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
Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the Same
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.
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.
Get Ready to Eddy!
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
Keep up the good work.
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
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
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
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
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.
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"
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!
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
A Pirate-Proof Painter Ring
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!
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
Columbia, South Carolina
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
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.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Frederic Remington at the Crossroads
I have been a reader of Paddling.net 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
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.
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
Copyright © 2003 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights