Our Readers Write
An Oven to Go, a Better Yoke,
The Best Way to Car-Top a Kayak,
August 30, 2005
Something's in the air here in Canoe Country. The
days are noticeably shorter. Flotillas of Canada geese are rafting up on all the
flows, while red squirrels and chipmunks forage tirelessly on the ridges,
gathering and storing food to see them through the coming winter. Ah, yes.
Winter. The Wheel of
the Year never stops turning, and despite the lingering warmth of August, the
sun is already abandoning the northern hemisphere.
But winter's not here yet, is it? And the next couple of months offer some of
the best paddling to be had at any season if you're prepared, that is. Our
readers can help. Over the years, the "Readers Write" mailbag
has overflowed with valuable hints, useful wrinkles, and provocative questions.
That hasn't changed. Here are a few of the latest. We're betting they'll help you
make the most of your time on the water, whatever the season and wherever you
live. We know they've helped us.
Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest,
In the Same Boat
The Bendonn Tote Oven A Jewel Indeed
I am writing in response to "Family Jewels
Pots and Pans for Paddlers."
I have two pans that I bought back in the late '70s. Originally intended to be
an aluminum Dutch oven, they are called the Bendonn oven or something like
that. They are about 10 inches in diameter and look like frying pans with wire
handles. One nests inside the other, and the larger pan had a metal rim welded to
the bottom that was supposed to hold hot coals when you used it as a Dutch oven.
Fortunately the metal rim fell off early and got lost. The larger pan holds
about four quarts and the smaller pan holds around three. I use them with an old
two-quart coffee percolator for heating water, adding a lid from a Boy Scout
troop mess kit when needed. These are the best camping pots I have ever seen
great frying pans, yet deep enough to make a pot of stew. They are
fire-blackened on the outside and inside and nothing sticks to them. I still use
them as a Dutch oven from time to time, and they make a great cake pan.
I also have a Sigg skillet like the one you mentioned. It came with a couple
of pots from a Sigg Tourist kit that I bought at Goodwill for $4.99. I got it for
the Sigg aluminum pots, but it is a really nice frying pan, made of carbon steel
with a removable wire handle.
St. Paul, Minnesota
I, too, had a Bendonn Tote Oven, Kenny. (I must have bought it about the same
time you bought yours.) It got lost in a move many years ago, but I still
remember it with affection. It was a great backcountry culinary tool, though
you're right about the ring being more trouble than it was worth. Thanks for
reminding me what I'd been missing and also for pointing out just how many
good things paddlers and other outdoorspeople can find on the shelves at the
Goodwill. It's a great resource for anyone whose dreams (or needs) are bigger
than their pockets are deep, and I guess that's almost all of us.
A Paddle Yoke Saves the Day!
I want to thank you so much for the article entitled "No Yoke!" I
recently did a hurry-up trip with a friend, starting at International Falls,
Minnesota, to within 10 miles of Lake Superior before we had to come out because
of torn-up feet. The trip was put together very hurriedly, and I had to borrow a
solo canoe. I found out four days into the trip that I could not portage the
borrowed boat. We tried several brainy ideas, but nothing would work. I simply
could not keep this boat on my shoulders in any manner without severe pain or
having it fall off. Then I remembered your article about using paddles for a
yoke. We were using a double paddle for this trip, and I carried a single plastic
paddle as a backup. So I split the double kayak paddle, used one half of it and the
plastic paddle as a yoke, and tied the other half of the double paddle in the
boat. What a relief. It felt like I could have carried that 42-pound boat to the
East Coast non-stop, and I'm almost 67 years old! Thanks again. Because of your
article this marathon-type trip is considered a success by me and my canoe
partner, even though we had to cut it short.
I'm delighted to hear that my article helped you out, Ron. (Hope your feet are
better!) The paddle yoke's one of those gloriously simple ideas that have stood
the test of time. But even a good thing can be made better. Just take a look at
the next letter.
A Better Paddle Yoke? Sure 'Nuff!
And That's No Joke
I chuckled as I read "No Yoke!" I can
relate. I still have that "battered old Grumman" and have never portaged it any
other way than with the paddles. For years I always envied people with portage
yokes. Then I had the opportunity to carry one with padded supports that clamped
to the center thwart. TERRIBLE! After that I made it a point to try a contoured
wooden yoke. Not much better. Now when I'm going to carry a canoe more than 100
feet, I make sure I have two old wood paddles and a retired "horse-collar" PFD.
(It makes super padding for your shoulders.)
I use a little different method for lashing the paddles, though. I point the
grips behind me, with the blades protruding forward of the center thwart.
I leave two shorter pieces of line permanently tied to the rear thwart, each just
long enough to wrap around a paddle shaft and tie it down. (When paddling, these
ties are handy to lash "stuff.") For the blades, I use two large rubber bands cut
from an old inner tube. Slide the band over the blade, pull it down under the
thwart and back over the blade. Turning the paddles around and using the tip of
the blades spreads the weight better across my shoulders, and the little bit of
flex is akin to a shock absorber in rougher terrain.
Keep the fancy yokes, I say. Old paddles work just fine. And as you always do,
keep up the great work.
Thanks, Jonathan. Sounds like you've made a good thing even better and
made portaging a canoe just about as simple (and as painless) as it can possibly
Bottoms Up? Or Bottoms Down?
How Do You Carry a Kayak?
I'm new to kayaking and am taking some of my undergraduate training by reading
your articles. In "Taking Your Boat on
the Road" you mention that canoes are generally carried inverted, which seems
reasonable enough, while kayaks are carried right side up.
I'm tempted to make a rack for my pick-up, shaped to conform to my kayak's
decking, that would carry my kayak inverted. Since most of my problems turn out
to be my own fault, can you tell me what disaster or catastastroke I'm setting
myself up for if I do this?
No problem, Ken. And most likely no disaster, either, let alone a
"catastastroke." (I'm not sure what this is, but it sounds a whole lot worse than
a garden-variety catastrophe to me!) Back in the days when most kayaks were made
from 'glass, the decks were often laid up using fewer laminations than the hulls.
As a result, the decks were both weaker and more likely to deform under load.
That's why cautious kayakers racked boats right side up or stacked them
vertically, resting them on their sides so that the weight was borne by the rigid
seams. Boats cradled on their comparatively fragile decks were easily damaged if
the bow and stern tethers were overtightened, as they almost always were, sooner
Now that poly
boats are the norm, however, does the old right-side-up rule still make
sense? Probably not. The decks on most rotomolded poly boats are every bit as
resilient as the hulls. (A gentle "pressure test" with the heel of your hand will
tell you if your boat is an exception.) As long as poly boats aren't stored on
roof racks for days at a time in full sun, they should travel equally well right
side up or upside down. So you can almost certainly go bottoms up without fear.
Unless your boat is an ultralight 'glass confection or something similarly
delicate, I doubt that you'll be risking catastrophe and you won't have to
worry so much about shipping water in a downpour, either. (A cockpit cover's
still a good idea, though.) Of course, you can always ask the manufacturer's
advice. Might be a very good idea, too.
Best wishes and happy car-
The Ultimate Glove?
I have experienced many of the same problems as you [see "Hands On!"
-ed.], and I hate diving gloves, mittens, leather gloves, and pogies in cold
water because they are all cold or slippery. I especially hate soaked pogies
after endering and rolling. My hands, like yours, get cold easily, and I have a
finger which gets icy-white quickly, perhaps due to severe frostbite as a youth.
I have now pitched or given away or permanently stowed two pairs of pogies,
several pairs of neoprene scuba gloves, and a few pairs of "kayaking gloves." I
have found that cloth scuba gloves work well when the water is cool, but nothing
beats Glacier Gloves when the water is COLD.
About 15 years ago I bought six pairs of Glacier Gloves on sale at Sierra
Trading Post: one pair in Extra Large, two in Large, and three in Small. The
Extra Large and Large fit my hands well. The Small was too large for my daughters,
but too small for me. Over the years I have given away all the Small pairs and
misplaced two of the three pairs that fit me. My last pair looks used, but is
still in good condition. The gloves are flexible neoprene and some have pads on a
finger tip or two for grip or fishing or something. A little Aquaseal® makes
these completely waterproof, else they seep a little but are still warm.
Bottom line is that these are completely flexible, warm, and grip better then
flesh, giving you complete control of your paddle. I kayak year-round on two
local rivers and once measured the water temperature during the cold season. The
gloves are completely comfortable for me to at least 43 degrees Fahrenheit water
temperature and 25 degrees air temperature. I play in the waves, surf, ender, and
roll, so I am constantly getting wet. I also wear a drysuit, and under that,
fleece. I periodically test the whole ensemble by walking into 45-degree water
and never feel the slightest discomfort except on my face, most of which is
covered by a neoprene beanie worn under my helmet. I have not tested immersion in
water for longer than about 10 minutes, so I do not know how long it would be
till I started to get cold. I also do not know how cold this setup is good for,
but as I am getting older and softer I no longer go out much when the air is
cooler than 40 degrees .
There are now many types of Glacier Gloves. The kind I purchased is the simple
neoprene with the Velcro® wrist strap. I checked out the newer fleece-lined
pogies last weekend. Nothing even comes close to the Glacier Gloves, yet I have
never seen them advertised for kayakers.
A final hint: it might be a good idea to check the sizing information
available on the Glacier website prior to purchase. (That information was not
available to me when I purchased.)
Columbia, South Carolina
A Felt Need, Indeed!
A Non-Slip Sole for All of Us
Curious that you made no mention of felt-sole water shoes in "Putting Your Best
Foot Forward." Seems that fishermen have long used felt-soled shoes to get
past the problem of algae-covered rocks. I have a pair of water shoes that have
felt in the front half of the sole and they're excellent on slippery rocks. I
have never seen a pair of rubber-soled shoes that gave me much confidence on the
rocks, and have never met a rock that was slippery enough that I thought I was
going to slip off and fall on my rear while wearing the felt shoes. If you
haven't already, you might want to check out a pair. Thanks for the article!
It is a curious omission, Eric. No doubt about it. But somehow, in
nearly three decades of trout-stalking I never got around to buying felt-soled
waders. Maybe that's why I've never given felt-soled shoes a try while paddling.
I suppose I'll have to chalk this up to brain-fade on my part. Thanks for the
heads-up on putting a better foot forward.
Good Binoculars Are (Almost) Forever
You write interesting, well-thought-out articles. Regarding "The Far-Seeing Eye:
Binoculars for Paddlers": I have a pair of Fujinon 6x30 waterproof
individual-focus binoculars I bought 20 years ago that are ideal for kayaking.
They are available for $175 at B&H Photo Video.
Thanks for the kind words, Joe. Good binoculars just keep going and going, and
it sounds like your Fujinon 6x30s are very good binoculars, indeed. Of course,
such quality comes at a price, and some folks can't afford to spend $175 on a
pair of binoculars, however good they may be. Happily, there are cheaper
alternatives. For instance, Farwell's been using a US$15 monocular that he got
from a military
surplus store. (He was looking for something to carry in a bike's bar bag.) The
optical quality is no better than fair, and the monocular certainly won't last 20
years I doubt it will last five, in fact but it takes up almost no
space in his pocket, and now he won't be parted from it, whether he's on the
road, on the water, or just sitting at his desk.
The moral of the story? If you can pay the price, go for quality. You won't be
sorry. But what if you're a little short of spare cash? Then buy whatever you can
afford. Chances are good that even the cheapest binoculars will have a much
longer reach than your unaided Mark I eyeball. And that's a good thing. There's a
whole lot to see in the world!
Adventuring Close to Home
Finally! A realistic article ["Weekend
Adventures" -ed.] for the everyday workingperson who can't
afford a US$1200 weekend getaway. I've found several places two hours by car
around Santa Fe to explore until I get those nine days off and $500 in
cash to run the Green River in Utah. Good article.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Glad you liked the column, Terry. Tamia and I both know what happens
if you put off paddling till tomorrow that hoped-for day when you'll be
to afford the Big
Trip you've been dreaming about. Sometimes tomorrow
never comes. So we try to keep our eyes on the prize and our paddles in
the water. Weekend adventures make it easy.
The Charm of the Familiar
Another Reason to Adventure Close to Home
Thanks for the "Weekend
Adventure" series. I am all for occasionally packing it up and traveling 300
miles to experience a week or two in the wilderness. But some of my most
memorable paddles have been close to home on waters I have an intimate knowledge
of. Because I have that knowledge, I am free to take in all the glory a lake or
river has to offer without the worry of logistics or navigation and still
be back in time to share a walk around the neighborhood with my wife. I tell my
friends to stop wishing they were in the Boundary Waters and start discovering
the outstanding day trips we have here in Wisconsin.
That's it for now. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to send
us their hints, tips, questions, and comments. Keep telling us what's on your
mind. After all, it's "Our Readers Write"!
Editors' note: No letter appears in "Our Readers Write" without
the author's permission, and letters are subject to editing before publication.
All links have been added by the editors. We receive many more letters than we
can reprint here, but we do our best to answer each and every one we get. We
sometimes fall behind, though, and mail occasionally gets lost in transit. So if
a couple of weeks have gone by since you wrote and you still haven't heard back
from us, don't give up. Send us a heads-up, instead. We'd appreciate it.
Copyright © 2005 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights