A Travelogue

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Rudders and PFDs

Teddy asked the following:

"I read your blog account of your second session out and it points out my total ignorance! I didn't know they had pedals in kayaks! And why do you move the rudder up and down rather than side to side?"

There's a rudder at the pointy end of the stern. It's usually flat against the kayak. When you are motoring along (LOL) you can put this rudder down and it helps you to steer left and right (so it does go side to side). You pull it up when you approach the rocky landings of the broken islands... and you pull it up PDQ so it doesn't scrape on the rocks and break off. I don't see why we need it as I'm hoping to be paddling in a straight line to the next island. Should this not be the case, well then, I'm probably screwed but I am able to turn the kayak with the paddles, sort of like in a canoe. A tippy canoe.

"I guess I didn't realize we'd be wearing PFD's either...hadn't really thought about it! But I applaud the idea!"

I'm pleased to have a PFD although, having watched the video Lynda lent me about sea rescue, I have concluded there is no way I can get back into the kayak. As an aside, in the video they mention that "women have a harder time hoisting their upper bodies up onto the kayak because of their low center of gravity". This would be the politically correct way of saying we carry a lot of weight in our hips. Of course this weight drags you off the kayak. With my bulky forward protrusions hampered by an equally bulky PFD, I don't see how I can possibly get my upper body onto the kayak. I will be swimming to shore and towing the kayak.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Kayak Lesson #2

We did it again.

This time we laughed and laughed without peeing our pants since we're experienced kayakers now. And to prove it, we showed each other our spectacular black and blue thighs. They are like matching honour badges and quite sizeable ones at that. Easily the size of my spread hand. I proudly showed them off at work, puckering cellulite be damned!

Getting in and out was no easier this time. In fact, we had other things to contend with. Lynda outfitted us each with a PFD (Personal Flotation Device)and kayak skirt. The two PFDs were different and I grabbed one at random. The wrong one. It belongs to her flat-chested husband and I felt the difference immediately. He's a muscular fellow but apparently my chest is bigger. Odd. When I first tried on the vest the panels wouldn't even bend around the front but stuck out straight under my armpits.

I unbuckled the bottom straps which allowed the zipper to meet in the front under my breasts. Not a hope in hell of getting that zipper up. Lynda took one look, expertly unbuckled the other straps and when the zipper still wouldn't budge, jiggled it around and gave a final violent jerk. Success! I was breathless. Where do your boobs go when they're flattened between a PFD and your sternum? I know! They morph into pizza plates.

Lynda hands me the kayak skirt. Oh. That should have gone on first.

I am now outfitted in my kayak skirt and PFD and it's time to get into the kayak. Having done this before, I expertly straddle the kayak. So far so good. Lynda helpfully steadies the front and I'm seriously grateful. As I slowly sink into the hole I discover (a) it's still a tight fit. Damn. and (b) I can no longer see the entry hole!! I can, however, when I look straight ahead at the horizon, see the pointy front of the kayak. Yikes.

Lynda and Sue tell me when I am centered over the hole and I obediently drop down. Squeeze, actually. The kayak teeters precariously and Lynda tells me to wait, balance. I do. Time for the legs. Since I can't see the hole in front of me, I grab my right ankle with both hands and forcibly try to push it in, groping totally by feel. Did I mention that I broke my toe on Monday? Probing for an opening with a broken toe is a fairly effective method of quickly learning where there is solid kayak and where there is not.

The rest is lovely. The paddling is fun and Lynda shows us how to engage the rudder by reaching behind and pulling on the right cord to lower it, and the left cord to raise it. The rudders are great because my short legs can reach the pedals but like cruise control, you have to get up some speed before they work their magic so I must admit I haven't tested them fully.

The day ends well. We had gorgeous weather when we started and watch as dark clouds gather across the lake. Finally, we decide it's a better plan to call it a day before the clouds catch up to us and we have to mount the kayaks onto the truck in pouring rain.

Lynda's husband shows up unexpectedly to help but we're done. He was going to take us for ice cream but darn it all, ice cream doesn't make those kayaks fit any easier!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Other important Kayaking stuff

This past weekend 4 of us were discussing the logistics of our upcoming kayak trip. Specifically, how on earth will we get enough wine from Red Deer to the lodge where we start our trip? There are six of us you know, and we are gone for a week. It merited serious discussion.

Teddy and I decided we’d pick some up in Comox on Saturday since Sunday, anywhere in B.C. and definitely in small towns, all liquor stores will be closed. And we don’t really want to board the airplane with multiple boxes of wine slung under our arms.

Then yesterday on our way to the lake to test the kayaks, we re-visited this important issue. Lynda mentioned that she would be driving her truck to B.C. at the end of June. Perfect! I’m the designated purchaser and will deliver the beverages to her, she’ll get them there, and apparently our belongings will be craned off the ferry so weight isn’t an issue and it looks like we’re in good shape at the other end too.

Everything’s falling neatly into place.

My first Kayak Lesson!

I had my first kayaking experience yesterday evening and before I go any further, let me just say this: we laughed until we peed our pants.

Some of it’s my fault. You have to straddle the kayak and make sure you’re properly lined up so that when you do the “outhouse squat” (sit down and stand up without using your hands) your bottom ends up in the teensy kayak hole where it should.

This reminded me of the toilets in South Korea – the straddle part. In Korea your butt doesn’t actually touch anything. At least it shouldn’t. I had trouble there too. So I’m poised over the kayak, breasts and arms-holding-oars counterbalancing butt, and try to gracefully sink into the kayak. Hah. At a certain point I ran out of leg and so, with a plop, my butt dropped into the kayak and simultaneously my feet left the lakebed floor.

“Don’t move! Leave your legs out and dangling! Get your balance!” Lynda said. The kayak rocked violently beneath me. When it stabilized a bit, I was told to insert my legs, slowly and one at a time, into the narrow opening in front of me.

I don’t know if you’ve ever looked into a kayak opening. It’s shaped a little like the figure 8 and the solid indents in the middle make it impossible to insert both legs at once. In fact, they nearly made it impossible for me to insert even one fat leg but I did get it wedged in and securely tucked under the indent of the “8”. This again set the kayak off on its sideways rolling motion. Once more I waited and then carefully used both arms to pull my second leg up to my chest so I could squeeze it in beside its twin. I made it, but I don’t know how long I can continue to clamp the oars in my teeth while all this maneuvering is going on. After all, you can’t afford to let your oars drift away.

Once inside, I found there was lots of leg room. A little snug on the hips though! I was securely wedged in. I’m thinking of liposuction.

The hard part over, I paddled a bit and loved it! Lynda is a terrific teacher, full of encouragement and compliments even as she was laughing her head off! We didn’t bother with the foot pedals that engage the rudder so turning was a matter of making a series of tight little backwards strokes countered with a few wide-sweeping forward strokes. It worked just fine and I headed back to give someone else a turn.

Well. Turns out that getting into the kayak was a piece of cake.

To assist in levering out, you place the oars behind you and across the kayak. Pressing down on the oars, you should be able to reverse the above procedure: lift out leg #1 but keep it centered on top of the kayak while you carefully extract leg #2. If you forget and let your leg dangle off, in you go. If you lift either leg #1 or #2 too quickly, in you go. If you get both legs out and then drape them over the sides, but not simultaneously, in you go. If the kayak makes a popping sound when it releases your butt, like a cow pulling its foot out of the mud, in you go.

I only went in once and oddly, not the first time I extricated myself from the kayak.

When you’re out, you’re left straddling the kayak and then you swing one leg over. This requires good balance and you can’t stick your oar into the sand and brace yourself. For one thing, they’re expensive and for another, you may be standing on rocks and not sand. So I remained straddled and just slid the kayak forward till I was clear.

Lynda says we paddle 4-5 hours per day with frequent breaks but I think I’ll stay in the kayak and just paddle around.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Zen Judaism

If there is no self,

whose arthritis is this?

Be here now.

Be someplace else later.

Is that so complicated?

Drink tea and nourish life.

With the first sip... joy.

With the second... satisfaction.

With the third, peace.

With the fourth, a danish.

Wherever you go, there you are.

Your luggage is another story.

Accept misfortune as a blessing.

Do not wish for perfect health

or a life without problems.

What would you talk about?

The journey of a thousand miles

begins with a single oy.

There is no escaping karma

In a previous life, you never called,

you never wrote, you never visited.

And whose fault was that?

Zen is not easy.

It takes effort to attain nothingness.

And then what do you have?


The Tao does not speak.

The Tao does not blame.

The Tao does not take sides.

The Tao has no expectations.

The Tao demands nothing of others.

The Tao is not Jewish.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Forget this and attaining Enlightenment

will be the least of your problems.

Let your mind be as a floating cloud.

Let your stillness be as the wooded glen.

And sit up straight. You'll never meet the

Buddha with such rounded shoulders.

Be patient and achieve all things

Be impatient and achieve all things faster.

To Find the Buddha, look within.

Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.

Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.

Each blossom has ten thousand petals.

You might want to see a specialist.

To practice Zen and the art of Jewish

motorcycle maintenance, do the following:

get rid of the motorcycle.

What were you thinking?

Be aware of your body.

Be aware of your perceptions.

Keep in mind that not every physical

sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.

The Torah says,"Love thy neighbor as thyself."

The Buddha says there is no "self."

So, maybe you are off the hook.

The Buddha taught that one should practice loving

kindness to all sentient beings. Still, would it kill you

to find a nice sentient being who happens to be Jewish?

Though only your skin, sinews, and bones remain,

though your blood and flesh dry up and wither away, yet

shall you meditate and not stir

until you have attained full Enlightenment.

But, first, a little nosh.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Duck, duck, MOOSE!

This morning at 5:42 Hans wakes me up. He's in the shower, toothbrush in hand and mouth full of toothpaste.

"Theum a moose ih thuh crrrk!"

"What"? I reply, tongue thick with sleep.

"A moose. In the creek".

I momentarily weigh the possibility of rolling over and going back to sleep. But then, I haven't seen a moose up close in years. And never in our creek.

Besides, it's my day off and I can go back to bed.

So I grab my glasses and head for the window, rubbing crusty sleep from my eyes. I still can't focus but now I'm desperate to see the moose. It has wandered behind some bushes and is temporarily out of sight. But I watch as the creek ripples in its wake and then I see it, wading down the middle up to its neck in water.

The creek is much deeper than I thought, as I watched only its head navigate the water. It lumbered out near our ridge, tall and leggy as moose are. It's only a yearling, not a full grown cow, but it is impressively big. I watch as her oversized head bends to some bushes and she delicately nibbles the tender young leaves. She appears unconcerned as her big cow eyes look my way. Hans and I are talking in the open dining room window as we observe her and she can hear us, but she senses we are no threat and idly watches us as she continues to eat.

I reach for the binoculars but she moves behind a tree and is hard to see. She has two light coloured lumps in front of her ears and we speculate whether these are budding antlers or nothing at all. But she turns away and heads back to the creek. I've lost my chance for a closeup.

Now, of course, I'm quite awake and decide to make coffee since it's unlikely I'll get more sleep. Hans finishes and heads for work, and after the coffee has filtered through I decided to turn it off and try to slip back into my dream. Half an hour later I realize it's not going to work. *sigh* At least the coffee's hot.