumps most other portable food in the convenience stakes.) I have to admit I don't burn out empty cans, however. I wash them. And I've never been very keen on heating food directly in the tin. I can't quite bring myself to trust the solder in the welds. Of course, seamless aluminum cans don't present this problem. I still worry about the thermal stability of the various coatings and linings, though.

Meatless (and Dairyless) Meals, Anyone?

Dear Tamia,

I'm always looking for food for paddling tips, so thanks for the great articles! Our challenge is that we are vegans (part of a personal cancer battle) and so many recipes are meat- or dairy-based. We would also like to learn how to make our own dehydrated meals (we have a Skookum dehydrator) so we can just add water to our own mixes. We are fairly new to all this (veganism and dehydrating), hence the lack of knowledge and experience. We know how to dehydrate veggies and spices, and even how to make tofu jerky — although my body doesn't like soy, my boyfriend is fine with that. But we do not know how to make, say, a dehydrated rice-and-beans meal in one package, or other meals along that line. It would be fabulous if you would consider doing any recipes that are vegan-based or for making one's own dehydrated meals! Just a thought. I find lots of good tips and ideas, and purchasing pre-packaged dehydrated meals is always an option. No problem for weekend trips, but we have a couple of 9-10 day trips planned, too!

Thanks for listening,

Mody Bossy
Victoria, BC

• • •

Tamia replies:

It's true that many prepackaged dehydrated meals incorporate meat, Mody, but even in rural New York it's getting easier to find meatless entrées with every passing year. Some of the boxed rice, pasta, and couscous meals are free of dairy products, as well. And if you'd prefer to steer clear of preservatives and other additives, you can always look for organic options. With the addition of chopped nuts and dried fruits, along with judicious use of spices and herbs, you ought to be able to create enough different dinners for even a long trip.

You already know the basic principles, I'm sure. When making your own "meal kits," build on a satisfying portion of rice, couscous, eggless pasta, bulgar or other carbohydrate base. Then add dehydrated beans, vegetables and fruits, soup powder, and nuts to round out each dish. I've had only limited success finding dehydrated — as opposed to dried — beans locally, however, although the village food co-op sometimes carries them. There's always the Internet, of course. You could also try cooking dried beans and then dehydrating them yourself. It's something I've never attempted, but your "Skookum dehydrator" ought to be up to the job. Good luck!

• • •

But that wasn't the end of the conversation. Later, in a follow-up letter, Mody wrote …

Good Morning, Tamia!

We have taken two extended paddling trips (Broken Group Islands for 10 days, and Clayuquot Sound for 11 days), and although unable to maintain a complete vegan diet, we did pretty well! We have a very excellent high-quality dehydrator, and used lots of dried fruit for our pancakes and porridge, and had a tasty variety of dehydrated vegetables to enhance our packaged noodle suppers. This winter, I hope to gain knowledge and experience in making my own vegan meals (spaghetti sauce, soups, bean dishes, etc.), and in learning how to dehydrate those in order to pack them on trips. The trouble with adding the dehydrated veggies to pre-packaged noodle dishes is that the requirement for extra water dilutes the flavor a fair bit, so I need to figure out how to make that "base" flavor myself. Spices alone don't quite do it. Perhaps the biggest challenge (in terms of variety) is lunches, as we prefer not to have to unpack and use the stove during a paddle day. At this time our staple is almond butter (homemade) and whole wheat wraps. The tofu jerky turned out wonderfully, even tempting our non-vegan friends to request the recipe, but we would love some other delectable uncooked ideas!

I would prefer to make my own meals rather than to purchase them because there are so many chemicals in pre-packaged (but tasty indeed) foods. And as you know, real estate in a kayak is a precious commodity, and when you include carrying enough water for 10 or 11 days, you want to try to use as small amounts as possible. I have wondered how much value a vacuum sealer would be, in terms of preserving. Do you know? In that case, I could partially dehydrate and then vacuum pack and they would require less water. I dunno, but my brain is running on a dozen threads now!

Well, I could go on a lot more on this topic but work calls! I do enjoy your articles very much and look forward to seeing if others will be inspired to write in with their suggestions for portable potage in the vegan line.

Thank you very much for your interest!


• • •

To which Tamia replied:

It sounds like your experiments are bearing tasty fruit, Mody! And a vacuum sealer might be worth a try. I've never used one, but several readers have written about them. Take a look at "Our Readers Write: An Appetite for Summer" in the In the Same Boat archives.


OK, readers! It's over to you now. Who'd like to pass along some tips on building meatless, dairy-free meals from dried ingredients, or discuss the finer points of using home dehydrators? Just send 'em on to us and we'll pass 'em along. Thanks!

Bravo for Bruschetta!

Dear Tamia,

So I decide to read your article about Bruschetta on an empty stomach, then work hard all day and haven't had dinner yet. Now my stomach is growling! I wish Misty would hurry up and get home — she's spoiled me by feeding me for the past eight years. I think I've even forgotten how to fix a bowl of cereal for myself. I remember how to open a cupcake package though. Sad isn't it?


• • •

Tamia replies:

Right now my stomach is growling, too, Dan, and your mention of cupcakes isn't helping. Bruschetta will do nicely for lunch though … .

Chilling Out with Essich Schling

Dear Tamia,

Thanks for your good "Alimentary, My Dear" articles — they're interesting and very useful.

One good, safe drink to carry in hot weather ["Chill Out! Cool Treats for Hot Days"] might be essich schling, which I used to mix for our haying crews — it's very restorative when you're hot and tired. As I recall, it was just apple vinegar and brown sugar or honey mixed with cold water, with a wee bit of baking soda added at the last minute to give it a bit of sparkle. Cheap, and lightweight to carry, too, since the water is added at the last moment. It's a good high-energy thirst-quencher.

I hope I have the spelling right — you can sometimes find it in old Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks.

Mimi Filer

• • •

Tamia replies:

I remember hearing about essich schling once before, Mimi, but I've never tried it. It sounds refreshing, though!

Bothered By Blisters

Hi, Tamia!

I, too, am prone to get a blister on occasion, usually on my left thumb, just before that web of skin (at least I have a web of skin) between the thumb and forefinger. I've read ads claiming that foam slip-on grips for the paddle will prevent them. Is this true, or just a gimmick? I don't want to buy something as an experiment. Your thoughts please. Thank you.

Nick Maselli

• • •

Tamia replies:

You get blisters in the same place I do when I'm canoeing, Nick, and the solution I hit on was to dip my paddle grip into the water now and again. It helps me, but not everyone who's tried it has had the same luck. In any case, a callus eventually forms at the hot spot and then I have no more trouble. I haven't had the same problem with a double-bladed paddle.

Do foam grips work as advertised? I don't know. I've never used them. I have used fingerless bicycle gloves, however, and I've found them helpful. (The cheap ones have less padding, and that's good.) You can find them in bike shops, as well as at Target and Wal•Mart, among other big-box retailers. I've bought pairs for less than five dollars, so if you want to give them a try it won't break the bank.

You might also want to check your local pharmacy. New blister dressings seem to appear almost every week, and although here, too, I've no experience with any of them, it might be worth asking the pharmacist for his recommendation. Good luck!


And now, for something completely different. Tamia's column on her digital conversion ("Digital Girl: Reflections on the Power of the Image") inspired many readers to write about their experiences with cameras both old and new. Here's just a sample …

Water, Water, Everywhere …

Hi, Tamia!

I enjoyed your camera article. However, water is not the enemy of all digital cameras; some are water-resistant. My aging Pentax Optio 33WR, only 3.2 megapixels, is weather-resistant, as are some newer cameras.

To quote from my camera's manual:

The camera is … water resistant and can be used without having to worry about exposure to rain or water splashes.

If the camera becomes exposed to large amounts of dirt or salt water, … carefully rinse the camera under slowly running tap water or in a shallow basin filled with fresh water for two or three minutes.

I guess it's obvious why kayakers might choose a water-resistant camera.


• • •

Tamia replies:

Yep, Ken, it is! Of course, no waterproofing is totally bombproof. Seals age and crack, sand grains collect around gaskets, and sometimes photographers forget to close battery compartment doors. After all, it only takes a drop or two of water — particularly salt water — in the wrong place to ruin your camera's (and your) day. That said, I've been impressed by modern weatherproofing, even on cameras not advertised as "waterproof."

The Practical Photographer

Dear Tamia,

I wish I had known how much I was going to like my digital camera. I would not have spent the money on a new N-60 Nikon. The N-60 is about two years old and now sits on the shelf all alone.

My new camera is a Pentax Optio WP. It is totally waterproof and is 5 megapixels. It is small and comes with a rubber snap-on case for "sure grip." (The case is extra.)

I went to the army-surplus store and purchased a small snap-closure pouch, and sewed it on the front of my PFD so it can go with me on the water. I have a neck strap that I loop around my shoulder strap on my PFD so as not to drop it.

My LCD screen is protected by clear plastic sheets that self-adhere and come on packages of four sheets along with lens cleaner. The sheets came from a camera shop and are for this type of application, and are called "LCD Screen Protectors." I use them on my GPS screen as well. They really work.

Your articles are filled with lots of concise information. That is why I read them!

Ric Olsen

• • •

Tamia replies:

Thanks for the tips, Ric — and the compliment! It's always good to hear from you.

Another Practical Photographer

Dear Tamia,

I, too, have succumbed to the digital age — albeit kicking and screaming at first, since I was used to hauling along a fairly large complement of 35mm equipment packed in various Pelican Cases at times on my aquatic journeys. I recently bought a Pentax Optio waterproof compact digital camera. It is very compact, shoots video with sound, and has a very quick startup time. It also has a silvery-shiny case & sports a very large LCD. To lessen the "freak-the-wildlife" aspect of the case, I purchased a translucent (and very shock-absorbing) silicone slip-on over-case that allows full functionality of the lens & all controls. It must be removed in order to swap out a fresh battery or memory card, but that's simple. I believe I paid about US$20.00 for the case. To protect the vulnerable LCD screen, I purchased some self-adhering clear sheets for about US$12.00-15.00. These must be cut to fit your particular screen, but that only took me about 10 minutes to do.

Just thought I'd pass this along.

Happy (watery) trails!

Lee Collard
Lawrence, Kansas

A Digital Odyssey

Hi, Tamia!

Just read your article about digital photography and I might have been reading about myself. My Canon AE-1 Program manual SLR and accessories (from the 70s!) sits in my camera bag gathering dust while my PowerShot goes everywhere. I bought an A70 in 2003 and was immediately hooked on digital. I still drag my manual SLR out every now and then for landscapes, portraits and stills. But for travel, hiking, paddling, etc., the PowerShot rules. (Three pounds of camera, batteries and memory cards definitely beats 50 pounds of bulky SLR gear!)

You mentioned protecting the LCD screen, so I thought I'd pass along a tip — a friend of mine has a great little pop-up hood on her digital camera that both protects the LCD screen (when folded down) and shades the screen for viewing (when open). I'm ordering one ASAP. Several companies make them, such as Delkin Devices' "Pop-Up-Shades." Available at major photo retailers and websites to fit a wide variety of cameras. Take a look at one for the PowerShot 500 at B&H Photo under "Lens Hoods and Shades" or search for the item number. (The manufacturer number is DCS500M, and the B&H number is DEDCS500M). Worth every penny (about US$20) if you take your camera out and about in the world.

By the way, the waterproof case is kind of fun, too. My brother has the same PowerShot as I do, and he bought the case when he lived at the beach and worked as a kayak tour guide. Very handy. It allows full functioning of the camera, even underwater. A tad more expensive, though, at about US$250 (so I use an Otterbox), but the case may be in my future sometime.

One other tip I should add is that the waterproof case will not work with the pop-up LCD hood. The hood would have to be folded down to install the camera in the waterproof case, thereby rendering you unable to use the LCD. Also not sure the hood would fit inside the waterproof case, as the case fits the camera very precisely. One possible solution would be to attach the hood to the camera using some method that would allow easy removal when you wanted to use the waterproof case. Perhaps adhesive Velcro strips? Or install a hood on the outside of the case instead of on the camera? Perhaps others who have the waterproof case could offer some insights.

Thanks for your interest. Happy Paddling!

Lauren R. Zoppa

More Thoughts on Waterproofing

Dear Tamia,

To your thoughts on digital cameras I would add a couple of things. One is that a waterproof camera has much to recommend it. Back into tradeoffs, but a camera that can be splashed with salt water and handled with wet hands is a camera that just gets used more on the water, for me at least. Also, you can take cool pictures of yourself rolling if you tape it to the front of your kayak, and pictures of things underwater without losing the image in surface reflections.

The other thing I'd recommend is rechargeable batteries. I bought my waterproof digital camera based on its use of AAs instead of proprietary batteries. If you put 2650 mAh rechargeables in, they last far longer than alkalines, and at far less cost. They also run the camera in the cold, which I have found to be a problem with digitals. I was up in Newfoundland paddling a couple of months ago, in among the icebergs and all, and I left my rechargeables on shore. I borrowed some brand new alkalines to take a picture, and couldn't even get the camera to turn over. I had to go back to my depleted rechargeables to coax a couple more pics out of them — even run down, they did better than the alkalines.

Bob Wright
Portland, Maine

Palm Protectors? Why Not!

Dear Tamia,

Use the Palm Pilot protective screen covers for the LCD. It might work!

Alan D. Briley, RN

Another Vote for Screen Protectors

Dear Tamia,

Enjoy reading your articles. I purchased some of the plastic stick-on, peel-off LCD screen protectors from B&H Photo. They work just fine.

Dean Kalmoe

• • •

Tamia replies:

Thanks, Dean, and thanks to everyone else who shared ideas, tips, and suggestions on digital photography. The digital age is well and truly here, even if many of us still pull our 35mm cameras off the shelf now and then for nostalgia's sake.

And yet, some photographers remain true to their first loves, and not just out of nostalgia. Here's an eloquent statement of their point of view …

Focus on Film

Dear Tamia,

Back in the late 1970s, after careful research, I bought the hot new camera of the time — the Olympus OM-1. It has served me well thru three decades, three continents and countless adventures. It's light, compact, responsive, and my hands know all the controls without my brain becoming involved. I still use it. The f/250 stop is about 1/4 stop unreliable so I have to bracket a bit, but that doesn't deter me from continuing to get great pictures.

I know, I know. It's the digital age and everyone wants to send pictures over the Net. Well, that's what scanners are for. Digital SLRs are meant to be automatic. Have you tried some of the manual functions on the good ones? Horrific. Out of respect for its age, difficulty of repair, and its distaste for water, I don't take the OM-1 out paddling. But it's still my constant companion in the other parts of my life.

I tell people that women — like wine and cheese — get better with age. The same goes for my OM-1.

Nancy McNeill

• • •

Tamia replies:

The OM-1 is one terrific camera, Nancy. No argument there. Each time I lift my OM-1n down from the shelf, the memories come flooding back. And no digital camera will ever take its place in my affections. But in my line of work, cold efficiency rules the day. So I guess I'm a digital girl for keeps. (It's also great to walk past the film displays without having to pull my wallet out of my pocket!)

Keep on Truckin'! Transporting Sit-on-Tops

Hi, Tamia!

I've been reading and enjoying your articles on, and now I have a question. You mention somewhere ["Tips for First-Time SOT Buyers"] that it's not a good idea to transport SOT kayaks in the bed of a pickup, and that's exactly what I'm doing. I found the cheapest transportation option to be a US$99 bed extender, and I don't even need the extender when I'm taking my tandem SOTs in my long-bed truck. I thread the rope through the scupper holes, tie it to the truck, and I'm good to go. I transport two 60-pound tandems stacked together. I do put a pad between the bottom boat and the truck bed. Is this a bad set-up?

Thanks in advance!


• • •

Tamia replies:

Keep on truckin', Lori! If something ain't broke, there's no sense in fixing it. You're doing things right by padding your boats and lashing them securely — though a warning flag on the trailing end of the boat(s) might not go amiss. (I tie a small orange flag onto the end of boats I'm car-topping, in fact.) It's the "Jes' throw the dang boat in the back of the truck and do'n' give it 'nother thought" crowd that I had in mind when I wrote "Tips for First-Time SOT Buyers." The highway's a dangerous enough place as it is, without adding flying boats to the usual menu of road hazards!


And speaking of hazards, one of my recent columns ("SUVtopping: Of Bucket Loaders and High Rollers") generated a lot of mail from readers who thought my "bucket loader" was a Very Bad Idea. They marshaled plenty of evidence is support of their point of view, too. The upshot? Even though I've been using upturned pickle/spackle buckets for step stools for something like 30 years without a single mishap, I'm now convinced that I've been very lucky. And who wants to bet that Nemesis will always keep her distance? Not I. There are indeed many better ways to get a leg up. Read on!

The Bucket Loader —
A Prescription for Injury

Hi, Tamia!

While I appreciate the suggestions regarding SUVtopping to help reduce the strain of awkward overhead lifting, I think you need to make a retraction on the "bucket loader" idea. The round, narrow stance of the 5 gallon plastic bucket makes it intrinsically unstable to even slightly off-center loading. This can mean a very expensive, season-ending trip to the ER, with potentially much worse sequelae. There is a variety of inexpensive folding ladders and step stools available that take up very little room in that cavernous SUV, and better yet are designed to actually be a ladder or step stool. As a doctor of chiropractic and a safety engineer, I can hardly count the number of home and work injuries that I have treated or investigated that began with a climb up onto something that was convenient but not intended for any ascent other than to St. Peter's desk. I know that your suggestions are made with only the best of intentions, but I also know that you would be horrified to have anyone get hurt by following well-intended but erroneous advice. We paddlers spend endless amounts of money on boats and accessories, so I would suggest that US$15-25 spent on a flat-folding ladder or stool would be money very well spent, indeed.


Randall M. Adams, DC, MS, DACBOH
Occupational Health & Risk Control Services
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

Chuck the Bucket!

Dear Tamia,

I just read your article on loading a kayak on SUVs. You recommended standing on an inverted bucket. (I assume you mean a spackle or paint bucket.) These buckets are about 14 inches high as opposed to a normal ladder step of 9 inches. They are also very unstable if you do not step directly in the middle, which is VERY difficult to do with both feet.

I can think of no better way to end up lying down in your driveway with your kayak on top of you than using this method. I have an SUV and I am short so trust me; I've tried different methods. My favorite method is having my two tall kayaking buddies Rich and Chuck help me.

But for times when they aren't around I built two wooden platforms about 1'x2'x7" out of plywood and 2x6s. This works a lot better.

Please save the buckets for the other purposes you mentioned but not as a step stool. I like all of your articles I should add and agree with all you've written in the past. I was a carpenter before I retired and we also used buckets to get that extra height on occasion but not with any kind of load in our hands, and even with that if we didn't step up carefully they would tip out on us. You're probably just more graceful and balanced than me. Anyhow if you insist on still using the bucket PLEASE BE CAREFUL!


Frank Grasso

Crate Idea!

Dear Tamia,

My solution to loading my two 'yaks on top of my Jeep Wrangler is cheap and easy for a short, middle-aged woman to use. I have two plastic milk crates that are reinforced on the inside with plywood and turned upside down. The are low and easy to step up on, will not tip over, hold a ton of weight, and when right side up they carry your gear and the open weave construction allows drainage of water and sand before placing them in your vehicle. Unlike the tire mounted steps that are commercially available, they can be moved anywhere, front, back, beside your vehicle all with a sideways flick of your foot (for when your hands are full of boat). These are safer that your "bucket loader," more sturdy, will not tip over, just as dual-purpose, and just as economical — and they negate the need for a six-foot-tall, muscle-bound paddle partner (although you may want to keep the partner handy for other recreational purposes).

Ronda Furlan

• • •

Later, Ronda added a postscript …

Dear Tamia,

I thought I would send along a postscript to my last email. Friends of mine were going out paddling this past weekend, and they are fortunate enough to own a boat trailer for all of their boats. They have several as they take out tourists around our local lakes and waterways. They had a group of Asian tourists who wanted to tour a local lake and get their feet wet, as it were. Well, even boat trailers are not fail-safe. While unloading one of the boats from the top rack, one of the tie-downs released suddenly and one of my friends lost her balance on the rail of the boat trailer where she thought she had a sure footing. Needless to say she toppled backwards, striking her head on a concrete block in the parking lot, sustaining a concussion, fracturing her left arm and her left hip. She will be off work for 6-12 weeks and will not be paddling at all this summer with pins in her hip and arm.

I guess what I am trying to convey is that the bucket method is definitely not safe, the reinforced milk crates only marginally more so, and the boat trailer, although the safest of all, still needs to be loaded and unloaded with caution, by the strongest and the tallest paddlers in the group.

As an emergency room nurse I see all the worst-case scenarios so therefore always expecting the worst. But I try to be safe and well prepared.

Paddle safe,

Ronda Furlan

• • •

Tamia replies:

A cautionary tale, indeed, Ronda. I hope your friend is on the mend.

Step Up to Safety

Dear Tamia,

I recommend a real three-step metal stepladder. They are light, folding, inexpensive, rustproof, and are made expressly for the purpose of standing on. No flimsy kitchen step stools or portable folding steps which are made for light duty indoor use on a hard flat floor without a canoe in hand.

While I like to have a large bucket along on trips for bailing, sitting, waterproof and somewhat varmint-proof food and clothing storage, rope and sail locker, tent bag, flotation, a shovel, a deadman for a tent pitched in sand, a sea-anchor, a sink, vanity, washing machine, dishwasher, ice chest, anchor-buoy, trash can, sawhorse, workbench, toolbox, aquarium, terrarium, water heater, kitchen table, recycling container, ash bucket, cement mixer (just testing you! — but it does makes a good form for making sand castles), not to mention as a test tank for an electric outboard motor, for hauling firewood and water (not at the same time!), as a lighthouse, and for use in panning for gold (and as a treasure chest if you find any gold) … .

But they are not safe for standing on.

I use a strong cleaned-out (recycle!) 5-gallon paint or joint-compound (spackle) bucket, with the lid. I think they are polyethylene.

Buckets buckle or cave in when stood on, even heavy-duty ones, and their base is not broad enough for stability.

I have used an upside down, hard plastic, square milk crate, where the buckling risk is still there but not as great, and still much care has to be taken because the bottom lattice will break unless a board is placed across it. When I use a crate to store a canoe off the ground, the crate slowly distorts.

All are these items are made of thermoplastics which gradually stretch and bend, the more so when it's hot.

I find your articles too reliant on generalities, but I do appreciate that you are trying hard to educate us! Thanks!


Put Your Trust in Your Toolbox

Dear Tamia,

I enjoyed your loading article, and I have a suggestion to add to it: Instead of the bucket, use the toolbox stool with a fold-down handle. Unless you're awfully short, this is tall enough, is much more stable, and has good storage space. I keep my straps and bungee cords in mine, an extra water bottle, plus wasp-hornet spray. The one I use is made by Rubbermaid and costs about US$22, but they are often on sale two for one. You may want to point out that these toolbox-stools are made of some kind of sturdy plastic and are very light.

I'm fairly sure that these things are available almost anywhere — Ace Hardware, Wal•Mart, etc. I've had mine for so long I can't remember where I got them, but I've recommended them to lots of people for horse-mounting blocks, and I don't think they've had any trouble finding them.

Happy paddling,

Susan Mathis
Mathis Mill Pond Farm

The First Step Is the Hardest

Dear Tamia,

I'm a short person and my vehicles tend to be tall. Too tall. So I read with interest your article on boat loading.

I tried the 5-gallon pail a long time ago and found it much too small a platform and unstable. A better alternative, and the one I continue to use, is a heavy plastic, two-step stool by Rubbermaid. It has wide, rubber feet and thick, deep steps. It folds up about four inches flat and, while it won't carry your straps and other necessary trivia, it is easy to stow and retrieve. It only costs about US$25 and I've found them in lots of hardware and general merchandise stores — Target, KMart, and ACE, to name a few.

And, just for the record, I also have HullyRollers, a BoatLoader, AND a trailer. And still, the hardest part of this sport is getting the boat to and from the water (take it from a short person in the southwest desert).

Nancy McNeill

The Ins and Outs of Outriggers

Dear Tamia,

Interesting article. I have a Chrysler Town & Country equipped with a Thule system. Thule's equivalent to the Yakima BoatLoader is the Outrigger, which has worked well with a kayak but is very difficult to use with my 17-foot touring canoe — especially if only one person is trying to handle the boat. (I have the original Outrigger, but Thule's current version is the Outrigger II, which is similar.)

I like the concept of the 5-gallon bucket, though. [There are better choices. See above letters. -Ed.] I've used a small plastic stool which has excellent stability but is not quite high enough.

A couple of precautions when using the Outrigger or BoatLoader are in order. Place a blanket or other protection on the vehicle (mine has the scratches to prove the need); take it slow, one step at a time; take care that once one end is on the ground, it does not slide (dirt is better than asphalt); two people are always better than one.


Nick Adams

The Sawhorse Redemption

Hi, Tamia!

I read your article about getting kayaks up on top of big SUVs (I drive a Suburban), and that very problem kept me from buying my first kayak for two years. Now I kayak regularly with a group of women (who also drive soccer-mom cars). We bring two small step adders and two folding sawhorses. We put the sawhorses right next to the car and put the boat on them at waist height BEFORE we climb up on the stepladders. The really dangerous (or at least tricky) part of the bucket (or stepladder) approach is climbing up on them carrying the weight of boat. The sawhorses safely separate those two activities, and since you drive a big car anyway it's no problem to bring two folding sawhorses along with all the other stuff. I can load two 50-pound kayaks on my car with my 12-year-old son or another Mom helping in less than 10 minutes. I typically travel with two boats on top and a smaller boat (Prodigy 10) actually inside.

Thanks for your article. I am actually considering the Hullavator for even more independence.


Roll On!


Just read "SUVtopping" — very good. Another suggestion that works great for me is the Maine Roll On canoe and kayak loader.

I'm 61, with arthritis almost everywhere, and three artificial joints. But I can load our 16-foot fiberglass canoe alone onto our Town & Country minivan. It's a piece of cake really. I hang the canoe in our garage with one of those hoist devices. When I need to get it down, I lower it and then attach the portage wheel setup to the front and wheel it out to behind the van. Then I take the wheels off, roll the canoe over, and reattach the wheels with the canoe upside-down. Next, I grab the non-wheeled end of the canoe and walk it to the rear of the van, where I lift my end onto the roller on the rack crossbar. Then I walk back to the wheeled end, keeping the whole thing from rolling backward. Once at the back end of the canoe, I simply unsnap the straps that hold the wheels on, and roll it up onto the rack. Like I said, it's a piece of cake! If I can do it, anyone can.

Just thought you might like to know another option. By the way, I have no connection with the company that makes the Maine Roll On except that of a happy customer.

Dave Allen

Winging It!

Hi, Tamia!

I haven't written for quite a while, but the SUV article is interesting.

We tow a 17-foot Casita travel trailer behind our GMC Yukon XL. We carry our 22-foot-long Seaward Passat g3 tandem on top of the SUV. At 6 foot, 3 inches, I am fairly tall. At 5 foot, 3 inches, my (much) better half is short, especially for loading a 90-pound boat on a 6-foot-plus vehicle. Also, we want to be able to load and unload the boat without unhooking the trailer.

We did a couple of things:

1. Bought a Yakima Dry Dock.

2. Installed a 2-inch hitch receiver in the front end of the Yukon. (It is getting hard to find vehicles that support this.)

3. Bought a pair of Malone Gull Wing cradles. These have a great "sticky rubber" insert that prevents the boat from sliding. We removed that and covered the cradles with indoor-outdoor carpet using contact cement and a few stainless sheet metal screws. About once a month I spray some fiberglass wax on the carpeting to keep it easy to slide the boat on and off.

Now, we have one cradle mounted on the Dry Dock and one mounted on a Yakima bar close to the front of the manufacturer's rack on the SUV.

Selma (my wife) just has to be able to lift the bow of the kayak to waist level. I lift the stern and we walk it onto the forward cradle. I then take the bow and slide the boat aft. She walks to the side of the Yukon and tells me when the stern is over the rear cradle. I stop and toss a belly strap over the boat which goes through the door openings and buckles inside the car. We put holding straps on the front and rear cradles and we are outta there!

Here is a picture the boat on the car. Obviously the trailer isn't attached in the picture.

Whit and Selma

Winging It!

• • •

Tamia replies:

You've found a great way to make short work of a big job, Whit. Congratulations!


That just about does it for this month. As always, our virtual mail bags have overflowed with hints, tips, and comments from readers. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to write to us, and especially to the many thoughtful folks who showed us better (and safer) ways to get a leg up than balancing on an inverted bucket. Please keep writing. After all, it's "Our Readers Write"!

A little 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 put 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.

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