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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Our Readers Write

From Traveling Lizards to "Newt Nectar"…
And That's Not All

March 30, 2004

By now, winter's in retreat everywhere in the northern hemisphere. Some lucky folks are already paddling. Others are getting ready for the big day when the ice leaves their favorite lake. That doesn't seem to keep them from finding time to write to us, though. Our virtual mail-bag is filled with letters from readers. Here are just a few of the many we've received since the last "Our Readers Write." We hope you'll enjoy them as much as we have. (NB Some letters have been edited.)

— Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the Same Boat

On the Waterfront

Good Morning, Tamia!

Ahh, you've entertained and educated with another fine article on the sailor's art!

I must, however, take issue with your discussion of "frapping." While your example of making the repair shown may loosely be called frapping, it is in fact "serving."

Frapping is the act of joining or marrying together multiple lines temporarily. For example, doubled mooring lines are frapped together to allow placement of a rat guard, common chafing gear, or both. A sailing vessel at the pier or at anchor may have her shrouds frapped together to reduce the noise and wear of them slapping together.

Another place you'll hear the term is the "frapping line" which controls the "traveling lizard" used to "hog in" boat falls. The traveling lizard is a wood or metal hoop that the boat falls are rove through. It gathers the multiple parts of the falls loosely. The frapping line is used to haul the falls into the side of the ship once the boat is let go and is away or riding the painter.

If you are going to splice the ends of a broken shaft, you would typically take a piece of cloth and wrap it over the joint extending 3-5 times the diameter of the shaft in each direction. This "sleeves" the splice together. You then take small stuff and parcel over the sleeve in one direction to provide initial strength at the joint. Next, you would take larger stuff and "turn and serve the other way" to within three diameters of your serving stuff at the end of the sleeve. If this is a temporary repair, you may finish it off with a constrictor or rolling hitch. If it is semi-permanent — chafing gear on an oar loom, say — you may finish the ends with turk's heads.

Man-ropes, yoke-ropes, etc., were commonly covered this way and the old seaman remembered the process with the saw, "Worm and parcel with the lay, turn and serve the other way." If working with laid line, the direction of the worming and parceling is important. The serving, being applied against the lay, would be actually crossing the lays, and it is locked in for strength. A "serving mallet" is used to insure tight, uniform serving lays.

Thanks for sending an old brain a freshening breeze!

Whit Patrick
Newport, Oregon

• • •

Tamia replies:

I don't think your "old brain" needs any help from a freshening breeze, Whit. It seems to be doing just fine on its own.

You're right, of course. While my use of "frapping" to label repair lashings has some precedent — in the general sense of "binding tightly," this usage goes back to the 17th century or thereabouts — "serving" is undoubtedly the more exact term. It serves me right for dipping my oar into the dark and turbulent waters of nautical nomenclature, I suppose. But I'm mighty glad I did. How else would I have learned about traveling lizards?

Best wishes — and many thanks!

No Sweat? An Epiphany on the Bus

"No Sweat!" is a great article on "power" eating and drinking, Tamia!

Wish there was a way for you to interface with every school district in the nation. Simply put. Basics. As a semi-retired individual, now driving a school bus until my daughter finishes her masters in psych, I watch the never-ending intake of high-cost drinks and high-energy food on all sports trips.

What an epiphany! If you could only teach the teachers and coaches on such a basic issue: meeting the needs of our body under extreme conditions cost-effectively.

Thank you.

David MacDowell
In the Heart of the Adirondack Mountains, New York

• • •

Tamia replies:

You're most welcome, David. And I certainly share your astonishment at the market penetration that "energy bars" and sports drinks have achieved in just a few short years. That said, it's important to understand that while I try to keep up with the literature, I'm no exercise physiologist. Yes, I've lived and worked out of doors much of my life — and taken responsibility for the health and well-being of field crews doing hard physical work in temperatures ranging from -10 degrees Fahrenheit to over 100. But I'm not an athlete. Nor am I a dietician or nutritionist.

In short, I wouldn't presume to tell a serious competitor what (or how) to slake his thirst or fuel his engine. That's a job for his trainer and the team physician. My articles at speak to the needs of recreational paddlers, and to any other folks whose interest in food goes beyond its calorie content and carbohydrate balance. I also never forget that most of us have to keep at least one eye on cost.

Athletes are different. So, too, are some fitness enthusiasts. Many of these good people would take issue with my suggestions, believing — whether rightly or wrongly, I cannot say — that what you eat or drink can determine whether you win or lose, or at least whether you exceed your previous personal best.

For one such paddler's response to "No Sweat," read on.

Sweating the Details

I'm no sports nutrition expert, but have read widely on this topic — and it has positively impacted my paddling.

Most (really all) good resources I've found for sports drink information recommend avoiding fructose (fruit sugar) due to potential gastrointestinal distress. Note: Good sports drink info is seldom found on paddling sites — usually cycling sites or university research studies.

Total carbohydrate should be limited to less than 8%. More will increase the sugar uptake, but interfere with your fluid balance. So if eating carb snacks, you should drink plain water with them.

Also, to avoid guesswork with salt, the amount can be calculated based on size, temperature, etc.. Sorry I don't have links handy, but the info can be found easily — including how to adjust salt levels in commercial products for hot weather use, etc..

These things are not huge issues for casual paddling, and fruit juice may work fine for most, but for endurance on long paddles, racing, and other high-output uses it matters.

Kris Buttermore
South Florida

• • •

Tamia replies:

De gustibus non est disputandum, Kris. Different strokes for different folks. I couldn't ask for a better illustration of the gap between my rather haphazard approach to fueling my engine underway and its polar opposite — what Colin Fletcher once called "the strict, rational, quantitative, scientific method." And I wouldn't try to dissuade anyone from eating (and drinking) whatever appeals to him. Still, I'm afraid I'll have to take issue with your reading of the gospel of scientific nutrition on at least three points:

  1. With a grain of salt.… I'm not yet prepared to accept the notion that salt intake can be reduced to exact calculation. Human variability is just too great. The wildly varying responses of the field crew under my supervision gave ample illustration of this. Some ate salt tablets by the handful, and got sick if they didn't. Others — who were sweating just as hard in the same hot sun — threw up if they downed more than a single tablet. And still others never opened the bottle.

    Of more importance, perhaps, is the fact that the long-dormant question of the role of dietary salt intake in the etiology of hypertension has once again been reopened. The upshot? While some supplementary salt is probably desirable, particularly when working hard in hot climates, consuming too much salt for too long may well be hazardous to your health. The catch? No one seems to know exactly where to draw the line. In any case, the "typical" American diet already provides 12 to 34 times the minimum physiological sodium requirement. For now, therefore, matching salt intake to activity is a matter for individual determination — trial and error, if you like. I know what works for me, but it's up to each paddler to strike his or her own balance, preferably with the advice of a physician or other knowledgeable health professional.

  2. Fear of fructose.… I've never known anyone who regularly suffered a tummy ache after drinking straight fruit juice, let alone the dilute mixture in my Newt Nectar or similar commercial juice drinks. I'm sure it happens, but I've seen nothing to suggest that it's a common problem. Still, if it troubles you, there's a simple remedy. Don't drink it.

  3. Wheels within wheels.… I find the cycling literature wonderfully entertaining, both in print and on the Web. Where else can you read a celebrity interview that gives top billing to the interviewee's resting pulse rate? If I'm looking for guidance in matters touching on health and nutrition, however, and if I want something written in a popular and accessible style, I'll look elsewhere. For example, the June 2003 issue of Consumer Reports contains a tasty piece entitled "Energy Bars, Unwrapped." It also has a useful one-page guide to preventing exercise-related injuries and illnesses, including two topics I've touched on before: dehydration (too little water) and hyponatremia (too little salt). Both Consumer Reports articles are worth a look.

When all is said and done, however, you may be right. Perhaps these questions aren't of much importance to casual paddlers. Then again, I've met very few canoeists or kayakers who described themselves as "casual." (Maybe they're the ones saving up for the down payment on a jet-ski.) And recreational paddlers often accomplish breathtaking feats of endurance. I can also never forget that the North American continent was explored and mapped by men who lived largely on hard tack, dried peas, salt pork, and buffalo-meat pemmican. However casual their approach to eating, they were certainly high-output paddlers. They mostly died young, to be sure — strangulated hernias and heart attacks claimed many lives, as did storms on the big lakes — but they covered a lot of miles while they lasted.

Now let's see what a Swedish reader has to say about problems on the other end of the pipeline.

Beyond Sweat: Answering Nature's Call Under Way

Hi Tamia!

I eyed through your article on open-water crossings and registered that you listed gear and items enough to fill at least one big kayak. And you suggested that one ought to bring along a lot of water. That's okay, but now there is a follow-up on that water. You can treat your body and train it to do a lot of things, but you will still be handicapped on some tasks.

When you drink a lot of water you sometime must let it out. OK, you will sweat, but that's not enough. What do you do on a long open-water crossing when nature calls? There is not one single word on that issue. Most kayak stories, lists, books, and so on don't mention that human bodies are subject to nature's calls. In cold and in stressed situations the body needs to relieve and get rid of excess fluid. That's biological. And I and many with me want to learn how to do it in situations like long open-water crossings.

It is not embarrassing; it's natural. Everyone has to do it. But how?

Richard Kohlström

• • •

Tamia replies:

Good point, Richard. It is natural. And it's an important subject — so important, in fact, that I devoted an earlier column ("When You Gotta Go") to backcountry sanitation. That article contains several references to the problems of coastal kayakers, but it's obvious that I left many aspects of the topic…er…unplumbed.

OK, then. Let's see if I can fill the gap. What do Farwell and I do when we have to "pump ship" under way? It depends. Shorter crossings (2-4 hours, say) don't often pose difficulties. Unless we've really tanked up beforehand, we simply hold our water. On longer legs, we use whatever receptacle is handy — an empty water bottle, a cooking pot, or a bailer — and then dump it over the side. We do this only when we're well away from land, of course. Near shore, or on inland waters, we use a screw-top bottle or a zip-lock bag as a holding tank.

But what do you do when the weather's too rough to pop the skirt, or when both hands are needed to keep your boat right side up? Simple. Relax and let it stream out. After all, when the waves are crashing on your deck, chances are pretty good that you're already wet. Before you know it, your small contribution to the general damp will drip into the bilge, to slosh back and forth with the rest of the slop until the next time you empty your boat. (Yet another good reason to keep your clothes and food in waterproof bags.)

Of course, in both rough water and smooth, men have an easier time performing any maneuver requiring "directed fire." And wetsuits compound the problem. I'm told that relief zippers help. Neither Farwell nor I has ever purchased a suit with these ready-made firing ports, but we've both added flaps in the critical places when we felt the need. It's not a difficult job. And our flaps work, after a fashion. You just have to watch out for the hooks on the Velcro® tabs!

Back to the question of "fire control" for a minute. Gadgets like the "Lady J" make it simpler for unencumbered women to stand and deliver, but most of us will still have back-flow problems when seated in a kayak. Anatomy is destiny, right? The only remedies are experimentation and practice. Generally speaking, women in Canadian (open) canoes, foldboats, and beamy touring boats have little difficulty pumping ship under way. In these relatively stable craft, we can usually manage a low squat. I never had much trouble in my 14-foot Vagabond, for example. (It also held all my open-water gear, along with a week's camping kit — and with a little room to spare.) Be warned, however. Women in skinny Greenland-style kayaks may have no choice but to relax their sphincters and go with the flow, even in gentle winds and easy seas. Men, too.

It's not the most appetizing of subjects, to be sure, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. There's no such thing as a rain check. And like you say, Richard, it's only natural.

That's it for now. Keep telling us what's on your mind — and setting us straight if you think we've got something wrong. After all, it's Our Readers Write!

Copyright 2004 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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